European Innovation Academy: How to launch a start-up in 15 days

Howdy! My name is Giorgio and I am working in the digital solutions and services team for Daimler Trucks in Stuttgart, Germany. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be a mentor for the European Innovation Academy (EIA) in Cascais, Portugal.

The event is publicized as the ‚world’s largest extreme entrepreneurship program‘. It was amazing to see how students from all over the world came together to work on their innovative ideas. And I really came to understand why they call the program ‘extreme’ – but read for yourself!

We, the digital solutions and services team, have the vision to revolutionize the world of logistics. Every day I look into novel technologies and services for the logistics market. The colleagues I work with depend on the specific project I am working on. Together, we are interviewing customers, building and improving prototypes and thinking about business models.

The beginning

Why is Daimler joining the EIA? Highly qualified students and professors from world class universities are coming together for this challenge. As a company that is striving for future mobility solutions we need to find talents that live the start-up spirit and who are keen to develop innovative ideas with us. The EIA is a perfect place to meet students with these characteristics.

Kathrin provided information about career possibilities at Daimler

When I found out that I was going to be a mentor for the EIA I was really excited! I browsed the website, because I was curious and wanted to find out what I could expect. You never know what is going to happen. What ideas will the students come up with? Will I actually be able to help them?

I was thrilled to find out that the ‚Global Talent Scouting‘ team was joining my trip for a couple of days. We wanted to accompany the students while they develop their ideas as well as to help them with making decisions for their futures. At our stand Kathrin and Carolin talked to the international students about Daimler as an employer and provided information about career possibilities in our company. My job was to be an IT mentor during the 15-day challenge and help shape the students’ ideas into a product.

Daimler colleagues in Cascais: Carolin, Giorgio and Kathrin

Idea sourcing

Some students already have an idea for a possible product, while others just want to be part of something that can become their own company very quickly. During the first week the best ideas were selected and teams of five were formed. My teams had very different ideas, ranging from freight importing solutions through sustainable smoothies to customizable alcoholic beverages. At the end of the week all the teams had to prepare a working prototype that would serve to validate their ideas with real customers.

I spent the second week helping the teams set up their web pages and smartphone app prototypes and making sure that their IT solutions were valid. It was interesting to see the different nationalities working together and I was impressed by their motivation. I enjoyed working with the young students who were so passionate about their start-up ideas.

Giorgio during his mentoring sessions

It’s getting serious

The last day of my mentorship was an exciting day for everyone, the so called ‚Expo day‘! On this day the teams revealed their projects to the other participants and learned how to pitch their ideas. It was the first time we had the opportunity to discuss all projects with their teams. And I must say, the projects they came up with were really impressive!

In the third week it was time for the participants to meet their legal mentors and business developers, and in the next sessions they learned how to protect their own ideas and how to scale their business.

To succeed, each team had to get 1000 customers by the last Friday of the program. The ten best teams have the amazing chance to pitch their ideas in front of real venture capitalists who may consider investing in some projects. What a great opportunity!

As part of the daily program the participants also had inspirational talks and not just practical sessions with their mentors. The lectures covered interesting topics like ‘Entrepreneurship. The Ultimate Team Sport’ or ‘Artificial Intelligence – A Game-changer in App Development’. It was not only the students who were interested in hearing the talks – a lot of mentors, including me, also attended them.

Furthermore, I gave a keynote myself about Daimler and my work here. A lot of questions were asked immediately and students continued to approach me on the following days.

On stage: Giorgio presenting his keynote about Daimler

Above all, I was really impressed by the fast progress the teams made with their projects and the motivation they showed! Within a short space of time, strangers from all over the world created amazing projects and became friends. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to join the European Innovation Academy. It was a challenging experience, not just for the students, and I would definitely take part in the event again!

If you are interested in further Daimler Career events you should definitely check out our next stops.

The European Innovation Academy took place from July 16 to August 4, 2017. This year, approximately 250 participants and around 50 mentors from all over the world came together in Cascais, Portugal. The EIA is a non-profit educational institution recognized for excellence in tech entrepreneurship education which develops its programs in cooperation with world-class partner universities and companies.

He works in Customer Centered Design and Digital Solutions for Trucks. In his job at Daimler Fleetboard he interacts with players in the logistics market, academics, startups and venture capitalists.