Germany sees increase in number of startups ‘launched by people with migrant background’

Germany is benefiting from an increasing number of businesses founded by people with migration roots, a study has found.

Germany sees increase in number of startups 'launched by people with migrant background'
Archive photo shows a co-working space in Berlin. Photo: DPA

More than one in four business startups last year were founded by foreign people or those with migrant roots, a new study has found. 

And according to research by KfW Bank, the proportion rose significantly last year.

It comes after Mainz-based BioNTech, which was co-founded by a couple who are both children of Turkish immigrants to Germany, was thrust into the spotlight around the world due to their potential coronavirus vaccine.

BioNTech was founded 12 years ago by oncologist Ugur Sahin and his wife Özlem Türeci. Sahin, who was born in Turkey and later came to Germany with his parents, received his doctorate in Cologne. Türeci, who was born in Germany, completed her doctorate in Homburg, Saarland.

READ ALSO: Here's how many people in Germany have a migrant background

The biotech company is just one example of a successful German business founded by people with a migration background. According to the KfW Bank study, these firms play an important role for the German economy.

“Startups are important for the power of renewal and thus for the future viability of an economy,” said Fritzi Köhler-Geib, Chief Economist of the state-owned development bank KfW.

“Germany has therefore been benefiting for many years from the greater willingness of migrants to set up their own businesses.” This was evident in 2019, she added.

Last year there were a recorded 605,000 business startups in Germany – and in about 160,000 cases the founders had a migration background.

The share rose significantly by five percentage points to 26 percent compared to 2018, the evaluation by the KfW Start-up Monitor shows. According to Köhler-Geib, the spirit of innovation and the growth of migrants holds great opportunities.

READ ALSO: Four things to know about the German firm leading the Covid-19 vaccine race

According to the study, migrants or people from a migration background are also more likely to become self-employed because they can face worse chances on the labour market than those without migrant roots. That means they have a greater willingness to take risks, said the study.

Startups are young commercial enterprises founded no more than five years ago whose founders are full-time entrepreneurs, have a team of founders or employees and are innovation or growth-driven.

Migrants are counted as people who do not have German citizenship or have not had it from birth. Meanwhile, someone is considered to have a migrant background if they or at least one parent was born without German citizenship.

According to KfW, due to the pandemic, many startup plans have been put on hold. “However, the crisis can also act as a catalyst for innovation,” said Köhler-Geib. “Founders who meet the new demands with innovative business ideas can be the big winners of tomorrow.”


Founded or established – gegründet

Immigrants – (die) Einwanderer

Migrant background – (der) Migrationshintergrund

Higher risk tolerance/higher willingness to take risks – (die) höhere Risikobereitschaft

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

Member comments

  1. Does is really matter from which background the people come from. DR.MLK would be turning in his grave.
    Give up on trying to divide us.

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EXPLAINED: How can Brits visit or move to Germany post-Brexit?

Many Brits may be considering spending time in Germany or even moving for work or to study. Here's a look at the rules.

EXPLAINED: How can Brits visit or move to Germany post-Brexit?

The Brexit transition period ended on January 1st 2021, but it’s been a turbulent few years with Covid-related restrictions, which mean many people may not have travelled abroad since then. Here’s what you should know about the rules for travelling and moving to Germany post-Brexit. 

Can I visit Germany from the UK on holiday?

Absolutely. But you do have to stick to certain rules on how long you can stay in Germany (and other EU countries) without a visa.

“British citizens do not require a visa for the Schengen Member States, if the duration of their stay does not exceed 90 days within any 180-day period,” says the German Missions consular service in the UK. 

You can find a full explanation of the 90-day rule from our sister site, The Local France, HERE, along with the Schengen calculator that allows you to work out your allowance.

READ ALSO: Passport scans and €7 fees: What will change for EU travel in 2022 and 2023

Note that if you were living in Germany before January 1st 2021, different rules apply. People in this scenario should have received a residence permit – known as the Aufenthaltstitel-GB – from the German authorities, which proves their right to remain in Germany with the same rights as they had before Brexit. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: How can I re-enter Germany without my post-Brexit residence card?

Can I move to Germany from the UK after the Brexit transition period?

Yes. But if you are coming to Germany to live and work, you will need to apply for the right documents, like other so-called ‘third country nationals’. All foreigners from outside the EU who want to to stay in Germany for more than three months have to get a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel). 

As we touched on above, citizens from some countries (including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Israel, New Zealand and Switzerland) are allowed entry into Germany without a visa and can apply for a residence permit while in the country. You can contact the Foreigners Office (Ausländerbehörde) in your area to find out how to get a residence permit.

You’ll need various official documents, such as a valid passport, proof of health insurance and proof that you can support yourself. You usually receive your residence permit as a sticker in your passport.

Passengers wait at Hamburg airport.

Passengers at Hamburg airport. Brits coming to Germany have more things to consider after Brexit. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Markus Scholz

Germany has a well-documented skilled worker shortage at the moment so there are work permit options to consider that may suit your circumstances. 

For the work visa for qualified professionals, for instance, your qualifications have to be either recognised in Germany or comparable to those from a German higher education facility. 

You may also be able to get an EU Blue Card. This residence permit is aimed at attracting and enabling highly qualified third-country nationals to live in the EU. 

It comes with benefits, including the right to to request and bring family members to the country, and shortcuts for applying for permanent residency. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How German citizenship differs from permanent residency

When applying for a Blue Card in Germany this year, you have to earn a minimum gross salary (before tax) of €56,400 – down from €56,800 in 2021. 

In so-called shortage occupations (Mangelberufe), where there is a high number of unfilled positions, the minimum gross salary is €43,992 – down from €44,304 in 2021.

Shortage occupations include employees in the sectors of mathematics, IT, natural sciences, engineering and medicine.

If you want to come to Germany from the UK to study then you also need to apply for a visa. For this you may need proof of acceptance to the university or higher education institution of your choice and possibly proof of your German language skills.

Check out the useful government website Make it in Germany for more detailed information, as well as the German Missions in the UK site, which has lots of info on travel after Brexit, and on visas.  

What else should I know?

The German government plans to reform the immigration system, although it’s not clear at this stage when this will happen. 

It will move to a points-based system, inspired by countries like Canada, where foreigners will have to score above a certain threshold of points to get a residence or work permit.

This scoring system will be set by the government, but it will include factors like language skills, family connections to the country, specific qualifications or work-related skills, or the amount of money in your bank account.

Keep an eye on The Local’s home page for updates on the changes to immigration laws. 

Have you moved to Germany – or are thinking about moving – after the Brexit transition period and want to share your experiences? Please get in touch by emailing [email protected]