Meeting other entrepreneurs is easy in Cologne – and a vitally important way to get feedback on your start-up ideas or find like-minded people for your team. Here’s our pick of five fun events to keep you in the know and well connected!
The advice often given to young start-ups is: pitch, pitch, pitch! And the good news for Cologne start-ups is that Germany’s biggest pitch event is held every month at Startplatz, the city’s start-up incubator. Over the past seven years, the local scene has come together more than 100 times at Cologne’s Mediapark to watch up to three fledgling start-ups present their business ideas. Following the pitch, the audience can put the founders through their paces – all moderated by start-up expert Vidar Andersen, who makes sure that everyone sticks to their allotted time. The final events have been known to attract over a thousand guests! Once all the ideas have been pitched, the audience votes for the best one and – this being Cologne – then tucks into currywurst and beer. Offshoots from this event series, some dedicated to specific themes, are also held in Düsseldorf and other cities in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Like the Rheinland-Pitch, the Startup BBQ is an important regional networking event held at Startplatz in Cologne. Of course, it doesn’t get better than in summer, when the informal network can enjoy the balcony views over steak, salad and Kölsch. And it’s not uncommon for participants to check out the local beer culture together afterwards as well. But not even the winter temperatures prevent the Startplatz team from firing up the BBQ. After all, networking is an important stage in starting up a company. New arrivals to the Startplatz network use this opportunity to briefly introduce themselves and outline their needs. At the Startup BBQ you’ll meet start-up newbies and scene veterans – and will occasionally rub shoulders with people from local venture capital companies who have popped by to check out the latest ideas.
WdC Startup Breakfast
Web de Cologne is a longstanding fixture on Cologne’s start-up scene. As a digital business network, it brings major players such as media group RTL, Deutsche Bank and DuMont Rheinland together with young start-ups and agencies. To swap inspiring start-up stories, the network invites members and guests to join them bright and early for breakfast and coffee in a laid-back atmosphere. The network’s affinity with traditional business makes it an interesting proposition for anyone working in the B2B sector – and, of course, lots of other areas of business as well. Another appealing feature is the rotating locations – either member companies take it in turns to host the breakfast or it is held at new co-working spaces like WeWork.
Sometimes lasting several days, hackathons are intensive events that aim to implement project ideas in a short space of time with a view to learning as much as possible from them. And it’s not unusual for participants to team up on a joint start-up idea afterwards. Since 2018, Digital Hub Cologne (DHC) has been organising regular hackathons to bring potential start-up founders face to face with real-life problems being experienced by SMEs. This has been its function ever since it was established in 2016 by the City of Cologne, the University of Cologne and the Cologne Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK) as part of an initiative launched by the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Previous hackathons have focused on areas such as HealthTech, ChemTech, PropTech and EduTech and further events are planned for 2022, pandemic permitting. If you have any other questions about starting up a business, DHC can provide valuable advice.
hochschulgründernetzwerk cologne, hgnc for short, is the first port of call for any Cologne students toying with the idea of launching a start-up. Here, over 20 partners from the region’s higher education institutions – such as the University of Cologne, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and the Cologne University of Applied Sciences – provide young start-up founders with a wide range of services, including start-up consulting and workshops. The regular hgnc lectures, which provide important basic knowledge about starting up companies, come highly recommended. Student start-up associations like Entrepreneurs Club Cologne assist the hgnc network in its work on a voluntary basis. Since 2020, hgnc has been based in The Ship, Germany’s most state-of-the-art office building, in Cologne’s Ehrenfeld district.
(by Thomas Riedel)