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One year as a sparring partner for the makers of tomorrow

The Berlin team, left to right: Simon Math, Dr. Tanja Emmerling und Louis Heinz

by Dr. Tanja Emmerling

A successful first year in Berlin is drawing to a close for the High-Tech-Gründerfonds. Since the opening of our capital city office in March 2018, we have set up a large number of initiatives for portfolio and network partners and have celebrated many highlights. Let me give you an insight into the varied everyday life of an investment manager in Berlin.

After London, Berlin is the second most important startup hotspot in Europe. With around 500 tech startups a year and a well-functioning infrastructure for financing and promotion, the Berlin startup ecosystem continues to grow strongly. It is therefore only logical that the High-Tech-Gründerfonds, Europe’s most active seed investor, opened an office in Alte Leipziger Strasse in March 2018 in order to better exploit the city’s potential.

Nowhere else in the country, can the spirit of entrepreneurship be felt more strongly than here. In the districts of Mitte, Neukölln and Kreuzberg in particular, the offices and think-tanks of tomorrow’s makers are being set-up. For tech-savvy investment managers like us, this environment offers countless opportunities to actively shape change and growth.

As soon as my colleagues and I had stowed away the moving boxes in March, we set to work: Our daily task is to find the best founders with the latest tech ideas. Good timing is essential, because in the startup scene there are always new developments. To have promising newcomers on the radar as early as possible, we regularly hold open pitch hours in our office. We are continuously on the move in Berlin and meet tech founders at events, as jury members and in work spaces.

Particularly exciting for us are companies that have dedicated themselves to topics of the future such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, IT security or service robotics. When we finally decide to invest in a company, we support the makers with our know-how and give them access to our extensive network. As an investment manager at HTGF, you have a lot of room for manoeuvre and are in charge of building up your own portfolio of start-ups and successfully managing them. A great deal of tact and sensitivity as well as a good portion of management skill are indispensable here.

In weekly video conferences with the HTGF headquarters in Bonn, we discuss current developments and challenges in the portfolio and plan the next steps. In the plenum with the colleagues we gather the experience from more than 500 seed investment, 1,400 follow-up rounds and 100 exits. A few weeks ago, we achieved this exit milestone with the sale of our shares in the Berlin digital company Protected Networks (LINK to PM). With this and other exits, we are pleased to be able to celebrate the success of our investments with startup management time and again. Against this background of experience, there is hardly a situation that we have not already seen or experienced. A fact from which in particular the new colleagues in the HTGF team benefit.

In addition to the major exits, other highlights in 2018 were the organization of conferences and panel evenings with strong partners from industry such as Bosch, SAP and Pfizer. A major topic, for example, was the fruitful interaction between startups and grownups, but also controversial topics such as financing by ICOs. It is immensely inspiring to bring thought leaders from industry and commerce together with the most important disruptors from the startup scene. A special affair of the heart in all our actions and activities is the promotion of female investors and entrepreneurs in a still masculine environment.

Thanks to our experience with successful seed financings, we have become an important point of contact for follow-on investors and growth funds – especially in Berlin. The frequent visits of investors and delegations from the Arab Emirates, Asia or the USA, who take a close look at our portfolio with regard to potential acquisitions, are regular highlights in our daily investment routine in Berlin and offer a good opportunity to expand our network. It was incredibly exciting to exchange ideas on successful investments and promising future topics with business angels in private barbecues in the garden of our office.

Looking ahead to our big plans for 2019, we are further expanding our team of investment managers in Berlin. We are looking for open-minded professionals who can communicate at eye level with the founders of high-tech companies and who want to be sparring partners and door openers for the makers of tomorrow.