The Hamburg University of Technology, the main tenant in the HAMBURG INNOVATION PORT, offers founders comprehensive support – for example, in the “Startup Dock” center, which is also located in Harburg’s inland port. The Startup Radar 2020 of the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (Donors‘ Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany) therefore lists the TU Hamburg among the top 20 medium-sized German universities.
Since 2013, the Startup Dock business incubator at Hamburg University of Technology has been helping resourceful young entrepreneurs turn their innovative or technology-oriented business ideas into reality. The TU Hamburg’s startup support and culture is now listed among the 20 best medium-sized universities in the Startup Radar 2020. Out of a possible 60 points, TU Hamburg scored 45.9, securing 14th place among a total of 71 German universities with 5,000 to 15,000 students. In addition to a third place for start-up activities, the TU Hamburg scores particularly well in the areas of “start-up awareness” as well as “start-up scholarships”, measured in terms of the number of students. Christian Salzmann, Executive Director of Startup Dock, talks about what it takes to turn ideas into your own business and how Startup Dock can help.
What are the first steps at Startup Dock if I want to found a company?
After an initial contact, we, together with the founders, thoroughly examine the business idea. The founding team then explores with potential customers whether their business idea could solve a specific problem well and whether they would be willing to spend money on this particular product or service. We then check whether the idea is eligible for funding. If it is, the funding usually happens through the EXIST funding program of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). And we have been successful: Since 2018, almost every application has been approved.
What does it take from the founders afterwards?
When the time comes, the teams, which usually consist of two or three members, move into an office in Startup Dock for a year. Their main task is to develop and build a prototype of their product there and, of course, to tap into the market and customers.
Where does Startup Dock help with this?
During the year, we advise the teams through experts and external companies on site and support them in workshops. After all, they should be fit after twelve months on the subject of setting up a company. This includes learning everything they need to know about marketing and sales or how best to acquire customers. Our core task is to train and network the people.
Where do you see the greatest difficulty in setting up a company?
The first challenge is becoming an entrepreneur, to plan and decide like one. For some, this is an intense but exciting learning process. At the end, the teams must have entered the market and be able to cover the early growth phase from revenues without further funding. This is the basis for building a business. Funding, such as EXIST or InnoRampUp from the Hamburg Investment and Development Bank (IFB Hamburg), is only available at the beginning. After that, the startup must be able to stand on its own feet.
The Startup Radar is produced by the Stifterverband in cooperation with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The project is also supported by the Marga and Kurt Möllgaard Foundation. It is a series of studies that has been conducted approximately every two years since 2012. It is currently probably the most comprehensive comparative database on startup support at universities in Germany.