For five KIT teams, everything revolves around advancing their startup project. They are taking part in the upCAT#4, a 12-week intensive program for startups and spin-offs. This is where prospective startup teams work on accelerating their market entry. The fourth KIT accelerator is lead by Dr. Gerda Frank and Petra Nitschke from the Center for Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship (CIE).
Together with internal and external speakers, they share startup-relevant knowledge and a variety of methods that can be directly used in the following practice and mentoring sessions. The teams receive additional tips from experts in the industry and economy, so-called mentors. From December 7th-10th, 2015, the kickoff week took place – the start of the program. For one week, the teams received input in order to specify their business ideas. We met the teams at the beginning of the program.
During the beginning stage of a business startup, founders are often faced with different challenges. Questions regarding financing, the business plan, and fear of failure are always present. However, entry into the business is facilitated through so-called incubators. In an incubator, startup projects that are preparing their business startup find a supervised space to develop and grow.
The term incubator originally comes from the fields of medicine and biology, where it is also referred to as a breeder. The principle of an incubator is to create the ideal conditions for breeding and growth processes. For newborns, for instance, the incubator provides an ideal and safe environment for the child to grow. In the field of business startups, this principle can be transferred to young startups. Incubators for startup teams create the best framework conditions that level the successful start into business life for the prospective entrepreneurs. In the special facilities or spaces of the incubator, startups receive support and consultation for their startup project. In addition to the availability of inexpensive rental spaces and infrastructure (e.g., offices, laboratories, or production facilities), founders are also supported with entrepreneurial know-how. Through consultations and coaching sessions by experts form the startup scene, the teams in the incubator are supported in a targeted manner through intensive supervision and their opportunities for growth increase. The incubator, as a focused startup center, simultaneously stands for infrastructure, knowledge, and network. In some cases, incubators also offer startups seed funding and are available to help founders with tips when searching for capital.
With its lively startup culture, Karlsruhe offers young founders some smaller and larger incubators or spaces in the area. A list of links for additional information can be found on our website “Space for Founders .” Especially for scientific spin-offs, the KIT offers a high-tech incubator on Campus North, where 10 startup projects and businesses are currently located.
The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) offers prospective founders a number of funding programs for implementing their startup ideas. An important instrument is the EXIST Business Start-up Grant, which supports startup projects from an early stage. The funding is directed toward students, graduates, and scientists from universities and non-university research institutions. Within one year, the teams receive the opportunity to turn their first idea into a concrete business model, including a business plan, and to receive professional assistance in doing so.
Three KIT teams didn’t miss out on this chance and applied for the grant – successfully! The founders of Aquaplot, Curafida, and Selfbits were able to gain support with their innovative and technology-oriented ideas and, thus, received the EXIST Business Start-up Grant. The KIT Innovation Department actively helped in preparing applications. The Aquaplot team develops a software as a service solution for navigating and planning routes for maritime and cargo traffic. The team of Curafida also offers a SaaS application. Their system for health services is intended to bring chronically ill patients and their medical specialist closer together and to improve the flow of information. The third team, Selfbits, is working on a cloud-based service in the field of knowledge management / knowledge acquisition.
During the course of the year-long funding period, the teams can continue advancing their startup plans. In doing so, the prospective founders are supported through seminars and coaching. The goal is to prepare them for market entry through the technical and entrepreneurial realization of the idea. The task of the founders is to improve their business plan – the final business plan is the conclusion of the grant support. We look forward to seeing the development of the three KIT teams and wish them a lot of success!
The company Falquez, Pantle und Pritz GbR offers software-as-a-service for flow and noise prognoses in technical device development. With the help of the cloud-based platform NUBERISIM, complex high performance simulations can be driven and operated easily via browser. Therefore, potential sources of noise are found as early as product development and measures for noise minimization can be taken early on. In an interview, we asked Dr. Iris Pantle about the idea, the startup time, and the future prospects.
Team of NUBERISIM (f.l.): Balazs Pritz, Iris Pantle, Carlos Falquez (Source: KIT / Markus Breig)
On March 10, 2015, the accelerator program “upCAT” of the KIT Founders Forge ended in applause on the final Demo Day. After twelve weeks of intensive work, the six participating teams presented their business model to an expert audience consisting of business angels, venture capitalists, and Karlsruhe network partners. Six entirely different teams participated in the upCAT #3:
- ChromX: Software for chromatography modeling for process development and robustness studies for the biopharmaceutical industry
- LehrWerk: Construction kits as teaching materials for prospective engineers and technicians
- Paralution: Software and consulting to accelerate the calculation of computer-supported simulation
- Softtop: Weatherproof covering for bicycles and e-bikes
- Storrays: Technology for manufacturing ultra-high density peptide arrays
- tego energy: Energy supply modules for energy harvesting