One Mission and the ‘Female Investors Network’

With One Mission, Munich is now home to an initiative that aims to make Munich startups more diverse. Founded by the startup center Werk1, the initiative also wants to make it easier for female founders to access investors’ funds.

The initiative One Mission has existed since December 2019. In less than a year, the female founders have built an extensive network and made a host of connections within the network. There are also various formats for implementing the planned measures. One Mission sees itself as a link between the various initiatives in Munich, Bavaria and Germany.

To make it easier for female founders to tap into investments, One Mission has come together to work with the venture capital company primeCROWD. Svenja Lassen, Managing Director of primeCROWD, has created a ‘Female Investors Network’ that takes on precisely this topic.

We spoke with one of the initiators of One Mission, Maike Wursthorn, Startup Manager at Werk1, and with Svenja Lassen.

Startups: Less than 16% of founders are female

Munich Startup: Please introduce yourselves! Who are you and what does One Mission do?

Maike Wursthorn: One Mission is fighting for more gender diversity in the German startup ecosystem. According to the 2020 German Startup Monitor, only 15.9% of founders are female. We want to change that!

Maike Wursthorn is one of the initiators of One Mission.

One Mission was initiated by my two Werk1 colleagues, Vanessa Provenzano and Marlene Eder, and me, Maike Wursthorn. Because we are a part of Werk1, we have access to top-notch startup expertise, exceptional contacts and an existing infrastructure.

Munich Startup: Why do you think it’s important for more women to start companies in Germany?

Maike Wursthorn: Because such an unbelievable amount of potential is lost! There are about the same number of women and men in the German population, but the percentage of female founders in the startup ecosystem is only 15.9%? That doesn’t add up.

More innovative thanks to different perspectives and opinions

Munich Startup: Does your initiative also have a clear impact on Werk1 as a startup center?

Maike Wursthorn: Our goal is to increase the gender diversity of startup teams at Werk1 to 35%. With Werk1 leading the way, we would like to advance gender diversity in founding teams regionally and nationally.

Munich Startup: How do startups benefit from diverse teams?

Maike Wursthorn: Diverse teams are more innovative and efficient thanks to different experiences, perspectives and opinions. If you’re diverse from the beginning and, for example, develop a product with a mixed team, you automatically appeal to a larger clientele – and that increases your likelihood of being successful. At the same time, it positively boosts a company’s image and promotes tolerance in society.

The One Mission Challenges

Munich Startup: You’ve defined five challenges and derived several measures from them. Please tell us more about them.

Maike Wursthorn: In our kick-off workshop in December 2019, we developed five key challenges for female founders together with our 30 participants: network, mindset, family and work, gender stereotypes and financing.

It was particularly important to us to put the focus on specific measures, which is why we drafted measures for each challenge that we are implementing within the framework of One Mission. Major factors are a strong community, an exceptional infrastructure and the appropriate amount of recognition. We’re implementing these measures with different partners in various formats.

Access to financing options is extremely important

Munich Startup: And which of them is most urgent, Maike?

Maike Wursthorn: Every challenge has its own sense of urgency and relevance, but in the startup ecosystem, access to financing options is extremely important. That is where there is a significant delta between male and female founders. That makes us all the more pleased about the excellent collaboration with the Female Investors Network of primeCROWD.

Munich Startup: Svenja, do you focus on financing as an investor and initiator of the Female Investor Network?

Svenja Lassen: Yes, we finance startups through the investors in our network. But my specific focus is on promoting diversity in financing and in our network, which means getting more women on board as investors and drawing their attention in general to the exiting world of startup financing. At the same time, we would like to motivate more female founders to apply for financing. We also offer them special services and support with our Female Investors Network.

The Female Investors Network

Munich Startup: How long has the Female Investors Network existed?

Svenja Lassen: In early 2020, we worked on a research project together with IUBH on the subject of ‘Female Business Angels in Germany’ – and based on the results and wishes expressed by the women who were surveyed, we launched the Female Investors Network in May. 50 women have already registered. I’m also in contact with many more women and we’re growing every month.

Munich Startup: How do the investments work?

Svenja Lassen: Those who register with us as an investor on our website receive regular information about verified startups that we’re supporting in their investment campaigns. Initial information about the companies is available in the investor cockpit. If someone is interested, they sign up for a meetup with the founders to get to know them. Those who would like to make an investment sign an LOI (letter of intent, note from editor) about the sum – which is 10,000 euros and up with us – and we pool all of the investors in a trust company so it is only one legal entity for the startup.

Munich Startup: Is it really more difficult for female founders to find financing? What’s the story behind the statement?

Svenja Lassen: That’s what the figures from the 2019 BCG report show: While a startup run by male founders in Germany can raise an average of 10.6 million euros, female founders receive just shy of a third of that with an average of 3.5 million euros. Across all stages of startup financing, startups run solely by women have a 40 percent lesser chance than men of making it to the crucial second round of growth capital. In the third round, the probability is even 90 percent less for women. On top of that, the share of female partners in Germany venture capital firms (VC) is just four percent.

Svenja Lassen launched the Female Investors Network.

Tips for female founders

Munich Startup: What tips do you have for women who are looking for financing for their startups?

Svenja Lassen: To come to us, of course! But seriously, what I mean is that special points of contact like our Female Investors Network are necessary to specifically support female founders. They face special challenges that we want to help them with. That also includes systematically introducing them to female investors, because women communicate differently among each other than men or mixed teams do. That’s something we saw at our Female Founders and Investors Meetup with One Mission at Werk1 – where female founders pitched solely to women. That’s something you won’t find anywhere else in the scene.

Munich Startup: Whom should startups contact if they would like to meet up with you?

Maike Wursthorn: Go ahead and send us a short email and follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram. We look forward to talking with you and finding various points of contact!

Svenja Lassen: We ask every startup to upload their documents to our website for verification so our analysts can prepare them and we can talk about them as a team. Then we’ll definitely contact you. I’m also always happy to hear from female founders who contact me directly by email with specific questions.