A new round of the Xathon is about to begin: You too can do it!
In her role as Lead Events Open Innovation & Incubation at Henkel dx, Delia Goos is responsible for organizing the Xathon, which will take place for the third time later this year. This annual event is designed to promote young female founders and give them access to an exclusive network. Here, Delia talks about the mission behind the Xathon, tells us about her personal motivation, and reveals how the pandemic gave the event an unexpected boost.
Delia, you are currently organizing the next Xathon for Henkel. Tell us more about this event.
Our aim is to specifically support young female founders and innovative women. This weekend event is an opportunity for female founders to work face-to-face with numerous top-class experts, to attend various keynote speeches, and to work on their own ideas, either at one of the four locations in Berlin or online. This year, we will be focusing on D2C, because there is a lot happening in that area right now. But we obviously welcome other ideas, too, and they don’t necessarily need to be related to the Henkel universe. What matters is that these ideas are innovative and feasible.
This is your third time hosting the Xathon. Why did you and your team decide to start an event for young women only?
Because we recognized the huge amount of potential in young women across the world! Ever since we started working here at Henkel dx, we have been in contact with young start-ups – and at some point, we realized that we were dealing almost exclusively with men. That is something we want to change. According to the Female Founder Monitor, which is published annually by the German Startup Association and Google for Startups, not even 16 percent of all founders in Germany are female.
Why do you think there are so few female founders?
Well, one thing is clear: the reason there are so few female founders is not that there aren’t enough of them. We know this from our experience with the Xathon. Every year, we are literally overrun with great ideas by female founders. And yet, the start-up world is still predominantly male. As is the investor side, by the way. According to the Female Founder Monitor, one reason for this is that many women are not as well connected in the investment sector and the established business world. Naturally, this also affects any subsequent financing: in many cases, start-ups of female founders have less access to investors. This is where the Xathon can make a difference, by helping to strengthen their networks. We also hope to pave the way for more role models for young female founders. Fortunately, more and more successful female founders are taking this opportunity to come forward and share their career paths.
We want the Xathon to be a platform for young talents to be able to present themselves and their ideas, and to network with various stakeholders in the industry.
How do you plan to accomplish this goal?
We provide support in the form of knowledge, prize money for the winner, of course, and most importantly, a network of experienced mentors, both male and female. It is important to us that our mentors are very experienced in the world of business, that they are empathetic, solution-oriented, and willing to share their knowledge with our talents. We put the young founders in touch with people who can give them valuable advice for their work. People they can learn from and who will give them honest feedback. Our goal is to give them security and confidence, to empower these young female founders, to encourage the sharing of experiences, and perhaps even provide a new spin on things, a new perspective.
Can you tell us more about the upcoming event in Berlin?
The application process starts now. Female founders of an early-stage start-up can apply until October 10th, 2021. Having an MVP, i.e. a Minimum Viable Product, is of advantage, but not a requirement. We will come together on the weekend of November 12th-14th to work on these ideas. The event will kick off on Friday with a series of inspirational talks because we want to motivate our participants to dream big. The great thing about these talks is that they are open to everyone, not just the participants of the program, so everyone has the chance to take away something.
The second day is for the young female founders only, giving them the opportunity to work on their ideas. We will be organizing various master classes, each supervised by one of our top-class mentors.
Day three is all about the pitch: our founders will be invited to present their products and services. An experienced jury will be present to assess the presentations and choose a winner at the end. All of this will be happing in front of a large audience: we all get to watch the pitches, no holds barred!
Many events have been affected by COVID recently. Has the pandemic impacted the Xathon, too?
Definitely! Switching to a digital-only event last year was a big challenge for us. To be honest, I was concerned that much of the spirit we had felt the year before would be lost. However, that didn't happen. In fact, almost the opposite! The young founders are extremely passionate about their ideas. They want to pick our experts’ brains, learn all they can from them – it doesn’t seem to matter whether they are online or on-site. It helps that the platform we use is great: it allows for almost any kind of communication and exchange. In fact, last year’s digital event had a positive side-effect: our event became much more international. We had participants from 13 different countries – which was great.
This year, you are planning to host a hybrid event at four locations in Berlin, depending on how the pandemic develops.
Yes. Anyone who cannot travel to Berlin in person will be able to attend via the online platform we used last year. On top of this, our current plan is to host activities at four different locations in Berlin. As always, though, “safety first” – we will need to keep an eye on the pandemic situation. The German capital is one of Europe’s greatest melting pots in regard to female founders. We notice this even now, while we are still preparing for the event. There are numerous young female founders in the capital, who have traveled from all over the world in search of change. We want to harness their motivation and drive. Incidentally, we have just opened our new Henkel dx site in Berlin, so we are on home ground, so to speak.
By using four different venues, we are allowing the participants to work closely with the mentors and establish a personal contact, which will help them to benefit in full from the mentors’ expertise.
What would you like to say to anyone who is still hesitant about applying for the Xathon?
(laughs) Go for it, is what I would say! If you are a female founder, if you have a good and viable early-stage start-up and want to develop it further, then get your application in now! What we have learned from our past events is that our participants have always taken away momentum and motivation, regardless of how they ranked in the end. This event has produced many great ideas. And here at Henkel dx, we are very much looking forward to this year’s impulses and innovations.