This summer has been a challenging one for many students in Europe as internships and job opportunities were put on hold or cancelled due to the pandemic. To address the situation, Frankfurt School has been making a special effort to provide increased campus-learning experiences. One initiative is the Startup workshop, a hands-on opportunity for students to test the viability of their business ideas and to acquire the mindset for decision taking in the high-risk startup environment. The initiative is aligned with the message from President Nils Stieglitz in a recent online address to the new intake that emphasizes the importance of ensuring that the student life experience continues despite the unprecedented situation.
The event was created by Mr. Gino Francato, global business leader for Sabic which is a large chemical company. The workshop is based on his many years of experience in business incubation and training technical staff, business leaders and venture teams in realizing innovation projects. The workshop included practical application of concepts in behavioral economics, hypothesis-driven planning and best practices in project and innovation management.
According to Mr. Francato, a lot of the complexity derives at the beginning of a startup project, especially in areas of radical innovation, when there are many questions that need to be answered. Over the years, he learned that setting up a successful business required organizations to acquire the right entrepreneurial mindset and to address the important questions at the start while adopting the necessary discipline. The unique approach of this workshop was to instill the right mindset and to apply the knowledge directly to actual projects. There was an open dialogue between the participants and the instructor to help them precisely define the value proposition, understand the target customers, and most importantly, to change their mindsets.
Mr. Francato is pleased with the level of engagement with the students and their innovative ideas. Many of the project ideas brought forward by Frankfurt School students were on ethical and sustainable business solutions in various sectors including automotive, energy, fashion and food. Some of the students already had experience setting up their own startups, from some with initial ideas to others that successfully established businesses but wanted to critically review them during the workshop. The key motivation for most participants was to learn how to assess an entrepreneurial opportunity in a structured way. Students were highly motivated and engaged which made it lively and interesting and that it was an extremely rewarding experience.
One of the highlights of the workshop was when Mr. Luca Rancilio, one of the founders of Rancilio Cube, a venture capital fund, met with the participants and answered their questions related to setting up a successful and internationally recognized brand such as Rancilio Cube. One of the participants, Christopher Carter, FS Bachelor’s student and Head of the Entrepreneurship Venture student-lead initiative, shared his experience:
“The technique that stuck with me the most was the LACH-Analysis. By working out a kind of reverse income statement, it becomes visible which sales checkpoints one has to reach in a given time. This is a very straightforward way to test the hypothesis if this business idea makes sense. I learned how important it is to know that customers are not necessarily interested in the features of a product – they need to know the value they get out of these features. It is therefore essential to differentiate between features, benefits, and value of a product and understand what distinguishes them from the next best alternative. I am very happy that the Frankfurt School is providing more input for students that are interested in an entrepreneurial career. This summer workshop was a great way to get to know like-minded individuals from our university, get to talk to an investor, and gather the necessary information to assess the feasibility of a business idea.”