Entrepreneur in AI? Come to K.I.E.Z.!
Because Artificial Intelligence is booming in Berlin.
If you have a business idea in the field of artificial intelligence and are thinking about starting a company, what would be the next step? If you’re in Berlin, it could lead you to K.I.E.Z. Three of Berlin’s universities and the prestigious Charité hospital, in cooperation with the German government, have pooled their resources into an initiative dedicated to artificial intelligence.
In November 2021, the Berlin University Alliance (BUA) inaugurated the Artificial Intelligence Entrepreneurship Center (Künstliche Intelligenz Entrepreneurship Zentrum – K.I.E.Z.). As the place to apply all the research, K.I.E.Z. comprises an incubator and an accelerator program. Among the first five startups to profit from the new center are AI sales platform Creatext, which sends hyper-personalized sales messages to potential customers, and Green Fusion, who have developed an AI-based energy management software that saves energy and resources.
K.I.E.Z. takes on young projects involving AI, whatever the business model, product offering, or stage of development. The center provides access to a great network of stakeholders and can assist in finding cooperation partners for pilot projects or even private investment or public funding such as the EXIST program.
All this happens in close coordination with ‘Science & Startups’, the consortium of founding centers of the partners, i.e. Profund Innovation at the Freie Universität Berlin, the Center for Entrepreneurship at the Technische Universität, the Humboldt Innovation startup program at the Humboldt-Universität, and BIH Innovation at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin. If you’re interested in how the tech applies to hospitals, we recently highlighted some Berlin AI startups in Digital Health.
For startups emerging as spin-offs from the partner universities the step to K.I.E.Z. is obvious. Anyone supported by a Berliner Startup-Scholarship or the EXIST support program can apply via the K.I.E.Z. website. Since the focus is on the application of the research and technology, ideas and projects handed in are judged by not only the AI inside but by market potential and scalability of the business model.
Turning Science Into Business
Head of K.I.E.Z is Dr. Tina Klüwer, who herself founded the AI startup Parlamind in 2016 to design, develop and implement automation solutions for email, chat and telephony in customer service, which was one of the four startups to merge into VIER in 2021. Before going it alone she had spent ten years as a scientist at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and at the Freie Universität. So Klüwer is more than qualified to know the needs of founders in the AI space. “The startup centers focus above all on the ‘seed phase’ that accompanies young entrepreneurs right from the first business idea to the foundation of an enterprise“, Dr Klüwer says. “However, experience has shown that support is needed beyond the founding stage to guarantee sustainable success for a science-based startup.“
As the first stage pre-founding, the incubator is open for new ideas from soon-to-be entrepreneurs. After founding, the next stage is the six month accelerator program. There are two batches a year, a spring and an autumn batch. Here a high potential startup gets the boost it needs to go to market. ‘Growth Hacks’ teaches the founders marketing, PR, sales, product development, and more. Six startups can the join each accelerator batch. The program culminates in a pitch to investors and industry players.
K.I.E.Z. is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action with nearly € 7 M over four years and co-financed by the State of Berlin. All this goes to show Berlin’s commitment to the new technology.
Just how deeply involved Berlin already is in AI is shown for example by two more of K.I.E.Z.’ close cooperation partners. One is the machine learning and big data specialist Berlin Institute for Foundations of Learning and Data (BIFOLD), national AI Competence Center and in their own right “a beacon for AI research nationwide”. The other is the AI Campus Berlin, a not-for-profit collaboration and co-working space founded by Merantix, itself a provider of AI R&D services to companies who want to outsource and which also has its own venture arm including an incubator. Dr. Klüwer says of the AI Campus, “this place offers us top modern office space directly in the center of Berlin and at the same time the opportunity to connect with the vibrant AI founder community.“
Text: Olaf Bryan Wielk, ideenmanufaktur
Header image: © Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash