Our interview partner Carsten Rudolph, CEO at Baystartup
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Carsten Rudolph from Baystartup: “Startups Need to Act Quickly Now”

How should young companies position themselves during the corona crisis and how is the situation impacting the work of the startup network Baystartup? An interview with Carsten Rudolph, CEO of Baystartup.

Munich Startup: You offer many workshops for founders, entrepreneurs and CEOs and have now completely shifted your service to webinars and online coaching. How have these formats been accepted?

Carsten Rudolph: Our offers have been accepted very well. Just the digital business planning workshops are very much in demand with roughly 100 participants — which is much more than our in-person workshops. For the technical workshops that we organize in collaboration with professional experts from our circle of sponsors, we deliberately set a maximum number of participants. Then we can be sure to maintain their interactive character.

Workshop series “Crisis Management for Startups”

In addition to these courses, we would also like to offer startups concrete support in the current situation, which is why we created the workshop series “Crisis Management for Startups.” With it, we offer a broad target group orientation in the current flood of information – and do so on a daily basis. We offer our assessment of the suitability of government bailouts for startups and also point out measures that startups need to quickly take into their own hands. That includes strict liquidity management above all.

The interest was significant with approximately 600 participants in the first three sessions and many questions were asked about our online tool. There were also experts among the participants who were able to offer additional input about the topics. We’re continuously expanding our offers according to what’s needed and regularly publish dates with registration options at www.baystartup.de/termine

Munich Startup: Has the experience been positive and made you consider going more digital in some areas in the future?

Carsten Rudolph: Simply going more digital is not an end in itself. Of course we’ve introduced some tools faster than originally planned and will continue using many of them. We also worked online occasionally in the past, for example for our financing coaching. What we’re noticing now is that major progress is being made through daily and consistent use as opposed to occasional use. As we become more accustomed, things are going smoother and more professionally. That holds true not only for us, but also for the startups — including those who are digital — receiving support.

What we’ve already noticed is that compact seminars that are about an hour long have received really good feedback. For that kind of effective “know-how input,” just the fact that you don’t have to travel here makes the online format suitable. It’s a whole different situation, however, for intensive workshops: Whether people think over the long term that it’s fun to sit at their own desks for four hours or would rather personally interact in the same room with other founders remains to be seen. 

Munich Startup: The third stage of the Munich Business Plan Competition is just getting started — has anything changed for the participants?

Carsten Rudolph: There haven’t been any significant changes for the participants. We’re following our schedule for 2020. The major advantage we have with the competitions is that both the submission and evaluation processes are mostly digital anyway. So nothing has changed in that respect.

Positive nervousness is tough to get across during an online pitch

The situation is different for the jury sessions and award ceremonies. We would obviously still like to be able to present the awards in person and we’re convinced that nothing can replace live applause. The excitement and positive nervousness during a pitch in front of an expert jury is also definitely tough to get across online. We’re going to perform these things digitally where necessary, but really hope we’ll be able to celebrate our big final in Munich in July. 

Munich Startup: As one of Germany’s largest financing networks, you have very close contact with investors — what is the current mood among investors?

Carsten Rudolph: The mood is becoming more and more cautious as the weeks pass — particularly when it comes to new investments. It’s obvious that investors are taking care of their current activities at the moment and are helping where they can. That should ultimately be seen as a positive signal of functioning collaboration among those involved.

All in all, I would describe the situation more with “wait and see.” A lot of decisions will depend on the consequences the lockdown has on the economy as a whole. We think what will be most decisive will not be a lack of money from the investors’ side, but rather the likely economic success of a startup in the future. After all, they’re the ones who will have to compete in the precarious market situation.

Munich Startup: Do you have tips for startups that have their back to the wall at the moment?

Carsten Rudolph: There are a few. One is to check the account balance daily and to keep an eye on their own burn rate. Startups also have to take necessary measures for the company to survive. These kinds of decisions are mostly difficult and no fun, but unfortunately have to be made.

“Rapid action is the order of the day”

Many will certainly have to think about whether their business model will be just as attractive “after the crisis” as it was before, if they have to shift their focus or if their product might be in even greater demand. We’ve seen many who expect everything to keep functioning like before the lockdown, as if it was “just” one or two months of downtime. I don’t think that will be true. Rapid action is the order of the day.