INTERVIEW WITH MARTIN RUPPERT, IMP³ROVE – EUROPEAN INNOVATION MANAGEMENT ACADEMY, FINALIST OF THE FALLING WALLS LAB 2011
1. Which project did you present at the Falling Walls Lab?
In 2011, I joined the Falling Walls Lab in Berlin. In the short time frame I had, the three-minute pitch, I presented a project called “Kamerun4AfrikaClub” – a club founded by students in which I’m also actively involved. It’s a crowdfunding project to support people in need, mostly with regard to education, but also with a focus on other areas such as the provision of access to clean water in African countries, particularly in Cameroon.
2. What triggered the founding of the club?
Frustration. We were just not satisfied with simply donating money to big organizations where we have little influence on what can be done and where we didn’t know what the money would be used for and to what degree this money would actually reach the people in need – like receiving donations for education. And since I studied math, I acted as the auditor, taking care that our finances were in proper order.
3. Why pick Falling Walls to present your idea?
Well, since we were collecting funds via our private network – mostly students, young people and their families – networking has always been a key to the project’s success. So I presented our ideas at the Falling Walls Lab to see to what degree it can connect to others, whether we can network or find partners for it.
4. Where is the link between your Falling Walls project and your recent work at A.T. Kearney?
My interest and what I presented at the Lab was largely centred around social and innovative entrepreneurship which has fascinated me ever since I was at university. When joining A.T. Kearney to do consulting work I continued to have that interest in innovation, asking myself to what degree are companies commercialising new things, to what degree are companies entrepreneurial and encouraging new ventures, new activities? During a project with IMP³rove Academy we tried to understand what is
potentially holding our entrepreneurs in Europe back, especially when we think about different phases of entrepreneurship, what we like to call “Stand Up – Start Up – Scale Up”. So starting with questions like “What is the situation?”, “To what degree is talent encouraged to start new ventures, to be entrepreneurial?” and “How easy is it then to start up and scale up new companies?”. In that sense the wheel has come full circle and I continue to work on innovation and entrepreneurship issues. IMP³rove Academy has allowed us to develop online assessments which more than 6,000 companies have readily utilized to gauge their innovative capabilities.
5. Are there any personal experiences which you gained from your presentation at the Falling Walls Lab?
I was amazed that day to learn about so many ideas in such a short time frame. I think the standard experience I’ve had at conferences was that I always found it tricky to understand, to grasp their true essence. Especially if it’s technical it can be quiet demanding to comprehend the details. What I really liked about Falling Walls is that the format focuses on sharing the core of new ideas in a way that’s accessible to anyone, whether you’re in chemicals, medicine or mathematics – it doesn’t matter. The pitches provide enormous food for thought and create a basis for holding more in-depth discussions with other attendees throughout the day. I left with 100 new ideas and an understanding that has remained with me until the present day.
Martin Ruppert is Managing Director of IMP³rove – European Innovation Management Academy and a core team member of the Innovation and R&D Management practice at A.T. Kearney. In 2011, he presented his idea at the Falling Walls Lab in Berlin: a crowdfunding project to support education in Cameroon.