Pioneers' Club: celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit.

Author:Scheuringer, Carina
Position:Business: entrepreneur in focus

Theirs is the perfect story. Twenty something years after bonding in a sandpit in Birmensdorf, childhood friends Adrian Liggenstorfer and Olivier Kundig both found themselves at the prestigious Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich in 2002.24-year-old Liggenstorfer was a student of law, while his 23-year-old university buddy was pursuing economics. "I often sat surrounded by thick books, restless," the former recalls. "Then one day, our mutual friend Pascal Kaufmann came to us with an idea--to establish a joint business on the side." The young men were immediately intrigued--and so began an exciting story of success.

Sparking the spirit

Ready to make their mark in the world of business, the student team co-founded SiROP, a web-based tool connecting scientific institutions and students across the world by allowing them to post and search for open science positions and research projects. "After completing the formal process of registering our company, we were faced with the big question: how to go about making it a success," Liggenstorfer reveals. Yet this wasn't something a course could teach them. "I knew that the only way to learn was by 'trial and error' and so I figured the best thing I could do was to talk to already established entrepreneurs and see if I could draw insights from their experiences."

Mingling with likeminded young business hopefuls at the ETH and Zurich University, the Birmensdorfer realised quickly that his dilemma was anything but unique and that his solution may in itself be a business opportunity. His research showed that the ratio of young entrepreneurs at universities was between one and two per cent--a small target group, but big enough to build a network. "I found that there was great interest amongst my fellow students. In 2003, Olivier and I established the Pioneers' Club PCU out of the platform START Zurich [an association supporting entrepreneurship at Swiss universities] as a formal entity that would enable knowledge transfer between young entrepreneurs and their established counterparts." At the time aged 25, Liggenstorfer was already involved in two businesses, both of which would prosper to this very day.

Recipe for success

A non-profit organisation, the Pioneers' Club found its first supporters in Dr Th. von Waldkirch and G. Seewer, the founder and president of Technopark and a named entrepreneur. "Mr Seewer called to say, 'I don't usually give money, but I will sponsor your first event...

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