Experiencing the Power of Change through the Accelerate Conference
HHL’s Student Initiative Organizes Conference for Entrepreneurship
This interview was first published in May 2020.
Accelerate is an established entrepreneurship conference at HHL organized solely by students. Every year the student initiative invites top entrepreneurs, investors and young talents to Leipzig to share their insights and challenge future beliefs.
Accelerate Conference postponed to 2021
No one would have expected this year’s conference topic to predict the future. But when HHL students picked “The Power of Change” as the conference topic in September 2019 they had identified a truth that was going to change the world economy.
“We see ourselves as a platform and networking event for people and companies with an interest in entrepreneurship.”
In a twist of irony, it is exactly this “Power of Change” that has forced HHL’s student initiative to cancel their 2020 event following the global health pandemic.
In this interview we talk to full-time Master in Management student Roman Pastoors, who joined the Accelerate team as Head of Finance. He shares his experience organizing the largest entrepreneurship event in Eastern Germany.
What is the Accelerate Conference about and who is it for?
The Accelerate Conference is the biggest student organized entrepreneurship in conference in Eastern Germany. We see ourselves as a platform and networking event for people and companies with an interest in entrepreneurship, e.g. start-ups, founders or students planning to start their own business.
If you want to discuss current topics that shape the business environment considerably, e.g. digitization, but also societal trends as a growing awareness for health or environment connected opportunities, the Accelerate Conference will offer you panel discussions as well as room for bilateral conversations addressing those factors.
Of course, the Accelerate Conference is also a good opportunity to get to know HHL for students who consider studying at HHL.
“As 2020 is the beginning of a new decade we want to take the opportunity to reflect on the biggest change processes of recent times and discuss the future with its opportunities and challenges.”
This year’s conference topic was going to be “Power of Change”. Why did you decide on this topic and what does it stand for?
We decided on our topic in September 2019 – without expecting the effects of Corona. As 2020 is the beginning of a new decade we want to take the opportunity to reflect on the biggest change processes of recent times and discuss the future with its opportunities and challenges.
As change is often referred to as the only constant in our time, this topic is of high relevance for all of us – not only from an economical point of view. Ongoing globalization, digitalization and ecologic developments are considerable change processes, just to name a few.
We understand the beginning of the new decade also as a good starting point to overcome skepticism. Instead we want to motivate our participants to see change as an enabler and possibility for new business models, services and products.
There are various student initiatives to choose from. Why did you decide to join this initiative?
The different student initiatives were presented to us in our intro weeks. After the presentation we had the possibility to talk to last year´s organization team members. As Accelerate is the biggest student initiative at HHL, it offers many opportunities and a considerable development potential.
I am very interested in the topic of entrepreneurship which is also one key focus of HHL. Additionally, the experience of last year´s students was very convincing: engaging and inspiring speakers, interesting startups and various formats for networking.
In the end, the decision for one initiative is also a decision for the team and therefore it is important to ensure that you are willing to and want to work together. Regarding Accelerate this was definitely the case.
“Working in teams, showing leadership or solving problems and conflicts are skills that we will profit from later in our career.”
By the way: I was also part of the organization team of the Energy Conference. So there are several interesting student initiatives at HHL.
How have the student initiatives complemented your studies at HHL?
What all them have in common: We have the chance to apply theoretical concepts and make your own experiences: Working in teams, showing leadership or solving problems and conflicts are skills that we will profit from later in our career.
“Change is often referred to as the only constant in our time.”
One example: Of course, we know the concept and background of the Leipzig Leadership Model. However, it is easier to explain than to realize it. How do you cope with team conflicts? How do you react if teams are behind their schedule and you have to rebuild their motivation and engagement?
Moreover, our schedule at HHL is very demanding and intense. Therefore, we enjoy it to take some time to organize our student initiatives as the team meetings are always a lot of fun. I mostly enjoyed the opportunity to work together with friends in a non-study related context.
The Accelerate Conference welcomes many well-known speakers. How do you connect with and find your speakers and sponsors?
Yes, that is definitely one of the reasons to visit Accelerate. For 2020 we planned with Julia Derndinger, Christian Koll, Dr. Constantin von der Groeben and many further great speakers.
Some of the speakers are already part of Accelerate tradition and can therefore contacted using last year´s contact details. The former organization team was highly engaged to help with that. However, the majority of speakers is recruited newly each year. That is the point when HHL´s broad network comes in.
Throughout our whole planning we were in close contact with our professors, alumni as well as the career development. Sometimes we asked alumni directly whether they want to shape Accelerate with us. In other cases, we were personally introduced to interesting personalities by alumni or professors.
The career development manager also helped us by providing contact details, introducing us and suggesting potential speakers.
Thank you for your time Roman and all the best for your future. We look forward to an unforgettable conference in 2021!
“Change opens up also new opportunities, e.g. for online teaching, remote working and learning.”