The XATHON in Berlin: Tailwind for Female Entrepreneurs

Ensuring that the proportion of women and men in management positions is balanced, that they are offered the same opportunities and that their talent is promoted equally should long have been a matter of course. But once more this year’s figures show that there is still a long way to go to get there! According to the Female Founders Monitor, even though the number of female-founded start-ups has risen slightly compared to last year, in Germany it is still predominantly men who found start-ups: 84.9 percent of founders in Germany are male, with only 15.1 percent female. One of the main reasons for the low proportion of women is the unequal distribution of investment: after all, female-led start-ups still receive significantly less venture capital than those led by their male counterparts. 

To change this, and to strengthen the German start-up ecosystem through diversity, Dr. Rahmyn Kress, Head of HenkelX Ventures and Founder of HenkelX, and Lea Vajnorsky, Project Lead Xathon and founder of the women’s network Women/Inc., together with the Female Empowerment-Initiative Grace – Female Accelerator, initiated the XATHON event, bringing together 150 female talents from different countries, business areas, age groups and experience-levels. Despite these differences, they all had a common goal during the 3-day Hackathon (15 to 17 November): to further develop their business ideas in exchange with the other XATHON participants and alongside experienced mentors* and coaches.

Co-Hosts: Sandra Körs (Facebook), Lea Vajnorksy (HenkelX Ventures) and Susanne Scheerer (Grace) (Picture: Carolin Weinkopf)

The prelude: Female Power Talks
The XATHON was opened by well-known speakers* and role models from politics, business and society. Dorothee Bär, German Minister of State and Federal Government Commissioner for Digitization, came by to encourage the XATHON participants in their entrepreneurial endeavors and to encourage them to use their enormous potential as founders, executives and of course as decisive co-designers of digitization. 

Lea Vajnorsky and Dr. Rahmyn Kress (HenkelX Ventures) with Dorothee Bär, German Minister of State (Picture: Carolin Weinkopf)

Joanne Hannaford, Head of IT at Goldman Sachs and one of the very few successful female computer scientists, also travelled to Berlin – and she also had a clear message: “Speak more about content and funding opportunities!” Compared to other countries, such as her home country, Great Britain, or Poland too, Germany still discusses the compatibility of work and family far too often. According to Hannaford, however, it is much more important to use IT and network events such as XATHON to exchange ideas about new technical developments, ideas for one’s own business models and the possibilities for financing them. In order to meet this demand herself, Hannaford presented the Launch with GS programme, which she helped to design, as an opportunity and chance to apply with the ideas developed in the following days. With the 500 million dollar fund, Goldman Sachs wants to invest explicitly in female founders and female investment managers in order to draw attention to the “gender investing gap” and close it perspectively. 

Joanne Hannaford (Picture: Carolin Weinkopf)

The inspirational opening was rounded off by the Fireside Chat with model icon and Sustainability Advocate, Arizona Muse, alongside Bettina Metz (UN Women Germany) and Tina Kulow (Facebook Germany) – together they discussed how gender diversity, sustainability and social change can be promoted within companies and which aspects should be taken into account in start-ups and technical innovations. 

“We are here today because the topic is super important, but we hope that gender won’t make any difference in the future and that we don’t need something like the Xathon anymore.” Lea Vajnorsky via t3n

Hack Day 1 & 2: Rapid Ideation, Mentoring und Pitching
Across the following two days, the XATHON participants worked in small workshop groups on their respective business ideas, plans and interests: Whether AI, Sustainability, FemTech, E-Commerce, Healthcare or Social Affairs – the spectrum of industries and topics was broad. To kick-off it all off, Hack Day 1 started with a Rapid Ideation. The participants, alongside 11 coaches and 22 mentors*, collected ideas on their respective projects and continued to develop them until the end of the day. 

 Rapid Ideation XATHON (Picture: Carolin Weinkopf)

Meanwhile, on Hack Day 2 everything revolved around the topic “Pitch & Storytelling”. Here too, the participants were supported by experienced experts* and learned what investors pay most attention to and how a convincing pitch should be structured. Then the participants were able to test out this new-found knowledge themselves. Within a 2-hour frame, they presented their projects in Europe’s largest pitch session – with 73 pitches in 7 verticals to a jury, which then awarded the prizes. Dr. Sandy Glückstein, who started off with a special Skincare line, can look forward to participating in a founder workshop of Grace – Female Accelerator. Dr. Isabell Claus and Paulina Gernandt will further develop in a one-week Boot Camp at the Innovations-Hub H-Farm. And Giselle Ternel und Maria Doskas can also look forward to entrepreneur training at the ESCP U-School, as a result of their outstanding performance. 

Staatsministerin Dorothee Bär mit den TeilnehmerInnen, den InitiatorInnen und SpeakerInnen des XATHON (Foto: Carolin Weinkopf)

#UnleashingFemaleTalents – PIABO PR als Partner und Mentor 

PIABO war als Partner von HenkelX Ventures nicht nur für die Event-PR zuständig, sondern auch Teil des XATHON-Mentorenteams. “Als PR-Agentur für die Digitalwirtschaft begleiten wir viele Unternehmen von frisch gegründeten Start-ups bis hin zu großen Corporates. Dabei haben wir uns über die Jahre einen enormen Erfahrungsschatz erarbeitet, sind mit den neuesten Branchentrends und -entwicklungen vertraut und wissen natürlich wie erfolgreiches Storytelling gerade im Tech-Bereich funktioniert. Dieses Wissen an ambitionierte Gründerinnen weiterzugeben, sie zu unterstützen und dazu beizutragen, dass die Gründerszene weiblicher wird, ist uns ein wichtiges Anliegen. Der XATHON hat uns eine großartige Chance geboten, genau das zu tun”, so Andreas Krönke, Unit Director Technology bei PIABO und XATHON-Mentor.

The winners and the jury (Picture: Carolin Weinkopf)

Press Contact

Stephanie Stein
+49 30 2576205 – 40