For five KIT teams, everything revolves around advancing their startup project. They are taking part in the upCAT#4, a 12-week intensive program for startups and spin-offs. This is where prospective startup teams work on accelerating their market entry. The fourth KIT accelerator is lead by Dr. Gerda Frank and Petra Nitschke from the Center for Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship (CIE).
Together with internal and external speakers, they share startup-relevant knowledge and a variety of methods that can be directly used in the following practice and mentoring sessions. The teams receive additional tips from experts in the industry and economy, so-called mentors. From December 7th-10th, 2015, the kickoff week took place – the start of the program. For one week, the teams received input in order to specify their business ideas. We met the teams at the beginning of the program.
The five upCAT#4 teams are a mixture between the areas of IT, biochemistry, healthcare, and graphic design. The participating teams are robodev, PLC Technologies, emmtrix Technologies, Voice Driven Type Design, and vasQlab.
Dr. Oleg Babii is a member of PLC Technologies and wants to use upCAT to finalize the business strategy and to work out a precise customer profile. In addition to the keynote speeches, he believes that he will be able to develop his concept through exchanging ideas with other founders. “Presentation and pitch trainings are also very important,” states Christoph Grün from vasQlab. Next year, the team plans a spin-off. He emphasizes that their, “product concerns a biological topic that is quite complex. Since investors often lack expertise, we have to learn to present our product understandably to a layman.”
Due to the diverse program, all participants can profit from upCAT. For example, emmtrix Technologies is visiting a trade fair in February and wants to work on their professional appearance through that. Oliver Oey also sees that some backup work is necessary in the areas of business planning and financing. He wants to close these gaps during the upCAT. His colleague, Michael Rückauer, is especially interested in ‘lean startup.’ As part of the upCAT, this topic was presented by Dr. Max Völkel, who founded his own business, Calpano, in 2012.
Implementing the learned material plays an important role at the upCAT, where teams also learn a good deal from each other. The fact that the teams possess different prior knowledge is not a difficulty for participants but rather is helpful. Julien Mintenbeck from robodev says, “The basic problems of a founder are the same for all teams. When you spend a long time on a project, you eventually get stuck. Mutual exchange at the upCAT helps to evaluate the business idea from a new perspective.” Angelo Stitz from Voice Driven Type Design is also optimistic. “We are still at the very beginning. This certainly allows us to profit from the experience of the other teams that are already close to their startup.”
In January 2016, the teams will meet again for progress pitches and for the Focus Week, where different operational issues will be explored more deeply. The conclusion of the upCAT is the Demo Day on March 16th, where founders will present their business ideas in a pitch to investors and business angels. There, the teams will receive valuable feedback one more time and get a big step closer to the first financing round.