10 Break-Out Sessions

  • Time: 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

A Demographic Revolution: Young India Takes Charge (with All India Management Association)
Ritesh Agarwal, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, OYO Rooms
Pranjal Sharma (Topic Leader), Economic Analyst, Advisor and Author, India

India is undergoing its economic, technological and demographic transition simultaneously. An old country is becoming youthful and adventurous with the passage of time. Young Indians like OYO founder Ritesh Agarwal are quietly taking charge of Indian ethos by becoming icons of audacious aspirations and tangible proofs of its potential, spawning startups that are becoming most valuable and famous than many legacy companies. How can young revolutionaries find ways to carry the older generation of investors, regulators, workers and consumers with them and what can other economies and founders learn from India’s momentous transition?

Collaborative Advantage Across Generations: Reflecting on the SGS Experience (ISC Alumni)
Former Members of the International Students' Comittee
Christoph Loos (Topic Leader), Chief ­Executive ­Offi­cer, Hilti AG
Vivian Bernet (Topic Leader), Head of the Organising Committe, International Students' Comittee
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For over 50 years teams of student have volunteered to organise the St. Gallen Symposium. They have written countless invitations, met thousands of partners, and welcomed some of the most important personalities of their time on stage. Together with former members of the ISC we will reflect on the St. Gallen Symposium experience of cross-generational dialogue and collaboration, the lessons they have learned for their lives and on how the symposium has evolved. This session is organised together with ISC Alumni.

Collective Genius? Cultivating Creativity in the Arts and Beyond
Susan Goldsworthy, Affiliate Professor of Leadership, Communications and Organizational Change, IMD Business School
Gerry Hofstetter, Light Artist & Film Producer Hofstetter Marketing
Javiera Estrada, Artist
Tatjana Rupp (Topic Leader), Member of the International Students' Committee

As the need for innovation is growing, the routinisation of well-structured creative processes within organizations is key for concurrent value creation. Prof. Susan Goldsworthy of IMD, this year's St. Gallen Symposium artist Javiera Estrada and Light Artist Gerry Hofstetter will discuss the role of collaboration in the creative process. Together, and in conversation with the audience, they’ll explore the way collaboration can drive creativity in various organisational contexts, and, on the other hand, the role of introversion and lone contemplation in creating something new.

Connecting Business with Purpose: The Potential of Skills-Based Volunteering
Curdin Duschletta, Head Community Impact Switzerland & Foundations, UBS
Christopher Jarvis, Executive Director, RWInstitute
Prof. Amanda Shantz (Topic Leader), MBA Director and Professor of Management, University of St.Gallen

Many employee volunteering and giving programs are presented as an employee perk, similar to casual Fridays or a team-building event. But treating workplace giving and volunteering this way fails to fully capitalise on the great potential of such programs: to foster employee personal growth, and address key societal challenges. The panel will particularly explore the potential of skills-based volunteering, its benefits, and the unique challenges that arise when moving from merely transactional volunteering to something far more transformative.

Financing the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs
Patrick Zhong, Founding Managing Partner, M31 Capital
Makram Azar, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Full Circle Capital
Prof. Julia Binder (Topic Leader), Professor of Sustainable Innovation and Business Transformation, IMD Business School

The investment landscape over the next twenty years will be radically different from previous generations. While there appears to be greater access to capital, there also appears to be much more volatility and debt with no clear dominant financing mechanism. Entrepreneurs, VC, Private Equity, and banks will have to find new ways to work together to create growth and stimulate innovation. How can investors and entrepreneurs better collaborate and find mutually beneficial agreements that balance risk and return?

Hacking the Fashion & Luxury Watchmaking Industry towards more Sustainability (with Condé Nast College)
Martina Bonnier, Editor-In-Chief, Vogue Scandinavia
Raynald Aeschlimann, President and CEO, Omega S.A
Carmen Jenny, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, CLOTHESfriends AG
Johannes Reponen (Topic Leader), Director of Post-Graduate Programmes; Academic Affairs; Research & Knowledge Exchange, Condé Nast College

The fashion industry accounts for 10% of humanity’s annual carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. For long, the fashion and luxury watchmaking industry drove, together with the fashion media industry, unsustainable dynamics in the sector: generating more and more demand through an artificial cycle of new collections and seasonal trends. Businesses’ marketing, media as well as influencers thereby create a constant longing and demand for their products. How can designers, fashion houses and publishers exit this vicious cycle and, collaboratively, drive the transition towards more sustainable and ethical fashion and luxury watchmaking?

M100 Sanssouci Colloquium@St. Gallen: Media’s New Power: More Impact Through Collaborative Journalism
Mathias Müller von Blumencron, Journalist, Member of the Board, Tagesanzeiger and Advisory Board Member M100 Sanssouci Colloquium
Joanna Krawczyk, Chairwoman, Leading European Newspaper Alliance
Paul Radu, Investigative Journalist, Co-Founder OCCRP
Astrid Frohloff (Topic Leader), TV Presenter and Journalist, Advisory Board Member M100 Sanssouci Colloquium

Media diversity, freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Europe are currently under threat. Journalists and independent media companies are increasingly joining forces across borders to respond to such challenges as well as to be able to continue to offer independent quality journalism in the future. This session will identify learnings from new media partnerships such as the Leading European Newspaper Alliance (LENA) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) to identify how media can most effectively work together.

Democratizing Access to the next Generation of Technology and Innovation: Communities and Radical Transformation
Gina Loften, Member of the Board of Trustees, TIAA
Luzius Meisser, Chairman, Bitcoin Suisse
Tycho Onnasch, General Manager, Trust Machines
Shuo Chen (Topic Leader), General Partner, IOVC

Technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship are key drivers of the modern economy and social mobility. Given their importance, we should strive to improve accessibility to tech, education and entrepreneurship across all backgrounds. Creating open and inclusive communities, especially with tech is important to accomplishing this goal, but it is easier said that done. Simultaneously, a third iteration of the internet – Web3 – has the potential to radically transform the internet of things and reduce barriers to access. How can these forces be effectively harnessed and directed for the benefit of all people and move the world forward?

Varieties of Tech Capitalism: Europe's Approach to Innovation and Regulation in a Global Context
Julian Teicke, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, wefox
Lisa-Marie Fassl, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Female Founders
Christoph Keese (Topic Leader), Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer, hy

Over the past decades, the tech sector, especially the internet of things, has become a central component of modern economies. Trying to catch up with the exponential pace of technological development, the US, China, and Europe are crafting rules of the game on digital markets. What are the emerging characteristic differences between regulatory regimes of digital markets, in the US, Europe and beyond, and how do they balance innovation and regulation? In light of strategic competition over tech dominance between the US and China, what are the opportunities and challenges for Europe in particular?

Changed for Good? Engaging with the New World of Work
Petra von Strombeck, Chief Executive Officer, New Work SE
Jean-Christophe Deslarzes, Chair of the Board, Adecco Group
Nat Ware, Founder & CEO Forte
Prof. Heike Bruch (Topic Leader), Director, Institute for Leadership and Human Resources Management, University of St. Gallen
Watch Here

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world of work forever. The fast and widespread adoption of remote work and an ever-increasing concern of employees with purpose and meaning on their job have intensified the war for talents. Reaching out to and concurrently engaging employees is key for businesses across sectors and regions. What learnings can be drawn from the pandemic as regards our approach to work? Has the world of work changed for the better? And what role does leadership culture and a new approach to hiring play going forward?

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A Call For An Entrepreneurial Society – Take it Personal!

Losing purpose in your (working) life?

Imagine that at the end of your life you guide your friends through a gallery, which documents your life in the form of pictures and videos. Are you happy with the exhibits you have collected about your life so far? Are you missing an essential part, your life dream, which might forever remain hidden in your mind? Or worse, the exhibition is threatening to become boring, because it looks just like the biographies of so many others and, with the exception of your childhood images, doesn’t capture your individuality. Somewhere in between school, your first apprenticeship, studies, and career something appears to have been lost, which as a child promised you career aspirations such as astronaut, footballer, singer or dancer, fully exploring your individuality and uniqueness. As one of a number of many gears in the machinery of working life, do you feel as if you are being sold below your worth and caught in the trap of your daily work routine? Even though you have a passion which you would like to pursue professionally. But your life circumstances – family, a well-paid job, perception of status, and lack of the know-how of how to pursue it – force you to remain stuck in a corporate slave setting and continue to shuffle listlessly through the entrance of your workplace every day until you retire?

This or something similar is what I often hear from executives (even the successful ones!) and mature students in my courses at the St. Gallen University. Even my young bachelor and master students mostly pursue classic careers such as consultant, banker, or manager. But the wind is changing! In our turbulent times, in which politics can seemingly not find any solutions for the many problems of our world, and in which digital technologies facilitate us newcomers entry into more and more markets and branches, we are increasingly realising that we can take our future into our own hands and become self-employed with our own start-up or be entrepreneurial and innovative in the existing working environment – as employees. Our human capital is dedicated to a new purpose.

Entrepreneurial Living is the answer!

You don’t need a business idea to become self-employed or to become innovative. It requires little to no funds to start a purposeful business. You are already equipped with everything you need to start right now. There is no excuse to not try right away. Forget the business plan, go straight to Plan B. Columbus wouldn’t have discovered America if his journey to India had been successful. Entrepreneurial Living is a great way of life, to spend one’s life in entrepreneurship can have a significant effect on the individual as well as on society. No matter whether we plan to develop the new Amazon, open a bar, or start a charity with friends: there are a thousand reasons to launch something – and there is an entrepreneur in all of us!

Surely you have played different entrepreneurial roles over the course of your life already. You may have in your youth as a «Teeniepreneur» or «Studentpreneur» experimented playfully with your hobbies, be that as a drummer in the school band or as a charitable environmental activist in the self-founded student society dedicated to crisis relief. As a young academic in their first employment situation in a consulting company one may start as a «Parttimepreneur» in order to solve an interesting client issue in what little free time is available, already more or less consciously playing with the idea of turning this hobby into a profession at some point. The pre-programmed exit from the always popular consulting business, which previously would have certainly led up to the CEO seat of a big firm or established medium firm, now leaves room for an entrepreneurial career. The «Geek- and Techiepreneur» work on an algorithm which is intended to change our daily consumer behaviour on the internet. Be it aiding in the search for the still latent wishes of clients or the internet of things, which connects our devices, to run maintenance works automatically, up to the close future, to fill our fridge digitally via the internet with basic foods. With an idea stolen from the USA, the copycat camouflaged as «Hipsterpreneur» tries to jump into modern entrepreneurship via the fast train of pop culture. “Are you already founding something or are you still working – are you maybe even studying?” an adapted version of the most successful contemporary advertising slogan seems to be the message on twitter, naively misjudging how much more work being self-employed means compared to being employed. The feeling of belonging to a self-fulfilment culture, observable in students of Generation Z (born after 1999) or young professionals of Generation Y (born between 1980 and 1999), initially dulls the eye for one of the most work-intensive occupations, which can be chosen for entry into working life or for a career change; but also for one of the most fascinating and most motivating occupations imaginable, since it is about realising one’s own ideas, born from one’s own capacities. Anything goes for the different types of human capital for an entrepreneurial purpose!

The temptation of modern entrepreneurship

The university drop-out in his mid-twenties, who declares war on the established leaders of corporations in their mid-fifties, becomes the new star of a popular culture which does not pay regard to conventions or the managerial lifestyle. Who does not want to switch from the dependent relationship of a seemingly endless career ladder in a large firm onto the fast track of making a quick million with a cool start-up? More and more people appear to entertain these more or less realistic thoughts, thus breathing a long-thought forgotten vital spirit of innovation and experimentation into the national economy. And even failure, the flip-side of successful entrepreneurship, becomes part of the “Game of Life”.

The forgotten of the arena of being faster, prettier, and better on the internet are much discussed examples. Or does anyone still remember LetsBuyIt.com, once a leader in online shopping during the 1990s and once as well-known in Europe as Amazon.com? Not to mention the many who are stranded next to the Steve Jobs of this world or those beaten in competition with the Mark Zuckerbergs. Both, the «Superpreneur» as well as his failed rival, are nevertheless statistical outliers on the highest or lowest ends of the spectrum of success, which makes up an entire range and variety, the temptation of modern entrepreneurship.

The possibility to be able to dedicate oneself to an interesting problem with all of one’s senses and energies, tempts us all. We feel transported back to our youth, when the world was open to us and we were pursuing our desired occupation according to our abilities. The difference to back then is that we have now arrived at a stage in our career where we have gathered more or less of private and professional knowledge and thus have the factor determining success in entrepreneurship – experience. Experience geared towards a previously unsolved, important problem is the starting point for one’s own entrepreneurial future.

Technology democratisation and the serial killers of opportunities

But how do I find a great problem that I can combine with my experience? The digitisation of ever more corners of our living areas fuels the democratisation of areas that were previously mostly protected. As clients, but also as suppliers, we take part in business processes which were previously reserved for companies. When we rate a restaurant that we have visited during our weekend trip to Barcelona on TripAdvisor, or a private apartment in the old town on Airbnb, we are simultaneously clients and content providers in a new supply chain on the internet, which seems to hold a nearly endless number of business ideas. Whether you are an MBA student, who adds a management degree to a technical apprenticeship, or a mother on a sabbatical, interrupting her steep career progression to raise children. Ask yourself: Which problem keeps me awake and lets me experience the familiar flow, where I am looking for solutions for hours without paying attention to the time, experimenting with thoughts, pen, and paper until I get closer to the solution to the problem? Am I concerned as a «Social- or Greenpreneur» with the solution to a water problem in a developing country that I have just visited? Am I searching as an «Intrapreneur» for a new solution to a problem from within the safe walls of my company? Maybe I am a «Friendchisepreneur» finding an ally who will work with me on a shared passion, such as a gym for young female Muslims in Turkey (a current example from our MBA programme at the University of St. Gallen)? Or am I a «Papapreneur», a young father in a new, unfamiliar, and maybe still uncomfortable role, looking for kindred spirits, who want to revolutionise education with me, at least a little, protected by my experience and knowledge? Real serial offenders make use of their experience. The «Serialpreneur» executes one business idea after the other and often ends up successful with idea two or three, since those later ideas profit from the experience gained from the first start-up. The invested capital defines its purpose along the road.

From “Playing Happy” to “Being Happy”

In the interconnected world of our entrepreneurial society, it is important to find and develop one’s role identity within entrepreneurial activity. What motivates you to create an innovating project, or to start your own company?

It’s much easier to stay in your comfort zone and not go the extra mile. However, human beings, unlike animals, strive for meaning. The statistics about happiness are incorruptible and frightening. American Nobel laureate Edmund S. Phelps found that 95% of our overall happiness depends on our happiness in the workplace. The alarming reality? In recent years, the proportion of happy employees has decreased by 50% worldwide. Happiness research clearly shows that we should find our identity in what we do! This is one of the reasons why entrepreneurs are happier than the general population — they have signed their personal declaration of independence with their startup. So it’s time for something to change.

Your entrepreneurial income is likely not money at first, but time that is meaningfully lived instead of spent in meaningless activities. True entrepreneurs reward themselves with independence, self-determination, and self-contentment, supposedly forgoing leisure time, and—for the start—money and fame. Devoting all your senses and energy to an interesting problem motivates student founders as well as managers in companies who, as intrapreneurs, drive innovation. Both share the passion to shape the future with their very own unique entrepreneurial identity.

The type of entrepreneur we represent depends heavily on our social identity. Identity poses the questions, “Who am I?” and ”What is my role in society?” As research has shown, answers to these questions have a significant impact on our entrepreneurial identity as “Darwinist”, “Communitarian,” or “Missionary.”

Darwinians, Communitarian, or Missionary?

Darwinians found companies out of an economic self-interest. They are competitive and driven by their own pursuit of profit and growth. The survival of the fittest transforms into a winning mentality to be far better than their competitors. Valentin Stalf, who moved out without any significant banking experience of his own, founded a bank after studying at the University of St. Gallen, according to the Nike slogan just-do-it. Meanwhile, he rolled out his smartphone bank “N26” internationally in Europe, USA and Asia with financial support and a company valuation on the scale of a Unicorn. He exemplifies the typical attitude: anything goes for internationally ambitious founders, no matter how small you start and how big the competition may be. These are true Darwinians – in the best sense of the word.

The Communitarian wants to use his products or services to add value to his community. He is a group-oriented person. Therefore, communitarians often start with a self-experienced problem and develop an improved solution for the people around them. Their entrepreneurial salary is above all to be recognized by their community. With her company Ava Science, Lea von Bidder strives to improve the health of women with new technologies like the fertility tracker. In doing so, she pursues the goal of developing a product that has a high priority for herself as well as for the women in her peer group.

Missionaries seek to make the world a little better with their products and unique solutions to existing societal problems. Often, they use their company as a platform to spread their political, social, or environmental visions. They are convinced that their actions can positively influence the well-being of others. A possible improvement in social welfare drives them to peak performance. We can find these traces in very successful companies. For instance, Kate Fu strives for making the world a bit more loving to children. In the very busy times of working parents she produces products that accompanying parents to grow up together with children with reading in an intimate and loving way that promotes warm parent-child relationships. Today she has 300 sales channels and business lines in 29 provinces and cities in China.

Whereas a few years ago, especially the students of European Business Schools were still described as thoroughbred Darwinians, successful hybrid forms of these role identities are increasingly reciprocating. This is evident by the primarily Communitarian statement of Lea von Bidder, Founder of Ava with the fertility tracker for women, that also contains Missionary elements: “I am developing a product that I wish for myself and my friends to improve women health and their chances of conceiving.” Hence, not only Missionaries, but also Darwinians and Communitarians provide invested capital with a purpose.

A call for an entrepreneurial society

The entrepreneurial person starts his life through entrepreneurship. The Homo entrepreneurialis does something in order to create rather than to gain. Different from the Homo oeconomicus, he thus promotes a positive capitalism in an entrepreneurial society, which is not about greed. He lives without the state, which promotes a view of the person as an “application artist” for basic income, scholarships, sponsorships, and the like. The entrepreneurial person solves problems – ideally not just his own, but those of many other people–by using his idiosyncratic resources of social identity (Who I am?), human capital (What do I know?) and social capital (Who do I know?), the so-called means inventory. He transforms his dissatisfaction with existing solutions into positive energy, which is close to bursting thanks to the mental underload in his current life. Even when he has already tried a lot, was not always successful, and does not have a clear concept of his goal, he uses his imagination for a whole goals portfolio. By attempting a problem solution with the affected people, the business idea and business model develop. Only with the presentation of the business plan in its final version as Plan X, Y, or Z, does he tell his success story, but also the story of his failures, which brought him to this success through further development of the business model.

The entrepreneur becomes a modern storyteller, who moves others in the spirit of Aristotle with his ethos, logos, and pathos and inspires them to entrepreneurial action. Together or on different paths, they co-create an entrepreneurial society that shapes the future and enhance the invested human, social and financial capital purposefully.


Baumol, W. J., Litan, R. E., Schramm, C. J. (2007). Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Rifkin, J. (2014). The zero marginal cost society: The internet of things, the collaborative commons, and the eclipse of capitalism. St. Martin’s Press. Chicago.

Fauchart, E., Gruber, M. (2011). “Darwinians, Communitarians and Missionaries: The Role of Founder Identity in Entrepreneurship“. Academy of Management Journal 54(5), pp. 935–957.

Sedláček, T. (2011). Economics of Good and Evil. The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street. New York: Oxford University Press.

Faltin, G. (2015). Wir sind das Kapital. Erkenne den Entrepreneur in Dir. Aufbruch in eine intelligentere Ökonomie. Hamburg: Murmann.

A prime example of a Socialpreneur is Muhammad Yunus.
Yunus, M. (2007). Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism. Public Affairs.
Sarasvathy, S. (2001). “Causation and Effectuation: Toward a Theoretical Shift from Economic Inevitability to Entrepreneurial Contingency“. Academy of Management Review 26(2), p. 243–263.

Grichnik, D. (2017): Entrepreneurial Living – 7 Steps to Independence, Kindle Edition, Amazon Media EU S.à.r.l., ASIN B075GFS2GZ. (in press at Anthem 2019).

Grichnik, D., Hess, M., Probst, D., Antretter, T., Pukall, B. (2018): Startup Navigator – Das Handbuch, Frankfurter Allgemeine Buch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main. (Forthcoming in English at Macmilan 2020).

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