about the start2grow
Every idea deserves a chance!
4–5 The Concept
6–7 The Procedure
8–9 The Coaching
10 The Coaching Principles
11 The Matching Procedure
12–13 The Online Coaching Area
14–15 The Conditions of Participation
Every idea deserves a chance!
What good are the best ideas if you don’t let them out? None at all…that’s
why, in 2001, we decided to help put ideas into action —the start2grow foun-
ders’ contests were born. Since then our team from the dortmund-project—a
division of the City of Dortmund Economic Development Agency—has put on
Germany-wide contests which are free of charge for all participants.
The aim of all the contests is not only to help create business plans but also
to help companies to really get started. To achieve this, the participants can
rely on a network of over 600 specialists who provide advice and support as
coaches. start2grow is the first and so far the only organizer of founders’
contests whose quality management system has been accredited according
to ISO 9001:2000.
We would be pleased to welcome you as a participant in start2grow soon. It is
well-worth getting involved — our cash prizes are among the highest of all the
German founders’ contests.
We describe everything you want to know about start2grow founders’ contests
on the following pages. If you still have any questions then just write us an
firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on the helpline: 0800 – 4 782 782
(free from German fixed line and mobile phone networks).
We are looking forward to your ideas.
From the idea to successful startup—that is the motto here.
Basically anyone can take part who has a business idea for a
product or a service and would like to found a company. We
offer you a lot of options to choose from as part of this foun-
ders’ contest. You can decide whether you want to make use
of all or just some of them:
• a network of more than 600 specialists available to help you as coaches
(with online coaching too)
• events covering the topics of business plans and self-employment
(coaching evenings, workshops, sector-specials, financing forums)
• the option to have your business plan assessed by experts twice during
• the chance to win high cash and non-cash prizes with your business plan
• excellent contacts to capital providers and financial institutions
The start2grow-contests are free and run on a Germany-wide basis. You can
enter at any time.
To make sure you reach the big finish we help our participants take one step
at a time. Creating a professional business plan is the first step. Because this is
the fundamental basis of every company startup, we split this into two phases.
The demands on content and scope increase until at the end you have com-
piled a detailed and convincing company concept.
... Phase 1
In the first phase the task is to transform your ideas and concept into a basic
business plan. You need to plan about 18 pages for this.
... Phase 2
In this phase the business plan is refined until a complete company concept has
been compiled. This detailed business plan documents that your business idea
is ready to go live. It puts you in a position to prepare your first negotiations
for financing. We recommend that this amounts to about 35 pages.
As already mentioned, start2grow is more than just a business plan contest. That
means that we don’t stop there —far from it. In fact this is where it gets really
exciting for all of us! In Phase 3, the real startup phase, we offer you fast and
active support with the real implementation of your business idea using our net-
work of partners. You will be given very specific help by the numerous experts
in the start2grow network and then your idea is really ready to be implemented!
The contents, structure and compilation of your
business plan is explained in detail in the “Busi-
ness Plan Manual”. We are pleased to send you
the “Business Plan Manual” at no cost. But you can
also download it as a pdf at www.start2grow.de.
Key activities for the basic phase (Phase 1) and the detailed business plan (Phase 2)
with the recommended number of pages
Elements of the business plan Phase 1 (number of pages) Phase 2 (number of pages)
Executive summary 2 3
Corporate objectives and profile 2 3
Product or service 4 5
The industry and market 4 5
Marketing (sales and distribution) 4 5
Management and key positions 1 2
Implementation planning 2
Chances and risks 1 2
Five year plan 6
Financing requirements 2
Recommended total number of pages about 18 about 35
Key activities Initial work or continuation in this phase not required in this phase
Every founders’ contest follows a strict schedule and has a fixed start date. You will
find details of the dates, deadlines and events on a separate insert sheet. If the in-
sert is missing you can also download it from the internet at www.start2grow.de.
The procedure of a start2grow Founders’ Contest
Phase 1 Kickoff event
Matching with mentors
Submit Phase 1
Assessment Phase 1 evenings,
Phase 2 Award ceremony Phase 1 and
Submit Phase 2 throughout
Assessment Phase 2
Award ceremony Phase 2
and Final Event
Phase 3 Startup support
• Kickoff event people from the worlds of business, science and
Of course, the kickoff event is primarily an opportuni- finance make the final decisions about awarding the
ty to get to know each other. The coaches are invited prizes. The criteria for winning include, for example,
together with the startup teams which means you can the quality of the business plan and the economic
already exchange interests and make initial contacts at potential of the business idea. You will find details of
this stage. the different amounts of prize money in the separate
insert sheet. As in all contests, there is no right to
• Matching appeal and recourse to legal action is excluded.
Each startup team is given the chance to receive supp-
ort from a mentor. At the beginning of the contest • Please note:
start2grow carries out a “matching procedure” to Business plans from already existing companies
bring the startup teams and mentors together. This which were founded before the kickoff event for
is based on the preferences submitted by all those each contest are precluded from any assessment
involved (both mentors and founders can name one or awards. Exceptions can only be made if the
or more candidates). For more details about matching company was set up in Dortmund and founded
see below on page 11. less than six months before the kickoff event of
the contest in question. Please see further infor-
• Assessing the business plans mation in the detailed conditions of participation
If you would like to submit your business plan to on pages 14/15.
start2grow then please note that there are special
deadlines for both Phase 1 and Phase 2. Only business • Coaching evenings
plans which have been handed in to start2grow by Coaching evenings are held at regular intervals
these closing dates can be assessed and considered for throughout the whole period of the founders’ con-
a possible award! The business plans which have been test. These include presentations by experts on topics
handed in are then evaluated by expert assessors from related to business plans and founding a company.
the start2grow network. The assessment is carried out After each specialist presentation there is the oppor-
according to fixed, standardized criteria which consi- tunity for intensive networking, which means making
der the different aspects of the company’s potential contacts, having discussions and exchanging expe-
and the quality of the business plan. The expert re- rience.
ports are compiled in the form of an assessment sheet.
After the assessment you receive written feedback • Workshops
which can also give you suggestions for improvements In addition to the coaching evenings, start2grow
to your business concept. Of course you can also dis- offers several workshops. These are to provide you
cuss this with the expert assessor in person if you wish, with even more know-how to help you set up your
as face to face meetings are even more effective. company.
But your business plan is not only evaluated by expert
assessors, it is also considered by capital providers • Sector-Specials
from the start2grow network. These financial experts These events are aimed specifically at technology-
(e.g. business angels, representatives of banks or oriented founders. The sector-specials are put on in
venture capital companies) submit short expert reports cooperation with the Dortmund centers of excel-
which then also count towards judging your business lence (TechnologieZentrumDortmund, BioMedizin-
plan in the contest itself. ZentrumDortmund, MST.factory dortmund, Center
for Production Technology Dortmund, e-port-dort-
A founders’ contest would not be a contest if there mund, B1st Software-Factory).
were no winners. A high-ranking jury made up of
One of start2grow’s great strengths is its network of over 600 experts who are
prepared to advise and support you. These coaches take up various roles to help
you implement your ideas.
The different roles of the coaches
Expert Network Expert Capital
advisor coordinator assessor provider
The personal profiles and contact details for all the coaches in the start2grow network can be found at www.start2grow.de in the Online Coaching Area, the secure
area of the site only accessible with a password.
... Mentor ... Expert advisor
Every founders’ team is given the opportunity There are numerous experts available in the
to receive intensive support from a mentor. This start2grow network who are ready to answer
person is ready to help you at any time and is your specific questions on all topic areas (e.g. in the
first contact partner; they participate intensively fields of marketing, sales, patent law, tax law,
in the development of your business plan and pass finance). In contrast to the role of a mentor, who
on fundamental startup knowledge. Your mentor is provides allround support for the founders’ team,
also the direct link to the start2grow network and the role of an expert advisor is to focus on their
helps you to make other useful contacts too. The own specialist field. The founders’ teams are de-
mentors include entrepreneurs, consultants, spe- finitely encouraged to put specialist questions
cialist startup consultants as well as founders who to several experts simultaneously so as to get a
have already been successful. The role of mentor is range of different expert opinions.
the most time-consuming of the coaching roles as
regards the intensity of support they provide. The ... Network coordinator
“matching” section on page 11 describes how the These coaches make contact to other networks or
coaches and startup teams are brought together represent an institution which is networked with
successfully. start2grow (e.g. associations, research establish-
ments, public agencies). They make arrangements
with the appropriate network and advise the foun-
ders’ teams on specific questions.
... Expert assessor
They evaluate the business plans handed in at the
end of each phase of the contest. Their expert re-
ports contain specialist evaluations and suggestions
for improvement which can be very valuable when
implementing your business plan. In addition to the
written assessment you receive, the expert asses-
sors will also give you personal feedback.
... Capital providers
Business angels, representatives of financial insti-
tutes or venture capital companies comment in the
form of short expert reports on all the business
plans that are submitted. These short reports are
also taken into consideration when judging the
business plans in the contest itself. Capital provi-
ders also have the opportunity to get in touch with
the founders’ teams direct if they wish.
In order to ensure the high quality of coaching
in the startup contests, we need your feed-
back. The staff in the start2grow team are
grateful for any comments and suggestions.
Please make ample use of the various oppor-
tunities for feedback. Give us your feedback,
for example, in person at one of the start2grow
events or via the contact page on the website
The Coaching Principles
Two fundamental aspects are binding as part of the contest by signing a non-disclosure
agreement. Signing this non-disclosure agreement
for all coaches in the start2grow net- is a basic condition for being accepted as a coach
in the start2grow network. We also ensure that
work: their services are voluntary and the business plans submitted to the contest are
only seen by the relevant persons in each case (e.g.
they maintain confidentiality. expert assessors and jury). You can download the
non-disclosure agreement from the website www.
Working as a coach in start2grow is a voluntary
activity. The coaches provide their time and • Please note:
their expert knowledge for the participants Before you register a patent or enter a registered
of the start2grow founders’ contests at no cost. design or utility model, the matter of secrecy
The coaches decide for themselves just how far is very important for you. start2grow can pro-
their contribution to the founders can go as re- vide you with an info-sheet and a template for
gards time and scope in each case. The voluntary a special non-disclosure agreement (also availa-
aspect ends where services are not expected to ble for download in the Online Coaching Area).
be provided free of charge on the market. Here You can also get individual members of the
are two examples to demonstrate what this could start2grow network to sign a non-disclosure
mean: agreement as this would have more extensive
legal implications than the existing start2grow
• Example 1 non-disclosure agreement. Whatever you do
A patent lawyer in the start2grow network gives you should find a way to protect your concept
information about whether, in principle, a patent from being “stolen” while still being able to
can be registered for a certain business idea or not discuss it with others. Lawyers and patent law-
and about how registering a patent works. But if yers can give you valuable tips as part of the
the founders’ team wishes to register the patent start2grow founders’ contest. But the best way
the coach will explain that this is a service which to protect your idea is to implement it as quickly
cannot be provided free of charge on a voluntary as possible. And that is exactly what start2grow
basis. is there to help with.
• Example 2
A coach will provide answers to general marketing
questions from the startup teams at no charge.
But when it comes to creating a specific marketing
concept for a team, this is clearly not expected to
be part of the voluntary work of a coach.
As it is very important for the founders to protect
their concept from being “stolen”, start2grow
guarantees confidentiality and protection for their
business ideas. All participants in the start2grow
network are therefore bound to maintain secrecy
about all the information made available to them
The Matching Procedure
As the mentor and the founders’ team in detail. The preferences for the matching procedu-
re can only be submitted via the Online Coaching
have to work together very closely, we Area (OCA). There is a special menu item in this area
which can only be opened until a certain deadline
take great care in allocating them to (deadline for submitting preferences). As a founders’
team you can name up to three coaches you would
each other. We call this allocation “mat- prefer as mentors. Please take note that you can
only select coaches who have stated that they are
ching”. At the beginning of the foun- prepared to act as mentors for this particular con-
test! After the deadline, the matching procedure is
ders’ contest we carry out a so-called carried out on the basis of the preference submissi-
ons we have received. This is done using a special
“matching procedure” to make sure the software application. We aim to fulfill the wishes of
all participants as well as possible, so all the pref-
best pairs are brought together. erences are compared in a first run-through.
… Submitting preferences • Example
The best matches are made by considering the par- If the mentor “Ms Anybody” has selected the start-
ticipants’ own choices. That is why the founders’ up team “Ideal” in her preference submissions and
teams and the mentors can submit their preferences. the “Ideal” founders’ team has chosen “Ms Anybo-
The mentors tell us which founders’ teams they dy” in theirs (in first place for both) then the mat-
would like to work with and the founders’ teams ching procedure will suggest the following match:
tell us their favorites among the mentors. These Mentor Ms Anybody together with Founders’ Team
preferences then form the basis for the matching Ideal.
procedure. The next matching procedure run-throughs then
evaluate the one-sided preferences. When the mat-
… Contact sessions ching procedure has been completed the founders’
To help you form an opinion on this, both the foun- teams and the mentors are informed of the match
ders and the mentors have the opportunity to get to via email. Then you can get down to developing
know each other as part of the kickoff event and at and implementing the business plan.
the first start2grow coaching evenings. The parti-
cipants are “forced” to get to know each other in
so-called contact sessions. Founders go from mentor • Please note:
table to mentor table and have a few minutes time You can only submit preferences if you are regi-
at each to exchange information. stered as a participant in the founders’ contest
and have entered a team profile in the Online
… Online Coaching Area Coaching Area in addition to your participants
Another way to get an impression of the mentors on profile which is also in the Online Coaching
the one hand and the founders’ teams on the other, Area (it is also possible to enter a team profile
is to visit the Online Coaching Area, an area on our as an individual)!
website www.start2grow.de only accessible by pass -
In the Online Coaching Area it is possible to look at
the profiles of the mentors and the founders’ teams
The Online Coaching Area
The Online Coaching Area (OCA) is a ... Team search
The team profiles are displayed in this area. The
secure part of the start2grow web- profiles contain the contact details, a short descrip-
tion of the business idea as well as information
site which is only accessible with a about the team members.
password. Only participants in the ... Participant search
This category records the personal profiles of the
founders’ contests, the coaches and individual participants. In addition to contact
details, the profile also shows a short version of
members of the network can enter the the business idea and the name of the founders’
team it belongs to. This category is there to make it
OCA. It is possible to view the contact easier to get to know each other and to help make
contacts. This can also help you to find new team
details and specialist professional pro- partners.
files of the members of the start2grow ... Accessing the Online Coaching Area
Your online registration at www.start2grow.de as
network here. For example, participants a participant in a start2grow contest also registers
you in the Online Coaching Area. Use your user-
in one of the founders’ contests can name and password to enter the OCA.
use the OCA at any time to search for And this is how it works: As part of the online
registration you will be asked to select a user-
specialists in the network and then name. After you have registered you will be sent
a password by email. You can use this to complete
contact them to help answer any or change your personal profile which was auto-
matically set up in the Online Coaching Area when
questions. you registered. Your registered user account will
be activated within 24 hours (Monday to Friday) by
the start2grow team. Your participant profile (and
... Contact details if you have already completed it, your team profile)
In the Online Coaching Area you will find can then be viewed in the Online Coaching Area.
• the coaches * and their personal profiles You will also be informed about your account acti-
• the teams* which are taking part in the founders’ vation via email and can then log in to the Online
contests Coaching Area at any time with your username and
• the individual participants * in the contests password. You will find everything else you need to
*of course it is possible to keep your entry anonymous. know there.
... Coach search
This menu item reveals the profiles of the individu- ... Maintaining and using the data
al coaches. The contents of a coach profile include The coaches and participants in the founders’
details about professional focuses and contact data. contests fill out and update their profiles in the
Using search functions you can filter the profiles of the Online Coaching Area themselves. It is also possible
over 600 coaches according to different criteria. A full to enter an anonymous profile in the Online Coaching
text search is also possible. Area (without personal details). The personal
details are then only accessible to start2grow staff.
Contact will only be made through start2grow ac-
cording to what you have agreed.
The data and information available in the On-
line Coaching Area may only be used in the
context of working in the start2grow network!
... Project exchange
All network participants have the opportunity to
place offers or wanted announcements in the OCA
—whether, for example, you are a founder looking
for another person to complete your team, or a
coach who would like to announce a special course
for participants in the founders’ contest. The pro-
ject exchange is a communications platform which
you can use to inform members of the start2grow
network using either the “offering” or “wanted”
The information in the OCA available under “down-
loads” is—in contrast to the downloads in the
public access area of the start2grow.de website
—exclusively accessible to the participants in the
founders’ contests and the members of the start-
There is also a collection of specialist presentations
from some of the coaching evenings in the past.
If for some reason you are unable to attend
one of the coaching evenings, or if you want
to read up on it afterwards, you will find that
evening’s presentation available for download
in the OCA just a few days later.
Conditions of participation
The conditions of participation in the Founders’ Contest start2grow:
• 1. Target group existing company is ensured. Winning a prize in a
The start2grow-Founders’ Contests are aimed at any- comparable founders’ or business plan contest pre-
one who has an idea for an innovative product or an cludes assessment and any awards in the start2grow
innovative service and would like to implement this contests. In case of doubt the contest management
by founding a company. We are looking for ideas decides whether registration is possible or not.
with high market potential.
• 2. Taking part in a contest • 5. Procedures in the contest
Taking part in a contest is limited to one business Taking part in a start2grow founders’ contest and
plan per person. In the contest, business plans will preparing and submitting work gives the participant
only be considered which are received separately no entitlement to claim any payment e.g. payment
and in time for each respective submission deadline of fees or reimbursement of expenses from the or-
(date of receipt applies here) and must also be for- ganizer of this contest. The organizer of the event
mally correct (see checklist in the download area in accepts no liability for any services provided by
start2grow.de). The business plan must be accompa- coaches outside the organizer’s own organization.
nied in each phase by the completed form (see forms There is no entitlement to have the submitted busi-
in the download area at www.start2grow.de). The ness plans returned. start2grow reserves the right
business plans can be delivered by post, by courier, to decide freely about the awards for the submitted
in electronic format or in person. business plans using their own judgment, whereby
no reason needs to be given for such decisions. If
• 3. Registration deemed appropriate, the case may arise where none
If you want to participate in a contest it is necess- of the submitted business plans is awarded. Infor-
ary to register via the website www.start2grow.de. mation about the prizewinners (name and contact
Registering for a contest is not binding for the par- details of the team’s contact person together with a
ticipants. The participant’s profile can be visible for short description of the business idea) can be issued
registered coaches and founders in the protected to the media for publication and also be published
area or can be kept anonymous. on the website www.start2grow.de. The contest
may be discontinued at any time without any rea-
• 4. Participation restrictions sons being given.
Business plans from already existing companies which
were founded before the kickoff event for each • 6. Prize money
respective contest are precluded from assessment From the prize money awarded in Phase 2 of the
and from any awards. Exceptions are only permitted start2grow founders’ contests, the first half of each
if the company was founded in Dortmund no more prize money award will be paid out immediately.
than six months prior to the kick-off event for the The second half will be paid out when the company
respective contest. is founded in Dortmund within six months of the
end of the month in which the final event of the
The date of founding the company as listed in the contest in question took place with the condition
commercial register applies here. Spin-off compa- that the company provides written evidence that
nies are not excluded from assessments or awards it has registered its head office in Dortmund in the
providing the business plan is for a product, ma- commercial register (Handelsregister) by this date.
nufacturing or sales procedure different from the If the entry in the commercial register (Handelsregi-
existing company’s and that the continuation of the ster) is registered after this deadline but the appli-
cation to the register court was made in due time
before this deadline, then the date of receipt of the
application for entry by the register court applies.
• 7. Non-cash prizes
Any non-cash prizes awarded in a contest must
be redeemed within six months of the end of the
month in which the final event of the contest took
place. Date of invoice/date of contract applies here.
Recourse to legal action is excluded.
City of Dortmund Economic
Töllnerstr. 9 – 11
We would like to thank the following for their
Phone-helpline involvement in start2grow:
+49(0)800 – 4 782 782
(free from German fixed line and mobile networks)
+49(0)800 – 2 367 868
(free from German fixed line and mobile networks)
Thomas Ellerkamp (responsible)
Design and production