March 8 is International Women’s Day. Since 1977, International Women’s Day is dedicated to the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It’s the day for us at German Accelerator to especially celebrate #fempreneurs and #WomenInBusiness, and keep accelerating startups from all areas as well as the gender parity among them because only an equal world is an enabled world.
We’re thrilled and excited to have many female founders in our current German Accelerator classes around the globe. Meet the great and inspiring women who have built businesses from scratch – who master challenges and hustle hard on a daily basis, learn, develop, thrive and #GoFarGrowFast. Over the course of this week, each of them shared a little nugget of wisdom with us (a huge Thank You to everyone involved), which we shared on social media and have now summed up for you in this blog post.
BUT the best is yet to come! Because one day is simply not enough, we have dedicated the entire month of March to #WomenInBusiness with our #GAccelerateHer campaign. We all need role-models and inspiration and even more so on the road to a fully enabled world. Keep a lookout for more female-focused content on our blog and on social media, and don’t forget to let us know what you think!
Sophie Chung, MD, is Founder and CEO of Qunomedical, a digital health platform focused on medical tourism that is providing patients worldwide access to high-quality affordable healthcare. Qunomedical is a participant of the German Accelerator New York Class 2020-1. Prior to founding Qunomedical in 2015, she served as Director of Healthcare Strategy at Zocdoc, a healthcare technology startup focused on locating doctors and booking appointments. Sophie also previously worked as a project manager for McKinsey & Company’s Healthcare Practice in Germany where she worked with government, hospitals, health insurance, and pharmaceutical industry clients. After earning her MD degree from the Medical University of Vienna in 2008, Sophie gained first-hand experience in treating patients as a doctor in Australia and tackling the complex issues involved in providing people with access to healthcare whilst working at an NGO in Cambodia.
“If we would not do things only because they are hard, the world would not change. Something being hard never held me back from doing it.” In our most recent German Accelerator Coffee Session, she shared her journey of being a medical doctor who then launched a one-of-a-kind business to solve the three main challenges of healthcare: better, faster, cheaper.
Martina Schad is a Biochemist by training, having completed her PhD at the Max Planck Institute in Potsdam. Her ambitious goals led her to the National Institute of Health (NIH) as well as the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL) in the U.S. There she achieved major innovations in single-cell analysis. She previously headed the department of molecular data acquisition for two biotech companies in Berlin. In her current role as Founder & CEO of OakLabs, she manages partnering and cooperation projects. Her deep understanding of their uniqueness enables her to translate challenges in life sciences to OakLab’s superior technology. OakLabs currently participates in the German Accelerator Life Sciences program in Boston.
When we asked her what she thinks is the definition of success, she said: “To me, success means to implement an innovation that significantly improves the quality of life for as many patients as possible. Whether or not we succeed with our ambitions depends on being able to successfully monetize.” She also shared the importance of building a team made up of enthusiastic people with complementary expertise, strengths, and personalities.
Jenny Podewils is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Leapsome, a current German Accelerator participant. Leapsome supports fast-growing companies such as Spotify, Trivago or Babbel in building high-performing teams and strong cultures with continuous performance management & employee engagement software. Jenny is an alumna of the Universities St. Gallen and Oxford, and has previously gained experience leading teams in business development and corporate development. She also held digital transformation roles in media and tech companies.
We wanted to know Jenny’s secrets on how to keep employees engaged. Here’s what she shared:
Give more ownership. Everyone likes to have an impact and drive things forward. Empowering people to take full ownership of their projects is really important.
Every voice counts. If someone comes to you with a concern, let them know that you take it seriously. Even if you can not fulfill every wish, your team should know that their needs are being met with an open ear.
Practice transparency. If people only see fragments of what is going on and not the full picture, it will be much harder to make smart decisions as an employee.
Challenge the status quo. “Is this the best approach or can we do it differently?” Encourage the value of constant iteration as opposed to blindly accepting the way things have been done.
Hanna Marie Asmussen co-founded Localyze together with Lisa Dahlke and Franziska Löw. After spending a year in Argentina at age 15, Hanna never stopped traveling and living abroad. She studied industrial engineering and worked in renewable energy development all around the world. After graduating from college, she spent a brief period in academics before joining Boston Consulting Group. The challenges she experienced living abroad and constantly moving gave her the idea of founding Localyze. Today, the all-female founder trio is striving to facilitate the relocation support for companies and individuals.
We wanted to know what it’s like to be part of an all-female founder team. She shares the ups and downs of an all-female founding team and how approaching things differently from others has helped shape their success. The biggest challenge for them was to figure out how to build a software with a team that has never built a software before. In three words, Hanna would describe their founder trio as “communicative, democratic, and loud.” Here’s why:
Maria Sievert gained substantial practical experience in various areas of the mechanical engineering industry through her studies of Engineering Management at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). After research periods in the U.S. and South America, she was responsible for innovation management as a project manager within the Digital Services division at BMW. In 2017, together with her husband Dominik Sievert, she founded Inveox. In her role as Managing Partner, Maria is primarily responsible for operations, business development, and strategic partnerships.
Maria encourages women not to hold back– she says: “It might sound strange, but I think our most common mistakes come from our greatest strengths. We women are so used to listening to society, taking advice and absorbing information. In a sense, you could say we know at least a little something about everything, and that’s a great thing. But that can also lead a novice founder into overthinking and not taking action. ‘Is this idea the right one? Is now the right time? Will I regret waiting if I don’t do it now? Will I regret not waiting?’ Of course, men also have these doubts, but the key message here is that all novice founders should learn to just go for it when something feels right, without overthinking.”
Anna Yona, Founder and Managing Director, started Wildling Shoes together with her husband, Ran Yona in 2015. After completing Middle Eastern Studies and English Literature at Tel Aviv University and working in marketing and as a freelance translator and journalist, she settled in Israel. There she met her husband, Ran, and started a family. In 2013, the family moved back to Germany (Engelskirchen, North Rhine-Westphalia). A big challenge there was buying shoes for the children, who in Israel were mainly used to running about barefoot. There seemed to be no shoe that would meet their requirements regarding freedom of movement, sustainable materials, and fair production. That’s how Wildling Shoes was born. Today, Wildling employs over 120 people – most of them young parents working part-time from home. They have received several awards, including “NRW Gründerpreis” (North Rhine-Westphalia Start-Up Prize) and the German Design Award. With the help of German Accelerator, Wildling Shoes is now working on scaling their business to the U.S. market as part of the current New York class.
Anna is unstoppable when she sets herself up to succeed because she follows her inner mantra “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Having bootstrapped her company and grown so fast, we wondered what the best and the worst advice was she had been given. In her words: “The best advice I received for my business was to stick to the vertical brand set-up. The worst advice was probably when someone told me I could not do it myself.”
Patricia Kastner is Co-Founder and President of Contentserv Group AG. The global software company that comes from the German town of Rohrbach, Bavaria, will soon graduate from the German Accelerator Southeast Asia Class 2020-1. Contentserv helps retailers and brand companies manage and translate their product content in a very efficient way and publish it in all formats to the different marketplaces and channels like their website, online shop, newsletters, and print catalogs.
Through lots of dedication and effort over the last 20 years, Patricia grew the business to over 400 employees with 20 offices around the globe including Australia, China, India, Philippines, Portugal, and the U.S. We invited Patricia to give us some tips on global expansion and she pointed out three crucial factors.
Plan your resources. Be fully aware that you will need plenty of resources. Plan with double what you think you might need.
Get your team on board. Expansion is a huge project and comes with a lot of change. Your existing team needs to be supported during this transition. Change must be part of the company culture – It takes massive communication efforts to ensure that everybody gets behind it.
Be ready to make sacrifices. Expansion needs attention – It takes a lot of time and energy and it will take up 90% of your life for the next months if not years. You have to be ready to make sacrifices to be able to fully focus on expansion.