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Bonn Hub. Incubator. Startup center. Coworking space. Food lab? The last time I wrote about Bonn Hub, aka Digital Hub Bonn, it was July 2016 and just days after they had secured access to 3 million Euros of funding. The plan back then was bold and finally, 7 months later, Bonn Hub will have an opening party. Unfortunately the real-world Bonn Hub isn’t quite like the picture that was painted back then.

To be fair, finding a location in Bonn must be incredibly difficult at the moment as Bonn enters into a multi-year program of re-development. All the space in front of the main station has been vacated for a new concourse and just 5 minutes walk away there’s another area that’s been emptied for redevelopment. The main station has lost 1 of its 6 platforms and there’s little in the way of open car parks. A new train station is being built to the south which means huge plots of land are being cleared for new offices and apartments. Bonn is going through the biggest changes it’s had in the 15 years I’ve been here.

The second problem is focus. There are a lot of partners involved in Bonn Hub and each of the stakeholders wants a say. Some of them want a stable investment platform. Others want to see acceleration in new areas of digital business. The public have a say too as 50% of the money being invested belongs to them. And then there was a management change which saw ‘designated manager’ Cedric Teichmann leave the team to develop the Startup Bonn meetings into Startup Garage, a Friday coworking initiative.

Finally, I guess, there’s identity to consider. It’s important that Bonn Hub supports the core values of Bonn business. Bonn is known for Beethoven but perhaps a classical music-focused startup incubator would be a little too niche! Does Bonn attempt to branch out into virtual reality, digital finance or multimodal transport? Or does Bonn stay close to its existing pillars of economic strengths in international peacekeeping, medical research, sustainability and NGO work? Probably the latter.

Bing! Idea! We interrupt this article to bring Bonn Hub a great idea.

As I write this I ask myself why Bonn Hub doesn’t take over the old, and huge, and wonderful Waldau Restuarant in the forest on the Venusberg. It’s close to the University Clinic, there’s parking, buses, a bar, kitchen, huge amounts of space, peace, no neighbors and it’s an inspiring piece of land. Sustainable restaurant at the weekend, anyone?  [Gets on bike to take pictures…..]

Waldau – Bonn’s sustainable innovation center…

I’m surprised I hadn’t thought of this before. Waldau needs investment and in return it offers a huge hall for events and co-working, separate areas that could be used as offices, cellar area (video and audio studios?) and a Biergarten. There’s a nature museum being renovated in part of the building and wow…it’s perfect as a ‘sustainable innovation centre. ‘  OK, there’s work to do here. 300,000 Euro  investment to bring it up to standard and, what, 5K Euro per month rent? 1K service costs? I believe the city of Bonn owns this building so maybe there’s a win-win to be had here with a subsidised rent? Look at that wonderful building. Why does an innovation hub have to be in a city center? Why not in the beautiful green countryside just 15 minutes from Bonn main station. Wouldn’t it be great if the Waldau could be rescued through innovative sustainable startups and public money?

But I digress…

Perhaps Digital Hub Bonn had no choice but to team up with an existing coworking space for the sake of progress and so it is with a level of happiness that I see Digital Hub Bonn teaming up with Startup Bonn in the same Coworking location. We’ll find out exactly what the deal is on the 20th Feb.

Digital Hub Bonn launch party program (tickets here.)
Short introduction and welcome to Digital Hub Bonn
Startup Live Pitches: Technologies and business models.
Corporate Incubation as a Service
Networking, Fingerfood & Party

360-foto of one of the rooms at Coworking Koeln Bonn (not Coworking Bonn – that’s in Popplesdorf and where I have my multimedia studio!

Bonn Hub logo

Bonn Hub logo

I’ve been an independent web-worker for the last 12 years and involved with coworking in Bonn for the last 2 years. It’s a growing scene with a bunch of interesting people moving around in it. You’ll find small startups and independent workers connected to the Web and digital communities.  Coworking is stimulating and supportive but for new companies looking towards quick growth, funding and mentoring it’s not enough. An ‘incubator’ is one solution and Bonn will be getting its first one, soon. Bonn Hub has just reached 3 million Euro funding and is finalising its plans. I’ve been tracking the progress and it turns out that Bonn Hub is going to be more than just an incubator. Coworking, free space and a ‘food lab’ are also going to be included. Location: Minutes walk from the main station.

Digital Hub Region Bonn (AKA Bonn Hub) is a private / publicly funded (25% : 75%) project that has now completed its funding and aims to build a new kind of business center in Bonn. For entrepreneurs, inventors and even existing projects Bonn Hub can be seen as a controlled accelerator where funding, experts, mentors and inspirational facilities are used to bring the best out of the best. Naturally a group of investors will be watching every step with a view to finding the best investment opportunities in Bonn and accelerating them further onto an international scene. English language seems to be playing an important aspect.

Video interview: Cedric Teichmann. Manager, Bonn Hub embedded below.

Bonn Hub isn’t just for high-growth startups though. Free space will be offered. Coworking space will be available to rent. There’ll be events and study sessions and you might even find an advanced kitchen where new ideas can be created and tested. Free food for coworkers?

 

While finding of 3 million Euros has been pledged, there’s no publicly available plan yet. One imagines that with 30 investors it could take some weeks before the first detailed information is available.  The Facebook and Twitter accounts are ready but there’s no website, no phone number and no email address. Designated manager,  Cedric Teichmann, Co-Founder of the local Startup-Community Startup Bonn is probably your first port of call for information if you’re a startup right now and I took the chance to ask him questions at a recent meeting. You’ll hear him talk about sizing, location, timescales and some of the details of the Bonn Lab.

 

 

DWNRW want the first of the regional hubs to be ready in the October – November time frame which means finding and preparing a space in about three months. Unless Bonn Hub finds an almost-perfect building that needs minimal change it’s an almost impossible target to achieve over summer. Creating the right spaces and rooms needs careful thought if they are to cover everything that’s going to happen in the future. A VR playspace, for example? E-Bike charging? Video and broadcast equipment. Audio / voiceover booth. Presentation space. Meeting rooms. 24-hour access and security. Storage. Flexible working spaces. Lighting. A place to sleep for 45 minutes. Coffee. That advanced kitchen!

75% public money. Where do the profits go?

Bonn Hub has over 30 investors and involves a consortium of more than 70 regional partners. Some have invested small amounts, presumably to get a logo somewhere, but others will be more serious about how the money is spent. Is the Bonn Hub company a profit-making venture in itself or are investors simply buying into the ability to be the first to access regional startups?  Public money is coming from IHK Bonn/Rhein-Sieg, Wirtschaftsförderungen Bonn und Rhein-Sieg, Hochschule Bonn-Rhein-Sieg, Universität Bonn, The city of Bonn has allocated 150000 Euro.  Private money is coming from investors such as HWPartners  (Scopevisio, CenterDevice), Deutsche Telekom, DHL, Postbank and smaller companies such as software groups that will be looking for new talent and ideas. Bonn Mayor Ashok-Alexander Sridharan: “will make up to 150000 Euro available.” Other companies mentioned in various social media posts include Garage Bilk, WeWork (a big multinational Coworking organisation) and Seed Capital.

Bonn Hub features

There’s little official information available on Bonn Hub right now but features such as the Innovation Garage (a space where startups and established companies can work together,) Food Lab and free working space have already been mentioned. The graphic on the left includes “High Tech Startups”, “Digitalisation of medium-sized companies”, “International inter-working” and “Mentoring and financial support.”

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For those that can understand German take a look at this recent and detailed interview with one of the investors behind the Bonn Hub project, Jörg Haas. [The video should start at 31:31] Jörg Haas talks a little bit about the idea, about Viktoriabad and about the definition of a ‘startup.’

Bonn Hub International.

Bonn has a strong and important international business community. The United Nations has a strong presence and organisations such as Fairtrade, the Forest Stewardship Council and the Paralympic Committee are all working internationally. With Bonn gradually losing its status as a government office location the international business community is left as one of the most important pillars on which to grow future commerce and industry. Deutsche Telekom, DHL and the Bonn University all have important international ties. The German state media company Deutsche Welle also has a strong international presence in Bonn. Let us not forget the important World Conference Center and recently opened Marriot conference center hotel.

A recent article in the local newspaper also points towards important developments in the International scene in Bonn

 

Money, size, location, style. My experience.

3.5 million Euro will need to be managed carefully if it is to support the target of around 1000 square meters of space for three years. The infrastructure is going to cost well over 0.5 million to set up. Running costs need to stay under 1 million per year. Given 1000 meters you’ll probably support 50-80 people on desks with meeting and technology rooms and an event/seminar/studio that could house up to 150 people in 200 square meters. How do I know this? I was involved with the set-up of CoWorking Bonn and now run the multimedia studio there.

How many jobs will Bonn Hub create? I would imagine that around 10 people are going to be needed to run Bonn Hub. From reception to building management, digital/multimedia infrastructure, business management, marketing, finance and event support.

Where will it be? There’s a shortlist of locations being discussed in private but one location that has come to the fore during interviews and discussions is the old Victoriabad swimming pool in the Viktoria quadrant behind the town hall. The current owners are winding down the smaller business space rentals in the area with a view to redevelopment. That, however, is being contested. Does Bonn Hub have time to get involved here or could it be the saviour that pro-community campaigners are looking for?

Style, feel and acoustics are critical. Furniture must be multi-purpose, strong and movable. Lighting needs to be able to change from daylight to warm light to multicolour at the move of a slider. Each room will be a theater stage and must be capable of performing multiple roles. Acoustics are critical. Multi-room audio and videowalls need central control for notifications, advertising and events. Getting it right is really, really difficult but incredibly important.

Agreeing on all of these factors with 30 investors will probably be the hardest part of the project.

“In just six weeks we’ve achieved funding of about 3.5 million Euro for the next five years from regional players.” Source.

 

It’s important now that Bonn Hub make it clear what’s happening with about 2.2 million Euros of public money and how that’s going to benefit the taxpayer. Will it play an important role in establishing Bonn as an international business location? With some help from Berlin i’m hoping that a few sweeteners could release Bonn from the worry of losing more government offices but in the short-term it’s a great step for the startup scene in Bonn.

For more information you can follow the new Digital Hub Region Bonn Facebook page.