Young people talking and laughing © Norbert Güntner
09 May 2022

People who’ve built a business often continue to engage in the start-up network by mentoring the next generation – a cycle that makes for exciting new start-ups and a thriving economy. Three such founders have agreed to tell their stories here, explaining why they’ve decided to give back, sharing their outlook on entrepreneurship in Germany, and calling for paradigm shifts for the future.

In a business world that’s meant to be collaborative (rather than competitive), giving and taking are both natural and necessary. Experienced entrepreneurs know all too well what difficulties await when starting a business. They've been there themselves, were inspired by founders who came before them, and have grown their businesses thanks to a helpful network and a great deal of commitment to their work. These are the people who often come back later to offer support to “newcomers” in turn.

When it comes to achieving funding, a positive evaluation, and business success, experience is one of the most important assets that seasoned entrepreneurs can offer to new founders.

Founding – Impulse 1

In society and politics at large, I’d like to see more entrepreneurial spirit and the willingness to experiment that’s so often present in start-ups – because it’s the only way for us to stay competitive for the long term. Personally, I’m finding the guiding principle of ‘think big, start small, move fast’ very valuable when it comes to trying out new ideas.”

Veronika Schweighart, co-founder and COO of Climedo

Profilfoto VS weiss © Climedo

Veronika Schweighart is aware that today’s start-ups will grow into the SMEs of tomorrow and that their innovations are changing the world. This is why she not only supports start-ups as a mentor but also takes advantage of opportunities at events to share her experience of building a business.

Veronika already started her first company - the online collaboration tool Nuclino - after graduating from university. After two and a half years, she stepped down as CEO to found Climedo with fellow students Sascha Ritz and Dragan Mileski from the Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM), where she now heads the Sales, Marketing and Customer Success department. The MedTech start-up offers a digital platform for clinical research to improve the quality of findings, among other things. The idea arose from negative experiences with the medical system in their own environment, resulting in the goal of fundamentally improving the healthcare industry and putting patients at the center. With Climedo, she was part of our XPRENEURS Incubator.

At the beginning of her founding phase, Veronika took part in a study that had a lasting impact on her commitment. Its result: contact with female entrepreneurs particularly promotes the development of entrepreneurial self-efficacy and attitudes towards entrepreneurship in female students.

In short, approachable role models have a significant impact on the motivation of female students when it comes to starting their own businesses. Unfortunately, since there are still far too few female founders, I’ve made it my personal mission to promote diversity in founding teams in an effort to support successful new ventures – because diverse teams are proven to be more successful.

Veronika is actively engaged in the network of the Technical University of Munich (TUM), the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU), and the Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM), where she regularly participates in events for alumni and aspiring founders. As a result, she’s come alongside a variety of individuals and teams to help them succeed in their project management and goal setting, for example.

The “think big, start small, move fast” approach in detail:

  1. "Think big”: Visionary thinking is needed to tackle the major challenges of our world.
  2. "Start small”: Don’t try everything at once – always proceed with the necessary focus and whatever you do, start small.
  3. “Move fast”: Get going quickly in short iterations so you don’t find yourself moving in the wrong direction for too long – and so you get to learn a great deal in a short time. Time is the most important resource when it comes to implementing innovations, and this is true for everything, not just start-ups.

Founding – Impulse 2

We need better framework conditions in Germany. Then, things will look up with regard to future viability.

Maximilian Hasler, COO of KONUX

Max Hasler Portrait

Max explains further:

  • "For one thing, our government needs to be more responsive to the needs of start-ups, by, for instance, making employee stock ownership programs more attractive. It needs to respond more quickly to current innovations, too – the topic of AI was addressed too late.
  • Entrepreneurship needs to push its way further into the awareness of the German public and establish itself as an alternative to employment. This doesn’t mean everyone has to dream of becoming an aerospace pioneer like Elon Musk or a social media mogul à la Mark Zuckerberg. But if you don’t set ambitious goals for yourself, you won’t magically find yourself building the Siemens, BMW, or SAP of the 21st century.
  • At the end of the day, we’ll have to actively destigmatize failed start-ups, too – true to Michael Jordan’s experience: ‘I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that’s why I succeed.’"

During his studies at TUM and CDTM, Max Hasler worked closely with the topic of business creation and participated in one of our programs with TUM. Together with Andreas Kunze, Vlad Lata, and Dennis Humhal, he founded KONUX, which offers an infrastructure system for the railroad and rail sector to improve availability, service life, and maintenance. The goal was to “marry the best of Silicon Valley with German engineering – to build a German digital champion.” The venture took off at TechFounders, among other places, as well as through an investment of UVC Partners.

I firmly believe that we can create a stronger culture of innovation in Germany. But this will only happen if we support each other. The Web3 industry has coined the acronym ‘WAGMI’ (‘We’re all going to make it’). That’s precisely the attitude I believe in: Unity makes us strong.

Max supports the next generation in a variety of areas: from topics such as funding, team building, and growth to the more “technical” side, most notably in finance, human resources, legal, and operations.

Founding – Impulse 3

I’m convinced that it’s our task to support people who want to start their own business, because entrepreneurship is simply such an incredibly important social task. I want to do my part to ensure that we’ll transform our industry in a sustainable and socially compliant way through new start-ups.

Bastian Burger – Interim Manager, Coach, and Lecturer

Bastian Burger Portrait

Bastian Burger took a big sip of entrepreneurship at the THINK.MAKE.START. prototyping competition and the TechTalents program with TUM. He then founded the start-up blik together with Victoria Hauzeneder and Philip Eller in 2016. Their system for tracking processes in intralogistics quickly attracted a large clientele from the automotive and logistics sectors, a seed investment, and a team of employees. They also participated in the TechFounders Accelerator. In 2019, they decided to dissolve their company – as funding would have been difficult at the time.

Thanks to his experience, Bastian is now able to provide support as a lecturer at the CDTM and the HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management. He’s also active as a coach at the XPRENEURS Incubator. His expertise includes B2B business models, the general further development of business models, and early-stage growth.

This is where Knowledge Keeps Growing

UnternehmerTUM offers a whole range of opportunities and venues for experienced and new founders to exchange ideas, including these:

  • At the Academy for Innovators, successful entrepreneurs work with participants in a very practical way and in a variety of formats, giving keynotes and supporting them personally. For the latter, this means trying out entrepreneurship knowledge on real problems and projects and being able to enrich theory with inspiring stories from business life.
  • In the XPRENEURS Incubator and the TechFounders Accelerator, young start-ups develop quickly. They’re supported by a team of entrepreneurial experts – expanded by successful business people and start-ups that share their experience through workshops and learning sessions and at events.
  • The start-up and innovation scene comes together at numerous events each year – from pitch events and demo days to networking sessions and hackathons. At those, too, we’re happy to welcome many UnternehmerTUM alumni and other successful founders who want to share their knowledge through keynotes and talks.

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