Start Up Trends

Duesseldorf, May 2023. At first, it was just one observation of many, but the facts support the notion that young founders today are driven by more than just quick wealth accumulation. Increasingly, they are motivated to improve the world through their start-ups. Venture capitalists have also recognized this shift and are now seeking investments in companies with climate-protecting or even life-saving concepts.

Even retired entrepreneurs without successors are changing their priorities. Instead of simply looking for the most lucrative buyer, they are contemplating responsible ownership, considering the impact their businesses may have on society and the environment.

Simultaneously, geopolitical upheavals, energy shortages, and inflation have altered the rules of the game in the economic landscape. The bankruptcy of Silicon Valley Bank evoked memories of the global financial crisis of 2007/08, while the downfall of Credit Suisse exposed the questionable practices of this once-respected institution. These events signify a shift from the loose monetary environment in which start-ups flourished, often fueled by massive investments despite minimal profits. Something seemed to have gone awry in the economic world that had evolved in the 21st century.

However, when the foundations of the system are shaken, it becomes imperative to consider alternatives. Is it possible for the economy to function without money as the sole driving force? Must progress always be about going higher, faster, and further, or can we aim for something better? Have we forgotten the fundamental purpose of companies, which is to create goods that are essential to the well-being of society, rather than solely pursuing success and record-breaking sales?

Edzard Reuter, the 95-year-old former Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler-Benz AG, witnessed the advent of shareholder value in German companies, marking a significant shift in corporate goals towards maximizing returns for investors. Reuter considers this a misinterpretation of the market economy, signaling a detrimental trend. Nonetheless, growing criticism suggests that a reversal is possible.

Beyond the headlines of decline, numerous examples demonstrate what the economy can achieve when it goes beyond profit-driven motives. An American bakery provides opportunities for individuals with criminal records, a construction project in Tübingen combines attractive architecture with housing for refugees, and there are ordinary companies showing how simple it is to act economically while working wonders.

This is smart business—solving problems rather than perpetuating them. We need more companies that address pressing issues such as water shortages, global warming, and resource waste. It is crucial that we change our perception of nature, valuing it not merely as a commodity but as an intrinsic asset. Additionally, we must strive to create a work environment that attracts and engages talented young individuals rather than pushing them away.

While the shift towards this new economy is currently an observation, it has the potential to evolve into a movement—one that we can actively foster and promote.

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