Entrepreneur talk: family businesses meet start-ups

Representatives of family businesses meet start-up entrepreneurs for a discussion

On November 30, 2017, the Bucerius Entrepreneur Initiative organized a talk with members of the Entrepreneurial Board on the topic of "Working in start-ups and family businesses - same same but different?"

The evening began with an introduction by Dr. Annette Bärwinkel, Director Alumni Relations. Afterwards, LL.B student Alexander Focke presented the topic of the night. Then, the members of the panel introduced themselves: representing the start-up scene were Dr. Fabian Heilemann, member of the Bucerius LL.B-class of 2002, and Johannes Becher, graduate of the Bucerius Master of Law and Business (MLB). Christoph Semer, another graduate of the MLB program, represented family companies. The presentation showed that decisions taken before as well as during law school can be decisive with regard to the development of future career paths.

The talk then moved to topics which showed both the similarities and the differences between approaches used in these fields, as well as differing realities. The panel then gave short insights why they decided to work in the field they now work in: Semer pointed out that when he began, there was no such thing as the "new economy". Heilemann on the other hand pointed to the appeal of taking ideas from a different market and then implementing them in Germany.

Differences were also shown in the discussion on financing the company. Becher and Heinemann mentioned that companies as well as investors took a rather short-term view, with the latter also strongly influencing the decisions taken. Semer on the hand stressed that family companies – due to their financing via bank loans – take a more stable and long-term strategy while also deciding more autonomously. Focke then posed several theses to the panel. The ensuing discussion brought to light that – contrary to popular opinion – family business are also innovation-oriented while start-ups cannot function without classic hierarchies.

As a final recommendation, the panel encouraged the audiences to go one's own way while listening to personal preferences. The audience was then able to ask individual questions before the evening ended with a discussion accompanied by pretzels and wine.


Christoph Ludwig, Student