HHL Founders: “Unleash your inner entrepreneur”

At the annual Accelerate Conference, HHL alumni and successful entrepreneur Lukasz Gadowski (39) gave a refreshing lecture about his visions regarding things like free and clean energy for everybody or weather machines. After founding Spreadshirt while completing his studies at HHL, he started the company builder Team Europe to invest in many promising start-ups like Mister Spex or Lieferheld. Nowadays, Gadowski is totally into the aviation industry and is pushing some “flying” projects. His guiding principle, with which he opened and closed his speech is a statement by the French philosopher Victor Hugo, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come”.


He talked with HHL about his experiences during his time at the business school.

Which opportunities do conferences like HHL Accelerate hold for start-ups and investors?

It’s my second time at the Accelerate Conference, which is the biggest of its kind in the region and it benefits from the excellence of HHL. This format allows start-ups to learn and investors to find new investment opportunities.

You are a very successful founder. What determined your success in founding Spreadshirt and Delivery Hero?

There is no easy answer to it because many different things determined my success. Timing is very important in generating value. In the case of Spreadshirt, it was something new and valuable that did not exist before but the market wanted it: single pieces, high quality, fast delivery. We used new technologies, which enabled us to create our business processes.

With Delivery Hero, it was not that obvious because, as an entrepreneur, you are always looking for something new. In that case, we had a very large market that already existed in Germany; for example, Pizza.de. But we saw that the old bull left out a lot of value and potential that wasn’t being realized like online payment or transferring orders in an improved way. By coincidence, this was a market which was ready for a second player.

Many of our students are very proud of you and talk very often about your career and success. With your start-up Spreadshirt, you started in the cellar of HHL. Can you give us some insight into the atmosphere at that time?

It was during the semester break, so I had the opportunity to use the cellar, which was usually the student’s office space. It was very convenient because I basically had two desks and when I had people coming for interviews, I conducted them in the seminar room. Working from home did not feel right, particularly as I started hiring people. These were the early days of Spreadshirt, so everybody knew what I was working on. HHL was very supportive in a natural way at that time. The business school is an encouraging environment for entrepreneurship. Also, this kind of the business education helps because it’s not just about academia but also about craft and that is what I was looking for.

Would you recommend that students study at a business school like HHL, which is very well ranked?

I would always recommend studying at very well-ranked schools. This is the key selection criteria because this attracts other motivated people. Back in the days when I was studying here, it was the best decision I could have made.

How did you personally profit from this education?

I benefited on many levels. For instance, we did a lot of group work and were trained as closely working teams. I must say that I came here with some experience already because after my sort of Bachelor equivalent, I gained some hands-on experience. But it was funny to see that some of the other students, who had only been in straight academia, were very good team players. That was highly valuable.

Which three readings (books) would you recommend for young entrepreneurs?

Personally, I really like the book “Profit patterns” but I think it’s out of print. I gave it to someone last year and he didn’t really like it. Maybe it was interesting in my time and probably no longer is. Recently, I enjoyed reading the book “Shoe Dog” about Nike founder Phil Knight and the story of his company. The third publication I would recommend is a video from Tony Seba called “Clean Disruption”. I find myself watching more and more videos to complement books.