High-tech start-ups showcased at investor conference
A growing surge of confidence in Germany’s start-up economy gave extra momentum to this year’s EY-sponsored Innovationswerkstatt Kapital conference in Dresden. Titled ‘Invest in the 40 Best High-Tech Ventures from the East’, the two-day matchmaking event brought together the cream of eastern Germany’s high-tech companies with more than 60 national and international investors.
Wolfgang Seibold, board member of the German Venture Capital and Private Equity Association, told delegates the sector was vital to European competitiveness and urged VCs, business angels and Mittelstand firms to get involved. “Germany’s venture market is about to take off,” he said.
Each start-up – some newly founded, others more established – delivered a 10-minute pitch outlining its technology, product, target market and funding requirements. Meanwhile, investors had the opportunity to ask questions and conduct one-to-one meetings with ventures that attracted them.
A broad spectrum of industries was represented, from life science and diagnostics to automotive, material science, manufacturing and energy. Among the breakthroughs showcased were on-the-spot testing for vitamin and mineral content of food; ultra-light components for use in civil aircraft engines; and screen technology to boost privacy and readability in mobile devices.
Seasoned entrepreneurs Dr Jan Blochwitz-Nimoth, who sold his company Novaled to Samsung in 2013, and Dr Ulrike Fiedler of IDT Biologika, gave presentations on their experiences of taking a company from spin-off to successful exit.
During the first evening, Prof Gerhard Fettweis, holder of the Vodafone Chair at Dresden Technische Universität, gave a welcome speech summarizing how the region and its tech spin-offs had fared over the last 20 years. There were networking opportunities over dinner, and the question ‘How can open innovation work?’ was discussed by a panel moderated by Dr Nicholas Ziegert of M.M. Warburg & Co. Panelists included Dr Johannes Schmidt, board member of INDUS Holding, and EY leader Peter Dörrfuß.
Commenting on how to give high-tech start-ups the best chance of success, Mr Dörrfuß said: “Given the longer development and investment cycles required in the high-tech sector, it is vital for start-ups to choose the right strategic partners – those with a genuine interest in new technological developments and the innovative business model. I would encourage our young entrepreneurs to start building these critical relationships.”
Bettina Voßberg, Chairwoman of the board of the HighTech Startbahn Netzwerk e.V., which organized the conference, said entrepreneurs from the former GDR were brimming with technological skills, creativity and persistence, but needed support in developing their sales and business experience. The 40 participants were selected from a pool of 75 applicants and given bespoke training in pitch presentation and contract negotiation before the event.
Established firms must keep innovating
“It is extremely important for Germany and the rest of Europe to keep innovating,” said Ms Voßberg. “High-tech start-ups can help medium-sized companies, the backbone of the German economy, to transform their business models and stay competitive. We just need to help them bridge the funding gap by making them much more visible to family offices, VCs and the Mittelstand.”
EY’s support for the event was vital because of its excellent access to medium-sized and large technology companies in Germany, Europe and globally, she said.
The conference, which was held at the Swissotel Dresden from 14–15 October 2014, culminated in the announcement of the best pitch presentation, as voted for by the audience. The winner, Dr Martin Regehly of Berlin-based start-up greateyes GmbH, received a state-of-the-art coffee machine for the company office.