The German Gründercoaching Deutschland scheme uses €700 million of ESF resources to finance coaching for business start-ups or takeovers. It uses a voucher system and operates under the de minimis exemption in the state aid rules. Any business that has been started or taken over in the last five years is eligible (manufacturing, crafts, services, commerce, tourism, transport, professions), provided it supports a full-time job and is not itself active in business advice.
The business must already have been successfully founded. Several types of coaching are excluded: that taking place before the founding of the business; legal, insurance, tax, bookkeeping and computer consultancy; and advice to businesses in difficulty.
Applications are made to accredited regional partners, which are mostly chambers of Industry and Commerce (IHK) or Chambers of Crafts (HWK).
An introductory interview is held, and the partner makes a recommendation for the payment of consultancy fees. KfW pays on the basis of this recommendation.
The entrepreneur then chooses a coach from the online database, which currently lists 23,000 advisers. These can be selected by location, theme and industry sector, and data displayed includes skills profile, fee level and the assessment of previous users (the database also allows users to share their assessment of the advisers.)
The entrepreneur must sign a contract with the chosen adviser, and then has up to a year of subsidised coaching. He or she must complete a report on the coaching provided, which at the end of the period is given to the regional partner along with the adviser’s invoice.
The maximum eligible cost is €6,000, and this is grant-aided at the rate of 50% in the old Länder, 75% in the new Länder, and up to 90% for people who are unemployed. The maximum allowable daily rate is €800, which effectively means that the grant covers a minimum of six day’s consultancy.