Who are the founders who built a multi-billion dollar business in the DACH region?
In the past two years, the DACH region has received a lot of attention.
Zone A Standard of investing, with companies ranging from grocery startup Flink to neobank N26, which have racked up some of the biggest rides in the region ever. And Gorillas became the fastest company to ever reach Germany unicorn case.
Between September 2021 and now, the DACH has produced a record number of rhinos as well. 25 companies have crossed the $1 billion mark in this period, which represents nearly 40% of unicorns to date, according to early-stage investor Antler.
But what made the founders of DACH’s unicorn so successful? What are their characteristics and backgrounds?
antler Analyze it The founding teams of DACH’s 25 new unicorns – looking at what they have in common and how they differ from the first founders of unicorns.
Here are some key points.
The share of founders with technical backgrounds increased in 2022
For unicorns that formed between 2000 and August 2021, 26% of founders had a background in IT and/or software development. That percentage has risen to 35% in the most recent group of unicorns established between September 2021 and May 2022 – let’s call this the “class of 2022.”
This change means that the proportion of founders from a typical business background (i.e. those who have studied a business degree, or have worked in consulting, corporate finance, etc.) has decreased: from 58% for the previous two decades to 42% for the 2022 chapter.
The increase in tech founders is reflected in unicorns founding teams as well.
Of the 25 newly minted rhinos, eight (32%) of the founding teams come from a common business and technology background, while only four (16%) are from technical backgrounds.
This is in contrast to the unicorns that were formed before this group, where 35% of teams had founders from only business backgrounds. Those teams are now down to 16% in the 2022 class as there are more technical teams and only fields.
Although staff only decreased in 2022, they still made most of the unicorns (18) in the DACH. Teams with a founder with a technical background and a founder with a commercial background built 17 rhinos.
The 2022 class founders had startup experience prior to establishing Unicorn
47% of new unicorn founders had startup experience as an employee or founder prior to building their billion dollar company. 42% of founders are serial entrepreneurs.
Antler data also shows that fewer 2022 unicorn founders previously worked in consulting: 18% compared to 29% for unicorns minted before September 2021.
However, experience as a consultant is still useful when setting up a company – and perhaps attract the attention of investors with branded companies on your resume – as 25% of all unicorn founders come from a consulting background looking at data at all times.
Only 10% of founders in the 2022 class and previous unicorns had no experience whatsoever before starting a unicorn, challenging the stereotype of college dropout founders.
WHU breeds most founders unicorns
The most popular universities among the founders of the class of 2022 are as follows:
- WHU: Otto Beisheim School of Management (Wallendar, Dusseldorf)
- TU Munich
- ETH Zurich
- Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
- St. Gallen (Switzerland) and the London School of Economics (tie)
Interestingly, the founders of the ETH technical university usually collaborate with each other when building companies, the report notes, as do the founders of TU Munich, also a technical university.
One of the main reasons for this is that many tech companies were started by the founders during their student years and later split – like unicorn mining operation Celonis, TUM’s flying taxi company Lilium, Traveltech GetYourGuide, Climate tech giant Climeworks from ETH.
The 2022 unicorn founders will enroll in different universities than the previous founders
For unicorns formed before September 2021, 60% of unicorn founders went to the same 10 universities in the graph. 47% attended the top five institutions.
The 2022 class of unicorn founders is attending a wider variety of educational institutions than ever before. This year 45% attended the top 10 universities listed in the graph and only 30% attended the top five universities.
The Boston Consulting Group remains the number one employer of the Unicorn founders
BCG follows Rocket Internet and McKinsey & Company as the top three employers of founders before creating a company – a measure that reflects the last two decades of unicorn founders.
Goldman Sachs became the fourth largest former employer of unicorn founders in 2022, followed by Siemens.
The percentage of unicorn founder teams with two or more founders who worked at the same company before starting a company together remained steady at 40%.
This shows that founders tend to search for their former colleagues’ network first when searching for a founder.
take a sieve
Antler’s data shows that DACH’s unicorn founders still mostly come from traditional elite backgrounds – and that the path to entrepreneurship includes attending a top-tier university and/or working for hugely successful firms in advisory or investment banking.
Does this show that attitudes toward what makes a good entrepreneur–prestigious degree and institutional experience–have not changed among the investor community? The data reminds us that there is a way to go before the region’s successful tech founders reflect the society they are building for.
Miriam Partington is the DACH reporter at Sifted. It also covers the future of work and its co-authors Startup Life newsletter from Sifted and tweets from mparts_