Interview with Prof. Dr. Malte Brettel
Could you briefly introduce yourself?
Prof. Brettel: I’m somewhat of a hybrid between a researcher and an entrepreneur. I have been a professor of entrepreneurship since 2003. Before that, I co-founded a successful e-commerce start-up, where I also acted as a managing director. I am still heavily involved in founding and coaching new ventures in Aachen, especially ones with a high-tech focus. That’s also one the things I like most about RWTH Aachen University: We have quite a unique mix of rigorous, cutting-edge research on the one hand and an entrepreneurial spirit on the other hand.
How does your experience as an entrepreneur translate into the classroom?
Prof. Brettel: In my courses, I always try to bring in my experience as an entrepreneur. I also get students to work on real challenges from start-ups in Aachen, trying to give them a real glimpse of what life as an entrepreneur is actually like.
On a more abstract level, I think it’s very important to learn beyond disciplinary boundaries. For example, I have a background in both engineering and business administration and that has helped me a lot in my own ventures. While I could understand the basic gist of new technologies, I had also picked up the management skills to develop these technologies into a business model. So I think that a degree focused on both management and engineering is a great combination for potential entrepreneurs.
Can entrepreneurship actually be learned?
Prof. Brettel: That’s indeed an interesting question! On the one hand, some of the great entrepreneurs of our times like Mark Zuckerberg and Michael Dell actually dropped out of university to start their own businesses. On the other hand, we have done a lot of research on how successful entrepreneurs think and plan. These are techniques that you can actually teach in a classroom. So, to answer your question: Yes, I would say that entrepreneurship can be learned. However, there’s always an element of risk in starting your own company and you just need to be willing to take a shot at it.
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Prof. Dr. Malte Brettel
Head of Chair
Innovation and Entrepreneurship