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Dr. Anna Schwan for Startup Guide Hamburg

Anna Schwan has been working with Hamburg@work for the long haul: as an editor with the publishing house Gruner+Jahr, she worked on Hamburg@work's first website in 1999 while she was still a student. After working for the German foreign office in the US – and founding a company herself – she returned to support Hamburg@work in its shift from a new media network to Northern Germany’s leading digital cluster.

Hamburg's startup scene is a vibrant mix of new energy and established expertise. There's a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, helping connect new businesses to their customers, their supply chain and potential investors. The Port of Hamburg has become a center for new digital technologies, and the city's established industries provide a ready market in the commerce, service and fintech sectors, as well as renewable energy and life sciences.

However, with so much on offer, it can be difficult to know where to start. “The difficulty is that the city’s networks are so fractured,” says Anna. “There's support for all kinds of startups, but you need to know which partner to talk to – there are several public and private initiatives to help startups, from Hamburg Invest’s Startup Hub to the nextmedia Accelerator to Hamburg Startups, and each has a different focus. It's really hard for a startup focusing on its business to actually know where to go and what to get from each agency.”

Hamburg is working to become one of the startup hubs in Germany, if not all of Europe. But while Berlin may be Germany's B2C startup capital, Hamburg is focusing on the B2B market, matching new companies with a robust existing industrial infrastructure.

That's where Hamburg comes in. “There's a lot of old companies with money that will work with startups. That's what we help with – we make matches between the old economy and the new economy and give support in finding the right investors.”


Most important tips for startups:

  • Get a guide: Hamburg has a lot to offer for new companies, from government support to potential collaborators, but it can be tricky to know where to start. Talk to someone who knows the city and knows who else you should be talking to.
  • Get out there and meet people: Hamburg@work is only one of the organizations hosting events throughout the city. Attend as many events in your field as possible to make sure your company is visible and you're meeting the partners you want to work with.
  • Figure out your niche: Hamburg is trying to turn itself into Germany's B2B capital, and there are tons of bigger companies eager to work with young startups. See where you can fit into the picture.