How a business masters helped crack the start-up code
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It is true what they say about us Germans: everyone is really punctual and always on a tight schedule. But when I went to Portugal as part of my Cems Master in International Management course, I found they took things really slow. Germans will always get straight to the point, but in Portugal there is a lot of small talk before meetings, which means they don’t always start on time. I guess it is important for team bonding to have a coffee before a meeting and get to know people — it certainly makes life more enjoyable.
Now 26, I was born and raised in Berlin. I decided to go to business school to learn a more practical approach to management and help create a more sustainable and liveable world. I figured I would make the biggest impact by learning how business and management work and challenging ways of doing things. My undergraduate degree was in sustainable management at the Technical University of Berlin. It was also a management degree, but with a focus on environmentalism, sustainable practices and how to calculate and reduce carbon footprints.
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In our globalised world, you need insight into how businesses and organisations work differently across continents, so I wanted to study abroad for my masters. I did a large amount of research — there is so much information out there and every country has something different to offer. I heard many good things about Cems, but it was its global network of universities that convinced me. I chose it because it gave me the opportunity to study abroad in two different countries, which was amazing.
I started at Nova School of Business and Economics in Portugal, doing three semesters there, and then my last semester was at Copenhagen Business School. Unfortunately, the Danish semester proved to be a mixed bag because of the coronavirus crisis. I arrived in January 2020 and by March everything was being taught online.
But that inspired me to launch a start-up, Codary, last November, teaching teenagers and younger children by video chat how to code. The pandemic proved that all they needed to achieve results was a computer and internet access. I had also finished my degree by that stage and was trying to find a job, when I thought, OK, why not start something with two friends of mine?
The classes take place after school and we want the kids to have fun. We teach them to code using, for example, the computer game Minecraft. Online classes are also more scaleable, meaning we can offer our programme to children across Germany, from Berlin to Munich.
Our cohort at Cems consisted of roughly 70 people from about 20 countries, including Colombia, Malaysia, the UK, Scandinavia and China. It was perfect, because the two-year programme includes a lot of group work. It was super-interesting to talk about leadership skills and learn about different cultural values.
As someone interested in running their own business, I found the most amazing class was entrepreneurial finance and venture capital. We learnt how fundraising works and what convertible notes are, and I used this knowledge to raise finance for my own company.
I describe Cems as being like a spider’s web — a network full of these creative people. I am still in touch with many of my classmates and we have a WhatsApp group — there is a big sense of community. If it wasn’t for Covid-19, we would have had monthly meetups here in Berlin as well.
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I learnt some programming at Cems. The class was booked out in seconds and I think the school was surprised at how much importance business students attach to the subject. The school had to run four extra classes to accommodate all those who were interested.
At Codary, we are now on our first round of fundraising with an investor network here in Berlin and we are hiring three or four people to help develop our course programme. The focus is on content at the moment, to help the children to be more successful coders and have fun along the way.
Our vision is to provide future generations with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century. Within five years, we want to provide every child in Europe with the chance to explore coding as a fun afternoon activity — and maybe even a potential career.