Despite an innovative business idea, the path to independence isn’t always easy. During the beginning stage of a startup, the main focus lies on the issue of financing as well as on searching for suitable spaces for realizing this idea. The rental prices for office and laboratory spaces then turn out to be costly affairs on the free market, which makes it hard for young entrepreneurs to gain a foothold.
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.
On 06/30/2015, the Karlsruhe founders’ scene met at the Audimax for the second KIT Venture Fest of the KIT Founders Forge. Our celebration revolved around business startup and young entrepreneurs. The diverse program brought students and scientists together with founding intentions, founders, investors, and the regional network.
The day began with a founders’ breakfast where the first participants, contributors, and network partners were able to get to know each other. After this, the day continued with workshops and seminars. There was a lot of input for both people interested in founding and founders, as there were suitable topics for all stages of founding: from legal and fiscal aspects of a startup through to typical marketing mistakes and pitch training ranging to capital acquisition using venture capital or crowdfunding. Topics, such as patents, management, and innovation, were especially interesting to scientific founders.
After the technical contributions, the Venture Fest officially opened in the afternoon. Prof. Dr. Orestis Terzidis and Dr. Jens Fahrenberg greeted the numerous guests and honored the winner of the “Walk of Flame” idea contest, Noémie Muller, with her “Allee der Lichter” (Alley of Lights). Additional visitors came to the founders’ gallery, where selected startup teams, KIT university groups, and network partners held presentations. The gallery offered the exhibiting teams a stage for receiving feedback on their business ideas and for establishing interesting contacts with supporters and investors. There was also a lively exchange between founders to share experiences of the startup process.
For those that hadn’t met all KIT founders at the founders’ gallery, the KIT founders’ pitch gave a more precise overview. Eight selected teams from different industries competed in the pitch and gave all they could to convince the jury and the audience: Campusjäger, CubusLab, easierLife, enCourage, Gin, IneraTec, Optonaut, and OTEGO. A qualified jury made a final decision, while the audience voted for their favorite with play money. The jury was composed of Dr. Elmar Dorner (SAP SE), Dr. Friedrich Georg Hoepfner (Hoepfner Bräu), Dr. Torsten Löffer (High-Tech Gründerfonds), Dr. Jens Ortgiese (KIC InnoEnergy), Frank Schüler (KIZOO), and Alexander Stoeckel (b-to-v Partners). An evening program entertained the guests while they waited for the announcement of prize recipients. Here, all participants of the Venture Fest and the guests of our partners of the Karlsruhe Gründerallianz (Founders’ Alliance), which was part of the Karlsruhe Gründersommer (Founders’ Summer) at the KIT, gathered.
The evening program began with a keynote speech by Prof. Dr. Günter Faltin titled “Wir sind das Kapital” (We are the capital). The founder and business angel highlighted some systematic methods for founding, which he has summarized in his latest book. For instance, he spoke about founding with components by increasing division of labor. Specialized tasks are given to those who have a good command of them and will be able to quickly realize them. This way, startups reach a degree of professionalism in a shorter amount of time.
Subsequently, Prof. Faltin participated in a panel discussion with Prof. Dr. Holger Hanselka (President of the KIT), Alexander Stoeckel, and Tobias Knecht (abusix). Titled “Köpfe, Kapital und Kultur” (Heads, Capital, and Culture), this discussion provided insight on the ecosystem for founders at the KIT. The prize ceremony for the 2015 KIT Founders’ Pitch was the finishing touch of the evening program. Campusjäger unanimously convinced the jury winning first prize, while the OTEGO team reaped two prizes, the audience award, as well as the prize for best energy idea. The prize money for the 2015 KIT Founders’ Pitch was provided by courtesy of KIC InnoEnergy and KIT Innovation gGmbH. The perfect summer weather accompanied the following get-together with a BBQ buffet. This provided another opportunity to exchange thoughts about the event.
We want to thank the numerous guests who made the 2015 KIT Venture Fest a success! Special thanks go to the lecturers, founders, and companies who invigorated our program with their participation. We would also like to thank our sponsors KIC InnoEnergy, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and SAP SE as well as our network partners Karlsruhe Gründerallianz, High-Tech Gründerfonds, Sparkasse Karlsruhe Ettlingen, venture forum neckar, and KIT Innovation.
The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has expanded its offerings for entrepreneurs and those interested. In cooperation with the career network XING, it has developed a free learning program for entrepreneurs.
The online learning program leads you through the most important stages during the startup process and helps you with many issues. For instance, you receive guidance in finding out whether self-employment is a career opportunity for you. In the individual stages, you find useful information, overviews, and other documents to work on. If you are already in the process of a startup, the learning program helps you in developing a business plan, informs you about different legal forms, and shows you what formalities and documents you need as part of a business startup, among other things.
The guide is built in modules so that you can skip directly to those issues that are important to you. We recommend the learning program as a reference tool. For additional information about the topic of founding, we will gladly advise you in person.