Campus Founders? Local support is crucial for the success of the startup scene!
Dr. Alex von Frankenberg is Managing Director of High-Tech Gründerfonds and has been active in the venture capital & startup environment since 2000. Alex is considered one of the most experienced and high-profile experts in venture capital and knows exactly what matters for a successful startup. In this interview, he talks to us about startups as a passionate topic & the USP of High-Tech Gründerfonds, the importance of Campus Founders for Germany and of course the relevance of “Covid-19” for the entire industry.
Dear Alex, you are Managing Director of High-Tech Gründerfonds and have been since 2005. It is even possible to describe was has happened to the “startup scene”?
Alex: We are seeing an impressive boom, which has accelerated in recent years. More new companies are emerging all over Germany, and they are increasingly succeeding in achieving very relevant successes. Both operationally and in terms of acquiring rounds of financing to exits. We are catching up with the leading ecosystems such as Silicon Valley, and the gap is more narrowed.
What fascinates you personally about startups?
Alex: You learn something new every day. Newly developed technologies, business models or new ways to build companies. And all in all, things are looked at positively, even if individual companies fail. Every day we experience a lot of great positive energy.
And how do you see your role as a “venture capitalist’’? Or would you describe yourself differently?
Alex: Maybe more like a conductor: the orchestra makes the music, we just help coordinate everything. Money is only one component, much more important in many cases is the content-related support and the motivation of the founders. Together we look at opportunities.
What should High-Tech Gründerfonds stand for? What is important to you?
Alex: We are regularly the first, practically always, the first institutional investor. After a startup has taken the very first steps, we ignite the turbo with the seed financing round. What is very important is that we bring everyone to the table. For example we systematically link our portfolio companies with established companies, experts and, above all, other investors. These investors can invest much more money in the growth phase than we can.
Although the German startup ecosystem is transforming enormously – is the full potential of the surface regions already being tapped into?
Alex: We are traditionally very decentralized in Germany. There are not one or two startup centres, but quite a few. In principle, we find top startups everywhere, even in the flat countryside. Of course, there’s always room for more, like in Heilbronn with Campus Founders!
How important are initiatives like Campus Founders for you?
Alex: Especially for the decision to found a company and for the first steps, a lot of personal support is necessary on site. Even with a large team, it’s impossible for us to provide this in full and across the board. That’s why local startup support is crucial for the success of the startup scene.
You’ve known Campus Founders CEO Oliver Hanisch for a long time. What can he offer to founders personally, and with his 14 years of Silicon Valley experience?
Alex: Oliver is not only extremely knowledgeable about the German startup scene, but also knows allot about the international and US startup scene. He is an entrepreneur himself and is very well connected. He can give young founding teams exactly the right advice and establish contacts for them. And he can motivate – that’s what tomorrow’s entrepreneurs need!
Do you believe that everyone is born as an entrepreneur? Or is that something you can / have to learn?
Alex: As with everything, you need a certain talent. Not everyone is born to be a footballer or a salesman. And not everyone has what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur. But I believe that many more women and men have entrepreneurial talent that often remains undiscovered. That is exactly what matters; Discovering talent and then supporting them appropriately.
Which industries are particularly appealing to you? Where do you see the next trends as an investor?
Alex: There are so many fascinating industries out there. In addition to the usual mainstream topics, I am particularly attracted to topics and areas that are really new. Often, you find the best and most disruptive innovations there.
What do you think – how well do our German startups “cope” with “Corona”? Or does it provide a big change for the startups?
Alex: Of course, Corona has caught some startups on the wrong foot. It can throw a company quite easily off track when markets and thus significant parts of the revenue suddenly disappear. Overall, I also see a lot of positive aspects: We are learning to cope better with unforeseen changes and the willingness to change is increasing, and with this the opportunities to create and establish innovations. In particular, Corona has accelerated everything to do with digitization. Next to that quite a few topics in biotechnology and medical technology have also acceleracted. I think at least in the medium term, the effects are positive.
If you were to found a company yourself, in which direction would it go and what would be important to you personally?
Alex: Blockchain. Clearly, this is where the next internet is being created. Especially everything around bitcoin is from many perspectives fascinating. Here, we will see the growth of a lot of new companies.
Thank you very much, Alex. We are looking forward to hearing a lot more from you and hope to have the chance to invite you to our Campus Lab in Heilbronn soon! #founderscommunity