From the top 20 to the final 10... what it takes

Out of 100s of applications received each year, 20 start-ups are selected to come to Berlin. The start-ups meet with- and pitch to our Managing Director, Programme Director as well as a diverse panel of industry experts, METRO executives (including our CEO, Olaf Koch), sales directors, and investors; only 10 of the 20 start-ups make it past the selection day, begging the question: once you make it so far as to the top 20 what secures you a spot in the final 10? The easy response: “make an impression”, or “show potential” here’s how:

It comes down to the founder, the team, what their solution can offer and the way in which they approach the day…


“Companies which already made it to the in-person interviews, have passed a very strict interview process. During these steps we were able to figure out by 90% which companies could participate in our next class. All of them came with the same chance to be selected, but at the end we can only accept ten teams and build a dynamic class with companies which will benefit the most from the 3 months accelerator.”

-Martin Olczyk, Managing Director


Come in person and with the entire founding team; Meetings via Skype make it hard for the selection committee to understand how the team interacts and works together. Having the entire team their means avoiding any loss of knowledge or key strengths, it allows the panel to understand the dynamics of the founders and how they contribute to the success of the start-up.

Be a great founder, know the team dynamic; We look for a founder who creates a great team dynamic, and who is not afraid to delegate. A strong founding team trusts, complements- and relies on each other, demonstrate this in the meeting; present specific individual expertise and responsibilities.

One of the main soft skills we look for in a founder is the ability to balance social responsibilities, and the expectations of various stakeholders. A good indicator of these qualities is the way in which the founder handles the diverse questions from the selection panel.

Persistence is a good indicator to how well a founder can convince investors and customers to buy into their vision, and to how special their solution is. A convincing vision will go a long way in making a company stand out.

Know the market; Awareness of the market (the relevant numbers, the competition, and the trends that affect it) makes up for a founding team who is in touch with their solution. Start-ups who are aware of what barriers exist and how to tackle those, in order to go-to market, will be remembered. Furthermore, understanding what specific pain points they solve for their potential customers, shows the potential of the solution.

Deliver a clear value proposition; communicate on the customer pain points that the solution is targeting, not just via theories or studies found online but through brutal direct market feedback. A USP can be defined in so many ways but prove it is much more than price or speed; prove a real barrier for others to kick you out of the market. Demonstrate attention to how the business sets out to building a relationship with its customers and that the solution is customer centric – built through listening and adapting to customer feedback; this all contributes to a sustainable value proposition.

Scalable business-models; Selling at a smaller scale with few people is more impressive than boasting large revenues. Show a focus on quality sales, and a strong pipeline rather than closed deals through a lot of sales people; it is better to prove 5 client acquisitions with one salesperson than 50 clients with 100 salespeople. Raising money for sales should not be the first intention.

Finally, showing potential synergies with METRO and/or its partner network will help. To achieve this, provide an MVP that can be readily tested with METRO customers. An added bonus? When the start-up already has proven traction to show that the product is actually working.


“The clearer the vision in the segment the start-up is operating in and the closer that segment is to what METRO can offer in terms of customer leads, the more value will come out of it for the start-up, METRO, and its customers during the programme and beyond.”

– Sylvia Dudek, Programme Director


Consider the points above and get that much closer to joining us in Berlin for three months of intense mentorship and coaching. You don’t have to be perfect, be confident, but humble and coachable and show that you have potential.

….Stay tuned for the announcement of our Hospitality 2018 cohort. #futurecalling

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