A trip to Silicon Valley – the prize that awaits every winning team in the nationwide Youth Start-Ups school competition. The prize is sponsored by Steinbeis. The 2009 winning team pulled ahead from over 4500 participants throughout Germany with an exceptional business plan and a demonstration of true entrepreneurial spirit in moving the economy forward. The four high school graduates’ winning idea: the launch of a company to produce innovative shock absorbers called PiezoPower ShockAbsorber. The absorbers would be based on piezo-electric elements to convert energy created by pressure into electricity.
The final presentations were judged by a jury of 14 hand-selected experts from universities, banking institutions and industry. There were ten teams of finalists at the investors’ trade fair in Wolfsburg. Ultimately, it was the professional touch and impressive cutaway model of its product idea that prompted the jury to select the PiezoPowerProducts team.
Dr. Nils Högsdal, managing director of TATA Interactive Systems, made all of the travel arrangements, so it was only fitting that he should accompany the winning Youth Start- Ups team on their tour of fascinating people and companies. The team had a full agenda, visiting Alcatraz, the former maximum-security prison, eating at the legendary Hard Rock Café in San Francisco, walking across the Golden Gate Bridge and along the Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, and visiting Hearst Castle, the fanciful palace of media mogul William Randolph Hearst.
While visiting Detecon, a corporate consulting company, the young entrepreneurs spoke with Dr. Eric Dulkeith, who shared his insight on the success of Apple, what lies ahead for the home telephone, and what’s hot today and tomorrow, courtesy of the company’s “trend radar”. Tesla Motors, the first company to go into serial production on 100 % electric cars, gave the up-andcoming entrepreneurs an exclusive tour of their premises – complete with a “test sit” in one of their electrically-powered roadsters.
An excursion to Stanford University provided a glimpse of what the next generation of sharp American minds is up to. Then there was a tour of the Intel museum followed by a visit to another start-up, Talenthouse, a platform for young artists of every stripe. And what a surprise! The group bumped into a member of the 2006 Youth Start-Ups winning team – who is now in California on an internship! Visits to BPWorks (online workspaces and wikis), Force for the Future (business consulting geared to start-ups), Mochi Media (an Internet platform) and chats with Andrej Nabergoj (angel investor and COO of Noovo) gave the Youth Start-Ups team plenty of exciting food for thought.
The icing on the cake: On the last day of their trip to the US, the team were let in to a place only a handful of people see every year – the Valhalla of automotive designers, the VW design studio in Santa Monica. It’s also known as the “delivery room” for VW prototypes. The team went on a guided tour with Jae S. Min and Christoph Brockschmidt, two of VW’s chief designers, and even got a glimpse of some new concept cars.