Reflections on Bits & Pretzels 2019

October 2, 2019

This year’s edition of the Munich founders fair, Bits & Pretzels, was themed “Impact”. Felix and his team did an outstanding job with entire event, which left me with many impressions, thoughts and new contacts. But here are my take-aways when it comes to impact.

Impact as a theme

Last year’s theme was “Diversity”. Diversity is a “how” topic. It affects every aspect of how we work together as multi-faceted teams and it certainly is one aspect of impact, especially in the very important gender lens. Impact on the other hand is a “what” topic. You must be a mission-driven founder along one of the SDGs to work towards impact. To me, there wasn’t yet enough evidence of founders setting their sights on the all important 2030 goals. We need to make sure all this creative energy goes towards solving these problems and make it clear that you can build a successful and highly profitable business in the impact space. #founderforfuture is a great idea, but it needs to resonate stronger through the #makermountains.


As an impact investor, I feel like am at least aware of the systematic mechanics of the climate crisis on a high level and to be honest, it really frightens me. The climate is changing rapidly, and we start to see various effects enforcing each other. Nothing drove this home more dramatically than Sebastian Copeland’s talk on how the ice foretells the next systemic transformation. It is hard for me to not be paralyzed by it, but we can certainly say that impact investing cannot be an optional niche anymore. It has to be of radical urgency to ensure all deployed capital is supporting efforts to avert as much damage as we possibly can. While we also need to provide the right measurement frameworks and regulatory guidance, we need to work now on real, scalable CO2 reduction and absorption projects.  #impACT is they key.

Degrading humanity

Achieving our sustainable development goals will not be possible only by technological advances such as AI and new economic models such as Circular Economy. More importantly, and that was pointed out in several talks, we need to evolve as a species on the level of consciousness. We need to learn empathy towards all living things and truly understand that we are all interconnected. Only then will it become obvious that externalizing the cost of our economic activity is hurting ourselves the most. We are not wired that way, but we have to learn quick.

Unfortunately, as Aza Raskin showed clearly in his eye-opening talk, the cards are stacked against us. The extractive attention economy is causing us to degrade on many dimensions that define the very humanity of our species. We need to be extremely aware of how technology currently shreds the fabric of society and alters our very brains, literally. The Center for Humane Technology gives us some pointers on how to not become entirely remote controlled. I can highly recommend their overview and list of measures.

The next generation

Strange as this might sound, we currently live in the best times humans have ever lived in. If you were born today and couldn’t pick where on this planet, your chances of having a good life are higher than ever. Our progress has been staggering in the last 150 years, but at an extreme cost to our environment. Bringing this progress within the planetary boundaries is the all-hands-on-deck task for us as a species. If we truly want it to happen, I believe we can. Yes, we can.

President Obama said his source of hope are the young people he meets everywhere. While there are many inspiring examples to list, we should look for ways to engage everyone, from an early school age to retirement, in this quest as the only choice. Working on the old extractive, growth-addicted economic model is already producing more losers than winners. New startups need to be created with an impact focus as it will become the only viable option forward, also financially.    


I leave the event with a renewed conviction that the only things to focus on as investor and entrepreneur is impact. Fast acting, scalable impact. Thank you, #bits19!

Ralf Schroeder

Looking for ways to align my portfolio with my values and beliefs.