The GRÜNDERPREIS NRW of the Ministry for the Economy and NRW.BANK gives awards for the most creative and most successful business ideas in North Rhine-Westphalia.
North Rhine-Westphalia’s biggest start-up prize is worth a total of 60,000 euros and is awarded by the Minister of Economic and Digital Affairs, Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, together with the Chairman of the NRW.BANK board, Eckhard Forst.
Below you will find further information on the 2020 prize winners.
1st place: oculavis GmbH, Aachen Martin Plutz, Dr. Markus Große Böckmann, Philipp Siebenkotten
With their start-up Oculavis from Aachen, the founders Martin Plutz, Philipp Siebenkotten and Dr. Markus Große Böckmann offer businesses Augmented Reality solutions for maintenance, repair, customer service and quality assurance processes.
How did you come up with the idea for your start-up?
Martin Plutz: I encountered what was then the relatively new technology of data glasses as a scientific employee at the Fraunhofer Institute. As a young engineer, a whole range of application possibilities came to me right away. When developing the first software prototypes, I saw that there was a great deal of interest in this technology around the industry. Once the first licences were granted for the software of the time, the decision to start a company was clear.
What did it feel like when you founded the company?
Leaving my job and taking a leap into the unknown wasn't easy. But it was also exciting because you can create a lot of things the way you want to.
What are you especially proud of?
It's great when you bring an idea to life and see it take hold and that customers are actually willing to pay for what you do.
2nd place: WMD Service GmbH, Dortmund Jume Lee, Enrico Westrup
With their Dortmund start-up WMD Haushaltshilfe, founders Jume Lee and Enrico Westrup organise help for people in difficult situations.
What motivated you to start your company?
Jume Lee: I was motivated by being pregnant, which was very challenging. I only slept two hours a day. It was really fortunate that my midwife made me aware of the legal entitlement to household help – I didn't even know that you can get help at home through health insurance. With WMD, we wanted to make sure that everybody who needs home help can have access to it.
WMD stands for “Wir machen das”, German for “we’ll do it”. What drives you?
Enrico Westrup: We get calls from people who are desperately in need. A few months later, they thank us and say they could not have made it through without us. That is incredible motivation.
What is your advice to people looking to launch their own start-up?
Jume Lee: Find a partner and divide the work according to your skills and preferences! Our business only works as well as it does because we have different core competencies.
Where do you see your business in the future?
Enrico Westrup: In the future, we want to offer our services across Germany.
3rd place: Grubenhelden GmbH, Gladbeck Matthias Bohm
Grubenhelden is the Gladbeck fashion start-up launched by Matthias Bohm. The label’s designs are a homage to the history of mining in the Ruhr area.
Why did you found your business?
Matthias Bohm: I really wanted to tell the story of where I come from. Clothing is the perfect medium for this. By incorporating a real piece of history, that being the original blue and white fabric that the miners' shirts were made of, we tell history very authentically without overdoing it.
What has been your biggest success as an entrepreneur?
In 2019, we went to New York Fashion Week, the fashion world’s biggest stage. What we really wanted to do was to pay the half million miners in the Ruhr area the respect they deserve.
What motivates you?
My great-grandfather was a miner in the days when they were still mining with picks. Without coal and steel, Germany and Europe would not be where they are now. It’s about giving something back to where I came from.
What is your advice to other entrepreneurs?
Don’t do it for the money, do it for an idea! The rest will come by itself.
GRÜNDERPREIS NRW 2020 prize-giving of 30/11/2020
Unfortunately, we could not have a live award ceremony in 2020. Instead, the prize winners were announced in our GRÜNDERPREIS NRW film.