Dietmar Hopp: Giving and taking – Economic and social commitment in the region

Again and again, I face the question of why I do not get out of the rat race and en­­joy my financial independence in pri­­vate with my family. Many people equate wealth with loud parties, luxury yachts and an ex­­travagant style of living. There is a short and a long answer to this ques­­tion. The short answer is: “I enjoy my life”. The long one will take a bit more explanation …

Thanks to the success of SAP AG, which I helped to found in the early 1970s, I have become a wealthy citizen and have no financial worries. However, I do not see this financial independence as a rea­­son for ostentation and luxury. Instead, I believe that people like me have an obligation to let society share in their good fortune – and the more so as this society, or the dedicated staff at SAP AG in my case, has contributed to my personal wealth in no small way. The col­­leagues with whom I founded the company and I had the good fortune to im­­plement the right idea at the right time – and to have the right staff.

It was this consideration that led me to found the Dietmar Hopp Foundation in the mid-1990s, which focuses its activities on the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region and supports the funding pillars of sport, medicine, social matters and education. In this way, I am giving some­thing of my wealth back to the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region and can hap­­pily say that donating is fun!

My commitments at TSG 1899 Hoffen­heim, for whom I played between 1954 and 1965, do not stop at professional foot­­ball, but also include the youth play­­ers. The achtzehn99 AKADEMIE is a good foundation for them and provides fertile soil for training national and international talents for the professional team and guaranteeing them an all-round ed­­u­­ca­tion. Every player who leaves the acad­­emy has made the very best of his op­­por­­tunities not only in a sporting context, but also personally.

This is in no small part due to the “An­­pfiff ins Leben” (kick-off into life) association funded by my foundation, which drives forward the school-based, professional and social education of young athletes in Hoffenheim and eight other bases – not only in football, but also in handball, ice hockey and golf. It gives me great pleasure when I see how our youth is supported by professional trainers, teachers or social workers in carrying out their hobbies and developing their personalities. Some of them even manage the jump into professional sports, be it with the TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, the Rhein-Neckar Löwen, the Mannheim Adler or the Golf Club St. Leon-Rot, or elsewhere. Particularly the “Jungadler” project (ice hockey) or the previously men­­tioned academy of the TSG 1899 Hoffenheim are considered exemplary all across Germany. Those who don’t want to make a living as professional athletes should at least have a strong character in “normal life” and be able to handle the ever-increasing daily stress.

The SAP Arena in Mannheim and the cen­­tres of excellence in St. Leon-Rot (golf, women’s football) and Hoffenheim or Zuzenhausen represent prime examples of appropriate infrastructure. The SAP Arena is not only the venue for large-scale sporting events; it is also the place for cultural events, which enrich the re­­gion with concerts and shows by superstars from all areas. That makes me proud.

However, I also remain a businessman at heart. As well as supporting many medical projects through the Founda­tion, I am particularly interested in the biotech sector. On the one hand, this is because the sector addresses future-oriented topics that will characterise and change the medical landscape in a decisive way to benefit patients with new diagnostic and treatment methods, and, on the other, because I am fascinated by the potential from an en­­trepreneur’s and investor’s point of view. For this reason, I founded the diev­ini Hopp Biotech Holding GmbH & Co. KG – dievini in short – together with Fried­­rich von Bohlen und Christof Hettich. The company consults and supports me in selecting, structuring and accompanying my investments in the so-called “life sciences” or biosciences. Together with experts from the medical, biotech­no­log­­ical and financial sectors, dievini reviews and analyses companies, recom­mends, structures and implements in­­vestments, and accompanies and supports compa­nies in their company and business de­­velopment right up to the potential sales of the company or its products.



dievini’s investment focuses in terms of content are in the areas of oncology, neu­­rodegenerative diseases, improved administering of medication and the ever-growing “personalised medicine” area. The basic condition for an investment is that the cause of the patient’s illness can be treated. This means that therapeutics and diagnostics or systems can be developed that will in all likelihood be effective in a target-oriented way and have little to no side effects. One of the objectives in terms of content is therefore to make a contribution to curing cancer or to at least reduce it to a chronic illness. Another objective is the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and stopping its progression, maybe even enabling its reversal. dievini, like the Foundation, puts a strong regional emphasis on the Electoral Palatinate, as more than half of the invested companies have their head offices here and operate mainly in the Heidelberg region.

The entrepreneurial background notwith­­standing, the basic idea here is to make a useful contribution to society, as is the case with the civic initiatives. Medical successes in particular, such as the battle against cancer, make me happier than the consumption of luxury goods – or however one wants to characterise the daily activities of a wealthy person – ever could. I enjoy being an entrepreneur and founder, and bringing a smile to the faces of socially disadvantaged people fills me with tremendous joy, a joy that could never exist were I to dwell in passivity. This is the reason why I refrain from with­­drawing into private life, which I do very much enjoy.

2013_Dietmar-Hopp_Porträt-kopierenTogether with four colleagues from IBM, Dietmar Hopp founded what is now SAP AG in 1972. He was CEO of the company from 1988 to 1998, and founded the Diet­­mar Hopp Foundation in 1995. So far, it has donated around 340 mil­­lion euros to charitable causes, focusing on youth sports, medicine, social matters and education, predominantly in the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region.