Opinions From Startup Changemakers
German Startup Changemakers: Tobias Szarowicz

Tobias Szarowicz is an Investment Manager at Sunbo Angel Partners and a General Manager at Startups Berlin, an international startup hub that wants to empower ordinary people to harness great ideas and turn dreams into reality. Find out how Tobias entered the startup world, how he’s shaping the ecosystem in Berlin and what he thinks is the next big thing in the startup world.
A man with classes and a hat posing for a photo

1. Hi Tobias, thank you for agreeing to do the interview. Could you tell us a bit about your background and how you entered the startup world?

As a lawyer, it is not exactly usual to plunge into entrepreneurial adventures. Well, it was a little different for me. Directly after my studies, I helped build up the German Startups Association. Back then it was a pretty crazy idea to found a lobbyist for startups, but today the association and its strong membership is a major driver of the entire startup and innovation ecosystem in Germany. After having spent a lot of time with founders and investors, I almost inevitably started my own startups, for example, YOBO – a machine vision classifier, with which locations could be linked to the emotions of the users via emojis. Afterwards, I managed one of Berlin’s first coworking spaces/startup hubs – The Place, formerly Rainmaking Loft Berlin. This resulted in the sale to a real estate company just before the pandemic lockdown.

Since then, I have been active as an Investment Manager at Sunbo Angel Partners and I am happy to be able to support startups financially.

2. You’re Investment Manager at Sunbo Angel Partners. Tell us about your mission there!

Together with our team here in Berlin, I am continuing to expand our commitment in Europe and looking for promising DeepTech startups throughout Europe. In Germany, we are currently looking at research-intensive verticals such as Smart Manufacturing, Health/Bio and Electric/Autonomous Mobility with particular interest. We invest approx. 100k€ to 300k€ in very early phases, often as the first institutional investor, and score points with our broad access to industry and Asian markets.

Sunbo Angel Partners was established in South Korea based on the need to solve the challenges of industry-startup co-innovation in order to initiate new business models. Our core value lies in our corporate alliance network with 120+ industry players. We also offer broad market access in Asia for our European investments. Thanks to our strong network of research institutions and our corporate alliance, we can initiate partnerships with established companies very fast.

3. What is it about the startup world that particularly attracts you and how are you shaping the ecosystem in Berlin?

In the startup world, I am particularly attracted to being at the forefront of the so-called ‘Zeitgeist’: what is founded today, what is invested in today, what is learnt today or the acquaintance you made today that will shape entire societies and markets in the future. That’s why I try to promote the ecosystem in Berlin also in my private life, be it through my own events, startup programs or new communities.

4. Could you share the top 3 lessons for founders you learned over the years in the startup world?

  1. Give first and ask for favours later. 
  2. Never forget about the people who have helped you and take care of the closest ones.
  3. Learn faster by doing. A good founder must also be able to get his hands dirty.

5. What’s the next big thing in the startup world? What do you predict for the German startup ecosystem in the near future?

I am firmly convinced that we are only at the very beginning of artificial intelligence, although development is proceeding in seven-mile steps. This is the key technology that will help us tackle the really big problems in the world: climate change, health and how we will live and work in the future. 

I am not exactly optimistic about the future of the German ecosystem, especially when I become aware of the driving force behind innovation in other parts of the world. With 11 Unicorns, 221 accelerators, and 134 innovation centres in a country as small as Korea, I honestly see the German ecosystem a little bit behind.

Thank you for your insights, Tobi. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours. 

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