Yesterday there was great startup news, or it seemed so. The quite popular Dutch business/startup blog Sprout reported that between now and 2020 Lufthansa is going to invest €500 million in tech startups. The Wall Street Journal reported today about the German heavy industry’s increased funding and investing craze in startups ‘on the hunt for disruptive innovation.’ It mentions Lufthansa as one of the many German companies doing so, but doesn’t talk about the €500 million.
€500 million is a lot of money, even for CVC funds. Five(!) times more the €100 million initial fund Google Ventures launched in July, about which we reported here.
Sprout refers to an ‘internal presentation’ obtained by the German startup site Deutsche-startups.de. But the accompanying deutsche-startups.de article doesn’t mention that the funds is solely a startup investment fund.
To get the facts right we contacted Lufthansa. This is what the a Lufthansa spokeswomen said in an email:
Lufthansa intends to invest a total of EUR 500 million in innovations groupwide between now and 2020. The plans here should see a new “innovation hub” established this year in Berlin, closer to the start-up and digital technology scene; and an “innovation fund” will also be set up to expedite the development of promising new ideas from both within and outside the Group. If this will result in Lufthansa investing into start-ups remains to be seen.”
Lufthansa, the largest airline in Europe, is thus going establish a innovation hub near the Berlin startup scene and launch an innovation fund, but it’s not sure whether it’s going to fund startups….!?. To me this seems a bit of an oxymoron. As a global company it would also be strange if it would invest in startups only in Germany. So we contacted Lufthansa again asking the following question:
Thank you for your reply. Does ‘outside the group and closer to the startup and digital scene’ mean Europe or does [it] strictly concern Germany (the articles I send you seem to imply that). Or is it more plausible that the innovation fund that might become available for investing in startups will be for startups in Europe in general and not strictly Germany…?
This is what the spokeswomen replied:
„outside of the Lufthansa Group“ means not within the Company. We want to expedite the development of promising new ideas from both within and outside the Group. We have not specified if investing into start-ups will be a part of this. And we have not specified the ideas that are to be developed nor where they will be developed. The information that is public so far is that contained in our press release.
The cryptic answers of the Lufthansa spokeswomen aside it’s clear that not an insignificant part of the €500 million will be invested in innovation trajectories with startups if promising ones present themselves. And that’s good news for the European startup scene. It’s also clear that Lufthansa is not going to invest the total innovation investment fund of €500 million in startups alone. And finally, it’s also clear that our friends at Sprout should get the facts right before they publish something.
Photo: Fule33 @ Wikimedia Commons