When you think of start-ups and young companies in Germany, you are more likely to think of Berlin than Walldorf (Baden). A small town with 15,000 inhabitants has to fight for attention in comparison to the capital city. However, Walldorf has something that not even the metropolis on the Spree river can boast: This is where SAP, one of the largest software companies in the world, has its headquarters. The mechanical engineering company Heidelberger Druckmaschinen also employs around 5000 people at the Walldorf/Wiesloch industrial park.
Together with Mannheim and Heidelberg, Walldorf belongs to one of nine start-up ecosystems in Baden-Württemberg. And now it is time for us to step up with confidence and talk about our strengths.
There are a number of start-up scenes in our state, with different drivers and focusing on different industries. In Mannheim, Karlsruhe, Aalen, Heilbronn or Freiburg, Ulm, Konstanz, Albstadt or the region around Stuttgart – across the state, local authorities, chambers of commerce, trade associations, universities and research institutes are working with corporates, investors and start-up associations to set up powerful networks that provide financing and subsidies in start-up and technology centres to support, promote and strengthen new companies.
A lot is happening in these start-up ecosystems. They do not merely sow the seeds for the economy of tomorrow, but nurture and cherish the new growth as well. Start-ups are up and running across a wide spectrum of technology in Baden-Württemberg.
This is no coincidence. Baden-Württemberg has long been home to many successful companies, known as hidden champions. Entrepreneurs need to ensure that they remain successful, and are constantly on the lookout for ideas that they can invest in to maintain that. An increasing number of corporate groups and medium-sized companies are getting involved as partners and mentors, providing venture capital and setting up accelerator programs for start-ups. This too is nothing new in Baden-Württemberg, where companies have been extremely active in this area for some time. This means that there is an extremely productive, internationalised climate for start-ups, which only continues to improve.
Baden-Württemberg is home to a wide range of start-up initiatives that have yet to receive the attention they deserve. We intend to change this with our involvement in economic policy, and this strategy is already paying off. For example, Baden-Württemberg has the widest range of school-based entrepreneurship education measures of any EU region.
Our start-up scene is dominated by opportunity-based start-ups. This is positive, as opportunity-based start-ups represent those entrepreneurs who have chosen to start a business, rather than being forced to do so by circumstance. Opportunity-based start-ups are based on a great idea, paired with real enthusiasm for a product or a service, driving people to start a business. Such opportunity entrepreneurs – as they are commonly referred to in the international business environment – produce more innovations in the marketplace, employ more people and can hold their own against competitors far longer than those who start businesses out of necessity.
Our grandparents in Baden-Württemberg long enjoyed a nationwide reputation for being hard-working individuals. In the future, people will have this to say: Baden-Württemberg is the start-up state. That is our mission, and a vital objective of the state-wide “Start-up BW” campaign. Our intention is to use this campaign to promote a confident image in domestic and international competition, increase the visibility and recognition around Europe and the world for Baden-Württemberg as a start-up state, and promote the idea that start-ups can grow and prosper between the Odenwald region and Lake Constance.
“Start-up BW” represents a high-performance network of partners from a variety of regional or institutional backgrounds. We are collecting all relevant actions and subsidy options under this umbrella brand. This allows us to increase the level of service and transparency for start-ups in Baden-Württemberg. However, having start-ups approach us from other states and other countries is just as important. We must be in a position to compete for the best start-ups. In international terms, Baden-Württemberg intends to use “Start-up BW” to take start-up financing and professional support for would-be entrepreneurs to the next level.
"Start-up BW" must also convince everyone who lives in our state and provide a welcoming environment for people to start their own business and/or to support their children and grandchildren with entrepreneurial aspirations. We need a sustainable, positive start-up culture – we need to view failure as an opportunity, take actions that count and not just grumble and wait until everything is planned to perfection and security is guaranteed. Starting your own business takes courage – not just partners, consultants, coaches and investment capital. Courage grown in BW – we are placing our faith in this concept with “Start-up BW”.