Digging in to Germany from the lens of an International VC

As a start up scales, new markets become a natural new lever for growth. Similarly, at White Star Capital, having doubled in size with our latest fund, we are constantly looking for new opportunities in North America and Europe (and eventually beyond). This resulted in our first major investment in Germany, where we co-led the $29m Series B round in Clark , a Frankfurt-based digital insurance broker. We’ve since been building a deeper understanding of the German startup ecosystem and have decided to share our key findings, taking the lens of an international VC in the hopes that others can find this information helpful.

In addition to sharing our excitement about Germany and expressing our belief that the ecosystem is stronger than ever, we do a deep dive on the VCs and other investors who make up the space, and break down some of the peculiarities of what makes the German market unique:

  • Decentralization: Germany’s startup ecosystem is far more decentralized than that of the UK and France with less than 45% of total funded startups coming out Berlin. The startups and VCs seem to be spread in a few hubs around the country around Munich, Hamburg and Frankfurt.
  • The impact of Rocket Internet on talent: serial entrepreneurs are a key pillar of an ecosystem. Rocket Internet has not only backed/built some of the largest success stories in tech in Germany (such as HelloFresh, Delivery Hero or Zalando), but the talent coming out of these startups has trickled down into the ecosystem. Ex-Rocket entrepreneurs founded 10 out of the largest 22 non-Rocket backed startups in Germany.
  • Differences in deal terms and media for equity: we tried to summarize a few of the key deal term differences with investments in Germany vs North America in our report and also discuss and alternative fundraising strategy nascent to Germany in the form of Media for Equity.

White Star’s transatlantic model puts us in a unique position to cover Germany with both North American and European investment team members. Having German speaking members on both sides as well as a London-based Partner and a Paris-based Partner who are no strangers to the ecosystem also helps. In looking at Germany from this international angle, we hoped to add our own perspectives on what excites us about Germany.

While Paris and London remain key hubs for us and are both areas where we have an office, several investments and have been doubling down on, we welcome Germany as a new pillar in our investment strategy.

To all entrepreneurs in Germany planning to raise a Series A or B in our areas of focus — Disruptive Commerce, FinTech and Sensors & Algorithms — reading this, reach out, we’d love to speak to you. Best way is either through our website or by contacting our Associate — Sanjay Zimmermann at sanjay@whitestarvc.com