Janina Benz

Priti Ambani: “Sustainability is a life-long process”

Priti Ambani is a thought leader and prominent writer on social and environmental enterprises, start-ups and Web 2.0 businesses. She is the Managing Editor of Ecopreneurist, a notable business blog. Specializing in her ability to work with impact organizations from the ground up, Priti has developed successful business and communications strategies for fledgling start-ups, social and environmental enterprises. She also serves as a sustainability consultant at GreenDen Consultancy and advises on corporate social responsibility and the triple bottom line. Priti is a Professional Engineer and holds a Master’s degree in Biological Resources Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Janina Benz: What’s changed most about sustainable business within the last five years?

Priti Ambani: The last five years have been quite transformational. The recession made many people re-think sustainability in extreme ways. Some business owners distanced themselves from their “good business” goals as a cost-saving measure, while others doubled down on environmental and social responsibility as a way to increase the bottom line. The conversation has moved on from “what can I do to help our environment?” to “what can I do to sustain my business?” and the answer has involved being more efficient with resources and minimizing waste. Some new trends have emerged that replacing traditional business models. More…

Janina Benz

Professor Doctor Günter Faltin: “Work on your concept until you are completely convinced”

CODE_n Prof. Dr. Gunter FaltinAs the head of the Department of Entrepreneurship at Freie Universität Berlin, Professor Dr. Günter Faltin is regarded as one of the top German experts in the field of Entrepreneurship. Prof. Faltin initiated the Berlin-based “Entrepreneurship Lab” and has been a business angel for many successful startups. He himself is the founder of  Projektwerkstatt GmbH and initiator of the successful Teekampagne (Tea Campaign).

Janina Benz: What led you to entrepreneurship and teaching?

Günter Faltin: Back in my school days I enjoyed reading about Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and Joseph Schumpeter; it was obvious that I would study economics. But to my amazement, the subject that had seemed to me so interesting and compelling turned out to be dry and boring at the university. The fascinating figure of the entrepreneur that I had gotten to know with Schumpeter had been replaced by the principles of profit maximization, mathematics, and abstract models. When a few years later I received an invitation to teach at a university, I swore I would teach economics differently. And how could one do this better than by founding a company as an example?

JB: What does entrepreneurship mean to you?

GF: Creating a company from a concept restores the marketplace as a competition of ideas. It is useful to society because it draws attention to itself through good and reasonably priced products. It doesn’t increase inequities, but can lead to a more equitable distribution of income and wealth through broader participation in entrepreneurial activity.

JB: Are there any major differences between how it is perceived in different countries?

GF: One main difference we find in comparison to the English-speaking world is that research there distinguishes between the tasks of the entrepreneur and those of managers. This differentiation is absolutely necessary because the demands on entrepreneurs and on managers are so different: whereas entrepreneurship is a creative activity, business administration requires the ability to organize, to control, and to manage.

JB: Do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made?

GF: Many people may think they are not suited for entrepreneurship because they can’t get excited about the world of money. They are of the opinion that they weren’t born to be a startup entrepreneur because they’re not pushy enough and lack the drive. This is not true. It’s the idea that makes the difference! In psychologist Peter Goebel’s study Successful Young Entrepreneurs [Erfolgreiche Jungunternehmer], he surveyed 50 founders of companies and discovered that they  had only one trait in common: they brought an idea to fruition by persistently addressing the problem with a persistence that would appear to a “normal” person to be almost bizarre.

JB: What are the most important skills your students must learn?

GF: Rediscover your childlike curiosity and don’t allow yourself to be overly impressed by conventional notions, even and especially in the field of economics. If you’re able to do this, then you’ll have a good chance of replacing boredom and busyness with something better. Keep working on your concept as long as necessary, until you yourself are completely convinced by it. Three steps are important:

  1. Separate entrepreneurship from business administration. (This is the easiest step.)
  2. Come up with an idea that gets you going. Work on it, work on it some more, until you have a fully fleshed-out concept that is clearly superior to the conventions that exist. (This is the most difficult step.)
  3. Start your company from pre-existing components, instead of building everything yourself.

This last step makes you almost independent of capital. Think of it as a form of “experimental entrepreneurship” that challenges the common beliefs of how to establish a company by presenting practical alternatives.

Lena Gaede

Rethinking the Stereotype of the Entrepreneur

When people think of “entrepreneurs,” many think of bold personalities like Richard Branson or whiz kids like Mark Zuckerberg, but the truth is a bit less dramatic. A new study from think tank Demos surveyed 1,000 British entrepreneurs and found that, far from being risk-takers, only a quarter enjoyed taking risks, and 73% believed their businesses offered incremental improvements rather than ground-breaking innovations.

For more information and the report, visit TheGlobalandMail.

Lena Gaede

“Incubator Houses” Bring Home to the Office

It sounds like a sitcom or reality TV pitch: eight 30-something bachelors, one $8-million house… and a dozen startups. But in fact, these “incubator homes” are becoming increasing popular in Silicon Valley, providing a roof, and inspiration, to aspiring startup founders and entrepreneurs. As BusinessWeek reports:

In the basement, Justin Santa Barbara, a British coder, built a small supercomputer to help create what he calls “the world’s fastest database.” In the library, Antony Evans has developed an iPhone app that tries to determine if a user needs to see a doctor by asking a series of questions. Harvard will begin testing it in a couple of months. Turri, the beef jerky maker, has a meat smoker in the backyard and a flavoring station in the living room. “I’ve been doing startups for quite a while, and it can be quite a lonely experience,” says Evans, 32, who arrived at the house after getting a math degree from Cambridge. “Here there are five guys working in the house at any one time, and you can grab a bite. It helps you deal psychologically with the ups and downs.”

The Startups on San Francisco’s Billionaire’s Row


Janina Benz

Jakob Schreyer: “We’re incredibly surprised at how fast things have gone… But it’s important not to place too much value on press limelight and first successes. So 2012 will no doubt be full of suspense for us.”

Jakob is orderbird’s CEO and also one of our CODE_n finalists. We are very happy that we got the chance to ask him some questions regaring the status quo of orderbird’s development.

Janina Benz: Can you give us a quick overview of who you are and what orderbird does?

Jakob explains orderbird App to Dr. Philipp Rösler (Federal Minister of Economics and Technology)

Jakob Schreyer: It was Bastian’s idea – he’s our founder and product manager. His job at the time – working out in the field with cash register systems – together with his love of Apple products was the ideal combination for getting things started. We hope to become the primary ordering and payment platform in the restaurant and catering business. The first step involves creating an iPad cash register system for the industry, the second step involves developing a platform for directly connecting diners, further services, etc.

JB: How many restaurants currently use orderbird?

JS: A year and a half after founding the company in the heart of Berlin, orderbird AG has grown to become a company with 27 employees and over 350 satisfied customers throughout the German-speaking countries.

JB: Where are you focusing your strengths, individual restaurants or going for the big chains?

JS: At the moment, we’re still concentrating on individual restaurants. In the mid-term, we’d definitely like to reach both target groups though.

JB: How do you regard orderbird’s success? More…

Janina Benz

mytaxi: “The media coverage was particularly impressive. Days after CODE_n, people were still blogging, tweeting and posting about myTaxi.”

Now that a month has passed since CeBIT took place, we were curious about the CODE_n12 Award winner, and asked the team at myTaxi what they’ve been up to since the trade show. MyTaxi’s marketing manager, Mareike Bruns, and location manager for Hamburg, Fabian Mellin, are no doubt familiar to most of our readers because they accepted the prize at the CODE_n Award Show. We interviewed the two of them and asked about their personal impressions of CeBIT.


Gerhard Müller (E&Y), Ulrich Dietz (GFT), Mareike Bruns & Fabian Melling (myTaxi)

Janina Benz: CODE_n took place about a month ago. The press coverage of the finalists and visitor interest in CODE_n exceeded all expectations. What hopes and ambitions did you bring along to CeBIT four weeks ago?

myTaxi (MB): The CODE_n Award offers startups the unique opportunity to present themselves to professionals and specialists on an international stage. We wanted to use this innovative framework to effectively position our young business venture in the media limelight and establish important contacts. Of course, our ultimate goal was to take home the prize, but none of us seriously thought we would.

JB: Looking back, how would you describe the 5 days spent at CeBIT?

myTaxi (FM): myTaxi attracted overwhelming attention. Interested end users, bloggers, journalists, investors, even politicians came by our stall to find out more about the app. This not only met our expectations but exceeded them by far. The week in Hanover was simply amazing! Not to mention the fantastic atmosphere in Hall 16 and the amazing support of the CODE_n team.

JB: Having won the CODE_n contest, we’re dying to know what you’ve done with the trophy?

myTaxi (MB): The trophy survived the move to our new location and has been given a place of honor in the office with a view of the Elbe.

JB: What happened after CODE_n? Were any of the contacts or stimuli immediately fruitful? Have any of your plans progressed faster as a result?

myTaxi (FM): Definitely! The many interesting discussions we had allowed us to exchange ideas that have directly affected our day-to-day work. The media coverage was particularly impressive. Days after the trade show, people were still blogging, tweeting and posting about myTaxi.

JB: A Facebook group has been established for the CODE_n Community, allowing members to continue the exchange of ideas among participants. How important do you consider this networking within the startup scene?

myTaxi (MB): The startup market moves ahead at breakneck speeds. At myTaxi, we don’t intend to miss the boat on new opportunities. Successful exchange and networking among startups is essential for this. CODE_n offers just the right platform to ensure this takes place, allowing startups to keep their finger on the pulse of fast-paced innovation.

JB: Apropos startups: A few days ago, we heard reports that the Berlin-based company Taxi Pay is working with the Viennese software firm FMS/Austrosoft to release an app. What do you make of this new competitor? Are they producing a very different type of product or is it an obvious copycat?

myTaxi (FM): We haven’t tested the app yet, so we can’t really make an assessment. myTaxi was the first app to hit the market, making it the pioneer of taxi apps. Actually, we’re pleased that myTaxi has been so well-received and even inspired other service providers. What makes us so different is the fact that we don’t have a control center. myTaxi is independent, transparent and distinctly individual. We establish a direct connection between driver and passenger that allows both parties to get in touch with each other. Passengers can view the driver’s profile details, complete with a picture, and review the ride in the end. The evaluation at Taxi.eu does not affect the order process when calling for a taxi, so good performance reviews do not directly affect the individual drivers.

JB: Time is really marching on for you guys. What kinds of things can we expect from you in the coming months?

myTaxi (MB): All kinds of things! We plan to relaunch the myTaxi app at the beginning of May. You can look forward to great new features combined with a new design, new functionality, and a whole new user experience. Internationalization is also at the top of our priorities list, but we can’t reveal which cities are next in line for our service – that’s top secret. 🙂

JB: Thanks for the interview. We wish you continued success and the best of luck