What does TechFounders say about themselves?
The presentation of TechFounders will be quite unusual compared to other accelerators in our rubric. We had a conversation with Heiko Huber – Managing director at Techfounders, and that is how he introduced their program:
About the program
“We are a startup accelerator based in Munich that officially belongs to UnternehmerTUM*. We help huge corporate partners to define fresh and useful decisions in the startup world. Thus, all our participants have a pilot project with one of our associates. There are two batches per year, and each lasts for 20 weeks. Participants have to be present in Munich a few days per month while free office facilities and all available support are endowed for all 5 months.”
* – ‘Unternehmen’ means ‘entrepreneur’ in German; TUM is the acronym for the Technical University of Munich.
About the intentions
“Our goal is to help both corporates and young entrepreneurs, so we take all the organisational work. From the one hand, we scout and define prospective startups, analyse and pre-evaluate them, provide interviews and organise pitches, and select those who will fit the needs of corporate partners. From the contrary, startuppers receive the full support of the professional team for further growth, which is amplified with the huge network of business contacts.”
About the partners
“Our main corporate partners are:
- Miele – a supplier of premium home appliances for the kitchen, laundry and floor care;
- Knorr-Bremse – the global market leader for braking systems and a leading supplier of other safety-critical rail and commercial vehicle subsystems;
- Festo – a worldwide leader in automation and a world market leader in technical training and development;
- ALDI Nord and ALDI Süd – popular international retailers, based in Germany;
- DATEV – a software developer and IT service provider;
- ADAC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club) – automobile association in Germany.
Also, we have a list of top-tier venture capital companies that are ready to invest in the startups.”
About the application process
“We are usually looking for B2B and tech startups that have a team of associates, functional MVP at least, and who are ready to move forward. Typically, we receive about 500 applications from all over the world, and after preselection, we provide about 80 interviews. Then we are looking for the most appropriate companionship and select 1-2 startups for every partner, but not more than 10 startups per batch. In numbers, the acceptance rate is roughly about 2% nowadays, and half of the participants are from abroad.
Advice for all applicants: think about our partner’s specific needs so your idea can fit them. One has to present a promising pilot project to launch with a concrete partner, which usually helps in the evaluation of entrepreneurs and their solutions.”
About the educational part
“We have about 16 different topics that founders can attend and upgrade their knowledge. Across these topics, we ensure startuppers with experienced coaches that conduct lectures and provide one-on-one meetings. We also have a huge network of high-class mentors, which are usually successful entrepreneurs, investors, and industry experts so that everyone can receive 1 to 3 mentors. As I said earlier, startuppers have to be in Munich for a few days per month, which means that primary emphasis is made on the individual educational approach.“
About the financial side
“One of the most attractive parties of TechFounders is that everything is free for participants without requiring equity while they receive 25,000 Euros compensation. Among the major ways to get funding is going further with corporates or the help of VCs that are present during the DEMO day. Even though UnternehmerTUM is a non-profit organisation, it opens access for two investment tools: Initiative for Industrial Innovators and Unternehmertum Venture Capital Partners fund, which are seeking perspective startups.
There is a chance to receive funding from one of the sources mentioned above, but investments will be evaluated case by case.”
What do participants say about TechFounders?
“We use the program as a stepping stone for market entries”
Jan Schnitker – CEO and co-founder.
Idea: “Smart nanosensors for digital control of goods’ various parameters.”
Business Target Audience: Worldwide.
Can a digital nano solution be cheap?
There are plenty of opportunities that appeared because of globalisation, and one of them is the ability to produce goods in the most appropriate regions and deliver it fast via flexible transportation systems. However, perishable products like foods and medications have to be transported and stored by keeping strict conditions. It’s hard to be sure that all the parameters like temperature or humidity have being adhered and the solution presented by ‘is it fresh’ is designed to help.
“We are using all the benefits of IoT and nanotechnologies to provide cheap and effective sensors for tracking the quality of stored and transported products,” began Jan Schnitker, CEO and co-founder of ‘is it fresh’. “Our approach allows building complex tags that are fully compatible with existing readout and remote systems. It helps to provide data-driven measuring, supply-chain and analytics in real-time, to be sure in the quality of transported or stored goods.”
Breakthrough technologies also require network
As Jan Schnitker was a participant of the program in 2017, a lot of things changed since those times, but not the principles. “We had 3 cool months in the program [now it lasts 20 weeks]. We were frequently going to Munich and focused on the network a lot. We were interested in the industrial partners, and TechFounders gave many useful contacts to cooperate with.”
The co-founder of ‘is it fresh’ received vast experience in different acceleration programs and praised them, especially in the light of expanding network. “We use the program as a stepping stone for market entries. Our business is present in the EU, but the main markets are in Asia and the USA.”
The financial side of the program
“25k € is good support, especially for the young entrepreneurs who try to develop the product alongside with business knowledge.”Jan Schnitker
Although ‘is it fresh’ received various grants and financial support from diverse countries, they appreciated the participant’s bonus of TechFounders. “25k € is good support, especially for the young entrepreneurs who try to develop the product alongside with business knowledge. This fact is facilitated with an equity absence, so you can only get but not loose.”
The prosperity of ‘is it fresh’ is predetermined with the technologies they use: sensors on the printed electronics basis can be applied in most spheres of human life, which is only facilitated by flexible digital compatibility. We hope they will further develop their solutions to make human life better.
“One has to possess a ready product as the program is aimed to help corporate partners”
Ingo Mayer – CTO & co-founder.
Idea: “Comprehensive privately-owned company and niche market profiles for financial analysts.”
Business Target Audience: Worldwide.
Structured data analysis is always valuable
According to IBM estimates, the amount of information available to people is doubled every 12 hours. Even though the lifetime of info decreases drastically, there are no doubts that it becomes harder to deal with all the data around us. When it comes to business, none can rely on social networks or mass-media fulfilled with fake and paid news, so one had to process a massive amount of information from diverse sources to make the right decision. Mergerspot is designed to become a single-spot space for getting accurate information, even for specific markets.
“Our business can be compared to Bloomberg where you can find information about companies, and our vision to become such a source for private markets,” explains Ingo Mayer, CTO of Mergerspot. “The reason is that there is no transparency on public markets for private companies, especially in specific spheres. Being an experienced full-stack developer, I understood that an appropriate algorithm should be facilitated via convenient UX-design. So, we are providing comprehensive profiles of firms, including analysis of particular markets in the handy form.”
On reasons why join TechFounders
“Firstly, they are part of UnternehmerTUM, which is among the primary players in the tech startups ecosystem. Another valuable reason was the ability to work with a corporate partner on a particular project. Also, traditional benefits like network, coaching, 25k Euros bonus, and so on, were among the reasons to join them. What is interesting, the only limitation to using that money is the existence of an established company to send an invoice.”
What should one possess to be accepted?
Ingo Mayer went from general to specific to identify the necessary elements during the appliance. “One has to possess a ready product as the program is aimed to help corporate partners. However, the applicant has to understand what he or she wants from the acceleration program and be specific. In our case, we stated exactly what we needed and showed how we could help a partner as our algorithm could be applied in any particular location.”
The educational side of the program
“Their huge network means not only potential business connections but also the ability to find an expert coach from the knowledge field that wasn’t covered by their program.”Ingo Mayer
Also, the interview was happy to share details about the educational process. “I have to say, all the directions and topics like leadership, PR, HR, marketing, and things alike were well explained by fantastic experts. Moreover, their huge network means not only potential business connections but also the ability to find an expert coach from the knowledge field that wasn’t covered by their program.”
The friendly community is always a bonus
The startup society is usually a quite specific group of open-minded people, and Ingo expressed his vision about how it was organised in TechFounders. “I think they care about the community. Thus, participants from previous batches are invited to different events. For instance, one of the former startups became interested in our product and was useful for both sides. Probably, team-building activities promote the creation of something like a big family.”
The famous writer Anthony J. D’Angelo once said: ‘In your thirst for knowledge, be sure not to drown in all the information.’ MergerSpot seems to be a life vest in the current world, where the data overload can even harm to unprepared people.
P.S. As the interview took place in October 2019, while the article was published in April 2020, MergerSpot was acquired by Gain.pro and now is a part of a new platform.