Gründungsgarage 2.0 – The next level of an early-stage Academic Startup Acceleration Program

How to further develop an established start-up accelerator program for early-stage business ideas of students and university staff after 6 years of success.

Elisabeth Poandl
Graz University of Technolgoy

Bernhard Weber
ZWI Graz - Hub for Innovators

Background and Objectives
The Academic Startup Accelerator Gründungsgarage (GG) is the joint initiative of currently two universities in Graz, Austria, focusing on the implementation of business start-ups: With the cooperation of the Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) and the University of Graz (Uni Graz), the GG is based on inter-university organization and interdisciplinary orientation. Every semester, students and employees of all universities in the region (the GG is not limited to TU Graz and Uni Graz) apply with innovative projects to get one of the ten coveted places in the GG. The GG program gives the participants the opportunity to further develop their business idea within one semester and to take clear steps towards founding a successful start-up. The start-up teams are professionally accompanied and supervised by the GG team and experienced mentors from entrepreneurial practice. In the structured course of a GG semester, students acquire basic knowledge about setting up a company, work on their own business plan and conduct intensive coaching sessions to further develop their business ideas. Each step is individually tailored to the respective start-up idea and the needs of the start-up team. Workshops on Business Model Development, Design Thinking, Online Marketing, Intellectual Property Rights, Legal and Tax complete the preparation for everyday business life. At the beginning of the GG participation goals are defined for the start-up project and the (further) development is challenged at the intermediate and final presentation. At the final presentation, the startup teams have the opportunity to pitch their business ideas to sponsors, investors, members of the universities as well as personalities from the start-up scene and the business industry. Ideally, after completing the GG, the projects lead to a real business start-up.