“We want Germany and the rest of Europe to dream big again.” Miriam Neubauer is on a mission to breathe new life into young, student entrepreneurs with a global business spirit. Fuelled with passion for world-changing ideas, 23-year-old Neubauer fits the ideal profile to expand renowned entrepreneurial community Kairos Society into the German-speaking market (Germany, Austria and Switzerland).
Poached at the 2012 St Petersburg International Economic Forum for her philanthropic ethos and international business experience, Neubauer became regional president for Kairos’ Germany chapter in August this year.
Big-name Bills on board – Bill Gates and Bill Clinton
Kairos Society, a global initiative with heavyweight mentors such as Bill Gates and Bill Clinton, looks to connect entrepreneurial leaders with students looking to tackle big, global issues. Young US entrepreneur Ankur Jain, founded the fellowship in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008, at the age of 19. The society has since spread to 14 regions worldwide, including Portugal, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, UK, Italy, and Central Eastern Europe.
Tackling a global issue? How to get the golden ticket into Kairos…
“It’s all about creating connections across country borders with innovative technologies. We want a bigger playing field to foster the exchange of knowledge and help ideas grow that are really looking to make an impact internationally,” says Neubauer.
Businesses and startups addressing health, clean energy and education are Kairos’ main fellowship targets, with media and tech companies also in the mix. It’s an exclusive society of socially conscious fellows, with member-hopefuls put through careful consideration before they’re invited in. While many aspirants in the US who fit the Kairos bill would kill for that “golden ticket”, Neubauer says the same can’t be said for their western European counterparts, “especially in Germany,” she adds.
Be daring, young Germans!
Neubauer’s headhunting pursuit for those “world-changing entrepreneurs” in Germany has so far proved challenging. “It’s really hard to find someone here who’s a student and wants to go global. It’s really difficult. In Germany it’s become a field experiment in a way,” she laughs. “I meet so many people who are developing a business but only address the German market. We want entrepreneurs to go further and see the value of having international connections, but we’re not really getting that here,” she adds.
So what’s holding Germany back? “A range of reasons,” say Neubauer. “The age of finishing studies is a big one. In the US, a lot of entrepreneurs start businesses as young as 18. But in western Europe, people tend to study longer to gain more qualifications and then usually don’t start a business until they’re around the age of 30,” she says.
Academia in the EU is generally valued higher than practical, on-the-field experience. But differences also dig into the cultural psyche: “Germans are very risk averse,” says Neubauer, “they like their safety, and a lot of times they go for a quick exit to gain security back. Those in the US have big visions of starting a company with no immediate plan of selling,” she adds.
With a zealous approach to perfection, precision and efficiency there’s no doubting German ingenuity and competence. However, a much-needed boost in valour, risk-taking and global vision, wouldn’t go astray.
Present your prototype at the New York Stock Exchange…
Since Kairos’ expansion into the German-speaking market, six budding businesses have been invited in, including mobile app SOMA Analytics – a sort of Weightwatchers for managing stress, and Seat-e – which is developing clean, state-of-the-art technology to “re-power” cities.
The German team is continuing to hunt for members who could then attend its annual event: Kairos 50 Global Summit, held on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The event, which will take place on 22-24 February, 2013, lets 50 undergraduates from the fellowship present their prototype to a distinguished crowd of global business leaders. Studying entrepreneurs who believe they have what it takes are encouraged to apply.
“We want to show the world that Germany can keep up with other nations in terms of thinking big and daring to follow their dreams,” says Neubauer. “Bringing young talents from across the world together this early on – while they are still in school or college, is the key to providing solutions that tackle the problems we are facing today and to move a nation forward.”