Generation S in Mannheim
Russian startups are connecting with STARTUP MANNHEIM
To create networks and find out how things are handled somewhere else in the world – five Russian startups visited Mannheim, to get in touch with STARTUP MANNHEIM, and to initiate cooperations.
With its eight incubators, many successful startups, a vibrant cultural landscape and global players like Roche, John Deere, ABB and SAP nearby, Mannheims startup ecosystem is making an increasing name for itself all around the globe. By now the word has also reached the flourishing Russian startup scene, which is getting very well connected globally, with the help of the government. By today Russia is seen by many as one of the hidden champions of the global startup scene.
Anyone who has had the chance to see the state-run innovation center Skolkovo, located outside Moscow, knows that Russia is investing heavily in the sector. “Young Russian IT companies are some of the most innovative in the world right now,” says Dr. Claudia Rabe, who manages startup funding for STARTUP MANNHEIM. In 2017 she had the opportunity to visit the startup community in Russia, and was introduced to Maria Pelipas, of the Russian venture company (RVC), a government fund of funds, in charge of funding the VC funds.
Everyone quickly saw the potential benefit of connecting the two parties. Claudia Rabe: “The conditions for startups in Mannheim are an optimal template for other cities. The city has the right size to generate a large range of different startups, while also offering short travel distances and great infrastructure.”
This July five Russian startups came to Mannheim, to experience STARTUP MANNHEIM in person. These were the finalists in the creative business category, of the “GenerationS” accelerator program by RVC, which was promoted Russia-wide. The group was accompanied by Maria Pelipas and Pavel Tebenkov, of the Moscow Innovation Agency.
The young founders, coming from fields such as film, the textile industry and tech, met up with Mannheim startups, to learn about how the scene in Mannheim functions and is supported, and also to get a behind-the-scenes view into big internationally operating businesses.
“We intended to bring the finalists to Mannheim, as the creative sector here is very alive,” Maria Pelipas explains. “This is well documented by the success of startup centers such as MAFINEX, Musikpark and C-HUB. Our startups are also interested in performing at a global level, as well as in working with new technologies. For this reason it was a great opportunity, to be able to pitch concepts and exchange ideas with firms such as SAP or John Deere.”
Of course the young Russian founders were also able to get in touch with the lifestyle of Mannheim, with its vibrant, culturally and gastronomically diverse scene. Over their five-day stay, the group visited the newly opened Kunsthalle, took part in a city tour, focusing on the innovation sector, as well as a trip through the trendy Jungbusch neighborhood. “It was an intense and important visit for our startups, which will help them get a foot in the door internationally, as from now on they are on their own,“ says Maria Pelipas, while Dr. Claudia Rabe is also convinced of a successful exchange: “We aim to put STARTUP MANNHEIM on the map globally, as a place with a dynamic and professional startup ecosystem, that offers both a vivid and colorful place to live, as well as many support initiatives and programs. I have a feeling this was merely the beginning of a strategic cooperation with the Russian Venture Company.”
Anna Gorelova and Dmitrii Vasilev
Founders of BustCAD, which offers 3D solutions for production and sales in the fashion sector
What impressed you most about Mannheim?
Dimitri: I find the transformation of the city very interesting … the way Mannheim has developed from an industrial city into a major startup city. And there have always been innovators around here, such as Carl Benz, for example.
What do you think of the startup scene here?
Dimitri: It was interesting to see the many accelerator programs on offer here. We got great insight into the UP2B program in particular. I was surprised to see that the startup centers here also support international startups.
Founder of LAR-x, which produces knitwear fashion through 3D printing
What impressed you in Mannheim?
I was particularly fascinated by the coworking spaces. I love the way the people there can exchange ideas, in a familiar space and over a nice cup of coffee. I feel this is the key: we are just beginning, but want to become globally involved – networking is crucial to this.
Which part of the trip was most interesting?
I come from a software background and have founded such businesses before. For this reason visiting John Deere was very impressive. It’s very cool that they are located so close to the MAFINEX technology center, allowing for exciting synergies.
Founder of 3D FSM, which creates fashion through a 3D printing technology
How was the visit in Mannheim for you?
It was very inspiring to get in contact with so many founders, and to see how one can start a business and solve problems along the way. It wasn’t as important to connect with people from the same area I come from, as we all face similar challenges.
What’s your impression of Mannheim?
I had no real expectations. The city may be small, but there is a lot going on. It was very cool to see how vital the startup scene is. I most enjoyed how open everybody was to us, and how interested they were to see our work.
Founder of Aperso, which produces AI and image processing technologies.
This was you first visit to Germany?
Correct. Mannheim is a very interesting and creative place. It was great to meet people here, that have created their own businesses, and to be able to exchange views with them on how things work in Germany. I very much enjoyed the behind-the-scenes visit at Engelhorn.
What impressed you the most?
In Germany new technologies are supported from the get-go, I have learned. This is interesting to me, as it is my field of work.
Founder of ViewGa, a System for virtual und augmented reality in film
Did you enjoy the visit to Mannheim?
I like the balance of our activities here. Things were intense and easy-going all at once. We also had time to just go with the flow and meet people. The atmosphere in the start-up centers was inspiring. The people there work very concentratedly, without things getting hectic. I also enjoyed the the nature all around Mannheim.
Which interaction was especially interesting?
Interview: Cathrin Siegler
Photos: © Sebastian Weindel