Hamburg News: How did you react when you received the invitation to take part in VOX TV’s show? Did you say “yes” immediately or did you have to think about it?
Ralf Dümmel: Our entire management team has discussed this programme since it first went on air. From the start, we were enthusiastic and a few times, we thought we would be perfectly suited to the programme. By chance, the production company, Sony Entertainment, learnt of DS Produkte through someone in our network and they contacted us. The chemistry was right immediately. After the very first talk, it was clear that my know-how and network would enhance the round of lions perfectly and that DS Produkte would round off the range of services for the start-ups. So things went fairly quickly.
Hamburg News: You started out as a sales assistant and today you are the “king of products” with over 4,000 products in nearly every sector and turnover of around EUR 250 million last year. How do your own experiences benefit you in the programme?
Ralf Dümmel: Fully. For the past 28 years, I have been listening to pitches and ideas for products every day. Each Friday, we have a big round of discussions about ideas and international trends and rate the success. Now, the only difference is that several cameras are turned towards me.
Hamburg News: Your business requires frequent travel and you are an expert on Asia. What are the characteristics of the German and the founders’ scene in Hamburg and how do they compare to China?
Ralf Dümmel: Basically, most founders face similar challenges worldwide. However, each country has its own culture. Many Chinese are self-employed – from small shops to big traders. Those who wish to get to the top in China do their own thing. They are creative and try out many things. China is a great market especially for start-ups with a product. The 1.2 billion Chinese form a domestic and very interesting market. Germany is, of course, different.
Hamburg News: Online purchasing and the use of mobile phones is more intense and innovative in China. Nearly everything can be paid per mobile phone. What is going well and is there room for improvement?
Ralf Dümmel: The founders’ scene in Hamburg needs more investment capital.
Hamburg News: But back to the programme: Do you as an investor have an interest in particular start-ups? To what extent do you hope for personal gain or benefit?
Ralf Dümmel: Our strength lies in the consumer products segment. That’s where we can best support start-ups and founders. Of course, we want to set up a business with all our investments. But the consumers have the final say about whether that actually works. We are doing our part towards it.
Hamburg News: You once said: “Investments are made in people not figures.” What does someone have to have to gain your trust and to excite you?
Ralf Dümmel: Be authentic and believe in your product. Trust does not have to be earned. It’s gifted. It’s important not to get lost. Being sincere and having eye level talks with one another are important.
Hamburg News: Are you going to be a very strict, critical lion or will you be a lenient one?
Ralf Dümmel: That’s for others to decide. I’m not there simply for fun, but to invest in a company and to make it big. Asking critical questions is part of business life. Anything else would be untrustworthy.