Event Review: Accelerating German Entrepreneurship in the United States
•German Center for Research and Innovation
•German American Chambers of Commerce, Inc.
•Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in New York
James Kollegger, CEO of the German Accelerator/New York and CEO of Genesys Partners, Inc., a venture capital/investment banking firm that specializes in early-stage information technology deals, kicked off the evening by providing a brief overview of the German Accelerator and its important advisory role for German start-ups in the U.S. He also discussed the various initiatives that the GA offers to help German companies expand internationally. Dirk Kanngiesser, Co-Founder and CEO of the German Accelerator, together with Dietmar Rieg, President and CEO of the German American Chamber of Commerce, Inc., gave the evening’s welcome remarks, stressing the importance of mentoring, networking, and collaboration for German start-ups expanding to New York.
Daphne Kis, Managing Director of Golden Seeds and a leader in global technology, venture, and entrepreneurial circles with nearly 30 years of experience, served as moderator for the first panel discussion. Following the first panel’s slogan “Taking a Byte out of the Big Apple,” Kis set the stage for growing an IT business in New York. This panel was comprised of the event’s introductory speakers as well as Kay Koplovitz, Chairman and Co-founder of the venture catalyst Springboard Enterprises, and product designer and investor Borahm Cho, the CXO and Co-Founder of Kitchensurfing.
The panelists discussed the advantages, challenges, and cultural differences of starting and maintaining a successful business in New York as compared to in Silicon Valley, Germany, and other countries. According to Kanngiesser, Silicon Valley is still the global hub for innovation and science as it offers the most opportunities with respect to big data and technology development. Nonetheless, New York City is considered to have a competitive advantage in business application layers as it has greater access to a large consumer base and many well-established top companies. From a national perspective, the U.S. market attracts the largest investor community in the world, which makes it “a scalable business model” for many foreign start-ups. Kollegger shared Kanngiesser’s sentiment about New York City’s unique ecosystem with close access to large corporate clients from diverse industry fields. Unlike other cities, New York is still considered the “gateway to capital,” according to Kollegger.
Cho then shared why he chose New York over other cities when founding Kitchensurfing, which to date has raised $18.7 million from Union Square Ventures, Tiger Global, and other prominent angel investors. Cho discussed the exciting richness and opportunities that New York City offers, such as its large pre-existing food market and diversity of people, as well as his positive experience with angel investors and the optimistic attitude he encountered when looking to create something unique, such as “a new market…a restaurant at home,” as Cho put it.
Koplovitz, on the other hand, emphasized the significance of New York’s human capital and the importance for businesses to focus on creating an ecosystem around a company to generate customers, which can be more valuable than equity investing. She further discussed cultural differences in early-stage entrepreneurship and varying customer expectations between the U.S., Germany, and other countries. Koplovitz concluded by reiterating that New York is “a very rich city of human capital.”
The event’s second panel, “Meet the Entrepreneurs – The Inaugural Ventures of GA/NY,” featured presentations by German startups Contigua, Wywy, and Intraworlds. Oliver Hanisch, COO of the German Accelerator, moderated this panel. An entrepreneur and start-up professional based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Hanisch has been building transatlantic bridges as well assupporting international start-up founders in validating product-market fit and tapping U.S. market opportunities for almost ten years. Hanisch noted that mentoring was the core task of the German Accelerator, aside from providing office space and infrastructure, and introducing potential partners and customers to each other. From Hanisch’s experience, a key factor for a successful start-up launch is defining aclear U.S. market entry strategy, one which often differs from a German market strategy. Hanisch then transitioned to questioning the three German entrepreneurs – Andreas Schroeter of Wywy, Arash Houshmand of Contigua, and Stephan Herrlich of IntraWorlds – about their decisions to launch businesses in New York, the uniqueness and future potential of the three start-ups in the U.S. market as well as their hopes, fears, and goals they held as entrepreneurs in a foreign country.