Start-up founders are sometimes dangerously distant – Commentary – Economy

The small business that Werner von Siemens founded over 175 years ago in a Berlin backyard has grown into a global business. When five former IBM employees went into business almost 40 years ago, they created SAP, and the company is today one of the world’s largest software vendors. And two California college students started Google in a garage in 1998. The founders are no doubt important. You take risks, without fear of failure, build new things, give important impulses and, above all, create jobs. But success rises too quickly to their heads, they take off – and then it is not uncommon for them to reveal rather crude attitudes.

The last example: in a position paper of the Young Digital Economy Advisory Board, which is supposed to advise the Federal Minister of the Economy and in which mainly sit the founders of companies, “discipline the press” was requested. According to the proposal, the media should in future be legally obliged to determine how and if they should report on start-ups. So far, according to the lawsuit, the reports have been overly critical and in some cases defamatory, which is an obstacle to the success of German start-ups, according to the analysis. The media would even be partly responsible for the bad environment of IPOs in Germany.

Of course, such ideas of government control over reports are irritating and utterly absurd. They would also seriously undermine the freedom of the press. CDU Federal Economic Minister Peter Altmaier immediately distanced himself from the ideas of his advisers, members of the advisory board accepted the suggestions immediately, but much too late, as the document was already a few years old. months and accessible. None of the officials noticed the explosiveness. Nobody wants it now, the control mechanisms have failed, it is said. Nevertheless, it is a process which cannot be excused and which damages the image.

Wirecard case shows how dangerous it is to suppress criticism

Above all, it shows how dangerous the pride of the founders (still mainly men) can be. Entrepreneurs must also respect laws and conventions. But this is often indifferent to them. They prefer to see themselves as a disruptor, as a destroyer of traditional business models that really show established businesses. They are blinded by their success and sometimes even present themselves as supposed benefactors. Travis Kalanick, who once founded the Uber taxi app, didn’t care about German passenger transport law. Some delivery services sometimes ignore the validity of German labor laws for their own employees. And Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is specifically turning commerce with his customers’ data into a lucrative business model. Most founders are reluctant to accept public criticism. “Disciplining” the media might be something Zuckerberg would like, too.

But it is a bad way. Critical discussion, especially with start-ups, is essential, especially when it comes to planned IPOs. Because then the investors would have to put their money in the business and buy the shares. They depend on very precise and fair scrutiny of the company and its business model – by the media, banks, authorities and shareholder advocates or stock analysts. Transparency is required. The Wirecard case impressively shows where it can lead when critical voices are simply erased or even massively suppressed. Many were clouded by the hope that the payment services processor in Aschheim near Munich could grow into a globally successful internet business, and they were lenient. It would have been better if everyone had a particularly critical eye.

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