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Start-ups Investment Report

The funding rounds, exits, takeovers, and IPOs of WHU start-ups in Q1 2024

When you think about Germany’s top locations for start-ups and entrepreneurship, Berlin and Munich might come to mind. But what about Cologne? Probably not, right? Well times are changing, and Cologne, home to unicorn DeepL, is gaining ground. According to a recent evaluation performed by media service deutsche-startups.de, there are currently 735 young companies active in Germany’s cathedral city on the Rhine.

“It is amazing to see that the start-up scene in Cologne is flourishing,” said Professor Dries Faems, who heads the Chair of Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Technological Transformation at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management. “And we’re particularly excited that we’ve been able to contribute to it. Our alumni are very well represented among the entrepreneurs based in Cologne.” And that has had a tangible effect on the job market, with WHU’s 63 start-ups in the city having created 1,665 new jobs, according to recent data from Dealroom.

deutsche-startups.de has also identified twelve young companies poised to experience major development in the future: kyp.ai, bezahl.de, Metycle, Ordio, Sunhat, Spot My Energy, Sastrify, Sunvigo, Colonia, Vamo, Prematch, and Rausgegangen. The latter dozen of these start-ups were founded by at least one graduate of WHU.

“It is fantastic, of course, to see that our alumni, those were honed their entrepreneurial skills at WHU, have contributed to half of these promising start-ups in Cologne,” said Professor Faems. “The emerging start-up ecosystem there is certainly something to keep an eye on, and we are excited to see what innovative ideas and business models they come up with in the future.”



- Among all of WHU’s start-ups in January, Myrealtrip was able to pull in the highest amount of capital. The company, founded by Donggun Lee, secured US$56M in a series F funding round. Lee spent one year (2010 – 2011) as an exchange student at WHU.

- deeploi offers a comprehensive IT package for employees active at small and medium-sized enterprises. The company was co-founded by Julian Lübke (MSc 2014) and collected €6.5M.

- Jonas Boland and Matthias Geiss (both BSc 2012), together with Paul Schraven (MSc 2019), conceived Packmatic, a unique, digital, all-in-one shopping service for packing materials. The company secured €15M in a series A funding round.

- sunvigo, which provides solar panels for private residences, secured €15M in external funding. The company was started by Michael Peters (Diplom 2006) and Vigen Nikogosian (Promotion 2012).

CarbonPool, co-founded by Frederic Olbert (BSc 2010), supports decarbonization strategies through its innovative approach. The company raised €12M in a venture capital funding round.

Finoa is a custodian bank that allows companies to invest securely in crypto-currency and track those investments. The start-up, co-founded by Christopher May, secured €15M in an early-stage venture capital funding round.

Melp, co-founded by Robertas Šaltis (EMBA 2008), secured €635K during a seed funding round. The platform allows companies to communicate potential perks and services for their employees. It also lets employees browse and select these offerings of their own accord.



- Simplyblock, founded by Rob Pankow, secured US$2.75M in a seed funding round. The company develops low latency block storage software.

- Embea managed to raise €4M in a seed funding round. This life insurance provider, founded by Dr. Johannes Becher (MLB 2010), does not require applicants to undergo medical examination.

- Selina Finance, co-founded by Leonard Benning (MSc 2014), successfully concluded a funding round to secure a grant. The company offers flexible home equity lines of credit.

- The Klub Kitchen, co-founded and led by Florian Kraffel (BSc 2018), advances modern dining concepts. The start-up belongs to Delicious Food Concepts GmbH and took part in a funding round for growth capital.



- Solar panel provider Enpal netted €1.1M, reaffirming its status in the renewable energy sector. Co-founded by Jochen Ziervogel (MSc 2015), Mario Kohle (BSc 2008), and Viktor Wingert (MSc 2010), the company allows civilians quick access to solar panels for their private homes.

- Clime, co-founded by Oktavio Port, Jannis Possekel, and Lennart Panteln (all BSc 2020), has been sold to Planted.

- Philipp Erler (Diplom 2006) is the co-founder of Gropyus, which has recently secured €40M in outside funding. The company seeks to revolutionize the construction industry through the use of sustainable building materials, efficient methods, and elegant design.

- ProteinDistillery raised €15M in a seed funding round. The company, co-founded by Marco Ries (MSc 2022), is a pioneer in its field. Its production of alternative proteins is having a positive effect on sustainable food technology and vegan nutrition.

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