How we work at Closelink – Interview with Hapag-Lloyd


Our Head of Marketing and Design Frank Alexander Szyperrek had the chance to talk to Elena Frisen (Digital Business & Transformation) from Hapag-Lloyd about how digitisation and the working world of tomorrow could look like.

Learn more about how we are empowering a pleasant working culture. We highlighted some of the most important parts of the interview in this news article. Enjoy the read!

Elena Frisen:
Do you maintain a start-up culture? Can you describe it? What does your working environment look like?

Frank Alexander Szyperrek:
Maintaining a culture means that you first of all have to create one. Building one in the early phases of our start-up with everyone contributing to it gave us a clear direction. Besides a purpose, vision and mission, a culture must contain certain core values. These values are helping current and future employees to bond with the company. As the company grows, values have to adapt and echo the working environment of the current state.

One of our company values is called Seize your Liberties. This means, we’re valuing a working culture that promotes flexibility, creativity and joy. Clearly spoken, employees can decide freely on where to work from, when to take a break or holidays and when to start and stop working every day. We focus on results and commonly agreed objectives rather than tracking hours spent in front of a computer.

Another value says Embrace Diversity. We’re not ignoring or undermining other opinions and arguments. We look for pluralism and inclusiveness to achieve extraordinary results.

If you want to learn more about our company culture, have a look at our vision and values: here.

Elena Frisen:
What do you think is the working world of tomorrow?

Frank Alexander Szyperrek:
Nature of work is changing rapidly and it’s one of the biggest challenges most companies have to face these days. One major driver for productivity and success is the individual contributor. Collaboration, communication, creativity, joy and openness are trapped in old-fashioned organizational structures which are dominated by chains of command and top-down mentalities. We need to fundamentally rethink the way of working by being employee-centric. Our goal should be to unleash the potential of every individual by creating space and ways of contribution. After all it’s beneficial for the employee and the company.

At Closelink we started with a small detail. We got rid of our internal job titles. This created a flat collaboration level promoting trust, enhancing transparency and empowering contribution. Every employee has the right to express her/his opinion without fear of being exposed. Each employee is taking ownership of various projects on behalf of their interests and skills. This doesn’t have to happen at a fixed desk in our office, but this can happen from anywhere around the globe. We insist on flexibility and freedom of choice. This openness to new working ideas is fueling our growth and embodies our company evolvement.

Elena Frisen:
What do you think long-established traditional firms can learn from you?

Frank Alexander Szyperrek:
We think nobody should be afraid of change. To the contrary, we use it for making bold decisions and drive innovation. Agility is probably something that big, established firms can learn from smaller companies and start-ups. Allowing employees to make own decisions. Also, establish a working culture where people are motivated to challenge and re-invent. Both on a small process level or even business models for entire divisions. Another aspect is to provide the space to make mistakes and the chance to try by error. The idea of perfection sometimes prevents innovation.

Elena Frisen:
And vice versa, are there also things Closelink can learn from big corporates?

Frank Alexander Szyperrek:
There are definitely a number of things that Closelink and other young companies can learn from established corporations. Once is to establish a long-term view on business apart from the fast moving daily development. Start-ups sometimes develop at such a speed that it becomes a challenge to stay on course.

Elena Frisen:
Which technologies do you think will be of main relevance in the near future (e.g. Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR))? Do you see Closelink incorporating any of these?

Frank Alexander Szyperrek:
Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence are emerging topics. You can’t really avoid reading or hearing about it. And it’s true – every business should consider it in their digital strategies and review options to improve processes. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that every business is going to need the mentioned technology to remain relevant in the future. These technologies need to be understood as enabler to reach higher goals, among which are transparency, security, work-life balance, continuous growth etc. Reaching a stage at which data from different sources communicates among each other in order to automate re-occuring processes and to identify deviations is about to become the standard in the near future. Building on that, artificial intelligence or machine learning helps to further reduce the necessity of manual input. The goal is to achieve a better, more reliable outcome by applying less manual input.

At Closelink, we’re carefully reviewing and evaluating new technologies to decide whether they make sense and help our business to evolve. As an example, we currently work on a project that incorporates Machine Learning. We review historic data, define algorithms based on the finding to be applied on future metrics and variables. In that way, future developments, for instance a specific luboil demand, can be predicted and actions can be assigned.

Elena Frisen:
In your opinion, why is the digitization process so slow in traditional companies?

Frank Alexander Szyperrek:
Our everyday lives are heavily affected by digital achievements. It’s hard to overlook the impact that smartphones and tablets have on us. Booking our next vacation accommodation on Bali, buying birthday gifts at the last second or booking a ride to a desired destination. As an end user, this is easy. The user receives the benefit. In companies that implement digital tools and processes, this is not always the case. The one that needs to adapt to a change might not directly benefit from it, only on the long run. From our own experiences a lot of issues are created by vague definitions or a false understanding of what digital really means. It’s often viewed as an extended IT infrastructure or the shift of sales and marketing processes. But there is way more to it. As mentioned before we undergo a massive change of behavior and usage. That means connecting data and using it in the right environment could enhance analytics and automation of processes as well as decision making. It creates huge opportunities for new business strategies and models.

Digitizing means project management and management of change. Traditional companies should not fear this change. They should rather define clear objectives and understand digital tools as enabler to reach these clearly defined objectives. And they should not be driven by buzz words only. Blockchain and artificial intelligence are not pre-defined answers to every critical situation.

Welcome Jonas Reitmann to Closelink


Jonas is ready to join our software engineering team and help boosting our backend and frontend capabilities. Before Closelink he worked several years at FREE NOW (formerly mytaxi) transforming and disrupting the mobility market in Europe and beyond. His skills and mindset is a great enrichment to our venture.

We wanted to get to know him a bit better so we gave Jonas five buzzwords, each to be answered with the first associations crossing his mind.

Your turn Jonas:

There are so many things to learn about this industry which makes me very excited. Especially as someone born in Hamburg I am looking forward to finally understand the shipping market better and help shaping its future.

Definitely not healthy enough with too many burgers and pizza. Will improve. One day.

Something that amazes me every day. Looking forward to revolutionising another industry using modern technology!

I am a huge fan of the local soccer club from Hamburg (HSV) and go to the stadium every other week. Standing on the pitch with friends is also great fun!

Before joining Closelink officially, we had some very intense talks and I just loved the atmosphere, motivation and transparency even though I hadn’t been part of the team yet. Together, we will make an already great product even better.

We’re glad to have you in our team Jonas!

Closelink successfully closes new funding round

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We are proud to announce that we just recently signed a new funding round of one million euros with a great set of investing partners.

The group of investors include, among others, co-founder Stefan Wiskemann, the Next Logistics Accelerator (NLA) and maritime early-stage investor TecPier.

To us, not only financial support was important in the course of this funding round. We also concentrated on and were able to partner up with experts that will support us in terms of operations and provide us with a broad and heterogeneous network. With our strong partners, we see ourselves well positioned for the next stage of growth.

From our point of view, the maritime industry is still in a relatively early stage of digitization. But there is a growing interest in intelligent platform solutions that can make operational ship management more efficient and help reduce operating costs significantly.

With the raised capital, we want to continue to expand Closelink’s service offering and drive global expansion.

Our current regional focus lies on Europe, including Germany, Nordics, Benelux and the entire Mediterranean region.

Jan Schwartau joins Closelink

Jan Schwartau joins our team to help us grow the customer base and increase the market penetration. He worked in lubricants sales for more than 20 years gaining a deep understanding of the market dynamics, sales operations and business development.

“I am very excited to join this young, enthusiastic and very professional team to see the platform grow and evolve.” – Jan.

Spotlight on – We asked Jan four questions about his role at Closelink:

Can you give us a small summary of your role?
My main objectives are to increase the awareness in the global market and grow the customer base using our platform.

What are the most challenging parts working at Closelink?
I’m the oldest in the team – in my recent jobs I was always one of the youngest. Selling an IT service is new to me – more an interesting adventure rather than a challenge.

What are you most looking forward to?
Working with the team and the customers in these exciting times. The team of Closelink is amazing and extremely customer focused. Our IT colleagues are wizards and the outcome of their work is simply great.

How would you describe working at Closelink in three words?
Professional – Visionary – Truly customer centric

Exciting times ahead! Welcome on board, Jan!

Closelink joins prestigious Next Logistics Accelerator Hamburg

Closelink is part of the 2nd batch of the Hamburg based Next Logistics Accelerator (NLA) along with Conlog, Luckabox, Tracks and Supertech.


The NLA is a multi-corporate accelerator with a focus on the broader logistics industry. Supported by a number of the city’s well renowned traditional logistic companies - among which are Helm, Fr. Meyer’s Sohn, Jungheinrich, Rhenus Logistics and Cremer - the program aims at accelerating growth for the participating start-ups through mentoring, specific training, market entrance options, testing fields and financial support.

The program kicked-off in November already with an introduction in front of the investing partners and first training sessions on pitching and company presentation. Until April 2019, trainings on B2B sales & marketing, VC financing and tech strategy will follow.


The ecosystem provided by the NLA will help Closelink to achieve its next goals: generating growth through sales & product development and further expanding along the value chain in the marine procurement industry.

Closelink joins Digital Hub Logistics Hamburg and participates at overseas trip to Dubai and Singapore

After participating at a number of network events in Hamburg in the past months already, Closelink now officially joins the ecosystem of the Digital Hub Logistics led by managing director Johannes Berg.

The Digital Hub Logistics aims at connecting Hamburg’s experienced logistic sector consisting of established, global players with start-ups as well as science to foster the digital transformation of a classical industry.

The Hub can provide a great network within the logistics sector, supported by its partners such as HHLA, Lufthansa Industry Solutions and bitkom, as well as consultancy, event organization and working spaces dependent on the start-up’s specific needs. For established companies, the Hub allows access to fast moving, at times disrupting new business ideas and inventions.

The Hub’s strategy of connecting old and new economy goes beyond national borders. Johannes Berg and his colleague Karl-Heinz Piotrowski want the Hub to mirror the international character of shipping and logistics and thus arranged for a first delegation trip to Dubai and Singapore.

Closelink had the chance to join and visit these leading but still quickly developing trade hubs in order to meet with and to understand the hurdles of well-established, global logistics firms. It has also been a great chance to meet with start-up peers from overseas and to recognize that digital change is a global phenomenon.


Automating marine lubricants demand prediction

Closelink GmbH and Fraunhofer-Center for Maritime Logistics and Services CML agree on a common project to automate demand prediction for marine lubricants.

„Ship managers collect sufficient and continuous data onboard their vessels today to automatically determine future luboil demand, in particular for main and auxiliary engines”, says Philippe Lavarde, managing director from Closelink GmbH.

Once a future demand is predicted, it is possible to match the delivery window with the vessel’s schedule. By qualifying different ports of call based on product availability and pricing, suitable supply options can be determined automatically and presented to the purchasing manager as a decision support.

Even today it still occurs that lubricants, one of the main cost drivers in technical ship management, are purchased at high costs or ordered at short-term despite a purchasing software in place.

Data- and algorithm-based solutions, which make use of machine learning methods to allow continuous improvement, can help to simplify processes, reduce extra work and avoid unnecessary costs.

Closelink receives InnoRampUp sponsorship from IFB Hamburg

The Investment- and Development Bank Hamburg (Investitions- und Förderbank / IFB) supports young entrepreneurs with financial means and a broad network through its InnoRampUp program ( The program is supported by the European Fund for Regional Development and aims at helping highly innovative start-ups from Hamburg to gain ground at an early stage of their venture.

In June, Closelink has been invited to present its business idea to an expert commission consisting of representatives from Hamburg's economy, administration and science. Good news followed: Closelink has been accepted to the InnoRampUp program and receives, among other things, financial support to successfully launch its platform approach within the maritime industry. An industry that plays a major role for Hamburg with its leading port and its globally connected shipping and logistics network.

We are proud and very thankful for this great recognition.

Great success at PitchBlue in Hamburg

A few weeks ago the Association of German Shipowners (Verein Deutscher Reeder), supported by the Maritime Cluster (Maritimes Cluster Norddeutschland), invited maritime start-ups from all around the globe to apply for the PitchBlue event in Hamburg ( The idea behind PitchBlue is to offer a platform for start-ups to present their solution to challenges for the maritime industry with a focus on ship owners and ship managers.

We were thrilled to have been selected by the expert jury - consisting of six managing directors from the industry - as one of 10 finalists that were given the chance to present their idea in front of a professional audience.

The event took place last Thursday. Each start-up had a three minutes pitch followed by a five minutes Q&A session. We had to go first. Given that three minutes is not much time to hold a long speech, we concentrated our pitch on the key benefits that Closelink as online platform provides to its customers: centralized information, cost transparency and process automation.

It seemed that our message has been well received. We are more than happy to announce that we have been rewarded with both the audience and the jury price! What an overwhelming night!

A big thank you to the event organizers, other participants and all spectators!

Bei Closelink läuft es wie geschmiert

Die Schifffahrt ist eine altehrwürdige Branche mit langer Tradition, gerade in einer so bedeutenden Hafenstadt wie Hamburg. Bei aller glorreichen Vergangenheit besteht aber die Gefahr, den Anschluss an die Zukunft verpassen. Junge Unternehmen wie Closelink helfen dabei, den Weg in die dringend notwendige Digitalisierung zu meistern. Dafür konnte das Startup kürzlich Investoren gewinnen.