The Business of Tomorrow PITCH-PERFECT Future Young Entrepreneurs

The participants in Pitch-Perfect.
The participants in Pitch-Perfect. | Photo: Bernhard Ludewig

An online platform for affordable tutoring, an app that finds cooks: the Goethe-Institut’s Future Young Entrepreneurs project encourages sustainable business ideas by young people. At the final event in Berlin’s Akademie der Künste, 14 teams competed for the prize for best project. It went to an idea from India.

The five pupils from the Stedelijk Lyceum Kottenpark in Enschede, the Netherlands have already internalized the first lesson in good entrepreneurship: know your market! “In the Netherlands there are 90 million bicycles for 70 million inhabitants,” the prospective company founders explain. In their eyes this means 90 million bicycles keys that can be lost. Their project Fldentity can help: it is the name of a bike lock that can be closed and opened with a fingerprint. The prototype does not exist yet. “But we are technically able to make it,” the teens ensure.

“Feel Good Food” team from the Netherlands “Feel Good Food” team from the Netherlands. Photo: Bernhard Ludewig | Photo: Bernhard Ludewig Building prospects with creativity

Future Young Entrepreneurs is the EU-funded project by the Goethe-Institut that began encouraging pupils between the ages of 15 and 18 to take their first steps into the world of start-ups in March 2015. Participants come from India, Indonesia, Malawi, the Netherlands, Romania, Vietnam and Germany. In most of the countries, they collaborated with the Schools: Partners for the Future (PASCH) initiative. Following a theoretical, preparatory phase during which the teen managers were able to gain knowledge about the world of business, now the two best teams from each country competed in Berlin at the final event Pitch Perfect: Who Will Make It to the Top? at the Akademie der Künste.

The project’s focus is, however, neither on competitiveness nor on the prospects of profits from the pupils’ projects. Instead, it is on multilingualism and associated professional mobility, in other words the future prospects of the participants from around the world and their contemporaries. “In some parts of Europe, 40 percent of young people are unable to find work,” Heike Uhlig, the head of the Language department of the Goethe-Institut, points out in her opening speech. “Worldwide, we anticipate a youth unemployment rate of approximately 14 percent in coming years.” The Future Young Entrepreneurs work to resist this threatening trend.

“School’s Out” team from Malawi. “School’s Out” team from Malawi. | Photo: Bernhard Ludewig Find farms, book chefs

Each group is given only two minutes to pitch their ideas to possible investors. Their pitches are evaluated by an expert jury of three consisting of Cosima Stahr, manager of the United Nations SEED programme promoting entrepreneurship for sustainable development, Anabel Ternès, professor of e-business at the SRH Academy in Berlin and Felix Scharf, business innovation manager at Volkswagen AG. The aspects they assess include whether the business idea solves an existing problem in a creative way, whether it fulfils sustainability criteria, how it handles existing resources and, of course, whether the business plan is viable.

Choosing the winners is no easy task for the jury. The pupils pitch an amazing spectrum of ideas with social and ecological backgrounds. For example, the Regiofinders project from Germany: an app that can be used to find farms and shops with regional products. With Beaural-Jayoe, pupils from Indonesia aim to sell a traditional herbal beverage that helps people lose weight. One of the two groups from Romania plans to use an app so guests can “Book a Cook,” promising both intercultural and culinary experiences. And the Malawian School’s Out portal networks instructors and learners for affordable tutoring.

Participants from Indonesia. Participants from Indonesia. | Photo: Bernhard Ludewig Get to know Malawi and survive in the jungle

Although none of these very imaginative projects presented with handsome diagrams make it to one of the top three places, the jury encourages all of the groups to continue to pursue their ideas. The second group from Bambino Private Secondary School in Malawi wins the third place prize in this neck and neck race of young entrepreneurs. They want to spread knowledge about their homeland with the Cedar Cultural Center. “Many people in the west still think that Africa is one country,” explains the pupil Orelha Thodi in her pitch. The planned centre – where regional artists can also sell their works – aims to bring Malawian culture to life.

The second place goes to Jurvival, a digital learning game from Vietnam, which makes users capable of surviving in the jungle while also conveying lots of facts about the ecology of the Asian country. “We spend up to eight hours a day using smart phones and tablets,” explains pupil Nguyen Thao Nguyen. “Why not use this time wisely?”

“Lunat” team from Vietnam making their pitch. “Lunat” team from Vietnam making their pitch. | Photo: Bernhard Ludewig Used books win the day

Finally, the first place is awarded to a team from New Delhi whose PeekaBook web portal won over the jury. Not only because the pupils gave their presentation a humorous framework with photos from a sort of Indian Hogwarts, but most of all because their idea seemed so well thought out. PeekaBook helps pupils of little means find the schoolbooks they need in second hand bookshops. Every team had to answer tough questions at the end of their pitch and the PeekaBook team was ready with good answers. The young Indians respond to the question of whether e-books would not be a more practical alternative by presenting studies on the lack of a flourishing e-book market in their country.

T“PeekaBook” team from India after the announcement of their win. “PeekaBook” team from India after the announcement of their win. | Photo: Bernhard Ludewig Networking is also part of entrepreneurship

The Future Young Entrepreneurs project is also all about testing social skills in a globalized world, as the project manager Miriam Irle reminds the groups with the fairness award. It is won by the Romanian pupil Agata Tabacu. “She immediately sought contact with all of the groups,” Irle lauds. There is no better attribute for an entrepreneur of tomorrow.

By Patrick Wildermann