WHU Entrepreneurship Center –
WHU – The home of Europe’s most successful entrepreneurs
With a strong focus on entrepreneurship, WHU continually places high in the world’s most salient rankings relevant to business administration, the founding of start-ups, and research—on a German, European, and international level. The Financial Times lists the school #1 in Germany and #8 worldwide for entrepreneurship teaching in its most recent MBA ranking. As a result, many of Europe’s most successful entrepreneurs and investors call the WHU community their home.
According to the report "Europe's New Tech Founders 2023”, published by the venture capital firm Antler, WHU has the second most unicorn founders out of all European universities. Only one other prestigious university, Oxford University, has more. But we are especially proud that WHU achieved this result, considering WHU's short 40-year history and small student body of only around 2,000 selected students.
How extraordinary this result is, also got highlighted in the 2022 report by Antler, which showed that WHU produces, by a wide margin, the highest number of unicorn founders proportional to the size of its student body in the DACH region (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland).
Over the course of 2022, German companies (co-)founded by students and alumni of WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management collectively raised a staggering US$846M in venture capital funds. Those funds account for 8% of all venture capital funds raised in Germany and reflect 5% of all German-based venture transactions.
These numbers give a glimpse to how essential entrepreneurship is to WHU and its community.
Learn more about entrepreneurship at WHU
We Enable WHU’s Startup Community
WHU’s startup network consists of alumni, students, staff, and partners who all contribute to the overall success of our ecosystem. We are convinced that our community members are WHU’s biggest assets. Our entrepreneurs, investors, student initiatives, faculties, etc. are strongly interconnected and enable each other.
The WHU Entrepreneurship Center has taken on the task of building and nurturing this network. We help WHU members navigate our community more easily and benefit from the network by monitoring the actors and activities of our community, maintaining lively relationships with all stakeholders, and facilitating the exchange of information, resources, and know-how.
Our Activies and Offers
An ecosystem as active as WHU’s startup community deserves an institution that maintains a clear overview. That is why the WHU Entrepreneurship Center keeps track of our founders and shares the generated insights and statistics with our community and the public.
- Reports and Statistics: The WHU Entrepreneurship Center collects rich information on the founding and investment activities of its student and alumni from different international databases. Based on the WHU founder database, we publish content like our quarterly WHU Start-ups Investment Report and dedicated statistics about WHU’s entrepreneurial footprint (e.g., Venture Capital 2022 Report). For more information on the WHU founder database, please contact Professor Dries Faems.
- Public Relations: In collaboration with our Public Relations team, the WHU Entrepreneurship Center produces news posts and articles providing the latest updates from and interviews with members of our WHU startup community. Keep an eye on our news and social media sections on this website and make sure to follow Professor Dries Faems and Maximilian Eckel on Linkedin.
Getting started with one’s own venture is hard. Having access to a network of like-minded people who have gone through the process themselves or offer unique skills can be invaluable. The WHU Entrepreneurship Center helps (aspiring) WHU founders with navigating their entrepreneurial journey and their alma mater’s outstanding network of accomplished and supportive alums. At the same time, we help the pioneers and more experienced part of our community get in touch with the latest generations of founders.
Our expertise lies in product-driven ventures that could potentially be financed by venture capital. We are, unfortunately, not the right contact for consulting or agency business models.
- Coaching: WHU founders who have already applied the skills they learned in class and have put their research, learnings, and numbers on their current venture into a shareable form (e.g., into a pitch deck) can always reach out to the WHU Entrepreneurship Center. We provide feedback and help you improve fundamentals like your storyline, pitch deck, financials, etc.
- Introductions within the Network: We don’t know every industry and don’t have in-depth expertise in every functional area of your startup. But there is, with high certainty, an expert for what you’re looking for in our WHU community. We also don’t provide funding via the Entrepreneurship Center. But WHU has one of the most advanced alumni communities of business angels and venture capitalists in Europe. The WHU Entrepreneurship Center helps WHU founders find the right contacts and reach out to them.
- WHU Accelerator: In our yearly WHU Accelerator, the Entrepreneurship Center combines all its founder support activities into one, intense program. Within a few weeks, eight WHU startups get the chance to talk to dozens of WHU alums to validate and challenge their core hypotheses and pitch in front of investors on the final Demo Day. The WHU Accelerator is the ultimate kickstart for diving into the WHU startup ecosystem.
As WHU’s startup community is at the heart of everything we do, the WHU Entrepreneurship Center wants to support the exchange between its community members and others who are interested in connecting with our ecosystem. To maximize our impact, we do not organize events by ourselves but leverage our network and expertise to help our stakeholders make the most of their events.
- Student Clubs: WHU is home to extraordinarily ambitious students. This is why our students go beyond their regular curricula by investing tremendous time and effort into organizing a variety of events. The WHU Entrepreneurship Center aims to provide some additional stability to the yearly-changing teams, help with strategic questions, and connect the student organizers with access to speakers, sponsors, and university partners from our network.
- Meet-ups: The WHU startup community is not limited to Vallendar and Düsseldorf. Our community members are spread around many geographies and work on ventures from different industries. The WHU Entrepreneurship Center wants to bring together the local startup-interested alums from different In Praxi Regional Chapters and Interest Groups for evenings of engaging conversations, pitches, and good times. Don’t forget to join your local chapter’s chat group to stay up to date.
- WHU Master in Entrepreneurship: The MiE program is at the heart of WHU’s startup education. Already during their studies, the Entrepreneurship Center does its part to integrate the students into the extended WHU startup community. Members of the Entrepreneurship Center coach aspiring (MiE) entrepreneurs inside and outside of courses, find prominent alum founders and venture capitalists as mentors and jury members, and recruit MiE students as WHU Entrepreneurship Center Associates.
WHU offers a diverse portfolio of entrepreneurship lectures taught by world-class professors and other researchers. The WHU Entrepreneurship Center augments the provided teaching content by getting our alums and partners involved in praxis-oriented guest lectures and workshops:
- WHU Startup School: In collaboration with In Praxi, WHU’s alumni association, we regularly host workshops on topics that are hard to integrate in the regular curriculum but are likely to be of relevance for startup entrepreneurs. Our alums have already held expert workshops on topics like “Financial Modelling for Startups,” “Top 10 Legal Screw-ups,” “How to Scale TikTok Marketing Spend from 0€ to 750k€,” and many others. Check out the In Praxi event page to find out more about the next event.
- Guest Lectures: Our academic co-directors, Professor Dries Faems and Professor Christoph Hienerth, and their colleagues teach multiple courses exploring different aspects of entrepreneurship – in particular in our Master in Entrepreneurship Program. We as WHU Entrepreneurship Center support the teaching of faculty by facilitating practice-oriented guest lectures which are either held by us or one of our many founder and investors alums.
WHU is proud of its entrepreneurial community. But WHU founders do not operate in a vacuum. Many WHU ventures have co-founders from multiple different universities and investors from all around the world. The WHU Entrepreneurship Center sees it as its mission to create ties between our own community and other ecosystems, hoping to enrich the overall startup world.
- Co-founding with WHU members: Multiple researchers from leading technical universities have decided to join forces with WHU alums to turn their technologies into high-growth ventures. The WHU Entrepreneurship Center helps technical institutions find their ideal business co-founders from the large pool of WHU talents. If you are looking for a co-founder within our WHU community, you will find more detailed information here.
- Contributing to the Global Startup Ecosystem: WHU has had the privilege to be at the forefront of the German startup boom in the past years. We are happy to share our learnings and perspectives with other universities, political institutions, and at conferences around the world.
WHU Accelerator is an equity-free, 8-week, intensive program for WHU students, alumni, and staff designed to provide rocket fuel for their new ventures. The program will kick off in May and culminate with a Demo Day to investors and mentors beginning of July.
In between are four intensive phases:
- Phase One is "Mentor Mayhem Part I", where founder teams meet 8 mentors each day for one week to receive feedback on their business models and venture hypotheses.
- Phase Two is focused on "Product-Market Fit", providing founders with three weeks to analyze and act upon the feedback received in "Mentor Mayhem Part I". Startups will have the opportunity to improve their hypotheses and further build their business by attracting customers, developing their products, building sales pipelines, marketing/branding, etc.
- Phase Three is "Mentor Mayhem Part II", where founder teams again meet 8 mentors each day for another week to receive feedback on their revised venture hypotheses based on the progress of the past 3 weeks.
- Phase Four focuses on "Fundraising". During these 3 weeks, founders will finalize their pitches and prepare for capitalization, leveraging the extensive feedback from mentors and one-on-one support from the WHU Entrepreneurship Center.
- Finally, on "Demo Day", the pitches are delivered, with an audience of business angels, VCs, entrepreneurs, and guests from the WHU ecosystem, offering a unique opportunity for participants to present their venture to the community and possibly even receive their next funding.
News from our Center – Find out more about our entrepreneurial activities.
WHU's Professor Malte Brettel honored by UNIPRENEURS for his expertise in entrepreneurshipRead more
WHU Pitching Talents
In the academic year 2022-2023, all 3rd semester Bachelor students had to create and present a business model as part of the Entrepreneurship course. In total, 50 different business models were developed by 240 students. All teams received valuable feedback from various mentors during an online speed-dating session. More than 50 WHU alumni participated as mentors in this online speed dating. On this page you will find the pitches that were selected as the most inspiring and creative business models. They highlight the latest talent within the WHU Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.
So-called “deep-tech” start-ups that rely on profound technological understanding are at the core of the next wave of European innovation. However, many scientists decide against building ventures based on their intellectual property because of them having little experience with developing business models, raising venture funding, and building and running a business.
This is where the WHU Entrepreneurship Center steps in: We collaborate with technical universities to help match highly qualified scientists with WHU business talent to create the next generation of deep-tech start-ups.
The WHU Startup School is a series of workshops designed to provide students and alumni with specific entrepreneurship knowledge about topics that are not covered in-depth in the classroom. These evening events bring experts to WHU to share their experiences, resources, tools and tips for building sustainable ventures in the 21st century.
It is not a secret that the entrepreneurship scene in general and in Germany, more particularly, lacks female founders. Promoting and supporting Female Entrepreneurship is thus a key goal of the WHU Entrepreneurship Center. Within this objective, the Center has called to life three Female Founders Scholarships at WHU Master in Entrepreneurship program.
The scholarship covers 25% of the tuition fees at WHU. With these scholarships, we not only want to encourage women to use their entrepreneurial potential, but also to equip them with the necessary know-how and useful networks and support to succeed after graduation.