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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 are unique in Germany and provide outstanding development opportunities. The Mediencluster NRW is the first port of call and contact for start-ups, young creatives and companies and provides a comprehensive range of services and information.

Facts and figures

  • NRW is a region of founders: almost every fifth German start-up is established here
  • start-up activity has increased despite the coronavirus crisis
  • start-ups benefit from such funding programmes as the Gründerstipendium
  • well established economy in NRW as cooperation partner and customer
  • universities and associated start-up centres foster industry clusters
  • events with wide appeal: DMEXCO, RuhrSummit, Hinterland of Things
  • success story: Flaschenpost’s billion-euro sale proof of the location’s strength
  • venture capital funds in NRW: High-Tech Gründerfonds, Gründerfonds Ruhr, eCapital

More information:

Start-ups in NRW
Mediennetzwerk 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
Travel the world for little money – our motto of is symptomatic in the figurative sense for the people in NRW. I appreciate values like pragmatism, honesty and reliability – in private and professional life. 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.
Torsten Jensen
Board Member and Spokesman for NRW, German Startups Association
A new era is about to dawn! NRW offers startups a large potential client base right on their doorstep. The regional government makes around 500 million Euros available in funding via the NRW Bank and is committed to reducing bureaucracy. In our capacity as the national association, we have launched the NRWalley and streamlined activities of the startup ecosystem in NRW.
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.
Mirco Grübel
Founder and CEO, Myster
The Ruhr area is a black pearl in the history of start-ups in Germany. In cultural and structural terms, this part of Germany's largest metropolitan region has great potential. The high concentration of universities and companies are the drivers for sustainable business models. We are "unicorn-ready"!
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.
Dr. Markus Gick
Managing Director xdeck and Managing Partner of NRWalley e.V.
NRW is finally off to a flying start: the B2B wonderland with many hidden champions is now also becoming a start-up stronghold. With xdeck, we thus set about creating a B2B accelerator - from founders for founders - to accelerate regionally located start-ups with international reach. Together with our partners, we are actively working on the international scaling of our start-ups to make NRW one of the top regions for start-ups worldwide.