Lecture on "Early-stage start-up investors" as part of the EXIST support program

February 14, 2022

The event took place on 07.02.2022 with the aim to familiarize start-ups as well as prospective founders and interested parties with the perspective of investors. The lecture was organized as part of the support program for EXIST funded teams. It was organized by ENI and the Startup Center of the HdM, supported by TTI GmbH.

As part of the EXIST funding program, the event was about giving participants an insight into the perspective of a venture capital investor. In this context, Niklas Hebborn was invited. Niklas Hebborn, who works as an investment manager, is among others a partner of the well known investor Frank Thelen at the company Freigeist Capital GmbH. At the beginning of the lecture, Hebborn explained the philosophy behind Freigeist. At its core, he said, the goal of all "Freigeist Investments" is to invest in a small number of highly technical startups that are global problem solvers. In short, "a lot of tech, a little investment, a lot of hands-on," Hebborn said. The rest of the session focused on sharing "do's & don'ts" when it comes to startups working with investors. This specifically addressed the areas of: Pitchdeck content, team & communication as well as the final investor selection. It was especially important for Hebborn to point out that not every investor is suitable for every startup: "We work very closely with the startups we invest in and you spend a lot of time together in the first two years. Therefore, in addition to the hard facts, it also has to be a good human fit." On the point of investor selection, he says it is especially important to understand the long-term interest of the potential investor. This can be far from the start-up's goals & can lead to major disagreements in the medium term, Hebborn said. "Look for smart money" says Hebborn. By this he means not to accept every offer and to subject the investors to a thorough analysis, in the best case also by a "due diligence".

In the end, the interested participants were allowed to ask questions & exchange ideas with Niklas Hebborn. Sven Zimmermann from the start-up Constellatio introduced an interesting discussion on the topic of how to get good co-founders & employees facing so many competetive opportunities on the job market. Niklas Hebborn answered that this is a central problem. It is often hard to get the right and good people together, Hebborn said. Furthermore, he sees it as one of the central problems to bring together people who are strongly driven by technology with people from the economic sector. In general, he has no secret recipe for this. Nevertheless, it is particularly advisable to build up a network in the desired field at an early stage and to stay in contact with research institutions and universities at all times. In the end, however, it is hard work, as suitable talents are more in demand than ever.

In conclusion, one of Hebborn's key messages was to become friends with investors early on to get a feel for the industry. Accordingly, a suitable partner could be selected for an investment in a more targeted manner and, by setting similar goals, work with fun on the success of the start-up.


This image shows Melanie Minderjahn

Melanie Minderjahn


Research Associate, PR Manager

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