ideenkanal (eng: Idea Channel) is a tried-and-tested social enterprise accelerator program, focusing on involving the public in selecting, mentoring and financing a countries most promising and sustainable business ideas. It brings together all sectors of society to work and collaborate towards strengthening entrepreneurial ecosystems and foster citizen-driven innovation, especially among women and the youth. Originally initiated as a bienal initiative in the Principality of Liechtenstein in 2010, the ideenkanal process has since been adapted by various governments throughout Europe, seeking to unleash the creative potential of its citizens.
Entrepreneurship - powering change
"ideenkanal demonstrates how entrepreneurship can be started and financed by citizens"
Dormant ideas - a huge potential
Again and again - every day, everywhere - people of all ages and origins have ideas for new business initiatives. Often it‘s just an interesting thought and does not always have to be brand new. Such ideas and impulses represent an enormous, un- tapped potential. For these ideas to be turned into meaningful projects, however, a fertile ground is often missing. This includes, besides a pinch of courage, the necessary expertise, network, contact to decision-makers and financial resources.
"The good idea alone is not enough. It takes ways and means to realize an idea, from idealistic to financial and, above all, the network to spread the idea. And that‘s what the ideenkanal offers."
Fans, Mentors & Crowdfunding - the key success factors
This is where ideenkanal steps in: by combining crowdsourcing, mentoring, crowdfunding and community building into a holistic public innovation process. By combining modern online tools and innovative event formats, we have created a unique platform, that allows the public to identify and select particularly promising and sustainable project ideas, support their implementation through a mentorship program and collectively finance the resulting projects through the means of crowdfunding. Our focus lies on projects, that are at an early stage of development, make a positive contribution to the common good and aim at being financially self-sustaining - in the areas of environment, mobility, technology, social affairs, education, health and art and culture.
"The concept of ideenkanal shows how innovative ideas should be promoted in the future, and is thus groundbreaking. The participants jointly formulate solutions to social problems. The ideas do not end up in the drawer after the idea camp, but are tested via crowdfunding directly with the target group and thus receive a real chance of realization."
60 funded projects - a wealth of experience
Over the past eight years, we have run 11 programs in five different regions. In total, 550 ideas have been submitted. Over 60 of these ideas have been successfully realized through the help of more than 250 mentors and funded by over 3'000 individuals via crowdfunding with a total of over CHF 250'000. The ideenkanal-ideas have won several international awards, together raised more than CHF 2'500'000 in grants and venture capital and created a total of 37 new jobs. The ideas are as diverse as society itself:, among others, they include:
- a nationwide, free bike-rental system named FreeVeloPoint,
- Caruso Carsharing, a partner-implemented, service-oriented and station-bound car-sharing concept with low-emission vehicles, the internationally successful food-startups frooggies and Alpenpionier,
- the 7000 m2 community-garden Liechtenstein-Werdenberg,
- the regional Shopping-App direkt-regional,
- wahlhilfe.li, a transparent and independent communication-platform for political candidates.,
- and the Swiss Pocket-Grill, a reusable miniture BBQ.
Currently, we are running our fourth edition in Liechtenstein. For the first time, a large number of previously supported entrepreneurs are engaged as mentors. We hereby seek to further raise their already high level of cooperation and self-organization. In addition to strengthening the domestic, entrepreneurial ecosystem of Liechtenstein, we are increasingly pursuing the goal of positioning Liechtenstein as a role model and hub for social innovation.
„ideenkanal was a springboard for us, which enabled us to really get started with our project. Not only in financial terms, but by the massive motivational boost, the collaborations made possible through ideenkanals extensive media coverage, as well as the support beyond the competition, through mentors and the constant encouragement of the ideenkanal team itself."
Participation - dynamic online-profile instead of static submission form
To enter ideenkanal, idea-creators are asked to create an idea-profil at www.startnext.com, with more than 1`000`000 users, the most successful crowdfunding platform in the german-speaking world. Here, they answer five questions and can publish corresponding images and video material. The profile can be continuously updated throughout the selection-process. If an idea fulfills the conditions of participation, it will be activated on startnext and automatically also appears on the ideenkanal website. The most important conditions for participation are:
- Social added value of the idea
- Confessional and political neutrality
- Relationship to Liechtenstein
- Founding of the organization (if already done) less than two years ago
Qualification - collect fans and feedback rather than wait for a jury's decision
Once an idea is published, its creators are encouraged to ask for valuable feedback and gather fans. The ten idea-creators, who receive the greatest popularity until a predefined date, qualify directly for the Idea Camp. From the remaining 30 most-voted ideas, the ideenkanal foundation nominates ten more ideas for the Idea Camp by. The main decision criteria are:
- Personal Motivation
- Clear, achievable goals
- Entrepreneurial thinking
- Type of support needed
- Potential for crowdfunding
What distinguishes the ideenkanal from other selection procedures?
Instead of asking for personal qualifications and detailed project descriptions, the ideenkanal encourages its participants to put their (often still vague) project ideas online as early as possible and starting sharing them with their friends. As a result, idea-creators receive early feedback, which usually leads them to identifying stronger with their projects. By collecting as many supporters as possible, the idea-creators prove their passion, drive and perseverance and - with regard to the subsequent crowdfunding - build up a first network of supporters. Through the public evaluation of the projects, the ideenkanal foundation promotes a broad dialogue around future-related topics, captures a social mood and encourages civic engagement and participation.
"Having the idea and putting that idea into practice, is not the same thing. It is important to talk to others about the idea. After that, it's about making contacts. Thanks to the ideenkanal, professional snowboarder Nicolas Müller and Jennifer Rosenberg joined our team. Without the experiences from the Idea Camp, we would have never raised the project as big as we did now."
Idea Camp - pitch ideas, convince mentors and create real-life project plans
The Idea Camp is a four-day mini-festival, that combines mentoring sessions with inspiring presentations and artistic performances. At the beginning of the camp, idea-creators learn how to present their ideas in a maximum of 60 seconds. On the evening of the same day, the 20 finalists take on the stage and pitch their ideas to a total of 40 mentors as well as the general public. Together, the mentors select ten ideas, with whom, over the course of the following three days, they design prototypes, craft value propositions and develop professional crowdfunding campaigns. Finally, the ten finalists present their matured projects to decision-makers, media representatives and the public. (see also: Camp)
Who are the mentors and what is their value for society?
The mentors are invited through direct contact, a public application process and in cooperation with local companies in the form of corporate volunteering. Together, they represent a wide variety of professional and social backgrounds. Here the manager meets the social worker, the trustee the farmer and the top athlete the craftswoman. The interdisciplinary composition and unique mix of young talents and experienced experts, creates a strong network far beyond the Ideas Camp: in the form of new business partnerships, collaborations and research projects. The mentors receive no financial compensation for their commitment and therefore determine for themselves, which ideas they want to support and to what extent. Through this open approach to matching mentors with entrepreneurs, long-standing relationships often arise between them: e.g. as door openers, board members and business angels. (see also Mentors Archive)
"We need social innovations to face the problems of society. This requires people who can develop their creativity in an innovation-friendly, open and cooperative climate. With ideenkanal, many interesting ideas have matured, grown up and today are a reality in our environment."
Crowdfunding - test ideas for regional demand and attractiveness
After the Idea Camp, the ten finalists complete their existing idea-profiles on www.ideenkanal.com with texts, videos and pictures and set a definitive funding target with corresponding rewards. Everyone who wants the ideas to become reality, can help finance the projects during a set time period of 45 days. In return, the supporters receive rewards, like for example, the finished product, or can choose to support the idea with a free amount. If a project reaches or exceeds the specified funding target, the initiators receive the collected sum and can realize their project - if not, the money goes back to the funders.
But not only the money counts. Crowdfunding has the potential to enable exciting, critical and even radical projects, that would otherwise have had a hard time. Entrepreneurs who participate in the ideenkanal-process, but are not among the finalists, can - based on their existing online profile - nevertheless start an independent crowdfunding campaign and make use of selected coaching services by our partner Startnext. The support package offered by the ideenkanal foundation includes:
- A two-hour telephone coaching with Startnext
- Professional support in the production of campaign videos
- Professionally produced picture material
- Guaranteed media coverage
- Promotion on Facebook and Instagram
What are the benefits of crowdfunding?
In contrast to all funding programs known to us, ideenkanal does not offer any direct financial support, but rather enables the public to finance its own ideas. By involving the "crowd", the projects are tested for their regional demand and attractiveness. Thereby, from the very beginning, project-initiators are invited to get in touch with potential customers and partners. As a result, the idea creators receive further encouragement and feedback, continue to actively expand their network and increase the quality of their projects as a whole. Consequently, funding institutions get a good feeling for which ideas are of particular public interest and deserve further support.
"I was able to collect several thousand swiss francs. This was my first important start-up capital. With this amount in mind, I was able to go to other financiers and show them that other people support and believe in my project. This has created credibility."
Community Building - strengthening relationships and building a vibrant ecosystem
All funded ideas receive a free membership at the Technopark Liechtenstein and have permanent access to further consulting services of the ideenkanal foundation: ranging from founding a company to finding investors and getting press coverage. In addition, the ideenkanal-team places great emphasis on creating ongoing networking and presentation opportunities for its participants. As a result, most mentors maintain long-term relationships with their preferred entrepreneurs and develop friend- and business partnerships among themselves. Successfully supported entrepreneurs of past rounds act as ambassadors in communication campaigns and public events and are invited to serve as mentors in future ideenkanal programs. The public, sponsors and partner organizations are kept informed about the state of affairs through social media, newsletters, blog-posts and press releases.
What is the long term effect of ideenkanal?
In addition to the promotion of meaningful project ideas, the ideenkanal is first and foremost an innovative regional development tool: it awakens the entrepreneurial spirit of citizens, promotes self engagement, cooperation and sustainability, connects committed individuals with experts, potential customers, partners, media professionals and the public, creates interfaces between political, economic and civic institutions and captures a societal mood.
"I've been through some times with frooggies, that not many people have. As a mentor, I can help someone who is at the very beginning. I can give tips, give advice and help with hurdles, that I have had to take with my company."
Strong network - broadly supported
A large number of partner organizations use the ideenkanal as a supplier for meaningful project ideas and offer further opportunities for funding and collaboration.
Politics - The ideenkanal lies under the patronage of the Liechtenstein government and is jointly sponsored by all municipalities of Liechtenstein. The governments of the Austrian states of Vorarlberg, Tirol and Upper Austria as well as the University of St.Gallen, Switzerland, have adapted the ideenkanal-model to their local needs.
Economy - Leading companies such as Hilti AG, Oerlikon Balzers AG and Kaiser AG provide mentors and offer sponsorship.
Network Partners - We foster close relationships with fellow “infrastructure-builders” such as the University of Liechtenstein, the Technopark Liechtenstein and the business plan competition Liechtenstein.
"Liechtenstein is a state that distinguishes itself internationally through its great entrepreneurial spirit and outstanding prerequisites for companies. ideenkanal supports young entrepreneurs in an innovative way, especially if they want to make a positive contribution to the common good with their projects."
Adopting ideenkanal - an open franchise modell
The ideenkanal process and all relevant materials (Fotos, Videos, Texts, etc.) are available under a Creative Commons License and can be freely adapted to local needs and requirements. The ideenkanal-team offers public service institutions and private organisations tailor-made packages for the planning, implementation and post-processing of regional or intrapreneurial ideas challenges. This includes know-how transfer, a personalized webportal, event planning, promotional materials and social media support.
"The ideenkanal is about supporting dedicated people with creative and innovative ideas to actually turn them into real projects. The enormous popularity of the ideenkanal is very pleasing and shows that this new format hits the nerve of our times."
The ideenkanal foundation - a for-benefit organisation
The legal framework of ideenkanal is a same-named charitable public benefit foundation, based in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. The purpose of the ideenkanal foundation is to promote and support the long-term dissemination and continuous development of the ideenkanal-process, including all related activities and projects, in the interest of all those involved. In addition to its activities in Liechtenstein, the ideenkanal foundation increasingly supports governments and other foundations in the implementation of holistic funding- and event formats.
The ideenkanal foundation pursues exclusively for-benefit objectives and finances its activities through contributions from public authorities, foundations, sponsors as well as revenues from consultancy and events. The ideenkanal foundation is subject to the Liechtenstein Financial Market Authority and is an associated partner of the Association of Charitable Foundations in Liechtenstein. The Board of trustees consists of the three board-members Karl-Heinz Hemmerle, Joseph Schweiger and Alexander Brockhoff. (see also: Stiftung)
The team - passion and pioneering spirit
Stephan Schweiger and Christof Brockhoff jointly manage the ideenkanal foundation, which they have built with a lot of passion, idealism and voluntary commitment. Stephan, Bachelor of Science in Business Informatics, is responsible for project coordination, the website, event design and sponsorship. Christof, Bachelor of Arts in Tourism and Leisure Management, focuses on process design, network support, research and fundraising. The two are supported by the young journalist Sara Bagladi, who takes care of public communication. (see also: Team)
"Imagine what Liechtenstein looks like, when we have successfully supported 100 new ideas!?"