HHL - the Entrepreneurial Graduate School

More than 250 Startups and more than 10,000 Jobs Created by HHL Alumni



More than 250 startups founded

Over 10,000 jobs created

90 % success rate

Several hundred million Euros of venture capital collected

More than 50 % of HHL students doing startup internships

HHL Network

Stiftungfonds Deutsche Bank Chair of Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship

Schumpeter Junior Professorship in Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer

Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche A.G. Chair of Strategic Management and Family Business

Association of Friends of HHL

Student initiative Accelerate@HHL

Regional network for academic founders SMILE 


Business Plan Development
Innovation Management




#1 nationally and in the top 5 globally in Financial Times Executive MBA Ranking 2014 (in terms of Entrepreneurship)
#1 nationally in Founder's Association for German Science Startup Radar 2013
2013 Final Round of the BMBF Startup Competition
#1 globally in Financial Times Masters in Management Ranking 2012 & 2011 (in terms of Entrepreneurship)

HHL Startup Sectors

Retail management
Health care
Information technology
Private equity
Real estate
Venture capital


We educate effective, responsible and entrepreneurial business leaders through outstanding teaching, research and practice.*

Germany’s leading private graduate business school for has become a very successful incubator for startups over the last 18 years. More than 165 established companies were set up by alumni of the HHL Leipzig School of Management. The most well known examples are Suncoal Industries, as well as the Leipzig-based businesses Spreadshirt and billigflieger.de. Due to the entrepreneurial engagement of the company founders more than 3,000 jobs, with alone 1,100 in the area of Leipzig, have been created.

Cornerstones of the successful entrepreneurship education at HHL are the integration of the subject into the study programs, the close cooperation with experts from the founders' scene, the strong local network of support for academic founders and the strong network of the HHL alumni itself, especially the growing number of HHL entrepreneurs who themselves engage in practical support for the students who think about founding their own business.

In November 2013, the business school reached the top rank in the "Startup Radar" of the Stifterverband (Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany) - a ranking comparing universities in terms of their support for founding activities among students.

*extract from HHL's mission statement

Academic Actors at HHL

Stiftungsfonds Deutsche Bank Chair of Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship

The work of the Stiftungsfonds Deutsche Bank Chair of Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship centers on entrepreneurship and innovation management in big and medium-sized companies as well as for start-up businesses. The focus is on innovative venturing and the transfer of created knowledge between academia and businesses. The Chair’s goal is to realize an intensive theory-practice transfer both in research and teaching. The teaching programs are interactive and practical; our lectures are supported by our wide network of entrepreneurs and innovators in the market who are engaged in interesting co-teaching with our professors.

Schumpeter Junior Professorship in Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer

The Schumpeter Junior Professorship in Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer was founded in 2012, and is sponsored by the Leipzig Foundation for Innovation and Technology Transfer. The overriding goal of the professorship is to promote entrepreneurship in the region of Leipzig. The philosophy of the professorship aims at three distinct goals:

  • Teaching: Provide interactive and dynamic lectures where the necessary tools are presented so students can further develop their interests in the areas of entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Research: Conduct and publish research on topics that are relevant to industry
  • Transfer: Act as an enabler and promoter of entrepreneurship and technology transfer in the region 


Igniting the entrepreneurial spirit

HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management develops the entrepreneurial spirit of its students through a theory-practice approach in teaching and learning. On the one hand there is a thorough entrepreneurship teaching program at HHL which contains several mandatory and voluntary courses in the field and on the other hand there is an intensive cooperation between academia and practice. Guest lectures, often held by HHL alumni who now own there own company, give first-hand insights into the startup business. The Entrepreneurship course provides the tools every founder needs, such as carrying out a market analysis, building organisational structures or preparing venture capital contracts.

Business Plan Seminar

The main goal of the business plan development seminar is to create a business idea and to develop it to a comprehensive business concept. We teach and apply creativity techniques to support the students developing their own business ideas. The students use their ideas and develop them to business concepts to assess if they are feasible for further examination. They then choose the best among it and write a business plan about it. That enables the students to explore if their idea is worth to found a business. In the final business plan lecture, they will present their business plan to an external jury which in the past existed of entrepreneurs and investment managers of venture capital firms from the region. The feedback is always very valuable to the students and is especially helpful if they really want to start a business. Spreadshirt and MySportGroup are only two examples of successful companies which first developed their ideas in the HHL business development seminar. Furthermore, we often invite guest lecturers from theory and practice to include the latest knowledge in the field.

Innovation Management Course

In this course, students learn how to manage innovations with different degrees of newness and influencing factors. Therefore, we go through the innovation management process by introducing the most important aspects and mechanisms from searching to commercialization. Furthermore, the complex interactions between different market actors, technologies and organizational behavior (innovation strategies and innovative culture) will be addressed. Our innovation management lecture is based on current research results as well as their application in practice. Therefore, we attach importance to a high degree of interaction through discussions, cases and exercises during class. Students work together in groups to prepare a task on current topics of innovation research and practice, which they present during our lecture. In addition, we invite well-known and respected guests from practice, who contribute through their outstanding practical experience.

Entrepreneurship Course

In the Entrepreneurship course, students learn concepts and tools for building new businesses, whether as a startup or in a business development position in an established company. After the course, students will:

  • understand the theoretical and conceptual foundations of entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship
  • be able to apply concepts of idea generation and idea spotting for business opportunities in the market place
  • know how to apply tools to evaluate business ideas and business concepts to set up a new business
  • know and be able to set up a new business with its main organizational units (i.e. finance, marketing, human resources
  • know and be able to discuss essential key points before starting a business (i.e. strategy and structure).

The overall aim of the course thus is to develop competencies for entrepreneurial positions. In addition, students will be familiarized with the bases for further research in entrepreneurship.



Learning from the entrepreneurial community

To strengthen the motivation of HHL students to develop and later pursue their business ideas HHL sets a strong focus on the network between students and entrepreneurs to enable a dialog outside the study courses. HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management regularly welcomes entrepreneurs, as well as investors and other key players of the startup scene who share their experiences with the students. Additionally the collegiate entrepreneurship initiative Accelerate@HHL organizes visits with startup entrepreneurs on a regular basis. The direct contact with entrepreneurs often encourages students to consider founding a company and to develop business plans even while they are still studying.

Student Initiative Accelerate@HHL

The Accelerate@HHL student initiative was founded in 2000 and aims to foster entrepreneurial thinking at the HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management. Activities in the past years included the hosting of a yearly conference with startups and venture capital companies, guest lectures, company visits etc. The International Entrepreneurship Conference 2016 took place on April 22 and 23.
The initiative is fully managed by students and supported by the Stiftungsfonds Deutsche Bank Chair of Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship with the chairholder Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart. Moreover Prof. Dr. Stephan Stubner (cofounder Trivago) from the chair of Strategic Management and Family Business at HHL and Prof. Dr. Vivek Velamuri support this initiative with valuable insights. 

International Entrepreneurship Conference 

Leipzig Entrepreneurship Lecture

The Leipzig Entrepreneurship Lecture Series was established in 2011 by Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, chairholder of the Stiftungsfonds Deutsche Bank Chair of Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship. Within this series HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management invites distinguished speakers in entrepreneurship once a year to interact with students, faculty members and business leaders to talk about their latest research projects. The aim of the series is to foster entrepreneurial thinking in the region, as well as to provide a platform to discuss new ideas and opportunities. The lecture is open to everyone who wants to learn more about entrepreneurship from the academic and practical perspective.

Leipzig Entrepreneurship Lecture Series


Bringing ideas to life

HHL actively supports its students in the realization of business ideas. Apart from counseling and feedback in seminars and by HHL professors and research associates, potential founders may obtain valuable support from the local cooperative project SMILE of which HHL is a central partner.
SMILE stands for "Self-Management Initiative LEipzig" and supports academic founders in and around Leipzig. SMILE is a network consisting of the University of Leipzig, HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Biomass Research Centre (DBFZ).
SMILE provides supervision and coaching for startups and spin-off companies as well as training for key qualifications.

SMILE is financed by funds from the European Union and the Free State of Saxony (European Social Fund, the Saxon State Ministry for Economic Affairs, Labour & Transport and the Saxon State Ministry for Science and Arts). 

HHL Startups

Spreading the entrepreneurial spirit of HHL

Amongst HHL alumni are some of the most dynamic entrepreneurs. Altogether they founded more than 165 companies and created over 3,000 jobs in the past 18 years. They carry the entrepreneurial spirit of HHL into the world with their business ideas, products and services.

HHL Startups

Among others the following companies were founded by HHL alumni:

CompanyBusiness areaFounder
ASK Hanuman Online Insurance Comparison Michael M. Steibl (MSc7), Andre O. Prenzlow (MSc7), Johannes von Rohr (K20)

Augenzentrum Fankhauser AG

Eye Clinic Franz Fankhauser (P3)
belChem Fiber materials GmbH Fibre technology Dr. Robin Richter (P1)
Besser Betreut GmbHWeb portal for services for familiesSteffen Zoller (K15)
Bierothek GmbHCraft beer retail chain Christian Klemenz (MSc4)
BonusBox GmbHOnline shopping portal and bonus system on facebook Robert Heesen (MSc2)
BookandSmile GmbHplatforms such as billigflieger.de Marcel Radzei (K5)
Carry-on Publishing GmbH Publishing house Antonia Neubauer (K18)
Circle Products GmbHOnline coffee shop with social effort Martin Elwert (K17)
Coffee Bike GmbH Franchise systems of mobile coffee bikes Tobias Zimmer (K23)
Deutsche Wetterschutz GmbH Consulting in the field of weather conditions Stefan Merker (K22) & Mario Schieck (P3)
Die Kartenmacherei Individual cards Christoph Behn (K13)
DORUCON – DR. RUPP CONSULTINGInnovation consultingDr. Jörg Rupp (P5)
FashionetteDesigner handbagsRonald Reschke (K13), Dr. Sebastian Siebert (K13)
Flaconi GmbH Online perfumery Björn Kolbmüller (K20) & Paul Schwarzenholz (K20) 
Fundsters Crowfunding and crowdinvesting platform Markus Brütsch (K17)
Futalis Customized dog food Janes Potthoff (MSc4) & Christian Hetke (MSc4)
GBV Gesellschaft für Bestattungen und Vorsorge mbH Information and comparison platform for funerals Fabian Schaaf-Mehta (M9)
Gollmann Kommisionierungssysteme GmbH Development and Production of robotic dispensing systems Daniel Gollmann (M4)
Hitfox Game distribution company builder Tim Koschella (K21) & Hendrik Krawinkel (MSc4)
imedo GmbH Health care platform Christian Angele (K20)
KeyX Prüfsysteme GmbH & Co. KG Tightness testing tools Volker Dahm (P4)
KisuraPersonal shopping online portal Tanja Bogumil (MSc3) &
Linh Nguyen (K22)
Schlafecke UGSleep aidsJoerg Rupp (P5) & Jens Reinstädt (P5)
smowOnline and offline designer furniture seller Michael Petersen (K12) & David Dimitrov (K11) 
Lecturio Online learning platform Martin Schlichte (K21)
Ludwig & Co. Financial advisory Dr. Thomas Ludwig (M4)
MeineSpielzeugkiste.de Online hiring platform for toys Julia Derndinger (K7) & Florian Metz (M6) 
Mister Spex GmbH Online optician Dirk Graber (K15)
MyRoomStyle GmbH Online service for furnishing Bettina Redl (M10)
Palero Capital Private equity fund Conny E. Wuppermann (K16)
Privatesportsale GmbH Online retailer for sportswear Erik Pfannmöller (K23) & Albert Schwarzmeier (MSc1)
Ringekaufen.com GmbHOnline shop for ringsDirk Plotzki (M9) & Fabian Schaaf (M9)
RoadsWellTraveled GmbHOnline shop for goods from around the worldMinu Chawla (..) & Sebastian Sager (..)
Spreadshirt AG Online shop for personalized apparel Lukasz Gadowski (K12)
St. ERHARD Brewery Christian Klemenz (MSc4)
SunCoal GmbH SunCoal® biocoal Friedrich von Ploetz (K11)
TALOS Management Consulting GmbHManagament consulting boutiquePhilipp Tenbieg (M3)
TausendkindOnline shopping portal for children’s fashionDr. Katrin Weiß (K10)
Team Europe Management GmbH Co-Founding of and investing in companies Lukasz Gadowski (K12)
The Balmy GmbH Social Food Trucks Nikolaj de Lousanoff (K21)
Trivago Hotel search engine Rolf Schrömgens (K5), Malte Siewert (K6), Peter Vinnemeier (K5) & Stephan Stubner (K5) 
VerkehrsmittelVergleich.de Search engine for transportation Dr. Johannes Grassmann (K13)
ZUUMEO GmbH E-commerce service and content production Max Radtke (K21)

Awards (Selection)

• WirtschaftsWoche Startup of the Year
• KfW Startup Champion
• Internet Business World best startup
• winner RedHerring European Top 100 Award
• HP Business Vision Award
• winner Weconomy Award
• "Entrepreneur of the Year"
• winner futureSAX business plan competition
• winner ubg s-cooperations award for the best startup
• “Best Market" award of the world-wide Moot Corp business plan competition in Austin/Texas
• winner "Sieger Kopf schlägt Kapital" (winners spirit beats capital)
• Venture Lounge winner
• winner of the INCAE/MIT Media Lab business plan competition
• winner of the German Startup Award


The funding of HHL startups is mainly done within the HHL network but also by state-run sponsorships such as EXIST foundation grants. HHL alumni invest in startups on a regular basis and HHL also supports founders by getting in contact with business angels, institutional venture capitalists and the High-Tech Gründerfonds. Some of the investors are:

• Accel Partners (www.accel.com/)
• Alpha Founders (www.alphafounders.com)
• Apax (www.apax.com)
• Bauer Media (www.hbv.de)
• Earlybird (www.earlybird.com)
• European Founders Fund (www.europeanfounders.com)
• Grazia Equity (www.grazia.com)
• Hasso Plattner Ventures (www.hp-ventures.com)
• High Tech Gründerfonds (www.high-tech-gruenderfonds.de)
• Technologiegründerfonds Sachsen (www.tgfs.de)
• Hubert Burda Media (www.burda.de)
• Index Ventures (www.indexventures.com)
• Kennet Partners (www.kennet.com)
• Madsack Medialab (www.madsackmedialab.de)
• Neuhaus Partners (www.technonord.de)
• Team Europe Ventures (www.teameurope.net)
• Wellington (www.wellington-partners.com) 

Network Growth

HHL startups as new partners in our entrepreneurial network

The support HHL gives to potential founders is in the long term benefiting for both partners. Through the entrepreneurial network not only startups gain, they also widen the network for our students regarding networking for future career perspectives, teaching and experience sharing for following generations of future business founders.

As recruiter our alumni profit from direct contact to potential talents. They can join our Startup Career Fair to get in contact with interested students. Our career centre also coordinates questions regarding job offers and internships in startups.

Also they get in contact with young creative and well educated minds, who solve the problems of the now growing businesses in student consulting projects. Inthese field projects students solve a from a company beforehand defined problem i.e. regarding business delevopment, market analysis etc.

As guests in our entrepreneurship-related lectures, they share their experience and help students to understand the way of management in start-up as well as they provide information regarding founding-related problems. In discussions and case studies founders help to emphasize with them. At the same time alumni help to foster the entrepreneurial spirit among students and thereby trigger a new entrepreneurial founding cycle at HHL.

As mentors former founders help current founders with their founding related problems. Through the strong network at HHL the new generation of founders connect with former ones and thereby tighten the network and entrepreneurial culture at HHL. 

HHL Entrepreneurs Returning to HHL as Guest Lecturers

  • Daniel Gollmann (CEO), Gollmann Kommissioniersysteme GmbH
  • Dirk Graber (CEO), Mister Spex
  • Christian Hetke (CEO), Futalis GmbH
  • Erik Pfannmöller (CEO), Privatesportsale GmbH
  • Janes Pothoff (CEO), Futalis GmbH
  • Julia Derndinger (CEO), Circus Internet GmbH
  • Stefan Merker (CEO), Deutsche WetterSchutz GmbH

Student Consulting Projects

Student consulting projects are part of the program curriculum of our full-time programs. Ever since HHL was founded in 1898 we have placed particular emphasis on the close connection between theory and practice. In many instances field projects are run in close cooperation with industry or even with social or cultural institutions. As a result, our students are given opportunities to take part in projects in a variety of ways. Within the student consulting projects the student groups solve the real problems that companies face. In this way our students are identifying solutions that may be crucial to the success and innovative ability of the project.

Student consulting projects at HHL

Startup Career Fair

HHL offers its startups and entrepreneurs the opportunity to present themselves as potential employers for internships and full-time positions. The Startup Career Fair is organized twice a year and has successfully been running for a couple of years now. Up to six companies per Career Fair can introduce their stories, business idea, experiences and career opportunities.
Presenting their business at the Startup Career Fair is free of charge for HHL startups and entrepreneurs; only the catering costs for the networking reception following the presentations have to be paid. In recent years, an increasing number of students took the chance and completed an internship, master thesis or started a full-time position at a start-up company.
Besides giving a presentation startups also have the opportunity to run a workshop with pre-selected candidates as part of the Startup Career Fair which is a great chance to meet students individually. Please note that this format is subject to a small charge.

Media Coverage

Moderne Spinnerei  (in German)
Merton: Online-Magazin des Stifterverbandes, May 2017

Lukasz Gadowski - Polnisch-deutscher Selfmade-Millionär (in German)
MDR.de, April 2017 

Hochschulen für Gründer (I): Leipzig ist stark im Networking (in German)
WirtschaftsWoche Gründer, August 2017

Accreditation & Rankings

Among the leading EMBA
programs worldwide

Top 5 in Germany

Most International University
in Germany

#1 for Entrepreneurship
in Germany