Tijen Onaran of Startup affairs

Category: Future heads

© Tijen Onaran

© Tijen Onaran

Tijen Onaran is an entrepreneur, presenter and speaker. With her agency startup affairs, she advises businesses in public relations matters, and with her Global Digital Women initiative, she has dedicated herself for networking and visibility of women working in the digital industry. Apart from this, being a member of the Handelsblatt expert council, Tijen Onaran publishes regular articles and writes columns for Futurezone and Lead Digital. She was appointed to the Faculty Board for “Digital Leadership” of the Management School St. Gallen. Before setting up her own business, Tijen Onaran has worked in leading positions for Members of the European and the National Parliament, for the Office of the Federal President, several associations and a university.

Mrs. Onaran, you established the network “Women in Digital” nearly two years ago. You can certainly draw a conclusion today – what have you achieved so far?

A community with over 30,000 women; more than 100 events; two major award presentations, where we honoured women who have helped shape digitalization; as well as numerous other exciting projects with inspiring partners such as Siemens, Deutsche Bahn, Microsoft and Accenture. Apart from the key figures, it is important to say that we have lent a face and perspective to digitalization! In doing so, we have shown that diversity and digitalization not only belong together, but they play a vital role towards the companies’ innovative strength and sustainability.

How many women are connected in your network today? 

More than 30,000 – from an inspiring mix of industries, hierarchy levels and generations.

You have founded another network for women – the Global Digital Woman Network. It seems that a lot of work remains to be done in order to connect women in the digital industry.

In October 2017, I was part of an international delegation of 47 women from 47 countries travelling to the United States with the headline “Women in Entrepreneurship”. As a German representative, I realized that the topics in the field of diversity, empowerment and visibility of women are indeed global issues. For me it was obvious that in 2018 we will shape an even more diverse and international network!

Are women and men connected in different ways?

I realise that a new generation of women and men is coming up. I believe that this is the generation of ‘Empowerment’ focusing on mutual reinforcement and innovation as a career engine, irrespective of gender. 

I am sure you have made extensive experiences in this field. What is the reason that there are still relatively very few female entrepreneurs? In your opinion, where do we have to start?

Entrepreneurship should be a topic at school. When I think back to my school days, there was no option of “Becoming an entrepreneur”. Neither during my school days nor in my own environment was there some kind of entrepreneurial spirit. Therefore, to have more female entrepreneurs, it is essential to bring this challenge to the schools! When we start promoting ideas and entrepreneurial talent here, we will see more female entrepreneurs and in particular more entrepreneurship in Germany!

The topic of digitalization also plays a role in the current coalition talks. What will the future government need to do in this matter?

It is important to think through digitalization in all its different facets and peculiarities. For this, we need real digital examples in politics. Just as we are discussing the topic on the part of the companies, I would like to see more political ambassadors endorsing digitalization. I don’t believe that establishing a ministry for digital matters will be the right solution. What we need is to have more digital ambassadors in every ministry. Digitalization is very complex, therefore we also need people for all political aspects to have digital skills and implement them.

Speaking about storytelling… you are saying that this is a future competence. Can you explain this in more detail?

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly complex and fast-paced. Therefore, the ability to capture even highly complex issues in a nutshell and to inspire others for changes, new ideas and innovation becomes more sought-after than ever, this is what storytelling is all about. In particular when it comes to sharing innovative ideas – whether within or outside businesses, storytelling skills become the key to success! 

Why do we need storytelling in advertisement today? How do you tell good stories in virtual reality?

We need storytelling not only in advertising, but also in internal and external business communication. Whether startups, SMEs or corporate groups – if you cannot tell your own story and the story of your products, you are not in a position to compete. Revolution in storytelling is advancing through virtual reality! We can make intangible topics more perceptible and accessible. This point becomes particularly exciting in the field of employer branding for businesses. As a potential employee, I can easily get an insight into the company. 

What are your tips for a good storytelling?

For a good storytelling you need ambassadors, infotainment and a healthy degree of courage! As a user and observer, I would like to see the faces behind the stories, and would like to be informed in a competent and inspiring way. If I as the originator dared to abandon the current path and take a new direction, great storytelling can be achieved!

You established your company in Berlin – is it in your opinion still a city full of opportunities for entrepreneurs? Or did you actually have completely different reasons for settling in the city …?

When I came to Berlin, it hadn’t crossed my mind to become self-employed. My motivation for coming to Berlin was to work in a political environment, so Berlin was the first place to go. As an entrepreneur in Berlin, whether male or female, you can achieve a lot in a very short time or very little in a short time. I am and will continue to be a big fan of Berlin! 

Last, but not least, can you finish the following sentence: “Berlin is… “

...always exactly what you do not expect!  


Tanja Mühlhans

Leitung Kreativ- und Medienwirtschaft, Digitalwirtschaft, Projekt Zukunft