We know that your startup will take digital transformation to the next level. Light and its many applications have already revolutionized our society, industry and environment. Especially the transformation into the Industry 4.0 would not be possible without the technologies provided by Photonics 4.0 – such as advanced laser systems, image processing, and optical sensors. With light applications as key enabling the technologies of the future, the 21st century will depend as much on photonic innovations as the 20th century depended on electronics. Its vital importance already manifests in the vast growth of the photonics industry between 2005 and 2011, which doubled more than that of the worldwide GDP.
CODE_n SPACES is the name of the latest element in the CODE_n ecosystem. In addition to the CONNECT digital platform, the SPACES are an all-year-round, physical platform that networks promising startups and established companies. On the first and second floors of the newly built GFT headquarters in Stuttgart’s Fasanenhof, spaces have been created over an area of 2,000 square meters that are geared entirely towards innovation in terms of their design and function. They were designed by the artist and sculptor Tobias Rehberger. In our interview, Ulrich Dietz, CEO of the GFT Group and the initiator of CODE_n, explains the concept behind the SPACES and extends an invitation: Digital pioneers can apply straight away.
The first CODE_n SPACES in Stuttgart are now ready. Who are you looking to appeal to with this innovation hub?
Dietz: CODE_n, whether it be with the elements CONTEST, CONNECT, EVENTS or SPACES, generally always has one goal: we want to offer people with unusual ideas a platform – lateral thinkers, digital pioneers, designers of the future. Young companies need to network with experienced people and established companies in order to promote the development of new, groundbreaking business models. With the SPACES, we have put together a creative space for this collaboration to take place. Digital pioneers, young startups, experienced managers, but also teams of innovators from large companies, can register with us and apply for a place in the SPACES.
What requirements must an applicant meet to secure a place in the SPACES?
Dietz: We are intentionally not focusing on a specific target group or on definite requirements, because what we want is the right mixture of exciting projects and ideas. Our desire is to also bring together startups and companies that might actually be in very different stages of development. Whether it be an early-stage startup or an already well-established young company, none of this matters for the application process. The idea needs to convince people, and then we can agree on the use of the SPACES individually. Applications can come from any industry – even though we naturally assume that the Stuttgart site offers tremendous potential in terms of mobility and industry, we’re very open to other areas too.
What’s special about the CODE_n SPACES?
Dietz: The SPACES combine the concept of creative design thinking premises with the idea of co-working and a professional working environment at the same time. The flexible elements in the “Super Duper Studio”, designed by artist Tobias Rehberger, means we are able to respond spontaneously to the different target groups and applicants in the CODE_n SPACES. At the same time, our digital pioneers and innovation teams have the opportunity to improvise by themselves and adapt their office to the conditions they want to work in. Flexible dividers, for example, allow offices to be quickly rearranged, expanded or merged. There are options for quiet time, as well as open areas, offering everything that a young company needs in its early stages. Experienced managers on the second floor have the ability to move into a prestigious, high-quality office.
Up to five times a year, the German-American Chamber of Commerce in New York offers German startups the opportunity to gather valuable practical experience in the US. During the 5-day STEP Program, the participants meet business angels and venture capital investors in New York. Andrea Diewald, Director Innovation & Startup Relations, knows the location like the back of her hand: we spoke to her about the North American market, the differences in mindsets and the key essentials for startups.
What makes the US market so interesting for German startups?
Andrea: The American market is the largest single market in the world. There are 320 million Americans across 50 federal states, which is a huge area of land. The country is characterized by a society that is fundamentally willing to invest: Americans like having things, they follow new trends and their buying power and mindsets constantly push the technology-driven market forward. There are of course a few hotspots on the East and West coasts, as well as a few cities in the middle, such as Chicago, where the willingness to invest is particularly strong.
So alongside Silicon Valley, do these hotspots also include New York City?
Andrea: Yes. When it comes to startups, New York is increasingly on the ascent, since Silicon Valley has now become something of a challenge. The investors there are extremely spoilt, and won’t even speak to everyone anymore. You need first-class introductions and a superb business model to even get an audience there. The cost of good staff is also enormous, and startups have to compete there with the very big firms. In New York, the situation is different – for now – and the conditions are much better as the city is home to a wide range of industries, including fashion, the media, and the insurance sector. There are also the two major industries of IT and FinTech, but consumer goods and service sector startups have plenty of opportunities here too. On top of all that, the New York area is home to as many as 20 million people, and the city has incredible economic potential.
When did your startup program in New York City launch?
Andrea: As a chamber of commerce, we have had a presence in New York for over 60 years, however our program only came into being at the end of last year and has already been held successfully three times. There have been various deals, and a total of seven startups that we’ve networked are about to participate in a Series A investment. We’re particularly proud of one FinTech startup that has programmed software to keep lawyers’ costs under control. We formed this startup via our network with the New York Times, which also showed an interest due to its many legal conflicts and lawyers. The contract was concluded just recently. It’s a great example of how New York is able to connect different industries. More…
German Accelerator (GA) supports German startups in their endeavor to enter the U.S. market. Funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, the German Accelerator is a growth acceleration program that supports German ICT and Green-IT startups in tapping into U.S. market and financing opportunities. Behind the program lies a team of successful entrepreneurs and investors who truly enjoy helping German startups and think that German startups have the potential to become global category leaders.
The three-month program is open to a broad range of startups. Ideal participants generate domestic revenue, enjoy customer traction and have the potential to become category leaders in a large, global market. Currently the German Accelerator has started another application round to send ambitious entrepreneurs in the first half of 2016 to the US. Applications are accepted until August 31st, 2015. Successful applicants will be invited to “Celebrating Innovation” – the place where Germany’s hottest Tech startups battle for a place in the German Accelerator program. Celebrating Innovation will take place in Dresden on October 15th, 2015 and will pair global thinkers, digital innovators and technology enthusiasts with international guests, industry leaders, politicians and acceleration pioneers. Tickets for the German Accelerator’s legendary flagship event are available now.
Why did the German Accelerator program choose the U.S.?
It has almost become the rule that any company, which has the desire to scale globally and to achieve the leadership in its market category, has to successfully prove itself in the American market. The facts speak for themselves, not only is the U.S. market the world’s most attractive consumer market with a GDP of over $16 trillion; it is also the world’s most attractive market for venture capital and private equity funding. Funding was one point the German Accelerator’s team identified as a challenge to the growth of German startups. Additionally, challenges that startups in Germany face range from slower market scaling, to lack of serial entrepreneurs, to the lack of growth capital.
Therefore, the German Accelerator program strives to help German startups to leverage the best of both worlds, such as entering the much more scalable U.S. market with more available venture capital opportunities while continuing to work in the German market, which tends to be more loyal and affordable. To put the cherry on top, the program is free of charge, thanks to the support of the BMWi, and the German Accelerator does not take any equity in the startups’ business.
Every year, startup competitions like CODE_n help foster and support a whole host of emerging enterprises. But with quite a few contests now running in Germany, it’s difficult sometimes to see the wood for the trees. So at Für-Gründer.de, we decided to create a bit of clarity ourselves. In total, we’ve discovered that there are currently 124 contests on the scene, and in 2014, the prizes and funding up for grabs totaled more than €3 million.
Tallying up the value of prizes (cash and non-cash prizes), the sum actually comes to €3.2 million. Considering the fact that 834 awards were bestowed, all eyes most probably (and quite rightly) will have turned first toward national and international competitions such as CODE_n. That’s not to say the individual states of Germany weren’t offering their own attractive prizes, as we know from an earlier Für-Gründer.de publication (Gründerwettbewerbe und Top Start-ups 2014/2015 – only available in German).
Mission accomplished: Out of 400 startups from all over the world, 50 are now finalists of this years CODE_n CONTEST “Into the Internet of Things”. From March 16-20, those handpicked young entrepreneurs will showcase their innovative Digital Life, Future Mobility, Smart City and Industry 4.0 solutions as part of our CODE_n hall 16 at CeBIT.
Selected by looking at criteria such as degree of innovation, quality of business case, quality of presentation or technological innovation, all 50 finalists have five days to connect with one another and to showcase their idea and business models to visitors, potential partners, investors and customers.
“In some cases you actually find yourself saying ‘I should have thought of that myself’. But in every single case, the dedication, technical expertise and vision displayed by our finalists to implement their ideas is truly impressive.”
says Ulrich Dietz, CEO of the GFT Group and Initiator of CODE_n
Curtain up for the 50 CODE_n15 finalists from 17 countries:
aisoy builds a revolutionary emotional robotic mentor for kids. Friendly, helpful, intelligent and connected, aisoy enhances creativity through discovery combined with a new class of personal robotic platform for an innovative educational concept.
ambiotex produces a smart sensor shirt for health conscious individuals, who have the desire to analyze their vital data and to improve their performance. The shirt combines fitness monitoring technology with state of the art textiles to obtain an innovative high-tech shirt which measures data such as heart rate variability (HRV), respiration rate, training performance and stress levels.
Connected-health.eu builds a secure connection between doctors and patients.
Our product LifeTime allows patients to transfer health data be it medical history or data acquired by wearable tech devices in the doctor’s office locally & securely from and to their smartphones.
Cozify is an easy and intelligent service to simplify the use of smart devices at home. The goal is to bring home automation to everyone. Cozify hub easily automates smart devices across different manufacturer specific silos.
What exactly is ‘angel investing’? What do angel investors expect of startups? How should startups position themselves to attract angels and get them excited about their business idea? The first ‘angel labs’ held in Germany – an in-depth workshop for angel investors which was held mid November at GFT in Stuttgart as part of the CODE_n EVENTS – gave us a chance to talk to experts about the role angel investors play during the formative beginning of a startup. The answers to our questions provided some interesting insights…
What exactly is an angel investor and how is this different from a venture capital (VC) investor?
Matthias Götz (through his company Wert8, Götz consults private individuals and companies on investing in startups):
In the traditional sense, an angel investor bridges the gap to the next round of financing. That is, when a company is founded it takes the first steps on its own and can soon determine whether the business model is sustainable without money from outside or whether third-party capital is necessary.
The moment I need outside funding, an angel investor is the first port of call. Angels are there and waiting in the local area, and in Germany there are far too few VC providers for startups to turn to when they need one. This is the gap that angels can fill. Thankfully we have a vast pool of enthusiastic angels, who have familiarised themselves with these issues. They look at the business model in the early days and potentially only fund this initial phase to then give the green light on maybe continuing with a VC investor. That said, we are noticing more and more that the VC investor isn’t even needed in the end. These days angels can bring in just as much money as VC funding.
What should I do if I have a startup and I want to attract attention from an angel investor?
Success begins with a great founding team.
Founders are the literary “foundation” of a start-up, decisions about with whom you want to build your company are THE major factors of success. Great teams can make a bad idea fly, but not the other way around.
Your co-founders’ qualities, expertise and flexibility are responsible for the actions your start-up team can and will take and therefore determine your start-ups future path. Decisions like: “How do we do it?”, “When will we do it?” and “Will we do it at all?” are a matter of consensus in your team.
So choosing your co-founders carefully and wisely is very important. Experienced founders invest time in building great and complementary teams, sometimes even before they decide about which business idea to follow.
At mitgründer.com our users have the possibility to get in touch with thousands of potential co-founders and they search in hundreds of cofounder ads for their complement (You!) for great founding teams.