- Frank Thelen is a European serial founder, technology investor and TV personality. Since 1994, he has founded and managed technology and design-driven companies. In his role as the founder and CEO of Freigeist Capital, he focuses on early-phase investments. His products have reached over 100 million customers in over 60 countries. Frank was the first investor in startups like Lilium Aviation, Wunderlist, xentral, Smartlane, Ankerkraut and YFood. At age 42, he released his autobiography called “Startup-DNA”. In 2020, his second book “10xDNA” came out, which has also been translated into English. Both books became bestsellers in Germany.
- Frank Thelen is a European serial founder, tech investor and TV personality. As the Founder & CEO of Freigeist Capital, he focuses on seed investments like Lilium Aviation, Wunderlist, Xentral and YFood. He has also released two bestselling books, called “Startup-DNA” and “10xDNA”.
- Softer Solutions: Frank founded his first company Softer Solutions at the age of 18 in 1994. The company provided an innovative framework to produce high-end multimedia CD-ROMs, as a faster and more flexible alternative to the popular Macromedia Director platform.
- Create Media: In 1996, Softer Solutions merged with Pro PC and published several Multimedia CD-ROMs under the Create Media brand. Create Media also created and ran some of the first major websites in Germany, including hallo.de and bilder.de.
- Twisd AG: In 1997, Frank received 1.4 million DM venture capital to create and sell a Linux-based router (LIC: LAN Internet Connect) to connect local networks to the Internet. LIC was one of the first devices to allow management via a web interface. LIC was based on a highly-customized Linux Kernel optimized for security. Twisd also developed one of the first web application frameworks (APL) as a Zen C++ module. The company prepared for IPO in 1999 but went bankrupt with the dot.com bubble burst.
- ip. labs: Founded in 2004, ip.labs develops and licenses an online photo service platform (IPS) to design and order photo products such as prints, greeting cards and books from digital photos. ip.labs became cash flow positive quickly and never needed external investors. After five years it became the worldwide leader with 100+ million users in this market and was acquired by the Fujifilm Group in 2008.
- doo: Founded in 2011, doo received $10m in funding from e42, DuMont Venture and Target Partners. The initial product “the document app” won renowned awards, including being selected as “App of the Year” by Apple. It was one of the first AI-centered document management systems and offered native apps with real-time cloud sync. However, after two years in the market, the consumer traction did not meet the expectations of the management and investors. Frank was forced to pivot from a large platform vision to a one-purpose app that generated revenue, namely Scanbot.
- Scanbot: Scanbot launched in 2014 and is today one of the leading document scanner apps for iOS and Android. Apple has awarded Scanbot “Best of 2014”, “Best of 2015” and “Editors’ Choice” awards. The Scanbot team has developed proprietary technology, e.g., to detect documents on all surfaces, recognize document types and smart filters to enhance the scan quality. In 2020 the team sold the consumer Apps “Scanbot” and “Unfade” to focus on their B2B SDK Business. More than 200 companies are using our technology worldwide, amongst them Fortune 500 and Dax 30 companies. About 90% of major Swiss health insurance companies and over 60% of their German peers are using the Scanbot SDK in their applications.
- In 2016, Frank handed his role as Scanbot CEO over to Christoph Wagner to focus on startup investments in his role as CEO of e42.
- Frank founded Freigeist Capital with Marc Sieberger, Alex Koch and Marcel Vogler. In 2018, Niklas Hebborn joined Freigeist as Junior Partner. Lena Heßbrügge is head of communications.
- In 2014, Frank joined the Sony Pictures prime-time TV show “Shark Tank”, broadcasted in Germany on VOX as “Die Höhle der Löwen”. The international show is running as “Shark Tank” in the US and “Dragons’ Den” in the UK and has become one of the most successful international TV shows. The first season had 2 million viewers and Frank was investing with Vural Öger, Jochen Schweizer, Judith Williams and Lencke Steiner.
- The second season of “Die Höhle der Löwen” achieved even better ratings and had 2.3 million viewers. Winning the German TV award “Deutsche Fernsehpreis 2016” for the best factual entertainment show. The show was also nominated for the “Grimme” award and the award of the German TV Academy in the entertainment category, as well as winning the “Ernst-Schneider-Preis” for innovation and economy in an entertainment show.
- Frank returned as a jury member in the third season of “Die Höhle der Löwen”, which had 3.3 million viewers, a refreshed jury and more startups. Furthermore, Frank has also appeared in “Hart Aber Fair”, “Markus Lanz”, Neo Magazin Royale (Jan Böhmermann) and other TV shows.
- With season 4 Frank became the longest serving “Lion” while building the most successful Startup portfolio from the show. In this season Judith Williams, Dagmar Wöhrl, Carsten Maschmeyer and Ralf Dümmel are joining Frank in the jury. Georg Kofler joined two episodes of this season as stand-in for Judith Williams. Season 4 reached 21% market share and is now the most successful self produced show on Vox. Frank also appeared on a number of shows, including: "ARD Morgenmagazin" and the n-tv Startup Show.
- Frank returns in season 5 as the longest-serving “Lion”, just like in the previous season, alongside Judith Williams, Ralf Dümmel, Dagmar Wöhrl, Carsten Maschmeyer and Georg Kofler. He was a guest on multiple talk shows such as Markus Lanz, 3nach9 and NDR Das! during his book release to present his autobiography “Startup-DNA”. Furthermore, he became a substitute teacher for one episode of the new VOX Production “Der Vertretungslehrer”, joined a debate on 5G alongside Peter Altmaier in the tv show “Hart aber Fair” and participated at the “ZDF Ein Herz für Kinder Spendengala”.
- In the 6th season of DHDL, Frank cuts down on his studio days to spend more time with his tech startups. As a new concept, the five seats in the show are now taking turns by Frank, Judith, Ralf, Dagmar, Carsten, Georg, and the latest edition to the group of investors, Nils Glagau. It is also Frank’s first time at the tv show “Ina’s Nacht” and he is holding the laudation in the category “Best Podcast” at “Deutsche Radiopreis”.
- The 7th season of DHDL, broadcasted in Spring 2020, is Frank’s final season. Besides the six new episodes and a Corona special on Vox, he also took part in the Corona Live Special on ProSieben and discussed the Corona App at Markus Lanz and Maischberger. Furthermore, he presented his new book 10xDNA on Sat1 Frühstücksfernsehen and ZDF and participated in the Ein Herz Für Kinder Charity Event broadcasted in ZDF. He also had a short appearance in Latenight Berlin.
- In 2021, he takes part in an ARD Quizshow called “Wer weiß denn sowas” with his former Shark Tank colleague Ralf Dümmel.
Awards & Honors
- Recognized as a Hidden Champion by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Hermann Simon.
- Dr. Angela Merkel presented Frank with the “Innovate 4 Society Award” from Microsoft.
- Apple selects doo as “App of the year”
- Scanbot is TNW’s App of the Year
- Apple selects Scanbot as “Best of 2014”
- Grimme Preis nomination for “Die Höhle der Löwen”
- Ernst-Schneider-Preis for “Die Höhle der Löwen”
- Scanbot is nominated as “Editors’ Choice” by Apple
- Deutscher Fernsehpreis “Best Factual Entertainment”
- Nomination for the German “Deutscher Fernsehpreis 2017” in "Best Factual Entertainment"
- Elected member of the “Bundesversammlung”
- “Entrepreneur of the year” in the category Solopreneur
- SPIEGEL-Bestseller Startup-DNA
- Next Level Award in the category Entrepreneur
- SPIEGEL-Bestseller 10xDNA
- Microsoft - „Make it Happen“
- o2/Telefonica- #meinbusiness
- Deutsche Telekom - Top Apps
- Microsoft - „Make it Happen“
- Chivas Regal - The Venture
- Jimdo - Build your new site!
- Chivas Regal - The Venture
- Tesla Motors - Model S Story
- Liechtenstein - Impuls Liechtenstein
- Jimdo - Mach was eigenes
- Amazon - Amazon Pay
Frank performs keynotes at leading tech and management events. He talks about innovation, why we need more pioneers and how Europe can thrive in the next ten to twenty years. He has shared a stage with personalities such as Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, Richard David Precht, Drew Houston and many more.
- The Next Web (Amsterdam)
- #cnight (Berlin)
- NOAH (London)
- Startupcon (Cologne)
- Impuls (Liechtenstein)
- f.ounders (New York)
- IdeaLab! WHU (Vallendar)
- Bits & Pretzels (Munich)
- Pioneers Festival (Vienna)
- Handelsblatt Konferenz (Berlin)
- Neumacher Konferenz (Hamburg)
- The Next Now! (Berlin)
- K5 (Berlin)
- OMR Festival (Hamburg)
- GedankenTanken Rednernacht (Cologne)
- World Leadership Summit (Cologne)
- Absolventenkongress (Cologne)
- Founder Summit (Wiesbaden)
- SZ-Wirtschaftsgipfel (Berlin)
- B2B Keynotes: Amazon, Microsoft, Telekom, Dell, DHL
- Ludwig Erhard Gipfel (Munich)