The Complete Frankfurt Startup City Guide

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Known as Europe's financial hub, Frankfurt and the Rhein-Main area have much more to offer. Check out the complete Frankfurt Startup City Guide in order to not miss an opportunity!

When we talk about Frankfurt in this article, we actually describe a whole area. Everything surrounding Frankfurt, which is known as “Frankfurt-Rhine-Main”, FFM or FRM. It also happens to be one of eleven European metropolitan areas, of which it has the 7th largest gross regional product (GRP) of more than 120 bn Euros (2012). This makes this single region playing in the same field as the whole country of Ghana (~ 115 bn Euros GDP in 2016). Obviously, the strength of this community lies in its decentralization. The whole area has something to offer from the European Space Operations Centre of ESA in Darmstadt to the Financial Hub Frankfurt and the knowledge of the research-heavy universities in Mainz, Darmstadt and Frankfurt.

GPS Direction: Frankfurt-Rhein-Main

Frankfurt has a history of innovation, like being home to the world’s first airline, so it is not surprising that it is a fast-growing startup hub (not only in the FinTech area). A big advantage of the FRM area is the great number of large corporates (like Deutsche Bank, Schott, Opel, Frankfurt Airport, Merck KGaA, Sanofi, Deutsche Flugsicherung). They are an important source of corporate capital, a cooperation partner but also a very important training ground for entrepreneurs.

Frankfurt is surely also a big financial center with 70.000+ employees and rapidly growing with Brexit. There are many very important financial institutions like the ECB, ECB Banking Supervision – SSM, the European Insurance Oversight, the German Stock Exchange, Bundesbank, and the German financial oversight body Bafin.

You may not have noticed, but Frankfurt combines this know-how with its function as a creative center with 60.000+ employees in diverse creative areas such as gaming (e.g. Deck 13 who already won multiple awards). There are also more than 200 companies related to the film industry, who call FRM their home.

The area has a high density of smart brains with 25+ of institutions of higher education and more than 200.000 enrolled students. This includes:

Furthermore, its central location in Germany and Europe makes it a logistics hub. Whether it’s data, that is streaming through DE-CIX, the biggest Internet Exchange Point, or physical goods and people (Frankfurt has the airport with the most passenger traffic in Germany). Many capital cities of European countries are reachable within a 1-1,5 hour flight or a few hours more by high-speed train. Some of the busiest highways in Germany / Europe are circumventing or merging around Frankfurt as well.

Advantages Of Building A Startup In Frankfurt-Rhine-Main:

  • The high density of finance specialists and coders with experience in finance and tax. You won’t find this any other place in continental Europe.
  • Many enterprise customers are nearby, which includes corporates, SMEs, and banks
  • Great place with many trade fairs (think Frankfurt Motor Show, Frankfurt Book Fair (now with digital content as well)), in the heart of Europe, with flight connections to more than 190 destinations and high-speed trains to many European cities like Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Vienna and many more.
  • Frankfurt is just one small city in the Rhine-Main area with a population of more than 5.5 mn
  • Frankfurt is traditionally a very international city with many expats
  • There is a large accumulation of potential investors think banks, VC, PE, all their employees, and partners (think Business Angels) as well as many traditional corporates, open to corporations with startups (think Lufthansa’s Airplus and more)
  • Recruiting talents may be challenging but retention is very interesting since the market is not as rotative as in other cities
  • And finally, think about where one would list. In Germany, there is just one valid option, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Some startups like the FinTech NAGA Group already listed there.

What Founders Have To Consider:

  • Although there’s a very active startup community, it’s by far not as large as others in the world, but it is growing fast (think 50+% YoY growth)
  • Many startups find it not as easy to get funding rounds
  • As always there are high rents, but they are not as high as say London

Even though a large number of startups in Frankfurt focus on B2B or FinTech, you may notice a few of the companies involved. Lets try a few:

As we have been writing this article, there was the biggest day so far for the Frankfurt / Rhine-Main startup scene. First, the exit of Rhine-Main based short distance ride-sharing app flinc to Daimler, who took over all outstanding shares. Before they had several investments e.g. from Deutsche Bahn (the German rail operator, who has also a large presence in Frankfurt). Secondly, the exact same day Bosch announced it’s plan to buy Frankfurt-based startup COBI.

First Stop: Discover Frankfurt Rhine-Main’s Startup Community

The Complete Frankfurt Startup City Guide

Even though Frankfurt is not yet one of the most mentioned hubs, there is a lot of activity and an increased activity, especially in the FinTech space. In a recent survey, entrepreneurs in Frankfurt saw their environment at par with Munich or Hamburg. In a study by Nestpick, Frankfurt/Rhine-Main made No 18 for startup employees in Europe, leaving other cities like London (#43) far behind.

Adding to the organic growth there is also growth from international startups joining the ecosystem like JoinMainLand aim, which aims to lure FinTechs from London in. Many established international companies like Frankfurt to set up shop, for many, it makes sense to enter Europe that way recently Bareburger, Five Guys, Chipotle and soon WeWork to name just a few. So expect organic growth and many more international startups to set up shop over time.

Find Info About Upcoming Events, Meetups & Other Occasions:

Regular Events & Meetups:

Yearly Or Major Events, Festivals, Conferences:

  • Startup Safari: Open doors and gathering of startup ecosystem
  • Euro Finance Tech (each year in spring and fall): All about the digitalization of the banking industry.
  • There are many fairs at Messe Frankfurt (Frankfurt Fair). Just think about the recent Frankfurt Motor Show (New Mobility World).

Volunteering Possibilities:

Indeed a lot of startups have close partnerships with universities and provide internships for undergraduates and are willing to incorporate talents straight from universities.

Second Stop: Park At A Coworking Space In Frankfurt Rhine-Main

The Complete Frankfurt Startup City Guide

Within the last 8-10 years, lots of coworking spaces started in this area and they are getting bigger and bigger. There’s basically a coworking space in every area of the Frankfurt-Rhein-Main area. So, depending on where you’d like to stay, check some of the following places.

Coworking Spaces In Frankfurt Rhine-Main:

  • CoWo21: A coworking space located in Darmstadt providing desks, wi-fi and a friendly community for independent workers
  • BEEHIVE: The spot, straight at the Mainzerlandstraße 33a, is located in a central location in the Bahnhofsviertel district in Frankfurt and provides different offers
  • Co-work play: Close to Ostbanhof, hosting several regular meetups
  • Coworking@NAXOS: located at Milk, Frankfurt
  • Die Zentrale: Frankfurt’s first coworking space and likely the most techie one
  • Gründermaschine: Very FinTech heavy, also a local incubator
  • meet/n/work: Next to the Frankfurt Central Railway Station, maybe the most central coworking spaces in all of Europe
  • Regus: Coworking in the 14th floor of a skyscraper – awesome view for many miles
  • Social Impact Lab: In Bockenheim, near the Universities, and the place to be for social startups, with a strong program for refugees and green causes
  • TechQuartier: Frankfurt – probably the place that aggregates more activities and projects right now, launching the 3rd floor already.
  • WeWork: Positioned close to Goethe Platz, another place in central Frankfurt (opening soon)
  • Co-Working: Located in Königstein
  • Coworking-m1: Located in Mainz
  • Heimathafen Wiesbaden
  • Working Republic
  • Ubertage
  • VABN
  • The Office Frankfurt
  • plug and work
  • Start FFM
  • Start FFM
  • Design Offices

Third Stop: Tank Your Finances In Frankfurt Rhine-Main

The Complete Frankfurt Startup City Guide

Frankfurt is one of the hotspots of global finance, including but not limited to the European Central Bank, ECB’s SSM (the oversight of large banks in Europe), the European insurance oversight body, and the world’s largest central counterparty. There are many successful managers, investors and serial entrepreneurs who can invest in startups. Add to this Germany’s largest business angel associations, many PE and VC funds headquartered here and you get a good impression on the promises of the system.

Incubators:

Accelerators:

Grants & Subventions:

Crowd Investing Platforms:

Angel Investors:

Venture Capital Investors:

Other Investment Opportunities:

Fourth Stop: Further Advice & Success Stories Made in Rhein-Main

The Complete Frankfurt Startup City Guide

There are many success stories in the Frankfurt /Rhein-Main startup scene, but they have been mostly missed by the international press so far. Let’s try if you recognize a few:

Maybe you ever came across Bitcoin, Blockchain or Ethereum? One of the lead developers of Ethereum (Brainbot) is located in Mainz, part of Rhine-Main. So naturally, there is also activity in Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies. Also, in September 2017 Brainbot announced their own Raiden Tokens.

Have you ever heard of Game of Thrones? Well, then you know one of the amazing creations of Rhine-Main-based company Pixomondo. They are in charge of the special effects for the dragons. So, one could say Frankfurt is the home of the dragons. Of course they already won one Oscar and several Emmy’s for their work. They also worked the special effects for other movies like Iron Man 2, 2012, The Amazing Spiderman, Fast & Furious 6, and many more. But did you know that they started out as a startup in the Rhine-Main area? In 2003 they just had 40 people in a small office in Pfungstadt in the Rhine-Main area, near Darmstadt.

In 2015, Frankfurt had Germany’s largest startup exit. It was the acquisition of Fintech 360T (a trading network for foreign currencies) by the Frankfurt Stock exchange for 725 mn Euros (almost 800 mn US$ at the time).

There have been other exits as well, far away from international press: You may know the shopping club of Amazon, called BuyVIP? The private shopping club was started in 2006 in Madrid and Frankfurt. Later it was bought by Amazon.

Ever played the computer games like the “Anno”-Games? You can guess it, they also come from the Rhein-Main Area, from a company now know as Blue Byte in Mainz.

And there is much out there. Clark.de is an InsurTech, based and run in Frankfurt (even though they have a post box in Berlin, as they told in an interview). They made it – as the only startup from Germany – on the Bloomberg list of the “50 Most Promising Startups You’ve Never Heard Of”.

Emma was ranked at the TNW top 30 in 2017, is one of the European startups that has grown the most in that period.

GTEC, the German Tech Entrepreneurship Center, also decided to open it’s first and only branch (apart from the headquarters in Berlin) – can you guess where? Frankfurt.

For further advice reach out to startuprad.io – they are always happy to help and happy to talk. Keep an eye on hallofrankfurt and rhein-main-startups.com. Especially keep a close eye on the hashtag #rheinmainrocks and #startupradio.

Pedro is your go-to person if you’re thinking about joining as an expat. He is aware of some job opportunities in different startups in case you are looking for jobs there.

Paul has an extensive network in the local community from building and leading www.rhein-main-startups.com. Feel free to reach out if you try to connect with someone. He hosts several events and is happy to help you with speaking/pitch gigs etc.

Ready for Frankfurt?

 

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The guides are like startup communities – they constantly change and grow. Make sure to check for updates and if you have something to add to one of them or want to publish one for your city, get in touch right away! And don’t forget to enrich the startup ecosystem by creating your company profile at StartUs!

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