From an idea to something big
The startport venture provides support for startups at Duisburg Inner Harbour, reinforcing the Ruhr Valley as a logistics location.
A subsidiary of duisport Duisburger Hafen AG, startport is an innovation platform providing assistance and networking for startups and their ideas. The creative environment of Werhahnmühle in the Inner Harbour provides startups with up to 550 square metres of floor space – enough to work on logistical solutions. The aim is to develop young enterprises into companies with marketable products in a one-year accelerator programme. At the interview, Managing Director Peter Trapp was more than satisfied at how things have developed.
Mr. Trapp, startport has been running since March last year, and thirteen startups have joined in so far. Did the programme get off to a good start?
Trapp: We’re really happy with the first two years at startport. Our first four teams will be moving on into the alumni network in March. The second batch is currently halfway through. Last year brought us a good net result to begin with. Our programme has been setting the right course for startups, providing individual support where it matters. This has of course been motivating for our team as we continue working with our partners as well as we have done so far.
The companies you support that have set up here, what exactly do they do?
Trapp: Our startups follow a wide variety of specialisations, and their technologies can often be used in many different projects. One startup is working with duisport on a booking platform for trains running along the new Silk Road. Another is optimising load planning for transport companies and warehouses using AI support. Technologies range from drone applications to image data evaluation and platforms to ecological e-solutions for our existing infrastructure. One thing is for certain, startups challenge and augment established business models, which helps them to develop.
The invitation round for the third year ended on 28 February 2019. What types of new companies have responded?
Trapp: The field of logistics has shown major potential for enormous advances in development in the coming years as promising applications have shown. The competition is tight, and the specialisations are very diverse. We’ve seen increasing use of smart solutions for processes as well as an ever more global approach.
What does startport do for new companies?
Trapp: As a platform, we support new contacts and symbioses between the various players. We provide startups twelve months of close support from our mentors within the partner network, individual matching between projects and potential customers, access to logistical assets, individually tailored workshops free of charge, attractive jobs, and of course events for networking and acquiring potential investors. Our experience has been that this all makes for an excellent entrepreneurial community.
How much does Duisburg Harbour benefit from the startup companies?
Trapp: New enterprises that set up shop with us have an opportunity to test their solutions on this stretch and develop their solutions together with our partners. The future of logistics will be decided where corporates and startups work together most effectively. It’ll take lots of communication and motivation to get together and make things happen. We obviously have better access to innovation from our startups. Direct contacts between startups and companies make for fast network formation in setting up projects that will benefit both parties. Startups bring their innovations directly to companies at strategic and operational level.
Other startup programmes run for a few months compared to a whole year with startport. Why is that?
Trapp: We aim to promote logistics here at this location. It can take some time to get a new joint project up and running. We aim to provide startups with sustainable support. This is essential in turning ideas into something big. It still takes a while to take a good close look at a solution and find customers for new approaches. The accelerator programme not only speeds up the process, it also moves business models towards real-life implementation.
What happens to your startups once the twelve months have come to an end? Do you keep in touch? Or do you even continue providing support?
Trapp: The first year with startport is just the beginning of a relationship. We’ve set the foundations for our alumni network with the first four startup teams. We’re highly interested in keeping innovation here in the region with our partners and at the Harbour. It’s all the more satisfying when we at startport can offer solutions for startups to continue developing after the official support phase. The whole team at Heuremo – a specialist in optimising planning urban itineraries – will be renting premises with us, which has made us very proud.
What challenges will the industry, and therefore also the startups, have to meet in the future?
Trapp: The logistics industry currently has excellent order books, but labour and skills are in short supply. There are 350 companies at this location alone; this gives us a variety of ways as to how to shape logistics in the future. We’ve seen especially open-minded companies working on solutions together with the founding teams benefit from innovation. This often needs investment or people as a driving force behind new approaches in their companies. We’ll especially need to think more globally in every area of logistics – working together in harmony.