A lot of cowards, few entrepreneurial spirits
Students in Germany have a common goal: a permanent position. Very few risk a business startup. Unless the starting capital is only five euros.
To be your own boss – that always sounded tempting to Sebastian Winkler. The 29-year-old computer science graduate worked on the business idea with three friends in his living room: a software program for smartphones able to send large amounts of data.
The young entrepreneur looked for support from the startup center at Berlin Humboldt University (HU). “We worked on the application for months”, said Winkler. It was successful: the team received a stipend and free use of office space for one year for its business model.
Dreaming of their own business makes Winkler and his colleague like foreigners in their own country. St. Gallen University recently asked 93,000 students from 26 countries how they view business startups. Result: German students, together with Finnish, Japanese and Dutch students are the most reluctant about startups. 78 percent of future graduates prefer to work as an employee here in Germany.
Every fifth startup goes bust
What´s the reason for this? Volker Hofmann of Humboldt-Innovation, the startup center at HU Berlin, gives an answer. By international standards, Germany
has innovative small and medium-sized companies, and so it is very attractive for students to be employed in a company. “Many students are deterred by the risks that a business startup involves.” Their fears are not completely unjustified: every fifth startup by HU students goes bust sooner or later.
Students at TU Dresden are also familiar with financial difficulties. About 50 students attempt to set up their own business here every year. “It is important to enter into discussions with many potential buyers early on”, says Frank Pankotsch, managing director of the startup center. That makes the chances of finding an investor higher.
A survey at Trier University in 2008 confirms the impression of the startup centers. It is above all the “high or seriously calculable risks” which deter students from startups. Female students in particular thought that they lacked practical experience and did not have sufficient market knowledge.
There are fewer hurdles for business startups in Bavaria, at least for participants in a competition organized by the Bavarian Educational Institution. The aim is to implement a business idea with only five euros of starting capital. The winners this year are the four founders of the company Campus Kandinsky. The group of business management and theatre students from Bayreuth University, as well as a chemistry postgraduate, organized exhibitions for young amateur artists.
The students set up their GbR at the beginning of May, and the first event took place at the end of June. “We had six weeks to go from the original concept to the finished business report”, says Ludger Herget, one of the business founders. However there was little help from Bayreuth University. “We were quite on our own”, says the 23-year-old business management student. “The subject of startups has been dealt with rather poorly up to now by the university.” That´s why the four students want to set up a startup forum themselves at their university, in order to mutually help each other in future.
Aim: A permanent position
Stefan Schwenzfeier would also have liked more support from his university. The 26-year-old science undergraduate from Siegen set up the hip hop record label Feine Kreise a year ago and looked for advice from the startup office at his university. However the staff sent him away. His business idea didn´t sound interesting enough. “The advice was laughable”, says Schwenzfeier annoyed. He had to get help from friends for his first tax declaration. “I haven´t learnt that from university.”
Currently Schwenzfeier is writing his master thesis. He wants to continue his small company at the same time, but his goal after graduation stands firms: a permanent position.