Moving Forward: Scaling Your Startup Post-Incubator, Pre-Traction, Pre-Revenue

Moving Forward: Scaling Your Startup Post-Incubator, Pre-Traction, Pre-Revenue

Get ready to explore the world of public startup funding. In this article, we shine a spotlight on one of Germany’s most popular programs for early-stage founders—the EXIST Business Startup Grant. It’s the go-to choice for many entrepreneurs after the Berlin Startup Scholarship but before they have significant revenue or traction. Joining us is Richard Falck, a startup consultant at Brandenburg University of Sciences.

We not only delve into the EXIST Business Startup Grant but also compare it with other options like GründungsBONUS. We discuss the pros and cons of regional versus national funding opportunities and touch on the idea of relocating your business for better funding prospects.

EXIST Business Startup Grant

The EXIST Business Startup Grant is distinguished for promoting innovative, technology-oriented ventures, particularly those proffering unique products, services, or process innovations with high scalability potential. The program beckons scientists, university graduates, and students that have accomplished at least half of their academic journey. Teams of three individuals are encouraged for an ideal team formation, and they should not predominantly consist of students. There’s an exception for a team member who has also completed vocational training.

What distinguishes this grant is that it’s 100% non-repayable, with a funding duration of a year. It covers salary expenses for doctors (€3,000/month), graduates (€2,500/month), and students (€1,000/month). Additional benefits include a children’s allowance of €150 per child per month, funds for resources (€10,000/person), and coaching (€5,000/team).

The EXIST Business Startup Grant application consists of four key phases. The “Pre-Funding Phase” is the early stage where an initial non-binding conversation, an “EXIST First Check,” and mentor setup take place, along with optional team building and matching. The second phase entails drafting the startup idea and a formal document titled ‘Ideenpapier,’ which highlights essential aspects of the business.

Upon successfully drafting the Ideenpapier and application forms, the next phase involves a comprehensive review by the PtJ (Projektträger Jülich). Once the application is approved, the project execution phase begins entailing various activities such as startup project work, procurement of hardware and consulting, participation in a startup team seminar, among others. The newest guideline for EXIST is in place since august 2023 and will be available until end of 2027. 

Best Practices for applying to the EXIST Business Startup Grant

Coming to best practices in submitting an application for the EXIST Business Startup Grant, it all starts with a comprehensive understanding of the grant requirements. Craft a concise yet compelling executive summary, emphasize on the innovativeness of your project idea, demonstrate a deep understanding of the market you plan to operate in, and articulate a robust business model. Show the fitness of your team, prepare an accurate financial plan, and clearly outline your project’s milestones and timelines.

In this highly competitive scenario, a successful bid for the grant requires meticulous preparation and presentation of your application. Remember, EXIST is all about funding projects that encapsulate innovation, feasibility, and economic viability. Make sure your application mirrors these attributes and stands out, thereby enhancing your chances of securing the funding.

The Ideenpapier or the Idea Paper is a crucial part of the application process for the EXIST Business Startup Grant. It is a structured document that outlines your startup idea in significant detail. Here’s what the Ideenpapier should contain:

Therefore, for a successful EXIST grant application, your Ideenpapier needs to capture the uniqueness of your business idea, a robust business model, understanding of the market, and sound financial management, all presented through a clear and engaging narrative.

Fundamentally, whether you are aiming for the EXIST Business Startup Grant or any other funding program, understanding and aligning your project’s uniqueness, goal, and scope with the funding program requisites will play a pivotal role in your application’s success.

EXIST Business Startup Grant vs. GründungsBONUS

If you’re finding yourself on the fence about which funding program is preferable, it’s worth comparing with alternatives such as GründungsBONUS. While the EXIST grant leans towards knowledge-based ventures and technological innovations with significant support for a year, the GründungsBONUS seeks legally independent, profit-oriented startups, micro-enterprises, and freelancers based in Berlin. The latter covers a broader array of expenditures, including patent application costs.

Regional vs. National Funding

This comparison also holds while evaluating regional and federal funding schemes. Some key differences lie in elements like funding accessibility, amount, scope, and focus. Regional schemes like GründungsBONUS theoretically offer easier access for startups from specific states, while federal schemes like EXIST are open to startups nationwide. Also, federal schemes typically offer larger amounts of funding compared to regional ones.

Besides, there are several other programs for startups in Germany at the regional, federal, and EU level. Each program has its unique focus, benefits, terms, and one must align these with their specific needs and nature of their business to opt for the best choice.

Another important point to consider is the possibility of combining these grants. However, you must ensure distinct allocation to avoid duplication, be keen on the maximum aid intensities, comprehend application technicalities, understand repayment rules, and admit the time and resource commitment for the application process. Moreover, proper financial management is key in catering to the reporting requirements and audits.

However, be aware of the fact, that regional funding programms often require you to pay the amount of money upfront and you get paid back by the funding provider.

Relocation of your Business for funding

Relocating your startup’s headquarters to access regional funding might seem alluring but demands careful analysis of different factors. It involves assessing whether the benefits align with your business goals, understanding the terms and conditions, and considering the logistic challenges and costs involved in relocating.

Let this serve as a call to action for everyone interested in applying for public funding. Understanding the landscape of possible funding options is a crucial first step, followed by a detailed self-assessment to check your eligibility. If you want to get in touch to get a deeper understanding of the funding landscape or you want to apply to any funding program, feel free to reach out to me.

Richard Falck

Startup Advisor at Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences

+49 3381 355 213