Startups combating hunger in the world: the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) runs an Innovation Accelerator in Munich. We spoke with the head of the accelerator, Bernhard Kowatsch.
What does the Innovation Accelerator do? Please tell us a little something about yourselves.
In Munich, the UN World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator supports startups and innovators in implementing their ideas for creating a world without hunger. We bring together experts from the fields of humanitarian aid and development cooperation, entrepreneurs from the private sector as well as further innovators. Together, they are able to refine their concepts, test early prototypes and speed up the dissemination of successful ideas.
Startups work side by side with humanitarian aid workers and are given the opportunity to test their ideas in developing countries within the WFP’s global network. Our team includes roughly 25 employees, including serial startup founders as well as experts who have already successfully implemented innovations in developing countries.
What do you focus on when working with startups?
We are open to profit and non-profit startups that have the potential of developing the next “disruption” in the fight against hunger. In addition to an innovative concept that can help a large number of individuals, we are also looking for the brightest minds who are experienced and ready to develop their concepts in collaboration with people in a local context.
Why did you decide to locate your accelerator in Munich?
We looked at several locations around the world. For us, Munich has the ideal combination for an innovation ecosystem — a strong private sector, research, NGOs and a rapidly growing startup scene — in finance, technology and science, for example. The accelerator is already working with local partners, such as the German National Academy of Science and Engineering (Acatech), the German Aerospace Center (DLR), local branches of international technology companies and many more.
Please complete the sentence: “To be successful, a startup needs to…”
…have an amazing idea and a strong founding team that will stay the course through all the ups and downs that are inevitable for startups.
What is the biggest mistake a startup can make?
Concentrating on an idea so much that they forget the original problem, or not taking sufficient account of the feedback from their users.
The trend of the year is…?
Blockchain and artificial intelligence!
Last but not least: whom should startups contact if they would like to meet up with you?
Startups with concepts to fight global hunger can contact us directly — we are constantly looking for new ideas and teams we can collaborate with. Startups can apply on our website at innovation.wfp.org.