Aachen Church relies on the spirit of start-ups. Economy | DW

Aachen Church relies on the spirit of start-ups.  Economy |  DW

The altar at the former St. Elizabeth’s Church gives way to an espresso bar. One way out Room of thought Changed the name. There is a table football in the colorful light of the church windows. In the so-called Digital Church Clash in auchen

In 2017, Aachen Association DigitalHub purchased the deconstructed church and converted it into a digitization center – one of several that the North Rhine-Westphalia state is co-financing. The association now supports start-ups in the digital church so that Germany can be more fit for the future. But the digitization of the country is on an unstable foundation: start-up founders stumble among other things, amid lack of capital and fear of failure.

In the central cave, the founders meet established companies

Digitization boosts in Germany

In global comparison, Germany lagged behind in terms of digitization. The CEO of Oliver Gruen’s DigitalHub says, “The USA and China are digitalizing the speed of a car moving at 100 kilometers per hour. We are now running at maybe ten kilometers an hour.”

in one Digital competition rankings IMD Business School located in Lausanne (Switzerland) has defeated Germany. According to the famous ranking list, the Federal Republic of Germany fell to the 18th position out of 63 countries in 2020. Five years ago it was still in 15th place, but it has been going down since then.

The German start-up can actually play a major role in the digital arena, says Grün, who is also the president of the Federal Association of IT-Mittelstand. “Here in Germany, and especially in Aachen, we have people who have deep technical knowledge. We can invent great products through our engineering work.” Aachen is home to RWTH, the largest university for technical courses in Germany.

Connecting start-ups with medium-sized companies

Strength through networking: It relies on DigitalHub managing director Iris Wilhelmi. She wants to bring start-ups together with mid-sized companies: “On the one hand, we have people digitizing digital digit-ups. On the other hand, everyone who wants to digitize.”

Established companies and start-ups meet daily at the long table in the Central Nev to explore potential collaborations. “Digital Church played an important role for us as our first meeting with partners took place here,” Tim Host and CEO, co-founder of Aachen start-up EMSU, developer of smart shop shelves. In such a house of God you are quite different than in a small office.

The first partnership that was concluded in front of the altar was between the smart mobility start-up MOQO and a regional car dealer. Dealer’s rental cars can now be fully booked and unlocked via smartphone.

Three founders work on computers and a writing board

The corridor has been converted into an idea room

Successful start-ups in Germany lack capital

The association also helps start-ups in the pursuit of capital. But there is still a problem at this time, especially with the financing of successful start-ups. In the early financing stages, capital can often be found in Germany through venture capital funds. “But there is no large-scale development capital here,” says Gruen. “As soon as start-ups require large financial injections in the two to three-digit million range, they are bought out,” Gruen says.

According to a report by Deutsche Bourse Venture Network, A subsidiary of Deutsche Börse AG, which later came from within Germany with only twelve percent of the capital to finance tours in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. About half of this wealth will come from the US and Canada.

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“Then start-ups go out overseas,” says Grun. By jumping into countries such as the United States or China, Germany is losing many valuable start-ups that have developed here through initiatives such as the First Digital Church.

German start- k business angel and board member David Hanff said, “64 percent of the world’s most valuable companies come from the US, 31 percent of the remaining five. We have only three percent in Europe.” Up Association, in a previous interview with DW.

A table football stands under a church window

There is table football under the colorful church windows

Break the taboo of failure in confession

Factoring in creative ideas, the courage to take risks, and the possible failure – all this is part of the establishment of a business. But these qualities are not often promoted in Germany. “The problem is that you don’t see opportunities here, you have concerns,” says Gruen. Failure is often a taboo topic here, with start-up hosts saying: “Most start-up founders don’t even talk about the fact that something went wrong.”

To break this taboo, the digital church has public statements, rubbish-stories: In these virtual evening events, the founders tell stories of their failure. The objective is to create a culture of mistakes in which success is not measured in terms of perfection, but in terms of experience and results.

Hosts also confess to the phenomenon of such chudai stories. His first foundation did not work. Instead of remaining silent about it, he told a large audience about his failure. “If you can tell that someone has thwarted a certain obstacle, you can reduce your chances of failing yourself,” he says.

The former is continuously mumbling under the high ceilings of the church. At an office table under the pulpit, a young man is programming with great concentration. In the corridor, the three founders are working on a formula. There is no sign of uncertainty here – within the old walls. The real challenge is waiting outside.

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