The Aachen entrepreneurship ecosystem celebrates the highlight of the STARTUP WEEK AACHEN
Aachen is a thriving start-up hotspot and RWTH Aachen University is one of the driving forces behind it. The latest proof: the Aachen Technology and Entrepreneurship Congress (ATEC).
Jointly hosted by RWTH, Collective Incubator e.V. , and digitalHUB Aachen e.V., ATEC has been attracting entrepreneurship enthusiasts for 13 years. And this year’s edition underlined how much the community has grown since 2010: Gathering more than 1,500 participants, 100 national and international start-ups, 30 top investors, and several industry-leading corporate partners in Aachen, ATEC23 is not just the top event of the STARTUP WEEK AACHEN, but also the flagship event for innovation in the tri-state region of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The event was kicked off by a short quiz between moderator Dan Ram and host Prof. Malte Brettel. Looking into the crowd, Brettel could not hide his excitement. Welcoming both familiar and new faces to Aachen, he encouraged everyone to dive deep into the region’s start-up community, take in all the impressions and make the most of the day.
PETER ALTMAIER AND ALESSIO BORGMEYER: FROM POLITICS IN BERLIN TO ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN AACHEN
One who certainly left an impression on the audience was politician Peter Altmaier, who greeted the participants with a compelling testimony to the impact Aachen has had on world history, referencing medieval emperor Charlemagne, former German statesman Otto von Bismarck and this year’s Charlemagne Prize winner Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. In his keynote, he looked at the relevance of entrepreneurship and the power of technology from a political angle, drawing on decades of experience as a decision-maker in Berlin. Having served as Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Head of the German Chancellery and Federal Minister for Special Affairs, as well as Parliamentary State Secretary, Altmaier navigated various unprecedented crises over the past years, many of which required innovative ideas, groundbreaking technologies and unconventional approaches. Research-based start-ups proved to/can be strong motors in overcoming these challenges. Despite the many new crises we face today, Altmaier said he remains optimistic that with technological advancement we can rise to the challenge. It takes politics, research and entrepreneurship to come together for technological progress to happen. This is why Peter Altmaier is happy to be at ATEC, where innovative minds from all backgrounds come together to push forward and “Dare The Impossible”.
Alessio Borgmeyer is a great example of what that might look like. In the start-up community, he has become a household name – a synonym of the successful founder from Aachen. It was in 2014, when Borgmeyer, still a student in industrial engineering at RWTH Aachen University at the time, decided to start his own business with Jodel, a hyperlocal community app. Few would dare to enter such a fast-paced, volatile and competitive environment as the social media market, with billion-dollar businesses like Meta, Twitter, or TikTok. Alessio Borgmeyer did. The former RWTH student dared the impossible. And he succeeded. Today, Jodel counts several million posts a day in more than ten countries. Hence, it was no surprise to see the on-site participants take out their smartphones and use Jodel throughout the day to learn about upcoming agenda items, find their way to different side-locations, and participate in an interactive challenge. In his keynote, Alessio elaborated on the why and how of his successful dare, giving huge credits to Aachen and his engineering and business studies at RWTH as great catalysts and invoking the audience’s courage to do the same. To end his entertaining run through the ups and downs of his entrepreneurial journey, the founder once more quoted his former professor Malte Brettel: “As a student you have nothing to lose.” In Alessio’s words: “If I can do it, you can do it!”
Versatile program with a surprise call from Mario Götze
One of the highly anticipated agenda items was the Pitch Battle featuring a total of ten teams. Six start-ups representing each of the universities in the Exzellenz Start-up Center.NRW initiative, two start-ups from Belgium and the Netherlands, and 2 wildcard teams pitched their business and answered question from an expert jury:
- Magnotherm (Better Ventures wildcard)
- Aestuarium (University of Maastricht)
- Acuire (TU Dortmund)
- ChemInnovation (WWU Münster)
- Get your way (Université de Liège)
- Co-reactive (RWTH Aachen University)
- Circonomit (Dieter von Holtzbrinck Ventures wildcard)
- xemX (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)
- bnear (University of Cologne)
- Excellence Coatings (University of Paderborn)
After careful consideration, the jury consisting of Kim Tran (Dieter von Holtzbrinck Ventures), Andy Booke (FundX), Björn Lang (TechVision Fonds) and Mascha Bonk (Ananda Impact Ventures) announced the following winners:
- 1st Prize (€30,000 Media Prize by Dieter von Holtzbrinck Ventures): Aestuarium (University of Maastricht)
- 2nd Prize (€5,000 by FundX): Magnotherm (Better Ventures wildcard)
- 3rd Prize (3,000 by TechVision Fonds): Excellence Coatings (University of Paderborn)
- Tech Boost – Startup Program by Deutsche Telekom AG: ChemInnovation (WWU Münster)
- Impact Acceleration Award by Ananda Impact Ventures: Aestuarium (University of Maastricht)
- Diversity Catalyst Award by Auxxo Female Catalyst Fund: ChemInnovation (WWU Münster)
In addition to the Pitch Battle winners, the first round of teams honored with the Spin-off Award 2023 were announced by Malte Brettel. The thought-provoking and incentivizing keynotes were complemented with in-depth panel discussions on Industrial Tech, Future Mobility, Climate Tech, Deep Tech, as well as the traditional AC Founder Talk, with this year’s focus on Engineered Health Tech – all of which featured high-profile experts from academia, industry, entrepreneurship and politics. On top of that, the ATEC audience witnessed a surprise call from football player and world champion Mario Götze, who shared his thoughts on the parallels between the career of an athlete and that of an entrepreneur, and talking about the prospect of becoming an entrepreneur one day. Besides the on-stage action, the participants had the chance to explore more off-stage, including a start-up fair, VIP breakout sessions with Peter Altmaier and Alessio Borgmeyer, as well as several workshops with corporate partners Viessmann, Orrick, Wi venture, and Carbon13.
Together with our co-initiators at digitalHUB Aachen e.V. and Collective Incubator e.V. we want to say a heartfelt thank you to all speakers, participants and supporters for this action-packed and truly inspiring day at ATEC23!