”I Always Try to Challenge the Status Quo.”
Get to know Matthias from Forward31
With a background in cloud-native application development, Matthias Hub brings technical knowledge and extensive expertise to his role at Forward31, the company builder by Porsche Digital. Matthias has spent most of his career working as a software engineer focusing on innovation, which makes him a perfect fit for building new businesses and creating new ventures.
In our interview, Matthias explains how he uses his digital expertise in venture building, talks about his role as a Company Builder at Forward31, and what led him to Porsche Digital in the first place.
Hi Matthias, can you describe your daily doing at FWRD31?
As I have a technical background, my job is to bring ideas into an MVP (minimum viable product) state by either building it myself or together with agencies, contractors, or future founders. I also evaluate new cases to find out if the used technology is feasible, scalable, and state-of-the-art or if the approached development capacity fits.
As we are a small but compelling and complementary team at FWRD31, there are always opportunities to look outside of my focus area. I broaden my skillset just by working with our experts. We are mindful of the fact that one single individual cannot “know-it-all,” but rather strive to be “learn-it-alls” — as Satya Nadella communicated it at Microsoft, or as we call it “the power of the beginner’s mind.”
What fascinates you about engineering?
The fascination in engineering is about creating something tangible out of nothing, based on ideas and thoughts. For me, this creative process is very fulfilling. I think the public perception of engineers, or so-called “nerds”, has changed a lot over the last years. And yet, it’s still uncommon to connect this to creativity. In my daily work, I’m stuck multiple times a day, so extensive problem-solving skills are a must, in addition to intrinsic motivation, to overcome those challenges. There are some tools available for solving technical problems, but without the creativity of the engineer, they are pretty useless.
How would you describe your career path so far?
I still remember an “ask-me-anything” session vividly about “a career in management” when I was on a management training program. When asked why choosing a management career path, the speaker bluntly said, “because of more money and more power.” This made me think about how to approach career transitions and to be honest when talking about my career.
To me, a career is not a “ladder” or even a “straight path”. These metaphors put unnecessary and misleading pressure on employees. I recently found a quote by Herminia Ibarra, which resonated with me, who said: “Career transition is not a straight path toward some predetermined identity, but a crooked journey along which we try on a host of ‘possible selves’ we might become” (listen to her interview in the Next Visions podcast series). This is a very frank and honest way to state the complexity of career transitions and dealing with many unknowns.
In fact, I want to look at myself in a holistic way. My “career” is not separated from the rest of my life. I think it is important to integrate everything into one whole, be it work, or family, or friends, or a hobby. For me, the term work-life-integration, a concept that I heard first from Jeff Bezos, makes much more sense than work-life-balance, which conveys that a balance between “work = bad” and “life = good” is needed. Having said that, I believe that “personal growth” is what my career is all about.
You worked at IBM for about 8 years — what are your most important takeaways?
One profound take away has to do with my managers, who adhered to the “open door” policy — meaning that they were directly approachable for their employees and solved challenges very pragmatically, real role models for me. I am also very grateful to have learned a lot about building scalable software solutions and how technology can be an enabler. Additionally, as I worked partly as a consultant, I learned a lot about dedication to customers' success and operational excellence.
But probably the most impactful takeaway was a single word: “THINK”. When I read it first, printed in big letters in the hallway, I did not understand why someone would put this up there. But after some years working there, drowning in every-day tasks, having a tunnel vision and not being able to consider the bigger picture, the simple reminder to pause and “THINK” was so helpful for me, that still now I remind myself when I’m stuck somehow, to pause and “THINK”.
Afterwards, your way led to Porsche in Stuttgart. How big was the culture shock, switching from tech to an automotive company?
Before I decided to join Porsche, I talked to a few colleagues who also joined from a tech company background. I was kind of prepared that it will be different. And yes, it turned out to be very different, not only in terms of the industry, but also in terms of the company culture. IBM is an American company, whereas Porsche is a German one. This already implies many differences, especially in the decision making processes.
I am a forward-looking person: So, as soon as I joined I was trying to challenge the status quo and to shape the exclusive and sporty mobility of the future. As we can see now, there is a lot of software development happening inside Porsche.
You are very interested in the area of smart mobility, how come?
I strongly believe that the mobility of the future will be very different from today. Not only in means of electrification, but it will also be much more diverse and flexible. Digitalization has already led to a lot of changes in mobility. And as an engineer, I’m especially interested in how to provide digital services to the user in an intuitive and elegant way.
You have set up your own startup, which has its headquarters in China. What exactly does “Dasudian” do and what was the motivation behind starting a company?
Yes, there is quite a story behind it. It started with my decision to study abroad. I wanted to experience a very different culture, compared to Germany, and therefore chose China. I’ve gotten the opportunity to study for one year at an excellent university in Wuhan — after COVID-19 everybody knows that city. During that time, I did not only learn Mandarin and took some courses in the digital information major, but also took part in a research project.
A few years later one friend of that research group contacted me with an idea to start a new business in China: He aimed to create an Industry 4.0 / Internet of Things platform for small and midsize businesses. In 2015, there was no Chinese company tackling that area, only brands from Europe and the US like Siemens and GE were active in that field. I decided to try it out and went to China to build the company. This included creating the technology platform itself but also applying for grants and search for VC funding.
The name 大数点 (“Dasudian”) is quite interesting: the first character (pinyin “da”) means “big”, the second character (pinyin “shu”) means “digital” or “data” and the third character (pinyin “dian”) means “light up” or “enlighten”. And that is exactly the mission of the company: to shed light on the big pile of data.
Why did you decide to join FWRD31?
During my tenure at Porsche AG, I was constantly working on innovation topics with some smaller and larger start-ups. During that time I met Christian Knörle, who initiated and ran the Startup Autobahn program for Porsche. When he approached me with the idea of the company builder back in 2019, I was immediately intrigued by the idea of forming new ventures and mastering this process. Porsche’s CFO, Lutz Meschke, has always pointed out that opportunities beyond the core business are very relevant for the future of the company. The thought of shaping future revenue streams of Porsche sounded very compelling to me. And not to forget: With such a complementary team, I was convinced that we will achieve great things together!
Last question: which character trait describes you best?
Intuitive nerd. 🚀
Thanks for the interview, Matthias!
If you want to learn more about the faces behind Forward31 by Porsche Digital, make sure to read the interview with Ann-Kristin, who helps developing startups into successful businesses, and our Experience Designer Mikha as well.
About this publication: Where innovation meets tradition. There’s more to Porsche than sports cars — we’re tackling new challenges, develop digital products, and think digital with a focus on the customer. On our Medium blog, we tell these stories. It’s about our #nextvisions, smart technologies, and the people that drive our digital journey. Please follow us on Twitter (Porsche Digital, Next Visions), Instagram (Porsche Digital, Next Visions, Porsche Newsroom), and LinkedIn (Porsche AG, Porsche Digital) for more.