Campus - 12.03.2024 - 10:45 

From St.Gallen to Silicon Valley: HSG students bring global innovators together for Europe’s leading startup event

On 21 and 22 March 2024, St.Gallen will become the meeting place for the international startup scene. During the START Summit, over 800 startups, 900 investors and 2,500 young talents from Europe, Silicon Valley and Southeast Asia will come together in St.Gallen to drive innovation. "Dare to Evolve" is the topic of the conference organised by HSG students. Among the exciting personalities they have lured to St.Gallen is Max Hodak, co-founder of Neuralink, a company headed by Elon Musk, which recently successfully deployed its first brain implant.
On 21 and 22 March 2024, St.Gallen will become the meeting place for the international startup scene.

The START Summit has established itself as a meeting place for the startup scene for almost 30 years. During the two days of the conference, young and experienced founders globally will come together in St.Gallen. Europe's leading student-organised conference for entrepreneurship and technology offers more every year: one of the new formats is the STARTUP SCHOOL, an intensive course that equips young talents with the knowledge and tools they need to set up a solid business. Lectures, workshops and panel discussions also enrich the programme. 

Promoting meaningful technological innovations

The conference theme "Dare to Evolve" focuses on the question of what the entrepreneurial ecosystem needs to do to create meaningful technological developments. 170 speakers will share their experiences and startup stories with the next generation of entrepreneurs and provide insights into key technologies of the 21st century. Speakers will talk about innovations and trends in the fields of artificial intelligence, greentech, BioNTech and health. The five stages in the newly opened St.Galler Kantonalbank Hall at the Olma trade fairs will host a number of prominent guests, including:

  • Max Hodak (Science), co-founder of Neuralink, a company headed by Elon Musk
  • Bryan Johnson (OS Fund, Project Blueprint), investor and committed to longevity
  • Sepp Hochreiter (Institute for Machine Learning, University of Linz): Known as one of the fathers of AI and developer of algorithms used in products such as Siri and Alexa. He presents his xLSTM model, which is intended to compete with OpenAI.
  • Péter Frankhauser (ANYbotics): His Swiss startup is active in the field of autonomous mobile robotics. Frankhauser reports on the latest developments. 

The organisers of the START Summit are also delighted about the participation of notable startups such as Wefox, On and DeepL. Their aim is to expand the network every year and their focus on early-stage entrepreneurship attracts many young talents and includes big names such as the generative AI startup Aleph-Alpha (2023), which is currently considered Germany's most valuable AI startup. 

Hackathon: 500 students in a 36-hour innovation sprint

The START Hack competition brings together over 500 students and programmers from the best universities in the field of technology and business who are interested in founding a company: Young talents from HSG, ETH, Harvard, Stanford, EPFL, the Technical University of Munich, Cambridge, WHU and many other universities develop solutions for case studies in small groups in 36 hours. They address ten real-life problems from partners such as the UN or the companies Six and Bell Food. A case study will be provided by the Centre for Digital Health Interventions at the School of Medicine (Med-HSG) at HSG. A user-friendly solution for food tracking and its influence on a healthy lifestyle will be required. Finally, hackathon participants will present their results in a pitching competition. Those who make it to the final will be able to present their ideas to the over 6,000 visitors at the START Summit. The main prize is 10,000 Swiss francs. 

Camels instead of unicorns: HSG book accompanies startups on the path to sustainable growth

"Many actually successful startups fail because they cannot cope with their rapid growth. For example, they can no longer deliver the usual quality to customers because their infrastructure or staff cannot cope with the high demand," says Dietmar Grichnik, HSG professor of Entrepreneurship. This is why he recently co-authored the book "Scale-up Navigator". This tome guides founders on how to achieve sustainable growth with their companies. It is also aimed at investors, mentors and other stakeholders. "It is not a theoretical work, but a concrete handbook that uses four phases to highlight common challenges and solutions," says Grichnik. A scale-up is a company that increases the number of its employees and its turnover by 50 to 100 per cent annually, i.e. is experiencing a strong growth phase. 

The "Scale-up Navigator" fits in with the ambitious startup programme presented by the St.Gallen cantonal government at the beginning of February: Among other things, the "HSG START Accelerator" will be set up initially with CHF 5.4 million in startup funding - a programme that will support national and international startups in their growth and professionalisation. The Canton, HSG, the student organisation START Global and the Innovation Park East are closely involved. "There is currently a pleasing momentum in St.Gallen on the topic of startup promotion and various partners are working towards a common goal," says Grichnik. 

HSG at the START Summit 

The University of St.Gallen is delighted to once again be a strategic partner of the largest student-organised startup fair in Europe. It is now also taking part in the event START Hack. At the trade fair, the University of St.Gallen will be present with an approx. 80 square metre stand on the edge of the main stage. On Thursday, 21 March 2024, probably at 3 p.m., the University will present the "HSG Founder of the Year" award on the main stage of the START Summit. 

The Werner Jackstädt Foundation prize, endowed with 10,000 Swiss francs, promotes particularly promising founders. After the award ceremony, the recipient of the prize will be welcomed at the HSG stand before being available to the audience for an exchange of experiences and questions. Last year's winner Melanie Gabriel from Yokoy will also be present. This will take place on Thursday, 21 March, at 11 am. Series founder Adrian Locher, also an HSG graduate and Founder of the Year 2012, will share his experiences in a moderated discussion on Thursday at 2 p.m. and will be available to answer questions. 

Promoting prototyping and closing the gender gap

Bernd Schneider and Maria Luisa Fuchs, both lead the Startup@HSG incubation and acceleration programme, which has been part of Entrepreneurship Professor Dietmar Grichnik's new Vice-President's Board Innovation & Quality since February 2024. This programme promotes entrepreneurial talent, provides them intensive support and offers scholarships so that the young companies start to realize their vision. Women still start fewer companies and female founders receive less money than their male colleagues. In order to close this gender gap in financing and founding, the Startup@HSG incubator offers a mentoring programme for female founders to give their careers an extra boost. Thanks to the programme, participants gain access to contacts in order to network and obtain investments. One of these talents, who Startup@HSG already supported during her bachelor's degree, is Jessica Farda, founder of Noriware. The startup is committed to environmentally friendly packaging made from seaweed and now has a broad network of experts and investors. She will be sharing her experiences with the community at the HSG stand. On Friday, 22 March 2024, 11.30 a.m., the topic will be "Female Entrepreneurship" and the shaping of a more diverse startup landscape. The HSG alumni at the START Summit also include: Simon Hecker (4.screen), Janette Wiget (Merantix), Silvan Krähenbühl (Swisspreneur), Florian Schweitzer (btoventure), Andreas Goeldi (btoventure), Adrian Locher (Merantix), Julian Teicke (wefox), Pascal Bieri (Planted), Melanie Gabriel (Yokoy) and Joerg Landsch (Deutsche Bank).

Focus on "St.Gallen Health"

The topic of health characterises the cantonal presentation of St.Gallen and promotes St.Gallen as a location for innovation. On Friday, 22 March 2024, at 3.30 p.m., Cornelia Gut and Anna Rosenkranz from Health Yourself will share their experiences in a panel discussion focusing specifically on financing aspects. Anna Rosenkranz has a Master's degree in Business Innovation from HSG and is co-founder of the health platform Health Yourself, which makes health services such as laboratory tests and medication subscriptions available digitally and from home. Rosenkranz took part in the HSG mentoring programme for women as an alumna: "Networking and contacts are the most important door openers to investments," emphasises the young entrepreneur. Access to suitable investors was one of the biggest challenges in financing her startup. "We were able to benefit greatly from business angel clubs such as Startfeld and SICTIC, which bring startups together with investors. Sector-specific organisations such as MEDKAP Investors for healthcare startups are often particularly efficient," says Anna Rosenkranz.

Image: START Global

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