Putting your startup idea into practice
Düsseldorf offers ideal conditions for startups to build and scale their businesses. The Startup Unit of the Office of Economic Development Düsseldorf can provide support at any time.
Find your startup support team
The right startup support team is crucial for the success of your startup and perhaps even more important than your company’s business model. Because the team has to convince others e.g. investors, and also has to be 100% motivated to lead the startup to success.
Ideally, the team should be compiled of people from different disciplines but there is no ideal formula for success for the perfect startup team. You shouldn’t necessarily launch a startup alone but your startup support team shouldn’t be too big either.
Develop your idea further
Once you have checked your idea using the methods presented, it is time to develop a first real prototype and define the key performance indicators (KPIs) of your business model. More information on KPIs can be found here.
In this phase, there are different ways to get support and speed up the development of the startup.
Setting up the business
The formal establishment of your business can take place sooner or later and depends on various factors. There are some formal, legal and tax aspects to consider. We have put together a small overview for you, but it is definitely advisable to seek professional advice.
Are you looking for initial investors
There are different ways of financing a startup. In contrast to the classic business startup where debt financing is often a possibility (loan, repayment with interest), the risk of such an approach is usually too high for a startup. This means other forms of financing need to be considered.
With our pitch event „seedDUS“ (in German), we offer you a platform to present your business models to numerous business angels. seedDUS takes place twice a year.
When is your startup ready for an investor?
Check your investor readiness.
How to find customers and partners
Düsseldorf offers you the best conditions to market your product. Especially if you are in the B2B sector, you have an enormous customer potential right on your doorstep in the region around Düsseldorf.
We at the Startup Unit will help you find suitable cooperation partners, for example a pilot customer for your product.
Are you already generating sales and expanding your team
Our real estate service team will support you in finding the right properties, commercial space, premises for temporary use or even pop-up stores. All we need from you is an exact search profile (type of property, size, location, price, other requirements). Just get in touch with us!
Room for Ideas
Coworking Spaces offer flexible solutions for startups and large, small and rapidly growing teams, as well as the opportunity to interact with many like-minded people. With a large and varied selection of coworking spaces and business centres, there is something for everyone.
You can find an overview of all the offers in our brochure.
Startup Week Düsseldorf
During the annual startup week that we organise, everything in Düsseldorf revolves around your startup! There are more than 100 events – spread over one week and the whole city area – offering you individual support with workshops, lectures, coaching, competitions or networking with important partners.
You can find the programme and all the information you need at: www.startupwoche-dus.de
What is a startup?
A “startup” is a new business that exhibits a particularly high degree of innovation. This innovation means startups have a particularly high potential to grow or scale their business.
At the same time, there is a high risk of failure for startups, which is why the financing of startups is not usually provided by traditional banks but by support programmes and venture capital (see Financing).
How to come up with a startup idea?
You may be fascinated by the startup scene and would like to start your own business but don’t have an idea for your startup? There are techniques to help you develop ideas. Take a look at this video:
Even without an idea of your own, you can still get the feel of a startup e.g. by doing an internship in a startup or participating in the Startup Sprint Düsseldorf (in German)!
Test your idea!
We have compiled a document for you with a number of important methods and instructions on how you can test your startup idea and develop your business model, for example. One of the most common reasons for the failure of a startup is a product that customers do not want to buy. You therefore need to establish this right at the beginning of your startup journey.
Don’t let the preparation of a business plan hold you back! Use the time more wisely and invest it directly in your startup, find the right business model and consult your customers. Formulate your startup idea in a Business Model Canvas, it is then clear and can be adjusted regularly.
Here is our PDF (in German) with all the necessary methods and tools to test and validate your startup idea.
Look at the experiences of other startups:
- Startup Grind (in German)
At the Startup Grind, experienced startup entrepreneurs talk to small groups in the form of a fireside chat about how they became successful and what they learned on the way.
At a Fuckup Night, startup entrepreneurs talk in a relaxed atmosphere about the failures of their business on a big stage. Afterwards, the audience are able to ask questions.
Network in the startup scene!
Especially when you are first setting up your new business, it can be very helpful to exchange ideas with other startups and members of the startup community. Every week in Düsseldorf, there are various opportunities to attend networking events, workshops, pitches or lectures. You can find (nearly) all the current events taking place on the Düsseldorf startup scene in our event calender (in German).
Some selected networking events for beginners take place on a regular basis:
- StartupDorf Gründerstammtisch
every first Wednesday of the month in the Super7000
- CEDUS-Gründerstammtisch (in German)
- Ignition Breakfast (in German)
from digihub, monthly
- Rheinland-Pitch (in German)
the largest startup-pitch competition in Germany
In addition, there are also numerous regular meetings on specific topics such as those aimed specifically at expats, mothers or programmers or on marketing…
Competitions during the idea phase
It is important for a startup to put forward its idea right from the start, to get important feedback and invite critical questions so that the idea and business model can be refined. There are hundreds of competitions throughout Germany in the idea phase – we have put together some regional competitions for you with links to the German sites:
- Pitch-Party of the Düsseldorf Business Juniors
- NUK Business Plan Competition (participation with canvas also possible)
- HHU Ideas Competition (members of the Heinrich Heine University)
- HSD-Gründerwettbewerb (members of the Hochschule Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences)
Are you afraid to tell other people about your idea? Important: Your idea alone is not worth anything, what counts is the implementation!
Finding fellow teammates
When looking for co-founders, you need to present and sell your idea to them, convince them fully of your startup idea – similar to a subsequent pitch to investors.
Are you still looking for co-founders for your startup? You can find startup enthusiasts looking for an entry into a company at many events of the startup scene in Düsseldorf. Some events, such as the Startup Sprint or the Student Founders Day, are particularly suitable here. Have a look at the German event calendar.
Are you looking for a co-founder for your startup or would you like to become a co-founder yourself and invest your expertise in a startup? Our aim is to bring you together. Please contact Jürgen (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Present your idea
Startups need to constantly convince other people of their credentials and the strength of their business model. In the beginning, it is the startup team members themselves and later the investors as well as customers and partners. This often happens via a pitch (usually a PowerPoint presentation). This needs to be well prepared and designed in the form of a pitch deck to have a chance of success.
So it is important to develop a good and well thought-out pitch deck and (at least at the beginning) take every opportunity to pitch.
Watch this video on how to create a pitch deck:
More tips are also available here.
The Gründerstipendium.NRW (“Founder Scholarship NRW” in German) helps you get an innovative business idea off the ground and into the startup scene. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Digitization, Innovation and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia provides 1,000 euros each month for the “scholarship holders” (up to three members of the startup team) for a whole year. You will also be accompanied by a mentor during this period.
You will need to make an application for the scholarship. It can be submitted to the digihub (in German), in Düsseldorf, to STARTPLATZ (in German) or to the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (in German).
If you are a member of a university, you should also find out about the EXIST support programme. Information on this can be obtained from your university.
You can find further funding programmes that might be suitable for you by looking through the database of NRW.Bank.
Accelerate your development
One way to speed up the development of your startup is to participate in a so-called accelerator or incubator programme.
Accelerator and incubator programmes can also be regarded as a kind of boot camp for startups. Here you will receive intensive support over a longer period of time – sometimes financially – materially (e.g. with a job in a coworking space), but also personally through know-how and coaching. The goal of these programmes is usually to take a big step towards a marketable product and develop an MVP/ prototype.
You will need to make an application to participate in a programme. To start with, the most promising candidates are selected. Here you can find a selection of programmes in Düsseldorf:
- STARTPLATZ Accelerator
- Vodafone UPLIFT Accelerator
- digihub Ignition Programm (in German)
- The Innovation Booster (in German)
- CGI Unicorn Academy (in German)
All programmes offered in NRW can be found at accelerate.nrw (in German).
Which legal form?
The legal form best suited for your startup depends on various factors. You need to weigh up important questions such as risk distribution, startup costs, tax advantages, distribution of ownership, co-determination rights and bureaucratic effort. It may also make sense to have your own legal form to hold the shares of your startup (see here: Startup-Holding).
You should consider the question of the legal form at an early stage and also seek the advice of a lawyer and a tax advisor. Free consultation hours and initial advice on the subject of law and taxes are available, for example, at STARTPLATZ Düsseldorf.
You can find an overview of all legal forms and their special features at Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI).
How do I register my business?
You can register your business online in North Rhine-Westphalia. All the information and steps for registration as well as the subsequent startup process are listed here.
Business angels are usually successful entrepreneurs themselves who invest their earned capital in early-stage startups. They are usually not just financiers but also act as advisors and mentors for the startup, helping with product development and marketing, and by networking with contacts from their network. When investing in your startup, the business angel receives shares in your company. Business angels are often the first investors, and their investment is usually used to develop the product.
The following business angel networks exist in Düsseldorf:
Venture capital investors are similar to business angels but are generally much larger in terms of organisation and financial resources. So they would not normally get involved directly in the initial phase of your startup but only a little later on. VC companies also help in addition to the investment by providing know-how and important contacts and in return receive shares in your startup. VC investors make high demands on a startup before they decide to invest and their capital is usually used to market the product.
Here is a database (in German) with investors.
Crowdfunding / Crowdinvesting
Through platforms on the Internet, money is collected from a large group of supporters. In crowdfunding, the supporter receives something in return, for example the finished product.
In crowd investing, the supporter, as a small “investor”, receives shares in the startup or interest-bearing repayments for the investment, depending on the model.
With bootstrapping, you finance your startup completely from your own resources and do not need any outside capital or investments. You keep all your shares, but you have only a limited budget and have to make do with it. The goal should be to get your product on the market as quickly as possible or to generate revenue quickly from other sources.
NRW.SeedCap Digital Economy
If you invest through a business angel, you can have NRW.Bank double the investment amount. For example, a business angel invests 60,000 euros in your startup and receives shares accordingly. NRW.Bank will then add another 60,000 euros – at the same conditions as the business angel. All details here (in German).
INVEST – Venture Capital Grant
Support programme for investors: subsidy on the acquisition and exit sum. All details can be found here.
Digital Innovation Hub Düsseldorf / Rheinland
The Public-Private-Partnership is a matchmaking-platform (in German) and its events help connect you with the people and companies you are looking for.
The DigitalDemoDay Düsseldorf, organized by the digihub, offers you a platform to present your product and find customers or cooperation partners. The Digital Demo Day is the largest B2B startup fair in North Rhine-Westphalia and has recently attracted over 4,000 visitors.
The startup unit provides a mentoring programme providing promising startups with experts from the Düsseldorf business world. The mentoring teams are matched exactly so that startups receive the advice they currently need. Both mentor and mentee benefit from the 6-month mentoring: the mentor passes on his or her professional know-how to the less experienced startup and thus supports its professional and personal development. In return, the mentor is given contacts to startups and contributes to the Düsseldorf Startup Initiative.
Are you interested in receiving mentoring? Would you like to be matched with an expert? Then apply with your pitch deck to Teresa at email@example.com.
The initiative of the Office of Economic Development Düsseldorf “talents@duesseldorf” brings Düsseldorf companies together to address skilled workers through joint measures.
Qualification and further training
With the Qualification Opportunities Act (in German), the legislator has significantly expanded the possibilities for promoting the further training of newly hired employees and those who have already been employed for some time.
Grant towards the costs of measures for adjustment qualification training
Full assumption of the costs of measures in the event of subsequent acquisition of a vocational qualification via retraining, preparation for an external examination or partial qualification
Promotion of retraining assistance (e.g. additional instruction in specialist theory) to ensure the desired vocational qualification
Promotion of basic skills (teaching of mathematics, German, IT) in preparation for graduation-related further education
Allowance towards salary for working time lost due to training
The Federal Employment Agency’s local employer services (Arbeitgeber-Services AG-S) also offer companies advice on the systematic further training of their staff and their funding. Under the Qualification Opportunities Act, subsidies can also be provided for the necessary adjustment qualifications of skilled workers to meet the challenges of structural and digital change (keyword “4.0”), regardless of the size of the company.
Recruiting international experts
The Expat Service Desk supports international specialists and executives, their families and employers on all matters regarding integration and professional development in Düsseldorf. If you have recruited international specialists and now have questions about employment and residence law, please contact the team.
Are you looking for follow-up financing?
At our event “Startups meet Investors”, which we organize in cooperation with EY and the Bundesverband Deutsche Startups e.V. (German Startups Association) (in German), we offer you the opportunity to pitch in front of invited VCs and family offices in an exclusive atmosphere.
Target group: startups that already have initial traction and are looking for a second seed or Series A financing. The event takes place twice a year and is shown in our event calender (in German).
We take you with us on trade fair visits abroad and help you individually with your partner search abroad via our international networks.