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

  • Germany’s No. 1 start-up stronghold
  • outstanding infrastructure with large number of co-working spaces
  • six regional DigiHubs as contact points for founders
  • good access to private and state venture capital
  • incubators like 1stMOVER or Startplatz as drivers of the start-up ecosystem
  • successful networks such as NRWalley, Start-up Region_OWL or StartupDorf
  • events: dmexco, Pirate Summit, Rheinland-Pitch, StartupCon, RuhrSummit, Creative Startup Slam
  • Urlaubsguru, Kalaydo, auxmoney and Trivago as start-up benchmarks

More information:

Start-ups in NRW
Mediennetzwerk NRW

Coskun Tuna
Managing Director Seeding Alliance
Cologne can offer a historically strong media landscape made up of TV, radio, telecommunications, trade fairs and publishing where creativity and innovation thrive.
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.
Jens-Uwe Bornemann
Senior Vice President Digital Europe FremantleMedia Group
With the UFA Lab NRW in Cologne, we are putting our strategy into practice of participating in the digital transformation of the media landscape. In this respect, NRW is an extremely inspiring region for us with established media companies and young founders and many young start-ups.
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.
Arne Horn
Founder/ CEO Maple Apps
From lone wolf to service-provider – from service-provider to start-up: we have already experienced many ups and downs, but have always been accompanied by a solidarity: among founders, technological companies, and among people in 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
nvestment Director T-Venture
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
Managing Editor of deutsche-startups.de
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 Urlaubsguru.de and CEO of UNIQ GmbH
Travel the world for little money – our motto of Urlaubsguru.de 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.
Till Ohrmann
European Pirate Summit
We have our very own location advantages and should use what we are given. We profit from the proximity to the concerns in the Rhineland and the Ruhr region, the vicinity to the three airports (CGN, DUS, FRA) and very good connections to the rail network. I can reach every city in Europe within three hours! Moreover, there is a really strong array of universities. We are still at the beginning, but I am confident that NRW will have even more success stories and momentum in the future as a location for start-ups.
Christian Brandhorst
Ambassador of the "Startup Region _ OWL" & Founder of Narando
It has never been as easy to found a company as now. East Westphalia-Lippe, in particular, is the ideal breeding ground for B2B startups thanks to its strong SMEs.
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.
Fabio Ziemßen
Head of Food Innovation and FoodTech at METRO AG
NRW provides an ideal breeding ground for startups with its variety of co-working spaces, events and networks. This ecosystem benefits business angels and companies like us as much as startups. Thanks to an intensive dialogue with innovators, we not only have an opportunity to learn, but can also support startups in the trading environment.
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.
Dr. Anna Lukasson-Herzig
CEO, nyris GmbH
Every loony is different. In my opinion, the deeply rooted culture of tolerance in NRW is the key prerequisite for diversity and thus a motor for creativity and innovation. Combined with the high economic density, the ideal breeding ground for a dynamic startup landscape.
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.