10. December 2012–
The "poor but sexy" moniker of Berlin is old and hackneyed. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an early-stage startup or a business looking to expand, you don't have to completely resort to bootstrapping to pursue your venture here. Believe it or not, there are many government funding programmes available for promising entrepreneurs and companies in every stage.
That said, we found that infomation on public funding can take some tracking down – but tackling some minor bureaucracy and doing a little creative research can reap massive rewards. Read on for our guide on how to get your hands on the cash...
More and more entrepreneurs from around the world are flocking to Berlin. In 2011, approximately 44,460 companies were founded in Berlin with 1,889 of them in the information and communications technology sector alone.
Cheap office space, access to a diverse talent pool and a vibrant cultural scene are some of the main reasons people make the move. But it's not just hopeful founders who are being drawn to the attractive business centre – big names such as Google and Fab have also opened offices in Berlin.
Adding to the city's budding technology community is next year's opening of The Factory, a massive campus aiming to foster creativity and promote collective learning amongst startups such as SoundCloud and 6wunderkinder. The five-building complex on Rheinsberger Strasse is the first of its kind in Berlin and will undoubtedly help to solidify the city's reputation as an emerging tech hub.
“There is always money for funding”
Once in Berlin, despite the current economic situation, there are many public funding opportunities and resources that you can tap into to get your business off the ground.
For founders, raising capital with government funding may seem like an elusive prize at the end of a dark bureaucratic tunnel. And, with a dizzying array of private-sector financing options available, it’s easy to overlook public support programmes entirely – but it may be worth considering, because they typically come in the form of grants or low-interest loans.
“Don't think that there is no money. There is money. There is always money for funding,” says Carl-Philipp Wackernagel, a project manager at Technologiestiftung Berlin (TSB) Innovationsagentur, a government agency that focuses on bringing together and strengthening the network of researchers, policy-makers and burgeoning companies in the implementation of Berlin's innovation strategy.
Finding the right funding program
Although Wackernagel says public funding is “available in masses”, especially for innovation and research, he stresses the importance of finding the right fit for your business endeavours. “It's very important to find the appropriate program and you should never try to get into a funding program in which you don't fit. You waste a lot of time and energy,” he explains.
Sifting through the many governmental subsidy offerings and trying to understand the specific stipulations that apply in order to secure the money is a task you probably don't want to do alone. Thankfully, institutions such as Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB) or TSB can help you match your entrepreneurial project to a programme and ensure funding requirements are met.
“At the TSB or at Berlin Partner, there's always someone you can give a call and ask what will fit your needs," Wackernagel says.
The full public funding guides: what, where and how
Investitionsbank Berlin's (IBB) Subsidy Guide for Businesses and Startups
To help you navigate the programmes available, the Senate Department for Economics Technology and Research along with IBB has compiled all subsidy offers into a comprehensive Subsidy Guide (in English).This reference document provides businesses with detailed information on programs offered, criteria, eligibility and how to apply. Although the guide acts as a good starting point, it is highly recommended that you contact IBB's Business Customer Centre (Kundenberatung Wirtschaft) for individual consultation to find the particular programme that is most suitable for your business.
Berlin Business Location Centre
Interested in growing your business and/or relocating your company? Look no further.
There are several business packages offered to support companies to make the move to the German capital. For companies looking to test the waters here, there is an attractive three-month Berlin Welcome Package which provides you with a furnished office and apartment, transit pass and a variety of consultation services for $2,400 plus VAT.
BMWi Funding Database (in German)
If you know German, the Förderdatenbank is a great tool that allows you to do a quick search of all funding programs offered by the German goverment – by German Länder and European Union-based region, sector and type of financing required.
Our picks: loans and seed financing to explore
Entrepreneurs and companies just starting out in Berlin and in need of financial support to setup their business may be eligible for a low-interest loan of up to $250,000 from the IBB. For more information (in English), refer to page 19 in IBB's 2012/2013 Subsidy Guide or contact IBB's Business Customer Centre (Kundenberatung Wirtschaft).
High-Tech Founder Fund (High-Tech Gründerfonds)
If you're a young company built around innovative technologies with a solid business plan, you may want to apply to the High-Tech Founder Fund, which can provide about $500,000 in initial seed financing. The public-private fund has helped a number of Berlin startups get off the ground, including 6Wunderkinder and TradeMob.
Our picks: interesting grants
Are you an early-stage company in Berlin looking to expand your team? Then IBB’s Innovation Assistant grant may be for you. This grant caters to tech-oriented companies who are ready to recruit new talent and offers to fund 50 per cent of staff costs or $20,000 for a period of 12 months.
EXIST – University-Based Business Start-Up
For students involved in business startup projects at a university or research institution, the government hasn't forgotten about you. There are two funding opportunities, offered by EXIST, aimed to help get your idea off the ground.
We would love to hear from you
Do you have any experiences with applying or participating in government funding programmes in Berlin? Share your thoughts or experiences below.