On/Off relationship between politicians & founders

Tech founders and tech investors are regularly surprised by the sudden interest of politicians that is bestowed onto our scene like clockwork — every 4 years. Can you (tech entrepreneurs and tech investors) still remember the numerous inquiries and visits from politicians in 2013 and 2017?

Wasn’t that great, the interest top politicians and backbenchers had in startups and the whole tech scene? Yes, those were the days! Founders, startups, technology and the whole ecosystem were super important.

First, I would like to emphasize that there are some politicians who are very involved in enhancing the startup ecosystem. This positive forward momentum has largely been facilitated by the work of the Federal Association of German Startups. This team has made a monumental difference for founders and investors in recent years.

Thank you to those politicians who have been and continue to be committed to further supporting our tech ecosystem.

Fall 2021 is coming

4 years will soon be over again and the next federal elections are coming up in the fall. That’s why I would like to encourage you to take a critical look at the motivation of these politicians.

We can all rejoice — it’s coming up again soon. In a few weeks, politicians from all parties will (re)discover the German startup and tech scene. They will have their pictures taken with founders. They will visit startups in their “cool” offices together with their entourage in tow. But, fear not, if the Corona situation doesn’t allow for this, we will all be witness to the inundation of media focused screenshots of startup Zoom meetings. They will have the opportunity to engage with founders, who will take the time to delve into their technologies and products, unfortunately most of them can neither understand nor see the value in many of these. The reaction of these politicians will likely be pseudo-smart speeches that they may have not even written themselves in order to woo the German tech scene.

For a politician, it is enormously important in which context she/he shows herself/himself. It has less to do with sustained focus, interest, party platform or upcoming activities. There are politicians who have long-term and sustainable interests in the startup scene. Unfortunately, in many cases, this interest is solely focused on achieving campaign goals #hypocrisy.

The goal of a politician who allows her or him to be photographed in a daycare does not necessarily want to take care of the children — she or he wants the votes of young mothers or young fathers. Furthermore, when someone poses in a photo with a top athlete, it has a ripple effect towards sports, activities, and fitness. Dear founders, do your own math…

Now you could argue that it doesn’t matter after all, because the attention is great! But, here is the catch — most politicians have neither political content nor opinions about the tech ecosystem. Conclusion — you are not on the political agenda.

Don’t waste your time

In a few weeks, numerous top politicians and backbenchers will try to get a piece of the dynamic and innovative image of the startup scene through photo opportunities, visits to startups, participation at startup conferences. Your time and resources are very limited in a young company. So, consider whether it makes sense for you to showcase yourself and your company.

We are all in this together…so, here is my modest and perhaps arguably reasonable suggestion (you be the judge!)

  1. If you, as a founder or tech investor, decide to serve as an image-boosting figurehead for a politician, you should ask yourself beforehand
    -What does this individual politician stand for?
    -Why do you agree with their campaign platform?
    -Did the politician and/or party support my industry and future interests?
  2. What does the party’s platform say about digitalization, cutting red tape, education, innovation, foreign labor, etc.?
  3. If you agree to act as the figurehead, make sure to have your political wishes ready. You won’t get better access to communicate your ideas than in an election year. MAKE IT COUNT!!

If you want to check which parliamentarian has voted how on certain topics.
https://www.bundestag.de/abgeordnete
https://www.abgeordnetenwatch.de/

Venture Capital Investor and Managing Partner @capnamic, former repeat entrepreneur — focusing on B2B tech startups.