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From panel discussions on accelerator programmes to inspiring stories of young entrepreneurs who learnt their route to happiness- TechSparks 2017 in Bangalore was an event that had all the flavours an entrepreneur looks for. For us at WunderNova, the real spark was to see how German and Indian startups are open to find synergies to work together. The year 2017 has had a series of good news to boost relationships between German and Indian startups. The idea of the two countries working together in the startup space got a reaffirmation when the former Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman visited Germany this year and met Germany’s Economic Affairs Minister Brigitte Zypries. The two countries then agreed to establish exchange programmes for Indian and German Startups. The latest initiative in this space is GINSEP (German Indian Startup Exchange Programme) which aims to promote German-Indian economic relations in the field of startups and acts as an impartial first contact and a neutral facilitator of contacts and opportunities between the two countries. The belief that the entrepreneurs of the two countries have the potential to seamlessly work together was recently acknowledged when we saw a series of German entrepreneurs and WunderNova members talk at TechSparks 2017 last month.
German Consul General Margit Hellwig-Botte who is also a WunderNova member said in her session at TechSparks,
“Germans have expertise in building good products and Indians have an entrepreneurial mindset. Both countries have something or the other to learn from each other.”
She took another session on How to be a successful professional while finding your balance where she mentioned that while one is trying to build a career, it is very important to learn to say “no” and how success is directly proportional to the balance one creates in one’s working style. Margit referred to a quote by Steve Jobs – “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Hence, she insisted that we all must keep working towards the future by focusing on the most important things and everything falls in place by the end of the journey. “With time and experience, I have realized that all things can’t go wrong at the same time, so you have to keep moving forward.”
Eileen Trenkmann, Project Manager, GIZ (and member of WunderNova) spoke about her fascination with India and how destiny brought her back to the country even though she had decided to leave after her first visit. She also gave valuable information on how GIZ fostered corporate engagement in startup incubation. For Eileen, the startup space in India has always been an exciting area. When she joined GIZ in India, her role required her to work on climate change adaptation in the private sector, particularly MSME’s but the startup ecosystem in India always intrigued her. She eventually shifted into the role of working with startups and entrepreneurs as a representative of GIZ. “ In 2013, The Companies Act mentioned that big corporates could actually spend their CSR money on incubators and accelerators which was a game changer. Since then, there have been 17 partnerships between corporates and incubators .” she said. One of the examples is Bosch India which hosted its second Indo-German boot camp in March this year, on Transport and Mobility in Bengaluru, which had numerous start-ups pitch their ideas and top ten were selected.
Further, it was a breath of fresh air to hear Moritz Warntjen, Founder, BodyListeners (and Co-Founder WunderNova) speaking on What I learned about happiness when I stopped dieting. Moritz is also the author of a book called Food ‘n’ love – Ich ess’ dann mal normal. In his session, Moritz spoke about how dieting is not just about health and losing weight. There is a larger psychological mindset behind controlling yourself from eating what you like and trying to lose weight. “People diet to be more accepted within the society. The reason is always about not feeling good enough” he said.
The enthusiasm of German and Indian startups exchanging notes during the two-day event was extremely encouraging for the ones who are willing to collaborate with the other country. Shradha Sharma, Founder of YourStory, wrote in a recent blogpost , “I am also happy to share that we have recently launched YourStory Germany to cover the ecosystem there and bring entrepreneurs from Germany and India closer together to collaborate and form rewarding long-term relationships.”
Maren Lesche, Cofounder, YourStory Germany (and a member of WunderNova) shared her excitement by saying, “I was blown away by the variety of startup innovation presented – I also attended a CXO dinner powered by iBM Watson and met several AI and Big Data startups. I liked the intense networking, people reaching out actively and presenting their ideas openly. No holding back! I was also impressed by the high interest in the German startup ecosystem and look forward to the upcoming projects of Yourstory Germany.” Maren shared that her favorite tour during TechSparks was Team Indus, India’s first private aerospace startup. “Who could not be inspired by a mission to the moon? Team Indus will make childhood dreams across the world true – and it teaches kids in India and Germany that the sky is not the limit- there is even more! This is pure entrepreneurial spirit!,” she said.
Among other entrepreneurs who visited TechSparks was Lisa Lang, Founder, ElektroCouture who spoke on When tech walks the ramp. One of the highlights of her talk was when she probed, “Why can’t you look pretty and smart at the same time?,” talking about how fashion and technology merge to make apparel look even more beautiful with a unique glow and glitter. “Fashion Technology is a new profession and we need special talent to cater to this industry. It is a unique job and we have already trained a few fashion technologists and we continue to educate people about this space,” she said.
This is not the end of all that we had at the event! There was a special panel on Innovation re-interpreted: Germany as the next startup frontier moderated by Margit Hellwig Botte and panelists from Bosch India, Bayer Pharma and SAP. The main question addressed during the panel was how corporates are working with startups through incubators and accelerators. In sync with the session, Jannis Busch who is building up the Grants4Apps program in Asia had recently written in his blog post, “When we speak about building bridges between the corporates behind us and the startups in front of us, then we usually refer to US, Germany, Japan, etc. Exciting new adventures lay ahead of us when we look at markets that are not as fully developed, with seemingly unlimited potentials and likewise seemingly unbearable challenges.”
During the session, Jannis left the audience with an optimistic yet thought-provoking note, “ The question is not to just make a start, but keep standing till the end.”