The startup ecosystem flywheel -Westwing as a case in point

Two weeks ago, Westwing, the Munich-based home & living e-commerce company, had its 10th birthday. Westwing is a company which has been a big part of my life over those ten years, so I took this as the occasion to update a little piece I wrote a few months back to celebrate this awesome company but also to celebrate the crucial role which I believe entrepreneurs and startups play in our economy.

The whole thing started when I came across two funding announcements in the same week from former Westwing colleagues who had gone on to start their own companies. Being fascinated by the positive flywheel effects that our startup ecosystem has, I sat down and made a list of all the companies I could come up with that had been founded by former Westwing employees. What I found was pretty amazing. By my first estimate, the companies who had been founded by former Westwing team members had in sum probably raised the same amount of money as Westwing — or so I thought! I posted the list on LinkedIn, which quickly became flooded by comments from people who were adding ventures, many of which, I have to admit, I had never even heard about.

So following up on this earlier piece, I now pulled together the full list of all companies that have been founded by Westwing alumni, and it paints a pretty amazing picture:

  • Former Westwing team members have founded 31 companies that I am aware of, which are currently operational. There is probably a much larger number of companies that are not around any longer and new ones which are not really public yet.
  • They have raised >€1bn of VC funding for their ventures — This is ~5x the amount raised by Westwing!
  • Their companies are employing ~4'000 people~3.7x the employees of Westwing!
  • I expect these companies to continue to outgrow Westwing and become relatively larger over time. 77% of the funding raised to date has been by the 8 oldest companies, which are at least 5 years old. Once some of the 23 younger companies start taking off, I would expect this to shift even further.
  • The first company was started when Westwing was about 2 years old and after 4 years there was a steady number of new companies founded every year.
  • Only a third of the companies were started in fields related to Westwing, such as other e-commerce businesses or across the value chain: from back-end logistics, fulfillment, and operators to analytics. The rest were started in fields ranging from wealth management to solar and drone tech.
  • They’ve raised from top-tier VCs such as: Sequoia Capital, HV Ventures, Earlybird, Global Founders Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Heartcore Capital, Picus Capital, Point Nine Capital, La Famiglia, and many more.
  • With 60% of ventures headquartered in Germany, there is also a big impact on the ecosystems outside of the original country of origin.

Note: You can find the full list here, including all of the assumptions for the data that was not publicly available. Please feel free to edit directly in the list if you come across any companies I may be forgetting.

This means that after 10 years, Westwing has had a ~5x multiplier effect in the startup ecosystem, and I would expect this effect to continue to grow significantly over the coming years. Especially once you consider that some of the really successful companies are now also reaching a maturity where they are likely producing their own alumni who go on to start their own companies.

That doesn’t mean that these great entrepreneurs wouldn’t have built their company if they hadn’t been at Westwing, but it is really great to see these multiplier effects! This is also something that we frequently see at Antler, where oftentimes early team members of great and successful ventures, in turn, become successful founders in their own right.

In any case: Happy birthday Westwing, thank you for being the great cradle of talent that you are — and thank you to all you entrepreneurs out there for doing what you are doing.

Serial Entrepreneur & Early-Stage Investor at Antler; former Westwing, Rocket Internet