The German Accelerator team.
© German Accelerator

German Accelerator: Go West, Go East, Go Fast!

Internationalization – yes or no? It’s a situation faced by many successful startups. To make the major step “international expansion” a little less daunting, the German Accelerator was brought into being in 2012 with its first location in Silicon Valley. An office followed in New York in 2014, then one in Boston in 2016 with a special program for startups in the field of life sciences. The German Accelerator has also had an office in Singapore since 2018 – which provides access to the rapidly growing South East Asian markets. Matthias Notz, CEO and Managing Director of German Entrepreneurship GmbH, shares more about the German Accelerator program.

Please introduce yourself.

We support promising German startups with their international expansion. We offer various free programs for just that at our offices in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, New York, Boston and Singapore. Our team of experienced mentors and experts actively supports the selected companies and their founders with their local know-how, various training sessions and workshops as well as in-depth coaching and consulting services. The program participants also gain direct access to our global network of partners and investors as well as free office space. Our offer is primarily geared towards more mature startups that already have a functioning product and customers in the domestic German market. A brand new offer is JumpStart, a program for founders in the early stage who already want to give the Valley a try. The first participants start in July. Our 35 employees are dispersed among the various offices, although most of them work in Munich – our office here serves as the global control center. We’re supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).

From pitch coaches to growth hackers and even SEO experts

What do you focus on when working with startups?

Custom-tailoring our offer to meet the individual needs and goals of each startup is of particular importance to us. In addition to intensive group workshops on subjects such as recruiting, marketing, fundraising and founding a company in a new market, we also offer custom-tailored support by different mentors who know their way around the relevant industry or particular field. They are then available to regularly exchange information and act as a sparring partner. The German Accelerator has a total network of more than 300 mentors globally – from pitch coaches to growth hackers and even SEO experts. For every challenge that our startups face during international expansion, we can provide an experienced mentor and work together to find a solution or make a plan.

“For successful international expansion, a startup needs to…”

…provide the necessary resources, get involved in the new market and develop an understanding of its dynamics. We advise our participants to be and stay open and to expect the unexpected. Even a market like in the US, which at first seems to function much like the German market, is actually very different, and not only in terms of culture.

Biggest mistake: taking expansion lightly

Why would a good startup even need an accelerator to back them during international expansion?

Especially when entering a new market, it’s important to quickly gain momentum. That’s where we take our name quite literally, because it really is about acceleration. We pass on practical knowledge about all of the relevant subjects, serve as an entry point for establishing direct contact with potential customers and partners in the new market and help test the product-market fit to avoid common mistakes and optimize where necessary. All of that can significantly speed up market entry and minimize risk.

What’s the biggest mistake a startup can make?

The biggest mistake in terms of international expansion is to take it lightly. With the programs offered by the German Accelerator, we’ve already supported more than 220 startups in making the jump to the US or South East Asia. Those who have been most successful are the ones who dedicated their heart and soul to the new market, really got involved in the local ecosystem and are open to constantly learning and working hard.

The trend of the year is…!

Go West, Go East, Go Fast!

Interplay between startups and corporations

What makes the Munich startup scene so special?

Munich is a high-tech city and the ecosystem is particularly distinguished by the interplay between startups and the large local corporations, such as Siemens or BMW. They’re opening up more and more to young companies and want to partake in their innovative power, dynamics and culture and to work with them on new subjects and concepts. Co-creation is the key word in this case – a major opportunity for both sides.

Moreover, the Munich scene obviously benefits immensely from the strong universities and the diverse programs and incubators that are located here. Some good examples are UnternehmerTUM, the Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM), the Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship (SCE) and the LMU Entrepreneurship Center. These institutions have given rise to highly promising startups. One of our alumni, Celonis, has even turned into a unicorn, whose success further strengthens the Munich ecosystem.

Last but not least: Whom should startups contact if they would like to meet with you?

Our Company Scouts, Miguel Encarnacion, Helen Han and Sally Menken are located in Berlin and Munich and are the people for all interested startups to contact. They attend an array of events across Germany, but you can also contact them directly at any time through our website or social media channels. They are available to answer any questions about our programs, provide information about dates, locations and program content and are also happy to establish contact with former program participants, because we all know how exciting it is to hear something directly from someone who experienced it live. We also have our teams located in San Francisco, in Sunnyvale, which is right in Silicon Valley, in New York, in Cambridge near Boston and in Singapore – and they are always happy to have visitors from Germany.