The average age of startup founders in Germany is said to be around 36. Some are logically significantly older, many substantially younger and some even start as teenagers. In this article, we present three up-and-coming Hamburg startups founded by school pupils.
MyTaag digitises business cards
In the age of general digitalisation, printed business cards are actually an anachronism. They quickly become outdated, are never at hand when you need them and sooner or later end up in the trash. Berkay Cankiran and Davis Zöllner have also recognised this problem. When they met at an event on the topic of entrepreneurship, both were still in school. But doing business had long appealed to them, so in early 2020 they founded MyTaag to digitise the business card. With MyTaag, contact data is exchanged via smartphone. It utilises NFC technology, which is also used for contactless credit card payments, for example.
This has a number of advantages: it saves paper, the digital business card is available at any time via the smartphone, and if there is a change of address or phone number, all it takes is an update where previously it was necessary to reprint. Berkay and Davis have already convinced several well-known customers of their idea, including Hamburger Sparkasse and Starcar, and major investor Carsten Maschmeyer. As part of the TV show "Die Höhle der Löwen" (German version of “Shark Tank”), he concluded a deal with the startup, which noticeably accelerated growth. By now, the team consists of eight people, and the trend is still rising. Schoolboys have become real entrepreneurs, and they have also successfully completed their high school diploma in the meantime.
OAK25 makes backpacks shine
The path for OAK25 was somewhat less straightforward than for MYTaag. Its founders Jacob Leffers and Emil Woermann were just 16 respectively 15 years old when they published a book entitled "Secret Book for Digital Boys". This was followed by the founding of the fashion label Chapter One and finally of OAK25. The idea here: a reflective backpack that gives schoolchildren in particular more visibility in the dark. Public interest was high from the start, with several daily newspapers reporting and a crowdfunding campaign raising around 20,000 euros in 2019. When Tarek Müller, founder of ABOUT YOU, among others, invested in OAK25 at the end of 2020, the startup's future seemed secure.
The setback followed with the Corona crisis and the associated economic upheavals. Due to delivery problems, ordered goods arrived too late for the 2021 Christmas season, and overall rising costs brought the young company to the brink of insolvency. In February 2022, it therefore launched a distress sale with discounts of up to 50%. These were hard times for Jacob and Emil, but they weathered them well. In the meantime, OAK25 is back on track for growth, gained its 100th brick-and-mortar retail partner in July and now has a nationwide presence.
Coffeecycle sells soap made from coffee grounds
Entrepreneurship tends not to be at the top of the curriculum in most schools. The situation is different at Eppendorf Gymnasium, which regularly sends its students to the Boston Consulting Group's business@school competition and has already won several prizes. Liam Metzen and Leonard Mücke were members of a team that won the 2021 state competition. The idea for their Coffeecycle project came to the two founders when they were working in a café in Hamburg and had to throw away large quantities of coffee grounds every evening. They thought there must be something they could do with that. And indeed, coffee grounds are suitable as an ingredient for particularly skin-friendly soap.
In August 2021, the school project became a real startup that sold its first soaps in December. Sustainability is the trump card at Coffeecycle. The founders still personally pick up the coffee grounds from cafés in Hamburg by cargo bike, and the soap producer is also from here. This does not yet apply to all of the soap's ingredients, but here, too, the goal is to use as many regional raw materials as possible. Liam and Leonard finished school this year, and now they are devoting all their energy to making their brand better known and convincing retailers of the value of their soap.