Neighbourhoods, such as Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte have different ‘vibes’ and styles; the students made a point of visiting start-up companies in several of them to find out more about the fast-moving world of start-ups that exists beyond the corporate partner environment more often encountered during the CEMS programme, which aims to develop high-quality graduates with a well-developed global mindset in preparation for an international career in business. The students heard first-hand from CEMS alumni and other graduates who decided to work for start-ups after their graduation and got a feel for what it might be like to work for a start-up in its early stages, through seed financing or at the scale-up stage, through business cases and workshops provided by the companies they visited.
They were also able to hear of career opportunities and new positions becoming available, what such companies might look for in candidates, and about life in Berlin.
At Barzahlen the students discovered the size and importance of the cash payment market in Germany and in Europe, and heard the CEO’s inspiring career story.
One of the bigger start-up firms visited was advertising technology company AppLift, which is ‘scaling up quickly’, they reported. Students were set to work in teams on a business case about the use of marketing tools to promote a mobile application.
Exploring the co-working building Betahaus which hosts WATTx, an innovation hub working on smart climate solutions through the Internet of Things, the visitors discovered how the open plan layout allows the sharing of knowledge and experiences across and between several start-up companies.
FinLeap is a ‘start-up factory’ targeting financial technology firms – a relatively new sector – focused on new technologies and scalable business models to provide simpler and more transparent digital services and banking. Other start-up companies visited included FinLeap, Resolution Foundry, and HomeToGo.
Staying in a hostel at Friedrichshain, and visiting a traditional German brewery, Hofbräu München, the students viewed Berlin from almost every possible angle.
Tim Heijmann and Jon Gadellaa, who organised the tour, said: “The CEMS programme has a lot of big corporate partners; multinationals, consultancy firms and banks, so events are often tailored around those types of firms. We had the feeling that one segment of the global business world was left out of the mix: start-ups. We wanted people to experience how it is to work in a smaller company, and show them the innovative and disruptive environment of the Berlin start-up scene.
“We believe we reached our goal as some people are planning to apply for one of the visited companies, and many others said they have now a better understanding of their career options and opportunities.”
Another student on the trip, Tudor Goicea said: “It was nice to see different types of companies. We met young idealistic entrepreneurs as well as more experienced serial entrepreneurs. The diversity in working styles, cultures and industry enabled us to have a good overview about what we could do in the future. In terms of social events, we saw that Berlin has a lot to offer and enjoyed it at its fullest. I am currently in contact with one of the start-ups and hope to move to Berlin for my summer internship.”