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Big shots you'll hear about in the German startup scene Written by Christine G. Coester on 2. March 2017

Getting acquainted with the German startup scene means figuring out who is who and why they matter. The Heureka compiled a list of people most commonly name dropped and their claim to fame. Thank us later.
Zalando founders: Robert Gentz, David Schneider and Rubin Ritter
Portraits vom Zalando Vorstand (Rubin Ritter, Robert Gentz & David Schneider), im Auftrag von Zalando – Corporate Communications.Robert Gentz, Rubin Ritter and David Schneider came together in 2008 to build Zalando, a fashion platform that started off selling shoes and guaranteeing free returns. The startup’s success alone was enough to ensure Gentz’, Ritter’s and Schneiders’ reputation in Germany’s startup scene. Rumour has it the three founders are not only nice, but incredibly down to earth.

Point Nine Capital partner and Venture Capitalist Lukasz Gadowski
Luasz-Gadowski-Point-Nine-Capital-HeurekaLukasz Gadowski dabbles in a bit of everything. Gadowski is not only a venture capitalit with Team Europe Ventures, partner with Point Nine Capital and Chairman of the Board at Delivery Hero. He also cofounded Spreadshirt, a successful startup out of Leipzig, in 2002. Gadowsi was also one of the original investors behind Brands4Friends, StudiVZ and Gründerszene.

Outfittery founders: Anna Alex and Julia Bösch
outfittery-heureka-germany-startups-bigshotsAnna Alex and Julia Bösch started Outfittery, a styling service that delivers personally created outfits exclusively for men, in 2012. What started in a small office in Berlin’s Mitte district grew to a company that operates in eight countries with around 250 employees. In 2015, Alex and Bösch opened a second office in Dusseldorf, Germany, after receiving another 20 million euros from investors.

Kreditech founder Sebastian Diemer
diemer sebastianThe extremely extroverted and controversial Sebastian Diemer is one of the masterminds behind one of Germany’s most well-known financial tech (FinTech) startups, Kreditech. Founded in 2012, Kreditech secured substantial funding early on and raised another 10 million euros in 2016. But Diemer has since moved on from the FinTech: He established in 2016 and has been CEO of Unicorn Asset Management, a Hamburg-based investment firm, since 2015.

StudiVZ founder Ehssan Dariani
ehssan-hrk-conference-Ehssan Dariani co-founded StudiVZ, the German equivalent of Facebook, in 2005. The startup was first bought up by Holtzbrinck Digital for €85 million in 2007 and later taken over by Vert Capital, an international investment firm, in 2012. Dariani’s most recent investment was in the Berlin-based payment startup Cookies, which despite hype had to file for bankruptcy. Dariani says he has invested more than €1 million in German startups as a business angel in the last two years.

ResearchGate CEO Ijad Madisch
Ijad Madisch 3Ijad Maddish created ResearhGate, a networking platform for scientists, in 2008. The company has approximately 12,000,000 users and received investments from big names: Bill Gates, Ashton Kutcher and PayPal’s Lukas Nosek.

The Heilemann brothers: Ferry and Fabian
Google-DailyDeal1Ferry and Fabian Heilemann founded DailyDeal, Europe’s first coupon portal in 2009, which was acquired by Google in 2011. They ended up buying it back and created a company builder, Sky & Sand, in 2013. But in 2015, the two went on to create Heinemann Ventures, a VC firm that merged with Earlybird Venture Capital in 2016.

DaWanda founder Claudia Helming
claudia_helming_dawanda_fFounded in 2006, DaWanda is a platform for selling hand-crafted items. Claudia Helming, one of the founders, saw the company expand across Europe: In 2012, the company launched in Poland, Italy and Spain. Today the site hosts more than 380,000 designers, six million products and has over 7.3 million members.

Babbel founders: Thomas Holl and Markus Witte
Thomas_Holl_babbel_bigshots_heurekaBabbel, a language learning startup, was launched by Thomas Holl and Markus Witte in 2007 and offers users 14 different languages. The company first wowed the startup world when they bought their San Francisco competitor PlaySay in 2013. Today the company has an office in New York, several hundred employees and reports having more than 1 million active subscribers.

Amorelie founders: Lea-Sophie Cramer and Sebastian Pollok
Lea-Sophie Cramer_9Lea-Sophie Cramer and her co-founder Sebastian Pollok started Amorelie, an online sex shop, in 2013. The startup managed to secure investment and media services from ProSiebenSat.1’s incubator Epic Companies in 2014, bringing a lot of attention to the risqué startup.
A year later, ProSieben bought up 75 per cent of the startup from othr investors, leaving the founders with 25 per cent of shares. Since then the startup has expanded delivery to Austria, Switzerland and France.

Lesara founder Roman Kirsch
roman-lesara-germany-heureka-bigshotsLesara is an online shop for fashion and lifestyle products that was founded in 2013 by Roman Kirsch, a serial founder. Kirsch’s previous startups include Casacanda, which he sold to at the ripe old age of 23, and HaSpu, according to his LinkedIn profile.

SoundCloud founders: Alex Ljung and Eric Wahlforss
soundcloud-bigshots-founders-heureka-germanysoundcloud-founder-germany-heureka-bigshotsThe Swedish duo started SoundCloud, an internet audio service that helps up-and-coming musicians share their music, in 2007. SoundCloud, based in Berlin, was Ljung’s third startup and Wahlforss’ first. The company is widely considered one of Germany’s most successful startups and Bloomberg has referred to SoundCloud as the “Facebook of Music.” Every minute 12 hours of audio are uploaded to the platform, according to Bloomberg’s 2015 calculations. The startup is rumored to be negotiating an exit and are allegedly seeking up to a billion dollars for the company.

N26 founders: Valentin Stalf and Maximilian Tayenthal
n26-team-valentin-stalf-pressn26-team-maximilian-tayenthal-pressValentin Stalf and Maximilian Tayenthal are the faces behind N26, another one of Germany’s big FinTechs.
Despite a few hiccups (read security vulnerabilities) along the way, Stalf and Tayenthal launched in nine more countries in 2016: Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Slovenia.

Next Media Accelerator’s Nico Lumma
Nico LummaNico Lumma is a man of many hats: the Bild columnist is also COO of the recently founded Next Media Accelerator in Hamburg.
Lumma, who has over 27,000 followers on Twitter, has also written a book that explores the intersection of social media and careers.

Atlantic Labs’ Christophe Maire
z11a_Christophe_Maire.jpgChristophe Marie is German investor, entrepreneur and serial founder, known world-wide. As an angel investor he has hand his hands on a number of companies: StudiVZ, Brands4Friends, Medigo and Mimi. His current role is as CEO of Atlantic Labs, an early stage investor.

Quandoo founder Philipp Magin
Philipp-Magin-QuandooPhilipp Magin is the founder of Quandoo, a Berlin startup that made a huge exit to Recruit Holdings, a Japanese company, for around 200 million euros in 2015. Magin has since invested in Movago, a moving startup. He is also known for founding Groupon.

Delivery Hero CEO Niklas Östberg
press-photo-niklas-oestberg-heureka-deliveryhero-bigshotsNiklas Östberg is the current CEO of Germany’s highly valued food-delivery startup Delivery Hero. Founded in 2011, the startup has around 3,000 employees and is available in 33 countries. Delivery Hero is Östberg’s second startup. The startup has been backed by several top tier investors: Insight Venture Partners, General Atlantic and Rocket Internet.

Fox & Sheep founder Verena Pausder
foxandsheep-heureka-bigshots-verena-germanyVerena Pausder is founder and CEO of Fox & Sheep, a startup that develops and publishes kid-friendly apps. The apps often channel a child’s creativity, by having them draw, write, play with music – all while learning.
Pausder started the company in 2012 after leaving her position as CEO at GoodBeans, a similar company that developed mobile games for families and kids.

Rocket Internet founder Oliver Samwer
oliver-samwer-bigshots-rocket-internet-germany-berlin-heurekaOliver Samwer is co-founder and CEO of Rocket Internet, a Berlin-based incubator known for churning out clones of successful US tech companies. Samwer, and his two brothers Marc and Alexander, made it to the top of Forbes’ billionaires list in 2015 and are often referred to as the Samwer brothers. Samwer has churned out dozens of startups over the years: ZipJet, ShopWings and Zencap.

Business angel Christian Reber
Christian-Reber-heureka-6Wunderkinder-bigshots-GermanyChristian Reber is a business angel and the former CEO of 6Wunderkinder, the company behind the popular to-do list app Wunderlist. Sequoia Capital, a California-based startup invested in the company and Microsoft purchased Wunderlist in 2015 for somewhere between 100 and 200 million USD.
Frank Thelen, a serial founder and judge on Die Höhle der Lowen, also wrote about his connection to Reber and one of Germany’s’ biggest exits.

Auto1 co-founder Hakan Koc
hakanHakan Koc is one of the founders behind Auto1 Group, a successful Berlin-based company that buys used cars from private sellers after using inventory data provided by dealerships and manufacturers to the Auto1 platform. The startup then sells the used cars to dealerships for a profit. Koc previously worked for Rocket Internet and Home24. In 2015, the startup received more than 100 million USD from investors.

Onefootball founder Lucas von Cranach
LucasvonCranachProfil1Lucas von Cranach founded Onefootball in 2008. The mobile platform that connects football fans receives up to 50,000 daily downloads and is available in 16 languages.

Photos via Visual Hunt, Twitter, Gründerszene and respective companies.