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 The fascinating figure of the entrepreneur that I had gotten to know with Schumpeter had been replaced by the principles of profit maximization, mathematics, and abstract models.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

“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

Matthias Lamberti: “There are very few things I would actually have done differently, apart from maybe publicly releasing the letter I sent to my bank at the time to cancel my contractual relationship. ;-)”

Matthias Lamberti is founder and manager of yavalu, a financial platform for effective asset management. The yavalu team also participated in the CODE_n contest and was selected by the jury as a top 10 finalist. We met Matthias for a face-to-face interview at the CODE_n headquarters in Stuttgart.

JB: Leaving a position as asset manager in a large corporation to start your own business was a big step to take. What inspired you to establish yavalu?

Matthias Lamberti (CEO yavalu)

ML: You’re right, it certainly was a big step – and absolutely the right decision. The financial industry is set to change dramatically in the next few years. With yavalu, we want to play an active part in shaping this change and in finally giving customers control over their finances and investments again. I worked for many years in risk and asset management myself, and in the end, I was incredibly disillusioned and disappointed in the poor quality of service provided and the prevailing practices in the industry. The longer I worked in the field, the more I became convinced that it was possible to consult people properly on financial matters; to help them understand the issues and charge fair prices, all with the aim of giving them control over their finances and investments. This was my motivation.


Andrea Wlcek

CODE_n Contest: These 50 startups will get the chance to exhibit at CeBIT 2012!CODE_n Contest: Diese 50 Startups gehen auf die CeBIT 2012!

More than 400 startups from 42 countries have applied for the CODE_n Contest “Shaping Mobile Life”. Within the last weeks we have been both amazed and amused by some of the ideas and it was certainly no easy task to select the top 50! Among the various submissions are some surprising and innovative solutions for all aspects of our mobile lives. The ideas include a Collaborative Web Service for live customer advice in online shops, and a storytelling tool that links places with stories based on user-generated content.

A jury will draw up a short list of the ten top innovators for the final stage. Jurors are Gabriele Fischer (brand eins), Lars Hinrichs (HackFwd), Carsten Knop (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), Paulus Neef (PQuadra), Jens-Uwe Sauer (Seedmatch), Dr. Joseph Reger (Fujitsu) and Prof. Peter Weibel (ZKM). The arrangement of the jury is quite impressive and promises an outstanding expertise. From that short list the winner of the CODE_n Award will be selected and is to be presented during CeBIT on March 8, 2012.

CODE_n will also feature a radical visual backdrop – the like of which has never been seen at CeBIT. Artist Tobias Rehberger and architect Jürgen Mayer H. have blended art and technology to create a unique Innovation Space in the 3,500 square-meter Hall 16 – providing the perfect setting for the CODE_n finalists and a platform for inspiration, dialogue and business.

The competition’s partners will also be showcasing their products and services. In addition to GFT Technologies AG, the global innovation initiative is being supported by Ernst & Young, Fujitsu Technology Solutions, Deutsche Messe AG, industry association BITKOM and the Karlsruhe-based ZKM.

In the following days we will reveal further news regarding the event preparations – be excited!Mehr als 400 Start-ups aus 42 Ländern haben sich beim CODE_n Contest zum Thema „Shaping Mobile Life“ beworben. Die letzten Wochen haben wir uns nun, teils schmunzelnd und staunend, durch die unterschiedlichsten Businessideen gearbeitet und es ist uns nicht leicht gefallen die Top 50 zu bestimmen. Unter den Einsendungen befinden sich vielversprechende und außergewöhnliche Ideen. Unter anderem ein Collaborative Web Service, mit dem sich Live-Beratungen in Onlineshops realisieren lassen, genauso wie ein Storytelling-Tool, das Orte mit Geschichten verknüpft und hierfür auf User Generated Content setzt.

In den nächsten Wochen wird die Jury eine Shortlist mit den zehn Top-Innovatoren nominieren. Die Zusammenstellung der Jury kann sich durchaus sehen lassen! Experten wie Gabriele Fischer (brand eins), Lars Hinrichs (HackFwd), Carsten Knop (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung),  Paulus Neef (PQuadra), Jens-Uwe Sauer (Seedmatch), Dr. Joseph Reger (Fujitsu) und Prof. Peter Weibel (ZKM) gehören zu den Juroren. Aus dieser Shortlist wird am dritten Messetag der CeBIT, dem 8. März, der Gewinner des mit 25.000 € dotierten CODE_n Award ermittelt.

Den optischen Rahmen für CODE_n bildet ein radikal neuer Auftritt, wie ihn die CeBIT noch nicht erlebt hat. Künstler Tobias Rehberger und Architekt Jürgen Mayer H. verknüpfen Kunst mit Technologie und kreieren auf den 3.500 Quadratmetern der Halle 16 einen einzigartigen Innovation Space, der den CODE_n Finalisten eine perfekte Bühne bietet – eine Plattform für Inspiration, Dialog und Business.

Präsentieren werden sich dort auch die Partner des Wettbewerbs. Neben GFT Technologies AG unterstützen Ernst & Young, Fujitsu Technology Solutions, die Deutsche Messe AG, der Branchenverband BITKOM und das Karlsruher ZKM die globale Innovationsinitiative.

In den kommenden Tagen gibt es weitere News zu den Eventvorbereitungen – seid gespannt!