Where startups germinate and flourish
The Center for Entrepreneurship supports founders as they take their first steps in the world of startups and draw up bold plans for conquering the international market with their companies. Matthias Filser who heads the Center explains that they have the right tools available for everyone.
A hub, a platform or an ecosystem within an ecosystem. Matthias Filser has many different terms to hand when it comes to describing the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Startup Campus that he has headed since 2019. Whether a company has just been set up or whether it wants to launch products or services onto the market, or is even setting out to conquer the world market – “we provide startups with the necessary tools”, explains Filser, an economist with a PhD. The broad range of offerings includes a startup competition, a programme for promoting female entrepreneurs, startup and scale-up training sessions, a startup incubator and networking events. “We are the hub where the threads of entrepreneurship all come together”, Filser explains. Company founders receive support here from their first business idea through to their growing business model.
“We are the hub where the threads of entrepreneurship all come together.”
The Center for Entrepreneurship, which forms part of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, engages in various partnerships to this end. Of particular importance is its cooperation with the Swiss Innovation Agency Innosuisse and the Impact Hub Zurich. The Startup Campus and Impact Hub Zurich implement training sessions, courses and events for Innosuisse and other entities. These are supported by a consortium of universities, technology parks and innovation parks under Filser’s leadership. And this cooperation is also reflected in the individual programmes. Technopark Winterthur, for example, provides the premises for the Runway Startup Incubator, and the Impact Hub Zurich hosts monthly events for the Female Founders Initiative, since it was the Hub that launched this initiative together with the Center for Entrepreneurship in the first place.
Startups and entrepreneurship have long since become a fashionable topic that is encountered everywhere. “Over the past few years in particular, training courses and other offerings have mushroomed”, says Filser, who has been active in this scene for almost twenty years. ZHAW is by no means a free rider, however, but has been supporting young entrepreneurs for more than a decade.
“With this breadth and depth to its offerings, ZHAW is also exceptionally well-positioned in an international comparison.”
Contrary to many other universities, ZHAW not only teaches the theoretical basics of starting a business and accompanies upcoming and established young entrepreneurs with coaching sessions and workshops but also builds bridges to the private sector and puts company founders in contact with industry experts, capital providers and successful female entrepreneurs. "A combination of this kind is rare.” This is also how Petra Moog sees it, who has headed the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship since April of this year: “With this breadth and depth to its offerings, ZHAW is also exceptionally well-positioned in an international comparison.” This is an ideal starting situation for further strengthening our cooperation with foreign universities and partners in the private sector in future, adds the head of the Institute, who held the chair of Entrepreneurship and Family Business at the University of Siegen for sixteen years.
The sectors producing the most startups at any given time are also constantly changing. During the pandemic, a large number of new companies were set up in the health-tech segment in particular, says Filser. Over the past few years, blockchain technologies have developed into a major topic, while this year has seen an abundance of business ideas for programs like ChatGPT and DALL-E based on artificial intelligence. The number of startups related to sustainability and climate change issues has also been on the increase for some time. Through its Sustainability Booster, the Center for Entrepreneurship provides targeted support for young entrepreneurs in developing and building up a sustainable business idea.
“But it’s crucial to know your own ‘why’ – to know what drives you.”
To start a business, you have to be able to think like an entrepreneur. And there are many different facets to this attitude, says Vanessa Mohrig from the ZHAW Center for Entrepreneurship, who is responsible for marketing and community building at the Startup Campus. Entrepreneurial thinking means having the courage to think big about your own idea, even if you are perhaps on your own at first, and also having the perseverance not to lose sight of this highly personal image when the path takes unexpected turns, as will inevitably happen. At the same time, it also means being able to adapt or give up your own ideas where necessary. The marketing expert is convinced that you do not have to be born with a mindset like this and feels that most things can be learned. "But it’s crucial to know your own ‘why’ – to know what drives you.”