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TechScale Berlin: Startups set to make a ding in 2020

EXB's resident techxpert Jewell Sparks looks ahead to which Berlin startups are set to explode in 2020.

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The European tech scene is often viewed to be 10 years behind the US, but let’s face it, it’s ripe with affordable talent, and Berlin is the place big things are set to happen! As a global tech scout who lived in San Francisco/Silicon Valley for 17 years prior to landing in Germany and who has worked in both start-up and corporate environments spanning the areas of health, food, fashion, retail, consumer electronics and software, I predict this year is going to be huge for the European start-up scene and Berlin in particular. According to Pitchbook VC, deal activity hit an all-time high in Europe reaching €25.4 billion by the end of Q3 in 2019. While Dealroom calculated Germany alone attracted approximately €4.8 billion in venture capital funding last year. Berlin is well established as the nation’s start-up hotspot. Over 42 percent of the country’s start-up employees are working for Berlin-based companies, we have twice as many start-ups as Hamburg and lead in the number of women employed. So which of our many exciting home-grown start-ups are the ones to watch in 2020? Here are 10 I believe will put a “ding in the universe” this year.

Ada Health is a health symptom checker app led by British paediatrician Claire Novorol. Founded in 2011, this company made my list because health regulations are quite complex and any start-up in this arena needs a bit of time to shine. Although, having said that they’re off to a good start. Since its global launch in 2016, over 15 million health assessments have been completed and it’s currently the #1 medical app in 140 countries.

Ecospace is a start-up founded by Samim Winiger who most recently worked for Google on interactive machine learning projects. Their mission is to provide open-sourced digital tools and practices that help cultivate nature. As climate change becomes a forced reality, start-ups in this space will gain more traction amongst activists as well as institutions who want to minimise risks for our climate and society as a whole. As corporates strive to meet the United Nations agenda for 2030, start-ups aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals will obtain impact funding as well as global recognition.

FreightHub is an enterprise software for the transportation industry headed by a four-some with a formidable entrepreneurial track record. In 2011, three of FreightHub’s founders, Ferry Heilemann, Erik Muttersbach and Fabian Heilemann, sold their previous company, couponing marketplace DailyDeal, to Google for $100 million. Together with fourth founder Michael Wax, they created FreightHub in 2015. With a partner network inclusive of shippers, they’re now leading the European digital forwarder service across sea and air freight between Europe, Asia and North America. As trade between countries becomes more complicated, companies who can help streamline processes for the shipment of goods are becoming increasingly relevant. 

Grover is an e-commerce platform that enables consumers to subscribe to tech products monthly instead of buying them. Founded in 2015 by Michael Cassau with the same ‘assess over ownership’ ethos as Netflix as Spotify, Grover has tremendous potential. Enabling consumers to keep their gadgets up to date is a big selling point – and Berlin is the tech and gadget capital, after all!

Kontist is a banking app that is dedicated to freelances and founders. As the gig economy increases and tax laws are quite strict, the app calculates your income tax and VAT and enables you to save. Led by Sibylle Strack, an ex board member of Mastercard, and co-founded by Christopher Plantener who has founded other fintech solutions in the past, this three-year-old company most definitely understands the elements needed to keep your financials in tact. I just recently stumbled upon a freelancers group on Facebook that has over 21,000 members, solidifying the justification for such a service.

Neufund is a fintech bridging the gap between blockchain and venture capital with its blockchain-based investor platform. The balanced leadership team is headed by CEO Zoe Adamovicz, a former consultant for Deloitte who has since gone on to found several start-up companies. Their mission to open finance to all is a good one. According to Crunchbase, in October they noted that $20 billion in global capital was invested in female-founded and female co-founded start-ups. Only three percent of global venture dollar volume was funneled toward female teams, and 10 percent toward mixed teams. Neufund is on to something by utilising digital currencies when the green is not being released. 

Penta is an online bank account for start-ups and SMEs. Penta has a very diverse and seasoned leadership team who have worked in traditional banking as well as companies such as N26. Founded by Marko Wenthin, who served on the board of solarisBank and Deutsche Handelsbank, they’re rapidly shaping the future of banking. As a foreigner, I know how hard it is to open a bank account for your company. Most traditional banks require you to make physical appointments and we know that most German calendars are booked out for months. Penta’s concept of making banking easy is a sure way to keep Berlin in the lead for start-up activity and international talent acquisition.

Pitch is an enterprise software platform used for teams to work together on presentations. The company was founded in 2018 by the brains behind Wunderlist, a task management app that was acquired by Microsoft in 2015. Being able to collaborate with colleagues across the globe already makes this start-up a 2020 winner as teams become more remote. Look at the success that companies such as Slack has made with its collaboration hub. 

Plantix utilises image recognition to identify plant diseases. This company pitched at the first annual AgTech FoodTech Summit which was held at Factory Berlin in 2016 and has been making strides ever since. The mobile crop advisory app is for farmers, extension workers and gardeners. Developed by PEAT GmbH, a Berlin-based AI start-up, the app can diagnose pest damage, plant disease and nutrient deficiencies affecting crops and offer corresponding treatment measures. Plantix was co-founded by Pierre Munzel and Simone Strey, both of whom are passionate about plants and our environment.

Ree Technology is a robotics company building technology to control robots remotely. The start-up was co-founded in 2018 by Fabrizio Ugo Scelsi, Bogdan Djukic, and Thomas von der Ohe. Their experience ranges from building software products for Microsoft, developing autonomous delivery vans for DHL to spending six years in Silicon Valley launching self-driving cars for Zoox. Utilising remotes to control cars as well as manufacturing robots is a growing trend. According to the Mckinsey report Industrial Robots, analysts expect more than 100,000 units of collaborative robots to be shipped in 2020. Robotics hardware and systems is predicted to be worth more than $50 billion. 

Overall, 2020 is going to be a really exciting year for Berlin tech. I pull a lot of my data and insights from industry leaders such as Crunchbase, Dealroom, CB Insights Pitchbook, mentoring and aiding funds with investment portfolios to make my views as unbiased as possible. Stay tuned for my TechScale Berlin updates – your weekly tech and start-up briefing! And sign up to the new monthly newsletter Exberliner Tech here.

If you think we should keep an eye on your start-up in 2020, please send an email to [email protected].

If you would like Exberliner to attend your demo days and/or do a deep dive on your start-up, send an email to Jewell Sparks via [email protected].