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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Foreigners resident in Germany ‘not covered by new EES passport rules’

The European Commission has confirmed that non-EU nationals living in Germany won't be covered by EES - the major overhaul of passport rules and systems that's due to come into force next year.

Foreigners resident in Germany 'not covered by new EES passport rules'

The EU’s new entry and exit system (EES) is due to come into effect in May 2023, followed by the new ETIAS system in November, and between them they will have a major effect on travel in and out of the EU and Schengen zone.

EES means automated passport scans at EU external borders, which will increase security and tighten up controls of the 90-day rule. 

But the system is aimed at tourists and those making short visits to Germany – not non-EU citizens who live in Germany with a visa or permanent residency card – and there had been questions around how those groups would use the new system.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What the EU’s new EES system means for travel to Germany

The European Commission has now confirmed that EES does not apply for non-EU citizens who are living in Germany, telling The Local: “Non-EU nationals holders of residence permits are not in the scope of the Entry/Exit System and ETIAS. More about exceptions can be found on the website.

“When crossing the borders, holders of EU residence permits should be able to present to the border authorities their valid travel documents and residence permits.”

What this means in practice is that foreigners living in Germany cannot use the new automated passport gates that will be introduced with EES in May 2023.

The reason for this is that the automated passport gates only give the option to show a passport – it is not possible to also show a residence permit or permanent residency card. 

The automated system also counts how long people have stayed in Germany or Schengen, and whether they have exceeded their 90-day limit for short-term or visa-free stays.

Since residents are naturally exempt from the 90-day rule, they need to avoid the 90-day ‘clock’ beginning when they enter the EU. The best way to do this is to ensure that someone sees sees your residence permit upon entry. 

According to German immigration authorities, a stamp given out in error should not have an impact on residency rights. However, if the entry checks are conducted electronically, your passport could erroneously record an overstay, which could cause headaches later on. 

READ ALSO: British residents of EU told not to worry about ‘souvenir’ passport stamps

A Commission spokesman said: “EES is an automated IT system for registering non-EU nationals travelling for a short stay, each time they cross the external borders of European countries using the system (exemptions apply, see FAQ section).

“This concerns travellers who require a short-stay visa and those who do not need a visa. Refusals of entry are also recorded in the system. Non-EU citizens residing in the EU are not in the scope of the EES and will not be subject to pre-enrollment of data in the EES via self-service systems. The use of automation remains under the responsibility of the Member States and its availability in border crossing points is not mandatory.”

According to the French Interior Ministry, residents from non-EU countries should go to a manned gate and present their passport and residency papers together, instead of using the electronic gates. 

The Local has contacted the German Interior Ministry to confirm whether similar guidance applies in Germany.