In April 2020, Claus Kremoser and Yves Guillermet, together with eight other scientists, founded the biopharmaceutical startup WMT in Heidelberg to develop new active ingredients against cancer. However, the corona wave that rolled into Germany a short time later put the brakes on the up-and-coming company for the time being.
Like WMT, many founders have been struggling with financing bottlenecks since the start of the pandemic. To ensure that promising business ideas can be advanced despite the crisis, the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economics, Labor and Housing expanded the Start-up BW Pre-Seed funding program in April 2020 and created "Start-up BW Pro-Tect". This enables startups that have already successfully completed a first round of financing and have run into liquidity bottlenecks as a result of the pandemic to apply for a further repayable grant of up to 400,000 euros.
So the two WMT founders also applied for Pro-Tect in July - with success. Some time later, they received the funding, which they used to pay for suppliers, rent, insurance and employees' salaries, among other things. "The money came just in time and helped us bridge the gap until our first seed funding closed in December 2020," Guillermet explains. "The process was straightforward. We received fast and straightforward support from all the partners involved, L-Bank, the state of Baden-Württemberg and Technologiepark Heidelberg GmbH, during the application phase."
While Pro-Tect was developed specifically for startups affected by the corona crisis, the "Start-up BW Pre-Seed" project has already been in existence since 2018, with the state of Baden-Württemberg providing a total of 14 million euros for it in 2018 and 2019 and the same amount again for the period 2020 / 2021. Startups that have private co-financing can apply for funding on the recommendation of a pre-seed partner such as the Heidelberg Technology Park. "With the pre-seed funding, our startups get assistance that supports them not only in their content work, but also in their search for co-investors," says Thomas Prexl, head of the startup office at Heidelberg Technology Park. He takes stock: "In 2020 alone, nine companies from the Heidelberg area qualified for pre-seed funding and nine more for Pro-Tect," he says. "A total of 4.4 million in funding has thus flowed to these founders for their creative and innovative business ideas."
WMT Supervisory Board Chairman Kremoser is also convinced of the benefits of the measures: "With Pre-Seed and Pro-Tect, the state of Baden-Württemberg has created two really good funding instruments," he says. "That's all the more worthwhile for companies like ours, the prospect of federal funding is poor, and the chance of EU funding almost impossible."
The funded companies come from all kinds of industries, from IT and artificial intelligence to biotechnology, food and sustainability. The Heidelberg-based company Spoontainable is also one of them. The startup has developed the Spoonie, an edible and biodegradable ice cream spoon. "We have been helped by Startup BW Pre-Seed to increase the market for our Spoonies and to further expand distribution," says Julia Piechotta, co-founder of Spoontainable. "Pre-Seed supports us in our plan to pursue our growth strategy and develop more sustainable cutlery alternatives."
"We are pleased if we have been able to help innovative startups such as WMT or Spoontainable, which are based in Heidelberg and the region, to pursue their startup ideas even in economically difficult times with the Start-up BW programs," said Prexl. "The programs are continuing so that we can help young founders gain a foothold in Heidelberg as a technology location again this year."
By Dr. Elke Matuschek