Frankfurt: Banking & Stock Exchange. Can its start up scene measure up?
Frankfurt am Main is, of course, known as the financial centre of Germany. My focus however, as you may know, is on start ups and I'm always curious to learn about a city's entrepreneurial endeavors. This has resulted in a series of articles which explores and covers the coolest, most innovating start ups in each city.
(No time to read the whole thing? Scroll down to the bottom to catch the conclusion!)
To assist, I use Mattermark. Mattermark is a great big data tool for private companies. It puts all kinds of indicators (web traffic, social media presence, mobile downloads, etc) together into their so called 'Mindshare Score' (MS) which helps to quickly identify companies whose online footprint is growing the fastest. It is measured on a weekly basis and averaged over time to provide a trending metric. Mattermark is used by lots of (U.S.) VCs, so it's definitely worth looking at.
I started using Mattermark when I was looking at my home town of Cologne out of curiosity. Then, I used it again a few weeks after with Berlin because it got so interesting. Munich and Hamburg followed soon, Roger joined me officially as co-writer and now, it’s taking on serious forms. So today I'll be looking at Frankfurt to see if the city's financial succes rubs off on the regional entrepreneurs and whether they've been able to translate this into promising start ups!
Every article I'll pick a city I want to explore through Mattermark. Mattermark provides a list of the top 50 companies and I'll pick a few interesting companies that stand out because of their performance, product or simply because I have some personal experience with them and I feel that they shouldn't be left out. The overall theme is simple: how does a city score when looking at their start ups, what is the climate and which are the really cool, innovative companies?
Looking at the list, one thing becomes overly obvious: Frankfurt's companies don't really measure up when it comes to a Berlin, Hamburg or Munich. The Mindshare scores dip deep as soon as you leave the top 10 and most of the companies on the list aren't really start ups. So what's to say?
I've found a couple of companies I really want to talk about, starting with the absolute #1 COBI. Following are two tech companies, the #2 bd4Travel and #5 AppYourself. Closing the top 10 and final on our list, is #10 Notabag, a designer company that claims to have invented the perfect crossover to the handbag/backpack.
I'll end this article with a short review of how Frankfurt measures up in accordance with the other cities I've featured so far in these articles.
But first, lets present the top 50 list of companies in Frankfurt according to Mattermark. Dig in, enjoy and see how things stack up in the financial capital of Germany.
This company has Roger, born and raised in Holland and he therefore of course never travels unless it's by bike, especially excited. COBI (MS: 611) describes itself as the smarted connected biking system and they've been praised by Kickstarter as a 'staff pick'. They started out with a Kickstarter campagne but soon drew enough attention to receive funding from several European investors in two rounds, one of which being undisclosed but immediately raising over 4 million in their first post-Kickstarter funding round.
Have a look at the short introduction film below and tell us what you think. To us the idea of making a bike 'smart' is definitely a resounding idea. Especially in Germany where bike lanes aren't as common as in Holland for example, making a bike function smartly in traffic by adding automatic brake- and turn lights and connecting to other devices makes traveling much safer for everybody on the road.
COBI isn't cheap (starting at 179,-), but I reckon it's the best investment to make when biking is part of your daily commute. Especially if you combine it with the COBI head and taillights.
This young company was founded in 2014 and has a bright future to look out to. They've exceeded their original Kickstarter goal four times when they've collected 400.000, received millions in funding from several partners and have now invested in distribution and serial production. They have encountered a small decline in Mindshare Score, according to Mattermark. But I'm more than confident that with the current pace, we'l be hearing more of this aspiring company soon.
> This chart shows the current Growth Score and Mind Share Score for COBI:
> Have a look at COBI's introduction video:
Crunching big data has come up a lot over the past weeks when reviewing many interesting start ups in Germany. Munich based TrustYou or Hamburg champion Kreditech are just two examples of that. Now you can add bd4Travel to that list.
As bd4travel explains best on Techcrunch: they provide real-time personalization by a unique profiling for every visitor to online travel stores. Blending extensive travel industry knowledge, the latest Big Data technologies and proprietary Self Learning Algorithms, bd4travel builds applications that provide the most relevant content, services and product offers to each customer. In real-time. bd4travel empowers travel-etailers to improve the customer experience and optimise on-site and off-site travel marketing and shopping.
Simply put, they offer online travel stores the unique opportunity to look at what people search for instead of only looking at what they booked.
This is a game changer says CEO of the firm, Andy Owen-Jones, because “if you look at what people search for there is a big relation between what people are doing now and what they will do in the future, and there is 99% more data. If you are a large IT player and have cached and live data systems you want to send lookers to the cached data and bookers to live data."
The company is doing really well, having secured their future with a 4.2 million investment by three partners late of May this year. They have now officially been registered as a London company due to interesting tax and future investment opportunities, but maintain their HQ in Frankfurt.
Mattermark seems to agree. Being a big data cruncher themselves, they've cooked up some pretty recent and detailed statistics for us to have a look at.
> These charts show the Growth and Mindshare score, as well as the estimated Monthly Unique Visitors for bd4Travel:
By the looks of it, they're on the up and up. Going only as far back as May, which is when the fresh capital injection occurred, we can tell they're currently the cool kid on the block. Going strong with a 4000+ estimation of unique monthly visitors and a Mindshare score that still on the rise, you can tell we need to keep a close eye on this innovative company. It's definitely going places.
AppYourself is a platform for small and medium sized business to create an own mobile presence.
With an undisclosed amount in funding and with a product as cool as this, it's no surprise the company still populates Frankfurt's top 10. Currently they're completely German focussed, judging by the language on their website, which could be a marketing decision.
For all German speakers, or those who want to give it a try, you can find the tour video below.
AppYourself has a very interesting product and gives the power over mobile presence directly to the business owner. It's insightful, clear and apparently very easy to use. The only thing that I cannot figure out is why the website and video looks and feels a bit outdated. The product itself might be cool and presentation looks very clear. It's just that their presentation is also, to my opinion, not very catchy.
Which is a bit of a shame because I know there's plenty entrepreneurs and business owners out there who could profit immensely from a simple and cheap way to build their own app. And AppYourself absolutely caters to this desire.
However, the lack of catchiness to imprint this idea of a very cool company, focussed on putting the power of the internet (being visible and relevant by building apps) back in to the hands of the hardworking common folk (romantically speaking) is all the more confusing since Crunchbase somehow reports that the company is located in Berlin, a city that directly speaks to the image I just created.
Perhaps a new look and feel is what the company needs, perhaps it's something more. Mattermark certainly seems to agree that AppYourself needs to step it up if they want to reclaim their old glory in the statistics. Have a look below.
> These graphs show the Mindshare and Growth score, as well as the Historical Growth score and the Monthly Unique Visitors for AppYourself:
Growth scores are declining and momentum is dropping for this company that stems from 2012. It looks like things were going their way up until 2013 but that they dropped the ball a bit afterwards. This is a common thing, new companies dominate charts by building up momentum and creating buzz but sooner or later that buzz dies out bit by bit. Which is when you need to step it up.
Their unique monthly visitors have been up since December which is great and it seems like their weekly momentum has slowly been on the rise as well since then. Lets hope they keep that up and gear up for the next succession of growth that will make this company live up to what it's worth.
Last up is refreshingly not an internet product. I'll admit that I was a bit sceptic upon checking their website at first and didn't quite follow why they too inhabited or at least closed the lines for the top 10 of Frankfurt. But I see now and I like what they did, here I present not a bag which is Notabag.
From the website: "Notabag is a smart combination of a bag and a backpack. With a single pull on the straps, it transforms itself from a sleek eco-friendly bag to an easy-to-carry backpack, making it one of your favorite accessories."
Since today's gimmick seems to be adding video's to demonstrate the different products and companies, here we are with another insightful and very summery visual tour:
Not yet convinced? On the 24th of May they had some cool news: "We are truly honored to be nominated for the German Design Award 2016 in Excellent Product Design category!"
It seems that their simple and straightforward way of thinking led them to design something that found the approval of the jury of the German Design Award enough for a nomination. And really, why not. The product is eco-friendly, incredibly simple in design, good-looking and very affordable. Most bags/backpacks can stack up in the hundreds of euro's and are far from eco-anything. With under 20 euro's and a patented design, you're assured of a unique look and an eco-mind at ease.
This company saw the light of day thanks to a Kickstarter campaign back in 2012 and has since then been featured in notable media outlets such as Gizmodo, Brit+Co, FastCompany and Welt der Wunder.
There are however some interesting statistics I'd like to show you.
> These graphs show the Mindshare and Growth score, as well as the Historical Growth score and the Monthly Unique Visitors for Notabag:
Clearly, they did something right in September 2014. It shows clearly on all three charts. But the reason why seems almost to strange to believe.
Over time, Notabag has joined in many fairs, presentations and design markets. But this time they entered Fräulein Zuckerminz Designmarkt in Frankfurt and their internet relevance just shot up! That goes to show that a tool such as Mattermark can come in really handy. We can clearly take lesson from the data and recommend to redo, copy or implement whatever is was that they did then in their standard company practices. It worked.
Concluding this review with help from the Mattermark data, it speaks that Frankfurt does simply not measure up to the impressive variety of start ups that Berlin, Hamburg or Munich has to offer. It just doesn't and maybe it doesn't need to. It's the financial district, the home of the major banks and it's where hyped up men scream to buy or sell stocks every day.
But that doesn't mean that there aren't any cool start ups to talk about or that it couldn't be a fertile ground for innovation in at least some aspects of business. Frankfurt does innovate and it goes to show when looking at a COBI, that tries to elevate the ordinary bicycle to a level where it offers the technological comfort that enters the space of motorized vehicles.
Looking at technological innovations, db4Travel is a clear example of how its succes has carried the company all the way over to London because they know already that they'll need and will receive even more investments than the cool 4.2 million they've already gotten.
AppYourself caters to those who want to, but aren't able to develop a real and relevant mobile presence by offering a product that helps you create a simple app for the cheap. Cool stuff happens in Frankfurt, maybe you just have to look a little harder.
If you know Frankfurt well and are way better informed than I am, please comment and we'll revisit Frankfurt some time soon!
Next set of articles we'll have us leaving Germany and visiting our neighboring nation the Netherlands. Lets have a look how Holland not just competes over football, but also over start ups. I think it will be an inspiring journey to see how this nation, that has made its name by living under sea level and is known for doing business extends this creativity to innovative new companies and cool products!