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The conference for founders, in Munich, exhibited countless creative ideas conceived by the younger generation, proving there are ample opportunities to make a change. An opinion article from the Avantgarde CEO, Martin Schnaack.

Barack Obama suffers with Greta Thunberg. “She carries a burden,” said the 44th President of United States on stage at the founders conference, Bits & Pretzels. “A 16-year-old should not have to do this.” But is it not always the next generation which has to ensure tomorrow’s future? This year’s main topic discussed the will for change. Titled “Founders for Future,” it is a play on Greta Thunberg’s movement, Fridays for Future. Since it is more important than ever, this year’s theme was impact. Not only environmentally focused, talks centered around societal and economical change as well.

Google. Microsoft. Amazon. Facebook. Apple. The Big Five tech companies are still setting the course and determining where future technology is heading. Why? Because they can. They have the money, the knowledge and the willpower. Should we just leave the future up to them? Bits and Pretzels, a story of impact and success, spelled out good alternatives. Founded five years ago, it was originally a traditional Munich Weißwurst breakfast hosted by Andreas Bruckschlögl, Felix Haas and Bern Storm. Today, they bring more than 5000 founders and investors together every year: ideas meet capital.

Bits & Pretzels demonstrated that impact is possible

“There are Gretas everywhere,“ stated Obama. New founders want to make profits, but at the same time, they want to help make the world a better place. I was fascinated by Elsa Bernadotte; her app, “Karma,” takes action to prevent food waste, and Samantha Payne helping to promote the development of 3D prosthetics with her app, “Open Bionics.” Another great example comes from Zarah Bruhn. Her startup, Social Bee, recruits refugees and connects them with companies. Social startups like these do not struggle to find capital, but much rather stand in the center of attention. People that turned wealthy with tech now invest in impactful, actual change makers. Another one of my learnings from this year’s Bits & Pretzels is that venture capital wants to do good, hoping that it will pay off one day. 

Bits & Pretzels put forth proof of the wealth in the younger generations’ ideas. Access to free education of the highest standard is key and the most important resource for our future. How good is Germany and its education positioned? New investments in education are sorely needed. More than ever schools must teach our children leadership and startup skills. Nonetheless, no matter how big the will of the investors is, societal change lies in the hands of the government. Education was and still is one of the government’s most important core responsibilities, and one should not take this away. However, this does not mean that money should be withheld from the government; it is needed to provide the best education to future generations. Equal opportunities are not for free. Impact investment does not exempt companies from the moral obligations to pay higher tax rates.

Obama warned, “We are in a situation where everybody has to help.” Bits & Pretzels 2019 remarkably confirmed that impact is possible, and we do not lack ideas nor the money to make a change. For the new Gretas, the real challenge lies in responsibly utilizing the capital for their ideas as opposed to garnering sympathy.

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