For Marco Ries (Bsc, 2019; Msc, 2022), participating in the second annual Stage Two competition with his start-up ProteinDistillery was well worth the effort. At the event, which sees hopeful start-ups founded by alumni of the most prominent business schools from across all of Europe, the company was able to reach the finale in the business innovation category. But after the scheduled pitch battle, they just narrowly missed the top spot. And still, the start-up, founded by Mr. Ries alongside Christoph Pitter, Professor Tomas Kurz, and Michael Baunach, walked away with the Sustainability Award and a €10,000 cash prize for their innovative product. The Entrepreneurship Center at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management also recognized the importance of this competition. Maximilian Eckel, the center’s managing director, said, “One of Europe’s biggest sources of potential lies in our world-class universities becoming leaders in establishing high-tech companies. Platforms like Stage Two shine a light on these schools’ entrepreneurship centers, the organizational work they do, and the talented students they have, thereby strengthening this common vision.”
ProteinDistillery was first founded at the end of 2021 and was previously the winner against four other promising candidates during a preliminary round held at WHU. By replacing animal proteins with the protein it sources, the start-up has created the first true competitors to animal-sourced foods—competitors that do not compromise on texture and taste. Additionally, manufacturing ProteinDistillery’s products is friendlier to the environment: Use of their protein would help drastically reduce worldwide water and land consumption and CO2 emissions. The final product that will land on the market—whether in the form of burger patties or egg and dairy alternatives—is currently in development for larger food manufacturers and is scheduled for release in Norway next year.
The top universities in Europe for entrepreneurship are allowed to send one company each to Stage Two, where its representatives will pitch their business idea to an expert panel and to potential investors. The winners can expect support in various forms for their company—and recognition in Europe. Stage Two is an association of the leading entrepreneurship centers established by European universities. By networking across borders and providing access to international markets, it aims to promote the next generation of successful European start-ups.