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Social Media Week Hamburg
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Heimken

Hamburg's start-up scene

Alexander Drechsel, Hamburg / hg
February 25, 2015

Berlin may be a hive of entrepreneurial activity in Germany. But other cities such as Hamburg are catching up fast and have ample logistical and financial support in place to help start-ups along.


It could happen to you in any major German city - not getting a place to sit during start-up-related events. Whenever the talk is about founding innovative and technology-oriented companies, there are bound to be just as many folks standing as there are people sitting in the room.

Many of the young men and women attending come with barely more than an idea of how to earn money with a company of their own. And at events such as the Social Media Week in Hamburg, they want to learn more about how to become self-employed successfully.

Nobody knows for sure just how many start-ups there are in Germany. Many are around just for a couple of years, while others operate from living rooms and garages, running their businesses on the side. But one thing's certain: When people talk about start-ups here, Berlin will no doubt be given a mention.

There's no doubt that the German capital is the center of regained entrepreneurial spirit in Germany, but other cities are catching up, luring start-ups with substantial financial and logistical support. Munich, Hamburg and the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia have already made a name for themselves in this respect.

Hamburg, for its part, is a gaming bastion, says Sina Gritzuhn from the Hamburg StartUps online portal. Many successful developers of online games and apps such as Goodgame Studio, Bigpoint and Innnogames employ hundreds of people in the northern German city, also attracting start-ups. Gritzuhn, whose website offers company founders a platform to interact, estimates there are up to 300 start-ups in Hamburg with an average workforce of 15.

"Media startups have also started coming to Hamburg simply because the city is taking the trouble to support them, but e-commerce companies also feel at home here," Gritzuhn told DW. Hamburg start-ups such as Protonet or myTaxi are becoming increasingly known internationally.

Generous support

For Hauke Windmüller, there's still a long road to fame ahead. The 28-year-old left his home town Berlin to study in Hamburg and in the fall of 2013 he and a couple of fellow students launched a smartphone app called Familonet to enable family members to exchange news and photos in a specially protected and partially automated way.

Windmüller recalls that the driving factor behind their decision to be based in Hamburg was a special support program called InnoRamUp, "which for us was the most attractive support program for young start-ups at the time."

Social Media Week Hamburg, Sina Gritzuhn
Sina Gritzuhn thinks Hamburg has a lot going for itImage: DW/A. Drechsel

Hamburg's municipal authorities support young companies with up to 150,000 euros ($170,200), provided the start-ups are no older than two years and are highly innovative.

And there's a lot more going for Hamburg. "We also made use of the consulting opportunities at many colleges in Hamburg," Windmüller said. "And let's not forget the many events where we were able to talk to other company founders; that helped us a lot."

The Social Media Week in Hamburg is one of them. Start-up protagonists have a whole week to attend more than 200 events, exchange views and draw some inspiration. Organizer Sabine Ewald says "it's obvious that Hamburg's start-ups are and important source of innovation and and a pivotal economic factor for the city."

German startups in the Big Apple

And she mentions the support given to start-ups by a number of institutions on the ground - assistance which includes logistical support but also legal and financial consulting.

Hauke Windmüller says Hamburg, rather than Berlin, is the better place to look for staff with knowledge of specialized coding skills. Still, most start-ups, says Sina Gritzuhn, opt for Hamburg just because the people involved live here and have built up their own networks here.

And Berlin, after all, is just a 90-minute train ride away, meaning you don't have to miss out on important events going on in the capital. And with a twinkle in her eyes she adds: "I always say Hamburg is a Berlin suburb of sorts."

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