An Overview Of The Berlin Startup Scene

Another round of the annual CDTM Berlin Startup Tour: For 2.5 days from June 2nd until June 4th, active CDTM students and alumni visited CDTM-affiliated early as well as late-stage startups, venture capital funds and a company builder in their offices. With temperatures of up to 30 degrees  for all three days, the startup tour was a great time in the capital.

To provide the 20 participants with a broad overview of the Berlin startup scene, CDTM students had reached out and organized visits to a wide array of companies.

Day 1 – Sunday: Mauerpark and Venture Capital Berlin

We kicked off the Berlin Startup Tour 2019 with an informal get-together at Mauerpark in the afternoon. Most students and alumni arrived in Berlin either throughout the day or had already spent the weekend there. Some participants also live and work in the startup and entrepreneurship community in Berlin and came to catch up with current students and the CDTM community.

Afterward, the group visited Holtzbrinck Ventures. HV is a European early-stage venture capital fund. Fabian Gruner, CDTM alumnus and investment manager at Holtzbrinck in Berlin, explained how their fund follows a strategy in which they not only invest in startups for one financing round but want to support founders throughout several stages of maturity of the company.

The rooftop terrace of the Holtzbrinck office also served as the CDTM alumni meetup location. Similar to previous startup tours, the group took the opportunity to meet up with ex-CDTM students who decided to pursue a career in Berlin. The meetup was a great opportunity to see some old and some new faces.

Day 2 – Monday: More of the Startup Community, and Two VCs

Day two of the Berlin Startup Tour was more packed than Sunday. We started in the morning at Germany’s latest tech unicorn and No. 1 digital bank: N26. The visit started with an introduction to the company and their outlook on growth and expansion – while realizing most CDTM students and alumni were customers. The participants also had the chance to ask questions to one of N26’s data scientists.

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Next up was a visit at the venture capital fund Cherry Ventures. After an initial presentation by one of the founding partners and lunch, one of Cherry’s investment associates walked us through a typical term-sheet exercise. The overview and workshop helped us understand what potential founders need to keep in mind and expect if they consider choosing venture capital to fund their startup.

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Next up was Zenloop. Zenloop is a company all about customer retention and analytics experts. The founder Paul Schwarzenholz explained how they help e-commerce companies to interact more closely with their customers leveraging the net promoter score. As co-founder of Flaconi (exit to ProSiebenSat.1), Paul knows the problems of e-commerce companies well. Some chilled drinks also helped with the high summer temperatures.

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The last startup that we visited was the business travel booking service Comtravo. The company leverages AI to make travel bookings and invoicing especially simple for business travelers. The main takeaway was that the technological revolution is not the sheer existence of deep learning technology, but the availability of large amounts of data and computational power.

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Finally, we headed over to the office of La Famiglia VC for dinner and the last visit of the day. Especially investments in “older” industries, such as construction, is where they see potential. Nonetheless, La Famiglia also has startups in their portfolio that operate in different verticals, explained CDTM alumnus Viet Le.

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Day 3 – Tuesday: Last Berlin Startup Events and Micro Mobility

First up in the morning, we visited Yunus Social Business – a social fund that invests donations in sustainable businesses. It was extremely interactive and insightful as Benjamin Overton explained to us how they operate as an investment fund, and gauge the impact created by a certain social entrepreneur. Having seen a few success stories of the ventures they invested in, we were really inspired!

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Second visit of the day was Afilio. Realizing that there is a tech-savvy mid-aged population in Germany that rarely has precaution measures taken in case they require care, Afilio set out to solve this problem. They created an easy way to create legal documents for provision online, and more. Two of the co-founders met and founded Afilio during their studies at WHU. Especially, the CDTM students and aspiring entrepreneurs could learn of the aspects of founding a startup right out of school.

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Third office visit of the day was Merantix in Kreuzberg. The company acts as a platform to create and build companies in the AI/ML sector in various industries. For example, radiology and autonomous driving were some applications that we saw during the afternoon.

In the evening, the group carried on seeing the office of BCG Digital Ventures. Over Pizza and beer, we had the chance to get to know how BCG DV build companies for clients in a structured manner, but also create ventures that their employees continue to build from within.

As the last visit of the Berlin Startup Tour was a double visit, we also had the chance to get to know TIER Mobility. TIER is the frontrunner in scooter e-mobility industry in Europe. Kilian Schmidt, Tier Mobility’s Director of Legal & Public Policy, elaborated how the federal government’s decision in Germany allows them to expand into the German market and further establish their leading position in the European market.

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Takeaways And See You For Next Year’s Berlin Startup Tour

Different from Munich’s startup community, Berlin startups may not have as many affiliations with large industrial companies such as BMW, Siemens or Linde. Instead, they rather have a focus on venture capital financing and software products. Most of the successful and growing startups in Munich provide B2B software and IoT hardware in large industrial sectors.

A special thanks on behalf of all students and alumni to the organizers Kai Siebenrock, Till Wiechmann, Shiv Contractor and Marc Klingen (all Fall 2018).

How Do I participate in the next Berlin Startup Tour?

Become a CDTM student! Find out more about our Honor’s degree in Technology Management: https://www.cdtm.de/about-us/

Stefan Bielmeier (Spring 2019)