The Falling Walls Foundation forms a unique “hub” that connects science, business and society, in line with their motto “Building bridges and overcoming borders”. Among the diverse offerings of the Berlin-based nonprofit organization its initiative Young Entrepreneurs in Science (YES) offers a wirde range of workshops, primarily addressing PHD’s and Post Docs that aim to show them an alternative career path besides industry and science. The courses address different needs, so the offering goes beyond simply showing potential. In the advanced courses, within the framework of entrepreneurship education, skills are taught that open up new application-oriented perspectives on their research to scientists and thus sensitize them to the topic of start-ups using very personal examples and equip participants with the necessary skills.
Last week, Frederik Lehmann, one of the Start4Chem Startup Coaches, participated in a course of the YES program and will share some insights about participating in the workshop below.
In the online workshop “From PhD to Innovator”, the speakers skillfully managed to take away the fear of the unknown topic of entrepreneurship and starting a business from the group of participants right at the beginning. They showed us the parallels between our own research and the iterative procedure of implementing a start-up project. The related self-reflection of the participants was easy to share in the group, as a certain familiarity was created directly due to the small group size. The two-day course also taught elementary skills that are useful to any entrepreneur at the beginning of his or her journey. Special attention was paid to the presentation of an idea with the simplest means and least complexity. “Rough and Dirty”, a prototype was built by each participant. It was precisely this reduction of complexity that opened up a whole new realm of thought. Also the following pitch training and the pitch in front of a small jury, which had to be created in a very short time, made us present unfinished results and understand that in terms of Lean Startups an early customer contact is elementary.
During the whole workshop I felt challenged but also encouraged and I am sure that such an experience would benefit scientists who want to follow a classical career path in industry or research, as entrepreneurial thinking is required in many areas of industry and can significantly improve interdisciplinary communication.
This year’s ruhrSUMMIT took place as a hybrid format on June 29 and 30, 2021. Organized by the ruhrHUB, the event offered people interested in founding, startups, companies and investors the opportunity to engage in an exchange and to catch up on the latest topics and areas of interest from the startup cosmos.
In addition to various presentations on key topics by experts, there was also the opportunity to follow live discussion rounds or to talk directly with founders and experts via the matchmaking platform. In addition to a wide range of start-ups and companies from various industries, the Worldfactory Start-up Center represented through Vanessa Vaughn and Melusine Reimers also presented its support services as well as its international program for researchers interested in founding. The two days offered an exciting potpourri of different opportunities to get in touch with the start-up scene for the first time or to strengthen existing interest, to expand the network and to get interesting scene insights.
There is no question that events of this kind are important for founders, experts and investors, but why are they at least as exciting for people interested in founding? To answer this question, different event aspects have to be considered. A clear plus point is the low-threshold availability. The ruhrSUMMIT is open at favorable conditions even for those who have not yet founded a company themselves but are perhaps initially only interested in the topic of founding. At the same time, those interested in founding should take advantage of every opportunity that arises for them to exchange ideas with like-minded people and to expand their own network. A good network is very important and valuable not only in private life, but especially in the context of start-ups, because good personal networks contain a great deal of expertise and can make a significant contribution to broadening one’s own horizons. Under the current conditions, however, it can be quite difficult to build up such a network or to maintain existing contacts. Events like the ruhrSUMMIT with functions such as the matchmaking platform can be a great help in meeting old acquaintances or making new contacts.
For people who are already firmly established in their interest in founding and who are already working on their own ideas, the opportunity to exchange ideas with potential customers and investors is also very valuable. In this way, it can be ensured that the business idea meets with interest and important thought-provoking impulses for possible iterations can be gathered. Start-up projects in chemistry are usually designed for the business-to-business market, so direct contact with companies that might be interested in the business idea and the associated product or service in the future is particularly valuable. In addition, there was the possibility to present the own company on the pitch stage in order to generate more publicity for the own idea and to get to know new start-ups.
In summary, it can be said that events like the ruhrSUMMIT are not only important for founders, but are at least as attractive for scientists interested in founding a company. We are already looking forward to the ruhrSUMMIT 2022!
In the last weeks and months, our Start4Chem team has grown steadily from three to ten people, which we are very happy about. Currently, our main form of interaction takes place digitally, which means that a collegial exchange over a cup of coffee in the office is unfortunately not possible – a fate shared by many at the moment. Keeping the team engaged and motivated under these circumstances can be a challenge. This is not only true for us, but also in the context of start-ups, the team factor is an important success driver that should not be underestimated. A study by the Joachim Herz Foundation showed that especially for founding teams from the university and research context, not only the development of a common narrative and goal is important, but also the goal-oriented exchange within the team and effective decision-making must be actively supported (cf. Joachim Herz Foundation, 2021).
In order for us to be able to support our teams interested in founding in the best possible way, it is particularly important for us as an incubator to actively address the team factor in order to make our work results usable for the entire team and to develop a common vision. Therefore, last Thursday we took the time to talk about what we have worked on as a team so far, what each of us has worked on individually in the context of Start4Chem, where we want to go, what motivates us and how we like to work. At the same time, we also gave ourselves the space to critically reflect on which aspects of our work have not brought us the desired added value and what we would like to change so that we can work together even more efficiently.
Admittedly, in the beginning the team was a bit cautious about Anna Oelbermann’s (the incubator manager) suggestion and did not know what to expect from the four-hour meeting, which also included some preparation in the form of self-reflection. In retrospect, however, this meeting was one of the most valuable ones of the last few months, as everyone was given individual time and space to speak openly and honestly from the soul, to situate themselves and their work in the team structure and at the same time to position their work achievements in a way that was perceived as valuable for the whole team. Within the four hours, a very valuable and, above all, appreciative exchange took place in the entire team.
In the current situation, it is more important than ever to take time for the team, a realisation that seems so simple, but which we nevertheless want to push more in the future and thus also pass on to our teams interested in founding. Of course, this always involves a certain amount of effort, but this effort is always worth it and we are now looking forward to the upcoming team meetings!
In the context of a meeting of the Research Training Group GRK 2376 Confinement-controlled Chemistry, our start-up coaches Annabelle Beyer and Frederik Lehmann had the chance to present Start4Chem to a group of doctoral researchers on 16 June 2021.
The meetings of the GRK 2376 offer the PhD students the opportunity to meet different scientists as well as companies from the industry in order to receive scientific input in addition to being shown different career opportunities. In this context, Start4Chem had the opportunity to present the career path of knowledge-based founding starting at the university. In addition to a short presentation of the teams that are currently being supported by Start4Chem and are pursuing their interest in founding in an application-oriented manner, the input covered, among other things, the various support services for those interested in founding offered by the incubator as well as the Worldfactory Start-up Center and network partners such as the Bochum Wirtschaftsentwicklung and Young Entrepreneurs in Science.
We would like to thank Sandra Jendrzej and Andre Platzek for the organisation and the invitation as well as the opportunity to present the activities of Start4Chem and the start-up career path to the PhD students of the GRK 2376.
As part of the RESOLV Summer School Solvation Science 2021, our start-up coaches Annabelle Beyer and Frederik Lehmann had the opportunity to present the incubator Start4Chem and the career path of founding at the RESOLV Career Day on 27 May 21.
Within an interactive input, the topic of why it is worthwhile for researchers to consider the topic of founding was addressed, among other things. In addition, the 70 participants learned about the Roadmap to Founding with the various support services offered by Start4Chem, the WSC and network partners such as YES for those interested in founding (a company). Throughout the afternoon, the participants had the opportunity to ask their personal questions about the topic of founding in in-depth breakout sessions, which led to an exciting discussion. Besides Start4Chem, Tobias Vöpel from LiveSen, Ulrich Küsthardt from Evonik and Stamo Mentizi from Covestro presented their work.
We would like to thank Julia Nowack and Sedakat Altinpinar for the organisation and for the opportunity to present Start4Chem to the scientists from the RESOLV network and we are looking forward to further cooperation.
Interdisciplinary teams are successful founding-teams – this is what researchers at the Entrepreneurship Research Institute at Technische Universität München, commissioned by the Joachim Herz Stiftung, discovered. Alongside various measures regarding academic facilitation in the range of founding, they explicitly pointed out the aspect of interdisciplinarit (cf. https://www.wiwo.de/erfolg/gruender/zaghafte-ausgruendungen-wir-brauchen-einen-oliver-samwer-fuer-techies/26898514.html, accessed last 03.05.2021).
With its 20 faculties, more than 42.000 (inter-)national students, more than 6000 (inter-) national employees and 300 partnerships (cf. https://uni.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/de/zahlen-und-fakten, accessed last 03.05.2021), the Ruhr-University Bochum offers a solid basis for building up interdisciplinary teams in which one’s own start-up project can be driven forward supported by a wide range of competences and expertise within the team.
Especially start-up projects with distinct focus on sustainability are, in the case of successful spin-off, a prime example for the demand of interdisciplinary collaboration. Genuine sustainable products, services or technologies and the complex socially relevant challenges of our time can no longer be solely developed by experts under a bell jar – here, cooperation and collaboration between various experts and talented all-rounders are required.
And exactly at this point of intersection of sustainability and interdisciplinarity the hour strikes for chemistry. Because many research endeavours within the field of chemistry, in an early stadium, already address at least one of the 17 Sustainability goals given by the UN (https://sdgs.un.org/goals). Especially here, there is a need for full development of the already existing potential towards the utilization of different chemistry distant expert knowledge.
As the Start4Chem incubator of the Worldfactory Start-up Center at the RUB, we support people interested in founding, to incorporate complementary expert knowledge into their teams. Especially teams within the field of chemistry are often strong and excellent in their own professionality and realise with progressing work on their projects that they, for example, desperately need advice concerning engineering or business and economics. Thus, a proficient salesman might be required to place an own idea in the market and to get potential customers excited about it – here, it is not enough to solely work with external consulting. Once this important milestone regarding team insight has been achieved by the team itself, we at Start4Chem are ready to support with the help of finding and/or placement of new team members.
A low-threshold first step for acquisition of new team members could be, for example, the Stellenwerk portal available under the category “Wer gründet mit?” (https://www.stellenwerk-bochum.de/jobboerse/wer-gruendet-mit). Here, no-cost job advertisements can be placed, for the purpose of gathering new team members for start-ups.
Ultimately, it is all about forming a strong team, in which the members trust each other and build on one another and also about the respective expert knowledge and competences. What’s more, regarding team development, we also like to offer our services as a sparring partner for future founding teams.
We offer RUB chemists the framework to take their own research results and / or business ideas as a basis to orientate themselves towards the market, to deal with their own interest in founding a company, to develop this interest and, ideally, to start up a business.
Essentially, our services are directed at scientists and students within the field of chemistry, regardless of an already existing theoretical business proposal or whether there are promising research results at hand.
Chemists, who have bright results at hand and who want to test their market relevance get the chance of an individual WSC-coaching for business model development, preparation for founding competitions or applications for funds, like EXIST or NRW Start-up Transfer.
For everyone, who wants to get into touch with the topic of founding, we like to be the interface to mediate WSC offers, like Gründer:Innentalk or within the range of “Entrepreneurship Education” at RUB. Here, we like to emphasize our course “From Top Level Science to Top Level Business” that welcomes anyone wanting to get a first impression of the start-up spirit.
Furthermore, we as a team understand ourselves as networkers for people who are interested in founding and want to provide demand-based contacts for our teams. Examples for these kinds of contacts would be the excellence cluster RESOLV, the faculties and administration of the RUB or our external scientific institutions, the founding eco system at RUB as wells as role models within the chemical industry.
In the foreseeable future we will be able to offer office and laboratory spaces to those interested in founding. Here, the teams will be able to advance their real start-up projects and a chance of communicating and exchanging with others within the same field.
Together with our colleagues at WSC, we already accompany three teams interested in founding in chemistry: LiveSen, Millovation and Phycosystems. These teams are all on different milestones and have different stories behind and in front of them. And that is, what is important to us. We support you from the moment on, where you actually want to get in touch with your founding interest – end open. We look forward to getting to know you!
You can find information about this in the moodle course.
Furthermore, we would like to draw your attention to the two Start4Chem master courses:
From top-level research to top-level business
Out of the chemistry lab and up to the escape room!