Connectivity, Attitude and the Frankfurt Region Startup Hub
The one thing that suprised us about our audience was how few students attended (only a hand full) - the majority of attendees were actually acitve entrepreneurs. It was an interesting mixture in relation to the two main themes that came up at various points in the four talks as well as the panel discussion: Connectivity and attitude towards entrepreneurship.
Connectivity - Key to the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Yasuyuki Motoyama, Director in Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation, emphasises connectivity as the main ingredient of entrepreneurial ecosystems. He thesis is that the myths of the six canonical startup ecosystem elements Human Capital - Markets - Policy - Finance - Culture - Supports have to be busted. One cannot simply take these elements, see which are week or missing, add or strengthn those and voilà - you have a working ecosystem. Using Saint Louis as an example he described how a couple of years ago startups in this region were saying that local investors are missing. At the same time these investors said that they could not find local startups. At the time, both were searching through Silicon Valley to find a suitable match. Here, the key to enhancing the ecosystem was to strengthen local connectivity.
Our own Matthias Wallisch showed that in Frankfurt, Goethe University, where many of the local entrepreneurs have studied, is the main connector between many people in the local community. However, the Frankfurt Rhein-Main region was not able to attract many entrepreneurs from the outside. Matthias' take:
The startup scene in Frankfurt and Rhein-Main is growing. In the last couple of years many exciting and sucessful companies have been created here. ... But Frankfurt lacks visibility. It must become louder. The stories of Frankfurt startups have to be promoted beyond the local community.
Ben Lang, founder of Mapme showed how that could be done using the Mapme tool that he developed to visualize the startup community in Israel. His Mapped in Israel has become the go-to site for people looking for startup opportunities in the country. After learning about this a couple of month ago, Sebastian Schäfer, Managing Director of the Goethe Unibator, brought together a couple of people with the idea to create a map of the Frankfurt community - the result is the Innovation Map RheinMain, which he presented the result in his talk. Sebastians take:
Inserting your information into the Innovation Map RheinMain would be a great way to support the Frankfurt RheinMain Ecosystem.
The panel brought together Andreas Gahlert, Attila Schunke, Gerald Heydenreich and Ingo Franz - all local entrepreneurs or investors and all quite positive about the startup environment in Frankfurt. Naturally all had suggestions for improvement: increased visibility of Frankfurt as a Startup Hub, support for the ecosystem from local politicians, a big startup space right in the middle of Frankfurt, and the enhancing connections between local entrepreneurs among them.
However, the panel and the audience agreed on one point: The idea that founding your own company is a viable alternative to working for and being employed by other people has to be more widely accepted. It does not help that entrepreneurship as a subject is virtually absent outside business schools at universities while especially in Frankfurt job opportunities at banks and consultants are ample.
So while the Frankfurt Region Startup Ecosystems has significantly improved in many aspects - corporate commitment is on the rise, co-working spaces are available, business angles are active in the region - there still is plenty of room for improvement.