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Want to build the next German unicorn? Study in these universities

There's no doubt about it – unicorns are on the rise. These startups, worth at least $1 billion, seem to be sprouting up globally. But what does it take to build a unicorn? And more importantly, what do unicorn founders have in common? 

In this article, we'll take a look at some of the top German universities that are known for producing startup unicorns. If you're thinking of starting your own company, it might be worth considering one of these universities in Germany.

What is a unicorn company and why should you want to build one?

A unicorn company is a startup that has achieved a billion-dollar valuation. It is called a unicorn because this is a rare occurrence – only a small percentage of startups achieve this level of success. According to Embroker, it's difficult to attain a unicorn status. According to their study, there is only a 0.00006% possibility of becoming a unicorn. Plus, it takes an average of seven years for startups to get a billion-dollar valuation.

So, why should you want to build one?

For starters, unicorn companies tend to offer powerful and innovative products.  They also have a strong team behind them, and they're well-funded. Plus, unicorn companies are often known for their fast growth rates. Unicorns in Germany have a total funding amount of $15.9B across 23 organizations.

What do unicorn founders have in common?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as every unicorn founder has their own unique story. However, there are some commonalities among these successful entrepreneurs.

For example, unicorn founders are typically experts in their field. They also have a strong vision for their company, and they're not afraid to take risks. They're also great at networking and building relationships with other people in their industry.

Where did the unicorn founders in Germany graduate from?

If you're thinking of starting a unicorn company in Germany, it might be worth considering one of the following universities for your higher education:

  • WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management
  • Technische Universität München
  • Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

The graduates from these top universities co-founded startups with valuations of over 1 billion dollars and they continue to play a major role in the German tech startup ecosystem.

WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management

  • Startup count: 48
  • Unicorn count: 15

About WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management: This business school has campuses in Vallendar and Düsseldorf. It was only recently founded in 1984, and it's known for its strong focus on entrepreneurship. Being the youngest university on this list, WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management has already produced more unicorn founders than any other German university. Some of the notable alumni include Christoph Cordes and Julian Dames from Flink, Germany's fastest unicorn with a valuation of 2.85 billion dollars in under a year.

Technical University of Munich

  • Startup count: 67
  • Unicorn count: 8

About Technische Universität München (TUM): This university is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Germany. It's located in Munich, and it's known for its strong engineering program. Many of the top German startups come out of Technische Universität München, including Celonis, a process mining software company that is valued at 2.5 billion dollars. Interestingly, 25% of its employees are all graduates of TUM.

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

  • Startup count: 52
  • Unicorn count: 7

About Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU): This university is also Munich-based, and it's one of the most well-known universities in Germany. It has a very strong focus on the humanities and sciences, and it's known for its excellent research programs. LMU has produced some of the biggest German startups, including TIER Mobility, Europe's leading shared micro-mobility provider.

Other German universities for successful startup founders

Universität Hamburg

The University of Hamburg has produced 9 successful startups so far. In fact, they also offer a startup service that supports founders in their plans, from idea to execution. They advise startup founders to develop their ideas, explore financing options, provide legal advice and administrative support, too.

Karlsruher Institut für Technologie

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is located in the city of Karlsruhe, and it's one of the leading research universities in Germany. It has a strong focus on engineering and natural sciences, and it's known for its excellent technology transfer programs

Universität zu Köln

The University of Cologne is located in Cologne, and it's one of the largest universities in Germany. It has a diverse range of faculties, including economics, law, medicine, and sciences. This university is also known for its excellent startup incubation programs. So if you're looking to build the next unicorn company, consider doing your master's program at the University of Cologne.

Freie Universität Berlin

The Free University of Berlin is Berlin-based, and it's one of the most well-known universities in Germany. It also topped the list of the most international university in Germany. It has a strong focus on humanities and social sciences, and it's known for its excellent research programs. It's popular for startups because graduates from this university have a very good track record when it comes to starting businesses.

These are just a few of the best universities in Germany for budding startup founders. If you're looking to make your mark on the world, and build the next billion-dollar company, consider studying at one of these universities. And who knows – you might just become the next unicorn founder!

Popular courses of study for startup founders

No idea what to study in Germany? Founders of successful startups usually study business, engineering, or computer science. However, there are many other courses of study that can lead to successful entrepreneurship. If you're not sure what to study, here are some other popular options:


Economics is a popular course because it teaches students how to think about the world in a logical way. It also helps them understand financial concepts and business models. The analysis of economic issues is an important and necessary part of any university education. Basic skills in independent scientific study of economic questions and contemporary economic ideas are the beginning point for most economics degree programs. Following this, students may focus on a more in-depth look at company administration, finance, various financial sectors, and economic concerns.

Best universities in Germany to study Economics: Albert Ludwigs University in Freiburg, Heidelberg University, Humboldt University of Berlin, Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, and Munich Graduate School of Economics.


Marketing is important for any business, but it's especially important for startups. Marketing helps founders reach their target audience and create a brand that consumers will trust.

Best universities in Germany to study Marketing: Ludwig Maximilian-University of Munich, Bonn graduate school of economics, Technical University of Munich, University of Mannheim, Free University of Berlin, WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management, and the University of Cologne.

Industrial engineering

Industrial engineering is also popular for startup founders because it helps them understand the manufacturing process and how to optimize it. This knowledge can be invaluable for a young company that is trying to scale quickly.

Best universities in Germany to study Industrial Engineering: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, University of Duisburg-Essen, Technical University Ilmenau, and the Technical University of Clausthal.

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Best cities in Germany for startups

The cities of Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich are known for being the best cities in Germany to build a startup. These cities have a strong entrepreneurial culture, and they're home to many of Germany's unicorn startups.

They also have a lot of resources available for startup founders, including coworking spaces, accelerators, and funding opportunities.