EXIST – Higher funding rates for business start-up grant

The EXIST Business Start-Up Grant is one of the most popular startup grant programs of the founder team at the KIT. Therefore, we are particularly pleased to inform all interested that since December 9th, 2014 the new, much higher funding rates for the startup grant are in force.

Below, we show an excerpt from the new funding guidelines, in particular the changes in relation to the nature, extent, and level of funding:

  • Students who have completed at least half of their studies: € 1,000 per month (previously € 800)
  • Technical employee / Technical assistant: 2,000 € per month (previously no funding)
  • Graduates / Undergraduates with at least one degree: 2,500 € per month (previously € 2,000)
  • Postdoctoral founders: 3,000 € per month (previously € 2,500)
  • For dependent children of the founder € 100 per child per month is granted as child allowance.
  • Operating expenditure can be regarded as eligible for a total of up to € 10,000 for single foundings and up to 30,000 € for team foundings (up to three persons) (previously € 20,000).
  • For coaching, business skills training and startup advice, up to € 5,000 can be granted additionally, which must not be used for any other purpose.

You can read detailed information on support by the EXIST business startup grant in the guidelines. For further questions, the consultant team of KIT Innovation Management is at your disposal.

CYNORA back at “Falling Walls” – This time as a jury member

Since 2009, international researchers gather once a year at the Falling Walls Conference in Berlin traditionally held on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9th. The focus of the Falling Walls Conference is on scientific breakthroughs and technologies that have the potential to change the world – researchers exchange information on scientific developments and achievements in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

In the framework of the forum “Falling Walls Venture“, scientific foundings, which can also tear down walls with their innovations, are given a stage. With a nomination from various foundations and academic institutions from all over the world, foundings get to go to Falling Walls. Annually over 20 scientific startups may present their developments and business concepts to a high-caliber jury. The three most groundbreaking business models compete against each other in the finals. The grand finale is the awards ceremony for the “Falling Walls Science Start-up of the Year”, in which the finalists present their project to the entire conference audience again.

The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) spin-off CYNORA GmbH managed to prevail against 20 international high-tech companies in November 2013 and received the award for “Falling Walls Science Start-up of the Year 2013″. At that time, the company was still located in the high-tech incubator on the Campus North of the KIT and was thus nominated by the KIT for Falling Walls Venture.

The CYNORA GmbH is active in the research and development of low cost organic semiconductor materials for organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) and organic solar cells (OPV). Today, there already are many monitors of smartphones and some flat screen TV in the uppermost price segment, which consist of OLEDs. As the winner of the competition, Dr. Tobias Grab, CEO of CYNORA GmbH, introduced his startup in the Falling Walls Conference 2013 to the audience of top representatives from academia, business, and politics. He brought the coveted award to Karlsruhe.

Rückblick: Dr. Tobias Grab präsentierte das Geschäftsmodell der CYNORA GmbH auf der Falling Walls Conference 2013 und erhielt die Auszeichnung „Falling Walls Science Start-up des Jahres 2013“  © Falling Walls  Foundation

Retrospect: Dr. Tobias Grab presented the business model of CYNORA GmbH at the Falling Walls Conference in 2013 and received the “Falling Walls Science Start-up of the Year 2013“ © Falling Walls Foundation

Dr. Grab now saw this year’s event from the opposite perspective: after the success of last year, he was called into the jury of the Falling Walls Venture in 2014. As a member of the jury he assessed the business models of the nominees, among other things, by innovation and economic potential and accompanied the decision-making process actively. As part of the Falling Walls Conference 2014 on November 9th, 2014, the three finalists presented their business models to the jury and the conference guests.

More than 25 scientific startups were nominated for the Falling Walls Venture in 2014. As the best startup and “Falling Walls Science Start-up of the Year 2014″ EyeTechCare emerged. The company impressed with an innovative treatment method for glaucoma using a non-invasive ultrasound device.

Challenges for academic and research centered founder support

With the German Startup Monitor 2014 and the Gründungsradar (foundings radar) 2013, two elementary and informative reviews about the German startup scene in general and academic support in particular, have been published in the last few days. It turns out that the subject founding is gaining momentum and the framework is continually improved. New public subsidies are introduced, existing ones developed and expanded – the structures in and around the universities are increasingly shaped professionally. Especially the foundings radar shows that a large number of universities and colleges were able to progress greatly compared to the previous year and are going to take the next steps. Yet, for all rising euphoria and the successes, there are also words of warning and developments to which one should actively and jointly respond. In the following, we outline three examples from the publications and at the same time present our ideas for the solution.

63.3% of the founders estimate the tolerance of society towards failure as (rather) low. (Source: DSM 2014)

That failure in general and failed founders in particular are viewed critically in German society is unfortunately still a big issue. It seems to be a flaw in Germany – the assumption that one does not possess the skills to successfully build and manage a business. Meanwhile, in the USA, falling down (failure) and getting up is not only well received but almost a quality criterion for a successful entrepreneur. With new formats such as the so-called FuckUp Nights, founders are encouraged to talk about their own mistakes and disappointments. At the same time they draw courage from the talks. We are actively working on offering such formats at the KIT in 2015 and to get a positive exchange going.

For the further development of the company, 38% of startup founders see difficult access to venture capital as a “severe” or “very severe” obstacle. (Source: DSM 2014)

The venture capital market in Germany is only slowly gaining steam again. While in recent years the investments of classic VC firms have fallen sharply, this gap was in part filled by other groups such as business angels and family offices. Although international VC companies are now increasingly moving into the German market, it is still difficult, especially for companies in the life sciences sector, to attract sufficient funds in their early stages. Through approaches such as Accelerator and mentoring programs, we at the KIT want to coach especially capital-intensive startups early on and make them fit for an investment. At the same time, we are developing more financing channels, e. g., through crowdfunding approaches and prototype funds.

Incentive systems at German universities still have development potential (Source: Gründungsradar (foundings radar) 2013)

The results of the foundings radars have shown that the number of startups from the university environment continues to rise and more and more people venture into self-employment. However, these are usually only students and graduates while graduate students and employees have less freedom because of their work tasks. Research projects, teaching activities, and ongoing assurance of (own) externally-funded positions often result in little time remaining to develop an exciting technology and a matching business idea into a business model. Again, other countries can serve as an example in which freedom and incentives for employees to think outside of the system and thereby to pursue exciting and personal projects are consciously created. The structure of these incentives is varied and can go from the granting of “founding semesters” on exemptions from teaching assignments and special compensation options to re-employment after a failed founding. At the KIT, we are in constant exchange with universities and research institutes, nationally and internationally, to evaluate new incentive systems and transfer them to our system.

Conclusion: As far as we are concerned, challenges should be the drive to repeat our present successes and to take further steps. We want to further and better help people who dare to do something. The two reports show that overall we are very well positioned in Germany and our experiences lead to the fact that foundings from Germany are met with growing interest internationally.

Know-how for Social Entrepreneurs – free online course as of October 20th, 2014

Matching our Tag of the Month “Social Entrepreneurship“, we have discovered an extensive online course for aspiring social entrepreneurs by iversity. Prof. Dr. Christoph Corves and Dr. Linda Kleemann from the University of Kiel provide the free online course Changemaker MOOC – Social Entrepreneurship as of October 20th, 2014. They show how to address social problems from an entrepreneurial point of view.

The course is open to anyone who wants to develop an initial idea for a social project into a specific project concept. It does not matter in which social field the project will be realized. The online course Changemaker MOOC – Social Entrepreneurship works on the principle of “practice rather than theory” – no experience is necessary. Step by step, the participants are guided to their own project. Within ten working packages or chapters, you get conceptual content that is complemented by practical modules. The central learning contents are explained with the help of short videos. At the end of the course, participants should be able to solve social problems in an entrepreneurial manner and to plan real projects.

Are you currently working on the business solution for a social problem? Are you thinking of founding a social enterprise? Then this online course might help you in deciding for a founding and in building your social startup! Sign up for the online course and gain know-how important for social entrepreneurs.

Use the summer slump – Founder competitions invite you to join!

Currently, there is the break between semesters and summer is also not at its best. This leaves enough time to have a closer look at one’s own business idea. Do you currently have a startup in mind and are just fine-tuning your business plan? Would you like to have independent feedback and new ideas from experienced representatives of industry? Then now is the opportunity to do so! Take part in one of the many founder competitions.

Some calls for proposals will expire in the next few weeks and are just waiting for your idea! We will present a few current founder competitions to you here so you can start right away.

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