Almost one in five of the foreign students studying in North Rhine-Westphalia is from Asia. Yet few of them remain in the state after completing their studies. That means as a business location Germany forgoes the considerable potential these future employees and entrepreneurs have to offer.
The Bertelsmann Stiftung develops strategies how to counteract this trend by increasing opportunities for innovation and international exchange in the region. It has therefore launched the German Asian Startup Lab, that discovers and supports young Asian talents at higher education institutions in North Rhine-Westphalia while building a network that brings them together with the local business community.
As a result, the first German Asian Startup Lab was held in Bielefeld from January 26 to 28, jointly organized by the Bertelsmann Stiftung's Germany and Asia program and the Founders Foundation. Thirty students from India, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea who are studying at universities and technical colleges in North Rhine-Westphalia spent a weekend intensively learning about launching a startup.
The participants formed teams to develop their own business ideas. The projects targeted issues such as sustainable consumption, urban development and social change. As they developed their business concepts, the teams were supported by well-known mentors who shared their expertise and what they have learned starting businesses. When the weekend was over the students presented their ideas to a three-member jury of experts.
The winning team in the category "Overall Winner" developed an idea for an app that would help couples build and maintain a relationship over time, for example by reminding them of shared activities. The winners in the category "Best Pitch" want to network farmers with schools in NRW to sell fruit and vegetables that would not otherwise be consumed because of their substandard appearance. The third winning team, recognized in the category "Wild Innovation," created a plan to use German technology to introduce a deposit-and-refund system for waste in India.
The weekend increased awareness among the Asian students of the professional opportunities available to them in Germany - and especially in NRW - after they finish their studies. In addition, it gave them the chance to begin networking with experienced business leaders and experts from the region.
A video documenting some of the weekend's happenings can be viewed here: