German Venture Capital Soars as Startups Seek Room to Grow

German venture capital financing more than doubled in the first half of the year as the country’s startups grow beyond fledgling status and a successful internet IPO opens the door to further investments.

VCs invested 2.16 billion euros ($2.45 billion) across 264 equity deals in German-based startups in the first half, according to a new report by consultant EY. That compares with 972 million euros across 248 deals in the first half of last year.

The upswing this year has been largely due to two big funding rounds. Delivery Hero took a 387 million euro investment from South Africa’s Naspers Ltd. and Berlin-based used-car platform Auto 1 Group raised 360 million euros in May from investors including Baillie Gifford & Co. and Target Global in a round that valued the company at 2.5 billion euros.

The deals helped reverse a pullback in 2016, EY said. In the second quarter of 2017 alone, deal volume was 1.4 billion euros, 2.5 times the amount a year earlier.

“Absolutely, we see it, we have an increased amount of deal flow and we see more deals,” said Joerg Binnenbruecker, a partner at Cologne-based Capnamic Ventures, which last week closed a 115 million-euro fund to invest in areas including data management, industrial internet and banking technology.

The IPO of Delivery Hero, now valued at $5 billion, could catalyze a new period of early-stage venturing, as angel investors such as the company’s co-founder Lukasz Gadowski deploy cash into new startups, investors say. Rocket Internet SE Chief Executive Officer Oliver Samwer, one of the largest backers of Delivery Hero, pointed out last month that no European tech investor has as much cash on hand as his firm.

The second-quarter rally comes after the January-to-March period got off to a strong start. First-half investment volume topped Germany’s previous high in the first half of 2015, when VCs invested 1.95 billion euros in German startups in 155 deals.

VCs are stocking up on cash to tap into new opportunities. Vitruvian Partners on June 30 announced it closed a 2.4 billion-euro fund to invest in high-growth European tech companies. Point Nine Capital in Berlin, an early backer of Delivery Hero, announced last month it closed a 75 million-euro fund.

Germany’s state-owned Kfw Development Bank plans to double its venture-capital commitment and traditional investors, long wary of venture investing after having been burned after the dot-com bust, are starting to return to the category as well. Family offices, pension funds and insurers “lost a lot of money” and are only starting to warm again to the category, said Project A Ventures partner Florian Heinemann.

Hendrik Brandis, a partner at EarlyBird Venture Capital in Munich, points out that Europe with its state-sponsored retirement plans lacks the pension funds that back venturing in the U.S. And Germany doesn’t have the large university endowments America does, either. He suggests the German government, running budget surpluses, direct more funding to commercializing technology from young companies the way it supports basic and applied research at its science institutes.

The Gastauer Family Office, which manages $2.1 billion, said July 1 it’s allocating 100 million euros to fund later-stage European fintech companies, following 50 million euros it’s already invested in early-stage companies. Vitruvian cited more family office investment than in its previous funds. And insurer AXA invested in Capnamic’s new fund.

What still ails German venturing is investors staking 10 million to 30 million euros to back growth companies, investors say.

Kfw sees an annual shortfall of 500 million to 600 million euros in startup and growth capital in Germany and said June 30 it’s creating a subsidiary to invest in VC funds next year, doubling the bank’s venture commitment to 200 million euros a year through 2020.

“Early stage, Series A, it’s fine,” Klaus Hommels, founder and CEO of Lakestar in Zurich and Berlin, said in a recent interview with Bloomberg TV. “What we could improve is the growth fund, the growth side of things.”