Interview with mentor Prof. Dr. Stephan Erlenkaemper


Why have you committed yourself as mentor? From your perspective, what makes STARBUZZ special?

I clearly remember this one day back in 1995: After having finished school, I had just started my training as a bank clerk. There was a customer requesting a fixed-term deposit for 57 days and I was advised that there was no chance fulfilling this request – the customer could either go for 30 or 90 days. Looking back with hindsight of today, it was this light bulb moment that made me actually understand digitalization: It’s not about technology – it’s about the basic question of delivering more value to the customer, using (i.e.) technological options available. In addition, this experience told me that all too often it’s not the customer that we put first, but the way we have always been used to do things.

Within the last 15 years I spent in business development, I came across this déjà vu over and over again and have always been committed to develop a better solution for the customer. In a broader context it was the Germans inventing the computer and the WWW has Swiss roots - but it’s primarily US companies that know how to win the laurels for it. Obviously, we face a weakness when it comes to the application of great inventions in business models. For this reason, I decided to change allegiance from industry to education and apply for a mentor position at STARBUZZ.

STARBUZZ is very special for me – for different reasons. First, the accelerator itself is not about profit orientation. Not taking shares in turn means that it truly strives for establishing a network between startups and best mentors, investors and partners available. Second, the program considers questions of financing as one issue among others but will provide 360°-support in all business-related issues. And last but not least, STARBUZZ is industry centered and thereby has a chance to provide very intense, valuable and focused support.

How can you support startups in your role as mentor? How will Rheinische Fachhochschule Köln support startups as partnering company of STARBUZZ?

Personally, I will be available to startups at any time for brainstorming, consulting and reality-testing of business models. I would love to share my experience gained in stationary and online retail.

At Rheinische Fachhochschule we offer a master’s study program on digital business and our students are engaged with digital businesses from multiple perspectives (e.g. technology, strategy and marketing). Any startup is welcome to bring open issues, questions, MVPs, etc. whenever feedback, discussions and new ideas are appreciated.

Why would you advise startups to apply for STARBUZZ?

STARBUZZ is the only accelerator – I am aware of – considering all issues and topics that will be encountered when setting up a digital commerce or logistics startup. The accelerator is free of charge, provides the broadest variety of partners / knowledge available and doesn’t involve an equity deal. In my opinion, preconditions couldn’t be any better.

What do you expect from startups that apply to STARBUZZ?

Start with why: Have a clear understanding of the customer’s problem that you want to address. Be mentally flexible when it comes to the solution, be open for feedback, be passionate and be persistent.


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