Friday, 4 September 

What we can learn from stakeholders

A panel on accelerating startups, growing innovative firms, maintaining an entrepreneurial spirit and making effective policies in support.

In our final Stakeholder Engagement Session there was a panel discussion where eight distinguished guests shared not only their experiences, but also their “recipes” for a successful start-up environment. Present at the panel discussion were representatives of different stakeholder groups, spanning the American and European perspective.

Dr. Max Keilbach, former researcher at the Max Planck Institute of Economics and currently entrepreneur and angel investor in Berlin, led the discussion. 

Our first speaker was Mr. Hardy Rudolf Schmitz, Managing Director of Adlershof Science Park. Mr. Schmitz gave a general overview of how Adlershof goes about in bringing young startups to life and elaborated on how there is very 

little incentive in German Universities to foster entrepreneurship. Part of his recipe for improving the German startup ecosystem was the concept of creating a structural reform within the university curriculum to bring young entrepreneurs together.  

Following a short Questions&Answers session, Mr. Ken Krull took the floor to share his experience as tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Mr. Krull is the founder and Managing Director of Quatere/Foundry, a successful company based in the US, 

 planning to expand in Europe. His main message was that fundamental uncertainty that truly innovative entrepreneurs face, cannot be captured in recipes. As a consequence the Foundry is not using coaches and instead stimulates entrepreneurs to challenge each other and their own business ideas. The Foundry takes no equity stake, does not offer consulting and celebrates the first entrepreneur in each cohort to kill his idea. Still there is structure. Entrepreneurs in a Foundry-cohort are taught to manage their firms well and to have efficient meetings in which weaknesses in their propositions are quickly uncovered and addressed. 

The third speaker is the youngest among the keynotes, and she brought fresh ideas and new perspectives to the discussion. Ms. Sissel Hansen published a book (Startup Guide Berlin) which aims to help people looking to start a business in Berlin. 

Startup Copenhagen was published shortly after, and Sissel and her team are planning the second edition of Startup Guide Berlin, given its success. Ms. Hansen stressed the various obstacles that one faces when starting a business in Berlin, notably “German Bureaucracy” and called for institutional reforms to facilitate this process. The discussion leader Max Keilbach disagreed with her on the point of German bureaucracy being a hurdle, but in doing so proved Sissel’s point that (older) Germans do not seem to experience their bureaucracy in the same way as (young) foreigners. Sissel also stressed that, according to her, the driving force behind entrepreneurial venturing is inspiration. Before Startup Guide, Sissel had started and failed at a business in Copenhagen and came to Berlin with little more than the passion to start her own business there. She did not think institutional reform could help create more entrepreneurial spirit and inspiration. But it could be helpful in creating an environment in which such spirit would be nurtured.

> Next page: More what we can learn from stakeholders