In Munich, the BMW heir oversees the nascent start-up laboratory

Many well-known German start-ups have been founded in the Bavarian capital. Behind their success are often the Technical University of Munich, TUM and Susanne Klatten, the wealthy heir of the Quandt family, founder and owner of BMW. The model would like to spread throughout the country, including in Europe.

The robotics room is sparsely full this Friday afternoon. A Ukrainian student, who arrived in Munich eight years ago, is working on her screen to perfect a robot program, which could one day make it easier for caregivers. Not far from her, another robot developed by the Angsta Robotics start-up team, trained to collect cigarette butts and beer caps in parks, found its first customers and helped clean up the newly planted lawn by hosting the Oktoberfest …

We are in the district of Schwabing in Munich, in one of the nine “Venture Labs” of the Technical University of the city, TUM. The building is a modern raw concrete structure, glass and steel walkways where students can perfect their start-up projects.

On the ground and first floors, the “maker space” – robotics workshops, woodworking, metallurgy or textile and a pool of 3D printers – allows young entrepreneurs to make their own prototypes. The second floor is reserved for the offices ofpartner companies such as SAP or Infineon as well as those of the city of Munich, which is also a partner in the project, with a view to facilitating exchanges and innovation in the region. The rents thus collected represent 70% of the laboratory’s budget.

In the rest of the building, transparent offices or open spaces are occupied by students in white sneakers, laptops lined up in front of them, headphones in their ears. The Ryver start-up team meets a first Spanish investor. Not far away, four young people take a table football break.

living projects

Antoine Leboyer, the director of the Venture Labs of the Technical University of Munich guides us through the corridors. A French-speaking Swiss, he explains that he has come across a hundred start-up projects since he took office a year and a half ago. “Of these one hundred start-ups, I had one release – a box that was taken over – 12 that received federal state funding and about fifteen facilities that received funding of between 200,000 and 1.5 million euros, and I plan to add five more by the end of the year. Is fantastic. 20% of projects are “alive”. “


Billion euros

In 2021, start-ups in the Bavarian region raised € 4.4 billion in venture capital investments.

The Ventures Labs of the Technical University of Munich are ione of the strengths of the Bavarian capital in the German start-up market. Munich now ranks fifth in Deep Econsystems’ “Heatmap Europe 2022”, behind London, Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris.

The fastest growth

Start-ups in the region raised € 4.4 billion in venture capital investments last year. It is certainly twice less than Berlin and a fifth of what investors put in London. But always according to this classification, Munich is growing faster.

“The difference from Berlin is that here in Munich 95% of start-ups are created for business and industry, where Berlin is quite strong in consumer creations.”

Antoine Leboyer

Director of Venture Labs at the Technical University of Munich

The region has seen the birth of many projects, including Celonis, whose value has exceeded 10 billion dollars. “The difference from Berlin is that here in Munich, 95% of start-ups are created for business and industrywhere Berlin is quite strong in consumer creations “, points out Antoine Leboyer.

“Monaco’s heritage is the technical university with 65,000 students and 850 post-doctorates, a very important industrial network and quality investors”. Most of the start-ups that emerge in the wake of the Technical University develop in the high value-added sector of technology.

For many observers of the scene, nothing would have been possible without the presence in the region and theengagement of Susanne Klatten. Heir to BMW and the richest woman in Germanyhas been supporting the development of start-ups for 20 years – “my start-upss “as he likes to say – in partnership with the TUM.

From this collaboration was born an incubator with 380 employees, 40 million in annual turnover and 50 million in capital reserves, UTUM (Tum-entreprises), and the Schwabing Lab, opened in the summer of 2021, received 30 million from the heir . In one of her rare interviews, granted to the Handelsblatt newspaper, Susanne Klatten says she is “convinced that we need more family businesses, founders and founders who appropriate their business idea to the point of making it their life’s mission”. “Susanne Klatten is visibly driven by the desire to strengthen Munich and Bavaria in the image of Stanford and Silicon-Valley, where Berlin would be more like New York, “he sums up Peter Borcher, professor at ESCP-Berlin.

“We need more family businesses, founders and founders to take ownership of their business idea to the point of making it their life’s mission.”

Susanne Klatten

Heir to BMW

When Susanne Klatten approaches TUM in 2002, the concept hits the mark in Bavaria. The conservatives in power in the region therefore intend to make their region a high-tech site, popularized with the slogan “Lap-to und Lederhose”, the computer and the leather pants, this blend of tradition and high technology that has made it successful. of one of the richest regions of Germany.

Twenty years later, the results are there: more than 6,000 students attended the different formats offered by UTUM to young entrepreneurs last year. More than 500 teams have been led who intend to found a start-up. With the support of UTUM, 80 companies are born every year, more than 1,000 in total since 2002.

Greatest hits

The list of pride incubators is long: Celonis, the first German start-up to cross the $ 10 billion valuation milestone, FlixBus which revolutionized bus transport, person (human resource management software) or Isar Aerospace, which wants to send its first rocket into space in two years, have taken their first steps in seminars for young entrepreneurs at the technical university. Alike Ferdinand, which tested its remote technology system for trucks at Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg headquarters this summer. OR Kewazo, a developer of robots for the construction sector that should make it possible to partially compensate for the shortage of personnel in the sector thanks to automation.

“These are all teams that started locally before moving,” recalls Antoine Leboyer. “Flixbus, Personio, Celonis, everything started from UTUM“, confirms Sabine Hansky, program director and expert for urban development at the Venture Lab. All this was possible thanks to the commitment of Susanne Klatten, who gave us the opportunity to try, without having to do it immediately, profits”.

Thomas Koch is 36 years old. The founder of DQC, worked in consulting for 10 years prior to launch. “I founded my start-up last year with two colleagues. Our field is data quality. Our product is software that integrates well with existing tools such as Excel or SAP. We already have two large pilot clients to test our platform and 200 users for another tool. For us, the advantage of Munich is the proximity of the industrialists, the TUM and the excellent infrastructure of the region “.

Flying taxis

Daniel Wiegand, founder of Lilium, aeronautical start-up at work on the flying taxi of tomorrow and quoted 790 million euros on the Nasdaq, he still remembers his debut with UTUM. “Eight years ago, I was studying in Munich and there were four of us, all former TUM students. Once our team was in place, we went to see the UTUM consultant. They really helped us in the first 12 months. Maybe the our project could have started elsewhere, but what is certain is that we grew up in the crucible of UTUM.“This electric and autonomous drone aircraft, 8 meters long and 14 meters wide, in vertical take-off and capable of carrying four to six passengers, flies every week in the test phase in Spain.” When we started, the creator space of TUM was not yet to exist. It would have helped us a lot, because one of our challenges was finding a place to produce a low-cost prototype. We started with only the 10,000 euros of credit that the banks have granted to each of us! “Lilium has meanwhile raised a billion dollars in loans. A record in Germany for a company whose finished product will not be marketed before 2025.

Susanne Klatten, the wealthy heir of the Quandt family, founder and owner of BMW, has been supporting the development of start-ups in Bavaria for 20 years.
© Getty Images

Over the summer, Susanne Klatten shared New projects: extend the incubator concept to the rest of Europe, because “only together will we be able to face the United States or China. We are in the phase of contact with other European family businesses and other research centers”. According to UTUM’s calculations, 50 incubators of similar size would be needed in Europe to match the competition from the United States and China.

The summary

  • Many famous German start-ups were founded in Munich such as FlixBus, Celonis or Lilium
  • Behind their success is often the Technical University of Munich, TUM, and its UTUM incubator.
  • Susanne Klatten, the wealthy heir to the Quandt family, founder and owner of BMW, has invested tens of millions in this ecosystem.
  • Its goal: to extend the concept of its incubator to the rest of Germany and Europe.

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