On May 23, 2023, AmCham Germany’s Regional Chapter North-Rhine Westphalia hosted a networking event in Cologne titled “Aligning Funders and Start-Ups: What U.S. Funders Require and How Start-Ups Should Prepare”. Attendees gathered at The Ship, a pioneering, fully digitalized office in Cologne's hip Veedel Ehrenfeld to discuss the necessary ingredients of a perfect match between U.S. investors and German start-ups.
The event commenced with welcome remarks by Hermann Knott, Partner at KUNZ and Chair of the Regional Sub-Chapter Cologne; Markus Mill, Strategy Officer at KölnBusiness – the Economic Development Agency of Cologne; Oliver Faber, Managing Director of Enactus Germany and Frederik Lindner, Head of Start-ups & Acceleration at Gateway Excellence Start-up Center of the Cologne University.
Parul Madan, Managing Partner Europe at Quake Capital and Co-Founder of DueDash, gave an engaging keynote speech on what U.S. investors expect from German start-ups and what their funding requirements are. Her presentation highlighted current trends of the fundraising market and what challenges and opportunities are to be expected in the coming months. The VC funding market has been in decline since its peak in 2021 due to investor reticence. “There is no lack of capital, nor a lack of excellent ideas,” but the market environment is currently fragile due to geo-economic instabilities and an uncertain economic outlook. But Parul also offered hope to all attending founders, explaining that forward-thinking ideas continue to resonate strongly and receive funding.
In a brief Q&A-session, Parul also gave hands-on advice how to approach potential investors: “Just start a conversation by asking if the investor is investing in your sector, in similar business models. Do not just ask for money. Ask for advice and intensive guidance throughout the journey.” In her view, “timing and consistent focus on an innovative business model” are key to gain the attention of potential investors.
After Parul’s keynote, three impact start-ups of the Enactus Germany network pitched their business ideas in front of the audience: socialbnb, a platform for social and sustainable tourism, savethegrain, a startup providing solar dryers and storage facilities to rural farmers in Subsahara Africe and keäksack, the first social beer in Germany made out of bread leftovers.
The event was topped by a panel discussion. Thorsten Reuter, Head of Digital & Technology Ventures at NRW.Bank, Adrian Grussendorf, Director at Plug & Play Germany, Oscar Escalante, funding expert of the Start-up Unit of KölnBusiness, and Parul Madan ultimately drew attention to a structural aspect affecting the German VC funding market: There are too few German investors who invest in the U.S. and maintain a vibrant network with their American counterparts. It is not only the responsibility of the startups to look for U.S. investors, but the German investors can also render assistance: “Ask your local investors for contacts in the USA,” advises Parul Madan. The panel concluded that the German and the Cologne start-up scene has great potential. The business ideas, their presentation and focus have gained significantly in quality in recent years. This was demonstrated clearly by the pitches of the start-ups of the Enactus network.
After the panel discussion, the conversations between all attendees continued on the rooftop terrace with a view of the Cologne Cathedral and a fresh keäksack-beer.
AmCham Germany is very grateful for the support of KölnBusiness, Enactus Germany and the Gateway Excellence Start-up Center.