This year's spring semester turned out to be extraordinary due to the current COVID-19 situation. While we still had a usual start with our courses and events, the semester needed to be moved online due to governmental directives and restrictions. As access to university buildings was prohibited for a while, also the MCEI had to switch to home office for the most of the semester. This resulted to move all communication online affecting all teaching and events. The decree ordering measures to protect the population from infections and prevent further spread of the coronavirus issued by the Land Baden-Württemberg forebade all lectures with presence from 19 April on. Before that already the first difficulties arose in quickly implementing a hygienic concept and supporting students who could not return from their home countries.
Although the situation was difficult, we managed to move all lectures and events already planned for the semester online. Therefore, we managed to get around event cancellations and successfully finnished the semester with our students also able to complete this semester.
Unfortunatly, for some of our friends the situation was different and other events had to be cancelled entirely. The situation particularly affected our partners Q-Summit and the Career Fair. Q-Summit is one of Germany’s most important conferences for entrepreneurship and innovation solely organised by students and usually held with MCEI as one of its partners. With more than 1000 participants, Q is one of the biggest conferences at the University of Mannheim and was meant to take place for the fourth time this spring. The cancellations meant a major blow also for us at MCEI as we were anticipating the networking and the inspiring moments for students and partners as well as getting inspired ourselves.
Following you find a more in-depth perspective along our core pillars Education, Support and Inspiration will provide you with more detailed information on our teaching activities, support programs and events.
This semester we were offering a total of five courses. This included our accelerator style classes MAN 453 Thinking Beyond Boxes – Advance Your Startup and MAN 633 Entrepreneurial Spirit. In these classes students were able to work on their own ventures and advance them or conduct an Inside the Venture project in one of our partner startups on master level. For a more theoretical perspective on entrepreneruship educaiton we were offering MAN 636 International Entrepreneurship and Managing Change, MAN 632 Advanced Entrepreneurship, MAN 450 Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Business Model Design.
In MAN 632 we are able to offer a special speaker series this year. The course focussed on real-life case studies and developing tools and concepts based on an underlying strategic perspective to grow the venture. This spring semester we enriched the course with live talks of experienced entrepreneurs and letting them share their experiences and ideas in class. We invited among others Victoria Seibert (Mirabesque), Lea-Sophie Cramer (Amorelie), Dr. Fabian Kracht (PERI), Björn Goss (Stocard), Daniel Treiber (Getsafe), and Dirk Meurer (Vorwerk Ventures). These distinguished entrepreneurs shared their insights, lessons learned and advice on how to build and grow a business from a Business-to-Consumer (B2C), Business-to-Business (B2B) and Corporate Entrepreneurship (CE) perspective.
In MAN 453 we had the student ventures Drinko, eduIT, fairtwenty, kerith, Party Room, UChanLife, WHERABLE, and wirksame Patientenverfügung. In MAN 633 the only student venture this semester was Aehrenmann, which was known as Erntehelfer-Gesucht during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In our Inside the Venture format, that enables students to spend time working on a real-life startup project and contributing to its success, we hade multiple projects. In the context of our accelerator course we had projects with Bacchus Software, Dr. fem Fatale, Freachly, Immooly, In the Green, Istari, Mapstar, Pourista, and Swapfiets. The Inside the Venture projects focussed on further development of business model and product (cloud based software for wineyard management) at Bacchus Software, business plan and customer acquisition for LUB´s on-demand platform FATALE University, analysis and acquisition of nano-influencers for Freachly, creating pitch desks for Immooly to attract venture capital, improvement of product at indoor farming company In The Green, development of a business strategy for the database start-up Istari, software-analysis at augmented reality start-up Mapstar, development of an effective acquisition and communication strategy at coffee bean dealer Pourista, as well as customer and market research for Swapfiets. In addition we had three Inside the Venture Master's Theses and two Bachelor's Theses.
Our Startup Lounges went from offline to online early on in the semester. For the first Startup Lounge we were still able to welcome the Heidelberg startup Viktulia in café L3, explaning us how to deliver sustainable and regional food effectively to customers. The last live Startup Lounge in L3 was with Paul Paquette from Ethidex who came all the way from Toronto (Canada) to give the community useful insights about founding in Mannheim as a Canadian. The Startup Lounges then went online from end March on. The first startup to present online via Zoom was Thatsmyjourney, presenting their vision of sustainable travelling. Following were the event plattform FamForEvents and the data specialist Albert Haag from PMH. We concluded our startup lounges this semester with the presentation from Hans-Georg Ripken from Erntehelfer-gesucht, a startup particularly adressing the covid-caused shortage of seasonal workers to help out in the agricultural sector. Our only Founder Talk this semester took also place online. Dr. Simone Burel spoke on linguistic consulting and other activities of her team from LUB.
Unfortunatly, many of the events of our partners could not take place at all. Particularily sad was the cancellation of Q-Summit. We as MCEI were endlessly sorry for the Q-Summit team as they committed so much effort to this outstanding event. Moreover, we were also sad not being able to be part of the event itself as a consequence of the cancelling. Q-Summit brings together students, founders, startups, corporates, investors and researchers to foster the startup spirit in the Rhine-Neckar-Region and far beyond borders. The two and a half days of conference are usually filled up with inspiring speeches, interactive workshops, passionate panel discussions and a lot of networking. But nevertheless we are looking very much forward to Q-Summit 2021
Despite the unusual circumstances we would like to thank all our supporters, partners, and program participants for living the entrepreneurial spirit and making these formats happen! We are already looking forward to the 2nd half of the year!!
More news about the MCEI
Two members left MCEI while we were also able to welcome others. First of all, Dr. Jan Zybra left MCEI and the Chair. Jan was at MCEI from the very start and we are very sad to have to say goodbye to a longtime colleague. You can read all about it here. Thank you for everything Jan and looking forward to seeing you soon!
Another valued member of our team who left is Maria Khodaeva. Maria was responsible for the events and cooperations of MCEI. While so she introduced so many amazing Startup Lounges and inspired us and our guests with her intriguing and motivating personality. This also helped her in keeping contact to various startups and initiatives. Her new mission leads Maria now to work for a startup herself in Munich. Thank you for everything Maria and looking forward to seeing you again!
Back to MCEI are Nora and Lina. Nora took a break for child care and is a research associate, Lina will take over the event section from Maria. Welcome (back) and excited for new startup adventures together!
Furthermore the MCEI and the Chair of SME reserach and entrepreneurship started to work together with the Deep Tech Hub, intensifying the cooperation between Mannheim, Heidelberg and Karlsruhe in their entrepreneruship endeavours.