Christof Schepan, managing director of NCA
"Founding a company is a bit like learning to walk. The first steps are often the hardest. This is precisely where NCA comes in."
A willingness to take risks, hunger for success and ingenuity: all these are fixed components of the startup DNA and, in these times of digitization, are necessary basic prerequisites to ensure that access to new business models is not missed. The Next Commerce Accelerator (NCA) – a joint venture between HSH Nordbank, Hamburger Sparkasse and the City of Hamburg – wants to support young entrepreneurs with their first business steps and strengthen Hamburg as an e-commerce location. The four startups in the first round are now presenting the results of their six-month cooperation at the “Demo Day”.
The location of this evening is already making clear what NCA is all about: implementing innovative ideas in an extraordinary way. Instead of in formal meeting rooms, the startup's business models are presented in a coworking space at Hamburg's Rödingsmarkt, accompanied by Flying Buffet and beats by DJ Pult. The young entrepreneurs' energy is palpable. The mix of the first “startup class”, selected from around 300 applicants, also couldn’t be more diverse. Prelovee, a search engine for second hand fashion, Sleekcommerce, an e-commerce backend system, Matecrate, an e-sport matching and management tool and Movemates, a platform for optimizing inner-city transport logistics. They all have one thing in common: an ambitious goal and the will to achieve it.
Presentation of the results not in formal meeting rooms, but in a stylish co-working space
Six months of hard work at Betahaus in the middle of Hamburg's Schanzenviertel quarter are now behind the young entrepreneurs. Months full of workshops, intensive discussions, long nights and even longer days. “It was an exciting time,” says Stephanie Neumann looking back, after setting up the company Prelovee with her friend Swantje Pawlitschek. The online search engine for second hand fashion is based in Munich. “The concept of the participating startups were all very different, but we are similar in surprisingly many ways. It was a good mix to learn from one another and to create synergies that you would never have thought of before. We received a lot of support through the mentoring network and always had sounding boards for our specific questions and problems,” says Neumann.
At first there were a lot of questions, remembers managing director of NCA, Christoph Schepan. “Some of the startups only came to us with prototypes. We supported them all the way to market readiness, from the investor meeting to gaining their first customers.” Founding a company is a bit like learning to walk. The first steps are often the hardest. This is precisely where NCA comes in. “We accommodated the youngest entrepreneurs here for six months and gave them access to the market and investors,” says Schepan. Each of the four new companies also received venture capital of up to 50,000 Euro. The ten NCA investors are the financiers. In addition to NSH Nordbank and the Hamburger Sparkasse there are the retail groups Tchibo and Edeka Nord, cosmetics manufacturers Beiersdorf, coffee roasters J.J. Darboven, the port company HHLA, the software firm Novomind, the chemical company Helm and the chain of bakeries Junge. “We have successfully prepared the startups with our knowledge and our mentors for additional investors and for the next round of financing,” adds Schepan.
A good foundation for this has certainly been achieved, says company founder Philip Mordecai from Movemates. “The NCA is a startup accelerator and its early phase investment has helped us to operate Movemates full time. This was a great help to us, as we were previously just part-time founders while continuing with our day jobs. Thanks to the NCA, we’ve been able to focus on working on our concept from day one.” This is a luxury that new business founders otherwise cannot afford. “We’ve benefited from the NCA network, as we offer a solution specially for retailers,” says the 28-year-old.
It's not just new entrepreneurs who benefit, established companies are also hoping that encounters with startups will give them access to young teams, their technologies and fresh ideas. The cooperations are therefore an ideal win-win situation. Patrick Miljes, area manager HSH Nordbank’s corporate customers, is excited by the results of the first NCA round. “It really was an amazing evening. I took a lot away with me and am happy that we at HSH Nordbank have taken this project on board.” He was particularly impressed by the young people’s fighting spirit. “Not giving up but always keeping going – this way of thinking has become clear many times today. We can adapt some of the ideas for us as a bank too, and I really hope that we continue in this way.”
It will certainly continue, as the second start-up class is already waiting in the wings. NCA head Christoph Schepan is already looking forward to the upcoming cooperation. “We are very satisfied with the results and are looking forward to the new entrepreneurs who we’ll be supporting over the next six months.”