Setting up your own business is never easy, but Bremen offers the perfect environment for budding entrepreneurs. A unique start-up scene has taken root in the region that will help you access the expertise, contacts and funding that you'll need to succeed. So what are you waiting for?
A vibrant start-up scene has developed in Bremen and Bremerhaven, which together make up Germany's smallest federal state. It's almost like a family here – public-sector bodies, banks and businesses are all pulling together in the same direction. Which makes starting up a business in the two cities that much easier.
According to the IfM institute for SME research in Bonn, 2,800 businesses defined as start-ups were founded in Bremen in 2017. And almost all of them began their entrepreneurial journey at the:
The Starthaus is the first port of call for anyone looking to set up their own business in Bremen or Bremerhaven. The team of consultants there provide individual advice and support to entrepreneurs throughout their start-up journey right up to the initial expansion phase. As well as advising on first steps, they will check your business plan, help you build your network and tell you how to access funding. Best of all – their services are free of charge.
Any start-up or entrepreneur will need business partners and a network of contacts to help them realise their idea. At Starthaus Bremen and Starthaus Bremerhaven, they'll be able to access public-sector partners (e.g. the business support agencies for Bremen and Bremerhaven, the chamber of skilled trades, the Chamber of Commerce, the Bridge graduate programme, and a women in business network), private-sector partners (banks, accelerators and other businesses), and investors (high-tech start-up funds, private investors) and partners from academia (universities in Bremen/Bremerhaven, research institutes). The close links between these organisations are one reason why Bremen is such an attractive location for start-ups.
The Starthaus offices in Bremen and Bremerhaven can help with all matters related to financing for start-ups. They'll tell you how to access a range of financing options, including:
Start-ups need information and advice and so that is what the Starthaus has put at the core of its services. Free courses are regularly offered on practical subjects such as business planning, tax, first steps and finding inspiration for the perfect business model.
Coaching for start-ups is provided in regular seminars and events, and the Starthaus's own coaching programme has been a particular success. As part of the twelve-month programme, people starting their own business are given 200 hours of intensive coaching on subjects such as business development, sales, management, tax and legal issues. Some will also receive a financial boost to help them through those difficult early days.
Bremen is a dynamic centre of science and learning. Five universities and the 500 companies and 12,000 employees at Bremen Technology Park mean there is no shortage of young talent and fresh ideas. The Bridge programme, which is supported by the University of Bremen, the universities of applied sciences in Bremen and Bremerhaven, and Bremen's development bank, was established to help graduates start up their own business.
The University of Bremen's Chair in Small Business & Entrepreneurship (LEMEX) prepares students to set up their own businesses and organises pitching events. Bridge also provides advice on Germany's nationwide start-up support programme, EXIST. InnoWi, meanwhile, offers assistance in applying for and registering patents.
Bremerhaven even has its own degree programme for budding businesspeople – a bachelor's in entrepreneurship, innovation and management. The course is aimed at people with an enterprising mindset who are looking to start their own business or who have already done so. It focuses on methodology, attitudes, skills and practical experience, and actually requires students to found their own company that then has to then compete in the market.
Anyone setting up their own business in Bremen and Bremerhaven should take a look at the region's technology centres and start-up centres, where entrepreneurs can take advantage of start-of-the-art facilities as they seek to refine their products. The BITZ – Bremen Innovation and Technology Centre at the Technology Park is a prime example. Located by one of Germany's finest universities – the University of Bremen – it is home to no fewer than 80 tech companies. They benefit from the proximity to the university, the wide range of services on offer and the many events organised specifically for start-ups.
At Bremen's World Trade Center and at Fahrenheithaus I, II and III, start-ups will find premises that make their first steps into business as straightforward as possible. Bremen and Bremerhaven also have a number of coworking spaces that offer a relaxed atmosphere and a chance to socialise and network, often well into the evening. If you're having difficulty deciding where to locate yourself, you can turn to the Unternehmensservice Bremen business support agency. There's no question they can't help with – and they'll be able to answer you in English, Turkish or Russian.
The Bremen region is home to a wide range of private and corporate investors who can provide young entrepreneurs not only with financial support but also business expertise and contacts.
Team Neusta, for example, which is Germany's biggest internet agency, provides IT start-ups with funding, expertise and workspaces at the Neusta Campus. Start-ups working on all kinds of projects in the energy, automotive and 'smart city' sectors can be found at the Kraftwerk City Accelerator run by energy company SWB and Mercedes-Benz. Funding for Bremen's aerospace cluster is provided by the European Space Agency's business incubation centre.
Corporate start-ups such as those sponsored by the trading company Melchers are a feature of Bremen's new business scene. Other investors in the city work within the framework of established networks such as the Business Angels, where they act as mentors or venture capitalists.
Even the best new technology or business model will need fine-tuning, so why not call on the help of others when breaking the mould? At 'future labs' – laboratories that focus on pioneering technologies – young entrepreneurs can train, collaborate and work on new ideas together. Examples in the Bremen region include Brennerei DIGILAB 4.0, Lenze DOCK.ONE and the Daimler Innolab.
Fablab Bremen, meanwhile, has everything the budding inventor might need, including 3D printers and laser cutters, while the Kalle Co workshop provides space for DIY products and projects. Culicons, a new initiative, will be a food hub and think tank rolled into one.
Start-up festivals and events are a regular feature in Bremen, and include the Jacobs start-up competition and 'open-pitch' nights. You can also attend meet-ups designed specially for people setting up their own business. These include the 'founder meet-up' organised by the Starthaus Bremen, an event on social entrepreneurship run by the Hilfswerft non-profit organisation, events run by the Startup Grind Bremen community (powered by Google for entrepreneurs) and the Young Entrepreneurs of Bremen meet-up. Also part of the scene are start-up-specific media such as Startuptaxi on YouTube.
For many international entrepreneurs, visiting a Bremeninvest stand at a trade fair marked the beginning of their journey to Bremen. Bremen's economic development agency uses the Bremeninvest brand to promote the city around the world and at exhibitions. The Unternehmensservice Bremen business support agency offers support for new businesses in a range of languages. There is even a start-up community in Bremen dedicated to the 'new space' movement. Whether from aerospace or any other sector, young entrepreneurs are always welcome to join international delegations – a fantastic opportunity for making new contacts.
The Starthaus also operates a website for start-ups as part of its digital offering. The product of a link-up with Germany's KfW development bank, the site offers a range of services covering all phases of the start-up journey. The Starthaus was closely involved in the development of this new service, which is designed primarily for online businesses. The platform is a topical example of the close and successful collaboration with KfW bank, which also extends into other areas of development work.
So what are you waiting for – pick up the phone and get started! You can reach us on our hotline: +49 (0)421 9600 372 or visit our Starthaus webpage for more information.
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