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6 July 2017 - Jann Raveling

The start-up scene in Bremen and Bremerhaven

How to get a new business off the ground in the Hanseatic city

Corporate Startups are widely spread throughout Bremen and Bremerhaven
Corporate Startups are widely spread throughout Bremen and Bremerhaven © WFB/Jonas Ginter

A lively start-up scene with close ties to industry has developed in Germany’s smallest federal state. It’s a great place to be, whether you are a customer, partner or investor. Companies such as Daimler, Airbus, the satellite manufacturer OHB, and globally operating logistics companies create the ideal climate for corporate start-ups. Government offices, banks, entrepreneurs and development agencies all work together like one big family. That’s what makes starting a new business in these two cities so easy.

So you have a great idea – now what? This is the question facing many would-be entrepreneurs. Legal aspects, tax, funding, technology – there are countless matters to be dealt with. “With the wind behind you, you can go much faster. In Bremen and Bremerhaven we work together to get new start-ups moving in the right direction,” says Kai Stührenberg from Bremeninvest. He knows that young entrepreneurs don’t want to spend their time trailing around government offices and filling in lengthy applications for grants. They just want to get started. Today, not tomorrow.

A new beginning with B.E.G.IN

And that’s where B.E.G.IN comes in. B.E.G.IN is the name of a start-up network in Bremen and Bremerhaven supported by 15 institutions that work together to provide consultancy services and assistance with funding and finance. Anyone who has a business idea can seek no-obligation advice, get help with applications and access to authorities, or be referred to experts on matters relating to starting a new business.

One of these experts is Kai Sander, head of the regional development department at the development bank for Bremen and Bremerhaven (Bremer Aufbau-Bank GmbH, or BAB). “The two things most entrepreneurs lack are funding and experience. We give them a helping hand with micro-credit and development loans, but passing on advice and information is equally important, and that’s why we have the BRUT programme.” The Bremen funding programme for business start-ups (BRUT) is a one-year programme that provides support to new businesses. As well as financial assistance, new business owners receive coaching in business economics, business development, sales and business planning. Knowledge that is often more valuable than any amount of cash.

In addition to these programmes, entrepreneurs also receive other financial assistance, such as grants for new science and technology start-ups. Click here for a list of funding programmes (German).

Tascha Schnitzler, founder of Raumperle
Tascha Schnitzler, founder of Raumperle © Daniela Buchholz

Smoothing the path

But in Bremen and Bremerhaven financial assistance doesn’t always have to come from the traditional sources. Over €290,000 was raised in two years for 60 regional projects via the ‘Schotterweg’ crowdfunding platform. The Bremen economic development agency Bremeninvest offers generous financial support packages to technology start-ups in particular. It has set up the R&D development programme and the Bremen aerospace research programme, and also participates in EU projects. It also encourages the greater use of digital technologies in businesses through its DIGILAB Brennerei 4.0 think tank. The private sector is also active in encouraging new businesses: kraftwerk city accelerator and team neusta are incubators for new start-ups, providing a space where entrepreneurs can forge links with established firms within their industry. One example is Bremen local Tascha Schnitzler – the brains behind the Raumperle event venue portal. As part of team neusta incubator she is a formidable example of how this can work.

Somewhere to grow and thrive – technology and start-up centres

Start-ups in Bremen and Bremerhaven can immediately become part of a family. They quickly find strategic partners and other like-minded people. For entrepreneurs just starting out, a strong network is vital. The technology and start-up centres are perfect for this, with their favourable terms and state-of-the-art infrastructure. One example is the BITZ – Bremen Innovation and Technology Centre in the technology park. Right next door to one of the best universities in Germany – the elite University of Bremen – it is home to 80 technology companies which benefit from the proximity to the university, the services and facilities offered by the BITZ and the many events organised for start-ups. And there are a number of co-working spaces in Bremen and Bremerhaven that offer a relaxed working environment and plenty of opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs, both during business hours and long after the working day is done. The Unternehmensservice Bremen business support agency is on hand to help anyone having trouble making a decision. There is no question they cannot answer – be it in German, English, Turkish or Russian.

Reaching for the stars

“The start-up scene in Bremen is extremely diverse. There is something for everyone here – and plenty of opportunity to make the right connections,” says Kai Stührenberg. He is referring to the many events that take place in Bremen and Bremerhaven. The aerospace industry is particularly active: the Disrupt Space Summit, delegations to Silicon Valley and StartupWeekend Space are just some of the events that have been staged by and for this sector. The GNGX Start-up Festival and the LEMEX Public Speaker Series are aimed at new businesses from any sector.

There is always lots going on in both cities – and the website startups-bremen.de (German) contains all the information a new business needs. It has event dates, stories of successful start-ups, and tips on how to get your own business off the ground. Two cities, one website, twice as strong.

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