Startup Advice on Fundraising and Scaling from Gülsah Wilke

SpaceFounders Session Insights for Startups Across Industries

Elisheva Marcus
3 min readAug 5, 2022


Image from Gülsah Wilke’s presentation where she welcomed questions from SpaceFounder Startups

SpaceFounders is an impressive organization and the first European space tech accelerator that remains quite independent and not corporation-backed. They are founded by CNES as well as the University of Federal Armies in Germany and their mission is to accelerate space tech startups, which they are doing in more ways than one!

I was recently invited by Stephanie Wissmann to speak at SpaceFounders’ Friday morning sessions as part of their cohort learning program for their current batch of startups.

In my session, I chatted with Tina Schmitt, Communications & Brand Manager at Isar Aerospace, an Earlybird Venture Capital portfolio company. We shared our collective experience and covered PR, messaging, and social media best practices.

PR Topics we discussed included:

🙈 What to do when a startup doesn’t have a PR department?
🔄 Does PR ever ‘run on its own’?
🎯 Which media outlets/ journalists to contact and how to pitch?
⏰ Synchronizing your PR activities with any funding cycles
📰 How to get media coverage about space or a single startup?
💡Biggest messaging/communications learnings overall

It may sound biased, but SpaceFounders does an excellent job of curating guest speakers to share learnings with their SpaceTech startups! The next guest session was with Gülsah Wilke, COO of Ada Health, Investor, and founder of the 2 Hearts organization here in Germany.

Here are notes on her insights; her advice is universally applicable to startups.

How to Fundraise

  1. Plan your fundraising like a detailed project: Know how much you need to raise and get super organized before starting. It may be wise to condense your efforts into a short time period.
  2. Aim for warm introductions where possible, and they are possible. Approach people who know whom you are trying to reach. Look for shared connections wherever possible.
  3. Know your investor focus: do your research on THEM: areas of focus, investments, etc.
  4. Walk the talk: as in, practice your pitch often and seek feedback on it.
  5. Shape your unique story; avoid comparison to big name companies: “the Amazon of, the Netflix of”, etc.
  6. Be self-confident (but not to a fault). You and your company are unique but stay humble.

How to Scale

Given that she works as COO at Ada Health, an international healthcare company success story out of Germany (disclaimer: I am overly proud that I worked there in its early days), Gülsah has top tips on scaling a startup over time. Here is what she advised:

  1. Build the company strategically from the beginning: knowing where you want to grow. Though be open to pivoting early on, if you need to.
  2. Build up a support network, which can even look like a ‘small board’
  3. Talk to companies in your space that are further along the way. Look for superstars to ask the right questions of.
  4. Think hard about ‘cash burn’ and how to best be sustainable: consider your necessary headcount. (Can you test out a contractor before moving right into FTE mode?)
  5. Always pursue ‘smart money’: A good VC should be asking: ‘Which companies can I help to scale?” And startups should be looking for investors who bring expertise in their area and who can add value to their investment committee meetings.

Her three key takeaways when communicating with investors are these:

  1. Show your long-term impact and vision (go way beyond a 5-month plan)
  2. Show your sustainability, emphasizing the ROI on what you are doing
  3. Learn from other companies (both successes and failures)

To wrap up the session, and not one to shy away from diversity topics, Gülsah challenged the startups to expand their approach to leadership to be more representative. She reminded them that investors and their LPs ( Limited Partners) look for diverse teams; that this can strengthen products to be more globally attractive, and serve as a magnet for top employee candidates, all generating likelihood of successful business outcomes.

In today’s fluctuating environment, access to seasoned advice can help steady us through to more optimistic times! It’s good to see that learnings from the healthcare industry can transfer over to founders in space tech, and beyond.

Thanks to Gülsah for her knowledge-sharing 🙌🏾 and to you for reading. 👀

Keep up with me on Twitter as I keep tabs on cool people and companies in Berlin.



Elisheva Marcus

Reporting from within a Venn diagram of health, tech and empowerment. Berlin-based. Internationally minded. Comms @ Earlybird Venture Capital