Making Waves: The Alumnus Working To Save the Ocean

Juergen Roider on entrepreneurship, the EMBA, and helping the planet

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Juergen recalls this quote from his time in Chicago as part of his studies with the Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA. It reminds him not to be afraid of his ambitions and take each win as a step in the right direction. “If you are contemplating whether to join the EMBA program, just go for it. Even years after graduating, I pick up my notes from the program to refresh my knowledge. I would also suggest starting as soon as possible – don’t wait. The same with founding a company. If you have a dream and a vision, then follow it.”

Juergen Roider graduated from the Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA program back in 2006. Since his studies, he has started several companies, exploring his entrepreneurial interests through the school’s wide-reaching network and connections of the school. “The EMBA hugely impacted me when founding my first company. My original motivation for joining the program was to dig deeper into this entrepreneurial spirit, explore new business ideas, and build my network. I am an active member of that network today.”

The entrepreneurial spark.

The Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA currently ranks #1 in Germany, boasting one of the largest global networks of over 65,000 alumni from 7 campuses worldwide. “I love the approach of the two universities together,” explains Juergen. “This international perspective was important, but the network has been incredibly beneficial for idea generation. When you think of a new idea, you often check the internet, and it already exists. We formed a think-tank of alumni from Kellogg-WHU and the other universities to meet every three months and brainstorm new product ideas. This is where the idea for my last company Acceleron came from.”

Acceleron was founded in 2018 with a focus on digital innovation. During a wave of blockchain, cybersecurity, AI, and quantum technology, Juergen and his co-founders wanted to utilize this technology, hoping to grow the company exponentially within a few years. “We weren’t seeing the growth we hoped for and were concerned it would take us another 30 years to get there. We changed our business model to a hybrid one and are working on a digital business model by using a new type of portal. Today, Acceleron has more than 250 people in Europe, Mid-East, Asia, and the Americas. We want to continue our growth and are making good progress. We also invited Ukrainian people to work with us, and some have already joined us in the company. 

It was essential for us to help, as one of our partners is from Odessa. He joined the military service there, and we lost contact a few weeks ago. We offer refugees a chance to gain stability and continue their professional lives. For those working for us here in Germany, we offer them access to courses and new laptops. We hope this sets a precedent for other European companies.”

Robotics to save the ocean.

Juergen’s altruistic mindset is also taking him in a new direction. On a sailing trip five years ago, he was shocked by the volume of plastic he saw in the ocean and on beaches. He noticed that while some great organizations were working to help, such as The Ocean Cleanup, it only scratched the surface - literally. “They fish plastic from between zero to minus six or seven meters. But roughly 70% of the plastic is found much deeper, between minus 10 and 70 meters. I wanted to find a solution to that.”

In the first team made of people from around the world, Juergen initiated and founded the Ocean Robotics Project. Leading this diverse group, Juergen is developing tools that trawl the ocean effectively and sustainably, such as the “Ocean Football.” This tool can be dragged by an old fishing boat and is essentially a tiny submarine without an engine. Its depth can be regulated remotely using ballast. Rather than using traditional fishing boats, the Ocean Robotics Project is also working on an “Ocean Crawler.” A larger vessel with its own engine and an AI-driven control unit – no human pilot needed. One of the final steps is with an “Ocean Hoover,” a giant of two hundred meters, which filters plastic much like the baleen of a blue whale.

“The real challenge, however, lies in the design of the fishing nets. We mustn’t trap marine life in the process, so we need experts from oceanographic institutes to help us. Ideally, these nets can be produced by people from countries in Africa or Latin America. In this way, the project would generate hundreds of jobs in countries where they are needed.”

Juergen becomes very sincere: he clarifies that the project’s goal is not to be profitable but to share their ideas with everyone to ensure a more significant impact. “We hope to attract the European Union, start crowdfunding, and get in front of thousands of people. Any money would be used for the project, and we need many people with different skills. We would love to collaborate with other projects, companies, and organizations to make this effective and beneficial for the ocean – and last but not least – for all of us.”