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BMW Group: Sustainable startups on the upswing: Following an excellent first year, the RESPOND accelerator program enters its next round

The BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt and UnternehmerTUM are once again looking for founders of sustainable startups to participate in the RESPOND accelerator program

The application phase for RESPOND has begun: Until February 15, 2021, the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt and UnternehmerTUM are once again looking for founders of sustainable startups to participate in the five-month accelerator program. RESPOND aims to inspire and empower entrepreneurs to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda. The focus of the 2021 program is on the following topics:

  • The Future of Work

Work worlds and the role of human labor are changing rapidly. RESPOND is looking for solutions that equip people with the right skills and tools for the future of work, enable equal access to employment, and use technology to improve precarious working conditions.

  • Sustainable Urbanization

Urban environments are facing complex social and ecological challenges. RESPOND is looking for solutions that promote intelligent and sustainable urban systems and foster citizen participation.

  • Responsible Economy

The effects of our economic systems overtax our planetary resources. RESPOND is looking for solutions that promote a responsible use of resources, sustainable production and consumption patterns, the creation of a circular economy, and the mitigation of environmental risks.

In the four sprint phases of the program, the founders will receive support, both on-site in Munich and digitally, in developing responsible leadership and scaling their enterprises with a particular focus on sustainability. In addition to numerous coaching and mentoring offerings, the participants will benefit from the mutual exchange and collaboration with each other as well as with the global networks of the BMW Foundation and UnternehmerTUM. Moreover, the entrepreneurs will have free access to coworking spaces at the new Munich Urban Colab during the five-month program period. At the RESPOND Demo Night, the startups will be able to present their work to an international group of investors, industry representatives, and journalists.

RESPOND is entering its second round in 2021. The first year was already a major success: we received more than 400 applications from 74 countries last year. 36 coaches supported the participating startups with more than 250 hours of training and development. Networking plays a particularly important role: In 2020, the startups had the opportunity to work with 27 VCs, 50 mentors, and 18 partners, including renowned big names of the startup scene such as HV Capital or Earlybird Venture Capital. The ten participants of the first round included the startups Hawa Dawa (air quality management), which was named “Digital Startup of the Year 2020,” and Kraftblock (storage-based renewable energy systems), which received an investment in the mid-single-digit million range.

Heba Aguib, Chief Executive RESPOND, BMW Foundation, summarized the program’s achievements as follows: “In 2020, the support provided by RESPOND showed direct and impressive results in terms of scaling the startups: Despite the turbulent year, the participating enterprises were able to achieve major successes. Made of Air, for example, did not only win the Golden Pretzel award at the Bits & Pretzels conference but was also named ‘Science Breakthrough of the Year’ by the Falling Walls Foundation. We look forward to giving this kind of boost to another group of founders and startups this year so that they can unfold their potential for making the world a better place even more quickly.”

Miki Yokoyama, COO RESPOND, UnternehmerTUM, added: “The first year of the program clearly demonstrated the value of a good network for founders, especially in challenging times. We look forward to continuing to expand our network of relevant investors, enterprises, and mentors and thus offering real added value to all participating startups also this year.”


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