Ali organized and hosted the networking event Innovators Unplugged on campus of Constructor University. (Source: Constructor University)
In the beginning there is the business idea - followed by many questions. What does it take to implement it? How do I found a startup? What needs to be considered in the process? "Exchange is particularly important at the beginning of the project," said Muhammad Ali Alam. The student at Constructor University Bremen knows what he's talking about: He's a founder himself and wants to bring together people interested in starting a company.
With the networking event "Innovators' Unplugged", which he initiated, he has already succeeded in doing so. In December, the event brought together more than 100 people who otherwise had little to do with each other: founders from Bremen's start-up scene with students and academics from the international, English-language Constructor University. "I want to help connect the dots. People have so many good ideas, and often all that's missing is the opportunity to exchange them and get a little advice," stated the 22-year-old, whom everyone calls Ali.
At the age of 18, Ali founded his first start-up: Protagonist Pro, a learning platform for students aimed to impart knowledge in a gamified way. It was also an expression of his own experiences with the school system: "Kids produce great things when their curiosity is piqued," Ali mentioned. "For me, that was rarely the case. My school years were mostly focused on doing well on exams. But I was more interested in subjects, not so much in grades."
Born in Pakistan, Ali grew up in Singapore. His parents are both scientists, and moving around was nothing unusual for the family. The international environment which he was in at home ultimately led him, after a brief interlude as a law student at UCL, to Constructor University with its students from more than 110 nations, which was then called Jacobs University. "Exchanging ideas with people from very different cultural backgrounds is something I've always found particularly stimulating”, he stated.
Ali consistently takes advantage of the opportunities offered by the campus in Bremen-Nord for people interested in starting a business. With his team, their the start-up "Nukleus" won the "JacobsHack" in 2021, a competition at Constructor University where students develop innovative solutions on a given topic within 24 hours. Ali, who is studying International Business Administration at Constructor University, is also managing student clubs that deal with start-ups, such as co-directing the Hult Club or project managing the Google Developers Student Club.
Almost inevitably, he came into contact with the senior researcher Sonja Mattfeld, who supervises the start-up option "J-CUB" for the university. With this study program, Constructor University supports student founders from idea development to market launch. Mattfeld helped him get Investor Unplugged off the ground. She described Ali as a "dynamic, energetic, committed, empathetic and smart person who always thinks in networks."
Not surprisingly, he is also involved with ExoHeal, a project by the student start-up V-Bionic, that aims to help cure hand paralysis. To do so, it has developed a robotic support structure, an exoskeleton that combines robotics and neuroscience. At the global Microsoft Imagine Cup 2022, the team took first place with its solution and collected a $100,000 prize.
ExoHeal exemplifies what Ali finds so fascinating about starting up. "At its core, it's about solving a problem, implementing an idea that enables others to perform at their best and it builds a community," he mentioned, "we want to create something that helps others." He also wants to help the city of Bremen become greener and more sustainable. Together with the Schwanewede Forest School and other students, he has launched an environmental initiative as part of Constructor University's Community Impact Project. Under the hashtag #100greenPallets, it aims to set up 100 plant pallets made from inexpensive and recycled pallets and green them with plants or moss to offset CO2 emissions. Supporters for the project are still being sought.
Ali is also fine-tuning another start-up idea. He has been hard of hearing for just over a year. "It came all of a sudden," he said about his hearing loss. He would like to develop a practical and cost-effective solution for people with hearing loss. But first, he has to finish his studies this summer. After that, Ali, who enjoys cooking and hiking, wants to take his self-built bike on a several-month tour across Europe to promote sustainability. "I need a break before I throw myself back into work," he said. He will scale up his startups and hopefully empower others on the way. Eventually, however, Ali would like to move into consulting: ideally of startups in their early stages.
This text is part of the "Faces" series, in which Constructor University introduces students, alumni, professors and staff.
About Constructor University:
An international community, vibrant and diverse. Offering academic excellence, ensuring the highest standards in research and teaching. Empowering students to solve the world's pressing challenges through knowledge and science: Constructor University is a top-ranked, English-speaking, private university. Founded in 2001, it provides a wide range of 25+ academic programs and PhD. The Constructor ecosystem comprises the University, located in Bremen, Germany, and an institute in Schaffhausen, Switzerland.
Over 1.800 students from more than 110 nations on campus benefit from a unique interdisciplinary, foundational theoretical and practical education. Enriched with a buzzing entrepreneurial culture that prepares young professionals to thrive in the job market. With 6.000+ alumni worldwide, our community keeps growing – with our highest cohort ever registered in 2022.
The research-centric faculty projects are funded by the German Research Foundation and the European Union's Framework Program for Research and Innovation as well as by globally leading companies.
The Constructor ecosystem benefits from partnerships with high-ranked universities such as Carnegie Mellon, the University of Geneva or the National University of Singapore School of Computing, and technology companies such as Anisoprint, JetBrains and ChemDiv.
Constructor is a global institution dedicated to addressing the main challenges of the world through science, education, and technology. Apart from the University, the ecosystem relies on several for-profit entities that provide technology infrastructures and solutions, life-long education programs, consulting services, and funding: Alemira by Constructor, Rolos by Constructor, Constructor Learning and Constructor Capital.