What do you do when you love entrepreneurship and sharing your knowledge equally? You combine the two as our founder Maren Lesche and one of our advisors do! Let us introduce you to Dr. Simon Mak, Professor of Practice in Entrepreneurship at the SMU Cox School of Business in Dallas, world traveler and blockchain enthusiast! And yes, since 2018 also advisor of the Startup Colors team and an always welcomed guest at our Berlin offices!
Twelve years ago, Simon Mak – a serial entrepreneur which founded, sold and buried startups in the 90ies and the early 20ies and experienced the ups and downs of the dot.com bubble – joined SMU as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence for one year and fell in love with teaching.
“When I finished my student life at the University, I had no plans to come back. But the E-I-R program at SMU changed my thought process, I realized my true calling. After the program, SMU worked out a situation where I would continue to be a professor at the University. This has been my longest job since then and every day I strive to make ‘entrepreneurship’ an exciting class for my students.”
Prior to joining SMU, Simon founded a health-related dot.com company in Silicon Valley, was the vice president of sales and marketing for a startup Chinese business magazine as well as the vice president of marketing and business development for a small, private-equity backed software company in Dallas.
Now, he shares his knowledge with students on tree-lined campus that’s just minutes from the beating heart of Dallas. Cox is an American business school and part of the Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas. SMU Cox offers a full range of business education programs, including BBA, full-time MBA, MBA Professional (Part-Time), Executive MBA, Master of Science in Management, Master of Science in Business Analytics and non-degree Executive Education.
A short Linkedin message connected Dallas and Berlin.
As a part of the entrepreneur program, Simon introduces his students to various overseas markets through educational tours. He created a new entrepreneurship class called “Global explorations for entrepreneurship” for his students as a result. Berlin was the third destination for this class. It had already covered Tel Aviv in Israel and Zurich in Switzerland as ecosystems.
“The tours were focused on entrepreneurship and I wanted my students to learn about different pieces of entrepreneurship and look beyond classroom teaching. I wanted them to meet startups, venture capitalists, angels investors, accelerators or incubation programs, coworking spaces, and most importantly, I also wanted to understand how other universities are running entrepreneurship programs. I was looking for an educational tour where I could get all these areas covered in a single tour. It was really hard to find someone who could give an overview of all these aspects in a short tour. “
Simon scouted for a collaborator who could help students in not just connecting with different players in the ecosystem, but also curate the tour which would be a combination of the right content and eminent players in Berlin. He started his research to find support and reached out to Maren Lesche, Founder of Startup Colors, after reading about her in Startup Digest Berlin.
“The idea was to help students know the ecosystem well enough so that if they would want to start up in a new country, they understand the opportunities and challenges and the ‘hassle’ factor of each ecosystem. They know whom to connect with, how to get a visa, how to integrate, understand cultures and other factors,” says Simon.
The Mission: To understand how other countries support the entrepreneurial ecosystem
Another goal was to understand how other countries support the entrepreneurial ecosystem and bring best practices back to Dallas.
“We all know Silicon Valley is a great example of entrepreneurship, but it’s also impossible to replicate Silicon Valley. Even here in the United States, every region has its own uniqueness and so does Dallas. It is home to 20 headquarters of Fortune 500 companies which makes it a difficult choice for students to choose between entrepreneurship or a corporate job.”
Simon wanted to learn all the government initiatives that help in entrepreneurship in different countries and bring the ideologies and processes back to Dallas.
“I was asking for many different aspects. When I told this to Maren, she said he could help me. It was a 360-degree-view of what entrepreneurship students needed to be exposed to.” In March 2018, over a span of four days, the tour included many activities including a workshop on the startup ecosystem of Berlin by experts from German Startup Association, a meeting at EIT Digital Accelerator, investor insights by meeting with angel investor Mali Baum. The students attended a Silicon Allee Monthly Meetup and met with Travis Todd, Angel Investor and startup expert among other things. Silicon Allee is founded by Travis Todd and is inspired by his US roots and time spent in San Francisco, they set out to build a startup community in Berlin with meetups, events and an English-language blog. Silicon Allee is somehow synonymous with Berlin Tech ecosystem and these are the interesting facts students learnt.
“Berlin is playing on its immigration policy and making life easy for its entrepreneurs by allowing the entrepreneurship visa with a lot of support from the government. This works very well in attracting talent from other countries. I brought these learning about the entrepreneurship benefits back and talked to the mayor in Dallas and the local government as I am active in the local government scene in Texas, especially in Dallas. I tell my students to go and startup in Berlin as there is no language barrier and you can experience the Europe tech scene being based in one of the most interesting cities. In Berlin, the “hassle” factor is low. I will definitely bring another class to Berlin and visit again.”
Reach out if you want to explore the Startup Ecosystem in Berlin with us! And yes, we also do not just connect you in Berlin. Together with our partner MAGIC, we also coordinated another tour by SMU. This time to Kuala Lumpur!