How It All Started
The Founders Foundation was founded by Sebastian Borek (Cofounder) and Dominik Gross (Cofounder & Managing Director) in 2016 as a non-profit subsidiary of the Bertelsmann Stiftung.
The driving force behind our foundation was the willigness to train a new generation of visionary founders, to use all the potential of the Ostwestfalen-Lippe region, and to increase startup affinity outside of Germany’s big metropolitan areas.
We have accomplished much since our foundation:
Entwicklung des Konzepts und der Strategie im Projekt "Fostering Innovative Entrepreneurship" unter der Leitung von Dominik Gross und Jörg Dräger.
Gründung der Founders Foundation gGmbH durch Sebastian Borek, Dominik Gross und der Bertelsmann Stiftung.
Bezug des ersten Büros “Founders Space” mit 4 Mitarbeiter:innen.
Die ersten fünf Gründerteams nehmen an unserem Accelerator teil und erste Community Events finden statt.
Start des #DWNRW Projekts Startup Region OWL, gefördert durch das Land NRW. Die Initiative vernetzt die regionalen Player und schafft Transparenz.
Erstes Startup Funding von externen Investor:innen in sechsstelliger Höhe.
Anstoß des Pioneers Club, einem Co-Working Space auf 1.200 m² für Mittelstand, Startups und Digital-Expert:innen.
Die erste Hinterland of Things Konferenz mit 530 Teilnehmer:innen findet im Ringlokschuppen Bielefeld statt.
Umzug in das neue Founders Home, das Gründerzentrum über 4 Etagen und 2.500 m² im Herzen der Bielefelder Altstadt.
Auf der zweiten Hinterland of Things Konferenz kamen 1.300 Teilnehmer:innen, 43 Speaker:innen, über 300 Gründer:innen und 80 Investor:innen zusammen.
Die erste Open Innovation City Deutschlands wird mit starken Netzwerkpartner:innen ins Leben gerufen.
Wirtschaftsminister Peter Altmaier schaute sich bei seinem Besuch in der Founders Foundation an, wie wir ein B2B Startup Ökosystem aufbauen und aufstrebende Gründer:innen fördern.
Die dritte Hinterland of Things Konferenz verbindet über 420 Startups, 150 Future Founder, 500 Corporates und 150 Investor:innen.
Start der Executive Education Formate als Ergänzung zum ganzheitlichen Founders Foundation Education Model.
Mit einem voll ausgestattetem Livestreaming Setup beginnen wir viele unserer Formate und auch externe Veranstaltungen als Remote Events anzubieten.
Zu unserem 5-jährigen Jubiläum ziehen wir ein Fazit: seit unserer Gründung ist das regionale Startup Ökosystem erstmals auf über 200 Startups angewachsen.
Development of the concept and strategy in the project "Fostering Innovative Entrepreneurship" under the leadership of Dominik Gross and Jörg Dräger.
Founders Foundation gGmbH founded by Sebastian Borek, Dominik Gross and the Bertelsmann Stiftung.
Move into the first office "Founders Space" with 4 employees.
The first five founding teams participate in our Accelerator and the first community events take place.
Launch of the #DWNRW project Startup Region OWL, funded by the state of NRW. The initiative networks regional players and creates transparency.
First startup funding from external investors in the six-figure range.
Kick-off of the Pioneers Club, a co-working space on 1,200 m² for SMEs, startups and digital experts.
The first Hinterland of Things conference with 530 participants takes place in the Ringlokschuppen Bielefeld.
Move to the new Founders Home, the start-up center over 4 floors and 2,500 m² in the heart of Bielefeld's old town.
The second Hinterland of Things conference brought together 1,300 participants, 43 speakers, over 300 founders and 80 investors.
Germany's first Open Innovation City is launched with strong network partners.
During his visit to the Founders Foundation, Economics Minister Peter Altmaier took a look at how we are building a B2B startup ecosystem and supporting aspiring founders.
The third Hinterland of Things conference connects over 420 startups, 150 Future Founders, 500 Corporates and 150 Investor:ins.
Launch of Executive Education formats to complement the holistic Founders Foundation Education Model.
With a fully equipped livestreaming setup, we are starting to offer many of our formats as well as external events as remote events.
On our 5th anniversary, we draw a conclusion: since our founding, the regional startup ecosystem has grown to over 200 startups for the first time.
Reinhard Mohn, the founder of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, understood early on that adaptability and risk are both a natural part of conducting business.
In an age defined by exponential technological progress, the skill to adapt to market situations is key to secure long-term competitiveness. Reinhard Mohn embodied this principle in his entrepeneurial activities.
At the same time, the German entrepeneurial culture has been changing increasingly. Young, talented entrepreneurs were leaving remote regions to move into major cities where they could make use of the infrastructure and the cultural und educational opportunities to further their careers and their personal character growth.
The Big Idea Behind the Project
Reinhard Mohn’s visionary ideas combined with the situation that talented tech founders have been leaving non-urban areas, were the key factors for the Bertelsmann Stiftung to launch the Founders Foundation.
For the Mohn family, promoting entrepreneurial action combined with a responsibility towards society is a matter of the heart – as imagined by founder Reinhard Mohn himself.
By creating the Founders Foundation as a pilot project for Germany and investing into the region of Ostwestfalen-Lippe, the Mohn family, as a family with a long entrepeneurial tradition, demonstrates that they are more than willing to take up their societal responsibility .
Supporting Individual Talents
In the spirit of this idea, the non-profit organization’s foundational team, consisting of Dominik Gross and Sebastian Borek, has always made the support of talented entrepreneurs the center of its efforts, right from the beginning.
The beneficiaries of our support are not the startups in themselves but the individual talents behind them – we want them to achieve their personal potential. The founders foundations trains talents, supports their ideas and helps with problem scenarios. Using this approach, entrepeneurship and startup formation become tangible and learnable skills.
Bielefeld As a Blueprint For Other Regions
We are working to make Bielefeld the forefront of promoting and connecting outstanding tech talents. To give startups support that is both long-term and extends beyond local limits, we want to make the region a best practice example for other startup locations.
For this purpose, we are building an extensive ecosystem as a blueprint for other regions.
Anniversary – #5yrsFF
It has been five years since our founders Sebastian Borek & Dominik Gross launched the Founders Foundation together with the Bertelsmann Stiftung. Ever since, we have been able to realize and initiate many great projects.
We are incredibly thankful to all companions, founders and visionary talents who are walking this journey with us and are helping us fulfil our mission.
Five years were only the first chapter – there are more and greater stories to come!
Startup formations are clustered in metropolitan areas such as Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich. For founders, these cities provide both an attractive infrastructure and proximity to other startups.
This leads to regions outside of major conurbations being overtaken, altough they are home to many established global players and potential customers to startups.
In Ostwestfalen-Lippe, the Founders Foundation has made the consolidation, development, and support of local talent its mission. That way, the region’s strength can be leveraged in a unique B2B startup ecosystem – because Bielefeld is the beating heart of the German Mittelstand.
We are living in one of Germany’s most exciting B2B regions – 120.00 companies are calling the region their home, among them countless Hidden Champions who are just waiting to be discovered.
We support local founders and connect them with experienced players from the German Mittelstand so that they can launch visionary projects which strengthen the impact and competetiveness of regions outside of major conurbations.
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