By Sam Waltz
The founder of a Berlin, Germany, company that started in the 1990s as a commercial real estate player and evolved to be a leading German business incubator and accelerator has landed in Wilmington this summer with similar aspirations for a First State entrepreneurial leadership role in the United States.
Udo Schloemer last week told a group of Delaware business leaders that he’d started his enterprise in 1992, watching it evolve as a catalyst for early-stage development of German businesses, and subsequently as a home for larger businesses that were seeking a business home for development of German and EU markets. He sold it in 2006, and more recently in 2011 started the new company, Factory Berlin.
Schloemer has brought Factory Berlin to the Mill, on the fourth floor in the Nemours Building, a DuPont Co. legacy office building at 10th & Orange streets downtown, where Nemours today is owned by Buccini Polin Group.
“Factory Berlin has chosen Delaware as its first location in the U.S.,” said a spokesman for Gov. Jack Markell. “From its U.S. base of operations here they will nurture local entrepreneurs and help launch promising German startups into the U.S. market.’’
In addition to Schloemer, who said he next expects to return to Wilmington near year-end for a German-American business event, also involved are Niclas Rohrwacher, who will manage the effort from Germany, and Nicole “Nicky” Pascual, a native Filipino hired by Schloemer and Rohrwacher to be their first U.S. employee.
The pioneering development results from a Markell administration team led by Andrea Tinianow, director of Global Delaware in the Department of State, and assisted by consultant Michael Marquardt, a native German who has long lived in Delaware from time-to-time. Tinianow and Marquardt had courted Factory Berlin for Delaware, supporting it with a visit last September by the governor to Schloemer in Berlin, and return visits by the Factory Berlin team to Delaware.
“Think of Factory Berlin as a next generation business club for startups,” said Rohrwacher. “This bring both passions together, the real estate side and the startups, and it allows us to give a face to the politicians and the corporate world of emerging new technologies.”
Rohrwacher said in Berlin, the company is based in a 180,000-square-foot building built where the Berlin Wall once divided the city and the country. Today, “it’s become the largest startup campus in Germany, with 150 startups. Berlin startups will be the largest employer in Berlin in the next 2 years.”
Bigger corporations take space in the Factory, and the start-ups pay a “club membership fee” of about 50 Euros monthly to join, a bit more than U.S. $50.
Schloemer gave no timeline for a physical footprint for the Factory beyond its Mill tenancy with Pascual, but he painted a vision certain to excite Delaware business and civic leaders.
“Delaware’s location is great, we make a trend here, not follow a trend, like to San Francisco or Silicon Valley,” said Schloemer. “Delaware is the best leader, it has the best law structure to bring our German startups to Delaware. It gives us the quality of partnerships where we can do business.”
Schloemer talked about “matching people,” about bringing together start-ups and corporate interests.