Bielefeld survey highlights an emerging B2B, crypto, deep tech ecosystem

·10-min read

Welcome to the city survey of Bielefeld, Germany, part of our ongoing survey into European cities. If you'd like your city featured, just fill in this form and add your city name. Once we have enough entries from a city, we will put your city on TechCrunch!

According to local media reports, Bielefeld’s has experienced a tech boom in recent years, with accelerators like the local Founders Foundation (backed by the Bertelsmann Foundation) and Garage 33 (at the University of Paderborn) attracting a new wave of young company founders to the East Westphalia-Lippe region.

Notable startups to emerge include Semalytix, Valuedesk, Zahnarzt-Helden, StudyHelp, PartWorks and AMendate.

Unfortunately, Bielefeld suffers from the same ailment the rest of Germany is subject to: Most startups gravitate to Berlin, followed by Munich, then Hamburg (according to an initiative from UnternehmerTUM in Munich).

However, as Business Punk magazine found earlier this year, the Ostwestfalen-Lippe region in northern North Rhine-Westphalia is home to some of Germany’s biggest companies. That means startups aiding large organizations to digitize post-pandemic have ready access to some of Germany’s largest companies and institutions.

Our survey respondents pointed out that the region is strong in sectors such as B2B because of the many old-school B2B companies in the manufacturing area. There is fairly ready access to many large family offices such as Dr. Oetker, Miele, CLAAS, Schüco and Bertelsmann, so there is a lot of capital available.

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“The region has a good momentum for startups in general, [largely] because of Founders Foundation. At the same time, them being the only institutional driver leads to a certain monoculture,” said one.

Deep tech technologies are a feature of the ecosystem, but there are “almost no B2C or direct-to-consumer” startups, said another respondent.

Commenting on the investment scene in the city, survey respondents said investors have "strong bonds to the industry and Mittelstand." However, another commented that there are "only very few local investors with NRW or OWL focus like EnjoyVenture (Technologiefonds OWL), but not much more."

That said, companies get decent attention from "national" investors, and Founders Foundation has really boosted the scene in the region. Angels are also becoming more active, and "there is a strong business angel community in Bielefeld who have been really supportive of the new startup scene."

We surveyed:

Jonathan Maycock, co-founder and CEO, margin

Louis Schulze, ecosystem development manager, Founders Foundation

Stefan Trockel, founder and CEO, Mercury.ai

Jasper Steinlechner, CTO, Pektogram

Victoria Erdbrügger, co-founder and managing director, circuly

Manuel Rüsing, CTO, Synctive

Conner Kuhlmeyer, founder, reportio

Miriam Kleiner, talent acquisition manager, Founders Foundation

 

Jonathan Maycock, co-founder and CEO, margin

Which sectors is Bielefeld's tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
We are strong in the cryptotrading ecosystem. We are most excited by the adoption of Bitcoin as a financial asset by corporates and institutions as well as the ongoing network effect and adoption by the masses. We need to add support for DeFi trading venues alongside the centralized exchanges we already support.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Semalytix, Zahnarzt-Helden, Coindex and Valuedesk.

What is the tech investment scene like in Bielefeld? What’s their focus?
Since Founders Foundation started in Bielefeld in 2016 the startup scene has exploded. We joined the first accelerator and since then 24 startups have been founded and come through its programs. There is a strong business angel community in Bielefeld that has been really supportive of the new startup scene.

With the shift to remote working, do you think will people stay in Bielefeld, move out, or will people move in?
We switched completely to home office once the pandemic got underway. For us, it has worked really well and we now have three employees who work outside of Bielefeld. Everything is more flexible now.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)?
Sebastian Borek (CEO of the Founders Foundation), Eduard R. Doerrenberg (managing director, Dr. Wolff Group).

Where do you think Bielefeld’s tech scene will be in five years?
As Bielefeld is in the heart of the German "Mittelstand", there are huge opportunities for tech startups to help these large industries take a leap forward with technical solutions using AI, blockchain and other technologies. The city is well served by Bielefeld University, which turns out highly qualified CS graduates every year. Especially with the superb backing of the Founders Foundation, the startup ecosystem in Bielefeld has a bright future.

Louis Schulze, ecosystem development manager, Founders Foundation

Which sectors is Bielefeld's tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
B2B, deep tech technologies.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Valuedesk, lemon.markets, Schüttflix.

What is the tech investment scene like in Bielefeld? What’s their focus?
Not too strong; still building it.

With the shift to remote working, do you think will people stay in Bielefeld, move out, or will people move in?
[It will] more or less stay the same in my opinion.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)?
Sebastian Borek, Oliver Flaskämper, Liz Mohn, Christian Hülsewig.

Where do you think Bielefeld’s tech scene will be in five years?
One of the leading startup ecosystems in Germany.

Stefan Trockel, founder and CEO, Mercury.ai

Which sectors is Bielefeld's tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Positive tendency for B2B, good technology, not yet clear profile. The region has good momentum for startups in general, [largely] because of Founders Foundation. At the same time, them being the only institutional driver leads to a certain monoculture.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Semalytix, Valuedesk, Matchmetrics, Mercury.ai.

What is the tech investment scene like in Bielefeld? What’s their focus?
Companies find good attention from "national" investors. Local investors are present, but of "lower quality." (The terms you get here would almost never be of the quality you get in the large established hubs.)

With the shift to remote working, do you think will people stay in Bielefeld, move out, or will people move in?
We will see a net influx of talent.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)?
Prof. Philipp Cimiano (Bielefeld University and double founder), Sebastian Borek (Founders Foundation), Janik Jaskolski (Semalytix).

Where do you think Bielefeld’s tech scene will be in five years?
Well established in the field behind the leading hubs like Berlin and Munich with strong B2B tech profile.

Jasper Steinlechner, CTO, Pektogram

Which sectors is Bielefeld's tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Strong in connecting startups and large family businesses (offices). Multi-billion [dollar] family businesses such as Dr. Oetker, Miele, CLASS, Schüco, Bertelsmann and many more are in this region and have huge capital for potential investments in startups here. This is one of the richest regions in Germany (and therefore Europe) with a variety of hidden champions and very large companies, so there is a lot of capital available.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Coindex, Zahnarzt-Helden, Valuedesk, Semalytix.

What is the tech investment scene like in Bielefeld? What’s their focus?
B2B tech and platform economy.

With the shift to remote working, do you think will people stay in Bielefeld, move out, or will people move in?
Probably people will move in. Bielefeld offers a lot of space and nature. The prices are still okay compared to crazy expensive spots like Munich or Berlin.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)?
Staff of the Founders Foundation.

Where do you think Bielefeld’s tech scene will be in five years?
New tech startups have emerged and a variety of new funding series, including a larger startup and tech ecosystem with the universities. Larger investments by the big companies in the region.

Victoria Erdbrügger, co-founder and managing director, circuly

Which sectors is Bielefeld's tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Many old-school B2B companies in the manufacturing area, but almost no B2C or direct-to-consumer.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Zahnarzt-Helden, 1sales.io, Coindex, Evermood, PRODASO, Brandschutz-Zentrale, circuly, Valuedesk, Echometer, easimo, CodeShield, Recommendy, edyoucated, portHy, microsynetics GmbH.

What is the tech investment scene like in Bielefeld? What’s their focus?
No real investment scene here. Only very few local investors with NRW or OWL focus like EnjoyVenture (Technologiefonds OWL), but not much more.

With the shift to remote working, do you think will people stay in Bielefeld, move out, or will people move in?
We grew our team completely remote as that gives us access to more talent. We are an international team from the start and English is the working language, that was a good move for us. We do not see that people are extremely happy and open to move to Bielefeld.

Who are the key startup people in your city (e.g., investors, founders, lawyers, designers, etc.)?
Within the ecosystem of the Founders Foundation in Bielefeld (worth looking it up what those guys build there ;-) ), there are some founders that managed to grow their startups — and sometimes even moved away from Bielefeld to e.g., Berlin.

Where do you think Bielefeld’s tech scene will be in five years?
I see an increase in the tech scene in general across the whole of Germany, because as of now most cities outside Berlin are lagging behind. Especially Bielefeld, to me, is still a city where many (even international) SMEs are located that represent the foundation of the German economy. However, in rather remote areas like Bielefeld, it will be hard to attract talent in the tech space.

Manuel Rüsing, CTO, Synctive

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Circuly, Valuedesk, Zahnarzt-Helden.

What is the tech investment scene like in Bielefeld? What’s their focus?
Tech, B2B.

With the shift to remote working, do you think will people stay in Bielefeld, move out, or will people move in?
Stay.

Where do you think Bielefeld’s tech scene will be in five years?
Hidden champion scene.

Conner Kuhlmeyer, founder, reportio

Which sectors is Bielefeld's tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
Strong network and knowledge transfer. Powerful and supportive hub with Founders Foundation. Strong in software companies.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Semalytics, Betriebsmittelhelden and reportio.

What is the tech investment scene like in Bielefeld? What’s their focus?
I feel like a good mix between the 10x mentality and down-to-earth business cases are expected. This also is enforced by the strong bonds to the industry and Mittelstand and it creates powerful companies.

With the shift to remote working, do you think will people stay in Bielefeld, move out, or will people move in?
Stay.

Miriam Kleiner, talent acquisition manager, Founders Foundation

Which sectors is Bielefeld's tech ecosystem strong in? What are you most excited by? What does it lack?
B2B tech startups.

Which are the most interesting startups in your city?
Valuedesk, Semalytix, Zahnarzt-Helden, persomatch, circuly, Recommendy, Synctive.

What is the tech investment scene like in Bielefeld? What’s their focus?
B2B tech.

With the shift to remote working, do you think will people stay in Bielefeld, move out, or will people move in?
Rather move out probably.

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