Interview #FFM20
with Fabiola Hochkirchen
and Bettine Schmitz

Founders of Auxxo

FFM-Team: You both have a lot of experience in the startup and investment sector and last year founded Auxxo. How did this come about and what motivated you?

 

Fabiola: We originally founded Auxxo be- cause we wanted to make direct investments in a“female”way – although we don’t really know what that means. We were familiar with the statistics and knew how few female founders there were in the startup ecosystem – and female investors, too – and we wanted to do something about it and use our experience to support female founders.

 

Bettine: We also realized straightaway how our experiences, personalities and skill sets complement each other. I worked in the early-stage sector for a long time, our co-founder Gesa Miczaika was the first employee at Blacklane and Fabiola was in the private equity sector for a long time – we all had business angel experience.

 

Fabiola: We have now arrived at the point where we are looking for teams with a future-proof DNA and where topics such as diversity, purpose, sustainability and new work are anchored in the very core of the company. We are convinced that this is the only way for companies to achieve long-term sustainable success.

FFM-Team: As our study shows, female startups still only account for 16%. Where do you see the biggest challenges for women in the startup sector?

 

Fabiola: In our view, the biggest challenge for female founders is that they don’t have such strong networks yet. This can quickly lead to beginner’s mistakes – for example
in the selection of the first investors or the valuation of the business in the early stages. We have seen a lot of companies with really strong female founders and great ideas where such early mistakes proved to be an obstacle to success.

 

Bettine: One aspect that also needs to be discussed more is the lack of infrastructure for founders who are starting a family. Setting up a business and starting a family often happen in the same phase of life. If you can’t get a place at a nursery for your child, it’s virtually impossible to start a business. This is true for both mothers and fathers.

FFM-Team: An important prerequisite for the establishment and development of a startup is access to capital: How would you assess female founders chances of obtaining the most appropriate financing for them?

 

Fabiola: Of course, you have to differentiate between the different types of financing: VCs have the very specific investment objective of betting on the next unicorn. But if you are not a candidate for VC investment, you have to look for alternatives. There are impact investors or bank loans, for example, but these two options are often not suitable for most startups. At the moment there are not many investment models between the more traditional forms of financing and VCs. Changing this is a major challenge. But it’s something we would like to tackle.

 

Bettine: We would like to help female founders to find financing that matches their strategy and not the other way round, thinking first in terms of financing rounds. VCs aren’t the only option. When you’re founding a company, you shouldn’t be driven by the financing model, but by the idea and the business model.

FFM-Team: Our Female Founders Monitor also shows that female founders often have difficulties in finding investors. How can this situation be improved?

 

Bettine: In our experience, female founders often do not come into contact with as many people with experience in founding companies – especially outside of Berlin. It is sometimes surprising how important even little tips can be. That’s why I am convinced that more and better networks are needed. Networks are essential, especially when it comes to finding business angels willing to invest.

 

Fabiola: We have founded a network of female business angels – the Evangelistas. We are also organizing a meeting jointly with the female accelerator program Grace, where we will try to bring together all the players who are working on behalf of female founders.