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How This Experiential MBA Fosters Innovation And Kickstarts An Entrepreneurial Career

An intensive incubator at HHL Leipzig is helping students build a tech-forward business model and to launch top careers


Wed Feb 28 2024

If you are already an entrepreneur, or looking to move onto this exciting career path, you’ll be keen to be at the forefront of the latest innovations.

You’ll also want to build a deep understanding of emerging markets, and will need to know how to lead in today’s rapidly transforming environment and society.

An MBA could support all these ambitions.

Alongside building your theoretical knowledge of business, an MBA gives student entrepreneurs practical experiences fostering a real-world understanding of launching a business. 

Find out how an MBA could help you launch an entrepreneurial career. 

Where entrepreneurs grow: Leading MBA students on a startup journey 

If you’re looking for a place to take an MBA while developing your entrepreneurial vision, HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management might be a good fit. The German business school prioritizes fostering innovation in students. 

A unique component of the 15-21-month full-time MBA is the HHL Digital Space, a start-up incubator for digital business models. 

In this 12-week program, students and external founders work on their startups identifying problems, testing hypotheses with potential customers, creating an Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and pitching ideas at market days and launch events for feedback and potential funding.

Panajota Angjeli-Reich, a project manager and startup coach at the incubator, explains how this practical experience is beneficial to entrepreneurs. 

“We use templates, theories, and examples from real success stories that help an original business idea become a concrete business model,” she says.

HHL’s incubator focuses on digital startups to give participants a better chance of success in the modern world.  It helps entrepreneurs develop their ideas, create digital prototypes, and learn skills like UX/UI design through input sessions, sprints, and teamwork.


“When your idea involves a digital product or solution, it's easier to make it big and available everywhere because it can grow quickly and reach a wider audience.”

Renxiu Zhao (pictured) joined the HHL Leipzig MBA to understand the entrepreneurial world better and to bring her business idea to life. 

Renxiu had co-founded two media-tech companies in China where she ran the content creation. However, she wanted to explore a more global startup ecosystem. 

This is what led her to HHL, and how she came up with the art production idea that she explored in Digital Space.  

“I saw a gap between the booming youth culture in Asian countries and a global audience. We wanted to form a trend to bring more exposure for Asian artists and Asian creatives,” says Renxiu.

Gain vital skills in entrepreneurship

A vital part of success as an entrepreneur is having the skills to communicate, sell your idea, and adapt to changing times. 

Digital Space prioritizes this through teamwork, pitching sessions, and students continuously adapting their hypothesis in relation to feedback. 

88da0b46424ba366c19841cd9859d3ef3599092f.jpeg “Every two weeks, we give them the tools and frameworks of the next two weeks. So, they learn to adapt and test their hypothesis fast,” Panajota (pictured) says. 

To help strengthen their ideas the teams talk to target groups and people dealing with the issue they are trying to solve. 

“We expect them to go out and talk to the people in the industry, and to everyone who's facing the problem they started with.”

Receive hands-on coaching

Participants benefit from hands-on coaching while creating their businesses.

“We offer them, coaching sessions on a biweekly basis, where we support them with guidance, and finding the right direction,” says Panajota.

Such active coaching was something Renxiu appreciated about the program. Her mentor, Dr. Maurice Steinhoff , Co-Founder & Managing Director of HHL Digital Space, guided and elevated her vision and skillset. 

“He had a very hands-on approach. He helped us build our financial model, and how to pitch to investors,” she says. 

His straightforward approach and guidance allowed Renxiu’s business to go from an idea to a prototype of a product that distributed the work of Asian art globally. 

“He was straightforward and didn’t sugarcoat advice if he felt something didn’t work,” she explains. 

Networking and career advancements 

A component of the HHL Digital Space is connecting b-school students and grads with investors in the industry.

“We connect investors with the founders, so they understand what investors need from the startups to give investments,” Panajota says. 

Outside of the program, Panajota and her team hold events to continue the networking and connections throughout the year. 

“We have other formats and events that enhance entrepreneurship and bring our network together,” she says. “Recently, we had the founders bootcamp series, which is a compact format of our incubation program.”

For Renxiu, the mentorship and networking benefits of the Digital Space were the key to finding her path in entrepreneurship. 

Through talking to investors and innovators, and the hands-on guidance of her mentor, she and her team realized their idea wouldn’t work long-term.

“This is the first lesson for the entrepreneur to learn: not all ideas can be implemented, not all startups will be successful,” says Renxiu.

However, through the support of her mentor, Renxiu discovered an alternate career path in entrepreneurship where she’s blossomed. 

“I realized it's not the right time for me to become an entrepreneur, but I can be a venture capitalist, and support this ecosystem,” she says.

Now Renxiu is an investment associate at Strategic Business Innovator in Berlin.

While not an entrepreneur, working in the industry alongside entrepreneurs is giving her the network and experience she has been looking for. 

“I feel lucky that I chose to work in this industry,” she says. “Every day I feel like I am learning new knowledge and expanding my network, knowing different people. I used to be part of them, but now I'm making connections with entrepreneurs.”

Student Reviews

HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management




Part time MSc Management

I decided on attending this program since it is 100% in English, the option for a Semester abroad, and it has a nicely designed curriculum. I enjoyed very much the studies at the Leipzig location (I do not live in Leipzig and was staying in Airbnb flats with other students during the course weekends). There was great enthusiasm within the students' group, the courses were challenging and we had experienced/diverse professors which added to the overall experience. HHL is focused on teamwork and is big on its network and career development which is a definite value add for students. I can recommend HHL to other students who want to sharpen their skill set to be prepared for leadership positions.




Impressive Journey

I’m doing my Master Part-time at HHL and love the Journey. The teaching is between good and outstanding. The service around the lectures is amazing. Never had to wait longer than a day for a response. The Network I was able to build and the lecture about entrepreneurship are the major takeaways which strongly influenced my future. I can strongly recommend the Master in Part-time at the HHL for a course with impact. But be prepared they will broaden your horizon and you will have to grow with it.





Horrible Experience

I am also a recent student at HHL. I would agree with your post wholeheartedly. HHL is brilliant at marketing, however, it's more like a Ponzi scheme. A lot of Indians happen to fall into this trap, including me. I joined HHL while letting ESMT go primarily because I thought Leipzig is a cheaper city to live in and the course is cheaper. Always remember if a deal looks too good it is probably a scam. The studies are extremely below average, the college has an abysmal career centre and the campus is a joke. Now let me give you some deeper insights : 1. Given that the college is located in EAST Germany- you need to understand that RACISM is a truth. The college runs MBA and MSc. (Management). MBA is a mere point of luring students as unaware students come to HHL with dreams and hopes of doing an MBA and getting placed. To break it to you softly: MSc is the FLAGSHIP program for HHL- this means 99% of the class is German, and they got offers from the likes of Mckinsey, Bain and Deutsche come to the Germans. Even the foreigners doing MSc. do not get a whiff of the opportunity- please understand- Germany is a "German" speaking country and not internationalised enough to include "English" as the business language. Nonetheless, HHL is such a weak school that it cannot do **** about anything- their placement cell always keeps on crying but they are of absolutely ZERO help. You will not get any scholarships like the Germans do here thanks to the Dean who promotes this divide between Germans and others by giving scholarships thatd more or less cover the entire tuition fees of the German students. 2. The Academic Director for MBA is definitely someone people look at and think that good there's an Indian there- he has absolutely zero value in HHL and in the research world anyways. He is only out there to lure you in to get a fatter commission-the more Indians he gets in the higher his commission and his job is SAFE. 3. The faculty is so horribly poor in their own research work and competence that you'd feel why did I come here. The only reason why some people come here: VISA and citizenship in a few years. You may also procure a job but with the HHL tag being so weak the salaries are way below AVERAGE. Free advice: So either way if you're planning to come to Germany either perfect your German or choose a different country because colleges like HHL get students from all over the world- after which they do not really give a damn whether you get placed or not- it's ALL BUSINESS TO HHL. I cannot speak about many other colleges, but, due to the sheer presence of colleges like Frankfurt business school, WHU and ESMT in bigger cities such as Frankfurt, Berlin and Dusseldorf provide better chances to network during the duration of the course. Do NOT come to HHL and waste your money. Your entire education and stay would cost 50 lacs, instead invest in BITCOIN or STOCKS. OR just do your Masters in Management from a public University in Germany which is way cheaper, has higher chances of scholarship and better placement opportunities. Hope this helps Thanks.