PhD students and HPI staff develop an entrepreneurial concept for their research

The PhD startup bootcamp is an intensive three-day workshop targeted at PhDs and scientists from HPI. The goal of the bootcamp is to build a business idea upon research results or own external technical inventions. The idea will then be developed into a first business model.

The PhD Start-up Bootcamp

The first HPI PhD Start-up Bootcamp to specifically address PhD students and HPI scientists took place from 23–25 November 2016. During this three-day event, workshops were held in the field of entrepreneurship and individual business ideas were practically implemented. The topics of the workshops dealt with issues of special relevance in the initial phase of company formation: team composition, business model development, customer-focused product development, market and competition analysis, and the areas of financing and pitching.

Not all participants had their own business ideas from the start. Some began with technology developed from research work; while others wanted to join a team as “co-founder.” Four teams were formed from the 12 participants registered for the first Start-Up Bootcamp who set out to work on an entrepreneurial idea. The participants’ backgrounds were quite different.

One team from Prof. Dr. Felix Naumann’s research group, Information Systems, worked on a project to improve the state of risk management at banks. Michael Loster, Toni Grütze and Zhe Zuo, who already knew each other from collaborative work at their chair, used the three days to structure their project from a business perspective.

The second team, made up of Martin Talmeier, the HPI manager of the competence center for digitalization in medium-size enterprises, and two external collaborators investigated their ideas for the digital queue.

The third team focused on a software solution for measuring performance in creative teams. Here, Axel Menning and Benedikt Ewald, PhD candidates at the HPI School of Design Thinking, worked with Tom Steffen Bade, who was already able to incorporate his business background, in honing their ideas and view of the market.

Magnus Knuth, Mirela Alistar and Franceso Quinzan formed the fourth team. A special feature of this team is that members, who came from the departments of Internet Technologies and Systems, Human Computer Interaction, and Algorithm Engineering, had never previously worked together on a specific entrepreneurial idea. But this did not hold them back from establishing an excellent atmosphere and diving into collaborative work on a software solution for extracting and analyzing unstructured date from a wide range of data sources.

Overall, the first HPI PhD Bootcamp offered participants the opportunity to learn about and use entrepreneurial tools (such as the Business Model Canvas), to develop a business idea in a targeted and intensive manner, and to interact with peers. Additionally, it was possible during and at the end of each workshop session to receive targeted feedback from all participants. Feedback was also given by the E-School team, and, at the end of the three days, by an experienced entrepreneur.

Another special feature of the Bootcamp was the intensive collaboration with the D-School. The entire Bootcamp was able to use the rooms of the D-School. Moreover, the first workshop on teambuilding and value proposition was conducted by the experienced academic director of the D-School Dr. Claudia Nicolai. Two incoming D-School coaches from the new certification program lent their energetic support to the Bootcamp teams, as well as to the E-School organization team.

The Bootcamp was praised as a success by all participants. Whether to effectively develop a business idea, to achieve a structured business-management view of an entrepreneurial idea, to enrich one’s own research work, or as an exciting experience outside of the known area of expertise — it is an experience definitely worth repeating.

If you would like to continue working on your business idea after the Bootcamp has ended, the E-School team is happy to support you with its offers.