Long-time jury member and investor Katharina Neuhaus from Vorwerk Ventures explains what she likes about Cashwalk, what investors should look out for and has some tips for all pitching participants.
Hello Katharina! You are an investor – can you briefly describe the areas Vorwerk Ventures focuses on?
Vorwerk Ventures is an independent €150M Venture Capital Fund based in Berlin with a focus on early-stage investments in consumer-tech. We love companies that make people’s lives more empowering, healthier and better.
Please give an introduction of yourself and what you are focusing on!
I started my career as a management consultant at AlixPartners where I supported private equity clients in optimizing their portfolio companies. I was eager to work in a more forward-looking, growth-oriented ecosystem and decided therefore to join Lyst as a Country Manager for the DACH region.
Currently I am working as Principal at Vorwerk Ventures, where my previous startup and consultant experiences are highly beneficial. I love working together with innovative startups and talented founders and I have a strong passion for everything related to Digital Health and the Future of Work as well as Commerce.
New technologies and innovations in these areas can have an important impact on our lives and change it for good. My goal is to make innovative solutions more accessible to a broader audience by supporting ideas that make lives easier, more empowered and processes more efficient.
You have been part of Cashwalkʼs jury more than once. What makes this event so special to you? What do you enjoy most about Cashwalk?
The event is very well managed and a great place to connect with talented founders from diverse backgrounds. Actually, the list of alumnis and the track record speak for itself, some of the previous participants have raised major investments over the last years. All stakeholders are strongly committed and highly enthusiastic about the venture ecosystem. It is always a great place to hear different perspectives.
In your view, what are common misconceptions or mistakes when startups pitch to an investor?
In contrast to our intuition, founders do not need to have all answers to every question in the beginning of building a venture.
It is much more important that they have a clear vision on where the journey is going to and a sharp understanding of what kind of team they have to assemble to get those questions answered. A deep knowledge on one’s own strengths and weaknesses is indispensable and separates the wheat from the chaff. It’s a team effort after all.
Furthermore, founders should not optimize on money first. There is enough money available in the market. Instead they should watch out for the right investment partners who really can accelerate their ideas and help them to achieve the next milestones.
What should an investor look for in a startup? What are the no-gos?
Especially at a very early stage, key factors from my point of view are the team and the market that the product or service addresses.
The earlier VCs invest, the more likely the product will change over time so investors should focus on assessing founders and the market or problem they have identified. Are founders visionary and resilient enough? And are they able to attract and retain talent?
Of course, the more mature the venture is, the more data points will be available to quantify assumptions that were made in the beginning. Personally, I believe there is no fixed check-list to assess a founder or startup. It’s a business of outliers and therefore trying to review every opportunity with an unbiased and fresh pair of eyes is a necessity to spot these.
Is there any advice you would like to give to the startups pitching at Cashwalk? What career advice has helped you the most and who gave it to you?
Do not take feedback personally, but always as valuable input that makes you better. When presenting your idea, be authentic and do not try to be something you are not. My experience in the startup ecosystem is that everyone loves to support, wherever they can.
Talking about public speaking/ pitching: Whenever I am nervous, I focus on slow breathing and internalize three key messages that I would like the audience to walk away with. Then I create a story around those three aspects and integrate them into my presentation. That is what always helped me the most.
We are aiming to increase the percentage of female founders, as well as female investors at Cashwalk. Why do you think we donʼt have more applications from women and how can women in either capacity be encouraged to join?
For me there are two key aspects to this complex question:
On the one hand, empowering female founders and investors starts with education. Women should learn how to be self confident in becoming an entrepreneur or investor already at school or university.
There are already many women in the ecosystem, and it seems almost a duty to speak to less experienced women, start a dialogue, show them more about the exciting venture world, and encourage them to become part of it.
Luckily, I believe the next generation of females won’t rely any longer on regulations and full equality will be the foundation of our society.
Thank you, Katharina, for giving us an investor’s perspective!
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