5 tips to start a Business in Berlin as a Female Entrepreneur
Thu, May 5, 2022, 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM (register on LinkedIn to get the Zoom link)
Lunch talk in English.
Starting a business in Berlin is not an easy task, how about learning from the experience of Women who’ve already “walked that path”. Join the French Tech Berlin community on May 5th to discuss Female Entrepreneurship in Berlin through the stories of inspiring entrepreneurs: Floriane Palussiere, Pauline Roussel, Sarah Tahlaiti and Alexandra Begue.
➡️ What’s in there for you to learn:
1️⃣ Dos and don'ts
2️⃣ Opportunities in the city targeted at Female Founders
3️⃣ 5 steps with concrete examples on how to move from an idea to launching your startup: Inspiration, Ideation, validation, acceleration, take-off with founding/investment
How is Berlin different from Paris?
To get some perspective, Sarah Tahlaiti, Director of Programs and Development at WILLA, a French accelerator targeted at Female Entrepreneurs, will join the conversation and share with us what she experiences on a daily basis at WILLA.
📍 Event’s Schedule
12:00 - 12:05 / Welcome, Meet French Tech Berlin
12:05 - 12: 45 / Panel discussion moderated by Anne Le Rolland from Berlin Partner for Business and Technology,
12:45 - 01:00 / Opening the floor to participants for questions and a larger conversation
👉 About the speakers (4)
Founder and CEO at Co-dressing
After writing her thesis on the fashion industry and the sharing economy in Berlin, Floriane moved here permanently and launched Codressing, a service for women to rent designer clothes and accessories with a purchase option. The company is in the Hackesche Höfe, and the start-up currently delivers to Germany and France through its website www.co-dressing.com.
Co-founder and CEO at Coworkies
Based in Berlin, Pauline has spent the last 6 years exploring the world of collaborative workspaces to better understand their impact on people and cities. This journey has led her to co-founding Coworkies, a global job board targeted at coworking and flexible workspaces, as well as co-authoring a coffee table book called “Around The World in 250 Coworking Spaces” - a travel guide highlighting the different shapes coworking can take across the globe.
Director of Programs and Development @WILLA
Former intellectual property lawyer, I am passionate by innovation and creation. I have supported many startups and large corporations on the legal framework of innovative projects and the valorization of intellectual assets. Convinced that a more inclusive and diverse ecosystem is a source of actual progress, I joined WILLA to get involved with women entrepreneurs. Today, I work as Director of Programs and Development to coordinate the Program manager team and the partnerships.
Founder of Xploratopia Collective & Corporate Entrepreneurship
Based in Berlin, Alexandra is a founder & pitch coach and founded Xploratopia in 2021, a video production collective to help entrepreneurs to shed light on impactful projects. On the corporate side, Alexandra Begue helps hundreds of entrepreneurs across the globe every year with her team to build things that matter inside their organization.
Anne Le Rolland
Anne Le Rolland works at Berlin Partner for Business and Technology, the agency for economic development of the city of Berlin which offers special service packages tailored to the individual needs of companies and scientific institutions. She is part of the digital economy department, where she supports international startups to make their first steps in Berlin.
After 15+ years of extensive finance and commercial experience in Energy and Banking segments, Aurelie joined Zalando when she moved to Berlin in 2019. Part of the Finance strategy and BI team, she drives cross-functional initiatives enabling and improving strategic and financial decision-making across the company. Part of the Women In Finance community in Zalando, Aurelie drives actions to foster D&I in the workplace.
Panel 1. Women Entrepreneurship experience - Stories as female founders
Tell us more about:
- Who you are and why entrepreneurship, especially why entrepreneurship in Berlin/Germany?
- An introduction to your businesses: Share with us about your startup in a nutshell
- How it all started – starting in Germany from scratch … Facilitators vs. Pain points
- What has helped you speed your growth and accelerate your business? And who? How did you manage to expand your network? Especially here in Berlin?
- What about financing?
Do you (market) research
Surround yourself with the right people (mentors, lawyers, accountants)
Don’t externalize the tech part of your business
Running a business is not all about an exit strategy
Think twice about your funding opportunities, VC funding is not the only way
Codressing is a service for women to rent designer clothes and accessories with a purchase option. Basically, a leasing system. We are offline/online + items from brands/people.
My parents were entrepreneurs for 20Y.
Floriane’s Part Facilitators vs. Pain points
Berlin is a big city w/ a lot of possibilities. After my studies, I worked in a startup to get a bit of experience + built Codressing at the same time.
But not German at the end of the day. There was everything to build!
Floriane - What has helped you speed your growth and accelerate your business?
Quitting my previous job to focus 100% on it! Unfortunately, I didn’t plan COVID but I could still work on my product.
Then, having interns clearly.
Floriane’s Part Tips
Don’t stay alone! Get experts around you. Don’t underestimate your contacts (e.g. Small but Perfect program. I waited too long to take interns)
Think big, but go step by step (e.g. “limited” financial resources)
Test, test and test / Get feedback from your potential clients or clients and adjust / Your product or concept will evolve. You might see opportunities you didn’t expect (e.g. wedding dresses market for Codressing).
Keep going! Your perseverance and professionalism can really make the difference. Don’t focus too much on what your competitors do, but your product! (e.g. publicity Vogue/Tiktok event recently // H&M that approaches me to get more insights)
Think twice about the path you want to take when it is about getting external financing (e.g. having interns to have more time to onboard my developer and get a business angel or approach a VC as Codressing is an innovative concept to scale - ALWAYS PRIORITIZE)
Transition: thanks a lot for sharing your experiences - wrapping it up a bit, grow your network & use it (it can support you… in testing products, getting feedback, finding talents i.e. interns, getting mentored, opening doors), don’t underestimate the resources you can find there! Have a big vision but act step by step, focus on your product and don’t get disturb by your competitors. Last but not least: don’t hurry when it comes to finding external funding, there might be other ways, or this might not be the right timing, if yes, again, think about your network for introductions and feedback!
Pauline & Floriane already made this big step and built up their own businesses. Some of you may have a business idea, and you may wonder, where do I start? Here again, look around you, seeking support opportunities as coaching and mentoring may help you to sort and prioritize. Let’s now talk about it and go on with Alexandra, who will tell us more about the timeline!
Panel 2. To everyone who wants to start a Business … 5 tips to launch your business from an idea till the final pitch
Inspiration, Ideation, validation, acceleration, take-off with founding/investment
Explanation of each phase with a life example.
-> What tips and advice would you give to other female founders when starting a business? Where to start and how. Key questions to ask yourself. How you build your network.
5 STEPS TO LAUNCH YOUR BUSINESS
Everyone around us is a source of inspiration.
What matters is where the idea is coming from - Illustrated with an example of a clinical trial venture.
START SMALL, THINK BIG, SCALE FAST - Make sure you are trying to solve a real problem. Don't fall in love with the problem but rather the solution.
Timing recommendation (8 weeks/2months)
Different types depending on state of the project (Regular Accelerator and Corporate Accelerators like SAP.iO Foundries).
What you need to master in the Validation phase - with mentors:
- Problem & Solution space
- Market Analysis
- Customers & Assumptions
- Business Model
- Strategy and Product
- Pitching and branding
Tips for pitching for an investor:
- Your team first! Who you are really matters
- Big Market - Know your customers
- VC-testable/ Testability of your idea - Easy enough to start and with the big vision
- Aligned with company's strategy (if corporate)
- Always have your mentors around you
Transition: So Alex guided us through the 5 steps to start and grow a business: Inspiration, Ideation, validation, acceleration and - if it fits your strategy - then take-off with founding/investment, thanks Alex!!
All along these five phases there might be useful organizations able to help, give you the professional support for your business growth.
Female Founders Monitor 2020 “very high proportion of solo startups among women could also indicate a lack of relevant networks in the ecosystem. Particularly in the early stages, additional people represent important resources that create decisive momentum for growth”
As Floriane, Pauline and Alex said so far, your network is an incredible source of information and support. It’s super important to have a look around and search for the right people.
So let’s now go on with Sarah, who will tell us how an incubator can help you!
Panel 3. How joining an incubator can help you, as an entrepreneur
Tell us more about:
- You, Willa and why an incubateur dedicated to female entrepreneurship. Why is D&I so important for Willa?
- Willa : We were founded 17 years ago, we are a non-profit driven by one principal idea: inclusion is innovation. Every year, we help more than 400 women and 70 to 80 startups in all innovative sectors, from market place selling urban cycling accessories to startups innovating in the blockchain.
Our programs follow startups across various different development stages:
- founding of startup,
- and then growth-seeking strategies.
Why we must put more emphasis on support for female entrepreneurs :
- First, it's a core principle of gender equality
- and there is an impact on productivity and competitiveness of the economy if we overlook half the population.
- By increasing equality and diversity, we can get the best for our economies, companies, individuals and ultimately society. It’s about making sure everyone leans in a way that’s beneficial for us all. It’s about realizing that men also lose out when women do; we all do
- Share with us the main challenges that Women founders face and how Willa help them out
- Structural sexism : force, bravery, resilience, adventurer
- imposter syndrome
- Lack of networking
- Lack of role models : Zuckerberg, Bezos & Bill Gates
- What about financing?
In 2020, female founders received just 2.3 percent (Crunchbase) of the funds
women founders raise 38% less than men under the same conditions. Essentially, this puts women about 5 years behind their male counterparts.
The unspoken bias in VC funding can be hard to evaluate, which is why so many studies and research in recent years have focused on it. Just few examples :
- Study 1 : identical pitch decks (slides and script) were presented by both female and male voices to participants. The presentations done by men were more persuasive than the ones by women, and were 60% more likely to achieve pitch competition success.
- Study 2 : bias in the way female and male entrepreneurs are questioned during a pitch.
- Women are asked more prevention-oriented questions (“How long will it take your business to break even?”),
- while men are asked promotion-oriented questions (“Describe how you will grow the ideal customer base of your startup?”). Prevention encourages a mentality of not failing when scaling a startup, while promotion uplifts successful milestones and winning.
VCs, both male and female, need to adopt promotion-focused actions and questions
The objective : working on building fundraising and pitching tracks that are as inclusive as possible : Some funds have completely eliminated the oral pitch
- How do you see the connection between Berlin / Paris?
More women entrepreneurs in Germany :
- Germany : 2020: Female Teams 10,9% vs. 69% Male Teams // Mixed Teams: 20,1%)
- France 2021: Female Teams 8% vs. 76% Male Teams // Mixed Teams: 16%)
In France, male teams have captured 88% of the funds in 2021/ No women's startup raises more than €50M
Less than 5% of FinTech and AssurTech under three years old were founded by women. And eight out of ten startups are created by all-male teams. While young companies dream of reinventing the sector, they tend to perpetuate archaic codes
-> what are the key opportunities that you see for the Female founders …”Future a besoin d’Elles”
- Networking and gathering
- New initiatives (support programs, award etc)
- Public policies (positive discrimination/ dedicated funds or subsidies)
- New markets
Fact & Figures Startups & Female Founders in Germany
(Sources: Female Founders Monitor 2020 + Deutsche Startup Monitor 2022)
Proportion of female founders in Germany:15.7% (2019: 15.1%).
most frequently in the health sector. In view of their high level of expertise in natural sciences, female founders are key drivers of medical innovation in Germany.
- only one in ten startups in Germany is founded by an all-female team and two out of ten startups have a mixed founding team (2020: Female Teams 10,9% vs. 69% Male Teams // Mixed Teams: 20,1%)
- very high proportion of solo startups among women could also indicate a lack of relevant networks in the ecosystem. Particularly in the early stages, additional people represent important resources that create decisive momentum for growth
- The fact that women lag behind men in terms of company growth can be explained in part by their different objectives (for example, Social Entrepreneurship is less growth oriented)
- there is also a clear inequality between female and male founders with regard to access to financial resources and networks.
- focus of female-led startup teams is in the fields of lifestyle – especially consumer goods, health & education >> reflect the typical educational backgrounds of women in the startup sector being in the fields of economics, natural sciences, humanities and social sciences
- Female-led teams generate more than half of their sales through B2C business, while the B2B sector is clearly dominated by male-led teams
- Personal savings are by far the most common form of funding used for startups in Germany, regardless of gender (Berlin: 72%)
- Clear differences surface, when it comes to business angels and venture capital >> are much more frequently utilized (and accessible) by male teams. Male-led founder teams also apply for far more state subsidies (41.5%) compared with only 27.5% of female-led teams.
- Fast growth and raising high volumes of capital are still the exception for female founders: To date, only 5.2% of female-led teams have received one million euros or more - compared to 27.8% of male-founded teams.
- The differences in the types of funding can be partly linked back to
- the different motives for founding a startup and the main specializations
- the strategic orientation of the company
- women do face clear disadvantages in the area of funding as proven by a number of studies (strong gender bias which reduces women’s chances of obtaining capital - A recent study in the New York startup ecosystem, for instance, shows that potential investors asked female founders completely different questions than male founders)
- Three aspects stand out with the female-led teams
- strong focus on the profitability of their startup
- emphasis on internal structure and organization
- importance of overriding social and ecological goals
(in comparison, male teams have a clear focus on product development and is more strongly geared towards the company‘s growth)
- profitability, organisation, sustainability:
the objectives presented reflect the female founders’ emphasis on performance and commitment
- growth orientation (among male founders):
points to the greater willingness of men on average to take risks
- !!! the lower growth ambitions of women compared to those of men must be seen in the context of the challenges faced by women founders described above!!!
- most people build up their company about the time they are having children and it’s challenging to handle both. Since women are more often the ones taking on family responsibilities, their chances in the startup sector are limited (dixit Malin Holmberg from Target Global)
- One important point certainly is that women often simply lack the confidence to do it (start their own business). What is needed here are more role models and an environment that empowers women.
A few organizations dedicated to Female Founders in Berlin
Just to name a few
Grace berlin-based Accelerator – the only accelerator for female founders in Berlin
Auxxo – berlin-based VC, founded by women who invest primarily in female founders
CoWomen & Wonder Coworking – coworking spaces for women only with various events
WeiberWirtschaft – Berlin‘s association of female founders and CEO‘s with various events
Female Founder Space: Berlin-based community & online academy
MentorMe – German network for female mentors working with female (young) professionals, headquartered in Berlin
PANDA – women leadership network with various events throughout Germany
Gründerinnen Zentrale – info hotline and consulting for female founders throughout Germany
Edition F: Online magazine, hosting annual Female Future Force Day in BerlinMeetups & Events: APX (VC by Axel Springer & Porsche) hosts eg. „Office Hours for Female Founders‘, „Networking Breakfast for Female Leaders“, „Female Founder Ask-me-anything (AMA)“