What about startups and table tennis tables

Freelancer & Founder

"Nobody can get past Berlin," says Inken Braunschmidt, who works for RWE as Chief Innovation Officer. Young entrepreneurs from all parts of the world are moving to the Spree. Many traditional companies ignored the young and wild for a long time, but since platforms such as Airbnb or Uber have been sweeping away classic business models, many companies fear that they will soon end up on the sidelines.

If the young competitors cannot be domesticated, why not ally with them? The two long-established companies RWE and Henkel probably thought that too. Together with the Globumbus and Sigmund-Kiener-Foundation as well as the business law firm Noerr, they are now involved in Berlin. In the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT), the actors found a partner who brings the best contacts to the Berlin startup and start-up scene and who resides at Schlossplatz 1 in Mitte. The "German Tech Entrepreneurship Center", or GTEC for short, moved in there.

60 jobs for founders

Benjamin Rohé acts as managing director of the GTEC. The idea behind the concept sounds simple: founders and old hands should meet in a relaxed atmosphere, exchange ideas, learn from one another and benefit from one another. In the former State Council building, which also houses the ESMT, the fourth floor of a side wing stood empty for a long time and served as a junk room. On the 1200 square meters of office space, dusty GDR charm is mixed with high-tech, the rooms look raw and unfinished. That could well be intentional, but the founders shouldn't feel at home there. The concept provides that 60 workplaces at table tennis tables are available to them for three to six months. You will find the necessary IT infrastructure, chairs and lots of contacts there.

"Startups try things that we don't do," explains Paolo Bavja, Corporate Director New Business Development at Henkel. The manager, who works for the less well-known Henkel business line adhesives and surface coatings, has high hopes for the new cooperation: "The founders can use our laboratories and we give them access to our customers." Henkel and RWE are already involved in various start-up projects and incubators, but they are still investing in GTEC because they hope the founders will give their companies new impetus.

The private ESMT University, founded in 2002, attracts talented young people from all over the world. According to the company, more than 80 percent of the students come from abroad and the language of instruction is English. Many graduates would like to start a company after completing their studies in Berlin. Interested startups with a technical business idea must apply for an office position at GTEC.

Jörg Rocholl, President of ESMT, mentions another reason why established companies are now going where they can meet entrepreneurs: "Students want less and less to work in established companies, but rather in startups." This also applies to the managing director Benjamin Rohé, who is very familiar with the start-up scene. The 34-year-old founded his first company at the age of 17, and four more have been added since then. As a business angel he is also involved, passing on his knowledge, investing and pursuing a mission: "My goal is to help 100 people start a company." The first three startups have already moved in. In addition to Intact Healthcare from Italy, the two Eastern European founding teams Uvizir and Smart Drive successfully applied for an office space. Three more companies are to follow in August. 60 jobs are available there, and another location of the same size is to be added in the new year.

Temporary offices and contacts

The founders have six months to fine-tune their concept, to make contacts and to exchange ideas. Then the young companies should move on. Rohé would like to win another five to ten industrial companies as sponsors and partners in order to represent a greater technical diversity.

Established companies expect new impulses from the close contacts to the university, the technically oriented startups and the Berlin entrepreneurial spirit. The energy transition mixed up RWE's business model. The managers in Essen also know that the company has to look for new ideas. They hope to find this knowledge outside of their own empire. "We don't want to found the 20th incubator, we want to help shape something new from the very beginning," explains Braunschmidt and adds: "We want to be in a vibrant stronghold." The manager also emphasizes that partners are needed to develop new business models.

They didn't want to reveal what the sponsors are paying for their commitment. But they emphasize that the most important thing for them is the exchange and that they want to help the founders with contacts and infrastructure.

Startups as job engines for the region

Successful startups also develop into job engines. The industry association Bitkom recently surveyed 227 IT founders in Germany. Young companies employ an average of 13 people. Companies that have been in the market for more than five years have 25 employees.

However, there are regional differences. While startups in Munich employ an average of 21 people, young companies in Berlin have around 17 employees, and in Hamburg there are only six employees. For many founders, the choice of location depends on personal factors such as closeness to family and friends, but 60 percent also named the job market in the respective location as an argument for or against a city.