TUM Entrepreneur of Excellence: Catharina van Delden Honored As Role Model for Young Entrepreneurs

TUM Entrepreneur of Excellence – Catharina van Delden, Alumna of our Executive MBA in Innovation & Business Creation, Foto: Astrid Eckert, TU München

Co-founder and CEO of innosabi, a prominent voice in the German IT industry and political landscape on topics of digital transformation and future of work, part of the presidential committee of bitkom, supporter of subsequent generations in the Munich start-up community, and most recently honored as TUM Entrepreneur of ExcellenceCatharina van Delden, Alumna of our Executive MBA in Innovation & Business Creation, really is an exceptional entrepreneur, as well as an inspiring role model for young founders.

At this year’s annual celebration of the Technical University of Munich, the Dies Academicus, Catharina van Delden received the TUM Entrepreneur of Excellence award, a distinction for entrepreneurs who serve as role models for young founders. “Receiving this award really makes me proud. Any honor is special, but when it comes from your own academe, it is even more special,” she says. Catharina has many fond memories connected to the TUM: “For me, the Technical University of Munich was and will always be more than just the place that prepared me for the future. At TUM, I made the friends with whom later I founded our company innosabi.” innosabi develops innovation management software for large companies, and much of what innosabi is today has its roots at the TUM. “Even today, ten years after founding innosabi, the TUM’s network with its supportive and motivating personalities still plays a major role. Therefore, I would say this award not only means great appreciation for me personally and my career, but also shows, based on the success story of innosabi, that a lot is done right at TUM in terms of supporting start-ups in the founding process.”

Catharina van Delden now also mentors subsequent generations of founders in the Munich start-up scene and advocates for the interests of young entrepreneurs. “When we started with innosabi, we had a lot of mentors and supporters who helped us develop innosabi into the right direction. Especially at the beginning, since the four of us had little idea ourselves on how to start a company and secure its success in the future, the pool of knowledge and experience we could draw from was invaluable.” Catharina therefore knows the situation and challenges of budding founders very well and in a way wants to give back from what she herself has benefited. “The fact that this exchange is then also fun and provides me with exciting insights into young companies is all the better. I think lifelong learning is essential and so, you should always be on the lookout for fresh impulses. I benefit from the thoughts, approaches and ideas of these young founders just as much as they benefit from my experience.”

She also knows from experience that founding a company is a real feat in itself: “In the founding process, you need a lot of stamina, confidence in your own abilities and the willingness to throw your own ideas overboard in order to steer the company in a completely new direction if necessary.” While the additional challenges due to the corona crisis do not exactly make this easier, she recommends to look at this crisis as an opportunity: “Every time circumstances and entire markets change, many new opportunities for innovative business ideas arise. I would therefore advise prospective founders to look precisely for these new potentials in order to fill them with their solution.”

Catharina also found a potential in the market with her business idea – and developed it into a company. The initial idea for innosabi came about through an exchange among friends, about an article in the magazine brandeins that discussed the collaborative development of a beer. “We asked ourselves whether this principle could be transferred to other areas.” The discussion around the question of how innovation processes change in times of digital transformation, fell on fertile ground: Catharina and her three co-founders had been studying innovation processes in different contexts at the same time. The Executive MBA in Innovation & Business Creation gave her the opportunity to take an in-depth look at the start-up idea and the business model that goes with it, she says. “As a founder of a company, especially as CEO, it is important to constantly continue learning – and with the development of one’s own personality and knowledge, enable the development of the company. The Executive MBA has played an important role in this.”

As a founder and role model for young entrepreneurs, Catharina was recently honored as TUM Entrepreneur of Excellence by the Technical University of Munich. And it is particularly important to her, to acknowledge the people that have accompanied her journey and contributed significantly to this great success: “In reality, this award also belongs in the hands of many others: Into those of my co-founders Hans-Peter Heid, Jan Fischer, and Moritz Sebastian Wurfbaum, with whom I have shared such an intense learning journey in founding and growing this company, into the hands of our angel investors and advisory board members Alexander Lang, Dr. Markus Pfeiffer, Stefan Ried, Barbara Wittmann, and Frank Riemensperger, who have been backing us for years, and of course, into the hands of each and every one of the 55 great innosabis.”

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