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TechScale Berlin: How Universities cultivate innovation

Jewell Sparks meets Martin Schmidt, one of the cofounders of HomeMealDeal, who was awarded one of the six scholarships of Berliner Startup Stipendium.

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This week, Jewell Sparks meets Martin Schmidt, one of the cofounders of HomeMealDeal, who was awarded one of the six scholarships of Berliner Startup Stipendium a couple of weeks ago. Photo: John Schnobrich

It is no secret that plenty of innovation starts at the university level. Many students come up with great ideas which become the epicenter of their thesis, and those patents often stay with the university. Berlin is recognized as one of the largest hubs for the sciences in Europe, making the city a hotbed for innovation. There has been a lot of chatter in the last few years circling around how to monetise great ideas from university students and their future as entrepreneurs. Some institutions have put mechanisms in place to support their students and alumni as it relates to cultivating great ideas and turning them into successful products and services.

I recently stumbled upon Berlin Startup Stipendium, which grants scholarships worth €2000 per month over six months, with the opportunity to extend another half-year. This scholarship helps innovators reach their milestones, complete prototypes and prepare their startup for followup funding. The scholarship is granted to founders on behalf of the University Startup Factory – The Next Chapter program formed by the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Freie Universität Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. The funding comes from the Berlin Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Enterprises and European Social Fund (ESF). The next deadline to apply is November 8.

I got a chance to catch up with Martin Schmidt, one of the cofounders of HomeMealDeal, who was awarded one of the six scholarships of Berliner Startup Stipendium a couple of weeks ago.

What is HomeMealDeal?

HomeMealDeal is a marketplace that connects the HomeChefs with people who are looking for an alternative to conventional restaurants through authentic, home-cooked food.

What were some of the questions you were asked during your pitch?

There were several questions asked, but one was with regards to our business model. HomeMealDeal is different from other companies who specialize in home-cooked meals because we offer authentic food from different countries and solve a big problem that many immigrants in Berlin have. Most Berlin restaurants focused on regional cuisine cook for the German target group and therefore modify the food. There are approximately 1.3 million people with a migration background in Berlin. We want to promote integration by helping these people have a little more home in Berlin. Furthermore, we actively focus our business model on being able to offer a healthy and affordable alternative to restaurants.

How many home chefs do you want to have signed up by the first quarter of 2021?

We first need to hire a few more people to formalise the creation of our team. After this we will actively start marketing and recruiting home chefs to start generating revenue and enable good cooks to monetise their home-cooked meals. Our plan is to have approximately 50 home chefs signed up and active by the end of the first quarter. 

How much turnover do you estimate a home chef can make per month?

We suspect that each home chef can make an average of €500 per month (100 orders at €5). 

How much money would you make per home chef if their turnover is €500 per month?

As a company, our goal as mentioned before is to help good cooks throughout Berlin generate money from their great home cooked meals. If each chef generates an average of €500 per month, we would make approximately €50 per month after duties and taxes.  

You mentioned that you feel you have a competitive edge over delivery service companies such as Lieferando. Why?

We are different because we want to create an affordable, healthy alternative to restaurants and delivery services. We are building a marketplace built upon trust and want to support hobby cooks over restaurants. Our operating costs are cheaper as well simply because our cooks don’t have to rent restaurants and we have no delivery workforce or costs. 

What’s next for the six winners of this Berliner Startup Stipendium cohort?

Now the onboarding takes place. We all will be granted an office in Mitte or Adlershof, and each startup is assigned one of the startup coaches in order to formulate their milestone business plan.

It was a pleasure to catch up with Martin and his cofounder Dugonik. We hope to bring you more stories like this via our column. Send an email to [email protected] if you have a startup competition coming up and want founders from throughout Berlin to apply. 

That’s all folks… until next week.

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