Time to Unleash Your Potential

by Christoph Räthke

Great startup tools and formats meet great people from BASF

Christoph Räthke joined Chemovator as an Entrepreneur in Residence in 2018 and brought 20 years of experience as a founder, investor, and author in the startup scene. Pondering how to persuade BASF-employees to step forward with their ideas and their interest in entrepreneurial ways of working, he became an integral part of the Chemovator Startup Bootcamp, which we developed to make the atmosphere and methods of Chemovator tangible for everyone in BASF. Whether our participants decided to apply to Chemovator or opted for continuing their work in their company roles, the goal was providing tools that would help to innovate in any case.

What makes a good bootcamp for you?

I think a bootcamp, which is a special form of workshop, should have a scope that is so simple, yet intriguing, that as many interested people as possible feel invited. The content must be also so demanding, yet rewarding, that new options open up for participants afterwards.

Finding an answer to this question is no mean feat. However, I have known this challenge for a long time – it is omnipresent in the startup scene. "Big ambitions but no time, little money and people for whom the upcoming tasks are new" – that is, so to speak, "startups in one sentence".

How is it done outside of corporate boundaries?

In response to that challenge, there has been a format called "Startup Weekend" since 2007, which, according to its parent company, by the end of 2016 had been run in 135 countries with a total 210.000 participants. Driven by this success, the Startup Weekend concept has been copied, adapted, and expanded dozens of times. The basic idea is simple: for one weekend, bring many participants (normally between 50 and 100) of different backgrounds together in one place and have them turn ideas into prototypes within 54 hours. During these 54 hours, they get all kinds of support, short lectures, lousy food, and a lot of mentoring from experienced founders and experts who help teams to solve problems and move forward quickly. At the beginning, all participants who have brought an idea present it in a 60 second pitch. Afterwards, the other participants award points to their favorite ideas and eventually join one of the projects. This is how the teams are created. Thus, within half an hour on a Friday noon, between six and twelve teams spring up. Running with the scurry of a startup, they have time until Sunday evening to achieve as much as possible. (By the way - in the software world, similar events are called "hackathons".)

I've been to quite a few Startup Weekends in my life, both as a speaker and mentor. Their atmosphere and results are often stunning. Some don't go home at night in order to launch their first homepage before dawn. Others swarm out on Saturday to interview potential customers.

"There's a lawyer sitting next to a programmer next to a manager next to a teacher or a designer, and in 54 hours they become a startup!"

During the final presentations on Sunday, they pitch in front of a jury that is often comprised of prominent investors and experts, because everyone knows / has certainly heard about some amazingly good teams that come together in this format.

What can we learn from the external world?

This experience is the base of what we call the "Chemovator Startup Bootcamp", consisting of two intense days with participants from all areas of BASF. On the one hand, it's low-threshold, because you're welcome without an idea of your own. On the other hand, it's ambitious, because the two days are packed with input and the obligation to gather information, talk to customers, and build stuff yourself. As in the real deal, the mentors who take part are not consultants by profession but entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs, who know the experience of starting from scratch, having to be fast and efficient, and who have much more to offer than method charts in Apple design accordingly.

“However, the interesting question remained: would this format excite people and be meaningful for BASF colleagues?”

After five Chemovator Bootcamps now, we’re happy and sometimes even thrilled about how much the answer to that question is “Yes, absolutely!”. Best Practice from the startup world does work in a BASF environment, too! So far, a whole series of teams decided to apply to Chemovator based on the experience – some of these are now Chemovator Venture Teams. Others left with the realization that their idea and team were not far enough yet. But according to the feedback collected after each event, everyone had learned a lot - to an extent that participants came back weeks after to tell how they implemented Bootcamp tricks and methods in their line work.

“We’re recognizing the same magic, the same intense atmosphere that we knew from Startup Weekends.”

People that boast ten, twenty or more years at BASF use the format to join others, pursue fresh ideas, try out new trajectories, and have fun with it!

Time for you to join, too! This can be the first step to make your dreams come true, and for sure, you don’t want to miss it.

Do you have any questions? Comments? Remarks?

Get in touch with us info@chemovator.com. We love hearing from you!


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Christoph's Background

Founder of Berlin Startup Academy Recognized coach, author and mentor in entrepreneurship and company building.