German government opens startup grant program to Israeli entrepreneurs
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Berlin coworking space (CC BY 2.0 Heisenberg Media via Flickr)

Berlin coworking space (CC BY 2.0 Heisenberg Media via Flickr)

Germany’s Ministry of Economic Affairs will extend €150,000 to Israeli teams looking to set up shop in Berlin or Potsdam

The German government is offering grants of up to €150,000 euros to Israeli entrepreneurs for up to 12 months when they set up shop in Germany. It is an extension of a previous program for German innovators and is part of efforts to step up trade between Israel and Germany.

EXIST Start-up Germany will be funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and helps tech-focused companies who are seeking the EXIST Business Start-up Grant, previously available only to Germans. To be eligible, teams have to be located either in Berlin or Potsdam for at least 12 months.

The program operates much like an incubator with access to living stipends, VC networks, mentoring, office space and funding for other expenses. The big reel might be that EXIST nor BMWi takes a stake in your company. The process is also open to applicants who don’t currently reside in Germany (but will have to move there for the duration of the grant).

The program is tailored for recent graduates with a focus on technology for a range, starting from current students halfway through their studies and graduates less than five years removed from their studies. Still, teams qualify differently from individuals. Teams (of up to three people) should have at least one experienced academic who can serve as the technical adviser to the squad.

Connecting the Israeli and German ecosystems

EXIST was announced in June at Germany-Israel Innovation Day 2015, part of the two countries’ celebration of the 50th anniversary of establishing ties between Israel and (then West) Germany. It will support up to 30 startup ideas. The program also capitalizes on the large expatriate community of some 20,000 Israelis in Berlin, which includes tech entrepreneurs and artists.

Berlin has a booming startup ecosystem ranked #9 in the world by startup and business metrics reporting firm Compass. The program has major institutional support from Humboldt Universität Berlin, Freie Universität, Technische Universität Berlin, Universität der Künste and Universität Potsdam. Other partners include Tel Aviv University-affiliated StarTAU, Betatec (a project of the German-Israeli Chamber of Industry and Commerce) and support network Berlin Partner.

The original grant has been offered since 2007 but has never been open to foreigners. There is no word on its applicability to non-Israelis.

Applications for the new program are being accepted through November 22. A round of semi-finalists will be chosen for a three-day trip in February 2016 to Berlin, where they will pitch their ideas.

The program is based at the Center for Entrepreneurship of the Berlin Institute of Technology and managed out of Berlin by Project Manager Lisa Breford. It’s run out of Israel by Betatec’s Avital Goldin and Gregor Schlosser, plus StarTAU’s Elena Donets and Alon Meidan.

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