Interview with Marina (Fitness PLUS Concept)

We are planning to introduce the Black Forest Accelerator´s participants by interviewing them. Our fist interview partner is Marina Kanke, the Founder and CEO of Fitness PLUS Concept

About Marina Kanke.

Marina Kanke was born in Siberia and she was raised in Germany since she was five. She spent some of her time travelling around Australia and afterwards she decided to study International Business in Germany. She’s been working for three and a half year in a company for Customer Loyalty Programs, where she leaded a team of two persons.

At present she is one of the participants for The Black Forest Accelerator, where she is full time dedicated to bring her idea into a business.

BFA.- What do you like to do?

M.K.- I love working in marketing, especially with new ideas. I like planning carefully proper approaches. I like to do all this, being creative and surrounded by an inspiring team and creative atmosphere.

In my leisure time I like sharing time with my friends and enjoy cooking evenings, practicing sports, and also going to clubs.

BFA.- What is Fitness Plus Concept about?

M.K.- Fitness Plus Concept is the app for gyms to improve customer loyalty. Simple & digital. The direct communication channel to the customer with reward system.
Our goal is, together with gyms, to turn satisfied customers into loyal customers and loyal customers into “enthusiastic ambassadors”


BFA.- How do you think your project provide benefits to society?

M.K.-I think it works in two ways. In the one hand it works for the gym owners providing them a technical solution to increase customer loyalty, and in the other hand it works for the members of the gym providing them a tool to increase their performance.

BFA.- What is the stage of your project?

M.K.- I’m at the beginning. Just yesterday (the interview took place the 1st of August) sign up the company and now my next steps are aiming to look for investors.

To what my App refers and its first entrance into the market in this early stage, there are two clients so far, interested in using it for their Gyms.




BFA.- Why did you decided to become an entrepreneur?

M.K.- I have always thought of it since I was young. During my studies I owned a kind of consulting company.

After studying and some years working for a company, I thought it was about time to make a change. I could have tried to go to another company but I decided to go for something that I always wanted to do, and  work in something that I’m really passionate about: Customers Relationships regarding to a field which I’m really related to: sport and gym memberships.

BFA.- Why did you decided to apply for Black Forest Project?

M.K.-I had already read about The Black Forest Accelerator and it was a friend of mine who sent me the link for applying for the Startups Program.

For me this was a sign, an opportunity to try it and get into the entrepreneur world.

BFA.- In which ways has the BFA supports your project?

M.K.- The first thing which was very interesting for my idea is that there was an applying test over my business idea and proved if  it had any chance. Having the possibility of joining was a first step to reinforce me.

They also provide me an interesting placement to what my business’s interest area it refers, a beautiful place to work , surrounded by an inspiring environment, the possibility of being mentored even after the end of the program, and the seed investment.

BFA.- What do you think BFA provides to society?

M.K.- To show that even in small areas there are smart people with great ideas who works to support the idea of Startups.

BFA.- What would you highlight of this experience of bringing up your own project within the accelerator?

M.K.-In first place I would highlight the possibility of getting in touch with inspiring people and successful business people, and also to work in an office where the rest of the people are in the same situation, creating a very encouraging context.


Public Relations Workshop with Gregor Landwehr

As the first companies got funded and MVPs/Prototypes created the knowledge about how to do PR and how to write an initial press release became more important.

To provide mentoring regarding PR to the Black Forest Accelerator participants, we invited Gregor Landwehr

Gregor C. Landwehr, born in 1983, studied rhetoric, art history, politics and philosophy in Tübingen. During his studies he completed a journalism editorial training. Since 2005 he works as a freelance journalist. Attending, the State Gazette in Stuttgart, the news agency DDP in Berlin and Potsdam, the NDR in Osnabrück and in the ZDF Berlin studio. He is a co-founder and shareholder of the new Academy for Journalism and publisher of Debatare, a print and online magazine for political debate, which was in 2013 awarded the European Newspaper Award. He currently lives in in Cologne and works for the WDR.

Gregor held a 1.5-Day-Workshop and shared with us his valuable knowledge and expertise about Public Relation activities. On Saturday evening the workshop started with a session with the title “Wie Worte wirken: Gehirngerecht schreiben”, which covered the effects of vocabulary. The next morning started with a talk about how journalists work and how to most successfully can be addressed. After that the Startups were asked to write an initial press release and had the chance to receive direct feedback from Gregor while doing so. The workshop closed with a plenary talk, in which everyone read his or her press release out loudly to discuss it within the group.

In the following you can read an interview with Gregor. Questions were sent by e-mail.

BFA: – Hello Gregor. Could you tell us about famous examples of an unexpected word and its emotional effects in communication?

G. L: – (I don‘t have an idea of such unexpected words…) Scientific studies show, that words have different emotional effects. There are positive, negative and neutral words. For example the word “Love” is positive, “Document” neutral and “Coffin” negative. Advertising often is exerted to use words with a positive emotional effect.

BFA: – What is the clue to find the appropriate metaphor for each theme?

G.L: -There is no clue, but you can learn and train to find metaphors. I suggest having a closer look into the bible. There you can find a lot of good examples, because metaphors are a short form of a parable. A Parable is a comparison, but a metaphor stands for the topic. Aristotle said: finding metaphors is an ability. I think it is more or less the skill to recognize affinity. And that’s what you can learn.

BFA: – “Excuse me, I can’t stand up” What is your opinion about this message? Do you know where does it come from? What has sense of humor to do for communication?

G.L: -You can only understand this message when you know the context. The American entertainer Groucho Marx said in an interview, he wants “Excuse me, I can’t stand up” to be written on his gravestone. So when you don’t know the context it is just a very normal phrase, when you know the context it turns outto be funny. Sense of humor helps us to addressemotions.And emotions are very effective, particularly when they are combined with arguments.

BFA: – Yes, thank you very much, Gregor. Very interesting informations.

Visit Gregor´s website:


Effectuation workshop by Alexandra Rudl & Ralf Allrutz

Alexandra Rudl, from Baden-Württemberg: Connected e.V. and Dr. Ralf Allrutz, from the Informatik-Forum Stuttgart e.V. visited Black Forest Accelerator and gave a productive mentoring session about “Effectuation”.

“Effectuation” is a pragmatic entrepreneurial methodology, that allows defining short term plans to be accomplished, and uses the experience achieved in favor of the following steps. Making the unpredictable future yet controllable through human action.

Mrs. Saras Sarasvathy, under the mentorship of Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon of Carnegie Mellon University, made a cognitive science based study of entrepreneurial expertise using think-aloud protocols. From this empirical basis, she learned that (1) expert entrepreneurs do share a common logic in solving entrepreneurial problems and (2) causal thinking is not bad, but required to form a venture.

This paradigm stands up upon the next five principles, which Alexandra explained to us within her presentation.

Bird in Hand Principle – Start with your means. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. Start taking action, based on what you have readily available: who you are, what you know, and who you know.

Affordable Loss Principle – Set affordable loss Evaluate opportunities based on whether the downside is acceptable, rather than on the attractiveness of the predicted upside.

Lemonade Principle – Leverage contingencies; Embrace surprises that arise from uncertain situations, remaining flexible rather than tethered to existing goals.

Crazy-Quilt Principle - Form partnerships with people and organizations willing to make a real commitment to jointly creating the future–product, firm, and market–with you. Don’t worry so much about competitive analyses and strategic planning.
(excepts from the Website)

The 2nd part of the session was a dynamic group exercise, in which the Black Forest Accelerator participants where asked to arrange groups consisting of two teams (or single founders). The Teams were asked to fill out the “Effectuation Grid” a tool, developed by Ralf, Alexandra et al. to visualize the Effectuation method and its repetitious circle. While one team filled out the grid while discussing it loudly, the other half of the group was listening and giving feedback afterwards. After 50minutes we took a short break and changed positions afterwards, so that everyone was able to create an Effectuation grid. Alexandra and Ralf advised us on how to fill out the grid properly or challenged us to think into the grid related questions more detailed.

A feedback round where everyone could bring in his or her thoughts and advice regarding the grid and the method round closed the session.

Participants liked that the Grid challenges thinking into more diverse and wider patterns, with questions such as “What am I willing to risk or lose” or “Who am I and what contacts to I have to move my project forward”.

For the organizers of Black Forest Accelerator as well as for all participants it was a great chance to see how teams communicate internally while being observed by s.o. else and even more exciting was to see, what founders are willing to risk and what they are aware of risking.

Overall it was a very valuable and productive workshop, helping to bring the BFA projects and its teams more on track towards a successful execution. We are very thankful to Alexandra and Ralf for sharing their knowledge and providing precious feedback.


As Effectuation should help to realize innovative ideas more rapidly, we asked Alexandra and Ralf about their expectations and idea towards “Innovation”.

Irene for BFA: – Could you tell us what does innovation mean for you, using just three words?

Alexandra: -Well, it’ll be more than three…I would say “From idea to the Market”

Irene for BFA: – When do you think the most innovative ideas come from?

Ralf: – When there is a lack of resources and also when you talk to people, different people.

Irene for BFA: – What can you do to keep an innovative mind?

Alexandra: – Talk to people, different types of people. Listen to different perspectives and points of view and have an open mind.

Irene for BFA: – Where have you found the best and most innovative ideas?

Ralf: – Well it all depends on what you understand for innovation. But certainly the creation of internet and before the invention of the transistor really was an innovation. All newly created, without anything alike existing before and providing a revolutionary social contribution

Irene for BFA: – Thank you very much for your time and support. We really appreciate your contribution to Black Forest Accelerator and its teams. Dankeschön!

Alexandra and Ralf: – You’re welcome!


CIMG1424 CIMG1430 effectuation_july

First days in the Black Forest Accelerator

My name is Irene Díaz Padilla. I was born in Madrid but the place where I live now is Mérida, Spain. I arrived three weeks ago and joined Areal Industriehof which hosts The Black Forest Accelerator Program in its “zeit.areal” ( in Lahr, Germany. My stay is being subsidized by EU as I’ve enrolled in the “Erasmus Program for Young Entrepreneurs” ( .

My personal entrepreneurial project attempts to develop Yoga for business environments. Pranayama’s breathing techniques from the ancient tradition of Yoga, will be adjusted to business necessities. Lessons packed in a short format focused on the breathing work, which aim to make employers and employees healthier and therefore happier.

The Black Forest Accelerator supports Startups (related to the Health, Wellness and Fitness area) to develop their projects by providing close mentoring, important networks and seed funding. Participants receive lectures from important business leaders from Germany, join one to one mentoring sessions, attend different pitch contests, workshops on how to train their communications skills, etc.
The Accelerator program will end with the “Demo Day”. Each business idea will be presented in front of a very qualified audience of Business Angels and corporate investors. A challenging moment which is being thoroughly prepared during the program. Therefore it’s been relevant and helpful to attend events in which we could observe how other entrepreneurs pitch on stage and handle the questions from the audience. The Best Practice Wirtschaftsforum in Lahr and The Elevator Pitch Contest at the Gründerzeit in Karlsruhe were previously visited events.

So far in my opinion, being a member of The Black Forest Accelerator is not only providing me formal business knowledge and the opportunity to structure my ideas about my personal project, but also a wide range of situations and moments that will certainly help me develop personal skills.
Picture shows Irene Diaz and Christian Atz



23. 07 .2013



Conférence de M. Herrenknecht – Tunneling Systems AG

M. Herrenknecht, PDG de Herrenknecht Tunneling Systems AG, a reçu le prix du “Meilleur Entrepreneur de l’Année 2013en Allemagne”, il a donné une conférence à Offenbourg sur son expérience d’entrepreneur. Il a notamment abordé ses débuts à la tête de Tunneling AG, du développement de l’entreprise et de son aventure incroyable en Chine et en Russie. M. Herenknecht a aussi fait part des ses projets futurs.



Lecture from Mr. Herrenknecht

Mr. Herrenknecht, CEO of Herrenknecht Tunneling Systems AG ,who got awarded as Founder of the Year 2013 in Germany, gave a lecture about his entrepreneurial experience in Offenburg.

Conférence de M. Herrenknecht – Tunneling Systems AG

M. Herrenknecht, PDG de Herrenknecht Tunneling Systems AG, a reçu le prix du “Meilleur Entrepreneur de l’Année 2013en Allemagne”, il a donné une conférence sur son expérience de l’entreprise à Offenbourg. Il a notamment mentionné son désir de fonder une entreprise dés l’adolescence, des hauts et des bas durant les premières années et de son aventure incroyable en Chine et en Russie. M. Herenknecht a aussi fait part de ses objectifs pour les prochaines années. Il conseille aux jeunes entrepreneurs d’être tenace et de rester concentrés sur la durée.

Panoramic Black Forest View

Black Forest Roadtrip

On 20th of July we were on a tour through Black Forest to explore the touristy and non-touristy spots and to take some photographs to show the Black Forest scenery to you. We started our tour in Zell a.H., a smally city famous for its handmade pottery “Hahn & Henne”. From there we went to Hornberg, Triberg (Germany´s highest waterfalls), Furtwangen (the Danube river´s spring is located nearby). We also visited the “Adlerschanze” in Hinterzarten, a popular ski-jumping location and home of world class jumpers. From there we drove to Freiburg, a well known university city at the border of the Black Forest, with intermediate stops in Schluchsee and Titisee. Here you can find some more pictures.


Lecture from Mr. Herrenknecht

Mr. Herrenknecht, CEO of Herrenknecht Tunneling Systems AG ,who got awarded as Founder of the Year 2013 in Germany, gave a lecture about his entrepreneurial experience in Offenburg. He spoke about his desire to found a company when he was still a teenager, the ups and downs during the first years in business, adventures in Russia and China and also the goals for the next year. He advised young entrepreneurs to stay focused and to have endurance.