Turning Crisis Into Opportunity

23 German Startups Join German Accelerator’s Virtual Programs to Plan for International Expansion Despite a Looming COVID-19 Recession

Logos of German startups that joined German Accelerator's virtual programs

The Chinese word for ‘crisis’, 危机 (wei ji), is a combination of two characters, ‘danger’ 危 and ‘opportunity’ 机. It forms the saying that there is an opportunity in every crisis. And history has proven it – some of the most successful tech companies in the world were founded as a result of crisis events such as the dot.com crash and the Great Recession.

When there’s a crisis or disruption, that’s when the DNA of an entrepreneur really kicks in. And the looming coronavirus recession is another situation for entrepreneurs to display their grit, tenacity, and flexibility to adapt to an evolving situation. For some high potential German startups, this is not the time to stay still and only plan for survival.

Life Science startup inveox managed to evolve during the coronavirus crisis in order to keep thriving. They developed new products like a SARS-COV-2 test kit as well as protective masks which required less complex certifications and paperwork in order to be traded internationally. Dominik Sievert, Managing Partner of inveox saw that their “long-term goal of improving histopathology tech was slightly slowed down by the lack of economic activity, but this allowed us to adjust supply chains and expand our medical supplies division towards a more global audience. What this means is that our international expansion will continue as planned.”

In the supply chain space, German startup Forto is continuing with their plans for further market expansion within Asia in the months to come. Eric Reuter, VP Asia of Forto, noticed that “the pandemic has spurned an acceleration of supply chain diversification, making digitization a must, rather than a nice-to-have, for anyone involved in global trade. We believe that Southeast Asia is going to play a more dominant role in 2020 and beyond, and we are excited to join the German Accelerator program to launch our operations more quickly and efficiently in that region.”

A total of 23 German startups from various other industries will join German Accelerator’s virtual programs in June and July to make full use of the opportunity presented by the COVID-19 situation to start their international expansion remotely now and plan for the future.

Founder & CEO of HRForecast, Christian Vetter, acknowledges the negative effects of the coronavirus on their business pipeline but also sees new opportunities for their HR solution as companies are forced to adapt to the new situation quickly: “Although COVID-19 brings liability and reluctance in implementing new HR solutions, at the same time it brings new opportunities caused exactly by the need to react to this crisis and create a new workforce strategy with a data-based framework for critical business decisions, especially in the personnel context.”

CEO of Least Authority, Liz Steininger, saw how “the impacts of COVID-19 fuelled an increasing global shift to being online, and it made Least Authority even more aware of the importance of securing the technology used and enhancing the privacy of its users.”

Similarly, Carsten Frien, Co-Founder & CEO of Roq.ad, sees the crisis and the resulting shift in consumers’ shopping behaviors to the online/e-commerce world as a positive trend for his startup. “This trend is global and therefore we have decided to enter the U.S. market and are actively looking at other geographies after our core market Europe and the U.S. The participation in German Accelerator’s virtual program is an extension of that shift to a remote setup and enables us to penetrate the U.S. market remotely with the help of German Accelerator and its strong network,” he said.

Preparing the Groundwork for International Expansion, Virtually

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the world’s largest home office experiment. While companies have figured out a rhythm for remote work, future-proofing their business for a post-COVID-19 economy should not be compromised either.

As we curated stories of how German startups were helping to fight the coronavirus and provided tips on how to continue tackling international expansion, the German Accelerator team around the globe worked to quickly transform our programs into a fully virtual setup, so that our startups can prepare their international expansion journey from home.

The global travel restrictions due to the coronavirus do not provide the best possible basis for entering any new market. But Dr. Clemens Reichel, Founder & CEO of Legalhead, does not let this dampen their plans for expansion into the U.S. “If there is one thing we have learned in the last few weeks, it is that you don’t have to be physically present everywhere to communicate with each other. We are going into this expansion with the knowledge that market establishment always takes time anyway, and I see it as an opportunity to make good use of this time in which others stand still. With German Accelerator’s help, we will organize as much as possible from our head office in Germany.”

Dr. Thomas Wolf, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Plasmion, echoes the sentiment: “For sure the COVID-19 situation has an impact on our expansion plans, as it makes it more difficult to generate revenue in your home turf and directly get in touch with potential cooperation partners or foreign customers to realize the expansion. But at least we are able to do all necessary preparations for the expansion in the meantime.”

To help our startups prepare to access a new market, our virtual programs offer a wide array of workshops, dedicated 1-to-1 mentor sessions, and strategic advice to build the foundational groundwork, and help them prepare for the ‘new normal’.

Example of topics covered in German Accelerator's Virtual Programs

Providing Quality In-Market Connections, Virtually

For founders like Karina Gentgen from Mia & Ben, entering a new market is seen as a daunting task. “We will need help and local support to make our first step outside Europe successful, and we believe that German Accelerator is a fantastic opportunity for us to learn from industry professionals in Asia and to get a support system in place. This will allow us to enter the market while avoiding mistakes and overcoming some of the obstacles that may lie ahead of us.”

Dr. Sabine Häußermann, CEO of VisionHealth, is confident about the strength of the German Accelerator program and network despite the virtual setup: “Though we are confronted with the impossibility to travel in the near future, the connections through German Accelerator’s program will compensate for the problems of our Asian roll out, such as networking with local healthcare professionals.”

Assuredly, the quality of the network and introductions will not be sacrificed because of the inability to be there in person at the moment. For example, the mentors in all of German Accelerator’s programs are as engaged as ever, and just as dedicated in the virtual world as in physical in-personal workshops.

Like our startups, we have found opportunities in this crisis, too, and have intensified our support for German startups. In addition to our usual program content, we worked closely with our global mentor network to pull together timely and useful advice in the form of blog articles and webinars to help our startups navigate and emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis.

Another perk of executing our programs virtually is that our startups can now involve more of their employees in the program and planning for international expansion, as opposed to being limited to the team members that would normally be physically in location.

How Will Startups Execute In-Market?

Our Life Sciences program participant, Dr. Grit Zahn, Head of Research at Eternygen, sees this crisis as an opportunity to gauge potential partners’ crisis resilience. She remains optimistic about their future plans: “Our expansion plans are virtual by nature, where we will cooperate with local research institutions or work with contract research organizations. Thus our international strategy has not really been influenced.”

So what can German startups look forward to post-virtual program?

Like Co-Founder & CSO of 48bytesNorth, Andreas Gensch, German Accelerator has a firm conviction that face-to-face interaction and in-person relationship building will still be required in a post-COVID-19 world. He intends to “make full use of German Accelerator’s virtual program as a preparation for a physical appearance” once the global travel restrictions are lifted, and “plans to leverage the German Accelerator network in a most efficient way to gradually build up a network of potential partners in North America.”

Once the situation around COVID-19 has improved, we will make up for the local presence and the corresponding intensive networking in Boston, New York, Silicon Valley, Singapore, or in our Next Step locations across Asia. This is on the basis that startups achieve their defined milestones and actively participate and complete their virtual program.

Company Profiles:

Here are the 23 German startups that will embark on international expansion from the comfort of their homes in Q3 of 2020:

U.S. Virtual Program Participants

  • 48bytesNorth (U.S. Class 2020-3, Munich) empowers financial publishers to maximize their subscribers’ customer lifetime value via a powerful trading and analytics tool.
  • Adtance (U.S. Class 2020-3, Wald-Michelbach) offers an all-round digital solution for after-sales services, such as customer support, customer success, and customer relationship management.
  • GraphCMS (U.S. Class 2020-3, Gießen) reunites development and editorial teams. Their CMS and API solutions accelerate team efficiency with a seamless experience and bring digital projects to life.
  • happybrush (U.S. Class 2020-3, Munich) is an authentic lifestyle-brand that brings fairly priced, convenient, and hip electrical toothbrushes, toothpaste, and mouthwash to the market.
  • hawk:AI (U.S. Class 2020-3, Munich) is a software platform aimed at monitoring financial transactions in real-time to help fight financial crime.
  • IPlytics (U.S. Class 2020-3, Berlin) has developed a proprietary AI algorithm that allows users to analyze technology trends and a company’s competitive position by leveraging patents, research articles, and data sources.
  • Legalhead (U.S. Class 2020-3, Frankfurt am Main) provides a mobile job-matching platform for lawyers.
  • Plasmion (U.S. Class 2020-3, Augsburg) offers plug and play ionization devices for atmospheric pressure mass spectrometers or customized stand-alone “electronic nose” sensors.
  • Roq.ad (U.S. Class 2020-3, Berlin) helps leading brands to improve digital advertising and digital analytics through the use of cross-device technology.
  • Sensalytics (U.S. Class 2020-3, Stuttgart) smart sensors count and track people in retail environments and public spaces providing insight into path analytics, people counts, occupancy management, and dwell times to help optimize processes.
  • Veronym (U.S. Class 2020-3, Berlin) is a flexible cloud security service provider for SMEs.

U.S. Life Sciences Program Participants

  • Eternygen (Life Sciences 2020-Prep, Berlin) is an advanced preclinical drug development firm filling an urgent medical need for treating dietary-related metabolic diseases.
  • InGeneron (Life Sciences 2020-Access, Munich) enables preparation of adipose-derived regenerative cells, including stem cells, that have the potential to aid physicians and veterinarians in the treatment of a number of diseases, orthopedic injuries and cosmetic procedures.
  • inveox (Life Sciences 2020-Access, Munich) offers a cloud-based platform for pathologists, a smart biopsy container, and an automation machine to steer pre-analytical sample preparation in the lab.
  • JeNaCell (Life Sciences 2020-Prep, Jena) is a specialist in the development and manufacture of biotechnology-derived nanocellulose. Their portfolio includes wound dressing for the treatment of burns and a product line for dermatology.
  • Reactive Robotics (Life Sciences 2020-Access, Munich) builds robots for very early mobilization (VEM) with its patented, modular technology. Their device is used in gait rehabilitation of neurological patients and in orthopedic patients after joint replacement.
  • terraplasma medical (Life Sciences 2020-Prep, Munich) is a CE approved portable medical device for wound care using cold atmospheric plasma. Their device is used by medical experts for the treatment of acute and chronic wounds.

Southeast Asia Virtual Program Participants

  • Forto (Southeast Asia Class 2020-2, Berlin) provides groundbreaking, scalable, digital logistics technology and services that go far beyond point-to-point transportation.
  • HRForecast (Southeast Asia Class 2020-2, Munich) helps companies bridge business strategy and workforce requirements by utilizing the power of data.
  • Least Authority (Southeast Asia Class 2020-2, Berlin) offers security consulting services for software products and distributed systems, along with a secure storage solution.
  • Mia & Ben (Southeast Asia Class 2020-2, Berlin) pushes the boundaries of healthy nutrition in kids’ food using science and the introduction of natural and fresh products.
  • Upplab (Southeast Asia Class 2020-2, Dusseldorf) offers food supplements that are ethically sourced, follow ecological principles, and visually appeal to the consumers of today.
  • VisionHealth (Southeast Asia Class 2020-2, Munich) provides innovative digital healthcare solutions to improve therapy standards for patients in a networked world.
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