Finding investments for your startup
With around 500 new tech startups popping up each year, Berlin is a thriving hub for entrepreneurs. So when it comes to sorting your finances for your business, the city offers the full spectrum of support options for startups.
Besides bold ambition and innovative ideas, you’ll need money to make your business dreams a reality. Fortunately, Berlin offers attractive funding programmes for all phases of your company’s development. The range of financial incentives is nothing short of impressive. But where to begin?
As Germany’s startup capital, Berlin enjoys an investment-friendly climate and benefits from Federal State and EU supported funding programmes for startups.
The Business Customer Centre at the Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB) and their Business Support Guide provide a wide range of support programmes for startups in Berlin – from business loans, funding, investments and loan guarantees.
Some top regional funding programmes include:
- Berlin Start (Loan – IBB)
- BHT-Gründerstipendium or Startup Incubator Berlin (Scholarships – Beuth Hochschule and HWR Berlin)
- ProFIT early phase financing (grant/loan combination – IBB)
- Coaching BONUS (subsidized coaching – IBB)
- Innovation Assistant (Labour cost subsidy – IBB)
- Gründungs BONUS (Subsidy – IBB)
With the financing finder online tool of the Berlin chamber of commerce and industry it is easy to find applicable and available financing options for your business in Berlin. Gain an overview over the relevant publicly funded programs and other funding opportunities and learn how to apply. With just a few clicks you can find individual ways to finance your business in Berlin.
The Business Start-up Portal on the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) website provides additional information about available funding programmes in Berlin.
Ways to network
Berlin is the city of networks, so there are plenty of ways to meet new people, link-up with experts and find potential investors or business partners. From conferences to conventions and even festivals, there’s ample opportunity to connect, access ideas and present your business. Here are some of the many ways to mix and mingle in Berlin:
Networking is key to success. Besides meeting potential investors, Berlin’s extensive business networks enable you to build important relationships, discover new opportunities and put your brand front-and-centre to boost exposure.
In Berlin, one of the most important business networks is the Berlin Partner for Business and Technology. As a company working here, you can join the association to benefit from the business and technological support this strong collaborative network offers.
- The Berlin-Brandenburg Business Plan Competition (BPW) is Germany’s largest regional startup initiative. It boasts over 100 events and an eclectic network of more than 300 consultants.
- Start Alliance forms a business network between the most vibrant startup hubs around the globe, supports startups to adapt business models to international requirements and accelerates corporate innovations.
Startup events and conferences
Berlin is home to some of the most exciting conference and events on the planet, attracting attendees and renowned speakers from around the world. Your choices are diverse and offer an excellent way to tap into the scene, find your community and keep on top of emerging trends. Some of the many enticing events include:
- Tech Open Air, known as TOA, an exciting festival that brings together 20,000 people, including the best and brightest multi-discipline changemakers.
- Heureka Conference targeted at early-stage startups, it offers access to industry experts and is a great place to meet potential investors.
- Startupnight is one of Europe’s largest startup events, where startups present themselves to corporates, investors and potential customers. Taking place in the heart of Berlin with 5000+ participants and 250+ startups from around the world, people convene around topics like mobility, energy, communication, AI, AR/VR, health and many more.
- At TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin, everyone is a startupper – no matter if you’re an founder, investor, hacker or tech leader. So much more than just on-stage interviews, Disrupt is where you’ll find the renowned Startup Battlefield competition, a virtual Hackathon, hundreds of startups in Startup Alley, Workshops and legendary networking at After Parties.
When it comes to coworking spaces, your options are endless in Berlin, with over 100 shared office spaces across the city – and growing. Spaces are affordable, flexible and accommodate a range of working styles to include everything from quiet zones to more social spaces, and beanbags to standing desks. Berlin’s coworking spaces are also ideal spots to connect, cultivate ideas and collaborate.
Where to meet potential investors
As Germany’s start-up capital, Berlin is a hot spot for investors and is home to some of Germany's most famous entrepreneurs and VCs.
In September, you can attend Europe’s largest startup event – Startup Night, where you can present your business idea to investors and potential customers. Last year this popular event attracted more than 5000 visitors to Berlin.
The mobile Spätschicht event, running under the slogan ‘small talk, big business’ keeps things fresh by changing locations for each event in Berlin. Here you can meet major players from the international startup scene – including other founders, service providers and investors.
Matches made in Heaven, or more like Matches made in Berlin – at Investors’ Dinner by media:net Berlinbrandenburg and the Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises up to 24 startups meet around 16 leading investors to talk business. You can apply easily online and join for dinner and drinks, while networking and possibly pushing your idea.
How to interact with investors
Knowing how to approach investors is just as important as knowing where to find them. While investors agree there’s no set way to do this, there are several key considerations to think through to be more successful:
- Use existing contacts to get an introduction from a trusted mutual connection. LinkedIn is a great starting point.
- Do your research. Match your business strategy and financial needs to the right backer.
- Have a short, sweet pitch that resonates over hard-sale product pitching.
- Clearly identify the problem and how your unique solution disrupts the market.
- Be confident. Share your know-how without being arrogant or defensive.
- Familiarise yourself with standard VC terms so you can pick your battles wisely.
- Be prepared to pitch a lot and deal with rejection. Learn from it and improve.
- Opt for in-person networking and introductions over cold-calls and emailing.
- But when you email, include your stellar million-dollar pitch deck.
Mastering the million-dollar pitch deck
Creating a pitch deck that quickly conveys what you’re doing and why you’re amazing is essential to win funding. While no two pitch decks are the same, successful ones always:
- Clearly and quickly identify the vision and value proposition
- Provide a stellar single-sentence overview of your business and the value you provide to your customers.
- Showcase the problem and the solution
- Highlight the pain points you’re solving for your customers. Be relatable – the more real it is, the more investors understand your goals.
- Identify the target market and opportunity
- Pinpoint your ideal customer, the total market size and your position within that market. Show how you’ll grab the customer’s attention and stand out against your competitors.
- Share facts and figures to validate and demonstrate traction
- Show what you‘ve achieved so far – this includes progress and milestones, growth and major next steps and goals for your business. Buzzfeed’s 2008 pitch deck harnessed the power of social proof by highlighting the millions of users visiting their website monthly.
- Acclaim expertise
- Show why you and your team are exceptional and have the expertise to grow your business.
- Reveal the revenue or business model
- Demonstrate how you‘ll make money. Identify the features of your product or service and clearly describe how they add value for customers.
- Disclose financials to present a promising future
- Reveal your sales forecast, including what the future of your business looks like. Also share what you‘ve learned while creating your product or service. WeWork won over investors by forecasting its co-working members to grow from 16,279 in 2014 to 260,000 by 2018.
- Ask for and expertly explain plans for the money
- Yes, tell investors how much money you‘re looking for. Just as importantly, be able to explain why you need this amount and how you plan to put it to excellent use.
Photo: © Start Alliance / Berlin Partner für Wirtschaft und Technologie GmbH
Text: Uhura Creative Media – Trish Elms