2015 Moments – Highlights of the KIT Founders Forge

The advent season rings in the end of a year – a good time to “decelerate” everyday life and to indulge in a review of the past year. We look back at the lovely, collective, and educational events of 2015.

KITcrowd – Crowdfunding for startups

KITcrowdAs part of the Founders Forge, the KIT already offers students and scientific employees a wide array of offerings for startup promotion, for instance with consulting, coaching, and seminars. In March, we launched the KIT crowdfunding platform KITcrowd in order to offer KIT founders an additional financing opportunity. Since the launch of the platform, six startup projects and startups have presented themselves. Three of these were successful and able to advance their ideas. More about KITcrowd

A motive for KIT startup teams at upCAT

8 upCAT #3bTwice a year, prospective founders have the opportunity to intensely work on their startup at the KIT accelerator upCAT. An initial idea develops into a concrete business model in three months – supported by entrepreneurial know-how, coaches, and mentors. The Demo Day in March was a complete success. All teams were able to excite the audience of investors and network  partners and received valuable feedback on their business cases. On December 7th, 2014, the next round of upCAT will begin! More about the program

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Concretely realizing Industry 4.0 – That’s where it’s at!

An event of the venture forum neckar e.V. in cooperation with the Sparkasse Heilbronn on September 30, 2015 was to provide answers to the question of which challenges businesses will be faced with in the future and how they can be tackled. The continuously advancing digitalization of production processes and the increased networking of different production locations via the Internet, two big themes under the umbrella term Industry 4.0, often require rethinking, especially for medium-sized companies.

For startups, it is also important to deal with the topic of Industry 4.0 from the beginning. Many processes must be coordinated from the start in collaboration with customers and cooperation partners. The event offered a platform for recognizing the needs of startups, cooperation partners in industry, and investors/financiers early on in order to address them.

A total of four startup teams/startups from the KIT were exhibitors at the event. Three of them presented themselves in a pitch (12 in total) to the investors/financiers and potential cooperation partners with great success. All in all, the event was well attended by approx. 200 participants and approx. 20 startup teams.

Andreas Rüdenauer (Rüdenauer 3D Technology GmbH) und Dr. Rolf Blattner (KIT-Innovationsmanagement) am Stand der Rüdenauer 3D Technology GmbH

Andreas Rüdenauer (Rüdenauer 3D Technology GmbH) and Dr. Rolf Blattner (KIT Innovation Department) at the Rüdenauer 3D Technology GmbH stand

Dr. Rolf Blattner (KIT-Innovationsmanagement) und Frederick Lessmann (otego) am Stand von otego

Dr. Rolf Blattner (KIT Innovation Department) and Frederick Lessmann (otego) at the otego stand

Marcus Georgi und Tomt Lenz (GIN/Kinemic) im Gespräch mit Interessenten am Stand von GIN/Kinemic

Marcus Georgi and Tomt Lenz (GIN/Kinemic) talking to interested people at the GIN/Kinemic stand

“Walk of Flame” – Architecture students develop implementation idea

By now, the KIT has reached a considerable number of committed and creative founders. More and more students, KIT employees, and graduates are making the decision to take an entrepreneurial path into self-employment. With the funding that started in 2013 through the “EXIST Culture of Entrepreneurship” program of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), the number of startup projects increased significantly. Thus, in 2014, 33 startups emerged from the KIT.

WalkOfFlame_176x200During the course of the conception and idea stage for the KIT Founders Forge project, there was already a wish to acknowledge the startup teams and to make startup activities more present on campus. This developed into the idea of a “Walk of Flame”: A visual installation of all startup projects and founded companies, similar to the American Walk of Fame that honors important personalities in film and television. The Walk of Flame is intended to honor motivated and courageous founders who are passionate about their idea and committed to the success of their business. The constant presence on campus also contributes to the strengthening of the KIT startup culture, where founding can be seen as an equitable option for your own life.

In order to approach this partial project, an idea contest was initiated in cooperation with the KIT Institute for Building Design and Technology in the specialized field of Building Lifecycle Management (BML). During the course of a summer semester, students developed concepts for the “Walk of Flame” as part of this impromptu project, i.e. an unsupervised project. The architecture students had about one month to create ideas for a public, lasting, significant, and, above all, expandable model. In the end, four completely different approaches were presented on May 20, 2015 from which the KIT Founders Forge selected the best idea. In addition to creativity, visibility, and feasibility, the estimated cost for realization also affects who wins the idea contest. All submitted ideas will be exhibited at the founders’ gallery at the KIT Venture Fest on June 30 in the Audimax, and the winner of the idea contest will be selected.

Part 3: The discursive creativity techniques

Today, I would like to present two discursive creativity techniques: the morphological analysis and the cause-and-effect diagram (Ishikawa diagram).

The morphological analysis

The morphological matrix, also referred to as the morphological box, is probably the most wide-spread instrument of a discursive creativity technique and was developed by Swiss astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky (1898-1974). The morphological matrix is the core of a morphological analysis. Using it, problems can be broken down step-by-step and an overall solution can be found. More precisely, individual parameters and their alternative solutions are contrasted in the matrix. By combining the parameter solution fields, new approaches may appear. Thus, the application of morphological analysis is especially suited when developing new products and during the early innovation stage. Characteristics can thereby be represented in different possible combinations.

The procedure can be subdivided into five steps:

  1. Determine categories that are important for the issue
  2. Gather all possible alternative solutions/characteristics for the individual categories
  3. Transfer categories and alternative solutions/characteristics to a matrix
  4. Link all conceivable combinations of characteristics and test them for their functionality and sense
  5. Pursue and refine the best combined solution

The diagram below shows an example of a combined solution in a morphological matrix dealing with the development of a new portable music player:


Morphological box for developing a portable music player

The cause-and-effect diagram

When problems are to be analyzed in terms of their causes, it is useful to apply a precise analysis of the causal relationships. In the early 40s, Japanese scientist Kaoru Ishikawa developed a fishbone diagram (Ishikawa diagram) that allows you to graphically depict different influential factors of results. This lets problems be visualized and analyzed for their causes and effects. The results can serve as a foundation for discussion in a team or group. To begin with, when creating the diagram, participants must be clear about the fundamental problem and how it is defined. A horizontal arrow is then added to the problem, which is noted on the right underneath the effect. Instead of a problem, a goal may be given. In the second step, the main influential factors are determined. It is common to use the so-called four Ms (material, machine, method, man power). However, these can be extended as desired and are by no means obligatory. The main influential factors are represented diagonally as arrows, and the main causes extend as small arrows from them. The main cause can be determined, e.g., by using creativity techniques and may be accompanied by other secondary causes. This means that secondary causes influence main causes and the main causes influence the main influential factors that lead to a problem or goal.


Schematic portrayal of an Ishikawa diagram

Professors as promoters

Founding a company with a scientific basis is a significant challenge, be it during one’s studies or as a new graduate. Alongside learning, tests, and lectures, a business model needs to be developed, the market observed, and a finance plan created. Funding means enabling a first step in order to create the necessary breathing room for this development. However, the willingness of the employer is especially important for scientists who take this path. Continue reading

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