Financing Compass


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Start Financing Compass

Here you can get an overview of possible forms of financing to support your business start-up. You can find out which forms of financing could suit you and your startup by answering the questionnaire in the financing compass.

To give you a basic overview of the various forms of financing, we have compiled the most common options for you below.

EXIST Grants

Grants are public funds that are provided to founders or companies but do not have to be repaid. The prerequisite for funding is that the start-up project is sufficiently innovative.

The EXIST programs aim to strengthen the transfer of knowledge and technology from universities and non-university research institutions to industry.

EXIST Business Start-up Grant

The EXIST Busienss Start-up Grant supports students, graduates and scientists in the pre-start-up phase with grants for living expenses and material costs. The funding requires that the start-up projects are innovative technology-oriented or knowledge-based projects with significant unique selling points and good prospects of economic success.

The following partner offers this form of financing:

EXIST Transfer of Research

The program EXIST Transfer of Research supports particularly ambitious and research-based start-up projects that involve complex and risky development work to prove the technical feasibility of the product idea.

The following partner offers this form of financing:

IFB Hamburg Grants

Grants are financial resources from the public sector that are awarded to founders or companies but are not repayable. The prerequisite for support from the Hamburg Investment and Promotion Bank (IFB Hamburg) and its subsidiary IFB Innovationsstarter GmbH is that the level of innovation of the start-up project is sufficient and the (planned) company headquarters are in Hamburg.


The InnoFounder support programme supports founders and start-up teams in the pre-start-up and start-up phase with a lump-sum personal grant with the aim of setting in motion the preparation and implementation of innovative and knowledge-based start-ups from all sectors in Hamburg. The focus is on innovative digital start-up projects. The business idea must stand out significantly from the competition, have good prospects of success and be risky due to its novelty. Companies that have already been founded must not be older than one year.

The following partner offers this form of financing:


The InnoRampUp support program is aimed at business start-ups and companies that are no more than two years old and based in Hamburg. Innovative technology-based and knowledge-based projects with a realistic chance of economic success are supported. The subsidy is intended to strengthen the local start-up scene and contribute to the development of promising companies.

The following partner offers this form of financing:

Venture Capital

Venture capital (VC) is a form of financing in which institutional investors provide startups with large sums of money, often in the millions, in return for a stake in the company. In return, the investor expects to have a say in business decisions as well as high profits from the sale of his shares (exit).

Private sector VCs

Private VC companies are professional investors who only enter into later financing rounds, but with larger equity capital. As the capital is not repayable, the VC bears a considerable risk and in return expects significant profit sharing as well as control and information rights from the start-up. VCs are primarily interested in companies that target a huge market with a scalable business model and thus promise above-average growth.

High Tech Gründerfonds

High Tech Gründerfonds (High Tech Start-up Funds) is Europe’s most active seed investor. In addition to funds from the BMWi and KfW, the HTGF has 34 industrial investors. It invests in innovative companies in the fields of hardware, software and life sciences with a strong technological focus that require capital for sophisticated research and development projects and are less than three years old. In the first financing round, the HTGF invests up to one million euros directly in the companies’ equity.

The following partner offers this form of financing:

Innovationsstarter Fonds Hamburg

The Innovation Starter Fund Hamburg invests in startups with venture capital in order to accelerate the growth of companies and sustainably improve the innovation and future viability of Hamburg as a location. The Innovation Starter Fund focuses on innovative ideas without focusing on specific sectors. A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) should be available and initial market feedback is desirable.

The following partner offers this form of financing:

Bank and promotional loans

Loans are sums of money provided by the bank, which must be repaid through regular interest and principal repayments. Since the bank concentrates here on the pure financing, no accompanying advisory and Coaching achievements can be expected for the foundresses and founders. Conversely, the bank does not have a say in the management of the company. A robust business plan is expected for the approval of a loan, and collateral such as real estate or guarantees is also expected for larger loan sums. There are different promotion credits particularly for existence foundresses and existence founders (e.g. Hamburg credit establishment and follow-up as well as KfW ERP founder credit – start money), these cannot be requested directly with the lender, but over a financing partner like e.g. the house bank. With promotional loans, lower interest rates are possible than with a normal loan. The IFB Business Advisory Centre provides comprehensive advice on the support programmes for founders of KfW and IFB, even before contacting the house bank.


Crowdfunding is a form of swarm financing in which a large number of Internet users (the “crowd”) pre-finance a planned project together with small amounts. The original focus of this form of financing was in the artistic or creative field. In the meantime, crowdfunding is increasingly used for the development of new products and for marketing purposes. In crowdfunding, supporters generally only receive a non-financial reward as a thank-you, e.g. free products or premium memberships.


Crowd investing is a swarm financing with equity capital for early-stage start-ups. A swarm of private investors invests small amounts together in a project via a digital platform. In return, the “crowd” participates financially in the success of the project. Many crowd investing platforms require an already established corporation to start a campaign.

Business Angels

Business angels are private investors who invest their own capital in start-ups and receive company shares in return. Since they are often successful entrepreneurs themselves, they also support the startup in the critical initial phase with a great deal of know-how and network. Often, business angels are the first investors and step in ahead of institutional VC companies.


The word mezzanine is derived from the Italian mezzo (half) and refers to a mixture of equity and debt capital. In accounting terms, money is equity and thus improves the company’s creditworthiness, but without giving the investor a say. Mezzanine capital is correspondingly expensive: investors such as banks, private equity firms or crowd investors demand a high profit share and the money must be repaid.