North Rhine-Westphalia has one of the liveliest ecosystems on offer to founders and start-ups in Europe. Funding at all stages, affordable co-working spaces and the political decision-makers’ high regard for innovation form the basis for one of Germany’s highest rates of start-ups in NRW. The proximity to investors and a broad client base in all industrial sectors is unique in Germany and provide outstanding development opportunities. Start-up consultations and incubators, but also access to laboratories and technologies facilitate start-up processes. The Mediengründerzentrum NRW awards grants.

Facts and figures

  • in 2021, 17 per cent of the new German start-ups were established in NRW
  • part of the Unicorn Club: the Cologne-based start-up DeepL recently reached a valuation of one billion US dollars
  • universities, start-up centres and Excellence Start-up Center.NRW translate expertise and research into action
  • strong funding initiatives: the Gründerstipendium and Scale-up.NRW support start-ups and growth
  • events like the Pirate Summit or Hinterland of Things also provide networking opportunities on a national level
  • the strong mainstream local economy is a crucial factor, especially in new sectors such as hydrogen
  • venture capital funds in the region: High-Tech Gründerfonds, Gründerfonds Ruhr, Capnamic Ventures and eCapital

More information:

Start-ups in NRW

Matthias Gräf
Managing Director Startplatz
We consciously decided in favour of Cologne when establishing STARTPLATZ as there is a developed start-up culture here, which we can also help to shape even further. With the Rhineland Pitch, we have also devised a pitching format which is specially targeted at founders from all over NRW. The start-up scene is flourishing and we are happy to be part of it.
Daniel Attallah
Founder & CEO of Pixum
In 2000, Pixum was one of the Internet pioneers in the region. Today, NRW and my city of “Kölle” are a mecca for start-ups and Internet entrepreneurs from all over the world with the best opportunities for inspiring networking – whether it's at the Media Forum, the European Pirate Summit or the activities of Web de Cologne.
Jan Kus
Managing Director Railslove
We were still students when we set up our company in the creative quarter of Cologne-Ehrenfeld and have grown together with the hacker scene in the Rhine area. NRW is home to one of Europe's most active start-up ecosystems, and Cologne offered us the infrastructure to become today's Railslove GmbH – and we are far from finished ...
Thomas Grota
Senior Manager Strategy / Investments & Post Merger Integration / Corporate Development Deutsche Telekom
NRW offers start-ups financial funding possibilities at every stage as well as advisors with international experience, top universities, favourable co-working programmes and very good transport connections. The proximity to investors and a broad client base from all industrial sectors is unique in Germany. At the same time, a better chance for internationalisation is offered here in the heart of Europe.
Prof. Dr. Tobias Kollmann
Chair for E-Business and E-Entrepreneurship at the University of Duisburg-Essen
NRW has a mature higher educational landscape with major locations for Business Administration, Business IT and Computer Science. This is the mix that can give rise to startups for the Digital Economy. And NRW has seriously caught up in this respect in recent years and established itself as a startup hub.
Alexander Hüsing
Founder and Managing Editor of
NRW offers startups lots of opportunities. I'm thinking here in particular of the Ruhr region. Startups are emerging throughout the region. Events like the startupweek:RUHR are helping the scene to network. And now there's a regional investor in the Gründerfonds Ruhr.
Peer Schulz
Founder and CEO of helpcheck
I am pleased that we established helpcheck in NRW and Düsseldorf. It's really incredible what has been developed here over the past few years and months. The proximity to SMEs and countless universities, in particular, is a major driver of growth for us.
Daniel Krahn
Founder of and CEO of UNIQ GmbH
When Daniel Marx and I launched Urlaubsguru in summer 2012, it never crossed our minds to leave our home. We always succeeded in the past five years to bring the right people to the Ruhr area. Of course, we are competing with startup bastions in Berlin or Hamburg, but Westphalia, in particular, has lots to offer. Low rents, various ways of spending your leisure time, the world's most beautiful stadium, and versatility: little Unna offers more warmth and security than the anonymous big city; at the same time, metropolises like Dortmund, Bochum, Essen or Cologne are not far away. That's what I like about NRW. The Ruhr area is simply home for us.
Titus Zwirner
Head of NRW Startup Initiative at Ernst & Young
Startups are changing the world in the age of digitisation with their creative and innovative business models. EY was and is a long-standing partner and supporter of startups – especially in NRW. The funding and support of startups is therefore of particular importance to us and, unlike virtually every other organisation, we have passionately dedicated ourselves to this for many years. The team of our EY Startup Initiative supports startups at all stages of growth to find the right answers to the most important questions – be they of a strategic, legal, fiscal, managerial or financial nature.
Frank Thelen
Founder and CEO Freigeist Capital
NRW is naturally close to my heart being a Rhinelander, and so I am delighted that it is becoming firmly established as the hub for the German startup scene. In my opinion, the good infrastructure and the broad-based economy are clear advantages here.
Florian Schild
CEO and founder, boot.AI
Feel NRW's Power! NRW felt like a startup desert when I arrived from the Valley seven years ago: there weren't any founders, meetups or co-working spaces. Everyone who wanted to begin a startup was mad or out of work. That was back then. Hyper-growth NRW now feels like it is on a par with Berlin and Munich. The difference? We aren't a city. NRW is one of the world's largest continuous economic regions and Made in Germany to boot.
Michael Albrecht
Technical Director & Co-Founder, A4VR GmbH
We hold NRW in high regard as a creative hub. It offers the ideal basic conditions for young startups in the field of innovative technologies like virtual reality, AR, AI and digital product development. Combined with a bold market leading the way with new technologies and unrivalled in Germany and Europe, this makes NRW unique in our eyes.
Alexander Rüsing
Founder and CEO,
You can sense the onset of the digital era running throughout the region. With its strong networks and initiatives, the NRWalley is the best breeding ground for us as a B2B start-up.
Dr. Britta Julia Dombrowe
Program Lead Startup Activities at the Initiativkreis Ruhr
We have genuine business opportunities to offer start-ups in NRW, especially in the area of B2B. Many established companies here are looking to cooperate with start-ups. As a region undergoing change, the Ruhr area, in particular, is looking for people who want and can play a role in shaping this change with their new ideas.
Rainer Weiland
Managing Director Mediengründerzentrum NRW
The Mediengründerzentrum is a development lab for the media region of NRW. We support start-ups in realising their visions - with bursaries, advice and a very strong network. 90 % of the funded start-ups are successful. That's good for the young companies - and for the development of a sustainable media industry.
Dr. Alex von Frankenberg
Managing Director of the High-Tech Gründerfonds
With its numerous leading universities, leading globally operating companies and hidden champions as well as a centuries-old tradition of founders, NRW provides ideal conditions for founders to be successful in implementing new and, above all, disruptive ideas.
Christian Lüdtke
Co-Founder & CEO BRYCK
With the Ruhr region as the strongest industrial region in Europe, NRW offers a highly attractive environment for founders working on a livable future. Our network of start-ups, companies, universities and innovators helps to strengthen the start-up ecosystem and thus makes an important contribution towards the sustainable transformation of Germany's most populous federal state.
Sophia Tran
Founder & CEO Spotlight! Ventures | NRW Landessprecherin Startup Verband
NRW is one of the leading start-up hotspots in Europe - the networking between start-ups, business, science and politics is exemplary. The DWNRW Hubs have contributed significantly to this, as have numerous private institutions such as Startplatz, BRYCK and Founders Foundation.