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