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The 10 Biggest Startup Exits in Germany

Forms of investments and strategies

Success stories from Germany's startup scene

5 minute read


The sale of a startup – also called exit – always means payday for its investors. The earlier they invested in the startup, the higher their return. An exit is the point where an investor leaves the company. This occurs when he sells his shares in the startup to another investor or a company. Here are the 10 biggest startup exits of the German founding scene.


Scout24 was founded by Joachim Schoss in 1998, at which point he had already gathered many valuable experiences in entrepreneurship. He was already a participant in the German founding scene as a co-founder of TellSell Consulting GmbH and of the call center Telcare. His big catch, however, was the founding of ImmobilienScout24 and the Scout24 group later on. The Berlin-based startup runs marketplaces for varying topics like real estate, finances, cars, and jobs. In early 2004, the Deutsche Telecom purchased shares of the Scout24 group, which include AutoScout24, JobScout24, and ImmobilienScout24. Equivalent value: EUR 180 million.


The startup Quandoo was founded by former Groupon managers in Berlin in 2012. It’s a booking platform for restaurant visits, which quickly established itself as the market leader for online reservations in 6 European countries. Already in 2014, Quandoo achieved earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of EUR 9.6 million. The Japanese company Recruit Holdings initially bought into Quandoo with 7% of shares. Only three years after founding, Recruit Holdings took over the Berlin-based startup entirely. Sale price: EUR 198.6 million.


The startup Dress-for-less started as an online outlet for designer fashion in 1999. The company was co-founded by Holger Hengstler, who had gathered initial experience in the field of entrepreneurship and e-commerce at Digital Media Center (DMC), before creating the business model for Dress-for-less, which would be frequently copied by startups to come. Customers could purchase brand-name textiles and designer shoes at outlet prices. Before its takeover, the company recorded annual revenue of EUR 64 million. The Spanish shopping club Privalia took over the German e-commerce page in 2011 in order to tap into the German market. Cost: EUR 200 million.


For a long time, the Berlin-based startup 6Wunderkinder was considered a promising provider of software-as-a-service (SaaS) and as a model example of digital entrepreneurship. The startup around CEO Christian Reber was founded in 2010 and developed a to-do list in form of an app called Wunderlist. At one point, the free management tool had 13 million users. The US software giant Microsoft officially took over 6Wunderkinder in June 2015 and integrated the Wunderlist in its Office packages. Estimated price: Up to EUR 200 million.


Andrew Goodwin and Nikolaus Starzacher founded this consumer portal in 1998. The startup’s initial focus was the comparison of telecommunication offers and expanded its range to include electricity and gas prices, where it rose to the leading comparison providers. By now, customers can also compare cell phone contracts, credit offers, and car insurances on the platform. Before its takeover, Verifox reached earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of around EUR 21 million. The media group ProSieben Sat.1 acquired around 80% of the Verifox shares in June 2016. Takeover price: EUR 210 million.


The fitness startup runtastic launched in 2009. Runtastic developed a tracking app for joggers, bikers, and other fitness fans. The app can measure distances, altitude in meters, calorie consumption, and more. In summer of 2015, the startup was already able to list 140 million downloads and 70 million registered users. The German sporting goods manufacturer adidas purchased all shares from majority share owner Axel Springer (50.1%) as well as from the founders and co-shareholders. Total worth: EUR 220 million.


The Hamburg-based startup BigPoint was founded by Heiko Hubertz in 2002 and made its name as a game developer. The startup developed browser-based online games like “DarkOrbit,” “Farmerama,” and “Battlestar Galactica Online.” The Samwer brothers invested in the company early on. By 2011, 190 million users had registered at BigPoint and that same year brought about the investors’ big payday: The two American private equity investors Summit Partners and TA Associates took over the majority (67%) of the Hamburg-based game developer. Price: EUR 350 million.


Trivago was founded in 2005 by Rolf Schrömgens, Malte Siewert, and Peter Vinnemeier, who had all completed their studies at the Business School HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, which has won several awards for entrepreneurship. The startup from Düsseldorf started as a service to compare hotels and listed more than 600,000 hotels and 140 booking sites by 2012. Trivago thus made annual revenue of EUR 100 million. Reason enough for the American rival Expedia to take over 61% of its German competitor’s shares. Sale price: EUR 477 million.


The startup was founded by former banker Carlo Kölzer in 2000, a time where the term “fintech” didn’t even exist in the founding scene yet. The platform for foreign exchange trading reached profitability four years after its founding. In the meantime, almost all DAX companies conduct their currency transactions via the first fintech startup. Since 2012, 360T has been majority owned by Summit Partners. In July 2015, Deutsche Börse dug deep into its pockets to acquire the startup. Cost: EUR 725 million.


The largest exit among German startups so far was recorded not in Berlin, but near Stuttgart. Teamviewer was founded in Göppingen in 2005. The SaaS-startup developed remote maintenance software for small and mid-sized companies to solve technical problems from a distance. According to own data, the startup recorded 130 million users from more than 100 countries. In May 2014, Teamviewer, which until then had been majority owned by GFI, sold its shares to the British private equity firm Permira. Sale price: EUR 830 million.


Did we leave out a major startup exit? Let us know in the comments below!

Status as of 02.02.2017 12:06


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André Jasch

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