Interview with the Winners of the Female Founders Award 2022

In this interview, the founders give insights to their entrepreneurial stories, their perspectives on (female) entrepreneurship and the challenging and exciting aspects of this experience.
Photo Copyright: Allison Dring (Duo Chen), Diana Heinrichs, Maria Möller

Interview with Allison Dring, Co-Founder & CEO, Made of Air

Which were the most challenging experiences during the process of founding your own business?

Made of Air works to reverse climate change. Having a mission as big as this implies barrier after barrier. I had expected the climate science to be challenging, but what was more of an obstacle was pushing industry, manufacturing, to do things differently. Most industrial activity is tied to economics- specifically to a fossil economy, depending on fossil resources that have been historically cheap and abundant. Within this, we have learned to hold on to our audacity. As a company that fights for the climate, we not only push against standards, equipment and skillsets that stem from the fossil economy but in succeeding, we legitimize our business as a thought leader in a new carbon economy.

What differences and similarities do you see in the entrepreneurial culture in Germany versus the U.S.? 

During my childhood in California, I experienced the first waves of startups- tech companies that followed their intuition and rejected traditional business practice to become wildly profitable in a matter of weeks. I never questioned the legitimacy of this - it was the primary ecosystem I knew.

I’ve lived in Germany for more than a decade, and the biggest difference in entrepreneurial culture between here and the US is the preference for step change over audacity and possible failure.  The German start up ecosystem does not subscribe to the hero mentality of silicon valley, however. And particularly with the climate problem as complex as it is, I think humility and community has a better chance to breakthrough than guru-ism.

What do you think could be done to promote female founders?

Normalize it. Exposure is a useful way to make role models out of those that forged early, hard-fought paths and that others have the benefit to follow. Working in tech requires a highly visible north star and getting there is increasingly achievable if you see your likeness in those early pioneers.

It is just as important that female founders are not tokens: that they are held accountable as capable and talented people. I am often asked what it’s like to be a female founder in tech, instead of asking how I have contributed to the success of my business. Having a spotlight can question competency- what is often forgotten in the spectacle is merit. Female founders more than earn their place in their companies and have the right to succeed or fail- without sacrificing a future for their gender.

Interview with Diana Heinrichs, Co-Founder & CEO, Lindera GmbH

Can you give us a short overview of how you came to start your own business?

Back in 2016, I quit my secure and well-paid job and founded Lindera because I firmly believe that we must serve the ageing society first and foremost. For many software developers, senior citizens are still not the most attractive customers - for us, they are. Because one thing is clear: we are all getting older and there is a lack of skilled workers to take care of us. These professionals need tools and visions to ignite the next stage in a modern health system in Germany - and beyond.

In this context, I have noticed from my family environment that falls are among the greatest and most consequential risks in old age. Until then, the risk of falling had been analyzed analogously - with Lindera, I solved it technologically and via app using artificial intelligence for the first time. Starting with the problem of falling, I realized that there is so much more potential in our 3D motion tracking technology. Similar to how Amazon has evolved from a pioneer in online book retailing to one of the leading tech companies, we are now moving from an AI pioneer in care to a movement specialist along the entire care chain and want to democratize one of the most important assessments for orthopedic, geriatric, neurological and physiotherapeutic applications in a cost-efficient way with our movement analysis.

Which were the most challenging experiences during the process?

Founding a company holds a new challenge every day. At the beginning, every Data Scientist I met told me that 3D motion analysis via app was not possible. And yet, I formulated the mathematical problem and solved it technically. We were then warned that health insurance companies do not cooperate with one and the same company because they were in competition with each other. Today, in close cooperation with AOKs, BARMER, TK, many BKKs, KKH and IKKs, we have made the issue of falls a solvable problem. We have an enormous shortage of skilled workers in nursing care as in technology companies, and yet we see every day that together we can develop great, work-saving and quality-assuring solutions.

What differences and similarities do you see in the entrepreneurial culture in Germany versus the U.S.? 

The U.S. is one of the top three most innovative countries in the world, and Silicon Valley is considered to be the measure of all things in the tech start-up world. Founders are literally living their dream - enthusiasm for technology is hugely valued here and willingness to take risks is high. In contrast, entrepreneurial innovation in Germany sometimes seems to be held back by long approval processes, concerns about evidence, and regulatory conditions. But the truth is that top-class technological innovation is also being driven forward in Germany. At the same time, we know how to develop a good structural basis in Germany, which helps us to build up very good supply qualities and often serves as an orientation for other markets. What therefore unites both countries is the hard research and development that is being done on new technologies and the use of AI. And believe me, within me is the very concrete dream to set a worldwide standard with all the 3D motion solutions we launch.

Interview with Maria Möller, Co-Founder & CEO, talking hands flipbooks GmbH

Can you give us a short overview of how you came to start your own business?

Talking Hands started as a graduation project. My Co-Founder Laura and I both studied communication design and Laura chose to do a project that would help children with Down-Syndrome. Laura’s sister has Down-Syndrome, so it was a topic close to her heart. I was there during the creation process of the individual flipbooks and helped Laura where ever I could. At some point we both realized the potential behind talking hands and when Laura asked me, if I could imagine myself building talking hands as a company with her, I immediately said yes. So, basically we both wanted to start a business when we saw how important our product was for children.

What were the most challenging experiences during the process?

It was really challenging to get other people to see the potential behind talking hands. I don’t think anyone really thought it could be successful. I mean, after all we’re creating an analogue product in a much digitalized society. But keeping little children away from iPads and iPhones isn’t the worst idea. Another challenge was the bureaucratic nightmare that can be very overwhelming in the beginning. But thanks to Google and Mentors we made it work.

What differences and similarities do you see in the entrepreneurial culture in Germany versus the U.S.? 

I think the U.S. is braver in some regards. Entrepreneurs and investors seem to be less scared of potential failures and therefore more open for wild and big ideas. In Germany failure is still very much frowned upon. In the U.S. it’s just part of the game.

For more detailed information please contact:

Thomas Henneberg

Manager, Head of Membership Engagement & Events

Henneberg