WHU | Logo
Founder and investor Roman Kirsch at the 2023 WHU Founder Lecture. © WHU/Kai Myller
Founder and investor Roman Kirsch at the 2023 WHU Founder Lecture. © WHU/Kai Myller

WHU Founder Lecture: Visiting Berlin’s Start-Up Ecosystem

Master’s students meet with WHU start-up founders on their own turf

Where can I find the right business partner for my start-up? And the best financial backers? What pitfalls are there to avoid and how?

These were some of the questions that master’s students enrolled at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management posed this past April to the university’s many successful graduates. This year’s WHU Founder Lecture featured more than a dozen prominent entrepreneurs, from Enpal’s Mario Kohle (BSc 2008) to Zalando’s David Schröder (Diplom 2007), assuming the role of the teacher.

This lecture series was conceived by Dr. Marco Vietor (Diplom 2004; Doctoral Program 2009), himself an alumnus and founder of hearing aid specialist audibene (hear.com). “WHU has several alumni who have gone on to found considerably large companies. And when you are a part of that group, you realize quickly that many of us have had very similar experiences despite our being active in different industries,” he noted, explaining what drove him to start organizing these lectures. “And those similarities are exciting for us, as alumni, to share with the students. They get to benefit from what we’ve experienced.” And that direct connection between student and (often highly successful) alumni, he noted, was an influential force when he was still in school.

Enpal co-founder Jochen Ziervogel (MSc 2015) emphasized his wish to give something back to the student body through his participation at the lecture. “Students need to be informed and ready to accept the changes unfolding in the corporate world,” he said. “What has played out in the past may very soon no longer be the norm. And they should maintain their curiosity and ask themselves whether the idea behind their business models can survive in today’s environment.”

This year’s presentations were not limited to the classroom. Students also ventured to Berlin to visit the headquarters of Enpal and Zalando and get an up-close and personal look at the capital’s start-up ecosystem.

The WHU Founder Lecture is a popular initiative in the school’s Master in Entrepreneurship Program. This year’s event, dubbed “Building and Scaling Successful Companies,” also pulled in participants from WHU’s other masters-level programs.

Roster of WHU Entrepreneurs who presented at the 2024 WHU Founder Lecture:

  • Roman Kirsch (Lesara)
  • Felix Jahn (McMakler)
  • Christoph Cordes (Home24, Flink)
  • Stephan Schubert (Onvista)
  • Christian Gaiser (Kaufda, Numa)
  • Mario Kohle (Käuferportal, Enpal)
  • David Schröder (Zalando)
  • Marco Vietor (audibene)
  • Dominik Richter / Max Backhaus (HelloFresh)
  • Manuel Müller (Emma)
  • Michael Stephan (Raisin)
  • Marcus Stahl (Tonies)
WHU | Logo