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This Month in German, Swiss, and Austrian (GSA) Startups — December 2023

New Blog

This blog post first appeared first on old medium publication (, and was moved to this blog with the relaunch of our website in summer 2024.

Welcome to our December 2023 wrap-up with vital news from the startup and tech entrepreneurship scenes in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in 30 minutes or less 🙂.

Our startup news is recorded with Chris in New York City and Joe in Frankfurt. The recording date is December 19th, 2023 and all news not included will be in our next news to be released on January 25th, 2024. Note: We will take a holiday break until January 18th, 2023, when you can expect the first publication in the new year.

Our Highlights:

Aleph Alpha’s AI models get bad press. Escooter Tier lays of one-fifth of the workforce. Solarisbank also fires employees, and so does the Austrian scale-up neoom. Sport Alliance gets 100 M US$ funding and Hugo Boss chips into a sustainable fashion fund. Trade Republic is now a fully licensed bank and Instafreight has to file for insolvency. In total, we have more than 30 M US$ new VC investments in Austria, more than 25 M US$ investments in Switzerland, and more than 400 M US$ investments in Germany, vs only three insolvencies.

Yes at the core we are very positive :-). It feels better, at least a bit.

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This recording was made possible by HTAI and the Enterprise Europe Network Hessen. These organizations have made tremendous contributions to helping startup businesses succeed and thrive, providing a range of services from helping to find grants to ongoing partnerships. By taking advantage of these resources, startup companies can network and develop innovative strategies for success on the international stage. The dedicated support of HTAI and the Enterprise Europe Network Hessen is paramount in providing startup businesses with the tools for lasting success. Look for our dedicated sub-podcast in partnership with them: Tech Startups Germany on our

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Top News

Aleph Alpha’s Models Get Bad Press

Aleph Alpha from Heidelberg promoted their models as better and non-biased than others including their ability to filter out fake news. The founder liked to talk about “european values.”

Now the Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel and the Hamburg-based Zeit discovered shocking reactions of the models in the “Playground” of Aleph Alpha e.g. praising Hitler, homophobe and anti-semitic statements. Some of what the jounarlists discovered is shocking and other content sounds like statements from a dumb teenager. Interviewed researchers concluded them to be weaknesses of the language model.

One should keep in mind that the models are not final AND many LLMs have similar weaknesses. One should be concerned about LLM if models that keep theses “problems” are claimed to be final and go into production. Everybody who worked with new software knows that it can not be perfect. This is no excuse for the statements, but since it is software it may simply be the way to a final — hopefully non racist, nazi or homophobe tool.

Zeit: an example of weaknesses of other AI models here CNN: “AI can be racist, sexist and creepy. What should we do about it?”

20% of Employees Have to Say Goodbye to the Escooter Company Tier

Scooter startup Tier lays off 22% of workforce to reach profitability | TechCrunch

Also, Solarisbank fires Employees

Solarisbank keeps firing employees reports a German blog: this time around 20 employees including three managers have been let go, shortly before Christmas

Sport Alliance Raises The Bar

Sport Alliance announces Further Growth Investment from PSG, with New Commitments Totaling $100m They write “With its product portfolio currently available across Europe, Sport Alliance enables efficient gym management and easy, digital access to sport and exercise for members in sports facilities. Over 5.2 million gym members use the app solutions provided by Sport Alliance to gain simple and digital access to sports facilities.”

Hugo Boss Joins Collateral Good in a Sustainable Fashion Fund

Collateral Good launches a HUGO BOSS-backed sustainable fashion fund with a €100M target The fund will invest in innovation and technology to accelerate the sustainable transformation of the textile and fashion industry. Collateral Good is a Zürich-based climate-first Venture Capital platform. To be clear, the whole fund volume is 100 M Euros, but Hugo Boss does not invest that much. The article does not even speculate on the size of Boss’ investment

Trade Republic Gets Full Bank License

Fintech unicorn Trade Republic from Berlin gets full bank license In the past Trade Republic was regulated as a so-called “securities trading bank.” Since Crypto has not been doing well, it can be assumed that TR seems to aim to extend its products and services in normal banking and securities trading, as well as asset management. Right now they have a lot of partnerships, which may be on the chopping block in the future.

Instafreight — A Frequent Part of Our News Has to File for Insolvency

Instafreight raised a total of 75,2 M US$ but still has to file for insolvency. Likely this is one of this year’s largest startup insolvencies The startup was founded in 2016 to get transportation space for B2B customers who only look to get one pallet transported. They raised 40 M US$ in Series B funding, announced in March 2022. According to LinkedIn, they have around 140 employees registered there. They counted amongst their investor's companies like Shell Ventures, Heliad Equity Partners, European Investment Bank, and Rocket Internet.

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  • European VC funding nearly halves in 2023, but shows resilience

  • EU negotiators strike a political deal on AI Act This topic will occupy us for some time. We will surely have a deep dive when more details are available.

  • These are the EU countries with the most successful companies — France is slightly ahead of Germany


  • SPACs? Are they still around? Turns out no. Famous entrepreneurs and investors in Germany returned the money they have raised for their SPACs to investors

  • Study: The German AI market grows by 1/3rd to 6,3 billion €, and is expected to grow by another 30% in 2024 according to Bitkom e. V.


Here we want to highlight some hidden gems and cities of general startup interest.

Frankfurt — Rhein/Main

  • Crowdfunding platform bettervest wins Germany’s Sustainability Award 2023 category finance. Congratulations!


  • Sastrify secures additional funding and acquires competitor Pengu to solidify its market position. Sastrify, a Cologne-based SaaS procurement platform, secures additional funding in the Series B round and acquires competitor Pengu.


  • Zander Laboratories from Cottbus gets a 30 M Euro research grant for the development of neurotechnology prototypes. The project is called „Neuroadaptivität für autonome Systeme“ (NAFAS)


  • neoom, the Austrian energy scaleup cuts 27 of 300+ jobs

  • Vienna-based scaleup Hydrogrid raises 8.5 M US$ venture capital for their real-time management software for hydropower

  • Hololight, an Innsbruck, Austria-based company that specializes in AR and VR solutions for the enterprise market, raised $12M in funding

  • Jentis, a Vienna, Austria-based data capture technology company, raised €11M in Series A funding.


  • Vandria, a Lausanne, Switzerland-based mitochondrial therapeutics company developing small molecule mitophagy inducers, raised $20.6M in Series A funding

  • Cacao? Yep Zurich-based Koa raised 15 M US$ in Series B funding to build up their cacao upcycling business

General News / Tech News / Companies News Section

A little note here. Since we aim to inform you about the startup world in GSA, SMEs and large enterprises are also active in the markets. Therefore we include some news of them here as well:

New Funds, in case you are looking for money:

  • Munich-based Vanagon Ventures launches €30 million fund to heavily invest in the B2B green transformation space

Fintech News

  • Do you know the Munich-based crypto custodian Tangany? They are a hidden champion and the billion Euro assets under custody are for them in reach several years ago (February 2021) we had them in our show: hashtag: be ahead of the curve :-)

  • Fina a neobroker for women gives up after only two years

General News

  • Sono Motors is rescued out of insolvency, BUT its shares are dropped from NASDQA in a final decision of the stock exchange, according to this blog post:

  • Munich-based startup Air Up has famous investors like Frank Thelen, Ashton Kutcher, and Mila Kunis, but is now confronted with accusations of Greenwashing

Schumpeters Schöpferische Zerstörung ⇒ Creative Destruction Still Ongoing:

  • Software unicorn Contentful axes 50 jobs (yep, also job cuts make it here since they can destroy a life as well).

  • ExpressSteuer the tax tech startup from Hamburg raised 25 M €, but has to file for insolvency

  • Berlin-based escooter manufacturer Unu has to file for insolvency

End on a High Note: Successful Fundraisings and Exits:

Keep in mind this is a small selection. The news here and their total value show how resilient the startup scene is. We included only selected fundraisings above 5 million Euros or USD

We will be back in the new year on January 18th and the next news will be aired on January 25th.

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The Founder was founded by Jörn “Joe” Menninger, startup scout, founder, and host of Reach out to him:

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