Startup FOCUS Pitch and Connect

11 start-up teams take their first steps in Volkspark

The startup week at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU ) could not have kicked off with more momentum. On the very first day, the university's transfer and start-up service transformed the Volkspark in Halle into a stage for the Startup FOCUS Pitch & Connect event. Support was provided by the International Startup Campus and Univations GmbH, which took over part of the organization and moderation of the pitches.

A total of 11 start-ups from Central Germany and Ukraine were given the opportunity to convince investors and an interested audience. The capital requirements were just as diverse as the business ideas. Innovative solutions for agriculture, the education sector and the fashion industry were among those presented. For some of the teams, these were the first steps on the road to financing.

Univations project manager Dr. Andreas Lauenroth moderated the evening's pitch session.

Room for capital acquisition

"The range of ideas and sectors is generally wide when it comes to start-ups from universities and MLU," says Susanne Hübner from the Transfer and Start-up Service. In this respect, the event also reflects the day-to-day work of our start-up advisory service. "Start-ups can come from all kinds of fields and faculties. It's important to make the effort to really look at the ideas and business models and develop them together with the idea holders from the academic environment." The event creates the space for the first steps towards acquiring capital.

The founders, who had to apply for a place on stage in advance, first filled the room with dynamic 5-minute pitches in front of invited guests. This was followed by a three-minute Q&A session, which the presenters mastered with aplomb. There was no sign of nervousness from Marwin Gaube from the startup XSUPRA. "The fact that we are in the middle of the start-up process means that I pitch more often," says the founder. "At some point, you feel comfortable on a stage like this."

He and his co-founders want to optimize agriculture through precise soil analyses. They use satellite data and samples from fields to do this. However, they are still in the early stages of networking, which is why Marwin was particularly excited about the discussions with potential investors in the evening.

Market research for the neighboring country

One of them was Stephan Beier from Beteiligungsmanagement Thüringen. "I came here today to see what new developments are taking place outside of Thuringia and what new start-ups have emerged," says the Senior Investment Manager. "You always have to see what's going on in the market." There is currently very little news from Saxony-Anhalt in the neighboring federal state.

The companies at the evening in Halle were all exciting for him and at a good technological and innovative level. The only thing missing on Monday was the brilliant business idea that impressed at the first pitch. "I would like to delve a little deeper into two or three topics. That could be interesting," says Beier. In the end, a lot has to fit for a financing deal.

The fact that not only teams from Germany but also from Ukraine took to the stage at Volkspark was a special feature of the event. "We have been cooperating with Taras Shevchenko University in Kiev since 2016. Originally, it was about exchanging experiences in knowledge and technology transfer, but we still regularly give start-up teams from Ukraine access to investors in our network," says Susanne Hübner. The contact has never been broken off, even after the outbreak of war in Ukraine. "Thanks to funding from EXIST and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, we were able to cover the travel costs for the teams that were pre-selected in a Ukrainian pitch format."

Reasons in a state of emergency

One of the founders from Ukraine was Polina Vasylenko from the startup Hearify. She and her team want to make life easier for teachers and students through artificial intelligence. Their platform aims to make learning more personalized and efficient. "This is our second visit to Germany," says Polina Vasylenko. "We've already been to the start-up fair Bits & Pretzels in Munich." This was the team's first time in Halle. Even though it is much smaller on the Saale compared to Munich, they are enthusiastic about the city and the contacts. "It's very complicated to start a business in Ukraine at the moment," says the entrepreneur.

Power cuts, air raid alerts and fear turned everyday life into a permanent exceptional situation. Due to the war, the government had other priorities for good reason. It is simply a matter of survival and not business. "That's why we try to find support abroad. We are proud Ukrainians and strong enough to build new business stories."

They believe in their business idea and that education is the future for their country. Hearify therefore went straight from their pitch in Halle to the next event in Lisbon. For Polina and her fellow campaigners, the tight schedule of their tour through Europe is no problem: "We don't sleep. We are founders."

Johannes Raschpichler from Sonocom confirmed on stage that this is exactly the right attitude. Instead of a PowerPoint presentation, he accompanied his start-up's recipe for success on the keyboard. The guests will certainly not soon forget how important good sound is in music as well as in the communications industry, for which Sonocom offers intelligent telephone audio optimization in real time.

"Startup FOCUS Pitch & Connect was an absolutely successful event," said Daniel Worch, Managing Director of Univations GmbH. It is important for startups to get in touch with investors at an early stage. "We were very happy to be a partner in organizing the event and were very happy to open up our network."