Background - 23.03.2021 - 00:00 

START Summit x Hack 2021: opening

On 22 March 2021, the 25th edition of Europe’s biggest student-organised conference for technology and entrepreneurship was opened. At the beginning of the opening ceremony for the START Summit x Hack 2021, Mayor Maria Pappa gave a welcoming address. The panel discussions and debates focused on the survival of SMEs in times of the pandemic, positive leadership and innovations to combat food waste and wasting time.<br/>

23 March 2021. The START Summit x Hack 2021 is taking place completely online for the first time this year. A team of more than 90 students of the University of St.Gallen has organised the many-faceted event. The organisers Dan Meier and Lucas Angermann opened the conference together with the START team – with the vision of working in an entrepreneurial way and creating a better world “after the corona pandemic” with their ideas and start-ups. They said that the START Summit wanted to make a contribution towards this “post-Covid world” by bringing founders, investors, students and specialists together to enable them to discuss promising innovations. Mayor Maria Pappa welcomed the participants from the rooftop terrace of St.Gallen’s city hall. Jack Vincent, the founder of Score, moderated the first day of the conference.

Necessity is the mother of invention: survival in times of the pandemic

How can local companies survive in a digital world shaped by Covid-19? The omnipresent “business challenge” in times of the pandemic was the topic of a discussion between Marco Börries, founder of Enfore, and Jochen Wegner, journalist and online editor of Hamburg’s weekly newspaper Die Zeit. Amazon, Zalando and Lieferando are outstripping the small businesses, the majority of which have had to close down for a long time because of the corona virus. Marco Börries wanted to change this: he developed the Enfore platform to equip small companies with a technology which makes them competitive in the interlinked world in the long term. “In future, every small firm should be able to enjoy efficiency levels and economies of scale similar to those which have only been available to the ‘big players’. Small companies will have to adapt; they don’t have any choice, and they need innovative technologies, hardware, software and services.” Amazon and co. were good and practical service providers, but they should be regulated in order to prevent the establishment of monopolies, said Börries, who founded several small companies himself. He advised young founders that the “pandemic has a disruptive effect. That’s not nice, it destroys a lot, but at present there are also many new entrepreneurial opportunities which you should take to make the post-pandemic world better and diverse. We should in future not merely be able to choose between two big service providers. Let’s make the business world diverse, fair and interesting,” Marco Börries concluded.

“Mothership” and meaningful leadership models

In a fireside chat, Stanford professor and bestseller author Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen talked to one of her former students, Jessica Patton, co-founder of the start-up 5th Century Partners, about leadership, empowerment and entrepreneurial life. “Our lives should also serve others; it’s not only our own successes that count. It’s fulfilling and transforming to encourage other people and thus to get them to exploit their potential to the full,” said Arrillaga-Adreessen about successful leadership. “Mothership” was a lovely coinage to describe the way in which she likes to lead successfully – a mixture of “leadership” and “motherhood”, a benevolent form of encouraging and making demands on people with humour and inspiration. She talked about her own leadership experience as a teacher at Stanford and about how she found out that opening up opportunities for others strengthened herf in her leadership role. Both founders advocated a specially “accessible” leadership model which successfully takes effect in every industry, in teams, at the workplace and in personal life.

Innovations to combat food waste and wasting time

How can we prevent still edible food from being thrown away? Two founders, one from Switzerland and one from Sweden, talked about their experiences with the prevention of food waste. In industries, organisations and private households, technological applications can help store food in a smart way and redistribute it. With his Karma app, the Swedish entrepreneur Hjalmar Nordegren “rescues” food by redistributing it quickly and smartly. Restaurants, cafés and groceries offer surplus meals through the app, which app users are then able to purchase at a discount and enjoy. Kitro, the start-up of the younger entrepreneur Anastasia Hofmann, measures and analyses the food waste of catering establishments automatically in order to reduce it to a minimum.

Andri Silberschmidt, co-founder of kaisin GmbH, a catering business in Zurich, talked about his experience as a National Councillor and member of the Swiss parliament. He represents his perspective as a young entrepreneur in federal politics and would like an entrepreneurial attitude in political life. “We need a lot of time to find out precisely who can answer which questions,” said Silberschmidt. Improved digital processes could prevent this. “We need an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Berne in order to make decisions more quickly and better founded,” said Silberschmidt in a discussion with Gian Andrea Züllig, Managing Director of START Global.

START Summit x Hack 2021

Numerous proven entrepreneurial personalities from business and the start-up ecosystem are present during the 2021 founders’ summit. They include Michael Seibel, Managing Director of Y Combinator and founder of the Twitch streaming platform; Verena Pausder, founder of ada and author of Das Neue Land; Ola Källenius, HSG alumnus Chairman of the Boards of Management of Daimler and Mercedes-Benz, and Ingmar Hoerr, mRNA pioneer and CureVac founder – they are all helping to shape a new generation of entrepreneurs. The perspectives of academia and politics are also represented. Guests include Prof. Dr. Lars Feld, former Chair of the German Council of Economic Experts, and economics professor Prof. Dr. Dr. Ann-Kristin Achleitner.

Discover our special topics