The Augsburg banking families of Anton and Bartholomeus Welser obtained the rights to Venezuela from Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and king of Spain, in 1528. These rights were negotiated by Heinrich Ehinger und Hieronymus Sailer, either independently or as agents of the Welsers. However by 1531, the Welser certainly controlled the privilege. A colonization scheme was set up with Ambrosius Ehinger arriving as governor in 1529. He explored the interior in search of the gold of El Dorado. Ehinger had left Seville on October 7, 1528 with the Spaniard García de Lerma and 281 settlers. At Santo Domingo, de Lerma with 50 companions left for his mission to Santa Marta, to reestablish Spanish control following the murder of the governor there. Ambrosius Ehinger and the remainder headed for the Venezuelan coast and landed February 24, 1529 at Coro. Other German governors followed: Nikolaus Federmann, Georg Hohermuth von Speyer, Philipp von Hutten who also engaged primarily in the search for gold. Federmann traveled over the Andes to Bogota where he and Sebastián de Belalcázar initially contested Jiménez de Quesada's claims to that province. German miners were brought over and 4000 African slaves to work sugar plantations. By 1541 disputes had arisen with Spain and the bankers were stripped of control of the colony in 1556.
The German colonists suffered a high rate of mortality due to tropical diseases and, because of frequent journeys deep into Indian territory in search of gold, due to hostile Indian attacks.