Internationals Key to German Startup Economy, Study Says

May 2022

The just-published “Migrant Founders Monitor” commissioned by Germany’s Startup Association and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation shows how international the country’s entrepreneurial scene has become.  Researchers found that 22 percent of start-up founders have an immigrant background – with 59 percent of that group being born outside Germany.

People with immigrant backgrounds account for 22 percent of freelancers in Germany and 26 of working people in general. The figures concerning startup founders demonstrate that, while people with international backgrounds may face some additional challenges starting businesses, the process is easy and welcoming enough that their representation is basically proportionate.

The largest proportions of international start-up founders are located in industrial North Rhine-Westphalia and Berlin, with 23 and 21 percent respectively.

The significance of start-ups in the overall German economy is growing and growing, with 415,000 people currently employed in the sector. Well-known start-ups founded by entrepreneurs with immigrant backgrounds include BioNTech, Omio, Agile Robots, Raisin and GetYourGuide. And Germany is benefitting from the international diversity of its start-up and freelance communities.

“The corona crisis has burdened freelancers with enormous challenges,” the authors of the study wrote. “The high, stable proportion of people with immigrant backgrounds in the sector slowed the downturn.”

“91 percent of founders with international backgrounds in Germany studied at university,” adds Germany Trade and Invest Trend and Innovation Scouting Director Kim J. Zietlow, responsible for the internationalization of the Digital Hub Initiative . “In addition, they are highly motivated. They represent huge entrepreneurial potential in Germany.”

The founders of BioNTech, Ugur Sahin (left) and Özlem Türeci © BioNTech