Hamburg's startup scene
Hamburg is one of the main hotspots in Germany, and startup businesses can benefit from a range of advantages – such as the city’s long merchant tradition.
Hamburg - Hotspot for Startups
Hamburg’s economic landscape is shaped by many medium-sized and family-run companies who keep a strong entrepreneurial focus and who also act as business angels, supporting startups e.g. as sparring partners or investors. In addition, there are many industries in Hamburg featuring high levels of startup activity. These include the creative industries, the retail and consumer goods sector as well as logistics. With dedicated initiatives for founders, Hamburg is thus able to provide an excellent basis for networking between startups and established companies.
What is more, the share of business graduates among Hamburg's new entrepreneurs exceeds the national average. Perhaps they find it a little easier to convince investors of their business plan than natural scientists or engineers. In addition, one out of two founders in Hamburg has some prior experience in setting up a business and has learned their lesson also with regard to raising capital. And this might also explain why Hamburg-based startups tend to maintain closer links with established companies.
Flourishing local industries such as media, e-commerce, aviation, and logistics, along with strong growth in coworking spaces and professional support services for startups – such as the Startup Unit of Hamburg Invest – ensure a vibrant startup ecosystem.
Hamburg startups have an excellent track record: Spiegel Online (est. 1994) is one of the most clicked German news portals, and the social network XING (est. 2003) has been facilitating the fostering of business relations for many years. The modular website design system of Jimdo (est. 2007) enjoys great popularity across Europe, with more than 15 million websites running on Jimdo and with EUR 25 million of financing received from VC Spectrum Equity in 2015. Hamburg is also home to many successful spin-offs: Collins, for example, which was established in 2013 by the Otto Group, has revolutionised customised fashion shopping with its AboutYou brand for mobile and desktop.
The dynamic growth of Hamburg’s startup rate is impressive: while the "Hamburg Startup Monitor" published by the private initiative Hamburg Startups recorded 430 young and digital enterprises in 2016, the number increased to 1,228 Startups in 2020 (startupdetector). This is hardly surprising, considering that the Hamburg Metropolitan Region has more than five million residents and a purchasing budget of EUR 26,583 per capita, thus taking a leading position in both Germany and Europe. New entrepreneurs can draw from these resources, e.g. with regard to B2C or B2B programmes, collaboration opportunities with potential partners from politics, academia and industry, as well as a variety of services available in Hamburg.
For startups to flourish they need to be embedded in an excellent environment, and universities play a pivotal role here. From college graduates to winners of the 2016 Startups@Reeperbahn pitch: this is the success story of Baquend, a company specialising in solutions to accelerate websites. The Hamburg Metropolitan Region is home to 36 higher education institutions, with more than 112,000 students enrolled – and about 10 percent of these are international students.
Hamburg’s political and administrative bodies are supporting the region’s business sector with the help of nine cluster initiatives. This is where stakeholders from selected industries of the future get together and engage in networking in the form of work groups, jointly funded projects, or events involving stakeholders from industry, startup businesses, academia and research. Hamburg maintains cluster initiatives e.g. in the following industries: media, renewable energies, logistics, aviation, maritime industries, life sciences, and the creative industries. The rise and consolidation of Hamburg’s gaming industry can be taken as a prime example here – even though the likes of Bigpoint, InnoGames and Goodgame Studios have largely outgrown their startup status.
Yet Hamburg is so much more than just about profit – it is extremely liveable too. In fact, Hamburg is among the top twenty of the liveability ranking published by British news magazine The Economist. And in 2017, the New York Times expressly recommended Hamburg to its readers, praising the city as a “haven for architecture and design”. TravelBird ranked Hamburg as Germany’s most welcoming city. And with the opening of the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg has established an innovative new landmark for Germany as a whole.
Thanks to prestigious industry events such as the Online Marketing Rockstars conference, Hamburg is also considered to be a hotspot for opinion leaders in advertising and online marketing. At this two-day conference, more than 20,000 industry experts gain insights, expertise and inspiration regarding the latest trends in online marketing. In addition, participants can advance their knowledge in masterclasses on specific topics, such as programmatic advertising. And once the evening comes around, participants take to the cafés and bars of the adjacent Schanzenviertel to recap the day and discuss exciting new project ideas.
In short: Hamburg is extremely fond of its vibrant startup scene. Economic clusters, academia, as well as public and private initiatives are always there to support young entrepreneurs through projects, events, and direct investments.
Hamburg currently provides more than 60 coworking spaces across the city, ranging from the Betahaus in the creative Schanzenviertel neighbourhood to the Mindspace near the town hall or the recently opened WeWork offices with more than 1,400 workplaces. Thus, it is quite easy for solo entrepreneurs, startup businesses and company spin-offs to find a suitable working environment in Hamburg.
As well as featuring some well-known coworking brands, Hamburg is also home to a number of specialised vendors: parents perform their day’s work in the Rockzipfel, while their children play or snooze in the adjacent room, and the FilmFabrique is a coworking space especially for people working in the film industry. Coworking has also become topical among established companies: retail and service giant Otto Group, for example, operates a collaborative workspace too: collabor8.