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What Berlin’s top VCs want to invest in right now – TechCrunch

Berlin rose as one of Europe’s leading startup hubs over the last decade, featuring unicorns N26, Delivery Hero, HelloFresh, and Auto1 Group. Berlin attracts developers from Eastern Europe and elsewhere into an international hub where English is the linga franca among startups and costs are noticeably lower than in London or Paris. Rocket Internet, while criticized for launching copycats of successful US startups has trained a deep bench of young software executives in rapidly scaling companies.

As we gear up for our Disrupt Berlin conference in December, I wanted to get a pulse on the types of startups that top VCs in Berlin’s ecosystem are looking to invest in right now, so I asked eleven of them to share examples of the trends they find most exciting:

  • Luis Hanemann, Partner at e.Ventures
  • David Rosskamp, Partner at June Fund
  • Dr. Fabian Heilemann, Partner at Earlybird
  • Simon Schmincke, Partner at Creandum
  • Jan Miczaika, Partner at HV Holtzbrinck Ventures
  • Pawel Chudzinski, Point Nine Capital
  • Ciaran O’Leary, Partner at Blueyard Capital
  • Jan Borgstädt, Partner at JOIN Capital
  • Christoph Schuh, Partner at Lakestar
  • Anton Waitz, Partner at Project A
  • Filip Dames, Partner at Cherry Ventures

The range of interests hints at the expanse of Berlin’s startup ecosystem right now, with VCs focused on everything from fintech, agtech, and B2B marketplaces to audio, travel, and transportation.

Here are their responses:

Luis Hanemann, Partner at e.Ventures

“We see multiple trends emerging, in the B2C segment we see Audio is booming and is right for disruption. It’s amazing to see the development in the space. Our beloved Berlin-based  portfolio company Blinkist is addressing this topic and we have done a recent investment in Podimo, which is building the Netflix for Podcasts, launching soon in Germany.”

David Rosskamp, Partner at June Fund

“We spend a lot of time thinking around large macro themes and investing into them in a structured way. One central field of attention has been the agricultural world, in particular the flow of goods and information. We see a large need, and an equally large economic opportunity in digitizing these flows, in providing transparent access to agricultural supplies and in empowering millions of small-scale farmers. So June has invested in agricultural trading networks from Europe to Africa. It clearly matches our investment thesis: global, network-driven enterprises that the world needs. We have similar investments in healthcare or decentralized networks, to name a few.”

Dr. Fabian Heilemann, Partner at Earlybird

“At Earlybird we believe that the first wave of innovation within Logistics, being rather of a transformative nature, e.g. digital freight marketplaces and forwarder models, has reached its peak. We are now particular excited w.r.t the second wave of LogTech innovation, which we expect to have a truly disruptive impact on the industry. It is our conviction that the availability of structured data, but also the increasing maturity of for example distributed ledger technologies, entail the opportunity for digital service providers to expand their technology driven lead over incumbent players. Whereas competitive forces in Logistics today are mainly adhere to scale effects, we think that next generation of logistics companies will leverage technology to drive profitability.”

Simon Schmincke, Partner at Creandum

“We continue to see the consumerization of enterprise grade solutions—enabling self-onboarding in a toned-down SME-oriented solution. The FinTech scene here in Berlin is something we continue to be excited about, both for businesses and consumers. Also, anything real estate related immediately grabs our attention—co-living, financing, intelligent design, construction automation. The most important change, however, is that we see entrepreneurs aiming higher and building bigger companies, due, in large part, to the impressive role models the ecosystem has produced in recent years.”

Jan Miczaika, Partner at HV Holtzbrinck Ventures

“Over the past 20 years we’ve seen a significant shift in the focus of Berlin-based startups. Originally there was a strong focus on e-commerce and marketplaces. Today this is significantly broader. Berlin is a fintech hotspot, a global proving ground for mobility concepts, the HQ for digital B2C champions and has strong growth in B2B/SaaS. Berlin is also highly relevant for Blockchain, which fits extraordinarily well with the anarchical spirit of the city. As a broad, multi-stage investor we at HV are excited to cover all of the above, trying to find inspirational entrepreneurs with a strong vision for the future. I personally am most interested in companies with a strong data angle, across both B2C and B2B.”

Pawel Chudzinski, Partner at Point Nine Capital

“Marketplaces have transformed how consumers access products and services across many categories vs. in B2B this process feels like 10-15 years behind. We see more and more startups pursue marketplace opportunities across various b2b categories and we want to discover them as early as possible. We are industry agnostic, but the industries in which we have been spending most time recently were probably supply chain and logistics, and financial services (incl. crypto). We also expect a rise in sustainability focused startups and we started diving into this space as well – mainly from the SaaS and marketplace angle.”

Ciaran O’Leary, Partner at Blueyard Capital

“BlueYard is a thesis driven early stage firm that backs founders with transformative ideas that decentralize markets and empower humanity. Today BlueYard is focused on the reinvention of the internet for permission-less innovation through decentralized web protocols and services that can untangle the server-side monopolies (e.g. p2p protocols and networks), the ability to use nature / biology itself paired with breakthrough engineering and computation to solve humanity’s largest planetary challenges (e.g. synthetic biology, quantum computing), the re-thinking of the knowledge worker stack by liberating users and data from the current tools designed in the 1980s (e.g. alternatives to PowerPoint, Excel, etc) and the separation of state and money through algorithmically transparent and programmable money.”

Jan Borgstädt, Partner at JOIN Capital

“We are deeply entrenched in identifying technologies that lay the foundation of our industrial future – or what we call the Neue Industry. I look for companies whose founders have deep technical knowledge to build transformative tools that augment human capabilities in essential processes. Think about the construction industry, and how advanced modeling tools and software can revolutionize the backbone of the way our civilization is built. Or the automation of processes such as circuit mapping and production planning. These are among the trends that excite us right now.”

Christoph Schuh, Partner at Lakestar

Berlin is the tech ecosystem where we have done the most investments out of our existing portfolio of more than 50 companies. For example Travel & Mobility is the space where we are very much interested and active. We’ve invested into Berlin-based travel tech companies like GetYourGuide, HomeToGo and Omio and we’re still looking for new stars. At Lakestar, we also like B2B plays where industries are in transformation and tech can enable a new level of efficiency for the ecosystem. So we also invested into the Berlin based logistic player Sennder, the  #1 digital freight forwarder in Europe. Actually, we also look into industry disruption in 3.0/4.0/RPA space and others.”

Anton Waitz, Partner at Project A

At Project A, we think and work in industry deep dives. That means we pick 5-6 industries at the time on which we spend most of our energy and where we do the majority of our investments. It’s interesting to see how recently our deep dives have let us think about some of the most fundamental questions in life: How will we work in 10 years time (Deep Dive: Business Software/Process Automation)? How will we reside (Deep dive: Real Estate)? How will we move us (Mobility) and things (Logistics)? How will we produce (Industry 4.0)? And how will we stay healthy (Digital Health)? I guess it shows how deep digitization has reached the very basics of our life – and how exciting our job actually is!”

Filip Dames, Partner at Cherry Ventures

“We believe the next years will show successful companies in industries which have traditionally been very hard to tackle for startups. For example, we’re just at the very beginning of seeing the effects of technology innovation in healthcare or manufacturing, two spaces we actively investing in with Cherry. Data, leveraged through AI or intelligent user interfaces can have a huge impact on solving problems in these industries. In Berlin, we’re excited to see that the city is becoming more and more a home for deep tech companies, attracting technical talent from around the world.”


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