Fintech in Frankfurt

Frankfurt is the banking center for continental Europe.

Quantum computing algorithms, an opportunity for companies to “pitch” to developers about why they ought to join the staff, and a data analytics service working with Cisco on a project that promises to replace three train cars’ worth of measuring and monitoring operations with a single $500 device. What do these companies have in common? They’re all part of TechQuartier (TQ), a financial technology (“fintech”) innovation space set in the heart of Frankfurt, the hub of financial services operations for continental Europe.

I’m on a five-day journey with other journalists to explore digital potential in Germany, a trip sponsored by Germany Trade & Invest, a federal organization for promoting business and investment throughout the country. TQ is one of a dozen “digital hub” initiatives around Germany with a specific bent, based on what dominates in a given region. For Frankfurt it’s financial services; others focus on cybersecurity, logistics, AI, insurance, digital health and digital media, among other concentrations.

According to Marketing Manager, Hugo Paquin, the organization was started by two area universities, Goethe and Technische Universität Darmstadt, as well as the city of Frankfurt and WI Bank in 2016. Today, TQ has drawn 126 startups out of 350 in the metro area (27 percent of which are fintech), additional institutions of higher education and numerous corporate partners (including PWC and Visa), all there to push their own missions. As Paquin explained, “We try to be the playing ground…where businesses can emerge from.”

TQ provides co-working space to members who pay €130 a month for access to a “floating desk” among the other services provided at the facility.

Among the start-ups we were introduced to today:

  • we {code} it, a startup that has puts computer science, math and physics students to work coding. Currently, the company has 220 students employed. They start them off with a six-week coding bootcamp before they’re given coding work; from there said CEO and founder, Haikal Khair, they “gain experience on projects.”
  • Agora Innovation, a consultancy on blockchain and crypto operations. According to Co-founders Phong Dao and Evgeny Matershev, the start-up is working with two different clients, one in Tel Aviv and the other in Germany, to figure out their security token needs.
  • JoS Quantum, a four-person start-up working with financial services firms to speed up their transactions through quantum computing-based algorithms running on IBM’s recently released cloud-based Q network. How compelling is this? As Founder, Markus Braun, explained, an operation that might take a traditional IC-based CPU 300 years to complete could be done in one minute on quantum computing. If figuring out the optimal investment before the other guy does is important, then quantum computing is too.
  • Pitch Club brings start-ups before investors, charges both to participate in presentations, and claims a 40 percent success rate for start-ups to receive funding. A “Developer Edition” brings hopeful employers in front of developers to pitch them on why they should join the company as a member of the staff.
  • IDA is hardly a start-up. Besides its space in TQ, the data analytics company has operations in Marburg and Hamburg. Head of Sales, Lars Hofmann, said they locate in co-working spaces in their locations because of the opportunities presented on a daily basis; you never know whom you’re going to meet (like a bunch of media people). Here’s a photograph of the train project they’re working on. And, as he noted, having a small model of a train as a prop beats PowerPoints.
  • IMG_4683
    IDA Head of Sales, Lars Hofmann, explains the “train” project. Sensors in the front of each car can collect data on seat availability, environmental conditions, motion and other elements on each train car.

Tomorrow, it’s Leipzig, where we get a tour of SpinLab and visit e2m, the largest virtual power station in the world.