By Martin Schilling, Managing Director of Techstars Berlin
Investment Thesis Techstars Berlin
The best founders we have ever backed, all have one thing in common: relentless perseverance united with a personal passion to make the world a better place. They often solve a problem that they have encountered in their professional or personal lives. Research proves this is the right track to follow: Companies with leaders aligned around a well-articulated purpose are twice as likely to achieve above-average shareholder returns and report 40% higher levels of workforce retention than their competitors.
While Techstars Berlin is working with these mission-driven founders from a variety of industries, we are focusing specifically on (1) fintech, (2) climate tech and (3) deep tech startups.
Fintech & DeFi
While we have seen a massive spike in fintech innovations at the business front end in the last few years (think N26, Revolut, Scalable Capital, and Moonfare), product innovation is currently happening deeper in the fintech stack. Horizontal rather than vertical use cases are the key drivers here, such as ML-powered fraud solutions for financial institutions being preferred over yet another B2C neobank. Our focus here includes: next-level lending, embedded finance (i.e. financial solutions delivered by non-financial institutions), cardless payment infrastructure, ESG-focused investment platforms, ESG investment reporting, and FemFintech and DeFi cases, such as the collateralization of web3 assets.
These startups often help consumers and businesses move toward a net-zero economy. The extreme weather patterns, rising sea levels or raging wildfires we have observed in the past may just be the beginning and climate tech startups contribute to prevent these phenomenons in the future. Our focus is not on startups that merely mitigate the effects of the climate crisis, but which contribute to avoiding greenhouse gas emissions with a technology-enabled approach. As an example, these companies could focus on carbon accounting, eco-friendly transportation, green energy, fuel savings, green roofing, hydrogen storage & supply, smart urban mobility, green facades, emission-free buildings, plant-based milk or lab-grown meat. The intersection between climate tech and FinTech is a particular angle we watch closely.
Now more than ever, our focus is on deep tech startups - often taking the form of spin-offs from universities. These startups work on breakthrough science and engineering innovations. In particular, we are prioritizing software-driven deep tech cases, including next-level search processes, cybersecurity, computer vision, natural language processing, predictive maintenance, unsupervised learning, brain-machine interfaces and ethical AI.
If you are a founding team working on an idea that doesn’t fit neatly into one of the above categories, that’s no problem. While these are areas that excite us, you as founders are much more important. If you are interested, reach out and apply.
We also want to invest in founders who are representative of Europe at large. The European tech ecosystem continues to be underrepresented in terms of women, founders with a migratory background, and entrepreneurs above the age of 50. Techstars is committed to building a more inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem and will coach and support diverse founding teams in the selection process.
Sign up for office hours with the Techstars Berlin team here to learn more.
Martin Schilling is the Managing Director of the Techstars Berlin Accelerator. As an angel investor, startup builder and scale-up executive, Martin co-founded and scaled up five companies over the past 15 years. These companies include Orphoz (a subsidiary for McKinsey & Company), a public company in Saudi Arabia, the MARA foundation in Argentina, and the fintech N26. Martin is a co-author of the book, “The Builder’s Guide to the Tech Galaxy – 99 Practices to Scale Startups into Unicorn Companies” and is passionate about seeking out and enabling the next generation of European Entrepreneurs building high-growth businesses.