This September six German startups are visiting Shanghai to deepen their knowledge of the Chinese market and establish new connections. The trip is organized and funded by the German-Chinese business and innovation network DC-HUB. We talked to Martin Gothe and Steve Uhlig, two of the founders of DC-HUB, about the network and its Shanghai Startup Class program.
Martin, Steve, you are two of the founding members of DC-HUB. Who are the other founders?
DC-Hub was founded in the environment of the International SEPT Program at the University of Leipzig. The director of SEPT is Professor Dornberger PhD.
Why did you decide to connect and form DC-HUB?
Within the next 50 years we will see most of the biggest and most influential companies coming from China. Influence on development of technology, standards and new innovation will come from China. Chinese investors increasingly look to the west with the intention to participate in the new economy, not only in China, but also worldwide.
Obviously there is a need for European startups to be prepared to meet the Chinese market. Vice-versa European startups are actively looking mostly to the US when thinking about investment or expansion. However, out of need, they are already involved with China but do not realise the importance of this involvement with this market. Also too few look to China regarding investment or new markets or even better markets.
DC-HUB wants to create a sensitivity towards the Chineses sphere and provide tools as well as consciousness to make use of the startup's connections and opportunities within the Chinese market.
What is DC-HUB exactly? What is your goal?
DC-HUB is the German-Chinese Business and Innovation Hub founded by Martin Gothe and Steve Uhlig together with the University of Leipzig. It is subsidised by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Science.
DC-HUB is a multiplicator and coordinator for German-Chinese cooperation related to economy, entrepreneurship, innovation and inspiration. DC-HUB focuses on German startups and SMEs. The goal is to prepare and support European startups and SMEs for the interaction with the Chinese economy.
As a hub or network, DC-HUB includes universities such as University of Leipzig, Technische Universität Berlin (Technical University Berlin), Jiaotong University Shanghai and Tongji University Shanghai, co-working spaces in Europe (like Basislager in Leipzig) as well as in China (P2), SME Partners such as J.A.M Universal T&D Europe and China, Rhein-Main Region Invest GmbH and other partners in Europe and China.
What makes DC-HUB different from other networks related to start-ups and China?
DC-HUB is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Science. Therefore we are not privately funded. It is part of a greater initiative between the German and Chinese government endorsed in spring 2017. This gives us a greater flexibility to work on a non-profit basis. We therefore can focus all our efforts on benefiting the startups. DC-HUB's regular events, such as workshops, are free of charge for all German born startups, as well in Germany as in Shanghai, China.
A network lives from its growth. Who should join DC-HUB in the future?
Central feature of the DC-HUB network is its openness to the economy. Experts and alumni with specialist knowledge and international experience come into contact with companies that want to open up to the international market. In addition, alumni can offer their services and experiences directly via the network, in turn outsourced services are forwarded to them.
Our aim is not to bundle alumni from a specific subject area, but rather to make alumni of various disciplines fit for the international economy and to develop ideas for the German and Chinese markets from the interplay of various fields. The network itself is to be developed in close cooperation with our network partners from science and industry and their alumni.
Finally, to answer the question: Anyone who finds himself in the previous descriptions and is interested in internationalisation or can make a contribution in knowledge/experience, is invited to join the network and work with DC-HUB.
Which services or advantages does DC-HUB provide?
We give startups the tools to do business in another cultural context, provide networks, contacts to partners and possible suppliers as well as clients. Further we organise workshops about different important issues in the Chinese market such as law, regulations, business conduct, sourcing, investors and many more.
We are organising pitching events for startups to pitch in front of potential Chinese investors in corporation with partners and universities in China. Further, we cooperate with China Accelerator to participate in their program and receive know-how.
DC-HUB offers three levels of acceleration for start-ups and SMEs in Germany and China. First level DC-HUB holds workshops, webinars and events about China and entrepreneurship. For example a workshop for Chinese that want to set up a startup in Germany or Europe and for German startups that want to expand their company to China or that are connected somewhat to China. All these workshops are for free to attend, in Germany as well as in China.
On the second level DC-HUB is building a network of partners and other networks that connect Germany, China and entrepreneurship which can be used by startups and from which they can benefit.
The third level is the accelerator class that we send to Shanghai twice every year. One in early spring and one in September
In September you organize your first Shanghai Start-up Class. What is that exactly?
The startups will attend workshops, matchmaking, pitch events in front of private, state and angel investors. DC-HUB organises exhibitions and meet-ups. They also receive the opportunity to meet with business leaders in Shanghai. We also cooperate closely with the German Chamber of Commerce. They are providing access to German business in Shanghai and China. For example, we are cooperating on an event that is hosted at the German Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai where startups can interactively discuss with CEOs and experts from big German companies in China (VW, Kempinski, Continental etc.) and ask them about any topic related to their industry and China.
Which startups do you send to Shanghai beginning of September? How did you choose the participants?
To participate in the Shanghai Startup Class all eligible startups and SMEs can submit their applications to DC-HUB. The wider jury is screening all applications and selects 50% of them for advancement to the next round. Then, a jury, consisting out of partners and organizers in Europe and China selects 25% of them for the next round. The Jury then asks these contestants to submit a more detailed pitch and selects the finalists.
The finalists then are invited to present either in our European headquarter in Leipzig, Germany or in the China branch in Shanghai, PRC. The finalists' pitch presentation takes place in front of the jury from Leipzig and Shanghai. This year the pitch presentation was hosted by the Basislager co-working space and the jury from Shanghai attended via video conference.
After the pitch presentations the jury rates each startup based on an investment-pitch-rating-form with focus on China and Germany respectively. All points accumulated are the final score. The 6 highest scored startups are sent to Shanghai for one month with the DC-HUB Startup Class Accelerator.
Can you already disclose some details of the program the participating startups can expect in Shanghai?
There is one big surprise and opportunity waiting for our startups in Shanghai. Unfortunately we cannot disclose it just yet.
What are your main goals for DC-HUB for the next 12 months?
The ultimate goal of the project is deliberately left open. The network itself should be developed in close cooperation with our network partners from science and industry and their alumni. Our education offers for competence development in start-up or innovation management are adapted to the needs of the individual networks on demand.
We will have two Startup Classes in 2019, one in early spring and one in September 2019. Further we will included supporters that will boost DC-HUB to offer more for startups.
Thank you for the interview and have a successful trip to Shanghai!