© Katja Ruhnke

Women in Tech: Business Angel Katja Ruhnke

Katja Ruhnke has been a business angel since 2019. Together with her sister Conny Hörl, she invests in startups that make the world a better place in the long term. They focus on health, the environment, and sustainable technologies. They have invested in the Munich startups Blackwave, Hey Circle and XO Life, among others.

Munich Startup: What is your career path so far?

Katja Ruhnke: As the child of an entrepreneurial family, I worked as a musical performer and drama producer in the cultural sector for ten years after leaving school. After studying cultural management, my path led me back to the family business in Munich. In the search for new business areas, I was infected with the idea of startup financing in the summer of 2019 and have been a passionate angel investor together with my sister Conny Hörl ever since. In January 2023, we also opened the “CK-Workspace”, a coworking space and shared office where we bring together the old economy (real estate) and the new economy (startups). In fall 2021, my first book “Female Money – how female investors are transforming the startup world” was published.

Munich Startup: What motivated you to invest in startups?

Katja Ruhnke: I had a life-changing moment in 2019. I was allowed to accompany my best man to a startup conference. Before that, I only knew about the “Lion’s Den” and I didn’t realize that startups are an asset class that anyone can actually invest in. The passion and energy coupled with the ideas and solutions that will save our world got me so carried away that I more or less immediately decided to become a business angel. It gives me an incredible amount of hope and makes me more than optimistic when I see how many great founders are working on the problems that are currently piling up. I have to and want to do my bit here.

Katja Ruhnke: A soft spot for hardware

Munich Startup: Which technology or industry do you personally find particularly interesting at the moment?

Katja Ruhnke: Conny and I have specialized in impact investments, so I still find everything in this area exciting. We recently invested in Hey Circle, a startup in the circular economy sector. I think it’s an incredibly important sector because I’m really frightened by the excess of consumption and we need to get to grips with it. But I’m also always interested in the topic of education, even though it’s really difficult to finance. We also have a soft spot for hardware, which is also difficult to finance.  We like to pick topics that not everyone wants to do.

Munich Startup: In your opinion, what advantages do diverse startup or VC teams have?

Katja Ruhnke: Female investors bring different perspectives and experiences to investment decisions. Women also tend to invest more frequently in female-led startups. This is particularly important as female founders often have less access to funding opportunities than their male counterparts. Support from female investors can help close this gap and reduce gender inequality in entrepreneurship. Women are also more likely to invest in companies that tackle social challenges and pursue sustainable business models, and I think that’s something the world desperately needs right now. Diverse teams, on the other hand, demonstrably perform better because they make better decisions.

Munich Startup: What are your three favorite work tools?

Katja Ruhnke: I like working with Asana. I use Microsoft OneNote the most, I used to write in notebooks by hand and couldn’t find anything again, OneNote was my salvation. In general, however, I use very few tools because I don’t have the time to spend enough time with them.

Pitch tip: “If you don’t master this hurdle well, you have no chance”

Munich Startup: Your top tip for pitching?

Katja Ruhnke: Pitching is a performance and needs to be rehearsed. Factors such as facial expressions, voice and gestures can be decisive. It’s a sales pitch, the impact of which is far too often underestimated by founders. It is the ticket to more in-depth conversations. Those who do not master this hurdle well have no chance of obtaining sufficient capital.

Munich Startup: Do you think it’s a good time to start a company? Why?

Katja Ruhnke: Yes and no, bad phases offer an incredible number of opportunities, as the market is consolidating and it has been proven that large companies have emerged during these phases. But I think the startup conditions in Germany are modest, we are expensive, complicated, suffocated by bureaucracy and we have far too little respect for entrepreneurship. The startup conditions in other European countries are much better in some cases, so as a founder I would think very carefully about whether Germany is the right location. In addition, the rapid development of technology is very difficult to assess, and this is also difficult for us investors. What is current today and appears to be a good solution may be outdated tomorrow. In my opinion, speed is a key criterion for the future and that is not a core competency of Germans.

Munich Startup: What do you think could be improved in Munich as a startup location?

Katja Ruhnke: We need much more networking and cooperation between the various players. Here, everyone cooks their own soup and has their own group or event. From my observations, it works better in Berlin. There is a larger shared community there.

Munich Startup: Which investor would you like to meet in person? And what would you ask him or her?

Katja Ruhnke: Catie Wood from Ark Invest. How she selects investments and where she gets her conviction from. I would be incredibly interested in that.

Helen Duran

Als Redakteurin ist die Wirtschaftsgeografin Helen Duran seit 2015 für Euch in der hiesigen Gründerszene unterwegs. Sie ist neugierig auf Eure spannenden Startup-Geschichten!

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