First of all, please describe your role as AHK in the ecosystem and establish the link to Germany.

Thanks to our programs such as startup discovery tours both in France and Germany and European projects like Access2Europe, the French-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry is an important player in the French-German Startup ecosystem.

Startups are at the heart of innovation which is the reason why we want to create a strong link between them and established players in the industry. That’s why we organise startup pavilions at high-level tech events like Vivatech. The key factor of our success is our network of 800 French and German member companies and established players of the local startup ecosystems.

We believe that the following three elements lead to success

Present your startup ecosystem. What distinguishes it / What are its special features?

Mariam Alice Saad
Mariam Alice Saad,
Events coordinator and Head of the Chamber's Young Business Leaders Club
© Stephen Zezza

France is internationally known for its startup ecosystem. Station F, the world’s largest startup campus, is based in Paris and France has witnessed success stories such as Blablacar, OVH, Doctolib, Deezer… and others! To give you a few figures and to show the recent changes, today, there are more than 28 000 startups, 114 accelerators and 159 workspaces in France – which is 10 times more than in the last decade.

The French tech ecosystem is mature and attractive and has managed to bring out a total of 26 French unicorns.

France is also the right place to get funding! France has become the leading ecosystem in the European Union in terms of fundraising, passing Germany for the 1st time. In 2021, the majority of investments went to FinTech, HealthTech and Gaming. The good results of the French tech companies are the outcome of a significant investment from the French Government in innovation, in the start-up ecosystem and in research.

Where do you see developments and potential?

Since 2018, France has been defined as a Startup Nation and offers great support for startup thanks to organisations like FrenchTech, BPI and France Digitale for example. Incubators are getting more and more international by supporting foreign startups.

If you look at the big picture, France is the 12th country in the 2020 Global innovation index (16th in 2019), 2nd European country in terms of patents issued and 4th at the global scale, with 6,2% of the patents requested to the European patent office. With the “Programme Investissement d’Avenir 4” (2021-2025), France also plans to invest 20 billion euros in higher education, research, innovation and innovative companies such as startups.

Another important point: Germany and France are not only neighbours but also long-time economic partners and represent the first market in Europe. Germany is the leading European investor in France. The 2019 Aachen Treaty has also led to the creation of a French-German research and innovation network ("virtual centre") for artificial intelligence and innovation with a subsidy programme for startups supported by the Central Innovation program for small and medium-sized companies (ZIM) and the Public Bank for Investment (BPI).

In your opinion, what makes the German market interesting for French startups?

There is especially one point I would like to emphasize: France has the technology and Germany has important data thanks to its industries. There is a perfect match between the Startup Nation and the Industry Nation which makes our two countries complementary.

It is also important for French startups to know, that the German economy is stable and robust which is attractive if you want to expand your business and find partners, investors, and clients.

How could you improve the market entry for specifically French startups?

Before entering the German market, we prepare French startups for their market entry: we help startups to get the right information about their branch and the startup ecosystem, we help them to learn to understand the French-German cultural differences, and prepare them for the German mindset in terms of business, recruitment, and communication. And thanks to our strong network, we introduce French startups to potential German customers and partners.

What were your reasons for participating in the Start.up Germany Tour?

The program is not only exciting, but it also corresponds to our values as we want to create and increase the link between startups and industry in the French-German market. By getting to know various German cities, learning more about the startup ecosystem and connecting with many stakeholders, this program matches with our DNA.

Digital location North Rhine-Westphalia: Business opportunities for international startups

North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany's most important economic region, offers young companies optimal conditions for growth. Many of them have already expanded successfully, because NRW offers plenty of room for investment and innovation, explains Felix Neugart, Managing Director of the state-owned foreign trade promotion company NRW.Global Business.

Mr. Neugart, why is North Rhine-Westphalia particularly interesting as a business location for international startups?

Felix Neugart: You have to think of NRW as the economic heart of Germany and an international hub. The region is not only the economically strongest of all the German states with a GDP share of more than 20 percent, but also the No. 1 investment location for foreign companies. Around 20,000 foreign companies have settled in our region. They benefit not only from the ideally connected location in the center of Europe, but also from an innovative, future-oriented environment. NRW plays a key role in Germany's digital transformation. We combine traditional industrial structures with a strong ICT sector. It is precisely these interfaces between classic industry and innovative IT solutions that offer the best conditions for the digitization of production and logistics processes, for example. This results in exciting prospects for international companies from the digital economy.

It sounds as if international startups in particular have opportunities in North Rhine-Westphalia. How do you assess that?

Felix Neugart: Absolutely, NRW offers excellent market opportunities for young companies with innovative technologies. For one thing, no other location in Europe can reach so many people in such a short distance: More than 160 million people live within a radius of 500 km around the state capital of Düsseldorf. On the other hand, the state's high density of industrial and trade trading companies, the state offers numerous B2B customers and cooperation partners. With more than 700,000 SMEs, it is not only home to a strong entrepreneurial middle class, but also to more than a third of the 50 companies with the highest sales in Germany. For SMEs in particular, digital transformation is naturally a top priority. Our NRW companies benefit from the know-how that international startups bring to the state.

What are the general conditions for startups in North Rhine-Westphalia?

Felix Neugart: International startups are in good hands here. The state has a dynamic startup scene; by now, every fifth German startup comes from NRW. In addition to customer proximity, they particularly appreciate the considerable potential of skilled workers. 68 universities in the state educate around 770,000 students. This talent pool has been growing constantly for years - an important location advantage for startups as well. They also find a dense support network here: accelerators such as Startplatz, xdeck or Startport provide support with mentoring, workspaces and qualification measures. Five regional DWNRW hubs and players such as Digital Hub Cologne, Founders Foundation or garage33 connect startups with SMEs and large industrial companies. DigitalHub.Logistics in Dortmund and InsurLab Germany in Cologne also have a targeted industry focus here. The big players in our economy are also active themselves: Metro, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Evonik and eon, for example, run accelerator and cooperation programs to invest in innovative business models. For community building and, above all, for contact with investors, there are various matchmaking platforms such as startups.nrw or Matchmaker Ruhr. In addition, numerous events bring the scene together, such as the world's largest trade fair for digital marketing dmexco or events such as Pirate Summit, StartupCon, RuhrSummit, Digital Demo Day or Hinterland of Things. Another important contact is the startup association NRWalley, which also supports international startups in entering important networks.

How does NRW.Global Business support startups in implementing their international expansion?

Felix Neugart: NRW.Global Business supports startups with their plans and projects to locate or grow in NRW. As a state-owned company for the promotion of foreign trade, we support the companies throughout the entire process as a confidential contact for all project-related issues. Even during the analysis and planning phase, we provide them with our expertise and a proven network of contacts from business, science, politics and administration. This ensures a good start in NRW.

The Indo-German Chamber of Commerce (AHK India) participates as one among other German Chambers of Commerce Abroad at the Start.up! Germany Tour 2021 by acquiring and selecting promising startups from India to participate in this year's Start.up! Germany Tour.

In this interview we talked with Mrs. Chaitra Dole, Manager for Outbound Services from the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce (IGCC) about the startup ecosystem in India and their role as AHK in the ecosystem. As part of the business advisory team, she is the Startup Lead and is assisting Indian companies with their trade and investments into Germany.

Chaitra Dole, Manager Outbound Services, Indo-German Chamber of Commerce.

Dear Chaitra, please describe your role as AHK in the ecosystem and establish the link to Germany.

Given our long standing experience, IGCC plays an important role in connecting the new economy with the old economy. There are several initiatives in the Indo-German start-up space, and IGCC is playing a key role in fostering cross-border start-up ecosystems. We are partners to initiatives like GINSEP and AsiaBerlin.

We are building close rapport with members and Corporates in India and Germany to understand their innovation requirements and accordingly assist them further to scout for relevant start-ups / new age technologies. We can provide market information and insights to startups, assessing market entry opportunities and accordingly establishing a value proposition. We can connect them with corporates and suitable business partners for conducting pilots and / or offering products and solutions. 

Together with industry mentors and experts, we can offer guidance and coaching to startups on scaling up and developing sales strategy in the respective markets, customising and improving their pitch decks for local markets. We can also provide information on custom duties, taxation and protection of intellectual property. 

Present your startup ecosystem. What distinguishes it? What are its special features?

The ecosystem was barely notable a decade ago, but has now caught up and, according to common parameters such as the number of 'unicorns', investment volume, number of startups or jobs created by startups, is in third place worldwide behind China and the USA. There are currently 12,500 start-ups in the country, out of which 1,600+ start-ups were added in 2020. The ecosystem has witnessed a y-o-y growth of 8-10% between 2015-2020. The total number of unicorns is 59 as of August 2021, there are 300+ active institutional investors and 520+ incubators and accelerators active in India.

Taj Mahal monument – (c) Unsplash

The most mature and largest sectors include EnterpriseTech Solutions, FinTech, HealthTech and Retail & RetailTech. Besides, there is an increased use of DeepTech. The startups in India are currently still concentrated in three hubs: Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai, but the growth of the industry is broad-based and other cities can develop into hubs in the medium to long term. The evolution of the start-up ecosystem in the past few years can be attributed to factors like government support – Start-up India campaign, availability of funding, pool of talent, increased use of internet amongst others. Also, more and more entrepreneurs who have already successfully developed their own ventures are promoting the growth of other startups with new ideas or in the form of financial support.

Where do you see developments and potential?

Verticals like Enterprise Tech, HealthTech, FinTech, EdTech and RetailTech have contributed to the growth in 2020. The pandemic has disrupted the economy, but it has also accelerated the growth in digital services and sectors like EdTech. The ecosystem offers opportunities in various other sectors for technologies like AI, Blockchain, AR/VR, Robotics, IoT and Big Data and India offers a large tech-savvy talent pool to keep up with newest technologies. Other segments such as infrastructure and logistics have been traditionally lagging in international comparison, and local startups are supporting overcoming these challenges and elevating the industries to global standards. Indian start-ups offer innovative solutions that can also be applied globally. In India, there is an unprecedented surge in demand among consumers for health and term life insurance, and the convenience of buying insurance through an app make InsurTech one of the most promising sectors in India.

In your opinion, what makes the German market interesting for Indian startups?

Germany lies in the heart of Europe and can be a springboard for the entire continent. There is already a strong partnership between Germany and India for developing sophisticated technology and engineering. Great infrastructure, stable and robust economy and ease of doing business are some of the other factors that make German market attractive for Indian start-ups.

What were your reasons for participating in the Start.up! Germany Tour?

We had enriching and positive experiences with the previous editions of Start.up! Germany Tour. The tour gives our start-ups the opportunity to get to know various German cities, learn more about the start-up ecosystem and connecting with various stakeholders.

How could you improve the market entry for specifically Indian startups?

By establishing the network as first crucial step, by advising on product-market fit and by supporting and building connections with corporates and German SMEs.

This year, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia is one of our main partners of the Start.up! Germany Tour 2021. We are happy to share with you a warm welcome and greetings from our Minister of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy of the State North Rhine-Westphalia Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart.

"Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Entrepreneurs all around the world. Entrepreneurship is of high relevance on a global scale. Innovations can emerge around the world and entrepreneurs may use global markets to sell their products or offer their services.

With the Start.up! Germany Tour we want to provide visibility and financial support to promising international new business endeavors. We offer price money worth of 15.000 Euros in total to the top three startups of this tour.

Together with the network of the national and international chambers of commerce as well as NRW.GLOBAL Business as main partner and Germany Trade and Invest, we are jointly organizing this year’s Start.up! Germany Tour. This format has been successful since 2017. Last year more than 120 startups from 30 countries participated in our virtual Start.up! Germany Tour.

Today is the kickoff of this years tour with many exciting followup events to come, such as the ruhrSUMMIT in June or the Digital Demo Day in September. We are proud that participants of close to 40 countries worldwide will be pitching their ideas in the following weeks. We look forward to inviting the top 15 startups to Germany to show you our entrepreneurial ecosystem and connect you with our key players. Here in the state of North-Rhine-Westphalia, we have a highly supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem with numerous stakeholders who coach emerging startups, such as our five digihubs or our 75 STARTERCENTER NRW.

Also we offer new enterprises, who are selecting our state as main location for their business activities, a welcoming package of up to 3.000 Euros. We want to encourage you to join our Start.up! Germany Tour, pitch your ideas and grow your businesses on an international scale.

A warm welcome, here in North-Rhine-Westphalia."

PIX Moving participated in the digital tour last year and won the international final at the Ruhr Summit. In the interview, they talk about their idea, why they participated in the Start.up! Germany Tour and how they liked it.

Dear Nancy, please introduce yourself and the startup PIX Moving.

This is Nancy Lee, the Marketing & Operation at PIX Moving. I've been with the team for more than 6 years and I'm really enjoying what we're doing. It's a pleasant group of people to work with. 

About PIX Moving

PIX Moving, rebuilding the city with autonomous mobility. PIX builds autonomous driving chassis PIXBOT to integrate living, working and entertaining spaces atop, forming different moving spaces to provide on-demand services, such as unattended vending car, mobile office, self-driving hotel, moving karaoke and more applications. The moving spaces (robo-vehicles based on PIXBOT) can be used in diverse scenarios like industrial parks, public parks, scenic spots, parking lots, airports, residential communities and shopping malls etc., providing sharing mobility services for individuals.

PIX Moving envisions autonomous driving technology from the city perspective. While many other autonomous driving startups are focusing on transporting people from point A to B, PIX is thinking to bring autonomous-mobility-powered services to people. We empower city spaces with autonomous mobility so that spaces will be mobile, configurable and on-demand. Taco trucks, coffee machines, and photo booths will all become autonomously routed and freely moving parts of cities. Right now PIXBOT has earned dozens of customers, covering industries from smart retailing, logistics and delivery to security patrol and more, which are all empowered with autonomous mobility by developing self-driving applications based on PIX platforms. PIXBOT has also been applied in university education and institutes R&D, expanding global pilots around the world.

Why did you participate at Start.up! Germany Tour?

It was really a fabulous program. The reasons mainly lied in three aspects

  1.  We've learnt about the business environment, startup strategies, local policy, marketing roadmap and all kinds of information about Germany. Our company is at a fast-growth stage and we're shipping globally. We have the plan to expand to the European area, and Germany, with its technology vibes and startup incentives, can be a great entry point. This event offered an in-depth look into Germany and Europe;
  2. Since PIX is intersecting the fields of robotics, AI, smart manufacturing, autonomous driving etc., we are more than happy to connect with the potential customers and partners around the globe. Startup Germany Tour has provided a lot of exposure opportunities so that we can connect with the different startups, enterprises across the industries;
  3. Learn and grow, getting inspiration. We're a very open team and such event can inspire mutual growth among the participants 

How did you hear about the tour?

We were introduced by an organization in China who recommended us to apply as we're in the smart mobility and digital manufacturing sectors. 

What is your interest in the German market?

We hope to expand to Europe and maybe set up an R&D center in the European region. In Germany, we can consider such possibilities. On the other hand, we also hope to establish collaboration/partnership with local companies in Germany, regarding autonomous driving, next-gen manufacturing and smart mobility.

How did you like the tour? What was your highlight?

We've really enjoyed it. From a personal perspective, I've learnt a lot from the fellow participants and it was quite inspiring. The sessions and workshops provided deep insights into the industries; From a company perspective, we've gained many connections with potential business partners and users. The business environment in Germany is great and we can start evaluating the incentive policies to see the possibilities of landing locally.

You won the pitch final at the RuhrSummit. Will you redeem your prize and join the next physical tour?

YES, that's FOR SURE. We're definitely going to attend the physical tour next year and we're so looking forward to it. Many thanks again for providing us this opportunity

The startup Litium from Iran took part in our digital tour last year. In the interview, they talk about their experiences with the Start.up! Germany Tour, their expectations of the German market and the startup scene in Iran.

What was your experience of the Start.up! Germany Tour 2020?

The Start.up! Germany Tour 2020 was the first experience for our one-year Startup “Litium”. For that, I thank the German-Iranian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (AHK Iran) for giving us this opportunity. However, what made the Start.up! Germany Tour so unique was its clear structure. It was clear which corporates were participating and the “matchmaking” to this event was brilliant. Well-known companies from Germany, CICs (IHK) and InsurLab were represented at this “tour”, which created a very nice ecosystem and led us receiving several cooperation offers. The possibility to have conversations with other participants of this event, both as a person and as a company was quite attractive and in this way we received a cooperation offer from one of the experienced participants of this event in the field of “artificial intelligence”. The Start.up! Germany Tour helped us to get a different view about the German market. Previously, we thought that the market of this country is inaccessible for us. After the "tour", however, we realized that Germany might be one of our target countries if we want to move Litium abroad. Through this event, we were able to get a closer look into the international market and we were provided with many opportunities, hence I believe that our presence at Start.up! Germany Tour 2021 will be even more productive.

How did the collaboration with InsurLab come about?

In the Big Pitch phase, we were selected by the jury, and so our path led us to collaboration with InsurLab Germany and to contact with other startups. As one of the twelve hubs in Germany, InsurLab Germany asked us for more detailed information about our idea and work. Both sides worked out more detailed plans for the cooperation. The proposal that we ultimately received from InsurLab Germany was very attractive to us because we hardly believed we would receive such an offer after just one year. Such a proposal is very interesting for a startup like ours, which does not have a final product yet and is only working on an idea. Undoubtedly, our unique idea played an important role in our selection. This boosts our self-confidence. The publication of the news about our participation at the Start.up! Germany Tour in the business magazine of the German-Iranian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (Einblick) and social networks were also quite effective. After these reports, more foreign investors have been contacting us since then.

In the Big Pitch phase, we were selected by the jury, and so our path led us to collaboration with InsurLab Germany and to contact with other startups. As one of the twelve hubs in Germany, InsurLab Germany asked us for more detailed information about our idea and work. Both sides worked out more detailed plans for the cooperation. The proposal that we ultimately received from InsurLab Germany was very attractive to us because we hardly believed we would receive such an offer after just one year. Such a proposal is very interesting for a startup like ours, which does not have a final product yet and is only working on an idea. Undoubtedly, our unique idea played an important role in our selection. This boosts our self-confidence. The publication of the news about our participation at the Start.up! Germany Tour in the business magazine of the German-Iranian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (Einblick) and social networks were also quite effective. After these reports, more foreign investors have been contacting us since then.

What does motivate and interests an Iranian startup about the German market?

What does differentiate Germany from other countries is its stable economy. In addition to internal challenges that a startup is often facing, external challenges are also affecting its activities. And it is important to be able to plan for these external factors as much as possible, which can only be possible if the economy is stable. Therefore, this country is attractive to us. The economic stability of a country leads to stable behavior on the part of the companies based there and its predictability. In addition, Germany is in a good position on the international market. There are major insurance companies in this country, such as Munich Re, which often occupies first or second place in the world rankings. This is important because the collaboration with such companies can be a driving force for smaller companies and give them global credibility. Thirdly, Germany is attractive for startups because of the specialized startup hubs. This is a great advantage as you can easily communicate with them by identifying the focus of each of them and getting the right guidance. In my opinion, these three points play a very important role and they make Germany quite interesting for an Iranian startup. To enter the German market, we are facing a big challenge. Germany, as well as other countries, does not provide us with a long-term plan for our activities. This is a bit risky for us, because you can't establish and realize a startup in a few months.

How do you evaluate the Iranian startup ecosystem?

Establishing a startup in Iran is quite easy and it doesn't require a lot of seed capital. Annually, domestic free events are held, where you can meet influential people, get important tips and enter the Iranian startup ecosystem. Building a network in the Iranian ecosystem is very fast and strong. But the problem starts when you need financial support along the way. When it comes to financial support, Iranian startup accelerators become slow. This can even lead to the dissolution of a startup.

How did the Start.up! Germany Tour lead to the Slovenian startup OmniOpti participating in the accelerator startport GmbH?

What can you achieve as a Slovenian startup in the Ruhr region?

And how does startport support the development of such foreign startups in the German market?

These and other questions are clarified in this exciting conversation between Martin Pečar from OmniOpti and Jan Herzogenrath from startport, which was conducted during last year's Start.up! Germany Tour.

Moderated by Alisa Schuler from the Niederrheinische IHK Duisburg-Wesel-Kleve and with a short introduction by Dominik Stute from the IHK zu Dortmund.