Everything you should know about the Unicorn Pitch

8. April 2021Hanns Tappen3

Recently I was asked how we run our pitch event and if we can provide some more info besides our registration page. We can! In this post I clarify the questions: What is the Unicorn Pitch? Which startups can participate in the Unicorn Pitch? When and where does the Unicorn Pitch take place? Is the Unicorn Trophy, the trophy itself, also a bit of a joke?

Unicorn Pitch Trophy StartupDorf

What is the Unicorn Pitch?

An entertaining pitch event in which up to three startups or their founders present their business ideas to the audience one after the other. A pitch lasts 5 minutes, followed by a 2-4 minute question/answer session.

The questions come from the organizing team and the audience. A pitch can be presented in German or English. A pitch deck should be available.

The StartupDorf Unicorn Pitch emerged in 2019/2020 from the free pitch sessions that StartupDorf offered regularly, at the end of its Gründerstammtisch (Founders’ Roundtable) established in 2013.

Which startups can participate in the Unicorn Pitch?

All startups – ideally with a digital business model. It does not matter whether the idea is “very fresh” and only a landing page has been launched or whether a seed investment has already been raised. Startups should not be older than 36 months and may have completed a maximum of one Series A financing round. The pitches or the startups are often in the seed phase.

We also don’t care if your startup comes from Düsseldorf or our entire association area (government district Düsseldorf), such as from the cities Neuss, Meerbusch, Ratingen, Erkrath, Mettmann, Essen, Duisburg, Krefeld, Mönchengladbach, from the Lower Rhine or from the Bergisch, such as Wuppertal, Remscheid and Solingen. In short: Every startup, whether from Germany or abroad, is invited to apply.

(As long as we have restrictions on real meetings, events due to the Covid pandemic, the pitch event will of course take place online via video).

It is advantageous if we can get to know you briefly in advance. This can be done with the application for the pitch. But it is also not wrong to have already approached us at a StartupDorf event. Establishing contact in advance, “getting into conversation”, is just like the pitch a kind of networking, which we at StartupDorf think very highly of ;).

Contact (me) Hanns Tappen via Linkedin and write that you are interested in participating in the Unicorn Pitch. Of course you can also contact all other StartupDorf e.V. board members.

The application process should be completed about a week before the pitch.

We do this on a voluntary basis, which means that we rely on you to be as flexible and agile as we are ;-).

When and where does the Unicorn Pitch take place?

There are 6 pitch dates, which take place in blocks in March and April, then again in July and August, and in November and December.

The Unicorn Pitch itself is integrated into our Gründerstammtisch event format.

In February of the following year, the 6 trophy winners of the previous season are invited to the Unicorn Pitch Grand-Prix and are given the opportunity to pitch against each other for a special prize at this special event. After this final event, a new pitch season will start in March.

Background Gründerstammtisch: Every first Wednesday of the month, StartupDorf offers a diverse program made for the startup scene in North Rhine-Westphalia, and because of our central location in Düsseldorf, we naturally have many friends on the Rhine and Ruhr.

Since mid-2013, we have been hosting the Gründerstammtisch and have made our format one of the most successful founder scene meetups in Germany.

The event platform Meetup.com has listed us among the top ten in its overview of the largest entrepreneurial networking meetings in Germany. Our Stammtisch appears alongside events in Berlin and Munich. Not bad, we think – when you compare it to the startup scene in the really big startup hubs in Germany.

The reach and community we’ve built here on Meetup over the years is certainly interesting for any startup.

Is the Unicorn Trophy, the trophy itself, also meant to be a bit of a joke?

The Unicorn Trophy as a prize for the pitch with the most votes is certainly something that will be presented with a smile. We would like to take the pressure off the participants in advance and see a nice symbiosis with the wording and the trophy as an object.

On the one hand, a startup that reaches Unicorn level is extremely, extremely rare and on the other hand, at the beginning of a startup journey, no one really knows whether this or that startup could mature into a Unicorn.

“You never know” is exactly the right approach in this context. And in case of doubt, we are always right with our Unicorn Trophy ;).

(Sure, there are still a few reasons that determine a likelihood of a startup surviving at all, or scaling to a unicorn. But as far as our audience includes these points in their evaluation, it’s also about likeability and the determination and verve of the presenters).

Looking at it objectively, we can say: The Unicorn Pitch is a good training opportunity to score with your idea and performance “in front of an audience”.

As the winner, you’ll get “a lot of fame and glory” as well as a real Unicorn on the shelf.

Good feedback and a gain in expert know-how, as well as interest from potential investors, are not that rare in the aftermath of a Unicorn Pitch.

We are looking forward to your application and hope very much that we can still hold real pitch events with an audience in 2021. Let’s hope for the months of November and December.


Hanns Tappen

Hanns Tappen is the initiator and founding chairman of StartupDorf e.V. With betawerke.de, he advises at the intersection of startups with corporates and builds products for the startup ecosystem. In addition, he has been a mentor, coach, angeladvisor for founders* and startups for more than 10 years. As a startup evangelist Hanns is active in various boards, initiatives and startup programs as well as jury's.


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