A man in a grey t-shirt with glasses posing for a photo

Startup Changemakers: ​​Oliver Hanisch

Oliver Hanisch’s mission at Campus Founders, an entrepreneurship and co-innovation center in the Heilbronn-Franken region, is directly linked to his personal mission – to have an impact on the future and to be part of great solutions and innovations. Find out how’s Oliver shaping the startup ecosystems in Germany and the U.S as an entrepreneur and a business angel.A man in a grey t-shirt with glasses posing for a photo
1. Hi Oliver, thank you for agreeing to do the interview. Could you tell us a bit about your background and how you’re connected to the startup world?

I’ve connected to the startup world or to founding in general quite early. Right after my high school diploma, to be more precise. In high school, I was responsible for branding the t-shirts for our graduating class. I was so annoyed by the process of the companies we got offers from that I just started my own t-shirt business. That basically sparked the entrepreneur in me. 

In 2005 I went to Silicon Valley and stayed for 14 years. Among other engagements there, I was an official representative of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia and I co-initiated the German Accelerator, which is a support program for German startups. Silicon Valley really inspired me. It’s really a mindset rather than just a place somewhere in California. However, in 2019, I came back to Germany, because there was this huge chance for me to help shape “Campus Founders”.

2. You’re the CEO of Campus Founders, an entrepreneurship and co-innovation center in the Heilbronn-Franken region. Tell us about your mission.

The idea of Campus Founders is to help entrepreneurs kick off their business ideas as effectively as possible. We support and empower them by giving them all the information, expertise, infrastructure, and contacts they need for building a startup effectively and sustainably. We want to build a new generation of responsible founders and innovators in a value-oriented manner. 

My mission at Campus Founders is directly linked to my personal “higher mission”, which is to really have an impact on the future and to be part of the great solutions and innovations that will come, in order to tackle the global crisis for example. It’s the businesses and startups of today that form our tomorrow. So by helping to shape some of them and to foster the startup ecosystem, I am part of this as well. 

3. You’re an entrepreneur and a business angel. How do you feel you’re shaping startup ecosystems in Germany and the U.S.?

I’m doing my best to make founding easier and more accessible. I support entrepreneurs on their way to their businesses, educate them, advise them, and connect them. 

There’s a need for real change in the whole startup ecosystem framework of Germany. There are so many barriers and formalities that stop or slow down innovations, which is a real pity. For example, financial support – startups need to get it sooner, quicker, and with less bureaucratic effort. The U.S. is much further ahead in terms of financial support. But there are other aspects where Germany is further ahead. Both countries have their strengths and weaknesses. So I’m working on bringing the best out of these two worlds.

I believe learning and working together is the key to success. We can all benefit and learn from one another. That’s the idea we follow at Campus Founders – “Co-Creation” – and I think it should be considered in economics and research as well.

4. Could you share the top three lessons for founders you learned throughout your journey?

  • Firstly: You can always learn from others. It’s never a question of an academic title, a job title, or a wage.
  • Secondly: Go out and build up your network. Especially in the beginning, it’s so valuable to have contacts that can give you feedback and advice.
  • And last but not least: Fall in love with the problem you want to solve. Not with the idea you have.

5. What do you predict for the ecosystem in Germany in the near future? What should be improved?

I think the process of founding needs to become faster and easier. Fewer formalities, more support, and more capital. Otherwise, Germany will be left behind in terms of innovation and technology.

What we already boost at Campus Founders, and what I really hope will increase is established companies and startups joining forces.

In the near future, there will be more “zebras” – startups that are not only driven by profit but mainly by impact. And if these startups become economically successful too, then this trend will continue.

Thank you for sharing your story and insights with us. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

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