Technology

The Hottest Startups in Berlin

Berlin remains one of Europe’s starriest tech hubs, with Atomico’s 2021 State of European Tech report ranking the city second only to London in capital investment, after its startups collectively raised $7.1 billion (roughly €7.3 billion) in 2021 alone. It’s been a constant upward trajectory too, with investment increasing 150 percent year-on-year since 2017.

“We are finally reaping the fruits from an ecosystem that was slow in developing,” says Bettine Schmitz, angel investor and founder of Auxxo, a VC fund that focuses on female founders. “Now we have a solid base of angels, investors, and scaled startups that are churning out experienced future founders or C-levels.” With many major valuations, such as N26 and Contentful, and new investors on the scene, Berlin is more vibrant than ever.

Julien Fredonie, head of strategic venture partnerships in Europe and Africa for Honda’s Xcelerator program, notes Berlin’s transition from an ecommerce and app powerhouse to a serious deeptech hub: Think hardware, AI, Web3, space, new materials, energy, and biotech. “Berlin is becoming a leading climate-tech hub in Europe,” he says. “It’s attracting global talent, with a nice quality of living and international mindset.”

Formo

A pioneer in lab-grown cheese (which actually tastes good), Formo was founded by Raffael Wohlgensinger and Britta Winterberg in 2019 and became Europe’s first cellular agriculture company by using milk proteins to produce animal-free dairy products. “Through precision fermentation, our rewired microorganisms make nature-identical dairy ingredients, reducing the need for industrial dairy and removing some of the most damaging elements of our food system,” says Wohlgensinger. Lionheart Ventures, Happiness Capital, and Albert Wenger pitched in to raise €42 million—the largest ever venture funding round in European foodtech. Now, Formo’s focus is on scaling production at its microorganism dairies, bringing products to market by 2023, and, by 2030, replacing 10 percent of Europe’s dairy consumption. “Precision fermentation is used to make highly specialized compounds, not bulk ingredients like milk, so we’re investing in large facilities to brew milk on a big scale,” says Wohlgensinger. Taste remains its north star—Formo is working with Michelin-starred chef Ricky Saward to develop European specialities such as mozzarella and ricotta. formo.bio

Sarah Bechstein, cofounder of FORMEL Skin, a digital platform for dermatologists.Photograph: Wolfgang Stahr

FORMEL Skin

Sarah Bechstein’s desire to carve out a career in dermatology began with the severe acne she experienced in her teens. While studying at the prestigious training hospital Charité Berlin, one of her professors treated her acne flareup with compounded medicine, which combines two or more drugs for a more personalized treatment. “I knew that this was the kind of treatment I wanted to offer to my patients,” says Bechstein. “When the liberalization of telemedicine happened, I saw it was my chance to make a difference in this broken system.” With cofounders Florian Semler and Anton Kononov, Bechstein launched FORMEL Skin in June 2020, a digital platform for dermatologists to deliver faster diagnoses for patients with chronic skin conditions. Through a questionnaire and photo submission, experts then formulate a personalized treatment plan which is adjusted through regular check-ins. It has offered 150,000 treatments across Germany and Switzerland, with plans to expand outside Europe soon. Rates start at around €50 for a monthly subscription, and it’s raised €36 million to date from Singular, Heal Capital, and Vorwerk Ventures. formelskin.de

Enpal

With the title of Germany’s first “green unicorn” after having secured €150 million from tech investor Softbank in October 2021, Enpal was established in 2017 and is now Germany’s largest provider of solar solutions, with over 12,000 homeowners on its books. Its proprietary AI software plans the solar installation in seconds, and a team of Enpal installers fit the photovoltaic panels on roofs. With a subscription model starting at €49 a month to pay for panel leasing and usage, Enpal solves many of the pain points of solar energy adoption, from bureaucracy of installation to high upfront costs. The Enpal Academy trains future solar system installers, and employees get stuck in too, with 400 of the 1,000 staff base trained and active in installation. Founders Jochen Ziervogel, Mario Kohle, and Viktor Wingert are set on making renewable energy accessible to all, both domestically and abroad, and aim to create an Enpal customer network to share energy for electricity, mobility, and heating. enpal.de

Moss

Speeding toward unicorn status, Moss has been valued at over $500 million less than two and a half years after its early 2019 launch, with the latest funding led by Tiger Global Management and A-Star. It offers corporate credit cards that enable small- and medium-size businesses (SMBs) to track their spending. Transactions show up instantly in the Moss dashboards, and employees can generate virtual cards for online payments. Having issued 20,000 cards and processed 250,000 transactions in Germany and the Netherlands, founders Ante Spittler, Anton Rummel, Ferdinand Meyer, and Stephan Haslebacher are now taking the Moss model to the UK. getmoss.com

Stenon

Founded in 2018, Stenon is doing away with the time suck of sending soil samples to labs for testing, helping farmers to make faster and more efficient decisions on crop cultivation. The startup makes the portable FarmLab soil analysis tool, which uses sensors to instantly generate parameters that include soil temperature, moisture, nutrient content, and pH value. “Soil data is a critical piece to drive better decisions, driving up productivity while working sustainably,” says founder Dominic Roth. “Stenon is in the leading position for providing high-quality, real-time soil data, and aims not just to offer high return-on-investment solutions to growers, but to build out the global soil data layer for improvement of the food system.” It is used by several hundred farmers in the German-speaking region, and will launch in the UK and California next year. Stenon has raised over $26.8 million. stenon.io

Apryl

Raging talent wars for knowledge workers mean that companies today are desperately looking for ways to attract and retain the best employees, thus creating an important power shift between employers and employees. The only Pan-European fertility benefits platform of its kind, Apryl enables companies to support employees on their path to parenthood. Employee benefits include subsidies for care navigation, consultations, access to clinics and treatments such as egg and sperm freezing, IVF, adoption, and surrogacy. It’s raised $4.3 million. apryl.co

Raffael Wohlgensinger, founder and CEO of Formo.Photograph: Wolfgang Stahr

Mondu

The Buy Now, Pay Later model is fast infiltrating the B2B sector, and Mondu is Germany’s star entrant into the space. Established in 2021 by Gil Danziger, Malte Huffmann, and Philipp Povel, it aims to spread out startup finances and offer flexible payment methods with net terms of 30, 60, or 90 days, and has seen thousand of businesses use its platform, spanning cleaning, beauty, and manufacturing industries. Just seven months after its $14 million seed round, Mondu raised $43 million in a Series A led by American venture capital fund Valar Ventures at the end of May. Next up: building on its 100-strong team and expansion into Austria before the end of the summer, then more European markets to follow. mondu.ai

Vay

Vay users can order a KIA Niro electric vehicle, remote-controlled by a human “teledriver,” and have it driven directly to their location. When they’ve driven themselves to their destination, they just get out and alert the teledriver, who takes over again and drives the car away. Founded by ​​Thomas von der Ohe, Fabrizio Scelsi, and Bogdan Djukic in 2018, it raised $95 million in Series B funding in late 2021, led by investors Kinnevik, Coatue, and Eurazeo, with La Famiglia and Creandum continuing their support. Vay will launch its fleet of remote-operated cars in Hamburg, and investors claim the service could be 60 percent cheaper than Uber. Vay also wants to expand from the driverless-rental-meets-taxi service into logistics and deliveries. vay.io

Pile

Pile’s simple API platform enables existing fintechs, neobanks, and startups to integrate crypto through wallets or trading into their offering, dealing with the legal intricacies of smart contracts in the background. The goal is to make it easier and smoother for fintechs to diversify their own products, lowering acquisition costs and boosting customer loyalty. Founded in May 2022, it’s already raised €2.8 million in a pre-seed funding round with investors including Anthemis’ Female Innovators Lab, Barclays, and Pitch founder Christian Reber. After departing from Penta, the B2B bank she cofounded, founder Jessica Holzbach has big plans for Pile: Expand the founding team from four to 12, trial faster international payment gateways, and develop tools to pay salaries in crypto. pile.capital

Alpas

Founded by Isabel Poppek and Nils Vollmer in 2020, Alpas’ procurement software helps mid-to-large manufacturing companies find, compare, and manage suppliers. For the moment, it is focused on industrial companies that buy machine and electrical parts, making the sourcing at the start of the value chain more transparent. By applying AI, the software is 10 times faster than existing players, according to the founders, and streamlines the identification, comparison, and management of existing and previously unknown suppliers. On the hunt for a radiator cooling fan, for example, you could dive into detailed supplier profiles, get an automated quote to match against others, and anticipate potential supplier risks—saving up to 40 percent of procurement costs. The Y Combinator alumni counts German conglomerate BASF, the Swiss Federal Railways AG, and Landis+Gyr among its clients. With investment from venture capitalist Ann-Kristin Achleitne and former CTO of Spotify Andreas Ehn, it has raised $2.2 million to date. alpas.ai

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