FAU’s start-up ecosystem

The Inspin team
The Inspin team: Andreas, Fabian and Kevin (from left to right) took part in the Digital Tech Academy and now want to start up a company of their own. (Image: Lisa Wittenzellner)

Everyone has done it: fiddling with a pen to try and make time pass quicker during tedious lessons. But did you know that pen spinning is a real trend in Asia?

With this in mind, students Andreas, Fabian and Kevin have developed a pen called Inspin whilst taking part in the Digital Tech Fellows programme (DTF). The unique feature of the pen is that it has sensors which record movement and send the data to a special app on the user’s smartphone. This allows pen spinners to track their progress and compare themselves to others in the community and their friends. The app also includes tutorials for new tricks.

The three inventors of the pen attended several workshops over two semesters and devoted their free time to carrying out market research, drawing up a business plan and designing the pen. The mentors from DTA were always on hand, providing advice and constructive feedback, for example on the design of the pen.

They have already produced an initial prototype, without electronics, using a 3D printer. ‘The DTF programme allowed me to bridge the gap from theory to practice for the first time and gave me the opportunity to apply my knowledge, for example by carrying out a market analysis. It also let us venture into self-employment in a controlled and safe environment, giving us a taste of what it is like and letting us see whether it would suit us at all,’ explains Kevin. And it would seem that they did like it, as they want to go ahead and set up their own company. The young entrepreneurs are currently designing a working prototype of the pen and are looking for sponsors. The next step is to design the app. They have a lot of work to do, but it will be worth it. ‘People in Germany are often rather sceptical about starting a company. My parents always wanted me to study and then get a job at a company with a good reputation. However, I want to look back on a career in which I did what I really wanted to do. The DTA opened my eyes to what is possible,’ says Kevin.

Get off to a flying start with a start-up

Lego with a difference: participants can get to know each other better using building blocks and index cards. (Image: Lisa Wittenzellner)

Are you interested in everything to do with innovation and digitalisation? Maybe you already have an idea for a start-up, but you’re not sure how and where to start? Then you should apply to the Digital Tech Academy. It makes no difference what you’re studying and which semester you are in. All that matters is that you are interested in digital topics and are motivated to work in an interdisciplinary team on a digital idea over the period of a year. During the project, you can develop your idea, present a prototype to potential customers and experience all the stages involved in the start-up process.

The DTA is a good opportunity to build up an interdisciplinary network and meet students from other subjects and semesters. In the meantime, students from all five faculties of FAU are involved in the Digital Tech Fellows programme. ‘Some of the students have become friends and hold regular team events. We’re naturally very happy to see that,’ says Lisa Wittenzellner, one of the DTA coordinators.

After completing the one-year fellow programme, it is up to you to decide where to go from there: ‘Students may just see it as a fantastic experience where they can learn a lot about themselves, their ability to work in a team and the ins and outs of going into business. Or they might choose to start their own company. It’s completely up to them. Our aim is to develop ‘digital talents’. If students then choose to apply their knowledge in a large company and bring new ideas to fruition that is also a great success for us,’ says Lisa Wittenzellner.

Venturing into business

Drawing up a business plan on post-it notes – that is part of the Digital Tech Academy too. (Image: Lisa Wittenzellner)

Anyone who does then intend to set up their own company can turn to the FAU start-up consulting service for advice. ‘Ideally students should come to us with a concrete idea and a team interested in starting a business together,’ explains start-up consultant Christoph Heynen.

The start-up consulting service offers regular challenges for students who are interested, for example the ‘5 euro business’, the ‘start-up challenge’ or events such as the ‘start-up café’ where those new to starting up a business can come to give it a go, gather information and share experiences with others.

ZOLLHOF – the tech incubator

The ZOLLHOF tech incubator originated from FAU and is the first port of call for start-ups in the Nuremberg region. But what exactly does ZOLLHOF do? Young entrepreneurs are not only able to use the office space for a reasonable rate, they are also supported in setting up their company with various business coaching events and mentoring. The principle is comparable to an incubator: ‘At ZOLLHOF, young start-ups are given the opportunity to grow and thrive until they reach a certain maturity and can set out on their own,’ explains Sebastian Engel, Head of Research & Pre-Incubation at ZOLLHOF and a business design coach at the Digital Tech Academy.

An online guide to starting at FAU

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