Strategy consulting firms top breeding ground for German startups

28 September 2018 4 min. read

A new analysis in Germany has identified strategy consulting as the country’s top breeding ground for entrepreneurs. Of all leading entrepreneurs taken under scrutiny – founders or co-founders of successful startups and scale-ups – nearly 20% had a background in the consulting sector, more than any other industry. 

The researchers from Capital, a German business magazine, created a longlist of top entrepreneurs in Germany. They then brought the list down to a shortlist of 3,000+ entrepreneurs: all of these professionals are a founder/co-founder of a startup that has made a “significant impact” on its industry/segment, according to the authors.

By analysing the entrepreneurs’ background, leveraging data from startup websites and career platform LinkedIn, the researchers found that overall, nearly 20% of the group at the forefront of innovation and business success were previously active in consultancy. McKinsey & Company is the consulting firm which has delivered the most start-up founders, 211 in total, significantly more than its top rivals The Boston Consulting Group (137) and Bain & Company (77). In between the MBB firms stands Roland Berger, which has a strong presence in Germany, its home market. The German-origin consultancy has over the years groomed 94 successful – to the extent it could be measured at the time of publication – start-up founders. 

Other consulting firms that have successful entrepreneurs in their alumni ranks include the likes of Oliver Wyman, BearingPoint, the Big Four firms, AlixPartners and Simon-Kucher & Partners.Strategy consulting top breeding ground for startups in GermanyMcKinsey’s top spot builds on the firm’s larger size in Germany, but to a large extent also on the firm’s deep capabilities in venturing and innovation through its McKinsey Venturing arm. According to data provided by McKinsey, the company has over 33,000 alumni now based in 120+ countries. The firm states that around 450 of those currently lead an enterprise with revenues of $1+ billion, which would make it the globe’s top provider of top talent. A few years ago, USA Today calculated that the odds of a McKinsey consultant becoming a CEO of a public company were the best in the world, at 1 in 690. The closest rival at the time was Deloitte, at 1 in 2,150. 

About 20% of former McKinsey partners and consultants are estimated to have ventured into entrepreneurship sometime after they left the strategy and management consulting firm. Among this group are Christoph Hardt and Jan Schächtele, who left McKinsey at the end of 2014 to launch Comatch, an online marketplace for top-tier consultants. Since launching, the pair have brought in €12 million in funding, helping them build a database of over 5,000 independent consultants in countries such as Germany, France, the Benelux, the Nordics and the UK.

The authors further found that McKinsey & Company not only raised the largest number of founders, but also the largest number of highly successful entrepreneurs. Using data on startup funding, including capital raised in Series A, B or C rounds, McKinsey outperforms its consulting rivals as it has more alumni among Germany’s top 100 best-funded startups. 

Following McKinsey, employers which have raised most of Germany’s elite group of top founders are Rocket Internet, BCG, and two banking institutions: Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs. Similar to McKinsey, third place high ‘value-generator’ The Boston Consulting Group also has a wing dedicated to venturing and startup collaboration, known as BCG Digital ventures.