Munich Startup: Our last interview was two years ago. What has happened at Plug & Play since then?
Frederike Rohr, Plug & Play: A lot has happened. First, we’ve grown significantly: We now have 48 locations worldwide, with ten new ones added last year alone. In the EMEA region, we now have more than 20 offices. In Germany, we have offices in Hamburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich. We just opened / have planned our newest office in Düsseldorf. And we play a dual role in all of these locations: On the one hand, we’re a venture capital fund, which means we invest in the industries that are represented in each location. On the other hand, we’re the world’s largest innovation platform for corporate innovation.
The range of services that we offer – including here in Munich – has also evolved tremendously. Instead of being a classic accelerator, we’ve become more of a dedicated service provider for our corporate partners. For example, the pilot projects between the departments of our partner companies and startups are less about showcasing and more about concrete collaboration. This is how our accelerator program has now transformed into more of a business development program. On top of that, we offer many individual workshops for our corporate partners. From “How to identify the right startup” to “How to choose a focus topic” to “How to pilot,” our program truly covers everything involved in startup collaboration. We also go beyond that with topics like internal transformation and culture change. We organize innovation days for our partners at their offices or virtually, as well as senior executive coaching and much more. Our range of services really has evolved quite a lot.
“The focus is on very early-stage investments”
Munich Startup: And what has happened when it comes to startups at Plug & Play?
Frederike Rohr: As far as our funds and investment strategies are concerned, we’ve evolved. At Plug & Play, we have different vehicles that we invest with. For example, we just recently launched our “Startup Camp EMEA,” a program that has already been around in the US for quite a while. The focus is on very early-stage investments with which we truly finance founders from day one. In this case, it’s the classic 50,000 euros for a five percent share approach.
Beyond that, we still invest from the family office of the Plug & Play founder’s family. Here, the sweet spot is between 50,000 and 150,000 euros, but the investments can also go up to 500,000 euros. We’ve also raised two other funds: One is the “Future of Commerce Fund,” and the other is the “Supply Chain Fund.” Both are very industry-specific, have funds in the double-digit million range, and we want to use them to invest in later stages as well.
All in all, we want to support startups from day one: First, with the Startup Camp, then with our classic family office investment arm and, finally, with the “Future of Commerce Fund” and the “Supply Chain Fund.” This is how we are constantly expanding our startup portfolio, which is already very, very big.
No thematic restrictions at the Plug & Play Startup Camp
Munich Startup: What exactly is the Startup Camp looking for?
Frederike Rohr: We’re looking for founders who want to build significant traction with Plug & Play and to support them with it from day one. On the one hand, the team is obviously a very important factor for us. On the other hand, we pay attention to the market size and timing, and want a real problem to be solved. The universities and their entrepreneurship programs are much more of a focus for us now than they used to be. Some examples in Munich are the CDTM or Manage & More. Thematically, we’re looking for anything and everything. We’re already represented in all industries: From fintech, mobility, energy and supply chain to sustainability, foodtech, retail and agriculture and even to industry 4.0 and enterprise, we’re active in all areas. With the Startup Camp, we want to help founders from day one. With our corporate network, we can offer them excellent support for acquiring customers, carrying out initial pilots and obtaining feedback.
Munich Startup: How are startups selected for the camp?
Frederike Rohr: Like in EMEA, we have implemented an IC, an investment committee, which makes the investment decisions. They’re also the decision-makers for the Startup Camp. That being said, suggestions often come from the many offices that we have in the EMEA region. We also want all of the team members to be motivated about getting involved in the Startup Camp. Each one of us obviously has their own large network, for example at the universities where we studied, which allows us to assess everything very well regionally. This means, for example, that the Munich office first decides if we want to present something to the IC and then it goes to the committee. The IC consists of four people, including one of our colleagues from Munich, Carolin Wais. She heads our brand & retail vertical and is a great investor with a lot of energy and a lot of know-how in various industries.
“The region itself is growing tremendously”
Munich Startup: Plug & Play is regarded globally as the most active VC for early stage startups, and the Startup Camp has been running for much longer in Silicon Valley than here in Europe. Are there differences between the US and Europe in how business is done?
Frederike Rohr: We’ve obviously been in the US for a longer period, which is where we celebrated some tremendous success stories very early on with companies that we invested in, such as PayPal or Dropbox. This has continued in Europe, for example with N26. In total, we now have a number of unicorns and soonicorns in our portfolio in the region, such as Flutterwave, Vestoo, IDnow and many more. We’ve also made a great many exits in recent years.
We’re active on a very autonomous level in the EMEA region, and our portfolio companies are constantly growing. We made more than 18 investments from Munich alone in the last two years, and we also manage the entire Axel Springer portfolio for Plug & Play. This means that the region is growing tremendously. And that’s why we can very well imagine setting up our own fund for the region here.
Munich Startup: Which Munich startups have you already invested in?
Frederike Rohr: We’ve already invested in a lot of startups from Munich, but obviously not just in Munich startups, but also globally. We also have portfolio companies that are in Singapore, England and the US, to give some examples. But we’ve also invested in many startups in Munich, including Presize, Cliniserve, Wellabe, IDnow, Zelros, Chatchamp, Celus, Minqi, Buzzlab and Virtonomy. Some of them are now even located in our 2000 square meter office. We have a large co-working space here – as well as an event space that anyone can book. For us, it’s great when we have our companies so close to us.
The Germany Summit by Plug & Play
Munich Startup: The Germany Summit on June 28 and 29 will be the first large live event for you since the corona crisis started. What exactly is it about?
Frederike Rohr: This year, we’re focusing on healthcare, brand & retail and fintech. We’re expecting some great guests from our startups and companies, who will be presenting their pilots together on stage. To give an example, the departments from Roche will be on stage and will report together with the startups about what they’ve achieved. On the second day, the focus will be on the future of brand and retail. It will also take a look at topics like Web3 and the metaverse. Of course, many large corporate partners of ours will be coming, from Schwarz Group to Mediamarkt-Saturn, Biotronic to Novo-Nordisk and Accenture. We’re also expecting guests from around the world.
Munich Startup: Is the Germany Summit a new event concept of yours?
Frederike Rohr: We have three verticals in Munich – insurance, retail and health – and until now, we’ve always held a joint summit because there’s a lot of overlap within these three areas. This year, however, the insurance team is holding their summit in Amsterdam at the same time that another major conference on the topic will be taking place in the city. This time, we’ll have our colleagues from Frankfurt there with the fintech vertical. We’re particularly excited about being able to implement the summit with them. And that’s exactly what’s new: We’re now holding our summits together with our various offices in Germany, which enhances how we’re able to showcase the overlaps and synergies between the key topics.
Who to contact at the Munich office
Munich Startup: One last question: Has anything changed in terms of who startups should contact?
Frederike Rohr: We’re a team of 25. I manage the entire office and our health vertical, Xenia takes care of insurtech, and Carolin, as I mentioned, covers retail. And, of course, we’re always open to new inquiries and new contacts. What’s brand new is the Venture Team. In this case, there are different colleagues who take care of each vertical.