The European Business School is located directly on the Rhine river, built beautifully into the ruins of an 18th century castle. Wonderful. But also slightly annoying. EBS is far away from anything that resembles modern civilization, such as Frankfurt Airport.
This did not deter German internet accelerators, catalysts and incubators, such as Rocket Internet, Springstar, Venture-Stars, Rheingau Ventures, FoundersLink and Hanse Ventures from flocking this Saturday to EBS NINE, a student-organized entrepreneurship event. And not just they were there, traditional VCs also came, such as Partech, Kizoo, HTGF, Venturecapital.de, BDMI and eVenture Capital Partners. Students from Stanford, MIT and Cambridge attended as part of a three-day workshop. Specialized Berlin start-up recruiter i-Potentials hosted a session as well as small-cap M&A advisors Winnacker Transactions. And, of course, GMPVC was there, too.
What this impressive display of attention by top players showed was an insatiable hunger for talent in the internet segment. Based in Berlin, Samwer-funded Rocket Internet and associated companies are responsible for large parts of Groupon’s internationalization in several important emerging markets all over the world. Springstar is the brainchild of one of the most brilliant European investors, Klaus Hommels (Skype, Facebook, Spotify, StarDoll). Klaus Hommels was personally at the conference with Manu Gupta, Partner at Springstar. From it’s hub in Berlin, Springstar runs shopping clubs, group buying companies and online shoe shops around the world with a combined total of more than $1bn revenues per year, 20m customers and 2,000 employees. Just two days ago, Gründerszene, the German startup press, reported that Springstar will manage some of the internationalization of Airbnb. Through these global initiatives, Berlin is being turned into a highly professional launch pad for the internationalization of internet business ideas. This beast needs to be fed.
The EBS NINE event proved that business school students are becoming better and better at marketing themselves to entrepreneurial companies. The event was a far cry from the drab and dull recruiting jamborees of large corporates and consulting firms. EBS NINE was created and hosted entirely by student volunteers with zero budget. Normally, volunteer-based initiatives have a sort of charming, Oxfam type of feeling. Not this conference. Speakers were picked up from the airport, flyers and branding was slick, the lunch and dinner was amazing (and vegan). Everyone was full of smiles, enthusiasm and confidence. Even though the students all had not slept for days.
What these students were actually doing is proving they can launch and execute a major project faultlessly. All boxes were ticked. With 400 attendees, EBS NINE was one of the largest student conferences in Europe in 2011.