BAFA INVEST- Investment Grant for Innovative Founders Germany

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Are you a German startup wanting to receive funding in the form of venture capital? Are you a business angel looking to invest in the next big thing? The German program from BAFA called INVEST – Zuschuss für Wagniskapital might be just what you have been looking for. BAFA helps matching startups with the right investors and funds the investment with a reimbursement of 20%, up to 500,000€ of the investment sum plus a Flat-rate tax refund in the case of an exit.

What is venture capital?

Venture capital is a form of private equity that investors provide to young, innovative companies. It is also known as working capital, risk capital, backing, or simply V.C. However, venture capital is not a loan but equity capital that the investor makes available to the company. Venture capital is usually provided by affluent business angels, investors, investment banks, or other financial institutions. The investor doesn’t acquire a majority stake in the company but is integrated into the company as a co-partner with all rights and obligations. In contrast to a loan, the investor does not realize his profit through the interest, but only if the company is successfully sold, e.g., in an IPO or through the sale of his shares to third parties.

Advantages for companies?

Every year in Germany, numerous entrepreneurs and founders with promising innovations get off the ground every year. However, many of these startups fail in the early stages. The reason: too little capital to successfully finance market entry and the growth phase. Especially when it comes to the provision of venture capital by Germany still has considerable potential in an international comparison.

INVEST supports young innovative companies, which receive a certificate of eligibility as part of the application process. In addition to the certificate, the companies can obtain an eligibility logo from BAFA, which can be used on the website and in presentations to draw the attention of potential investors to the eligibility, thus increasing the chances of obtaining financing through venture capital. Furthermore, the startups get listed on a public database where potential investors can scout them.

VC Funds Germany

We would like to take a second here to mention a few of the most outstanding VC funds in Germany.

Here’s a list of the top 5 most active VC funds in Germany – based on their high volume of transactions:

1. High-Tech Gründerfonds
– venture capital firm headquartered in Bonn, Germany
– seeks to invest in early-stage companies
2. Global Founders Capital
– venture capital firm based in Berlin, Germany
– seeks to invest in companies operating in different sectors
3. HV Holtzbrinck Ventures
– venture capital firm headquartered in Munich, Germany
– seeks to invest in different sectors
4. Point Nine Capital
– venture capital investment firm based in Berlin, Germany
– seeks to invest in early-stage companies
5. Earlybird Venture Capital
– venture capital firm based in Berlin, Germany
– seeks to invest in growth-stage companies

If you want to read more about each of these firms, you can simply click on their name.

Let’s move on with the advantages for investors – what’s in it for them?

Advantages for investors

The acquisition subsidy reduces the risk of an equity investment. The investor receives 20 percent of the tax-free reimbursement from the state for the amount invested in an innovative company. His shares in the business remain entirely with him. If the investor sells shares after a minimum holding period of three years or if the company fails, he does not have to repay the grant.

If the investor (only natural persons) makes a profit on the sale of his or upon the sale of his shares, he receives the taxes to be paid as a lump-sum refund amounting to 25 percent of the capital gain. The prospects of profit are thus additionally increased for the investor. Per calendar year, a maximum of 500,000 euros per investor will be subsidized. Investments worth up to 3 million euros per company can be funded per calendar year. 


Requirements for companies

Young innovative companies must fulfill specific requirements if they wish to obtain an equity investment from an investor who wishes to use INVEST.

Requirements for companies:

  • not older than seven years
  • less than 50 employees (full-time equivalents)
  •  annual turnover or annual balance sheet total of no more than ten million euros
  • A corporation with its head office in the European Economic Area and at leastone branch in Germany entered in the Commercial Register or one permanent establishment entered in the registered in the trade registered
  • Demonstrably innovative: The company belongs, according to theCommercial Register, the company belongs to an industry defined as innovative1 belongs to, is the holder of a patent or has received public funding for research public funding for research or innovation project in the two years preceding the application. Innovativeness can also be demonstrated by a separate short expert opinion from a named independent expert (since 01.02.2021 PWC).
  • The company is economically active on an ongoing basis or commences its business activities no later than one year after the conclusion of the participation.

    Requirements for Investors

    For an investment in the startup to be supported by the INVEST grant, the investor must also fulfill several requirements:

    • Business Angel has to invest as a natural person
    • Alternatively, a holding-GmbH and -U.G. with up to ten shareholders, whereby only natural persons receive the subsequent exit grant
    • Primary residence in the E.U. and of legal age
    • The minimum holding period of the investment is three years
    • Minimum investment: 10,000 euros.
    • Acquire the shares with their own money (no loan financing of the shares).
    • Share acquisition must be based on a business plan of the company and a realistic exit strategy pursue

    If the investors do not meet the requirements, BAFA will reject the application for the INVEST grant.

    ———————— Tip ————————

    A new feature since the beginning of 2017 is that follow-up investments are also eligible for funding, provided that INVEST has already funded the acquisition of the shares previously held by the investor.

    Need help?

    We create your proof of innovativeness

    Icon showing mountain with a flag on it to symbolize success

    Extra: Exit grant on sale of shares

    A new feature of the INVEST grant for venture capital is the exit grant. Here, besides the acquisition grant, natural persons receive a lump-sum refund of taxes on profits that accrue when the acquired shares are sold.

    The capital gain on the sale of shares must be at least 2,000 euros to receive the excess allowance. If this is the case, natural persons receive 25% of the profit from selling their INVEST shares as a tax refund. The excess subsidy is limited to 80% of the investment amount of the INVEST shares.

    How do I apply to Bafa Invest?

    The application for the INVEST grant is submitted to BAFA, where it is reviewed and approved if necessary. There are two variations when it comes to the application:

    Variant 1: the company already exists

    STEP 1: First, the start-up seeking capital must submit an electronic application to BAFA. BAFA checks and, if applicable, certifies the company’s eligibility for funding.

    STEP 2: The funding decision is valid for six months. Once an investor has been found, he or she must also submit an online application to BAFA for the INVEST grant (i.e. the acquisition grant, so to speak).

    Final step: Once BAFA has also positively approved the investor’s application, he makes the share purchase. In order to then receive the 20% refund, the investor requests this from BAFA and also submits the new partnership agreement.

    Variant 2: Company is not yet established

    STEP 1:  If the investor participates in a start-up project, i.e. the company does not yet exist, the investor must first submit the application for the INVEST grant online.

    STEP 2: The company submits the application for the INVEST grant after it has been founded and entered in the commercial register – this must be done within three months of the investor submitting the application.

    Proof of innovativeness

    To receive confirmation of eligibility, the company must be assigned to an eligible business area. If BAFA does not see more than 75% of the main activity in a qualified business field, the start-up receives a letter. Here it is pointed out that an external brief expert opinion is required from the organization PwC GmbH WPG as proof of the company’s innovative nature.

    A presentation of the start-up’s innovativeness can take the form of a business plan or pitch deck, for example, and should be precisely presented on ten pages.

    At least the following information should be included:

    • Contact person and contact details (email address and telephone number)
    • (Intended) year of foundation and time since placement on the market
    • Description of the product/service and its innovativeness, considering the customer benefits addressed by it.
    • Description of R&D activities
    • Competitive analysis and differentiation from existing products/services on the market
    • Description of the entrepreneurial risk associated with the business idea
    • In the case of business models requiring official approval, a corresponding notice of authorization must be submitted.

    M&M Consultants has supported numerous start-ups with the creation of the proof of innovativeness. If you also need help, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

    Further links on BAFA-Invest

    The following links lead to German websites, and the BAFA primarily communicates in the German language. 

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