The Future.preneurship-program is an official spin-off of Impact Hub Zürich, the hot spot for innovation and startups in Switzerland with a community of over 1’500 entrepreneurs. Future.preneurship connects career starters with innovative companies for internships. We have talked to two participants of the program, as well as to its founders Annina Menzi and Isabel Käshammer.
Denisa Vitova has just finished her Bachelor studies in English and Slavonic studies at the University of Zurich and will be heading over to the UK in September to do her Master in Creative Writing at the University of Nottingham with the goal of becoming an authoress one day. She has been working for several newspapers in Switzerland, amongst others NZZ, and even had some of her fictional texts published in London Magazine. Following her goal of working independently one day, Denisa has participated the Future.preneurship-program.
What we were interested in, was first of all the process of the program – what’s the schedule of the Future.preneurship-program? Primarily, there is a preliminary meeting to prove if the attendees satisfy all the required criteria to participate – generally, everybody comes through this. After that, a ‘Meet & Match’ with participants and startup companies takes place, during which 30 internships are assigned to about 150 participants. During this phase, participants are having speed-dating-sessions of five minutes each, with three to four startup companies. In case a participant awakens a startup’s interest, they will eventually invite them to a proper interview.
Denisa passed through all these phases and is now working for a startup called The Trip Boutique, which is an online platform focussing on personalised travel guidance. Her field of responsibility is the content and communication management, including the maintenance of the blog. Once a week, she visits the Future.preneurship-meetings, in which participants receive coaching of experts in several fields. Psychologists, product designers, marketing experts and various others organise workshops and give valuable advise concerning topics like design-thinking, new forms of doing business and entrepreneur-work in general. Cardinally, participants are given tools, which they can directly apply in their internship. Here, the practical part of the Future.preneurship-program takes place. It is the immediate contribution to the build-up of the startup, as well as the involvement in each domain and process of the company itself, that fascinates Denisa, who appreciates any learnings when it comes to working independently. ‘In a small team, as they are common for startups, one’s own impact becomes evident right away, which is quite motivating’, says Denisa. Her internship ends in September, when she will start her MA studies in Nottingham. Until then, she wants to make the most of her remaining time at The Trip Boutique and as a Future.preneur.
Andrea Bianchi, BA student in philosophy and environmental sciences, has gone through the same procedure as Denisa and eventually has been offered an internship at the Zurich-based FemTech startup Mondays, which has launched a plastic-free subscription service for period products providing tampons, period pads and panty liners made of organic cotton for women all over the world. In their industry, they are offering the only completely plastic-free service worldwide. Sustainability is of immense importance to the two founders Nancy Saddington and Elisabeth Dewey, which is why Mondays has immediately become a member of ‘1% For The Planet’. Furthermore, they want to carry on the discourse about gender roles, gender equality and education the female body. Alongside the two foundresses and one other employee, Andrea is the only male person working for the startup. Accordingly, his ‘male perspective’ is much in demand, even though the customers of Mondays are solely female. Generally, the female body is still a big taboo among men, which is one issue Andrea wants to tackle. Just because the products themselves are explicitly for women, doesn’t mean that men are excluded from the discourse, for the main topic discussed about is the one of sustainability.
To be able to deal with important decisions and high responsibility in his internship, Andrea appreciates the tools that he is provided with in the Future.preneurship-program. What appeals to him in the entrepreneur environment, is the importance that his own principles amount to; that it’s not all about the money, but about the ‘bigger picture’, that is people and our planet. ‘The future is not going to be constructed like the past 50 years have been. In fact, its course will be more ambiguous than ever. According to that, agility is going to be extremely important on the job market’, Andrea says. Undoubtedly, the future on the labour market belongs to the Future.preneurs.
Who are you and what is your connection to the University of Zurich?
We are the two faces behind Future.preneurship. Last year, we have founded this Impact Hub Zürich spin-off, with the goal to open the doors to the innovation scene for young talents in order to experience the 'new work and startup mentality’. We are actually both University of Zurich alumna - so this happens when a sociologist and psychologist make business together.
What is Future.preneurship about?
Future.preneurship connects young talents with innovative companies for unique work experiences - from internships, over project-based collaborations to long-term jobs. Our candidates are given the opportunity to get inspiring insights in start-ups, cutting-edge SMEs or innovation labs.
And we don't stop after making a match: We coach the newly matched talents (we’re calling them ‘Future.preneurs’) during a hands-on training to allow them to truly dive into an entrepreneurial mindset. During the work experience, our weekly training sessions help to connect startup tools and upcoming ‘new work approaches’ with the practical work experience in the company.
What do you personally enjoy the most about Future.preneurship?
Annina: As we help super-inspiring startups and organisations when they are in the exciting phase of growing, we learn a lot about upcoming innovations and work cultures. It feels like we are on the pulse of our time.
Isabel: Finally, there exists a program which I would have wished for when I was a student! Plus, it strikes me that we see a lot of young women attracted by our program, who are then finding their way into a new career path. This has not been very usual until now, when looking at other entrepreneurial support programs.
What were the highlights of this summer edition?
Annina: Oh, that’s a tough one, but if I have to pick one highlight of this edition it’s the ‘Meet & Match’ event at Kraftwerk. As more and more people get interested in our program, we had to move into a bigger location. So, in the end, we had over 100 candidates, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs during this buzzing speed-dating event, including even some camera teams from SRF running around - it was like a bee house. That was an incredibly fun evening full of energy!
Isabel: Definitely the training during which we are on a weekly-based exchange with all the Future.preneurs. Thereby, we really get to know the people, see their learnings, as well as their challenges. Because in the end, it’s them for whom we’ve actually built up this program. Seeing them flourishing in this new environment is a huge motivation for me to run Future.preneurship.
What would you recommend UZH students who are interested in founding or joining a startup?
We all have different qualities - some of us do flourish when initiating and building up a new idea, others can thrive at their best when they develop and finetune already existing ideas. There is no judgement and no right or wrong; it’s just about which way suits you better. The more important thing is to find out which role and work environment brings out your potential. Future.preneurship is here to help you figuring out what fits best by experiencing yourself what it means to work in a small entrepreneurial team and getting a better feeling of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. We just encourage you to try it out - otherwise you’ll never know.