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Hundreds of German fintech startups have gone bust since 2017

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Germany's N26 online bank is one of the biggest fintech successes. Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Investments in Germany’s booming fintech sector may have doubled in the first quarter of 2019 from the same period a year before, but a new PwC Germany study reveals a flip side to the story, as hundreds of companies have quietly died off unnoticed.

Since 2011, 233 German fintechs have shut down, three quarters of them since the beginning of 2017, according to PwC’s Cooperation Radar.

The average age of the fintechs that failed was four years old and the majority of them were based in Berlin. The closed companies were almost equally split between those making products for consumers versus B2B services.

Sascha Demgensky, head of FinTech at PwC in Germany, said it is "a completely normal process, when young companies fail, even in booming industries," adding that the survey provides quantitative evidence on the causes behind the sector’s failures.

Demgensky said that while it’s hard to make general predictions on which fintechs will make it and which ones will not, the spike in closures in 2017 indicated that many of them were “me-too” startups, who “boarded the train in 2013 and 2014” and realised that other competitors had got there before them.

READ MORE: Germany's newest unicorn is now Europe’s most valuable fintech company

Only 11% of the fintechs that died had solid venture capital backing. If a startup has existed for more than five years and proven its sustainability, it can be a promising sign, Demgensky said.

Investment in Germany’s fintechs more than doubled in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same quarter in 2018, according to an April report from Barkow Consulting. That amounted to just over €600m (£536m, $677m).

“The sector is growing up and we have more and more fintech startups,” Peter Barkow, founder of Barkow Consulting, told Yahoo Finance UK in April. He said some of these German fintechs are reaching critical size and attracting the attention of international investors.

“The global appetite for fintech from the US and China is tremendous — and these German companies are on their screens,” Barkow said.