Sustainable success for start-ups: How Zebra-Education works

Author: Tim Lampe || Quelle: StartupValleyNews Magazine || 02.09.2020

There are already many startups in existence that are having a lasting positive effect on both the economy and society. These include start-ups that are not simply greedy for rapid growth with a quick exit in mind, but rather founders who want to earn money, while also taking responsibility and creating impact. This form of sustainable startup can be classified as a ‘zebra’. Zebras are what unicorns are not: Zebra companies are both “black” and “white”! They are economically successful and improve society in a sustainable way. They do not sacrifice one for the other.

At Campus Founders, we pursue this approach when we train and develop founders. We support teams holistically and accompany them throughout their entire entrepreneurial journey: we start with the startup idea and coach them to individual success. Unlike classic for-profit programs such as Rocket, we try to convey the importance of values and building a sustainable value system. 

If someone is building a startup with only the exit in mind, then they are the not the right fit for us.

As a non-profit organization we are not interested in short-term success and relentless scaling. Instead, we have staying power and we focus on sustainable growth in our training programs because we start with developing people, not on pure “company building”. Our success is not defined by creating an exit or a classic IPO, but by producing startups that serve a purpose. We want to make sure that a new entrepreneurial culture is created in Germany. This is only possible, however, if the founders want to achieve this purpose and feel it within themselves. For us, one thing is clear: Those who solve the world’s major problems will not only generate impact, but will also automatically be economically successful. If founders are interested only in scaling up quickly, then we will send them to other accelerators.

Gen Z lives for the purpose

Most of the people who want to work with us on their startup are purpose-driven. We find that it is especially important for young people to do something meaningful. They don’t want to work just for money or prestige, they want to make a difference. The young generations see climate change and education as increasingly serious problems. They recognize that changes are needed and this drives them forward. From our perspective, the vehicle for this is the foundation of purpose-driven startups.

More purpose = More problems?

In order to fulfill their purpose, founders must accept that they will have to make difficult compromises every day and weigh up the options by themselves. For example, they may face problems in striving for a high level of participation within a team, while at the same time wanting to make quick decisions.  Our task as mentors is to help the teams to find the right balance. We point out possible solutions, but above all we demand decisions. This is particularly difficult when, for example, a direct decision has to be made between profitability and environmental impact. But such decisions have to be made by the founders themselves.

Human first

The central component of our training is “human centricity”, i.e. the focus on people and their needs. No matter if it is about customers, investors or advisors during the development of the Proof of Concept – human beings still make the most important decisions and as long as this remains so, they must be in the foreground of all actions.

Local mid-sized companies as role models

We believe that this is the only way to create start-ups that can create sustainable added value for society and thus shape the future. It is important to us that the teams are aware of their possibilities and their responsibility. In particular, local medium-sized businesses can be a good example for young teams.

IDS Innovation is a local entrepreneur that is a good role model. IDS Innovation will operate the b39 Academy from autumn 2020 with the goal of promoting the development of digital-based professional and technical skills. The aim is to establish close partnerships with early-stage start-ups on topics such as image processing, industrial cameras and artificial intelligence.

It’s only possible together: Best of multiple worlds

The sustainable training of founders requires not only strong values but also a meaningful adaptation of all players in the surrounding ecosystem to work successfully. Simplified: we want the “best of multiple worlds”. Each member of the ecosystem benefits most when they collaborate and form a symbiosis.

To start with, old reservations and clichés need to be replaced. Startups are not always young and radical. Traditional companies are not always rigid and limited only to their context. We want to act as mediators and our programs should therefore build a bridge between organizations, people and points of view. To have diverse and controversial opinions is often a challenge. But in the end, engagement and mutual understanding delivers the best results. Only in this way are we able to build a culture together, which not only includes diverse and innovative thinking, but also new business models. Let’s start a movement together that takes old and new players with it and creates a herd of zebras. Many startups, and many mid-sized companies, are already on the way. But there needs to be more effort and an understanding that we are not alone in our work towards valuable and sustainable entrepreneurship.

Tim Lampe heads the Format Team of the Campus Founders and, along with his team, develops the offers and educational formats that accompany startup teams on their entrepreneurial journey in a holistic way. Before joining Campus Founders he was involved in several startups in the areas of consulting, SaaS, education and co-living and spent a year abroad in Silicon Valley.