The number on the wall is: 32,154. Christian Schlenk, chief technology officer of the Smart City System start-up, still has the light in sight. The start-up wants to make cities a little smarter by making better use of car parks and private and public housing. Schlenk takes a black and flat box and puts it in a solid yellow plastic case: "This is our floor sensor." The indicator light on the wall indicates the number of sensors already installed by the start-up. As of October 11, they were just over 32,000, and 1,500 are added weekly. "We usually go out at night, because most of the parking spaces are empty at that time," explains Schlenk. "But we do a lot more than hardware, we also provide the software to analyze the data and manage the parking space, thus opening up new business models."
Schlenk opens the image of a fictional parking lot of a supermarket on the computer. On the screen, you can see how many parking spaces are currently available, where a car is parked and how long. Locations marked in green are busy, grays are free. "We only provide the data, what operators do with it, it's their business," Schlenk said. Cities can integrate the data into their parking management system to guide motorists to vacant parking spaces or free charging stations for electric vehicles. The long-term parkers stand out.
Since the beginning of the year 2017, Smart City is installed in the Zollhof incubator in Nuremberg, of which Schlenk is one of the founders. "We were the first to move in. There were almost no desks and pizzas to enter," he says. Meanwhile, an office is next to each other. "We are well employed," says Benjamin Bauer, creative director and now general manager of the Zollhof. Even Bauer has already founded, so he would have wanted a customs court. "There is a strong computer scene and startups in Nuremberg and the region, with enough successful entrepreneurs such as Oschmann or Wöhrl families, and powerful companies," says Bauer. But there was a lack of a technological hub bringing together everyone: founders, companies and investors.
As in Nuremberg, in recent years, incubators have sprung up throughout the Republic, accelerators and incubators, or institutions offering everything in one. They feed and maintain start-ups. The concern is great that Germany is losing the connection. A legitimate concern: compared to countries like the United States and China, the founding wave is missing, it is rather a smooth ride. A country without a founder, however, is a country without a future. Siemens, Bosch, Miele – The German economic history has many founders and some have become leaders in the global market. What's happening? Why companies like Amazon, Google or Facebook in the United States?
Are the Germans too full, too lazy, too anxious and too uninspired? Where are the people who make it seemingly impossible because they think faster, bigger and further than most of their contemporaries?
But they exist, these founders, also in Germany. They are developing in more than 300 technologies and incubators, in incubators and accelerators. Associations, trade shows, business builders, holding companies, hackathons, makerlabs, crowdfunding platforms – everything is there. Private and public providers, old, new, big and small. Barely a DAX group, barely a large family business, do not seek proximity to the founders. There are many pockets of public funding. The Zollhof, for example, is the digital incubation center of the Middle Franconia District as part of the Gründerland Bayern initiative. With Medical Valley Erlangen and Health Hackers, it is the digital health center of the Digital Hub Initiative of the Federal Ministry of the Economy. At the national level, there are twelve nodes.
Entrepreneurship is the most luxurious home for founders. The actress and main shareholder of BMW, Susanne Klatten, was founded in 2002 in Garching, near Munich. It claims to produce about 50 new businesses each year. In Klatten's opinion, a good home is a safe and secure place to be welcomed and encouraged, to receive constructive criticism and valuable advice to challenge and stay to what you can do. your first steps. Entrepreneurship includes prominent graduates such as the founders of Flixbus, Proglove, Magazino or Celonis.
Things do not just happen in hot spots like Berlin, Munich or Hamburg, but all over the country. "We are not competitors," says Bauer, CEO of Zollhof: "Every start-up scene has its own characteristics: Germany needs more founders." The Federal Association of German start-ups estimates the number of new businesses at around 9,000. Not all start-ups are necessarily start-ups. For associations considered to be start-ups less than ten years old, their business idea is innovative and scalable, as is the potential for growth.
In Germany, graduates still prefer to be hired
Germany ranks well in many rankings that measure innovation However, the founding activities do not follow those of other countries. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2018, around 20 people aged 18 to 64 have started a business in Germany since 2015 or are currently preparing for it. Start-up activities are significantly lower than those in most high-income countries – in Austria, the Netherlands or the United States the rate is above 10%. "In Germany, university graduates still prefer to go into the state and into a business," said a spokesman for the federal association. Attractive alternatives are one of the reasons, the bureaucracy, the less risky capitalists than others. And there is the fear of failure.
The conditions in Germany in international comparison are not so bad. "Only a few rare places in the world carry out such intensive research on life sciences, mechanical engineering, automotive, energy and other key sectors of the economy." Thorsten Lambertus said. The industrial engineer, himself a founder, heads the manufacturer of the company Ahead of Fraunhofer Venture, the participation vehicle of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. The new generation of entrepreneurs brings many things that distinguish entrepreneurs: the instinct of success of business models, the thirst for new things, the pioneering thinking. Even in industries where technologies and research are exceptional, for example in the mechanical engineering sector, Germany is lagging behind in terms of ambitious start-ups. Most of them are in segments that use rather basic technologies and with which the market potential can – supposedly – be increased rapidly, for example in e-commerce and low technology platforms. "This is not enough – it needs young, advanced technology companies, start-ups that provide the technologies needed for digital transformation, such as the networked production of the Internet of Things or Industry 4.0," says Mr. Lambertus.
Start-ups like Hanjo Rhee, co-founder of Sicoya. The company was founded in 2015 as a spin-off of the Technical University of Berlin. Sicoya is developing optoelectronic products, such as transceiver chips, which, according to Rhee, can transmit data much faster than conventional transceivers. For laypersons, this looks like a show, much like a shiny metallic USB key. But he has it in him. In the microchip, the electrical signals are converted into optical signals and vice versa. The technology is relatively inexpensive and can be produced in large quantities. Such technologies are also the subject of research elsewhere in the world. "But only we put optical and electrical elements on a chip," explains Rhee. Operators of large data centers such as Google or Amazon can network more efficiently their many servers.
Sicoya is considered one of the flagship companies of Adlerhof, a technology park of more than four square kilometers in Berlin. A place steeped in history. "Berlin was once an industrial site with more than 570,000 employees," says Peter Strunk, head of communications in the country, but also a kind of tourist guide. He seems to know every corner of the vast terrain. In the first half of the twentieth century, Adlershof was what would today be called a technological hub for the aviation industry. Since reunification, the public operator Wista has been using it to make Adlershof a favorite place for new technologies such as photonics and optics, materials technologies and microsystems and biotechnologies. "We want to network science, businesses and start-ups," said Roland Sillmann, CEO of Wista. Adlershof has produced countless startups since 1991. Only the former Academy of Sciences of East Germany, about 150 companies have been split up. "There are more than 90 companies in our start-up center," says Sillmann. Most work in B2B, developing products and services for other companies. "We are doing high tech here, we have little in common with the middle cappuccino drinkers," said Sillmann. "We want Berlin to become an industrial site again."