"We support startups at eye level"

Judith Hillen


As part of a new series, we present here the premises and other services offered by our shareholders and cooperation partners in the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region with whom we work together in a spirit of trust.

Young founders often start with a good idea, but do not know how to turn it into a successful business. In such cases, the Walldorf-based startup center innoWerft, a cooperation partner of 5-HT, can help. For B2B startups from the high-tech, software and technology sector, innoWerft offers a participation program to provide comprehensive support for the startups in their development - whether it is competition analysis, pricing or customer acquisition. "What makes us special is our closely meshed and structured approach", explains Senior Development Manager Peter Gräser in an interview with 5-HT.

Senior Development Manager Peter Gräser
Senior Development Manager Peter Gräser

What is innoWerft?

innoWerft is a company builder for IT and deep-tech startups with B2B business model. We help founders in an early phase to build their company. We do not see ourselves as financial investors, but rather as co-founders in a sense, because we support and accompany our startups at eye level in their development process. innoWerft was founded in 2010 by SAP SE, the city of Walldorf and the state of Baden-Württemberg. On behalf of the state, the FZI Forschungszentrum Informatik Karlsruhe exercises the ownership rights. It is important to note that we are not a commercial company builder, but an instrument for business development. Nor is it our mission to integrate startups into SAP business models or to bring SAP technologies under startups, although we can still draw on immense know-how and support from the group. Instead, our goal is to promote IT and deep-tech startups for the region. We are a non-profit organization and reinvest everything we earn back into start-up support. In addition to working with startups, companies are also important partners for us, because we can help them, for example, to initiate and moderate cooperation with a suitable start-up.

What offers does innoWerft have for startups?

As part of the Up2B Accelerator, a joint project of Startup Mannheim, Technologiepark Heidelberg and innoWerft, we offer various free coaching programs for young B2B startups. We are also a support partner (and rarely a co-investor) in the state programs Startup BW Pre-Seed & Pro-Tect, in which startups receive financing at a very early stage so that they are actually able to build up their business.

Our core activity, however, is our Company Building Program: We accompany and support start-ups as co-founders - even over several years - in their development. We get involved at a very early stage, in the seed or even pre-seed phase. We also participate directly in the respective startups. The founders can apply via our website or simply call us to make an appointment for a pitch - every week on Tuesday we have our Pitching "Tu-Es-Day". Some startups also get to know us by participating in the Up2B Accelerator.

With our services, we address startup teams that have already developed a great idea or technology but do not yet know how to turn it into a business - how to build a "lean startup", how to write a financial plan, how to structure sales, which legal aspects have to be considered? Over the years we have seen that there are eight relevant dimensions in which we can support startups: Market & Competition, Go-To-Market & Sales, Business Model & Pricing, Product & Service, Financial Plan & Financial Requirements, Legal, Pitch and Team. At the beginning, we work with the startups to assess their maturity level in the individual areas and what measures we can take to help them. We then develop an individual roadmap with each startup, setting out concrete goals in a schedule.

Most of our startups do not work directly at the innoWerft shipyard, but in principle we also provide a total of 200 m² of office space at the Walldorf location at favourable conditions. In addition, our tenants can use the meeting and event rooms as well as the other central infrastructure on site. The space is primarily intended for start-ups from our company building program, but if space is still available, other startups can also settle here if they are interested.


What are specific strengths of innoWerft?

The special feature is the structured and close meshed support we offer. We work together with our startups in a very systematic way: Each startup has a case manager with whom it usually discusses at least once a week what is currently on the agenda and how innoWerft can help. And we have been doing this for a long time - our employees have many years of experience in advising startups and building up companies, and some of them are founders themselves. We have many different skills in our team, from software development and sales to product development and personnel. If we are missing a competence ourselves, we fall back on the contacts from our excellent network to help our startups in different areas in a very focused way. Unlike many other incubators in the IT sector, we are also not afraid of hardware. A special strength is also our close cooperation with companies, because especially for B2B startups it is often difficult to get in contact with potential customers. Above all, we see that our concept for startups actually works. Usually, startups have a high risk of failure, but at innoWerft we have not lost a single startup since 2015.

What success stories have there been among the startups of innoWerft so far?

You can find our Hero Cases on our website: 100Worte improves communication and thus the relationships of companies with customers and employees; Actinate revolutionizes the operation of fitness studios digitally; Antiallergy ensures that you can see what's in the food when you order from Delivery Hero, for example; aucobo creates up to 25% efficiency gains in production processes; BRC Solar makes photovoltaic systems more effective and more durable …

All of them have great customers - Antiallergy is very successful as a bootstrapper, the others have found suitable investors who also accompany them well. We are a bit proud of our startups. It's great to see how people develop over the years and what they have to offer. I am really grateful to be able to contribute something to this.

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