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Ecolocked wins at IdeaLab! Pitch Battle.

When Ideas Become Reality

More than 700 guests from all walks of life gathered at campus in Vallendar for IdeaLab! – WHU Founders’ Conference

“You are the ones in a position to take your ideas and make them reality—and you’re in the best environment to do so.” With these words, Professor Malte Brettel, Chair of Entrepreneurship at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management and Director of RWTH Aachen, welcome the guests to IdeaLab! – WHU Founders’ Conference, dubbed this year “From Vision to Reality.” This annual, entrepreneurship-oriented event is put on exclusively by WHU students and has, since its founding, become one of the largest and most significant of its kind in all of Germany. More than 700 participants from all walks of life, more than 30 prominent guest speakers, and more than 50 start-up representatives, partners, and investors—they all gathered at the civic center in scenic Vallendar to exchange new ideas, engage with promising new businesses, network, and scope out new potential collaboration partners.

In his opening speech, Frank Köhler, Chief Marketing Officer of Enpal (one of WHU’s start-ups to achieve “unicorn” status), gave away his secrets, informing the audience of the three principles that helped his solar panel company thrive. And he was not alone; a whole host of successful entrepreneurs offered insights into their business models and described their experiences founding and scaling their companies. Daniel Khachab, co-founder and CEO of Choco, which provides software solutions for the food industry, gave a masterclass in how to successfully establish a business. The diverse program also offered conference-goers the chance to attend fireside chats, for example “Heating Up Change: Shaping a Sustainable Future” with Philipp Emig and Magnus Drewelies, who spoke of what start-ups can do to stem global warming. Elsewhere, in a workshop hosted by delivery concern Flaschenpost, participants took a look at ChatGPT and what it can do for the food trade.

IdeaLab! - When Ideas Become Reality

When not attending speeches, presentations, workshops, or panel discussions, guests were busy networking at speed-dating sessions, hoping to convince investors of their business ideas. Some had a chance to take part in the event’s Hackathon Pitch Battle, which sees the team with the most promising product win a “golden ticket” to the larger competition in Finland put on by Junction. On the second day of the conference, ten hopeful start-ups entered the ring and presented their ideas to investors. They received feedback from venture capitalists and learned exactly what goes into a successful pitch. ecoLocked, a provider of climate-neutral concrete, proved victorious, walking away from a media package worth €75,000 and an exclusive invitation to workshops conducted by consulting agency McKinsney & Company.

IdeaLab! – WHU Founders’ Conference has long been financed by many generous sponsors—many of which are, in fact, start-ups or venture capital agencies founded by WHU alumni. The conference is a staple in WHU’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, a place that combines academics with practice and brings successful founders, students, and investors together. To date, that ecosystem has produced hundreds of start-ups, 15 of which have achieved unicorn status.

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