The 10 Best Pieces of Advice From Startupnight 2021

Startupnight is one of the most important startup events in Berlin – and arguably Europe – and was set up almost ten years ago to give “startups the stage and the opportunity to meet investors, corporates and to grow and position themselves in the market,” according to founder Cem Ergün-Müller, who also forms part of the hubraum Berlin team. 

Unfortunately, the constraints posed by Covid-19 meant that this year’s event had to be held digitally, something the head of hubraum Krakow Jerzy Grzesiak describes as a worthwhile compromise: “We think having a meeting place, even a digital one, is very important.”

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Aside from networking, one of the most valuable aspects of Startupnight is the expertise on offer. If you missed the event, check out the videos below. Otherwise, read on for what we felt was some of the most pertinent advice on offer for everything from applying to an incubator program to hiring diversely.

SUN21 Discussion: “Why cultural diversity leads to more success”

Who chatted? Min-Sung Sean Kim, (Managing Partner at venture capital fund Digital Health Ventures, co-founder of 2hearts), Mey Cezairli (Investment Manager at Project A Ventures), Dr Ulrike Handel (lead at digital transformation group Dentsu International, ambassador for 2hearts), Omiros Grigoreas (Marketing Manager, Hubraum, mentee at 2hearts)

Who should watch this? Anyone who wants to learn more about 2hearts, a business community connecting those with an immigrant background with mentors; anyone who wants to foster a more culturally diverse work environment. 

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On hiring more diversely: “Diversity definitely starts with hiring. When our company started hiring, we very consciously made the decision of where we were hiring and who would get to see the job posting. Instead of just reaching out to people we knew, we posted in other channels, other Slack communities, the women in VC community, an Asian tech community in London, we sent job postings to science universities in Europe.” – Mey Cezairli (Investment Manager at Project A Ventures)

Why diversity matters: “When it comes to investment processes, everyone has a confirmation bias, everybody makes decisions with their instincts and intuition. Because we have confirmation bias, it’s good to have a set of diverse people to cut to the heart of the matter: is this a good investment or a bad investment? Different arguments come to the table. This enhances our investment decision.” – Min-Sung Sean Kim, (Managing Partner at venture capital fund Digital Health Ventures

SUN21 Discussion: “Why to join an incubator or accelerator”

Who chatted? Axel Menneking (Head of hubraum); Iris Hempel (Project Lead at High-Tech SeedLab); Tobias Wittich (Board member at Reaktor.Berlin); Julia Neumann (Program Manager at hubraum)

Who should watch this? Anyone planning to found a startup or who has just founded one and is looking for support; anyone who isn’t sure how to join an incubator.

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On what startups need when they’re starting out: “In my experience, startups need three things. Finances because they fail without money, access to markets and customers and the ability to do testing so they can create a scalable business model and thirdly, access to technology. These are the main pillars we provide besides mentoring and support. We offer an investment fund for optional investments, no strings attached plus there’s access to our market – we’re very connected to our business unit so we can scale those products and market them later on. Thirdly, we have unique access to tech here.” – Axel Menneking (Head of hubraum)

What qualities Reaktor.Berlin looks for in startups: “Of course the idea needs to have the chance to become big. A lot of Berlin startups think small: let’s create a successful startup and sell it for 20 million. No! Why not become the next unicorn? Berlin, we could kick Silicon Valley’s ass, we could become big. And then there’s also what we call the beer test – they need to be friendly people who we would like to have a beer with. So you don’t want assholes.” – Tobias Wittich (Board member at Reaktor.Berlin)

SUN21 Q&A: “Why to join an incubator or accelerator”

Who chatted? Mykhaylo Filipenko (co-founder of RoadAI, was enrolled on the Reaktor. Berlin program); Tobias Wittich (Reaktor.Berlin), Fabian Quosdorf (co-founder of Mixed.world, participated in the 2020 hubraum mixed reality program with Nreal), Tim Akgül (Program Manager at hubraum Berlin), Constanze Kettlitz-Profe (Senior Communication Expert at hubraum)

Who should watch this? Anyone who wants more details about hubraum and Reaktor.Berlin’s different programs from startups who have been enrolled on them; anyone who would like more information about funding and investment options on those programs.

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“I’d advise you to prepare a presentation very carefully for what you’re planning to do. After pre-selection phase, you get an invite to a live presentation. You have to make sure you stand out by adding a little extra spice to your presentation because there are so many other startups. We did our presentation not only as Powerpoint slides but also as a way to showcase a prototype that we already built in mixed reality and did a live demo. This was a mixed reality pitch inside mixed reality over a traditional video platform — I think this was something to remember.” – Fabian Quosdorf (Co-founder of Mixed.world)

On why you shouldn’t try too hard to stand out: “Standing out is great advice. But on the other hand, you don’t want to be the obnoxious person who always stands out from the crowd. It’s a really fine line between impressing people with your creativity and pissing people off.” – Tobias Wittich (Reaktor.Berlin)

SUN21 Discussion: State of the Ecosystem: latest trends in venture investments

Who chatted? Florian Steger (managing director for hubraum funds), Rouven Dresselhaus (co-founder of Cavalry Ventures), Andreas Unseld (Partner at Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners), Cynthia Jurytko (Investor & advisor)

Who should watch this? Investors and startups seeking investment; those interested in investment trends and where the startup sector is headed in terms of financing.

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On why local investments still matter: “I think because Covid has meant we are working remotely, it is even more interesting at an early stage to be close to founders. I think personally local ecosystems are becoming even stronger, relations have become even stronger.” – Cynthia Jurytko (Investor & advisor)

On why global investments are becoming increasingly significant: “10 years ago you were told to do deals where you could be at most an hour’s drive from the company, that doesn’t hold today. Today what teams are looking for is access to capital, markets and knowledge. If you can provide that it doesn’t matter if you’re based in Munich and they’re based in Paris.” – Andreas Unseld (Partner at Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners)

On requesting what you’re worth: “I recommend every founder talk to angels first for the very first pre-seed funds, get a cheque from them and make sure they can support you to the next stage. The trend we’re seeing is the old funds, the ones that have been around for four-five decades, have grown immensely in size and it’s easy for them to write a two or three million cheque.” – Rouven Dresselhaus (co-founder of Cavalry Ventures)

SUN21 Discussion: Recruiting – national, European or global? New ways of finding & hiring staff – VW DigiLab

Who chatted? Stefan Gotthardt (Director SDC Lisbon, Volkswagen Digital Solutions), and Cem Ergün-Müller (Founder of Startupnight).

Who should watch this? Startups and HR workers considering how best to hire and retain staff during the pandemic.

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On taking cultural differences into account when hiring: ”You have to take a look at things from a different angle. In Germany, when you join a company like Volkswagen, you stay with the company. You usually stay with all the big companies, this is a kind of tradition there. You’ll probably stay until you retire. But first of all, that’s boring, secondly it’s a completely different thing in Lisbon. I can be happy if people stay two or three years.” – Stefan Gotthardt (Director SDC Lisbon, Volkswagen Digital Solutions)

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