Announcing Techstars Class 153 of the METRO Accelerator, powered by Techstars

Announcing Techstars Class 153! We are super thrilled to announce the ten companies joining the METRO Accelerator, powered by Techstars.

We kicked off last week (November 5th) and we are looking forward to three months of awesomeness, capped off by Demo Day mid February 2019.

This year, we attracted companies from eight countries, including Croatia, Italy, Germany, France, South Korea, UK, Israel and India.

Our one and only goal is to support and grow these ten incredible companies. Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, and strong partners and mentors help make this happen. The METRO Accelerator program provides mentorship, access to METRO, its executives and its customers.

The next 14 weeks will be filled with mentoring, pitching and growth!

I would like to thank our mentors, sponsors, partners and alumni for their generous support. Special thanks to the team at METRO for their true commitment to the success of our partnership.

Without further ado, here are the METRO Accelerator, powered by Techstars 2018 companies:


Complete all your back-office tasks in five minutes everyday.


A virtual assistant for travelers.


The only way to make fresh, nutritious olive oil anywhere.


Always have reliable staff for successful shifts.


An innovative digital solutions for the hospitality industry combining marketing automation, AI & machine learning to increase direct ordering, guest engagement and customer life time value


A hotel-tech marketplace of SaaS solutions allowing independent hotels and small chains to select the right tools and systems for their business.


The smartest, most customer-centric AI platform & company on the planet.


Track and analyze social media activity for every restaurant and hotel in a given city.


The smart way to run your bar


The chatbot that generates real-time demand for restaurants.

Martin Olczyk Joins Techstars as Managing Director of METRO Accelerator for Hospitality

I am extremely honored and excited to announce that I joined Techstars as the managing director of the METRO Accelerator for Hospitality powered by Techstars in Berlin. Together with Franziska Lohl (Program Manager) and the METRO accelerator team we will recruit and accelerate 10 outstanding entrepreneurial teams who are ready to help shaping the hospitality industry.

In the past 10 years, I have started four companies, acted as its CEO, CFO and COO, raising multiple venture capital rounds, worked with dozens of technology businesses as an M&A banker, advising companies on raising millions of dollars and selling businesses across the globe, being a business angel, mentor and advisor to startups and several accelerators. But compared to a serial entrepreneur journey, joining Techstars just feels by far as the most exciting move! Techstars is THE worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed – for me that means working with the brightest minds and helping them build the next world market leaders, I can’t imagine anything more exciting!!

I have seen a lot of changes across many industries and the increasing influence of technologies. Before starting my own entrepreneurial journey, I was always very fortunate to work with and learn from successful and super talented entrepreneurs during my career. Having the experience of working with early stage companies and more matured ones, I was always very curious about the persons behind the businesses – the entrepreneurs.

Having lived in several countries in Europe and in Asia, experiencing different cultures there seems to be one common entrepreneurial DNA which connects the special type of human beings.

Global Network and #Givefirst

Starting a business is tough and requires a lot of energy. Especially at the early stage, founders need the most help and the most support. Techstars’ #givefirst mission and the global network of mentors offers a unique one-stop shop home for founders and entrepreneurs. Knowing Techstars and the dynamic environment for a few weeks only, I am totally convinced that if I had had the opportunity when I started my business it would have been of enormous advantage for the growth and the development of my companies and I am thrilled about the idea of supporting other entrepreneurs within the Techstars now and lifelong.

METRO Accelerator for Hospitality powered by Techstars in Berlin

The hospitality sector has a significant economic impact and almost 10% of all European jobs depend on industry. However, the industry is still massively under-digitised and does not have such a large corporate structures compared to large industrial sectors. The huge number of individual businesses usually burns more money and cannot compete with organised franchise and system chains, which is usually connected with poor conception and planning processes, high burnout rates and poor food and service quality. At the same time, the segment is extremely cost-sensitive and is threatened to become the victim of various social developments – such as the extinction of the cooking profession, faster changes in trends, new developments in metropolitan areas  and the countryside or the above mentioned low level of digitisation. All in all, the segment offers high digitization potential with a high degree of complexity.

METRO, with €30bn revenues and the global network, an amazing mentor pool and access to key industry players, is the perfect hotbed/frontier for hospitality startups to test, improve, fine-tune its solutions and  find out what technologies customers need to succeed. Running two accelerator programs together with Techstars in parallel, for 4 years in a row, having invested in 50 companies together with METRO, offers the ideal conditions to turn your ideas into globally relevant products and sustainably successful companies.

Berlin has a uniquely vibrant and rapidly growing startup atmosphere and is said to be the best location for tech startups in Europe offering a perfect  infrastructure for funding, financing and scaling. You’ll be part of this international community and Techstars family not only for the three months but lifelong! So, we are looking forward to your application!

Applications for the METRO Accelerator for Hospitality powered by Techstars in Berlin are open now and close August 3rd, 2018.

You will find more valuable information about how to apply within the Application Toolkit or feel free to add me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter and let me know if you have any questions!

I am looking forward to work with the Techstars and METRO family and help grow and develop a new generation of innovative hospitality companies and boost the founders’ vision to unicorn level!

9 Startups in Berlin Shaping the Future of Retail

Announcing the 2018 class of the METRO Accelerator for Retail powered by Techstars!

When I took over the helm of the METRO Accelerator for Retail, powered by Techstars a little under six months ago, I was tasked with finding the sharpest and smartest founders from around the world. We started with a simple proposition: “Come test and deploy your innovative solutions across the METRO and P&G supply chains.”

Our call was answered from every corner of the world, with applications from companies spread across more than sixty countries, across six continents. As one of the most active seed-stage angel investors in Europe, I’ve engaged with a significant number of startups in the ecosystem, but I’d never quite imagined getting such an incredible response.

The METRO Accelerator is strategically integrated with unparalleled access to the intellectual capital of METRO AG, the leading international specialist in wholesale and food retail. The METRO Accelerator, powered by Techstars, has invested in over 40 startups since its inception over the last three years, and nine companies have arrived in Berlin this week for the second METRO Accelerator for Retail, joining the ranks of the esteemed alumni that are innovating across the retail value chain. The founders of these companies bring diverse and global perspectives from as far away as Bangalore, India, and as near as Munich, Germany.

We kicked things on April 23rd and are looking forward to three months of empowering the entrepreneurs to scale-up their solutions with the networks of both Techstars and METRO AG.

As the fifth program to run in partnership with METRO, we are fortunate to have an incredible community of alumni and mentors in Berlin and abroad. I’d like to thank our mentors, sponsors, partners and alumni for their generous support. We look forward to presenting the power of this worldwide network when we cap off the program with Demo Day in Berlin on July 19th, 2018.

We are thrilled to announce the companies joining the 2018 METRO Accelerator for Retail powered by Techstars:​

DiscoverDollar – We help retailers to detect and resolve revenue leakages in real-time

LSVR – LSVR provides an AR platform for retailers to boost sales & personalization

NeuroApplied – We reveal customers’ thoughts about brands without directly asking them

Pazo – Operations management made peaceful

ProtoPixel – ProtoPixel makes smart expressive lighting affordable and accessible

Resonance – Resonance is a mobile platform for supply chains to work better together

RetailQuant – We build smart retail sensors for comprehensive customer data collection

Shopest – Making nearby retail discoverable & shoppable in real-time

Xeno – Chat with Xeno bot to run your marketing

Lessons Learned, Lessons Shared – Three Years of Corporate Early-Stage Acceleration

A quick New Year’s shoutout to everyone with love and care for early-stage acceleration. 2018 marks year four of our METRO Accelerator powered by Techstars. Since the 2015 launch of our first Techstars program, we are (proudly) looking back across three years of building and running a bona-fide startup development system – a first for METRO, a first for our customers, and a first for the hospitality industry. Not bad!

Since program inception, our joint METRO Techstars team has attracted 40 formidable founders to trust us with their business building. On the way, METRO learned to become a dedicated early-stage investor, a passionate corporate mentor, and a powerful source for commercialization opportunity helping our startups grow.

For the 50+ year old multinational corporation that METRO is, three years of successful early-stage startup development support has been a rather transformative experience. With that – lessons learned, lessons shared – here’s what I believe is key to look out for if you are a founder looking to apply for our (or another) corporate program:

Build Relationships That are More than Transactional

Most corporate mentors you encounter during the program are likely individuals tied to a myriad of internal realities, complexities, and constant change. Tempting as it may be to assume s/he possesses a magic wand, at times it’s not as easy as it seems to unlock the large(r) organization. During the program, better you connect with your corporate mentors beyond your most ad-hoc request (say, to proof-of-concept your solution ‘today’), to create relationships made to get your emails answered, even months post Demo Day.

Learning Goes Both Ways

You may want us to but no, we don’t always know the answer to all your questions. To best deal with that, what good corporate programs (should) do is to help create a ‘safe space’ for mutual learning. As we work jointly through your company’s opportunities and complexities one issue at the time, we found outcomes prove best if everyone comes out smarter than going in. So, do keep challenging us as we will do the same. Let’s be honest. Often, both sides are in uncharted territory. So, let’s get jiggy with it, creating spaces for plenty a-ha and eureka moments enabled equally on both sides.

Ask, Does the Corporate Provide Robust Post-Demo Day Commercialization?

I firmly believe the difference between a good program and a great program is the corporation’s ability to provide commercialization opportunities beyond core 12-week acceleration. Think program-as-a-service versus program-as-a-lab. The former seeks to afford you a more permanent path to new customer acquisitions, following to the biz dev support during the actual program. To be sure – ‘free market’ forces in full swing – no corporate program will actually guarantee you new customer opportunities all the time. Hence, back to my point above, this is why establishing long-term corporatementor relationships is such an important thing.

Be Sure You’re Ready to Run with It                                

How much ‘homework’ is enough before approaching a corporate about piloting your product or service? Hard to say or measure, but we tend to know it when we see it. Above all, be comfortable asking uncomfortable questions in sometimes tricky corporate meetings. Having sat in many pitch sessions, don’t short-sell yet don’t over-hype. No matter what you are building, it’ll likely always be added to or otherwise be ‘under construction’. That is perfectly fine as long as you are honest about your offering’s strengths and weaknesses (to the degree you know of them). In other words, corporates or otherwise, it’s your audience’s trust in your judgement that is equally as important as promoting your product’s intrinsic genius.

METRO Accelerator for Hospitality Demo Day

Applications are Now Open for the METRO Accelerator for Retail, Powered by Techstars

I’m excited to announce that we have opened applications for our second class of the METRO Accelerator for Retail, Powered by Techstars in Berlin!

The METRO Accelerator for Retail, Powered by Techstars handpicks the best startups for an intensive three-month program in Berlin, built on the foundation of marked funding and coaching, together with access to investment opportunities. Within the program, startups gain close purpose-driven mentorship from industry leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs from different verticals of Retail, Tech and Wholesale trade.

The METRO Accelerator for Retail, Powered by Techstars is strategically integrated with unparalleled access to the intellectual capital of METRO, the leading international specialist in wholesale and food retail, alongside FMCG companies such as P&G, serving consumers around the world with one of the strongest portfolios of trusted, quality, leadership brands.

From customer service to collaborative and distributed value added commerce, multi-channel retail is where the action is. We’re seeking out entrepreneurs looking to usher in new era of retail disruption, and startups solving big problems along the entire value chain.

If your business can disrupt or innovate the retail space across any part of the value chain, and you’re looking for access to coaching and mentoring from investors, highly-regarded executives and leaders from the largest companies in Europe, then apply to the METRO Accelerator for Retail, Powered by Techstars before the final deadline on Feb 2nd, 2018.

If you apply before Jan 2nd, 2018, we will be able to help give you feedback on your application. To learn more about the upcoming program, attend one of our information sessions or visit our website

Here are the details of what you’ll receive:

  • An offer of €120.000 of investment, in exchange for equity
  • Mentorship from and access to key executives and leaders from METRO, Real, and P&G, alongside other industry partners, venture capitalists, and experienced entrepreneurs
  • Opportunities to pilot solutions with METRO and P&G across Europe
  • Free dedicated working space in the heart of Berlin for the duration of the program
  • Two Demo Days in July 2018, where each founder will present their company to hundreds of investors and corporate leaders
  • The chance to become a member of the METRO and Techstars worldwide network for life

Apply today! 

Key dates

Applications Open


Application Deadline

Feb 2, 2018

Start of the Program

Apr 23, 2018

Demo Day

Jul 12, 2018

Turning the Startup Zoo into the $1 Billion Sales Club

I have seen many corporates who want to engage with startups. They come to me and ask me to, “bring some startups who can present to them.”

My response is typically that I don’t operate a startup zoo and if they want to feed the founders, they have to go elsewhere. This tends to make corporates a little bit annoyed. They ask me why I say that.

My response is that an early stage startup is constantly fighting against death, and they literally have no time for this. What they need are people who can help them make money – everything else is a waste of time.

Turns out, corporates actually understand that. Corporates are learning to work with startups in ways where there is value creation on both sides – via pilots that lead to real money. There are two types of these pilots:

  • Pilot activity that focuses on distribution or lead generation.
  • Pilot activity that focuses on the corporate becoming a customer.

Distribution or Lead Generation Pilots

When Techstars ran a program with Disney, Disney partnered with Sphero, a program participant, to create what is now the BB-8 robotic toy. Disney injected the brand and distribution, Sphero contributed the technology and engineering. This toy was one of the world’s most successful toys when it was introduced into the market, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.

Another example comes from the METRO Accelerator for Hospitality, Powered by Techstars in Berlin (full disclosure: I have been the managing director here for two years). FragPaul (Ask Paul) is a maker of HR software for German restaurants. METRO signed a rollout deal with FragPaul, and now delivers over 100 qualified leads to the company every single week. This kind of deal flow is life changing when you are a two person startup who didn’t have to raise capital to date, and now employs 10X more staff less than a year later.

Pilot Activity that Focuses on the Corporate Becoming a Customer

Another pilot example from Techstars’ METRO Hospitality program is Flowtify, who simplifies HACCP, a systematic approach to food safety for gastronomy operators. METRO tested the product in some of its store restaurants, provided valuable product feedback to the Flowtify team, and helped the company find its sweet spot. The product is now used in a variety of gastronomy establishments and recently won the 2018 Intergastra Innovation Prize.

What Makes Pilots Successful

The success of pilots depends on a number of factors. First, you need dedicated staff on the corporate side who work 100 percent of their time on the pilot project and oversee its success. There needs to be a clear pilot process, quantification of what constitutes success, and timelines that delineate what is supposed to happen when. If this is coupled with a functional follow-on path for what is actually happening beyond the pilot, and a dedicated budget, this approach is extremely successful.

When this happens at scale, startup partnerships can have a huge impact on the bottom line of corporations. Six startups from the current METRO Hospitality program are in the midst of successfully piloting their technologies with METRO. If the rate of sales continues at where it currently stands, these startups have the potential to be generating $1B in sales with METRO per year. That’s game changing for the startups, and also moves the needle for METRO.

If you want to see the end product of the latest METRO Accelerator for Hospitality, Powered by Techstars class, and maybe meet some of the next $1B sales club startups, we would love to see you at our Demo Day in Munich on December 12th. Grab one of the remaining Community tickets before they’re gone:

I am looking forward to seeing far more of these pilots done right in the future.

A Conversation with Andreas Wuerfel

This week, we welcomed 10 new teams into the METRO Accelerator for Hospitality, Powered by Techstars family. As per usual, the METRO events team found a uniquely fitting venue to cater the occasion.

We were hosted in B.HORN, a cool little restaurant bar in Neukölln, an up and coming and exciting part of Berlin.

I caught up with Andreas Wuerfel, the CEO of HoReCa Digital Inc to chat about what HoReCa Digital and METRO are doing in the world of startups. Andreas is the guy who is responsible for building the alumni support community around the METRO Accelerator programs.

These 10 new Hospitality focused startups are joining the fourth class of the METRO Accelerator and Techstars partnership.

We now have two separate programs together with METRO in Berlin. One for retail, which just finished its first class last week and a program for hospitality, which just kicked off.

METRO and Techstars have made investments in over 40 companies in the HoReCa (Hotel/Restaurant/Catering) space. For them, it’s “the ability to have conversations early on” with their customers to find out what technologies they need to succeed and to really help build out the next wave of platforms that will manage the world of hotels, restaurants and catering.

Techstars has applications open for 12 programs around the world 🚀

From Boulder to Dubai, Austin to Boston, NYC to Seattle and Anywhere in between, including Techstars Anywhere, our mostly-virtual accelerator!

This was originally published on Medium

Presenting the 2017 Class of the METRO Accelerator for Hospitality, Powered by Techstars

The team is incredibly proud to introduce the 2017 class of METRO Accelerator for Hospitality, Powered by Techstars. These ten startups are gathering in the heart of Berlin for three months to accelerate, fund and grow their concepts to robust scalable businesses.

  • The third round of the successful mentorship-driven program METRO Accelerator for Hospitality, Powered by Techstars, kicks off in Berlin on 11 September 2017
  • Ten startups were selected among many applicants from 52 countries
  • For three months, the teams will collaborate with more than 100 international mentors, get the opportunity to test their products in 500 restaurants and hotels, and will each receive €120,000 in funding
  • The highlight of the program: the participants will present their companies to a panel of international investors at the Demo Day in Munich on 12 December 2017.

For the third consecutive year, METRO AG and the US startup network Techstars are jointly supporting startups with innovative digital solutions for the hospitality sector – with great success among international investors. In the first rounds, the participating startups generated an above average total volume of over USD 55 million in venture capital.

“Since we launched the accelerator program for hospitality in 2015 we have already selected and promoted 21 exciting startups, selected from several hundred applicants. We can with confidence state after the third round that the METRO Accelerator for Hospitality has turned into a fully established program.

It is the first program to connect the hospitality industry with first-rate technology innovators. We offer startups the opportunity to test their digital products and services with 500 restaurants and hotels in five European cities”, says Andreas Wuerfel, Director Global Innovation Community at METRO.

Today, the third round kicked off in Berlin. Over a period of three months, the participating startup founders will collaborate with more than 100 international mentors to further fine-tune their business models. The real test will be the Demo Day in Munich on 12 December 2017: that is when the start-ups will present their business ideas to international investors.

Will restaurant visitors soon be calling the waiter with the help of an illuminated LED cube? Or will we soon have machines mixing cocktails so that the bartenders can focus even more on advising their guests? These are but two examples of what the routine at the restaurant of the future could look like if it were up to the startups who made it into the third class of the METRO Accelerator for Hospitality, Powered by Techstars. 

Here are the startups participating in the third METRO Accelerator for Hospitality, Powered by Techstars 2017 class: 


A mixing machine that prepares perfect cocktails within just a few seconds


A bot named Concierge that answers the online queries of hotel guests


A digital end-to-end solution to optimize workflows in restaurants, personalize customer experience, accelerate customer satisfaction and increase significantly turnover


A restaurant system offering quality take-away lunches for business people


An in-destination App solution that gives hotel guests a personalized travel experience through the GuestU phone


A cloud-based software for the management of small and medium-sized hotels


An IT solution to minimize waste in restaurant kitchens


Nabl collects customer reviews in restaurants, hotels and shops before they walk out the door


An LED cube for guests to call the waiter by the push of a button


A tool for the beverage management of restaurants who want to stand out with their selection of wines

This was originally posted here

Test Your Product in 500 Restaurants and Hotels

…get paid to do it, and then sell it to thousands more.

When I was meeting founders over the last few weeks, I opened most of my meetings with a simple question, “How can we help?”

I received an identical answer three times, “I want to test my product in 500 restaurants.”

Wow. This was a side sentence that we had written in an email to founders to invite them to meet with us. It seemed to have struck quite a chord. “Test your product in 500 restaurants.”

Here is the background to this. Techstars, the Worldwide Network that helps entrepreneurs succeed and METRO, the wholesale giant that supplies over one million restaurants with food, run an accelerator program together. The METRO Accelerator for Hospitality, Powered by Techstars. This is a three-month accelerator program that focuses on tech startups that have restaurants or hotels as customers.

This program has one very specific element to it. METRO has a new division, called has something they call a digital sales force. That digital sales force markets only digital products to restaurants and hotels. They do this in a two-step process.

First, they test the digital product with restaurant or hotel owners who are early adopters when it comes to tech. The owners love playing with new products. This test can be done in one of five countries: Germany, France, Austria, Italy or Spain. During those tests, METRO pays for the product; the customer gets it for free. But in exchange, they have to give honest, structured feedback about the product to METRO and the startup.

Second, when the feedback is positive, the sales force can take the product into a countrywide rollout. This means marketing it to thousands and tens of thousands of potential customers.

Let’s use an example to illustrate how this can work. In the 2016 METRO Accelerator program, we invested in a startup called Resment that was making HR software for German restaurants. We did tests with potential customers and found out that these needed three features. Of these, Resment had one, the second they had, but it needed to change, and the third needed to be added. Also, restaurant owners really did not like the brand. So Resment changed its name to Ask Paul, iterated on the features and subsequently had very positive resonance with restaurant owners.

Ask Paul successfully signed a country-wide rollout deal with METRO, and within three months, the METRO sales force had generated over 2000 qualified leads for Ask Paul.

So here is the thing. If you are an early stage startup, how do you access thousands of customers? How do you attract, hire and manage a sales force with seasoned people who know how to market to customers? How do you do this countrywide? How do you ramp this up quickly? How do you ramp this up without spending a lot of money?

Below is a picture of Ask Paul CEO Marc with the sales team. This is also his sales team (Ask Paul has full-time sales people, too). At the same time, this could also be your sales team, too.

One of the ways is to use the digital sales team as a shortcut to help you ramp up your structures and processes, and then to subsequently supplement that team with your own full-time staff.

This year, we are expanding this sales capability from one country to five. Germany, France, Austria, Italy and Spain. Every startup that goes through the METRO Accelerator for Hospitality, Powered by Techstars program will have the opportunity to test its product in 500 restaurants and hotels, get paid to do it and then to sell it to thousands more.

The program may run in Berlin, but the test with customers runs in one of these five countries, and the startups will frequently travel to their target country during the program.

Once you are selling in one of these five countries, can you sell in the others? Yes, you can. And thus you can also use the digital sales team to help you with internationalization. 

If you want to test your product in 500 restaurants and hotels, get paid doing it, then roll it out to thousands and tens of thousands of potential customers, we would love to hear from you.

Applications close on 30th June 2017, you can learn more and apply here. If you have any questions, just email me at