Tilo Bonow | Innovator 25 EMEA 2022

Tilo Bonow

Founder & CEO


“Innovation is not about throwing all the tried and tested overboard, but if you want to be successful, you have to keep reinventing yourself.” 

Digital expert Tilo Bonow founded Piabo in 2006 with a mission to support the rise of globally ambitious technology entrepreneurs in achieving growth targets and ultimately conquering their market. Bonow and his team have since had a dizzyingly successful track record of contributing to the exponential growth of heavyweights such as Stripe, Silicon Valley Bank, GitHub, Samsung and Shopify. Bonow is passionate about helping entrepreneurs and challenger brands get global exposure for their own innovative technologies and ideas. Part of his success is down to being one of very few players in PR to be fully immersed in the investment community: beyond his leadership at Piabo, Bonow is an investor in more than 40 venture capital funds worldwide, supporting emerging business stars with his experience and extensive network. In October 2021, Bonow joined Millwright Holdings founder Michael Young to set up marketing agency start-up accelerator MXP Ventures with a $10 million fund; the duo have already backed four new PR agencies in Europe led by experienced leaders from across the industry. He has also written a book on building a personal brand, ‘Light your Fire!’  
How do you define innovation?
Innovation is doing new things by cleverly combining existing things in a new way and then actively using them. To achieve innovation, the attitude of wanting to permanently improve oneself is elementary, even against traditional resistance and the chance to fail.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
I have noticed that creativity is often confused with innovation. Just because you come up with something new that is loud, funny or touching doesn't make it an innovation.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
Patagonia, Stripe, Dapper Labs.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
We introduced a real-time PR product almost 10 years ago that combines various technologies for identifying and analyzing news with on-demand production of suitable content, combined with a performance-based business model.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin, Ted Sarandos, Howard Schultz.
How do you get out of a creativity rut?
The best ideas come to me under the shower. Otherwise during walks on journeys where you can let your thoughts wander and at the same time be inspired by the surroundings and the people.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
It is worth going new ways and rethinking the old. You have to understand that it's not about throwing all the tried and tested overboard, but nevertheless, if you want to be successful in the long term, you have to keep reinventing yourself and questioning what you're used to. Openness to new things is an important characteristic here.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
Innovation and new technologies are deeply embedded in my DNA. I enjoy working with founders and supporting them on their way to success. In this respect, I would be even more involved in investment activities and mentoring.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
The Podcast "Lifespan" with Dr. David Sinclair.

How would you like to see work culture, and the role of the office, evolve?
Long before it became popular, we introduced the home office and have constantly developed it into our concept of hubs and satellites. Our headquarters has become a meeting place and serves the experience of the brand. We have also constantly developed through the use of technologies and services such as table reservations, home office furniture, and health offers. our value-based management style helps us to develop general norms and daily interactions independent of location. I would like to see a more natural approach to the subject of working hours, place of work, and form of work. Neither companies nor politics should judge the form of employment and the way of working in which someone performs at their best.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
The fundamental understanding must be recognized and lived that only in diverse teams can the best possible performance be achieved. Only a company with an open culture that values diversity will attract the best talents who will feel comfortable and thus stay with the company for a long time. It is a clear leadership task to ensure that words such as diversity, equity, and inclusion are followed by action and that these are unshakeable values that are exemplified every day.