Interview with Markus Schweizer, EY, and Prof. Dr. med. Timo Meynhardt, HHL
The organizers – EY (Ernst & Young) and HHL – want to put more emphasis on the so far neglected contribution of start-ups to the common good with the EY Public Value Award (EYPVA), which has been awarded for the first time. Because often the social added value of a business idea of a start-up is not visible at first glance. The award is intended to serve as a seal of quality, USP and a positive signal for investors and other stakeholders.
How did you come up with the idea of awarding a “Public Value Award”?
Schweizer: EY has a long tradition of promoting and rewarding entrepreneurial achievement, eg with our annual Entrepreneur of the Year competition. Due to the close cooperation between EY and HHL on the subject of public welfare and public value, it was natural to focus for a moment not only on the purely economic component of entrepreneurial success but on the overall assessment of social added value. That’s how the idea of the EY Public Value Award came into being.
Meynhardt:In research, we have seen for years that start-ups are increasingly confronted with their common good: either start with a business idea and now have to justify it socially faster than ever or they want to improve the world and then be confronted with reality. No matter what the initial motive is, the common good question can not be excluded. Adding to this is the question of meaning and value for many young people today: What do I do that for? Against this background, the award seeks to help start-ups recognize their social value better and above all communicate it confidently.
To what extent can public value and profit-making be unified unconditionally?
Meynhardt: Everything in life has a price. However, much more complex mechanisms are at work than the – supposed – contrast of public value versus profit. We have to get away from it, maneuvering ourselves into such contradictions already in our thinking. Profit is a survival condition, but it is not the reason for existence.
Swiss: Public Value comes with or without profit, but profit is by no means a contradiction to public value, if the four other dimensions of the so-called Public Value Scorecard: task fulfillment, morality, social cohesion and quality of life are duly taken into account.
Do projects from the non-profit sector also have a chance?
Swiss: Absolutely. With Kiron University we also have a representative from the non-profit sector among the seven finalists.
Meynhardt: For us, the solution to societal challenges is the focus. Therefore, start-ups of any form of organization that can make a difference in society can and should apply.
The award ceremony will take place on October 27 at HHL. How many startups have applied?
Schweizer: We had more than 150 applications and received a total of 88 applications from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, which clearly exceeded our expectations for the first competition. We were also impressed by the conviction and self-evidentness of the participants in addressing the subject of public value.
Meynhardt: All in all, we were very surprised by the great response and then had to adjust our own internal processes once again. Because in this sense we are on the way here as a start-up.
From which sectors of the economy do applications come from?
Swiss: The range of industries of the participating start-ups is very broad. Business models in the field of consumer goods, computer science, energy industry or healthcare are represented as well as those that revolve around aspects of the refugee crisis.
Meynhardt: Basically, there was hardly any industry that was not represented. Even if it seems unusual at first glance, the jury then had the task of assessing the public value of a fintech with a start-up to preserve valuable cultural assets. But exactly this thinking from the society, makes the special of the price.
Winners will enjoy traveling to the Strategic Growth Forums in Palm Springs and Rome. What are the side effects of participation?
Meynhardt: We are already receiving feedback that the management team’s discussion of the public value issue is very rewarding and releases positive energy. In the long term, this will help the start-ups to position themselves strategically and, last but not least, uphold the motivation and enthusiasm of their employees.
Schweizer: A systematic approach to public value helps participants sharpen their value proposition and business model. The finalists and winners can further increase their awareness and thus have the chance to meet new customers or investors.