The SZ Economic Summit honours the most innovative founders – with the help of a special jury

Thanks to men and women who had the courage to implement their ideas with their own company, centuries and decades ago, Germany has great economic strength today. Men like Friedrich Jacob Merck, who acquired a license to run a pharmacy in Darmstadt in 1668, thus laying the cornerstone for the Merck technology corporation; 350 years on and it is still family-run. It still produces pharmaceuticals, but also laboratory materials and liquid crystals for displays. Women like Melitta Bentz, who took blotting paper from her sons’ exercise books and developed the filter bag. Or Artur Fischer, who set up his own business in 1948 and registered 1,000 patents and more, including inventions such as the heavy-duty wall plug and synchronised photo flash. Or former IBM employees Claus Wellenreuther, Hans-Werner Hector, Klaus Tschira, Dietmar Hopp and Hasso Plattner, who founded the software company SAP in 1972. From what were often challenging beginnings, going against a resisting society, which feared all things new, and competitors raking it in selling the old, companies with hundreds of employees emerged throughout the decades. Many of these are world market leaders today, which other countries envy Germany for.






Your contact persons

Elisabeth Dostert
Business Editor Süddeutsche Zeitung

Trail Blazers Wanted

The competition: founders play a decisive role in the future of our economy. That is why the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Economic Summit will be awarding prizes to the best of them for the third time this year. The “Trail Blazers” start-up competition will be open for submissions from 15 May to 31 August. It invites applications from young companies that are older than six months and younger than five years with their headquarters in Germany.

There are two rounds to the competition.

The preliminary round: in October, a jury composed of editors from the SZ’s business section will select six finalists from amongst all applicants. These “Trail Blazers” will be invited to participate in the SZ Economic Summit, Germany’s largest economic congress with over 60 speakers, at Hotel Adlon, Berlin, from 12 to 14 November.

The start-up pitch: on 14 November, each of the six finalists will have the opportunity to present their business idea and company on the stage of the Economic Summit at Hotel Adlon. Each start-up will have precisely three minutes. Afterwards, the winner will be chosen by a very special jury: the participants of the SZ Economic Summit will vote via an app. Many of them are experienced entrepreneurs and managers who know what matters. Their curiosity is piqued by founders and their ideas. Therefore, the competition motto is: “Start-ups meet Grown-ups”. The pitch will be supported by Berlin Partner, Berlin’s business development agency.

The series: Süddeutsche Zeitung will accompany the “Trail Blazer” competition with a series on founders in Germany – on all its channels: print, digital, and in the social media. In addition, the six finalists and other interesting applicants will be presented on the website The twitter hashtag for the start-up competition is #Gipfelstürmer.

Call for proposals: from 15 May, you can upload your application using a form on this page. Please direct any questions on the competition to:


Send your application by 01. October 2017 in the following form. With an asterisk (*) marked and highlighted fields are mandatory.  

Please include the most important facts about your company:
Decisive for us is the date of the entry in the commercial register.  

Please include the most important facts about the founder(s):

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