We are passionate about Entrepreneurship –
and developing new ventures!
Many successful founders have completed their studies at WHU. Our goal is to continue this entrepreneurial legacy by educating and encouraging the next generation of successful WHU founders.
- Our teaching offers all WHU students the opportunity to evaluate whether starting an own company is a valid career option for them. Our teaching topics range from basics of entrepreneurial thinking and acting through deeper insights into entrepreneurial finance to seminar courses that simulate actual founding processes. The courses take place at WHU Campus Vallendar and on site in Berlin, including many entrepreneurial guest speakers. Please find additional information on our course offerings below.
- The WHU Incubator is our founding center at WHU campus Vallendar. The Incubator’s mission: Help students launch ventures! We support our aspiring founders from initial idea validation to their first external financing round, on an individual basis. Additionally, we collaborate closely with our entrepreneurial student initiatives, alumni founders, startup investors, and the WHU Entrepreneurship Center at WHU Campus Düsseldorf.
- Our research at WHU and RWTH Aachen covers all aspects of the entrepreneurial journey. As such, our research interests cover a wide range from entrepreneurship & psychology through entrepreneurial financing (Crowdfunding, ICOs), entrepreneurial marketing, operations management, to corporate entrepreneurship and innovation management. In 2014, Handelsblatt ranked Prof. Brettel as the #6 best researcher in business administration in Germany. In 2019, Wirtschaftswoche ranked Prof. Brettel as the #1 Entrepreneurship researcher in Germany. Please find some of our recent publications below.
Please feel free to get in touch with us at incubator(at)whu.edu! We look forward to hearing from you!
Our teaching –
Preparing students for an entrepreneurial career.
Entrepreneurship is both a profession and a science. In our courses, we combine the latest tools and methods from entrepreneurship research with strong practical insights from real founders. WHU is in the privileged position to have a wide range of successful alumni founders. We leverage this unique network and incorporate learnings and best practices from WHU entrepreneurs in all of our courses. The high level of trust between our students, the chair, and WHU alumni enables our guest speakers to share unique stories from their own entrepreneurial journeys. In many cases, the guest speakers attended the same courses as participants just a few years ago. We also use their expertise to constantly evaluate and adapt our course contents. Our courses have two general goals:
- Help students evaluate whether being a business founder is a potential career choice for them
- Support aspiring entrepreneurs in becoming successful business founders
We currently offer the following courses at WHU:
This beginner’s course is designed to offer all of our bachelor students a thorough understanding of entrepreneurial thinking and acting. Specifically, this course covers idea creation methods, effectuation as the leading entrepreneurial decision logic, the lean startup methodology, and entrepreneurial marketing approaches. The course contents are delivered through video lectures (flipped classroom approach). Class-time is used for discussions of the contents and entrepreneurial guest speakers who will share their practical learnings with the students. In order to apply the newly learned concepts, students work on a group project and develop a novel business idea. Overall, this course consists of four modules: Video lectures, discussion of contents, guest lectures, and the ideation project. The course lays the foundation for more specialized entrepreneurial seminar courses in the following semesters and (hopefully) ignites the “entrepreneurial spark” in our students.
These seminars are as close as it gets to founding an own company. Based on the lean startup methodology, students will work out an idea for a company and try it out in the market. WHU Incubator, experienced entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and business angels will support them during (bi-)weekly individual coaching sessions. The course focuses strongly on work outside of the classroom and insights gained from real customers. These insights and the coaching sessions help our students to constantly improve their ideas over time. Both courses culminate in the final demo days, when students will pitch their companies to actual business angels/ VCs, who might be willing to invest into the company. This course is a great way to get a feeling of what it takes to be an actual entrepreneur – yet still in the sheltered university-setting. Over the years, many startups such as Afilio, Barzahlen, Colabel, Evopark, Movinga, Policen Direkt or Talentfinder have originated in these courses.
The goal of this course is to deepen our MSc students’ understanding of entrepreneurial finance and business models. The content part is delivered through interactive lectures including video lectures outside of the classroom. The main part of the course consists of a one-week seminar in Berlin. In Berlin, students will dive into the entrepreneurial ecosystem by visiting startups and investors in order to build a network of future partners. In this week, students will listen to guest speakers who will share their practical learnings and solve three interactive entrepreneurial case studies. The course emphasizes entrepreneurial financing strategies and venture capital.
The Startup Sessions by the WHU Incubator –
We look forward to virtually meeting you!
Our research –
Helping entrepreneurs build and run better companies.
Entrepreneurship as a research discipline has been on the rise over the last two decades. Additionally, a significant part of economic growth stems from new venture creation and innovative thinkers. At first sight, entrepreneurship may seem like a very practical discipline. However, gaining a profound theoretical understanding of various entrepreneurial processes is crucial to enable founders to build and run better and more sustainable companies. Entrepreneurship is a multidisciplinary research field and draws insights from many other research areas. This is mirrored in the broad variety of our chair’s research interests. Professor Dr. Malte Brettel has consistently been ranked as one of the leading German researchers in the fields of entrepreneurship and business administration. Some of our recent publications are listed below:
Social capital and the digital crowd: Involving backers to promote new product innovativeness.
The Three Dimensions of Sustainability: A Delicate Balancing Act for Entrepreneurs Made More Complex by Stakeholder Expectations.
Entrepreneurs' Perceived Exit Performance: Conceptualization and Scale Development.
Share Repurchases and Myopia: Implications on the Stock and Consumer Markets.
Prediction and control: An agent-based simulation of search processes in the entrepreneurial problem space.
The Impact of Information Technology on New Product Development.
In addition to our journal-based research, we are always happy to supervise exciting and high quality Bachelor and Master theses. We want to present you some of our recent thesis topics as well as key insights (for confidentiality reasons, individual thesis authors will not be named):
"This paper analyzes the challenges and success factors of Venture Capital Investors in the field of health-tech. Most risks startups face could be directly transferred to risks for Venture Capitalists: High product development uncertainty, legal considerations, and insufficient cash planning are main challenges that stretch throughout the time a Venture Capital Investor is holding the company. Further, this paper proves that the founding team, its experience, education, and market knowledge still plays a decisive role when Venture Capitalists source a health-tech startup. To mitigate the risk of sourcing non-successful businesses, Venture Capital Firms put great emphasis on diversifying the educational background of employees in the investment team. In the funding process, Venture Capitalists face competition through other investors, whereby strategic Corporate investors are favored as they represent a possible acquirer. Further, it became evident that Venture Capital Investors do not prefer to exit via an Initial Public Offering as they deliver significantly fewer returns on investment than a secondary sale. As valuations in health-tech startups rise sharply within a short time frame, the risk whether they still reflect the fundamental value of the company is all-time present throughout different investment stages."
"Since the social startup industry is a relatively new field of research, there is little existing knowledge about the specific problems of social enterprises when marketing a new product or service. The main difference to the commercial startup is the drive of the entrepreneur to positively contribute to the society’s well-being. Based on the conducted interviews, the main challenges that arise from the economic and social value creation motive are the complexity of dealing with two target groups, the limited external funding opportunities, and the small size of the network. To overcome these challenges, my interview partners, among others, suggest applying the principle of Lean Start up for quick commercialization. In addition, it was highly recommended to have at least one founding member with a background in business, such that the business plan can be evaluated correctly."
"In the wake of ongoing globalization and digitalization, China is approximating leadership in technology and innovation. This development has taken place despite a political constellation of authoritarian communistic market control and extensive surveillance systems. China’s opening towards the West in terms of allowing foreign capital inflow through FDI’s and VC’s as well as state induced mechanisms such as tax incentives, provision of digital infrastructure and a clearly drawn strategy for technological and economic advancement fueled China’s rapid development . Starting with an imitation strategy which included the copying of already proven business models from the West, China gained entrepreneurial sovereignty which disembogued in an intrinsically driven innovation strategy. The remarkable pace and success which accompanied this game plan yield the necessity of analyzing Chinese success factors and selecting best practices and learnings that are feasibly implementable in the German startup ecosystem. This paper aims to build a bridge between the rapid entrepreneurial progress of the middle kingdom and the old grown structures of entrepreneurship and know-how establishment in Germany, characterized by high levels of bureaucracy and inflexibility. Emulating feasibly implement able Chinese best practices could rekindle the drive in Germany’s start up-ecosystem and enable competitiveness on a global scale."
“Healthcare is at a digital tipping point, and entrepreneurial opportunities in the field of Digital Health seem ubiquitous. Therefore, an assessment of the Digital Health market as a whole is rounded off with an illumination and analysis of underlying trends, challenges, and success factors for startups. The explorative nature of this thesis is reflected by the fact that it is based not only on a literature review but also on interviews that were conducted with experts from various backgrounds. The intertwining of scholarly and practitioners’ perspectives gives a wellrounded impression of the status quo of Digital Health.”
“Companies are always confronted by the dynamics of the business cycle. In an economic boom companies can thrive while in an economic recession some must shut down operations. In order to survive and maybe even come back stronger after a recession, companies must apply the right strategies to build a strong fundament. Furthermore, companies must act fast and need to constantly improve in terms of profit margins, capital structures and efficiencies to survive a recession. The best time to start preparing these strategies is during an expansionary economy when demand is high. Therefore, this thesis includes strategies and actionable recommendations for companies to optimize their fundamental processes to be resistant against a recession, making them able to utilize opportunities during a downturn to potentially win market share and further achieve sustainable long-term growth.”
“Inadequately conducted marketing and sales is a major reason for new venture failure. New ventures face a multiplicity of internal and external challenges when trying to attract first customers. Based on a review of literature in the fields of entrepreneurship as well as marketing and sales, these challenges for new ventures are examined. Subsequently, an explorative study, has the objective to analyze the challenges that are identified and to assess the actual behavior that is shown to attract first customers. It becomes evident that entrepreneurs apply various marketing-, public relations-, and business strategies to mitigate the difficulties, such as insufficient awareness or a lack of credibility in the eyes of potential customers, and therefore successfully attract first customers. This study enriches the academic research field with insights into customer acquisition strategies of new ventures and provides future founders with an applicable toolset to attract their first customers by making use of best practices.”
“In comparison to regular employees, entrepreneurs face higher responsibilities, work longer hours and have lower average incomes. Nonetheless, entrepreneurs have been found toperceive lower stress levels and are more satisfied with their life in total. Underlying reasons are the entrepreneurs´ enhanced psychological capital, which helps them to better cope with stress, and entrepreneurial values such as higher levels of autonomy, flexibility and freedom. The paper compares social capital of entrepreneurs before and after the entrance of an investor into a start up. Financially backed entrepreneurs have been found to possess a higher psychological capital that helps them to mitigate higher work-related stress factors and increase their well-being through achievements, despite limited entrepreneurial freedom through an investor. Unbacked founders, however, perceive higher levels of stress in total, due to environmental reasons such as financial distress and distracting side-activities.”
“This thesis presents the reader with different exemplary new technologies and corresponding applications, which contain moral dilemmas. It lays out on which levels the moral dilemmas exist, in order to study the challenges an entrepreneur is facing when entering one of these fields of activity. Specific emerging new technologies are exemplary outlined, taking possible applications into account. Ethical theories of moral reasoning are clarified and applied to the possible moral reasoning of an entrepreneur. These are then combined to assess the moral dilemmas arising from the application of emerging new technologies and to demonstrate the complexity of frameworks in and for such economic sectors. Decisions, responsibilities, and resulting challenges, and approaches to possible solutions are discussed on the different levels of the individual entrepreneur, the company, and the regulatory frameworks.”