Stories

© Rhein-Neckar

When courageous people with exciting ideas and clever concepts encounter good breeding ground, when they discuss, network with one another, cooperate with existing companies and work together across industries,

then not only the start-up and start-up scene moves, then an entire region grows.
Stories from founders from and for the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region.

2020

SUSTAINABILITY | Maximilian and Konstantin Wilk, AQON Pure, Bensheim

THE INNOVATION WITHOUT SALT

Sales growth in the 3-digit% range. AQON Pure has exceeded our expectations from year to year since 2017. From month to month we are equipping more and more single-family and multi-family houses with our sustainable water treatment technology. Within 3 years we have been able to build up a network of over 160 installation companies across Germany, who can professionally install AQON Pure for our customers on request.

The product: AQON Pure is the innovation without salt. AQON Pure is an environmentally friendly limescale protection system that protects the drinking water installation and its downstream components in buildings from the consequences of high water hardness (limescale). The special thing about AQON Pure is that limescale deposits are reduced without changing the water quality of the local supplier. The valuable minerals calcium and magnesium are retained in the water - the sodium value remains unchanged. AQON Pure does not need any electricity, does not produce wastewater. With a service life of up to 20 years, AQON Pure is particularly durable. All of our customers also have the option of using our installation service at a fixed price.

The motivation: For many years, one of the most common technologies for treating hard water in Germany has been the so-called ion exchanger. During the so-called ion exchange, the minerals calcium and magnesium are removed from the drinking water and sodium is released into the drinking water. A single-family house in a region with hard water uses up to 100 kg of salt per year. In particular, the chloride in the wastewater of a water softener can pollute the environment.
In addition to the ion exchange systems, there are other anti-limescale systems, in which certain anti-calcium granulates or active units have to be renewed on a regular basis. This creates waste.
From the beginning our motivation was to offer a more environmentally friendly product.

The idea: AQON Pure is a limescale protection system that works according to the so-called principle of seed crystal formation. This means that the minerals calcium and magnesium (lime) remain in the water. Microscopic lime crystals are formed in the water, which serve as an attachment point for the rest of the lime in the water. This effectively reduces limescale deposits in the drinking water installation. The seed crystals formed in the water are simply flushed out each time water is withdrawn. The advantage of AQON Pure is that no salt or other consumables are required in this process. The drinking water quality remains as it comes from the local supplier.
The challenge: In addition to the sustainable functionality of AQON Pure, our installation service at a fixed price stands for a very special innovation in the SHK (sanitary, heating and air conditioning) industry. While many other manufacturers work using a multi-level sales model, our customers have the option of booking the installation directly through us at a fixed price. All we need for this is a photo of the water connection and the subsequent pipe run on site. A separate journey by a specialist company to assess the installation environment is not required. Due to our strong growth, it was a challenge at the beginning of our work to build up a high-performance and extensive network of partner companies. In particular, the shortage of skilled workers in the HVAC industry sometimes does not allow installation companies to accept new customers. However, thanks to our efficient way of working, communication and processing, we were able to convince more and more installation companies of our business model. In the meantime, our network has grown to over 160 partner companies.

The current status: Despite Corona, 2020 was a very successful business year for AQON Pure. Thanks to the digitization of our sales process through our website and our efficient processing through our installation service, unlimited delivery and processing - under the hygiene regulations to be observed - was possible. AQON Pure has been nominated for the German Sustainability Award Design 2020 since May 2021. As a result, AQON Pure is increasingly establishing itself as a specialist in environmentally friendly water treatment. Since the start of AQON Pure, we have been able to install 4-digit quantities of AQON Pure for our customers. In addition to sales to end customers, we were also able to significantly increase sales by specialist companies (sanitary companies) in 2020.

Personal advice to founders: A detailed market analysis should be carried out at the beginning of every start-up. On the one hand, the saying “cobbler stick to your last” applies very well. If you want to enter an industry with a new solution, you have an enormous advantage if you know what makes it “tick”. Regardless of whether it is knowledge of relevant actors such as competitors or trading partners, knowledge of customer requirements or legal requirements. If I know many specifics of an industry from the start, perhaps even more than other market participants, then I have an important advantage. This enables you to react quickly, adapt your product or solution and ultimately grow. If I do not have this knowledge, it may be that you have to familiarize yourself with certain topics for many months. That not only costs time, but also money. Both resources that a start-up normally only has limited available. Anyone who has been dealing with an industry or technology for many years has a kind of expert knowledge. That always makes a start-up authentic. The knowledge from the family company about the water treatment technology industry helped us tremendously.

DIGITAL SHOPPING | Marko Jeftic, managing director of Ciconia Software GmbH and developer of the Marktfee.app

DIGITAL MARKETPLACE FOR FOOD FROM REGIONAL VENDORS

The product: Marktfee.app is a digital marketplace for groceries from regional suppliers.

The motivation: The market is dominated by larger supermarket chains. It is difficult for regional retailers to counter this. Especially in times of Corona, our locals need special support. Purchasing imported products is also particularly harmful to the environment: the long transport routes produce an enormous amount of CO2. It is therefore our goal to promote purchasing from regional retailers by making them visible and accessible to everyone.

The idea: With the Marktfee.app, customers can easily order, pick up or even have their groceries delivered to their homes via the app. Online payment therefore makes contactless shopping possible.
Orders for neighbors and acquaintances can also be taken with you - regular neighborhood help is particularly important in the current situation.

The challenge: We are often faced with the challenge that providers have often not yet come into sufficient contact with digitization. This is why our technology is designed to be as simple as possible: Suppliers only have to register, upload their products and then place orders via the app. Our team is of course always ready to support the regional dealers with any questions.

The current status: In 2020 we were already able to achieve great success. In just a few months, we added and digitized over 100 providers in our app. Our top provider has already achieved sales of over € 20.000 through the Marktfee.app. With over 2300 home deliveries and around 4500 regular users, we have successfully networked customers and regional providers. But we don't stop. We want to digitize more and more regional dealers and make regionality tangible. There are many new projects on our plan, such as a cooperation with the Mannheim weekly market, which will soon be available in our app.

Personal advice to founders: The most important thing is to have a great team that believes in the idea and shares the vision. No matter how different everyone is - each team member should bring unique skills that complement each other perfectly. The right support is also essential: you should surround yourself with mentors and investors early enough, who will help move the business forward with valuable feedback and experience.

FASHION | Viola Weller, founder of VLACE, Ludwigshafen

THE WORLDWIDE REVOLUTION IN SHOELACES STARTS WITH VLACE

Our founder is currently in the last semester of her master’s degree and is working on VLACE at the same time.

VLACE has been online for two months now and we have already been able to sell 600 pieces online and in selected boutiques. At the moment we are working on the next collection and are eagerly awaiting our next order, which will include new colors. We are currently working on becoming known throughout Germany and being able to sell VLACE in more boutiques.
The product: VLACE are satin shoelaces that consist of 8 different colors. They are 2,2 cm wide and 140 cm long. There is a gold brass head at each end. The head is engraved with the VLACE logo. VLACE are always sent in a black gift box. The gift box has the gold logo and a black bow.

The motivation: The global revolution in shoelaces begins with VLACE. Our goal is to change the image of the boring but necessary shoelace. Shoelaces no longer only serve one purpose, but are selected pieces of jewelry that should be chosen carefully and worn with confidence.

The idea: One early evening in December, I was walking through Central Park in NYC. Hundreds of white sneakers passed me that evening. They differed in the most minimal of details and I noticed that they all wore the same drab cotton laces - boring. Its wearers tried so hard for individuality and forgot a small, but not to be overlooked detail. The idea of ​​VLACE was born - on a cool December evening in New York.

The challenge: The biggest challenge at the moment is the corona pandemic. VLACE is mostly represented online, but the exchange with other founders is of immense importance. In addition, it is more difficult to position VLACE in retail, as many shops are difficult and the owners do not want to dare to try something new.

The current status: At the moment I (Viola) work mostly on my own on VLACE, but my family and friends are always at my side with good advice. I have now teamed up with other great founders and we help each other with videos, pictures or the design of the web shop. I'm currently working on promotions for the run-up to Christmas. In addition, new colors of the satin shoelaces are on the way, which I am very excited about. I'm currently also working on the next collection, which will also be exciting for men. In addition, I deal with the nationwide brand awareness of VLACE, I contact magazines, radio stations or deal with Facebook ads.

Personal advice to founders: I learned a lot during my time at VLACE, the most important thing is the exchange with other founders, as well as with friends and family. However, with all the advice and tips, you should finally listen to your own gut feeling. The exchange not only gives you fresh input, but also has fun sharing your own project with lots of other creative and exciting people. In addition, you shouldn't deal with a complicated business plan or long-term planning forever at the beginning - learning by doing. Stand 100% behind your idea. Just put the idea into reality which you really stand behind and which you are passionate about. 

2019

HEALTH | Alexa Nießen, Practice for Physiotherapy, Mannheim.

The location, infrastructure and the atmosphere in the spacious rooms as well as the basics for a cash register approval in S6, 20 were convincing right away - as was the great support from her parents and partner: In July 2019, Munich-based Alexa Nießen opened up after her apprenticeship as a state-certified Physiotherapist at the University Medical Center Mannheim (UMM), a bachelor's degree for medical professions at the DIPLOMA University in Heilbronn and around seven years of professional experience, her own practice for self-payers and private patients.

Room for individual therapy - Alexa Nießen opened her practice for physiotherapy in July 2019.

The services
Manual therapy. Massage. Manual lymph drainage. Fascia Therapy. Craniomandibular Dysfunction (CMD). Heat treatment. Cryotherapy.

The motivation
Physiotherapy is diverse - and exciting. “Actually, I just wanted to bridge the waiting time for a medical degree, but I was so enthusiastic about the training and especially the work with patients that medical studies quickly faded into the background. But I also knew that there were many things that can be done better in treatment: In particular, I wanted to be able to take time for the needs of my patients. The health of my patients is more of a passion than a job, and so I decided to open a practice for privately insured and self-payers as a first step. "

The challenge
A professional appearance, the development of a network, tax consultants, accounting, facilities, technical equipment - building a practice from scratch and getting it to run purely with self-payers and private patients, that was a challenge. Above-average treatment times, quick appointments, methods and applications that are based on the latest science and holistic treatment - can this be done alone, and can it be done economically? These were the questions that the state-approved physiotherapist asked herself again and again.

The current status
“I always worked a lot, but until I set up my practice I didn't even know how long and how strenuous such a day can be. But it's going incredibly well and I'm already playing, 1 - 1,5 years earlier than I thought, with the idea of ​​hiring a physiotherapist. I am very fortunate that I was able to start all of this with a loan from my family. But that in particular is also a great obligation. Gradually, I want to expand my practice and develop more devices. In the long term, I would very much like to open or take over a second practice as a cash practice. Because I am also firmly convinced that a lot of the treatment can be improved 'on prescription'. "

“Do, just do, yourself and all the time. You need courage, a convincing plan and a lot of passion as well as partners and an environment who understand ”, the likeable 30-year-old calls out to people who want to start their own business. "I would definitely do it again, it was the right decision," said Alexa Nießen on the exhibition stage at the 20th Rhein-Neckar Business Day in Speyer.

TECHNOLOGY | DR! FT Racer, Sturmkind GmbH, Speyer.

RAPID INVENTION WITH A NEW COOL IDEA

Martin Müller, inventor of the DR! FT Racer, founder of Sturmkind GmbH, Speyer.

Over 30.000 have already been sold, more than 100.000 racing and gaming enthusiasts are following him and his invention via social media and the crowdfunding goal of his current Kickstarter campaign "DR! FT - next level" was reached within 20 minutes: Martin Müller is the successful founder and managing director of Sturmkind GmbH in Speyer and visionary inventor of the DR! FT-Racer - awarded the German Developer Prize in the Innovation category in 2018.

Das Product
With the DR! FT Racers, the true-to-original driving characteristics and the sound of racing cars are perfectly simulated with the latest computer technology. The small vehicles on a scale of 1:43 are controlled completely via the smartphone and the DR! FT app.

The motivation
"The fact that the cars on my Carrera track looked like racing cars, but neither sounded nor moved anywhere near that, bothered me even as a child," says the 43-year-old product developer. Martin Müller has had the vision of driving exciting races in the living room, races in which overtaking maneuvers, many drivers at the same time and being independent of the track, since 2003. With the deep conviction that emotions can only arise if a model doesn't just look like that like in reality, but also sounds like it and moves like it does in reality.

The idea
Just like the technologies available, the idea of ​​combining the world of virtual racing simulations and real racing cars continued to mature. Thanks to the further development of smartphone technology, the go-ahead for DR! FT was given in 2014. Martin Müller gives up his own design office and devotes himself exclusively to his invention, in 2015 he held the first prototype and thus a new genre of gaming in his hands.

The challenge
The search for investors turned out to be difficult, Martin Müller and his wife, who now runs the company together with him, opted for a crowdfunding campaign: the first teaser will be published on Facebook at the end of September 2016; after an eight-week kickstart campaign, in December 2016 they had well over 1.300 people secured their DR! FT-Racer in advance - € 260.000 come together on Kickstarter and Crowdpilot. 14 years after the first vision, DR! FT was finally able to become a reality. Almost a year later, the first DR! FT Racers were delivered.

The current status
A 15-strong Sturmkind team that is working with great enthusiasm on the next generation of the DR! FT Racer. In total, more than 50 people from all over Germany are already involved in the DR! FT project. “Handmade in Germany” - the demands on the sustainability of the DR! FT-Racer are high and refer not only to the materials used, but also to a very good repair service and numerous options for upgrading. The first models of "DR! FT - next level" will be delivered shortly: With this evolutionary stage, the team around Martin Müller is bringing vehicles with prototypical bodies onto the market for the first time - again via a crowdfunding campaign. The next challenge is then to produce enough of the new racers to be prepared for the upcoming Christmas business. "We are still at the very beginning with this new type of gaming," says Martin Müller, who is now looking for further investors to implement new ideas and expand global sales more quickly.

“A new business idea always has to be critically questioned - is it really viable, am I 150 percent behind it? If these questions can be answered positively, then you have to go full throttle and don't look back ”, advises the trained toolmaker and product developer - not without the excellent support from the investment and structural bank Rhineland-Palatinate, the United VR Bank Kur- und Rheinpfalz eG and the economic development of the city of Speyer.

Martin Müller and his wife Stephanie gave the keynote as part of the start impulse for the 20th Rhein-Neckar Business Start-Up Day on November 23.11.2019, 10 on the exhibition stage in Hangar XNUMX of the Technik Museum Speyer.

2018

SECURITY | Harald Gerhard, Gerhard Trade & Consulting GmbH, Bensheim.

Really clever: flashing for safety

“You have convinced me - I will koofe two!” Harald Gerhard will never forget this key experience at the first trade fair presentation at Velo Berlin: the idea and development of his indicator glove worked. The 72-year-old industrial engineer, known nationwide through his appearance in the VOX show “Die Höhle des Löwen”, founded his company in Bensheim in 2016 in order to develop a marketable product from his idea.

The motivation for founding:
A near-accident showed me how dangerous cycling in the dark is. I knew you had to do more in the area of ​​safety and that's how I came up with the idea of ​​the indicator glove.

The idea:
The indicator glove is a cycling glove with light emitting diodes to indicate the direction. The special feature is the combination of electronics and textiles in the outdoor area in summer, winter and transition gloves. The blinker is shockproof and water-repellent. Cyclists are therefore safer on the road.

The performance:
Development, production and sales of the indicator glove.

The current status:
The indicator glove is sold for department stores and discounters by DS Produkte GmbH, the sales network is also completed for the retail trade, including custom-made products for vintage motorcyclists and carriage drivers.

"Of course there are problems and unfortunately everything doesn't always run like clockwork - but giving it up is out of the question!" Says Harald Gerhard and advises: "If you believe in your business idea, you have to give it your all."
Harald Gerhard impressed on the stage of the 19th Rhein-Neckar Business Start-Up Day in the DAS WORMSER conference center under “Ideas with perspective”.

www.blinkerhandschuh.de

COSMETICS | Jennifer Lapidakis, STRONG GmbH, Mannehim

Shine all day long thanks to STRONG

“The Mannheim location has always been very important to me. If I had any concerns, I could always contact Start up Mannheim GmbH and received support. I joined my father's company in 2006 and was able to learn a lot as an entrepreneur, "says Jennifer Lapidakis, who started her own business in 2015 with the first wipe, water and sweat-proof sports cosmetics brand STRONG fitness cosmetics and STRONG GmbH. “It wasn't always easy, but with a lot of trust and a good team, we have already achieved some successes. Despite the hard road, I am an entrepreneur with heart and soul. "

The motivation for founding: I have been doing crossfit intensively for a number of years. One day after training a good friend said to me just for fun: “Hey Jenny, why are you doing sports with your make-up? Your make-up is totally smeared. ”But since many women mostly go straight from work to sport, there is no time to remove make-up and that's why I decided without further ado to bring suitable products on the market that meet the needs of more active athletes Women are suitable and also keep them during training.

The idea: We love sport and want to look good doing it - simply because it makes us feel even more comfortable. We want to pass this feeling on and with our products offer women the opportunity to look great even during sweaty workouts. The STRONG SWEAT TECH cosmetic line was developed by strong women for strong women. The strong fitness cosmetics line of cosmetics has been specially developed for the needs of active women.

The performance: Long-lasting make-up that ensures a perfect and natural sport look even when in contact with sweat and water.

The current status: In addition to our basic package (make-up (light or dark), mascara, eyeliner), we have expanded our product portfolio to include nine lip gloss colors (5 matt and 4 gloss colors). Our goal is very clear: to become the most successful German sports cosmetics brand.

ProsiebenSat.1 Accelerator has been on board as an investor since mid-2018 - with a media volume of 1,3 million euros in TV, online, social media, video and digital out-of-home. We will also start sales in stationary retail in the first quarter of 2019.
"Keep going. If you believe in something, don't let yourself get down and keep going until you are successful. Because it will come!" is the advice of the charismatic entrepreneur of STRONG GmbH.

www.strong-fitness.de

INSURANCE | Dieter Lendle, goNetto GmbH, Bensheim

No more hidden commissions!

“In Germany, consumers pay 14,5 billion euros in commissions for their insurance every year. That's why the idea of ​​starting with commission-free net tariffs immediately electrified me, ”says Dieter Lendle. The 57-year-old is the founder and managing director of goNetto GmbH from Bensheim.

The motivation: We are concerned with the separation of insurance and consulting services. Customers should no longer automatically pay for advice that in many cases they do not even take advantage of.

The idea: The financial services market and especially the insurance market are facing a major change. Digitization will be the dominant topic in the insurance sector. Comfortable online platforms can serve and support customers anytime, anywhere. The gonetto business model was developed based on this megatrend.

The performance: With gonetto, for the first time, customers have the option of only paying for the actual insurance cover and saving the hidden commissions that make up a high proportion of the insurance tariff. With a flat rate of one euro per month and insurance, gonetto eliminates the conflict of interest inherent in conventional commission models. It is also unique that the customer can permanently reduce his insurance premiums for the first time and that without having to terminate or change the insurance contract. This is how gonetto democratizes insurance and makes it really interesting for everyone.

A challenge: Incomprehensibly, the BaFin has backed the interests of the commission lobby with an interpretation of the legal text on the so-called commission tax ban. We have to fight for the business idea of ​​gonetto for the German consumer.

The current status: After one financial year, we have already won almost 3.000 contracts from customers. However, the dispute with BaFin set us back a few months. In parallel to the legal dispute that we are conducting with the authorities, we are continuing to develop our business model. Next, we'll get into the commercial insurance business. We are at an advanced stage with investors.

"If you want to initiate a fundamental change, you encounter resistance and you need a lot of patience", Dieter Lendle has prepared for a longer fight for the gonetto business model. For this fight Lendle, who has a degree in business administration at the University of Mannheim, wants to use his long professional experience in banking and stock exchange business.
Dieter Lendle reported live in a short interview on the stage of the 19th Rhein-Neckar Business Start-Up Day in the DAS WORMSER conference center.

www.gonetto.de