CeBIT an attractive platform for startups

CeBIT an attractive platform for startups

16.12.2008: CeBIT 2009, 3 to 8 March * Two platforms for startups now offered at CeBIT (halls 5 and 6) * Crisis represents simultaneous opportunity for startups * Surprisingly good venture capital climate for green IT and Internet-based business models

CeBIT 2009, 3 to 8 March

    * Two platforms for startups now offered at CeBIT (halls 5 and 6)
    * Crisis represents simultaneous opportunity for startups
    * Surprisingly good venture capital climate for green IT and Internet-based business models



Anyone interested in starting up an IT enterprise in the current climate needs not just a good measure of self-confidence, but the necessary startup capital as well. But despite the prevailing economic insecurity, the chances of obtaining a cash injection for startups are not as bad as one might think. Whereas venture capital companies are the ones who provide the actual money, CeBIT 2009 is doing its part by providing two special startup platforms to support innovative new companies.

Running from 3 to 8 March 2009, CeBIT will provide young technology enterprises with a special opportunity to present their business ideas to an international audience and generate new leads. 'Our startup program in halls 5 and 6 represents an ideal tool for young enterprises to reach out to new customers, launch interesting cooperative arrangements with representatives of industry and build their own brand,' explained Ernst Raue, Member of the Managing Board at Deutsche Messe.

But appearing at a show costs money. Given the significant investment required to set up a new company and establish it in the marketplace, it is an open question as to whether young entrepreneurs will ultimately be successful in accumulating sufficient capital, especially in a difficult climate like the present.

But locating funding is not as out-of-the-question as one might think, since banks were already tending to err on the side of caution even before the latest financial crisis began, shunning the risk of investing in companies which had no more than a mere idea or some initial prototypes with only scarce collateral. Venture capital (VC) companies, on the other hand, have always taken a keen interest in the early financing phase of high-tech companies, buying equity in still-young companies and providing them with a new infusion of capital and advice, with the ultimate goal of reselling their stake at a profit within a few years. The sums invested do not come from banks, but rather from independent funds which are fed by institutional investors and major private investors.

According to the German Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVK) some 446.4 million euros in venture capital funds flowed into Germany in the first half of 2008, with the year-on-year amount for 2007 totaling 631.89 million euros. Thin overall capitalization today means there are less venture capital investors out there - a trend which is expected to continue. A further problem for VC companies in economically difficult times involves the need to devote greater attention to the private equity firms in their portfolio and finance these for a longer period of time. Since their portfolio firms in many cases are suffering from reduced revenue streams, the private equity firms require additional capital, with only rare opportunities to divest themselves by selling companies off or floating them on the stock market.

Although VC companies are also faced with big challenges at present, their overall situation is stable. Their shareholding strategy does not depend on the latest developments in investment markets, giving them a relatively free hand in watching and waiting for favorable opportunities to materialize before committing to investments or divestments.

A few VC companies like Wellington Partners, Earlybird and Nehaus Partners currently find themselves in an ideal position, since they had already set up new funds ahead of the financial crisis and are now flush with cash. Good financing opportunities are available, particularly for companies in the early startup phase, thanks to a high-tech startup fund whose investors include big-name German industrial enterprises like Siemens, Bosch and Daimler as well as the Federal Ministry for Economics and Technology.

This is an ideal time to build a new company, especially due to the current crisis, claims Frank Böhnke, General Partner at Wellington, maintaining: 'A new company can develop in peace and quiet during an economic downturn. Once the economy picks up again, a well-structured enterprise with fully developed products will find the door open to a market with scant competition.' With numerous successful private equity stakes in companies like Astaro, Immobilien Scout24 and Xing, plus high fund profits, Wellington is one of Europe's most successful venture capital companies.

IT enterprises which develop environmentally friendly technologies are currently in vogue among VC companies. IT-oriented subjects and even Internet subjects, which had previously fallen out of favor since the dot.com bubble burst in 2000 and 2001, are back in strong demand as well. The reasons, according to Böhnke: 'Just as the Internet has been developing into a solid platform on which different supply chains have now established themselves, Internet usage has also gone up over the same period, resulting in a number of interesting new business models.'

KontextWork, a company which develops professional wiki solutions for business environments, is a good example of a successful startup in the Web 2.0 sector. Based in the CeBIT home city of Hannover, Germany, this company is among next year's CeBIT newcomers, as is the Berlin-based hiStream Systems Co. - developers of open-source telephone systems. KontextWork can be seen at the 'Learning and Knowledge Solutions' section in Hall 6 and hiStream will be appearing in the startup section of Hall 5. Both companies will be receiving support for their tradeshow appearance from the German Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi), which is willing to assume 80 percent of the costs involved for a maximum of EUR 7,500 per exhibitor and tradeshow.

Both KontextWork and hiStream have financed themselves via their own internal funds. Both companies however are considering incorporating additional owner equity from outside investors to finance future growth.

And they should not become discouraged in looking for new sources of investment, since the world's most successful IT enterprises often to their start during a recession.


- Anne-Kathrin Seibt-  Logo Deutsche Messe Hannover

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16.12.2008 / MaP

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