Vienna Guests Share Stories of Immigrant Entrepreneurship in Austria

| June 19, 2015
"Gründen in Wien-Tags" at Webster Vienna

Webster hosted five immigrant entrepreneurs as part of Vienna’s “Gründen in Wien-Tags” event.

Webster Vienna

On campus for several events, Julian Schuster, Webster’s provost, senior vice president and chief operating officer, also spoke at the breakfast.

Starting a business may seem like a daunting task under any circumstance, especially in a heavily regulated market such as Austria. For immigrant entrepreneurs, that challenge is magnified.

Webster Vienna hosted five foreign-origin entrepreneurs to discuss that very topic at the recent “ImmiPreneurs” — Immi(grant) (Entre)Preneurs — Business Breakfast. The breakfast was part of the June 12 “Gründen in Wien-Tags” (“Startups in Vienna”) event.

All of them made it big in Austria. Now they were visiting Webster University’s campus in the Austrian capital to share their stories — how they managed to navigate their business idea through the jungle of information and regulation and how they used cultural differences to their advantage.

Panelists included:

  • Mi-Ja Chun (South Korea), founder of Akakiko
  • Damian Izdebski (Poland), co-founder of DiTech & Techbold
  • Jennifer Rose (Hungary and Hongkong), head of Marketing, PR & Franchising, Jones Fashion
  • Kambis Kohansal (Iran), co-founder of Whatchado
  • Alumnus Stefano Cantini BA ’92 MA ’94 (Italy), managing director of Karba Pack

U.S. Ambassador to Austria Alexa Wesner was also in attendance, and Webster’s Provost, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Julian Schuster — himself no stranger to navigating success in new cultures — also spoke.

Webster University has a robust entrepreneurship program, and the Certificate in Entrepreneurship recently launched at Webster Vienna.

Webster Vienna - Immigrant Entrepreneur Breakfast

The panelists took a variety of questions on their experience as immigrant entrepreneurs in Austria.

Some of the panelists’ quotes convey the insights from the morning:

“There is a huge difference in the entrepreneurial mindset of Austrians and Americans. If your company fails in Austria you go from hero to zero very fast.”

– Damian Izdebski

“It’s mostly about the entrepreneurial spirit. Everyone just needs to decide for themselves ‘Do I REALLY want to be an entrepreneur or not?’ And then it does not matter if you are from Nigeria, Italy, the U.S. or Austria.”

– Stefano Cantini

“I think the mindset of the Austrian society has to change. There is enough money, enough investors, it’s all about developing a more entrepreneurial mindset.”

– Kambis Kohansal

In her closing remarks, Ambassador Wesner encouraged young entrepreneurs to live their dream and not to get demoralized by small draw-backs: “Having a great idea is easy. Taking this idea to the market is extremely hard. In short it takes the right mindset to be a successful entrepreneur, the willingness to take risks and to be flexible. America is a land of immigrants with many immigrant entrepreneurs. They are doing extremely well. The most successful entrepreneurial cities are immigrant cities. I think Vienna has a lot to offer as a hub for successful entrepreneurs.”

See more info and photos from the event at Webster Vienna.

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Category: Alumni, International & U.S. Campuses, Webster Events

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