Female Founders Award

Photo Credit: Jan Zappner/Raum11

Photo Copyright: Jan Zappner/Raum11

Three Successful Female (Co-)Founders Honored with Award

Female founders are still a minority in the start-up ecosystem on both sides of the Atlantic. AmCham Germany’s Female Founders Award set an example by honoring three successful female (co-)founders as positive role models. We intended to promote and empower female (co-)founders in their visibility and networking while inspiring and motivating other women across Germany to become entrepreneurs. We especially encouraged female talent operating in the fields of technology, electronics, engineering or other branches usually underrepresented by women. The award brought together the values of American entrepreneurial spirit and German entrepreneurship as well as the activities of AmCham Germany in the context of entrepreneurship and diversity / women in leadership.


Award Benefits

The prize of the award includes becoming part of the Germany-wide and beyond AmCham Germany network by earning a free Basic Membership for one year which includes complimentary tickets for our chapter events, the Annual Membership Meeting and the Transatlantic Business Conference. An introduction via email to three top-level representatives of our corporate members is also included. The recipients also enjoy visibility for themselves and their businesses through our communication channels.


Selection Process

Together with our cooperation partners, AmCham Germany publicly called for the nomination of candidates for the Female Founders Award. The (co-)founders have either nominated themselves or were nominated by companies or individuals. An independent committee selected the recipients and the award ceremony took place on December 4 as part of our Transatlantic Evening in Berlin.

    Zarah Bruhn, Co-Founder & CEO of Social-Bee and Ashoka Fellow

    About Zarah Bruhn
    Zarah Bruhn studied business studies and technology in Mannheim and Munich. During her semester abroad in Stockholm, she took part in a refugees welcome event. Realising that it’s nice to welcome refugees but not really helpful or sustainable for them in terms of integration, she returned to Germany with an innovative business plan in her mind. After several internships and jobs in the fields of venture capital and startups, she founded the social startup "Social-Bee gGmbH" together with her partner Maximilian Felsner in Munich.


    About Social-Bee gGmbH
    Germany’s first integration service provider uses the temporary employment model to integrate refugees into the labour market and society. The social startup serves as the missing bridge between refugees and companies. Social-Bee takes care of all the bureaucratic work and supports its employees by offering them opportunities to learn German, acquire further qualifications and participate in integration programs. Founded in 2016, the non-profit organisation provided employment for 220 refugees in its first three years and is serving refugees and companies in Munich and Stuttgart.

    Xenia Scholl, COO & Co-Founder at TeleRetail

    About Xenia Scholl

    With 10+ years professional IT experience, Xenia Scholl is passionate about the conceptualization, development & implementation of technology innovations. As Co-founder of TeleRetail, Xenia focuses on the development of the self-driving technology to automate vehicles of different sizes and shapes: from large industrial vehicles to smaller retail robots. Xenia partners with top research institutions such as the European Space Agency and the German Aerospace Center, and world leading companies such as Coca-Cola European Partners and Thyssenkrupp Elevator. Before devoting herself full-time to TeleRetail, she developed large-scale infrastructure projects in Canada, Spain, and Germany. Xenia majored in international studies, earning her Master’s degree at the Bochum University of Applied Sciences.


    About TeleRetail

    TeleRetail automates industrial and urban last mile logistics with its autopilot software for self-driving robots. The company’s award-winning “Aito” software drives autonomous vehicles of almost any size. Shaping the future of autonomous driving, TeleRetail technology reduces the cost of transport by up to 90% while enabling 24/7 on-demand transport services. Like driverless cars, the TeleRetail’s delivery robots use laser, cameras, GNSS, radar and other sensors to "see" their environment and to safely navigate through it. TeleRetail is widely recognized as a world leader in the globally emerging outdoor logistics automation space. Frost & Sullivan awarded TeleRetail its 2018 Visionary Innovation Leadership Award for globally outstanding technology developments. The company also received the 2018 German Innovation Award for its ground-breaking innovations. TeleRetail is supported by the European Space Agency “ESA” as well as global corporate partners such as Coca-Cola European Partners and thyssenkrupp Elevator AG.

    Michelle Skodowski, Co-Founder & COO of BOTfriends

    About Michelle Skodowski
    Michelle Skodowski is a co-founder of BOTfriends, a company specialized in the design and development of Conversational AI applications, with a primary focus on Conversational Design. However, as the COO of the company, she is in charge of all customer projects with clients such as Porsche, Innogy or Bosch. While graduating from the University of Applied Sciences in Würzburg with a B.Sc. in E-Commerce and working at companies like eBay she bootstrapped BOTfriends with her three co-founders. She is also speaking at various tech and AI events such as theGoogle Cloud Summit or the Chatbot Summit as a conversational AI evangelist. As a female founder she strives to empower other young women for tech and entrepreneurship by participation in female founder programs.

    About BOTfriends
    Our goal is to make interaction with technology as natural and effortless as conversations between people. For this purpose we develop Conversational AI solutions for companies like Porsche, Innogy or Bosch, so that they can easily access information and use standardized communication processes. We combine different technologies and methods to enable outstanding individual chatbot and voice solutions. With Botfriends X, we also offer a Conversational Middleware platform with which our customers can independently create, train and maintain a chatbot via an intuitive user interface. The management of Conversational AI from across the enterprise on a single platform is therefore made possible. 


    Click here to view photos from the Award Ceremony. 

    Tabea Grzeszyk, Co-Founder and CEO of Hostwriter

    About Hostwriter:
    Hostwriter connects more than 4,500 journalists from 150+ countries for collaborative investigations and mutual exchange. In times of fake news, hate speech and polarization undermining democracies around the globe, the need for cross-border journalism is crucial. To tell the whole story, journalists need to collaborate. By providing contacts and training, Hostwriter promotes cross-border journalism as a tool to overcome national bias, contributing toward more accountable and democratic societies.

    Founded by female journalists Tamara Anthony, Tabea Grzeszyk and Sandra Zistl in 2013, Hostwriter sits at the intersection of two fields dominated by men: media and online startups. As a female CEO with a female-led team, we keep breaking through boundaries and would love to inspire more women in media and tech.


    Michaela Hagemann, CEO of das boep GmbH  

    About Michaela Hagemann:
    Michaela just turned 30, is a medical doctor, the founder of boep and a mother of two. She founded her company 4 years ago, when she couldn’t find baby care that met her needs. Her products combine all natural ingredients with a very nice smell and a modern design and are very successful among young parents. To this day she sold over 250000 products and has been on this years Forbes list for the „30 under 30“ in Europe. 

    About boep:
    boep was founded in 2015 by the young doctor Michaela and her brother Tilman, when Michaela couldn’t find the right baby care for her newborn daughter, so she started to develop her own products. Today boep offers only certified natural and vegan cosmetics from shampoo to sunscreen, from nappy cream to stretch mark oil for moms to be - all made in Germany. The products have been very successful and are being sold online and in over 2200 drug stores throughout DACH.


    Natascha Hoffner, Founder & Managing Director, messe.rocks GmbH, organizer of herCAREER

    About Natascha Hoffner: 
    Natascha Hoffner is the founder and managing director of messe.rocks GmbH. She organizes the herCAREER, the only exhibition in Germany, which considers all aspects of a female and family career planning. The herCAREER enables an exchange of experiences and networking across hierarchies to Role Models, insiders and experts and turns an exhibition booth into a meeting place. In addition, Natascha Hoffner transfers the fair into the digital age: A digital guidance system matches visitors to diverse offerings of exhibiting companies, lectures, MeetUps and stand personnel as well as speakers for a professional and personal exchange. This enables targeted communication and offers all participants of herCAREER significant added value. Natascha Hoffner studied business administration at the Ludwigshafen University of Business and Society and has over 19 years of experience in the trade fair industry. Furthermore, she was managing director of a trade fair organizer in Mannheim for five years, the last two years at a subsidiary of Deutsche Messe AG. In 2015, the mother of two founded messe.rocks GmbH.

    About messe.rocks GmbH and herCareer:
    herCAREER is the comprehensive career fair for female graduates, women in specialist and management positions and women starting up their own businesses. The innovative fair concept of the career fair receives great response from the exhibitors, and especially from the women themselves. Politicians also support herCAREER because of its unique concept.


    Elena Kokkinara, CTO of Inflight VR

    About Elena Kokkinara: 
    Dr. Elena Kokkinara is the CTO of Inflight VR, where she leads an innovative product that brings an entertainment VR platform to passengers on airplanes and other means of transportation. She holds a PhD in Virtual Reality from the University of Barcelona. She completed her Masters in Computer Graphics, Vision and Imaging at University College London and her Postdoctoral studies in the Graphics Vision and Visualization lab at the Trinity College in Dublin. Elena has published best paper awarded works at a number of venues and journals such as IEEE VR, Scientific Reports and ACM TAP. Her work is mainly related to body perception in VR, as well as to the use of VR in space-restricted conditions such as airplanes.

    About Inflight VR:
    Inflight VR is a Munich, Barcelona, Los Angeles and Lahore based company that is creating the virtual reality ecosystem for the aviation industry. Bringing virtual reality technology on board of airplanes is a no-brainer. However, the aircraft environment is very delicate and requires a solution that ensures that:

    - Passengers movements are restricted
    - Immersed passengers can always be reached by the crew
    - Passengers are only consuming suitable content (avoid motion sickness)

    Inflight VR wants to bring this unique technology on board of the aircraft as an entirely new way of inflight entertainment.


    Jenny Podewils, Co-Founder of Leapsome

    About Leapsome:
    Leapsome is the platform for Performance Management & Employee Engagement. CEOs and HR / People Operations teams in forward-thinking companies such as Spotify, Trivago, and Babbel choose Leapsome to enhance their people management processes. With Leapsome, you empower and develop employees across your organisation. Leapsome combines tools for Goals & OKRs Management, Performance Reviews and 360s, Employee Engagement Surveys, Instant Feedback & Praise, and 1-on-1 Meetings into one easy to use and customizable platform.Leapsome was founded in 2016 by Jenny von Podewils and Kajetan von Armansperg in Berlin. In 2018 Leapsome was listed as one of the 100 most innovative startups of Germany by The Hundert. 

    The award winners were honored during the Transatlantic Evening in Berlin on December 4, 2019.

    Venue: Microsoft Berlin (by invitation only)

    Click here to view photos from the event. 

    Nadine Bütow, Founder, CommsART and Member of Berlin Team, Digital Media Women e.V.
    Nadine Bütow is an entrepreneur, moderator and consultant for corporate communication in times of digital and social change. As a speaker, she focusses on the topics of diversity, gender equality, cultural change and leadership. At the network Digital Media Women (#DMW) in Berlin, she campaigns for the visibility and the networking of women from the digital economy. She also heads #DMW's #30mit30 national campaign, which is open to companies with at least 30 percent female representation in the top three management levels.

    Dr. Guido Brinkel Head of Regulatory Policy and Director Corporate Affairs, Microsoft Germany
    As Head of Regulatory Policy and Director Corporate Affairs at Microsoft Germany, Guido is responsible for the external political and regulatory relations regarding telecom regulation, cybersecurity and data protection. Previously he served as Head of Public Affairs for United Internet in Berlin and Brussels. From 2007 until 2011 Guido served as Head of the Media Policy Department at BITKOM, Germany´s largest ICT association. He is member of the board of the German Association for Voluntary Self-Regulation of Digital Media service providers (FSM e.V.). Guido studied law at the University of Göttingen and the Trinity College Dublin and holds a PhD degree. He is specialized in telecom regulation, intellectual property, cybersecurity, e-commerce and data protection law and has published several scientific articles on these topics.”

    Maria Gross, Managing Director, GERMANTECH
    Change (and her love for the city of Berlin) is the only constant in Maria's life - that's why she keeps on questioning the status quo, develops new ideas and gets her energy out of the challenge. She started her career at Daimler, studied Nonprofit-Management and travelled the world. Just to learn that everything she always seeked was working in a diverse field. After working for different accelerators & incubators and failing & learning with her own startups she joined GERMANTECH. As the Managing Director she loves bringing together diverse stakeholders to learn from each other and work on a sustainable future.

    Prof. Dr. Torsten Oltmanns, Regional Chair Berlin-Brandenburg, AmCham Germany and Partner, Roland Berger GmbH
    Prof. Dr. Torsten Oltmanns is Partner and Head of the Business Line "Executive Communications & Stakeholder Management, located in Berlin. He works at the interface between business, politics and media, supporting companies, governments and NGOs in all kinds of transformation programs, wage negotiations and digital change. He studied economics at the University of Cologne and, at the same time, was trained as business journalist at the Cologne School of Journalism. Torsten Oltmanns has published several books on strategy and marketing, he gives speeches and lectures on the topic, served as Visiting Fellow of the University of Oxford. He is a honorary Professor at the University of Innsbruck and Research Professor for Economic Policy at the Quadriga University for Applied Science in Berlin. In his spare time, he is building-up a vineyard in East Frisia, Germany's coastal region.

    Carolin Schäufele, CEO & Managing Editor, SHE works!
    Carolin Schäufele is the founder of “SHE works!”, the business and career magazine and platform dedicated to female entrepreneurs. The digital magazine addresses a variety of topics and niche issues relevant to female founders helping them to manage the short and long term challenges ahead. Since its founding in 2015, “SHE works!” and its quarterly e-magazine reaches up to 500,000 readers.

    Andreas Schwaiger, Vice President, Managing Director Germany, Texas Instruments Deutschland GmbH
    Andreas Schwaiger started his professional career at Texas Instruments (TI) in 1997, working in a variety of different roles before being appointed Managing Director of TI Germany. He is also a member of the AmCham Board of Directors, and is particularly engaged in initiatives like NextGen. Andreas Schwaiger is excited to support TI's commitment to STEM development from school through university to a career in Engineering, particularly focusing on female development in these areas. As a sponsor of TI's CSR branch in Germany, he is highly supportive of the team's efforts in STEM education, supporting local organizations and initiatives like Girl's Day. For him, TI's commitment to drive innovation and support start-up initiatives matches perfectly to the engagement with the AmCham Female Founders award.

    Edith Stier-Thompson, Managing Director, news aktuell GmbH
    In 1999 Edith Stier-Thompson moved from the Associated Press news agency to the dpa group. She was in charge of the sales department of dpa Picture Alliance GmbH and was appointed Managing Director in 2007. Since 2014 she has been Managing Director of news aktuell GmbH, a subsidiary of the German Press Agency dpa. She is a founding member and on the extended board of the Association of Global Women in PR Deutschland e.V. The association aim to strengthen women in communication through mentoring and networking, encouraging them to take on leadership roles.

    Barbara Biemann-Bennke

    Manager, Events & Projects

    +49 30 2130056-21



    Award Partners

    Media and Network Partners