Blog: Challenge Programme Weekend

blog4Thursday February 18 2016 to Sunday February 21, 2016 the IDEA League’s Challenge Programme on entrepreneurship took place in Aachen. The Challenge program is a programme of extra-curricular activities offered by four universities for selected highly talented students. It consists of four modules in the form of long weekends.

Three students participating in the Challenge Programme wrote a blog about their experiences!

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not represent the views of the IDEA League nor of its affiliated programmes.

Thursday February 18

Starting of another promising weekend in the scope of the first IDEA League Challenge the team members got together with Christian, the head of the organization committee of the workshop, at a pub in the center of Aachen and enjoyed some non alcoholic drinks. As the purpose of the trip was pure academic, the first task of the evening was for us to decide on a theory that all team members were willing to prove wright or wrong. The theory that we came up with is the saying ‘work hard play hard’ that we were very eager to empirically evaluate and prove its correctness. Therefore the group divided into two focus groups. On the one hand there was the Swedish representatives accompanied by two Delft students who were – due to their absence –  chosen by the others to address the saying from a perspective of who works hard can play hard ,hereafter referred to as group 1, and on the other hand the rest of the group who would start and try to prove that only who plays hard can work hard, hereafter referred to as group 2.

Friday February 19

With the best of what Aachen weather is known for – less than 5 degrees Celsius and rain – all participants started in the first day of lectures. Interim result of the study: Five Germans representing group 2 were punctual the rest was late, so group 2 took the lead.

First lecturers: Nico and Sebastian, the founder of an app that was designed for people who want to play their friends in who can party best. The lecture was accompanied by some group work for what we decided to mix up the nationalities and mingle as we learned in the first IDEA League Challenge meeting in Delft that mingling was key in today’s day-to-day business.

blog3After lunch and another totally sophisticated but highly interesting lecture we left the office, aiming towards the city to finally see the real campus, to do a quick tour through the city, to take awesome hipster style selfies in front of the mayors office and to hear that pleasant voice of the tour guide. Perfectly on time we arrived at the startlab a university spin off that provides room for and supports young star ups developing their ideas. Christian, who is the head of the lab gave us the round and answered our questions. Also some of the start ups had presentations for us prepared.

Next stop on the list: Domkeller, an old bar where the group had the first Kölsch, a beer, typical for the area around Cologne, that is pure awesome as the group decided. Also at Domkeller one Swede, not to mention names let’s just call him Felix, tied the study by ordering a fish tequila shot. One who orders such a shot after a long day of work truly shows the will to play hard. A few minutes later, at a restaurant where we went to have dinner, group 2 even took the lead. As the university would only pay for non alcoholic drinks some Swedes ordered liquor on side and mixed their drinks themselves, clearly showing a can do attitude. After a nice dinner the evening ended rather early after the majority of group 2 decided to head back to the hotel early, leaving back two disappointed Germans alone in Sowiso around midnight. As chickening out so early clearly has nothing to do with playing hard the study was at another tie. This was also the final result as it wasn’t possible to clearly assign strikes anymore the next days. Both teams worked extremely hard but also played quite decent, leaving the next two workshops for further investigation of the theory.

Saturday February 20

Saturday is the second day of our IDEA League Challenge Program weekend in Aachen, the university where the entrepreneurship module of our program takes place. Everyone still feeling sleepy in the morning was quickly woken up, since we started with the Design Thinking Workshop. In this workshop, we had to think fast, and come up with multiple creative ideas of redesigning the gift-giving experience. In pairs, we interviewed each other, and came up with ways of making an impact when giving a gift. We elaborated on one of these ideas and turned this idea into a physical product, using the scarce resources we got offered. This all happened under substantial time pressure and with up-beat music to keep us going. This resulted in a broad range of interesting, creative and funny creations, made with balloons, paper clips and other random stuff.

IMG_2596After this, we continued on a more serious note, by discussing the Business Model Canvas. This is a method that allows you to give a clear overview of the business model of a company. It is centered around the so-called Value Proposition of the company: what is the value that the business adds for the customer. First we filled in this canvas with the whole group, before we made our own business model in small groups after lunch. Our group decided to work out the business model of a company making ‘smart toilets’ – I don’t really recall how we came up with that one. We used our afternoon to fill in the canvas and prepare a presentation for the next morning, but didn’t forget to include a small break to visit the Lindt chocolate factory next door.

The evening commenced with a cooking workshop in which we prepared our own three course dinner with the whole group. For the non-German speaking, this was simultaneously a crash course German,  since our cook gave all the instructions in his mother tongue. However, with some help we all did our best to prepare an awesome dinner. Since it’s very important not to store all the energy of dinner in your body, we decided to do some exercise by enjoying Aachen’s night life.

Sunday February 21

After a long night with dinner and drinks yesterday we started off freshly Sunday morning to attend the last day of the IDEA League challenge in Aachen.

The goal of today was to present our own business ideas we developed Saturday, using the skills we learned in the workshop and interactive tasks before. We started with a brief introduction of the three assistants of prof. Brettels chair, Philipp Freitag, Martin Hesse and Christian Niebuhr.

Not wasting any time, we directly started the pitch contest with our well-mixed groups of students from different universities and academic backgrounds.

blog2It was great to see the productive outcome of just a couple of hours work in such highly motivated teams. The ideas varied between intelligent health care toilets and new ecological cosmetics packaging. The winner team, including myself J, presented an App idea for your next social coffee expierence.

The feedback and the open discussions held after each pitch helped us to see flaws and new opportunities for our developed business models. Besides some hard business facts, the huge take away for us is that we learned to be more creative and to see ideas from different perspectives.

It was a great end to an exciting weekend with, as always, a lot of new experiences.

blogtimTim Beck
Student Industrial Engineering Aeronautics
RWTH Aachen
blogsanderSander Leussink
Student Systems Engineering, Policy Analysis & Management
TU Delft
blognilsNils Baumgärtner
Master Student Engineering
RWTH Aachen


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