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Unipreneur: Klaus Diepold is on the trail of entrepreneurs

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MIRMI Professor Klaus Diepold is one of the 20 professors who have been honored this year as "Unipreneurs" for their special dedication to entrepreneurs. The goal of the Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM) is to identify students with the entrepreneurial gene.

Professor Diepold, 5,500 German startups of a certain size were selected for the Unipreneur award, and they named their most important supporters from universities. Among the 700 names, 20 appear particularly frequently. One of them is yours. Are you surprised?

I'm delighted about it because it shows that the concept of the Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM) is working. The additional program "Technology Management" offered by CDTM has been included in the Bavarian elite network since 2004 and is supported by the Bavarian State Ministry of Science and Art. The elite program focuses on training the innovators of the future. CDTM is funded approximately half by public funds and half by private third-party funding, which includes projects where students tackle challenges from the industry. 

How do you promote new business ideas and startups?

Twice a year, we admit 25 students each from LMU and TUM to CDTM. It's important to us that they have a certain entrepreneurial gene. We teach them how to generate ideas, evaluate them, and, if necessary, discard them. It's crucial to recognize the right time and have the courage to pull the plug when it becomes clear that an idea works technically but doesn't find a profitable market. We systematically teach this to our students. Some of our founders, like Hanno Renner of Personio, went through several different startup ideas and discarded them before they became successful with their final idea. Another approach is to change course along the way, not to stubbornly pursue one idea but to adapt it from time to time. Stylight is such a company, a search platform for fashion, beauty, and design developed and driven by four CDTM graduates in 2008, which now belongs to the media conglomerate Pro 7. Anselm Bauer, Benjamin Günther, Max-Josef Meier, and Sebastian Schuon were quite successful for seven years before deciding to sell the company for 80 million euros, completely letting go. Afterward, Anselm Bauer became an investor in Personio and later founded his own company, the software company Alasco, together with Benjamin Günther and Sebastian Schuon. Max-Josef Meier founded TeleClinic in 2016, a telemedicine network, and three years later, FINN, a platform for car subscriptions.

Often, prototypes emerge from research projects that, at first glance, could have the potential to be market-ready. Why does this often not happen?

One reason is that our doctoral students advance research work with the goal of obtaining a Ph.D. rather than starting a company. That's why we try to identify people who possess the entrepreneurial gene, preferably on their way to obtaining a master's degree. However, it's also possible to combine a Ph.D. with founding a company. The best example of this is Georg Schroth, who co-founded the company NAVVIS. He did his master's thesis at CDTM and then joined the team around Prof. Eckehard Steinbach to work on a startup idea for his Ph.D. The startup mindset was, in a way, already part of his doctoral work.

More Information

-          Four professors chosen as Unipreneurs.

-          In the Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM), approximately 7,500 jobs have been created through startups in the last twenty years, with over 250 startups emerging. About 11% of the total investments in startups in Germany went to CDTM alumni.

-          According to a recent study by Wirtschaftswoche, startups in Germany were most frequently founded by TUM graduates (810). LMU contributed 367 graduates who founded startups, totaling 1,177. Further information: About one-third of CDTM alumni start their own startups. Another third pursues a path in academia. Prominent examples from the TUM side include Isabelle Welpe, Professor of Strategy and Organization, and Prof. Sami Haddadin, Executive Director of MIRMI. The final third seeks jobs in consulting or industry, where they often become intrapreneurs.