We Are Building a Startup Ecosystem in the OWL Region, Outside of Major Conurbations, as a Blueprint For All of Germany
OUR APPROACH TO A STARTUP ECOSYSTEM
Fertile Soil for Founders
An active and well-connected startup ecosystem is the kind of fertile soil in which companies can grow and prosper. Which is why the creation of a lasting and impactful startup ecosystem is one of the core goals ouf our mission, next to training founders in our startup programs. A startup ecosystem in a region such as Ostwestfalen-Lippe with many rural areas and no major conurbations represents a unique pilot project which will serve as a blueprint for other similar regions both in Germany and abroad. Innovation does not only exclusively happen in metropolitan areas but also in areas outside these hotspots – Ostwestfalen-Lippe perfectly represents that fact: It is a region that is called the “heart of the German Mittelstand” and is one of Germany’s five strongest regional economies and consequently an essential factor in
In theory, a lasting, impactful and self-sufficient startup ecosystems requires strong and active drivers and participants in five areas: science and technology, market access and network, startup density and culture, capital and infrastructure. We make the theory real by providing talented founders interested in launching companies, regional and international startup founders, established entrepreneurs, VCs and business angels, scientists, mentors and experts as well as politicians with a platform that enables relations between participants and an active and value-generating exchange of ideas and information.
For that we use our trusted relationships to other national or international startup ecosystems from Berlin to Munich, from Tampere to Tel Aviv; and we keep building these bridges. To foster a lasting and impactful ecosystem we need to look both inward and outward which is the very foundation to gain inspiration, best practices, and new ideas.
Tech-based startups and products require a future- and application-oriented academic landscape. Institutíons of higher learning often lay the foundation for technologically well-trained talents. The OWL region has more than seven public and private university with more than 66.000 students (count of March 2021) and hosting many leading institutes, living labs, and collaborative transfer projects. Together with our Impact Partners we support the founders of tomorrow by connecting professional expertise and entrepreneurial mindset. At the same time, we bring new knowledge and new DNA into the region by acquiring international serial founders and successful entrepreneurs as mentors, lecturers, and speakers for the startups that emerge from our programs.
The OWL region is one of the strongest regional economies in Germany. It is home to famous brands and their companies such as Dr Oetker, Miele, Melitta, Schüco or Goldbeck, internationally active global leaders like WAGO or Phoenix Contact, and Hidden Champions such as Poppe+Potthoff or Ari Armaturen. 15 of these companies have come together in our uniqe network – the Hinterland Allianz (Hinterland Alliance). Together, they actively foster innovation, transformation, and startup culture in the region. The lighthouse project of these endeavours is the annual Hinterland of Things Conference.
In the past six years, the OWL region has grown from a startup desert into a startup oasis, an active ecosystem with now more than 130 startups. Some of the founders from day one have meanwhile become business angels themselves and invested into new startups or launched a second startup. The ecosystem is becoming self-sufficient. Find out more about our alumni of our startup programs, their teams, business models, and funding stages.
Having access to funds is the prerequisite when an idea morphs into a company. Startups outside of metropolitan areas such as Berlin, Paris, London, or Munich often still fly under the radar in that regard. That, however, can become an “unfair advantage” for sucessful teams of founders because it often gives them an edge: better focus, more substantial progress, and deeper access to customers. Well-known VCs and business angels of the European tech scene have recognized this potential and frequently demonstrate their commitment by investing in the alumni of our startup programs.
Organizations, companies, and institutions who have dedicated themselves to supporting and fostering founders and their startups represent the critical infrastructure of a successful startup ecosystem. Especially in the early stages, they are the instigators and initiators, build bridges, provide contacts and get parties together at the table. Next to the Founders Foundation, there are other partners in the region that embody and execute that function. Together, we are impact partners und fosterthe ecosystem where founders can the fertile soil to grow their companies in. In shared initiatives such as Open Innovation CIty (OIC), the Founders Foundation champions the cause and commits itself explicitly to work for the future of Bielefeld as a location of life and commerce
In Germany, startup launches still happen predominantly in metropolitan areas such as Berlin or Munich. A mature infrastructure and the proximity to other startups makes these areas attractive to founders which is why talented people with an affinity for the startup business from non-urban areas are often drawn there. The regions outside of major conurbations consequently loses an important talent base that would otherwise locally create innovation, launch new companies, and help shape the digital transformation of established companies.
The region of Ostwestfalen-Lippe has a long tradition of being a cradle of entrepreneurial activity. OWL is home to more than 120.000 companies, among them renowned brands, internationally leading companies, global leaders in technology, and hidden champions still waiting to be discovered. Many of these companies are to this day run by the families that founded them. The vicinity to these potential customers represents an attractive opportunity for startups, especially for B2B startups. Ideal conditions for direct customer acquisition, fast market entry, and consequently for substantial and growth-oriented company foundation.
The Founders Foundations offers talented business hopefuls from the region an entry point to this ecosystem and a holistic infrastructure to launch and shape a company leveraging the strength of the OWL region in a unique startup ecosystem. Because Bielefield is the home and the beating heart of all the small- and medium sized salt-of-the-earth type companies that best represent the German business spirit – the Mittelstand.
We are convinced that building trust between new and old business and connecting them in a shared startup ecosystem for tech startups is a catalyst for growth and will keep the competitive edge of the OWL region sharp in the future.
GET TO KNOW THE ECOSYSTEM FIRST-HAND
You want to be an active part of the startup ecosystem in Ostwestfalen-Lippe?
As a prospective or existing founder:in?
Do you want to shape innovation and the future from within an established company or scientific institution?
Then you’ve come to the right place!
Whether networking in the lunch club, exciting events such as the Hinterland of Things Conference or an offsite for your company – here you will find the right offer to immerse yourself in our network and get actively involved.
You Have Questions?
Talk to us!
We are happy to answer your questions about our programs, our mission and the events we are hosting.
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