Should I start up alone or in a team? How do I find investors for my business idea? How important is a business plan and how do I design it? How do I deal with challenges and changes? These are just a few of the questions that potential entrepreneurs face. And who better to answer all these questions than people who have already gone through this process and have experience in founding companies? This is exactly the idea behind the annual MBS Start-up Spirit: MBS alumni who have founded their own start-up introduce themselves and their company and answer the questions of the participating students in a Q&A session.
This year’s online edition on October 27, 2020 featured three MBS graduates from very different industries: Corinna Dickenbrok, CEO and founder of the sustainable fashion label Vanilla Sand, Victoria Erdbrügger, CEO and co-founder of the rental software circuly, and Dr. Franz Pfister, CEO and co-founder of the health AI start-up deepc, which works at the interface between medicine and artificial intelligence (AI) and aims to support doctors with software solutions in diagnosis.
The evening get-together was moderated by Martina Dengler, Alumni Relations Manager at MBS, and Prof. Dr. Anne Tryba, Academic Director of the Master’s Program Innovation and Entrepreneurship, who had already prepared some questions about the initial phase and further planning of the start-up, the motivation of the founders and the funding together with her master’s students. Afterwards, the 115 participating students had the opportunity to ask questions to the guests themselves.
The MBS alumni explained that their business ideas arose rather spontaneously or by chance and that in addition to motivation and the will to make a difference, the right environment plays an important role in founding a company. While the seeds for Franz Pfister’s business foundation were sown in innovative and open-minded Boston, Corinna Dickenbrok’s stay in Lisbon confronted her directly with the littering of the oceans and awakened in her the idea of a sustainable start-up.
Other important insights of the evening were that while a business plan can’t harm, a carefully prepared financial plan and the development of prototypes and samples are far more important elements, that accelerator and research programs can help to develop the start-up and find investors, and that as a founder you should have a high degree of flexibility and adaptability as well as a certain willingness to take risks. The three founders were also able to provide different insights into the question of whether it is better to found a company as a team or alone. Franz Pfister and Victoria Erdbrügger are happy that they founded their start-up in a team of two or more people and consider it especially worthwhile if the mindset of the founders is quite similar, but the skillset is as diverse and interdisciplinary as possible, as this leads to valuable discussions. Corinna Dickenbrok, on the other hand, founded Vanilla Sand alone, which results in greater independence on the one hand, but also in greater decision-making power and responsibility on the other. Everyone agreed, however, that founding a new business is always a team effort and that even without co-founders, one is never alone in a start-up.
Many thanks to our alumni Corinna, Victoria and Franz for their participation in the MBS Start-Up Spirit 2020 and the lively exchange with our current students!