Despite the financial metropolis Frankfurt: Hessen start-up scene wrestles for connection


Young, hip, bearded: In the "Tech Quarter" of the Frankfurt Pollux Tower, young founders – mostly men – are working on new business ideas and technologies. The stylish open-plan offices on two floors at the fair see themselves as a figurehead of the Hessian start-up culture. "We have access to the tech world here," says Tech-Quartier CEO Thomas Funke. Around 130 start-ups would have a permanent place in the rooms.

Even prominent local companies such as Fraport or Eintracht Frankfurt have already asked the young founders, Funke reports proudly. For example, Fraport, as the operator of Frankfurt Airport, wanted to make passenger handling more customer-friendly with digital solutions, and therefore had help from the "Tech Quarter" brought, explains Funke.

The financial metropolis of Frankfurt is not only because of the "Tech-Quartier" Hessen's start-up heart: "The city has a lot to offer: It is diverse, international and student-oriented," emphasizes Funke. Proximity to the big local companies brings with it opportunities – but also risks: "They are potential customers and financiers, but also competitors in the struggle of the start-ups for the creative minds."

show more

But Hessian start-ups are not only in Frankfurt, other regions can score points with founders: In Central Hesse, there is, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, a young founding scene in the life science industry, so for example in medical and diagnostic products. "With the three Central Hessian universities, numerous founder hubs and a supporting funding and investor landscape, Gießen is definitely a region that attracts young companies," says Antje Bienert, Managing Director of a technology center in Gießen.

Further north in the country, small, young companies focusing on renewable energies have settled. "The local expertise and a good knowledge infrastructure provide a good environment for these technologies," says Christopher Neumann, one of the founders of the Kassel start-up "prosumergy". The company offers solutions for the efficient use of solar energy. Even the relatively low rents would attract young founders.

University cities such as Gießen or Kassel benefit from their student substance – even though only a few of them consciously make their way into the Hessian province when it was founded. Rather, the business idea arises during the study period.

In fact, Hesse – despite all the prophecies about Germany as a rocky pavement for start-ups – all the prerequisites for a high-performance start-up ecosystem – good universities and research institutions, the central location in traffic, financially strong investors and high-speed connections to the Internet node in Frankfurt ,

But that alone is no reason for high-altitude flights. Frankfurt's distance to major cities such as Berlin is still enormous, writes a spokesman for the Comdirect bank, which regularly publishes studies on start-ups in Germany. "In a different league, as far as the start-ups are concerned." Even the banking city of Frankfurt could not keep up with the competition, despite efforts to find young financial firms. The number of resident financial start-ups Munich has passed in 2018, according to a Comdirect paper.

Funke from the "Tech-Quartier" sees the start-up scene in Hesse and especially Frankfurt in its infancy. Compared to the founding strongholds such as Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, he recognizes above all a problem: "Frankfurt is not necessarily considered hip, it lacks a more visible creative scene." He also observed in the financial city a founder type, which clearly "produce less noise" than in other cities. Many start-ups in Frankfurt offer their services to other companies, only a few are visible to the consumer. So fly the Frankfurt scene something "under the radar".