In Munich, the BMW heiress oversees the growing startup lab

Many well-known German start-ups were founded in the Bavarian capital. Behind its success are often the Technical University of Munich, TUM, and Susanne Klatten, the wealthy heiress of the Quandt family, founders and owners of BMW. The model would like to spread throughout the country, including Europe.

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

We are in the Schwabing district of Munich, in one of the nine “Venture Labs” of the city’s Technical University, TUM🇧🇷 The building is a modern structure of raw concrete, under glass and steel walkways where students can refine their initial designs.

On the ground floor and first floor, the “maker space” – robotics workshops, woodworking, metallurgy or textiles and a pool of 3D printers – allows young entrepreneurs to make their prototypes. The second floor is reserved for the offices of thepartner companies like SAP or Infineon as well as those from the city of Munich, which is also a partner in the project, with the aim of facilitating exchange and innovation in the region. The rents collected in this way represent 70% of the laboratory’s budget.

Elsewhere in the building, transparent offices or open spaces are occupied by students in white sneakers, laptops placed in front of them, headphones. Ryver start-up team finds a first Spanish investor. Not far away, four young men take a break from table football.

living projects

Antoine Leboyer, the director of Venture Labs at 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 100 start-ups, I had an exit – a box that was purchased – 12 that received funding from the federal state and about fifteen structures that obtained between 200,000 and 1.5 million euros in funding, and I intend to add another five until the end of year. It’s fantastic. 20% of projects are ‘alive’🇧🇷


billions of euros

In 2021, startups in the Bavaria region raised €4.4 billion in venture capital investments.

The Ventures Labs at the Technical University of Munich are theone of the Bavarian capital’s strengths in the German start-up market. Munich is now ranked fifth in Deep Ecosystems’ “Heatmap Europe 2022” ranking, behind London, Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris.

what grows the most

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

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

Antoine Leboyer

Director of Venture Labs at the Technical University of Munich

The region saw the birth of many projects, including Celonis, whose value exceeded 10 billion dollars. “The difference with Berlin is that here in Munich, 95% of start-ups are created for companies and industrywhere Berlin is very strong in consumer creations”, specifies Antoine Leboyer.

“Munich’s assets are the technical university with 65,000 students and 850 postdocs, a very important industrial network and quality investors.” Most startups that emerge in the wake of the Technical University develop in the field of high value-added technology.

For many observers of the scene, nothing would have been possible without the presence in the region and theSusanne Klatten’s engagement. BMW heiress and richest woman in Germanyhas supported the development of start-ups for 20 years – “my startupss” as she likes to say – in collaboration with TUM.

An incubator with 380 employees, 40 million annual revenue and 50 million capital reserves, UTUM (Tum-companies), was born from this cooperation and the Schwabing Lab, which opened in the summer of 2021, received 30 million from the heiress. In one of her rare interviews, given to the Handelsblatt newspaper, Susanne Klatten says she is “convinced that we need more family businesses, founders and founders who take their business idea to the point of making it their life’s mission”. “Susanne Klatten is visibly motivated by the desire to strengthen Munich and Bavaria in the image of Stanford and Silicon-Valley, where Berlin would be more like New York”, summarizes Pedro Borchers, professor at ESCP-Berlin.

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

Susanne Klatten

BMW heir

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 website, popularized under the slogan “Lap-to und Lederhose”, the computer and the leather pants, this mixture of tradition and high technology that makes the success of one of the richest regions in Germany.

Twenty years later, the results are there: more than 6,000 students participated in the different formats offered by UTUM for young entrepreneurs last year. More than 500 teams planning to found a start-up were mentored. Each year 80 companies are created with the support of UTUM, more than 1,000 in total since 2002.

greatest hits

The incubator pride list is long: Celonis, the first German start-up to pass the $10 billion valuation mark, 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, took its first steps in seminars for young entrepreneurs at the technical university. The same way Fernird, which this summer tested its remote technology system for trucks at Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg facility. 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, it all started at UTUM“confirms Sabine Hansky, program director and urban development specialist at Venture Lab. All this was possible thanks to the commitment of Susanne Klatten, who gave us the opportunity to experiment, without having to immediately make profits.”

Thomas Koch is 36 years old. the founder of DQC, first worked 10 years in consulting before launching. “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 to the industrialists, TUM and the excellent infrastructure of the region.”

flying taxis

Daniel Wiegand, founder of Lilium, an aeronautical start-up working on the flying taxi of tomorrow and listed 790 million euros on Nasdaq, he still remembers his debut with UTUM. “Eight years ago, I was studying in Munich and there were four of us, all TUM alumni. As soon as our team was assembled, we went to see the UTUM advisor. They really helped us in the first 12 months. Maybe our project could have started somewhere else. the truth is that we grew up in UTUM’s crucible.“This electric and autonomous drone plane, 8 meters long and 14 meters wide, taking off vertically and capable of carrying four to six passengers, flies every week in the test phase in Spain. “When we started, the space maker TUM not yet exist. It would have helped us a lot, as one of our challenges was finding a place to manufacture a prototype at low cost. We started with just the 10,000 euros of credit the banks gave each of us!” Meanwhile, Lilium has raised a billion dollars in funding. A record in Germany for a company whose finished product won’t be marketed until 2025.

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

Over the summer, Susanne Klatten shared New projects🇧🇷 extend your incubator concept to the rest of Europe, because “only together can we face the United States or China. We are in contact with other European family businesses and other research centres”. According to UTUM’s calculations, it would take 50 incubators of similar size in Europe to match the competition from the US and China.

The summary

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

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