This Month in German Startups - 2020 Review


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This Month in German Startups - 2020 Review

Welcome to This Month in German Startups by - in a transatlantic news recording with Chris in New York City. This is an annual tradition, where we look at the past year and forward into the coming one. Not to mention, we have been totally wrong last year with the outlook, so we are more sticking to the review this year.

Today we bring you an overview of the German startup corona aid, an overview of the German startup scene, lists of top startup stories, a few outlooks on 2021, and a bit of wine :-)


European Startup Scene 2020 - Snapshot

8 crucial takeaways from Atomico's recently-launched The State of European Tech 2020 report | via Silicon Canals

  1. ‘Megarounds’ helped European Tech ecosystem grow
    1. While many founders found it more challenging to get funding, 2020 is on track to be a record year, with potential to surpass $41B invested, driven by more $100M+ deals.
    2. Germany is projected 23 bn US$
  2. Low capital, pivoting the product, and sales decline hit founders hardest in 2020
  3. International investment hasn’t dried up
  4. France is the only one of Europe’s three largest markets to grow in 2020.
  5. London remains the biggest investment hub in 2020
  6. Travel sector gets notably low investments
  7. Investment in purpose-driven tech companies soars
  8. Gender and racial inequality still prevails in the European tech ecosystem

List: 10 biggest healthtech stories of 2020

  1. The guinea pigs of Germany’s new healthcare revolution
  2. BioNTech: the German biotech startup behind the coronavirus vaccine

Hot or not: Where European VC funding went in 2020 by Pitchbook - Difference to Atomico ⇒ Different source for data ...

UK still has the largest VC market in total (13.7 bn $), but Germany (6.8 bn $) grew three times as fast with 10.9% vs UK’s +1.7% BUT this may also be due to Brexit. We will see what 2021 brings. According to Pitchbook France grew by an astonishing 25.4% to a total of 6.1 bn $. The other markets in Europe surpassing 1 bn $ are Sweden (3.2 bn$), Spain (1.4 bn$), and Finland (1.2 bn$).

These are the 10 largest funding rounds of Europe in 2020

including AUTO1 Group, Tier Scooters and Lilium from Germany

German Startup Scene 2020 - Snapshot

Deutscher Startup Monitor

  • This is an annual survey by the German startup association, this year more than 1.900 startups participated.
  • The largest share of the - participating startups - (note, there is a bias here) have been in
    • Berlin 17,7%
    • Rhein-Rhur (Cologne, Düsseldorf, …) 12.8%
    • Munich 6.5%
    • Hamburg 5.8%
  • This is one of the reasons we try to highlight so many startups from different areas, since not only every 5th startup is in Berlin. Please note that we try to have approx. 20% of our interviews from Berlin, to give these startups also a fair representation.
  • On average a startup in the survey employed 14.3 employees, up from 13.3 in 2019 and 12.3 in 2018. Despite Corona, 90% were planning to hire people.
  • 15.9% of founders are female in this survey, slightly up from the previous years (15.7% in ‘19 and 15.1% ‘18)
  • Universities play a central role as a core for a startup cluster, especially Germany’s Technische Hochschule (technical universities aka TU) e.g. TU München, KIT, RWTH Aachen, LMU München, Universität Mannheim, Universität Bremen, WHU, TU Berlin, TU Darmstadt and FU Berlin.
  • ~ 20% of founders have a migration background
  • The most important technology is AI, more than 26.7% of startups had a SaaS business model
  • 68.8% of all startups focus on B2B, 26.5% on B2C, and 4.7% on B2G (Business to Government)
  • The most important funding sources are the founder's own savings (used by 78.4%), government programs (used by 44.3%), and business angels (used by 31.6%). Actually, only 18.6% of participating startups have VC funding, while 42.3% want funding. DO YOU HEAR THIS INTERNATIONAL INVESTORS?
  • Startups in Berlin (39,0%), Munich (28,8%), and Hamburg (22,1%) are the most frequently funded by Venture Capital

Fintech Survey by Comdirect

Comdirect is an online bank with a small startup program. They are part of Commerzbank group and conduct an annual fintech survey in Germany. Some highlights here:

  • Volume of top 3 deals down by more than 50%
  • 12 fintechs with more than 100 m Euros funding
  • Top 20 funded fintechs get more money than the other 414 fintechs
  • The top fintech locations Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt and Hamburg raised 72% of all VC funding

Venture Capital in Germany

A list of Germany's largest Venture Capital Rounds in 2020

Germany’s Corona Aid for Startups

  • Germany extends it’s two billion (2,43 bn US$) startup corona aid program from spring 2020 until June 30th, 2021, since not all two billion Euros of the original program have been spent. The two billion have been equally divided into two pillars - called Pillar One and Pillar Two.
  • Pillar One (1 bn €, 1.2 bn US$) is direct aid for startups, who already have external investors. As of December 31st, 860 mn Euros (1 bn US$) have been committed by KfW, which administers all of the money. You can learn more here on their website about the program, unfortunately in German only ( KfW will also provide aid to startups and companies with a “strong relation to Germany”, which may also apply to your company? Check their website.
  • Pillar Two (1 bn €, 1.2 bn US$) is a matching facility, were on a 1:1 basis the government matches investments. As of December 31st, 2020 only 556 million Euros ( 676 mn US$) have been committed. This program is administered by KfW, the development banks of each state (yes, 16 different ones and you have to apply at the bank in your state) and the government’s ERP fund, if you are already receiving funds from the ERP fund. Learn more here (yes, German only) Again, you don’t need to be a German company, but only have your economic focus on Germany. Check the website if you think that may apply to you. Important: Your company must have steered clear of economic problems in 2019.

Here is some more information, where you can also find more details:

How has Covid impacted Germany, Austria, and Switzerland’s startups? | Sifted


Frankfurt Rhine-Main

  • Look-back at 2020 in the Rhein Main Startup Ecosystem - Frankfurt Valley
  • Frankfurt Rhein Main attracted multiple international companies in 2020 - Frankfurt Valley
  • The most important startup exists in 2020 including Emma, Bettzeit, Lizza and Mailtastic from the Rhine-Main Area
  • (Joe’s project) tracks venture funding of any kind in the Rhine-Main Area. We tracked 28 deals, in total 894 m Euros (skewed towards large rounds with BioNTech’s fundraising due to the development of corona vaccine and placement of additional shares and convertibles). Official publication to follow soon ...


  • Munich has a list of the Top 10 most important investments, headed by Lilium with 240 mn US$. Remember, we talked about it in the news.


  • Had a great wrap-up: VCs holding back, Corona aid did not always help and the mood was still overall positive. Thank you for this amazing wrap-up.

2021 Outlook(s)

We collected some outlooks, but they may be totally wrong, like last year. Only thing we can say for sure is that Germany is going to invest 10 bn € in VC funds, which in turn will invest in German startups. As said before, a few hundred millions from the corona aid for startups are also left. If we could beat corona soon, the second half of the year promises to be great for startups in Germany.


You guys know we like to end on a high note and sometimes take detours … :-) German wine consumption has risen during times of corona. On average a German has bought 20.7 Liters of wine (700 oz for the Americans here) in last year’s harvest season, roughly 2.5 bottles per month.

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