WE in Focus: Marianne Tochtermann & Jutta Schweiger, Founders of 7 Chic Avenue

For many women the prospect of founding their own company is more exciting than an ordinary career in business. In this blog series we want to find out about the entrepreneurial spirit that drives these women and the ideas they pursue. Learn how they got started, their experience as female founders, and what they wish they’d known before entering the start­up world.

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Today’s WE in Focus is about Marianne Tochtermann & Jutta Schweiger, two women who turned their passion for fashion into profits. They started 7 Chic Avenue in the summer of 2013 in Hamburg, where they design “tops for everyday luxury”. They claim their brand 7 Chic Avenue stands for chic, exclusive and affordable silk blouses. The 7 Chic Avenue design is feminine. Pure. Timeless and reliable. With delicate details and flattering silhouettes. They work with exquisite silk fabrics only.

7 Chic Avenue is a unique name. What is the story behind it?

Jutta: 7 Chic Avenue is a story about seven friends – me, Marianne, Anna, Helen, Sabrina, June and Yves, and how we named our humble London student residence where we all first met. Years later, when Marianne and I decided to build our fashion startup we felt the name will be quite symbolic of our partnership.

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So,how did you guys come up with the idea of founding this company?

Marianne : We wanted to create our own fashion, and serve women better than with the offer that was available. We really wanted to do blouses and tops that work for every type of women and occasion independent of season, and we want to provide them with styling-input through our blog. There are very few styling blogs for women 35+.

Jutta : We make a good team – together we did what each one of us does best and loves most. Like beautiful designs, craftsmanship and visuals come from me based on my 12 years’ experience in Fashion. And Marianne delivers reliable numbers and performance based on 14 years in Strategy and management.

Wow, sounds like strong team to create a beautiful product and come up with good sales numbers. But knowing that the fashion industry being filled up with tricky choices on incorporation, finance, and protecting your brand, what kind of challenges did you specifically face as a fashion startup?

Jutta: The biggest challenge for any fashion startup is probably to find the right partners in production and sourcing. To find a company that delivers the fabrics in the desired quality was essential for us because at the end of the day that is what our final product is based on. Being patient was toughest – A lot of things just don’t happen fast as you want it to. And then when it goes fast, you are always running behind because you have too little leverage.

Marianne: Another big challenge that we face regularly is budgeting. If you are having a business loan or using your own savings, like we did for founding our business, you have to plan wisely when and for what to spend money on.

So what helped you overcome these challenges?

Jutta: For us the experiences and contacts we both made in fashion industry over the years before starting our business were very helpful. Networking was and still is an important key for us to build up our label successfully. And as we said before, budgeting is the most important thing.

As a team, what were the best moments in running your business so far?

Marianne: We are happy about being able to make quick decisions. It’s super easy to realize new ideas or improvements which is great because it lets us see our business grow every day.

For picking up such speed in business,  did you acquire some extra skills beyond your professional experience?

Jutta: Luckily for us, we complement each other perfectly, and that is needed in a small start-up. It does not work when everyone wants to do Design or Sales. The skills like programming or accounting that we don’t have or don´t have time for, we outsource.

Would you recommend the same to another aspiring entrepreneur?

Jutta: Neither of us would have founded our start-up alone. It is very nice to be a team of two. So find a partner!!! Plan your finances. If you have a private partner and potentially kids, make sure that he is approving of your plans.

But coming back to skills, do you think a woman entrepreneur in general needs to have certain set of skills to start and run her business successfully?

Jutta: Every women can start their own business. But there are some things you should beware of. First – You have to be willing to work 24/7 and that means not only in the office or at your computer but your thoughts will always be with your business. Second – Know what you are good at but also where your weaknesses are and then find someone who complements your skills. And Third – Do you really love what you are planning to do? Because beneath a lot of great moments it’s the tough days that will challenge your focus.

‘Doing what we really love’ seems like a tough call for many women since we have so less female founders. Why do you think this happens?

Marianne: We are not sure that there are more male founders than female. There are many self-employed women, would you call them entrepreneurs? The statistics shows that the companies founded by men generally are or become bigger than the ones founded by women. We don’t think there are big differences between ambitious men and women. If any, it may be that financial success is more important to men and freedom more important for women.

A sense of freedom and what else will encourage more women to be entrepreneurs?

Jutta: Give them everyday role models. Yes, women may get inspired from famous and successful international entrepreneurs. But we think, what really inspires and makes it realistic is when a girlfriend or at least somebody you know can make it happen and work.

Any word of advice for the aspiring founders attending SWWHH.

Jutta: Find the right co-founder.

Thank you Jutta and Marianne for this interview. We hope entrepreneurial fashionistas like you guys are able to find the right teammates and inspiration to build their own startups.

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For those interested to know more about 7 Chic Avenue, can follow them on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram & Twitter.

You want to build your own startup? Build a startup in one weekend and put yourself in the shoes of an entrepreneur! Join us at Startup Weekend Women, April 10-12 in Hamburg. If you have a business idea, great! If you don’t have a business idea, join anyway! You can help bring other ideas to life. Guys are welcome, too! Stay tuned for more updates and interviews via our Facbook Page.








WE in Focus : Esther Eisenhardt, Founder of MomPreneurs

For many women the prospect of founding their own company is more exciting than an ordinary career in business. In this blog series we want to find out about the entrepreneurial spirit that drives these women and the ideas they pursue. Learn how they got started, their experience as female founders, and what they wish they’d known before entering the start­up world.

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Running a business is no cakewalk. Nor is running a family. But managing both family and business with equal excellence, well, that is definitely a Herculean task. This edition of WE in Focus celebrates the sensational multi-taskers great at relationship building and adapting a.k.a mom entrepreneurs, who have a keen ability to balance being both the CEO of their respective households and their businesses with sheer determination, intelligence and creativity. 

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Photo credits : Katja Harbi

To paint a clear picture and provide context, I am in conversation with Esther Eisenhardt, a mother of two beautiful girls and founder of MomPreneurs  a revolutionary movement that started in Berlin in 2013 to support and encourage women entrepreneurs with kids. Since its launch, MomPreneurs has made its strong presence in the D-A-CH region of Europe: 10 cities in Germany, Vienna, and Zurich.  In 2014, Edition F named her as one of the 25 leading women for the digital future. And today she will share with us her startup journey, important insights from her initiative, and that women can have it all.

Esther, what was your motivation behind founding MomPreneurs? 

I was in Berlin’s startup scene for 11 years. Then I just decided to do something on my own and realized that the startup scene has 95% men who want to launch the next big thing. And that somehow defined who a successful entrepreneur was – someone with venture capital, a huge team and probably working 60­-70 hrs a week. But that’s not what I wanted. Even if I would have gone down this path, it would have been impossible for me as a mother with two kids. This made me feel unwelcome and realize that I am missing some like-­minded people, women like me, who were asking how to balance their business and have a family at the same time. This made me start a meetup group for MomPreneurs in Berlin a year ago as a side project, and find my own network and somehow redefine success.

And how difficult was it to realize this idea?

The idea was a bit more selfish initially, because I just wanted to have a network for myself and want to connect with like minded women who faced the same challenges, had same questions and somehow the same setup and goals. These meetups helped me connect with them, support each other and give them a forum to somehow gain confidence and be empowered to start their own businesses. For me it was really cool to see more and more mothers  attending these meetups. So with time I decided to make it more professional, and quit my previous startup idea to give my 100% to realize MomPreneurs.

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Photo credits: Jagna Zuzanna Birkhof

For a side passion to become a full-time profession, how challenging was this transition?

In my previous startup idea, I had co-founders which in a way slowed the work flow. Having the right cofounder is just like marriage, and this was a big challenge for me. But with MomPreneurs I have created this business model where I am supported by two freelancers as well as my local MomPreneurs Meetup hosts. They believed in my vision and what I do, so they joined MomPreneurs to support the initiative. Another challenge for me is that being so passionate about my work that there have been times when I had to force myself to call it a day and focus on other things.

But all these tough times must have culminated into some more rewarding, right?

Very true, my reward comes from knowing that a lot of women have benefited from the MomPreneur’s growing network. We have over over 3000 members in the Facebook page , and over 1000 mothers in the Facebook group which is very active with women interacting with each other, exchanging ideas and helping each other.  Its rewarding to hear when  these mothers thank me for giving them such a platform. Being one of 25 Women for the Digital Future, and also nominated for Emotion Award ­is very fulfilling – feels good when people realize what I am doing.

To seek such similar fulfilment in their lives, what would you recommend to the moms out there who want to follow their passion and have a good family life as well? 

You love your kids and you have a side passion – it’s possible for women to have both. It’s a lot of hard work – you need to invest your time, energy and little bit of money. You start with low risk and test your idea. If the market test fails, don’t continue it. This model works well if you are a part-time entrepreneur where you have a day job but want to fulfil your passion too. You can work at the weekends or evenings to see if there is a potential. And if the idea succeeds, you can work less in your day job and put more hours into your idea. I want to make these kind of models more popular among MomPreneurs, so that it is possible to start a side project and test the idea.  You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to start your business, just leave the comfort zone.

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Photo credits : Katja Harbi

Speaking of MomPreneurs, why do you think they are so less compared to DadPreneurs? 

For women the biggest challenge is they want to be  good mothers and at the same  time also want to do something they love in life, work-wise. They are afraid that sometimes this investment is just too high and their kids might suffer.
 In my generation or my mother ‘s or grandma’s, it was always different. If you want kids, it is important to support your husband, his career and just be with the kids at home. If you have a little hobby that’s okay, or if you work 20 hours a week and don’t have much work responsibility. But women nowadays, especially from your generation, wants both family and career. Now it is okay for a man and a woman to have a family, and share equal responsibilities. And I believe in that kind of family values. I am looking forward to the day when dads will have equal responsibility at home, in business or at the workplace. Perhaps we will have a DadPrenuer movement sometime soon, just not in my Facebook group. 😉

Sheryl Sandberg recently started the new #LeanInTogether initiative that calls out to men to promote equality at work and at home. What are your thoughts on men being educated in this topic?

Men needs to learn how to support their entrepreneurial partners. I tell my MomPreneurs that they need to really ask for help, and not take it for granted. Especially when the father takes the financial responsibility when the mother starts her business, initially, there won’t be much money coming in and people might undervalue her. But that shouldn’t stop her. Personally for me, I want to be financially independent but my goal is not to be super rich. I want to have a fulfilled life, like the German saying­ – “Meine leben genießen”. I want to do things with my family, to travel and not to just work the whole time. Financial responsibility should be shared between the couple, and men needs to understand this.

Well, you’d be happy to know that we have some aspiring mom entrepreneurs taking part in Startup Weekend Women Hamburg. Any advice for them?

If you have an idea, find a very easy way to test it. Know your ideal customer, and don’t market it to everyone. Find what they really need and what they willing to pay for. And then find how you can test the idea maybe by building a simple prototype during the Startup Weekend. Then share this prototype with your target customers either via online survey, a blog, or in your facebook page for feedbacks. Next, it is important to be a passionate learner. So make sure that you love to learn new things and try things out. Be brave enough to take the first step. Leave your comfort zone and make things happen!

Thank you Esther for such inspiring words, and taking care of the entrepreneurial mamas. 

For those interested to know more about Esther and her work, you can check-out MomPreneurs’ homepage and Facebook fanpage. We at Startup Weekend Women Hamburg truly support mompreneurs and provide free childcare facility throughout the weekend for our participants with kids.

So mamas, you want to build your own startup? Give it a try, and put yourself in the shoes of an entrepreneur! Join us at Startup Weekend Women, April 10-12 in Hamburg. If you have a business idea, great! If you don’t have a business idea, join anyway! You can help bring other ideas to life. DadPreneurs are welcome too! Stay tuned for more updates and interviews via our Facebook Page.








WE in Focus: Melanie Taylor, Co-founder of Osmotic Studios

For many women the prospect of founding their own company is more exciting than an ordinary career in business. In this blog series we want to find out about the entrepreneurial spirit that drives these women and the ideas they pursue. Learn how they got started, their experience as female founders, and what they wish they’d known before entering the start-up world.

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Hamburg, known as Germany’s games capital with more than 2,500 employees in the games industry – it was about time we interviewed a woman entrepreneur whose passion is to design games she likes.

In conversation with Melanie Taylor, co-founder of the gaming startup called Osmotic Studios, where she is also the graphic designer and concept artist. This startup makes games that have a special kind of atmosphere, evoking emotions through moral decisions or asking questions about society, life and everything. They are currently working on a game where the player spies on people, a sort of adventure/ simulation game, which is yet to be announced.

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Photo by Jörg F. Thurnbacher

Hi Melanie, what motivated you to build Osmotic Studios? Was it difficult to realize your idea?

I always wanted to make interesting games, which are not only about fun, but use the interactive experience to take people in other places where they might think about things they haven’t before or find themselves in roles they wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. I knew that would not be possible in one of the big game companies because this kind of game is usually much too experimental for established companies. Starting up a company does take a lot of drive and energy, but it can also be very rewarding. So I would say, yes it was and is still difficult in a way, but if you know what you want, it is a lot easier. We still haven’t released our first game, so I will think about that question again afterwards 🙂

I was part of your Startup Weekend Gaming Hamburg team in 2013, and you have come a long way from concept to establishing your own company. What are the victories and challenges you faced in your journey so far?

One of the greatest victories was definitely winning the German Computer Game award for our student project in 2013, which made it possible for us to build up our startup in the first place and also helped a lot with other important stuff, like getting an office. This was a very important step, since it felt much more like we were working together after we had a small room where we could get together every day.

A great challenge was acquiring funds for the production of our first game. We worked for several months on the first version of our business plan in order to get EXIST, which is a government grant for startup-founders who recently graduated from university. Which brings me to our next great victory, and that was succeeding to get EXIST. We consider us very lucky, since it backs us up financially for one whole year and allows us to work on the game without having to report to a publisher.

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Team photo by Caroline Bauer

More than luck I believe it was your hard work and persistence that paid off well. What else contributed to this success?

I work together with two friends and former fellow students: Michael Kluge and Daniel Marx. I would not be able to do it without them, since we each have our own area of expertise. Daniel does the game design, Micha is our programmer and I do the graphics. This adds up to a good skill set for a game production team. It is also very valuable being able to discuss the pros and cons of what to do next and work together in a creative atmosphere.

So having a good and well-balanced team matters a lot. What would you recommend to other women with startup ideas? How would you suggest these aspiring entrepreneurs to proceed?

Do it. This sounds obvious, but so many people just remain in the idea-stage and never get around to realizing it. Start doing first steps to make it real, don’t just talk about it. It is good discussing ideas and asking opinions of other people, but it often doesn’t go any further and in my opinion that’s a pity. Another good advice: Know your strengths and focus on them. If you know there are certain essential things you are not good at, find people who are good at this and who like your idea. You don’t have to be good at everything. If you manage to get a good team, you can get things done better and faster and it will take you much further.

You are one of the few women in Hamburg startup scene with “Do it” spirit. Why do you think we are so under-represented compared to male founders?

I think that more women are afraid of the risks of entrepreneurship than men and this might be a reason why there are so few female founders compared to male founders. Starting a business is risky, but it doesn’t mean you have to lose everything if it doesn’t work. If you do it wisely, you don’t have to take large risks.

So how do we help women get out of this fear zone and be more entrepreneurial?

I think it would be a good idea to start as early as school. When teenagers start thinking about their career options, starting up an own business usually doesn’t even cross their minds. I guess if they would learn more about it at school, it might seem less scary for them. This is true for boys too of course, but knowing all your options makes chances better for both genders. Girls just might need a bit more encouragement that they can get big things started as well as boys. More female role models would probably be a good encouragement for this.

Photo by Carsten Schulz
Photo by Carsten Schulz

Having experienced Startup Weekend first-hand, what would you advice those who are attending Startup Weekend Women Hamburg?

You should definitely use this opportunity to meet people. There are most likely many interesting, inspiring, awesome people at Startup Weekend – I met a lot of them there. Talk as much about your idea as possible, take the feedback you get seriously and perhaps you will even meet people who want to join your team and actually make your idea happen. It’s a great opportunity!

Well, thank you Melanie for sharing your experience and the insightful thoughts on getting things done.

If you want to know more about Melanie and her work at Osmotic Studios, please check out their Facebook fan page and their Hamburg Startups Monitor Profile.

So do you want to build your own startup? ‘Do it’ in one weekend and put yourself in the shoes of an entrepreneur! Join us at Startup Weekend Women, April 10-12 in Hamburg. If you have a business idea, great! If you don’t have a business idea, join anyway! You can help bring other ideas to life. Guys are welcome, too! Stay tuned for more updates and interviews via our Facbook Page.








Have your story heard

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Share your amazing story about your journey as a female entrepreneur and help to inspire thousands of women all over the world!

WE (Women Entrepreneurs) in Focus is a blog series to be initiated by Startup Weekend Women Hamburg, to bring into spotlight the female founders we know, adore and admire. They are the women who have been there and done that, and still going strong in the startup world. What we will share are their startup stories, the challenges they faced, their triumphs and lessons they have learnt in their startup journey.

We want to create this online place to showcase the stories of female entrepreneurs, to help celebrate the success of women in business to inspire and empower  other women to turn their ideas into successful businesses. We want to publish stories on wide range of women, from women in technology, to women in their sixties, from student entrepreneurs, to mum entrepreneurs! And despite all of their differences, these women do have a few things in common – they are all passionate, determined and committed to turning their ideas into a reality, building successful businesses and living a life they dream of and LOVE.

I hope their stories inspire you and leave you feeling fired up, ready to achieve incredible things!

So, if you’re a female entrepreneur and would like to share how you did it, then we’d love to publish your story! All you need to do is write to us at hamburgwomen@startupweekend.com that you are interested to get your story heard, and we will get back to you in a jiffy!








Registering for the event : 10 STEPS guide for FIRST-TIMERS

Ever had the bold, crazy idea of going to one of those 54 hours events known as Startup Weekends? The events where you meet bunch of interesting minds, who like you, also want to network and explore the startup world?

If this is your desire, then look no further.

Startup Weekend Women Hamburg is happening on April 10th, 2015 at Gründerwerft Hamburg. The event is unique in itself – while most Startup Weekends have 70/30 male to female participants, this 54 hour event wants to flip the ratio. We want to encourage more female founders in Hamburg’s startup scene by connecting them with best of resources. So participation is open for men too.

Now if this is your first time registering for the event, we will guide you through the process in this post.

Step 1. Register for the event at Eventbrite. You will be taken to our official ticketing page.

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Step 2. Select the category of ticket and select the quantity you need. Then click on Order Now. (Note: Only one ticket at a time can be purchased for Early Bird and discounted tickets.)

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Step 3. You are now directed to the Order Form where you get 15 minutes to fill-up your details(Ticket Buyer). If you are buying for someone else then the information under Ticket 1 will be of that person(actual participant). All the fields marked with must not be left blank or else the order will not be processed.

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Step 4. If the email address of the participant is different from yours, please specify clearly for the ticket and all the important information related to the event will be sent to that address.

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Step 5. If you are bringing a child during the event, we provide free childcare by professionals for our participants. For that you need to select option “Yes” followed by entering information in sub-box on how many kids you intend to bring, their respective ages and if in need of special care. After that you can click on “Check out with Paypal” button.

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Step 6. Paypal is one of most trusted payment options used by Startup Weekend worldwide. You will be directed to our official Paypal page, where you can make the payments using your personal, valid Paypal account.

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Step 7. In case you don’t have a Paypal account, do not worry. You can click on the option “Don’t have a Paypal account?”. You will be redirected to another page where you can fill-in your personal and bank details. Then click “Pay” to complete your purchase.

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Step 8.  Once the purchase is completed successfully, you will be redirected to the confirmation page. Smile. You are ready to take on the startup world. And why not bring friends too? Share about the event on Facebook.

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Step 9. Check your email address that you entered to get more information about the event. Your event ticket awaits for you there! Print it and bring it on the first day of the event. (Note: Student ticket buyers should carry a valid student card during the event or you will be charged full price ticket.)

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Step 10. Congratulations, you’re registered for the event! Stay connected and get informed about our event’s highlights, pre-events, prizes, swags and all that jazz through our Facebook and Twitter pages!

Bring your coolest ideas and vibrant energies – we are sure you will have loads of fun with others during the event,and everybody goes home with valuable insights once the weekend is over.

So wait not. Take the leap of faith.

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What to Expect When You're Participating (in SW Women's edition, Stuttgart)

In 24 hours the first-ever Startup Weekend for Women in Germany will kick-off in Stuttgart. Startup Weekends aim to promote entrepreneurship in the locality and this one has special interest in boosting female entrepreneurship in Stuttgart. As one of the organizers, its amazing for me to see quite number of female participants registered for the event. A rare sight, but its about time. Our sales analysis confirms the significant rise in numbers.

Participation in Startup Weekend Stuttgart- Women’s edition 2014
Participation in Startup Weekend Stuttgart- Women’s edition 2014 (click to enlarge)
So what to expect? This weekend (5th, 6th and 7th September) Literaturhaus Stuttgart  will open its doors to a host of developers, designers and business experts to come together and form companies in 54 hours!

Friday: Participants arrive between 6-7 PM, begin networking, and eat dinner. After an ice-breaking game and a short introduction by the Facilitator, there will three talks by our esteemed speakers. Then the “Pitchfire” will commence: anyone intending to pitch will have 60 seconds to give their best pitch. No presentations or props needed for Friday. It will just be you and a mic. After pitches are finished, all attendees will vote on their favorites, and using these votes the top ideas will be selected to be worked on over the weekend. Teams will form organically, consolidate, and begin working.

Saturday: Teams will work all day, with the occasional breaks to eat or listen to 3 workshops. Mentors will be circulating to provide concrete advice in the field of their expertise for those teams that want it.

Sunday: Teams will work uninterrupted from morning until mid-afternoon. They’ll begin wrapping up their product/prototype and/or presentation around 3 PM to do tech-checks and practice their demonstration. After all Judges have arrived presentations will begin: each team typically has 5 minutes plus 2-3 minutes Q&A from the jury (this varies occasionally.) The jury will select the top teams, give out prizes, and the event ends (and celebration begins!)

Mentors and Workshops –  To help the teams solidify their business ideas we have an amazing ensemble of experts/mentors dealing with different areas of startups from idea development to launch of the startups in addition to startup laws and ways to secure finances for your business!

Another unique feature of our event is that some of our mentors are holding workshops on Lean Startup Training, 3D printing, and Untapping into the world of female entrepreneurship to educate and motivate our participants during the weekend.

The Jury and the Judging Criteria – While there are no specific requirements in terms of what teams should have accomplished by Sunday, it’s in your best interest to plan your execution around what you’ll be judged for on Sunday: Customer Validation, Business Model, and Execution (see below). As far as presenting goes, some of the most common presentations include any combination of the following (in no particular order):

  • Wireframes or fully developed website
  • Mobile Apps (from mock-ups to skeletons to fully functional)
  • Slide decks (Powerpoint, Keynote, Prezi, etc.)
  • Videos (i.e. product demonstrations, etc.)Live product demos
  • Skits

Our esteemed Jury members will weigh each criteria equally and all the teams will receive important “real-world” feedback on developing their ideas beyond the weekend.

Event sponsors – Startup Weekend events offer participants access to a variety of resources provided by our global sponsors – Google, Coca-cola, .CO and Amazon Web services during the weekend.

Startup Weekend Stuttgart – Women’s edition has received great support and commitment from our local sponsors as well. An honorable mention of our local sponsors:

Gold Sponsors : MBG Baden-WürttembergBaden-Württemberg Connected, and Energie Baden-Württemberg.

Silver Sponsors :  99designsChocolatoCity of StuttgartRioprintoStattysCoworking0711, and Massivum Echtholzmöbel.

Media Sponsors : GeekettesWEFOUNDAspire and MicialMedia.

Thanks to our sponsors you will get a lot of stuff with your ticket including top quality meals, snacks, swag, access to exclusive startup resources, and all-you-can-drink coffee!

Enough said.

So prepare your pitches, get pumped up for the weekend and of course, don’t forget your beauty sleep. Team Startup Weekend Stuttgart is eagerly waiting to welcome you all!