entrepreneurship, Events, startup

The Rheinland Pitch Winter Finals are BACK!

The spectacular Rheinland Pitch Winter Finals format is back!

All photos by Manor Lux, https://manorlux.de/

And what a spectacular Rheinland Pitch Winter Finals 2024 it was in KOMED, Cologne!

This year, based on the experience and feedback gathered from doing this for over 10 years now, we mixed it up a little to make it even more interesting for the audience – and to give even more startups the exposure: We decided to try three different categories with three startups pitching in each.

The categories were Sustainability, Generative AI, and Female Entrepreneurship. The finalists were:


  • Beaverdesk
  • Innovative Robot Delivery
  • Fainin GmbH

Generative AI:

  • Panos AI
  • Cityscaper

Female Entrepreneurship:

  • KOHO Smart
  • Campus Cruiser
  • Qizify Learning

And then the startups pitched…

The jury considered each pitches, asked questions… With the Rheinland Pitch finals format we have a panel of expert judges that count for 50% of the weight of the votes together with 50% of the audience.

The audience asked questions…

The audience also voted…

And then it was time for the classic networking break with Currywurst.

Networking is at least half the value of the event.

And it wouldn’t been possible to put on a flawless event without a lot of great helpers!

And the winners were…

Sustainability: Fainin GmbH

Generative AI: LABNODE

Female Entrepreneurship: Qizifi Learning

It’s a wrap! See you in 2024! Stay tuned to https://rheinlandpitch.de

Events, speaking, startup

Pirate Summit 2011 – 2023

“It’s better to burn out
than it is to rust.
The king is gone,
but he’s not forgotten.”

Neil Young

Last week I attended (and finally it was the time to bring our oldest pirate in training too) the Last Burn of the PIRATE Summit, the startup event in Cologne, DE with the most special place in my – and many others’ – heart.

And thus it will be no more.

All sorts of emotions going through my mind about this having been the very last Pirate Summit. So amazing to finally catch up again – and especially awesome to finally see startup people from Tehran, Iran again here in Europe! And also so weird it was for the last time in this setting. It’s the end of an era for sure.

It was here, at the very first one in 2011 we introduced the world to Gauss – The People Magnet, the very first Social Discovery app for the iPhone:

Also this time, doing my miniscule part to help out by moderating the very last “Walk the Plank” pitch competition, being on stage again felt kinda full circle 2011 – 2023:

(The final “ARRR!” – Image by Dustin Preicksee more pictures from the event).

It was here in 2011 I got my German and European network of entrepreneurs and investors kick-started. Still some of my most cherished connections to date.

As one of my favourite songs goes; “Maybe it’s better to burn out, than fade away”… so let’s celebrate – and be happy and grateful that it happened (and kept it happening for so long!), not lament that it’s over – ARRR!

Forever grateful for the safe harbour Manuel Koelman, Till Ohrmann and the rest of the band of pirates managed to create (and maintain) for us over these many, many years.

This is going to leave a big hole in the region.
But that’s OK:
It’s the testament to what the Pirate Summit was, is, and forever will be;

“My my, hey hey.

Rock and roll is here to stay.
It’s better to burn out than to fade away.

My my, hey hey.

Out of the blue and into the black.
They give you this, but you pay for that.
And once you’re gone you can never come back.
When you’re out of the blue and into the black.”

Neil Young
Events, pitching

Prepping Startups for the (FINAL!) Pirate Summit

Today, I was honored to be back helping the startups walking the plank at this year’s (and also the final one – RIP 2011 – 2023) Pirate Summit prepare giving feedback on their pitches – one week out before they walk the plank!

I’m also moderating the Walk The Plank pitch competition, so see you there!

And if you haven’t gotten a ticket yet, have a look at the ticket page – there should be tickets available for most kinds of budgets (if they are not sold out yet!).

Customer Development, Education, entrepreneurship, Events, innovation, Lean Launchpad, Lean Startup

Lean Innovation Educators Summit 2022

Recently I was honored and excited to attend my fifth “Lean Innovation Educators Summit” and exchange best-practices and catch up with fellow educators from around the world.

The Lean Innovation Educators Summit is designed to model the methodologies we teach, as we conduct beneficiary discovery with our fellow Lean LaunchPad educators to improve our courses. A key aspect of teaching the Lean LaunchPad methodology is encouraging students to “get out of the classroom” and talk to others. That’s exactly what we as Lean educators strive to do ourselves at the Summit.


“At our fifth Lean Innovation Educators Summit, we discussed the role of the university and other important organizations in supporting the critical mission of preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators. Attendees gleaned insights from keynote speaker Rich Lyons, the Chief Innovation and Entrepreneurship Officer of the University of California at Berkeley, about the opportunities and challenges faced by the Lean Innovation Educators community.”

Education, Events, startup

Keynote: Why exits matter @ DEEP Startup Ecosystem Conference 2021

Today I spoke a bit about why exits matter in startup communities at the DEEP Startup Ecosystem Conference 2021.

My main points were to refresh the audience on the Boulder Thesis, and press the importance of successfully exited entrepreneurs reinvesting their knowledge and money (and also not successfully exited founders reinvesting their knowledge) in the local ecosystem for it to thrive.