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Rolf Unterberger, CEO, Cherry

Rolf Unterberger, CEO

Rolf Unterberger, CEO of Cherry Group and founder/CEO of RMU CAPITAL, is an internationally accomplished executive Manager with over 25 years of experience in different industries, countries and leadership positions. Prior to his current role, most recently Rolf worked as a Board Member/ Executive Manager for Frequentis AG in Vienna/ Austria, as an Executive Partner/ Managing Director at Accenture in Munich/ Germany and for...
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How is your team changing the game within your industry sector?

Innovation was actually part of our DNA from the very beginning. And change is also an integral part of our company history. We have reinvented ourselves again and again.

CHERRY was founded in 1953 in the basement of a restaurant in Highland Park, Illinois, to produce electronic switches. The company quickly gained a reputation for the quality of its microswitches in particular, which became commonly referred to as “CHERRY switches.”

In the early 1960s, CHERRY expanded to Germany, creating a global brand known for key switches and high-quality computer input devices. In 1973, we began manufacturing computer keyboards. Today we are the oldest manufacturer of computer keyboards and a pioneer in the computer hardware industry.

In 1984, we filed a patent for the CHERRY MX switch. In 2008, CHERRY was sold off to a German firm called ZF Friedrichshafen, a company that specializes in parts for automobiles. In 2016, CHERRY was acquired by the private investment firm GENUI, and our focus shifted from automotive parts to computer input devices.

These are just a few milestones to show that innovation and change have always been an integral part of CHERRY.

To make sure this spirit doesn’t get lost nowadays, we are working and building innovation hubs internally as well as together with external people. Furthermore, we are running small innovation teams and projects outside the box or the so called comfort zone.


What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your organization or industry sector?

As a German company, we are subject to a whole host of legal regulations and provisions - at both national and European level. This goes so far that we have to comply with different governmental and environmental regulations for products in different European countries and have to prove a large number of certifications.

Another problem is the fact that our products can easily be copied. These pirate copies then naturally fall far short of our high standards in terms of quality, environmental compatibility and safety. They damage our good reputation with all the unpleasant consequences.


How has innovation become engrained in your organization's culture, and how is it being optimized?

To think around the corner, to always be one step ahead - that was already the motto of our founder, Walter Cherry. So it is not surprising, that the CHERRY brand stands for top quality, innovation, high-end design, technological expertise. This is what we still live every day.

We are constantly working with innovation consultants. One of their tasks is to constantly challenge us in the development of new products and features. The basis for this is a clearly defined product development process that also includes milestones.

To always be better than the competition is a tradition, a basic constant and our daily motivation! After all, we have a good name to defend. One way of achieving this is by setting up a review and approval meeting.


What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?

We, too, will continue to be strongly influenced by the major trends that have been emerging not just since today. First of all, there is the digital revolution, which is far from over and affects us in many ways.

This starts quite trivially with the fact that many aspects of social life are digital and we therefore spend much more time in front of the computer - whether we shop online, deal with official business virtually, chat over the internet, play games, stream. All this requires high-quality input devices that are resilient and also meet expectations in terms of form and ergonomics.

The world of work is also becoming increasingly digital, the forms of work more arbitrary if you like. More than ever before, people are working from where they want and when they want. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear to even the last home office refusenik that things actually work wonderfully. So in future, work will be much more hybrid and the home office will become a permanent feature. This, too, will undoubtedly have an impact on our business development.


Can you share a specific innovation strategy you’ve recently encountered which you find compelling?

Being innovative is virtually part of our DNA. This means that we actually see ourselves as early adopters. However, we are also self-critical and are very aware when we need to catch up in certain areas. Only recently we announced the acquisition Theobroma Systems Design and Consulting GmbH, an Austrian-based developer and trusted manufacturer of embedded systems. These support various industrial applications in the field of IoT and Industry 4.0. With this acquisition, CHERRY is specifically expanding its development and production capacities in the security sector.

Furthermore, we partnered with Argand Partners to support Cherry’s next phase of growth. Our business has gone from strength to strength, and we look forward to continued investment in our people, research & development and manufacturing technology. The positive trends currently accelerating the adoption of PC gaming and the digitalization of healthcare make it an exciting time to be Cherry.

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