7 April 2021. "Be where innovation happens" was the motto of the START Summit 2021, which took place at the end of Marchs in the still-under-construction shell of the HSG Learning Center. Due to the current pandemic situation, Europe's largest student-organised conference for entrepreneurship and technology set up a virtual format with over 180 speakers and more than 180 different events. The fact that the Learning Centre, which can be seen as a start-up for the University itself, was chosen as the location is no coincidence: "The Learning Centre is a place where innovation takes place. That's why the START Summit and the Learning Center fit so well together," says Dan Meier, head of the START Summit. "Moreover, the Summit will always be a prototype and, above all, under construction - just like the Learning Center is right now."
Bringing the architecture inside
The setting was also well thought out. The rectangular stage was surrounded by "cube scaffolding". "The idea was to take up the motif of the building 'Open Grid'. We wanted to embrace the idea of the cubes by deliberately bringing this architecture of the building inside our stage as well," says Dominik Schirle, producer at START Global and responsible for the implementation of the livestream production at the HSG Learning Center. "With the square LED walls, light tubes and illuminated furnishings, we also were able to bring in technology and innovation - exactly what START Global stands for. With the stage made entirely of mirrors, it seemed as if the speakers virtually floated in space. At the same time, this symbolises openness and the desire to think outside the box - a chosen approach that is also reflected in the architecture of the new HSG Learning Center. “
Well-known and young personalities
Among the speakers were familiar faces such as Prof. Dr. Miriam Meckel, Professor of Corporate Communication at the HSG. Together with her business partner and HSG and START alumna Verena Pausder, she discussed the importance of female entrepreneurship. A highlight for many was the talk by HSG alumnus and CEO of Daimler AG and Mercendes-Benz AG Ola Källenius on the path to a climate-neutral future. Very young personalities were also given their stage: 23-year-old Fabian Tausch is the founder and host of the Young Entrepreneurs Podcast. In it, he invites entrepreneurial icons and reports on start-up stories to help budding entrepreneurs learn from the mistakes of others. At the START Summit, he spoke with Eugene Danilkis, founder and CEO of Mambu, a Software as a Service banking platform, about the challenges of starting a business in a highly competitive market.
In addition to numerous panel discussions, lectures, workshops and other formats, a pitching competition took place. This gave 30 start-ups the opportunity to present their idea and their product to a jury of experts. The HSG start-up UpGrain was able to prevail over its competitors in the preliminary and final rounds and win the prize money of CHF 25,000. The start-up uses unused natural resources to produce protein-rich, sustainable food such as breakfast cereals - an innovation that brings the idea of the circular economy into focus. This closes the frame to the venue of the START Summit: innovation and the stimulation to create an entrepreneurial mindset are core elements of the strategy of the HSG Learning Center. So perhaps the START Summit will also play a role for this venue in the future.
The START Summit is the main event of the university association START Global and takes place once a year.
Photo: Dominik Schirle at the START Summit 2021; Copyright: Andreas Oberholzer