If Ludwig Ensthaler wants to summarize the problems of German digitalization, the venture capitalist from 468 Capital talks about notarial laws: “We invest all over the world except China, but there is no situation like ours with notaries anywhere. We just had a financing round with 700 documents in a 28-hour meeting with the notary. The Americans who were there as salespeople couldn't believe that someone was sitting there reading all the documents,” says Ludwig Erhard of the Weimer Media Group on the podium at the summit in Tegernsee, where five startup experts spoke about the topics discussed. culture entrepreneur and the digitalization of the country.

The story with the notary is not just an anecdote, but has tangible consequences. “It hurts us to the point that we can no longer get American investors in German companies,” says Ensthaler. “It's also a waste of many of our smartest people. Notaries are top-notch lawyers who spend their lives reading aloud,” adds Philipp S. Müller from Drivelock. His company deals with IT security in medium-sized German companies.

Status asked as first customer.

Founders and venture capital are more in demand than ever in light of megatrends such as digitalization and artificial intelligence (AI). “We have to remain a country of startups and become stronger again,” says Harald Felling, CEO of Init. The company is primarily responsible for the expansion of digital administration in Germany. The four experts on the panel are not concerned about the country's entrepreneurial spirit, but they are concerned about support in the country.

In times of tight family budgets, funds have been cut. A problem? “What we are missing is what Americans do well: the government as the first customer for startups. Then you don't need as much financing. This is also a good selection process, because the State does not want to buy products from bad companies. We should focus more on this than on any financing fund. I find this much more effective,” says Ensthaler.

Digitization in small steps is fast

Benjamin Springub from Deutsche Telekom shows that the state does not always have to help with money, referring to the Schwarz group (Lidl, Kaufland), which in recent years built an AI campus in Heilbronn. “This is fantastic, it can also work like this in Germany,” enthuses Springub. Ensthaler does not see German startups arriving too late. “When it comes to digital AI, we will be left behind despite all the funding. But we are leaders in other areas such as robotics. “You don't hear much about it, because startups here tend to be media shy,” the investor explains. Germany is also a leader in the biotechnology sector. This was last seen during the coronavirus pandemic, when German startup Biontech produced the first vaccine based on new mRNA technology.

In addition to startups, many non-digital companies also have to master digitalization. “It's not great AI, but it doesn't have to be,” says Springub. “Digitization starts right there and, in small steps, Müller shows how it can be with an example of cybersecurity: “We recently collaborated with a forestry nursery, which took portrait photographs of people in a construction trailer for the children and uploaded them . for parents, and they just have to be safe in the cloud. There is no need for a complex solution. This makes digitalization happen very quickly.”

There is still no will to implement

Experts are not worried about the future: “We cannot be satisfied with the fact that, as the world's fourth largest economy, we are in the bottom third of international rankings. The knowledge exists, but the will to implement it is still lacking,” says Felling. If this were to happen, the deficit would be made up quickly: “We can easily achieve this in five or six years.” “If we want to, we are really good.”

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