20 Oct Meet the governmental backbone of the Berlin Startup Scholarship Program
They relentlessly support young entrepreneurs and make Berlin a powerhouse for startups – the Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises of the State of Berlin. Meet the governmental backbone of the Berlin Startup Scholarship Program.
We were delighted to speak with the leading forces behind the Berlin Startup Scholarship, Norbert Herrmann and Mirko Jäkel. Together with their colleagues they have created a framework which fuels Berlin’s growth in global settings. Berlin is renowned as a destination for innovation, but it’s their tireless efforts that’s behind why the German capital is the hotspot for entrepreneurialism. We explored more about how their efforts are modernizing the economy ecologically and securing and creating jobs.
They are in many ways pushing the good ship of innovation forward with their activities – Making Berlin an attractive commercial and industrial location, utilising the reservoir of qualified and motivated specialists in and around the city and finding results in impressive creative diversity along with a high quality of life.
Norbert Herrmann, is very well known in the startup world. For some time he has tirelessly been one of the most active spokespersons for startups at a federal government level. He manages and supports large and small projects by creating enabling environments. He is joined by Mirko Jäkel who is equally integral for making things tick. They hold different roles within all the activity around the Berlin Startup Scholarship and are also quite different characters. Mirko operates in a specialised department and is responsible for framing the conditions for programs like the Vision Health Pioneers Incubator and essentially fueling them now and into the future. Norbert on the other hand has an overall view of the startups ecosystem and describes his role as “having a telephone and a Linkedin account. Through that I try to understand and listen and then translate startup activity into the thinking of the Berlin administration.” This also works the other way, so startups understand more about how things operate inside the Berlin Senate. They are modest in their roles but are both heroes behind the Berlin startup scene.
Despite the differences in activity, Nobert and Mirko are united on one clear goal – to support startups in order to support Berlin. They are good spirited and both curious to always discover what’s working and isn’t working and how they can make things even better.
Meet the governmental backbone of the Berlin Startup Scholarship Program – The Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises
The Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises does not specialise in any single topic when it comes to startups. They focus on any solution that can help the city prosper and grow. Sectors of interest include healthcare but also energy transition, mobility, female entrepreneurs, green tech – any area that can help to build Berlin. Mirko describes more about this. “There are many excellent ideas in different fields being produced in the city. We have been really glad to receive extra funds from EU React so we could focus on the impact of Covid19 and on supporting solutions.” Vision Health Pioneers Incubator for example will continue for another two years after more than 3 million Euro of public funding has been invested. With the most recent support originating from a special European Union’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mirko continues, “What makes the Berlin Startup Scholarship so different to others out there is that it’s early-stage focused. The funding is provided at the idea stage, or as a prototype is being constructed. Other programs focused on latter stages of development. This is obviously great for the overall ecosystem, but we ensure startups don’t miss out on key information, such as how to go to market or enter the market as a first time founder.” The duo share how there are other pre-seed programs available but there are actually not that many in Berlin.
On asking why Berlin has such a renowned history with startups, Norbert explains that there is no single answer but that the secret ingredient may be that Berlin is simply a cool place for young people. “Berlin has attracted lots of people, from all over the world, with crazy ideas and they have turned them into a reality. The famous startups successes are the likes of Zalando or Rocket Internet, who now operate in an alumni of businesses that were created and succeeded here. To be successful in the startup ecosystem takes time and Berlin was early enough to do this.” Norbert also emphasizes how there are other locations in Germany that have thriving startups ecosystems – however Berlin already has a wealth of contacts and that can make a difference.
Norbert and Mikro agree that a healthcare program needs to be in Berlin due to how powerful the industry is in the capital. But what’s interesting to observe now is that in other sectors, the experts and investors are coming into Berlin to meet the startups. Norbert shares more on this. “The startups are here. So family offices for example are coming to Berlin to make connections to them. Even with finance – which you would think of as being housed in Frankfurt – most of the finance startups are here in Berlin.”
Both are clearly proud to be working in this area. They share warm smiles when discussing how the startups are being supported and how they help turn visions into realities. However it isn’t all completely perfect just yet as Norbert explains. “On the other hand I’m frustrated because a lot of good ideas are not being realised. They may not like the bureaucratic way that things need to be done or how the money available must be used in a certain way.”
“We started in 2016 and the plan was to support 1,300 talents with a scholarship till the end of the funding period in 2023. With the last round now starting we’ll surely reach 1,800.”
Despite these feelings, Mirko shares how they have been succeeding with the majority of startups. “We started in 2016 and the plan was to support 1,300 talents with a scholarship till the end of the funding period in 2023. With the last round now starting we’ll surely reach 1,800.” This is an incredible achievement and despite the praise, both Mirko and Norbert are quick to say the praise is for the incubators and the startups.
Experts in and around the Incubator
With the news that Vision Health Pioneers Incubator has been awarded another two years, Norbert says that the wealth of mentors and coaches the Incubator works with, makes a difference. “Knowing that healthcare professionals are involved in the Incubator means you really know what the problems are. We see that in nearly every successful incubator – they have a network of people who work or operate in that particular field. I hope in the future, various programs can share their knowledge or people in a way where if one is missing a crucial coach, another can support and provide this.” This evolution is an exciting vision for Norbert and their activity with the Berlin Startup Scholarship.
Berlin has many startups that are now fully fledged businesses and therefore Norbert questions whether the word ‘startups’ is even as relevant as it once was before. “Maybe the word will disappear. HelloFresh – which now is to be part of DAX40, the German index of leading shares – isn’t really a startup anymore, but is famed as being one. We may be saying ‘early stage companies’ and ‘grown up companies’ because it is different now to how it was before. But no matter the words used, we will always need innovative fresh ideas time and time again. To help Berlin continue to attract people. We as a department and administration will support that. We are drivers but we are not managing it. The programs are doing the best job and we must ensure we listen to them. For the small things and for the big things. We keep the ball rolling.”
Mirko adds a lasting point. “We hope in the future to have more and more solutions that solve problems we don’t even know exist yet. Startups grow into companies and in turn they hire more employees and we grow the economy from Berlin.” It’s an exciting future and with Mirko and Norbert leading the way, Berlin is set to continue to move forward into a thrilling future.