There is something going on in the media industry. Hamburg is speeding up by improving it’s innovative media scene: Publishing giant Gruner+Jahr announced to invest 50. Mio Euro Venture Capital in startups and the next media accelerator just launched: International startups are invited to apply for the six month program in Hamburg.
“next media accelerator seeks startups dealing with content or advertising services with a scalable, technology-based idea.”
says the managing team. With the serial entrepreneurs Dirk Herzbach as CEO, Nico Lumma as COO and dpa’s innovation drivers Meinolf Ellers as CMO and Jennifer Schwanenberg as Program Manager the team combines experience in entrepreneurship, media business and business development.
next media accelerator is an initiative of the German press agency dpa with the support of the mayor’s office of the city of Hamburg. It is financed by dpa and several investors from Germany’s media industry. Startups can receive up to 50k Euro of funding, get mentored and get access to a broad network of media companies, entrepreneurs and investors. Twice a year five startups will join the program and move to Hamburg to work in an open space office at Hamburg’s co-working space, the Betahaus.
Hamburg Startups talked to Program Manager Jenni Schwanenberg and COO Nico Lumma about the program’s next steps.
Congratulations to your launch! Rumours were heard quite some time ago, what took you so long?
Jenni: We wanted to develop a sustainable program that works for startups and investors equally. These things take time.
Tell us why German Press Agency dpa is the initiator of the program? Where are the advantages?
Nico: dpa’s shareholders are all german news publishers. So they can motivate them in a way no other company in Germany can.
How are you supported by the city?
Nico: The City of Hamburg supported us financially in the concept phase and is an important network partner.
Is next media accelerator related to Hamburg’s initiative nextmedia.Hamburg?
Nico: next media accelerator was developed during a lot of discussions, that were facilitated by nextmedia.Hamburg and simmilar initiatives. We wanted a name that contains the core of the program. In Hamburg this might look confusing but we are looking actively all over Europe, so we decided to go with the name.
Jenni, you have been dpa’s Innovation Manager handling the project for nearly a year now, what were the biggest challenges?
Jenni: We needed an awesome team and proper investors. It wasn’t hard to convince people of the importance of the project and now we got the best out of it.
Nico, CEO Dirk Herzbach and you are well-known entrepreneurs, why did you join the team and what will be your challenges as COO?
Nico: I am a news junkie and I am following the disruption of the media and ad market for nearly twenty years now. I like nma’s approach to push startups that want to change the business. I appreciated Dirk’s work ever since and am looking forward to work with him – we really complement each other.
What are you goals?
Nico: We want to support 10 startups every year and realize their potential to challenge the industry.
Can you tell us which companies invested in your program?
Jenni: Not yet – we will tell you as soon as everything is accomplished. For sure I can tell you now, that they all are german media companies.
How will the community work? You are telling us about your big network, but how do you provide it?
Jenni: Already with our launch we have more than 40 great mentors on board who will help the startups with their knowledge and network. We will do a lot of events and be open and transparent.
How are the chances to raise the next round of financing after your program?
Nico: We want to support our teams the best way possible. That is why the program takes half a year: we don’t see much sense in releasing them after three months without any funding. In Europe funding takes longer, so we chose to take this way.
Jenni, in January you posted a piece on medium.com about the importance of next media accelerator for the industry. Does your team and shareholders see your startups as chance for the established media companies?
Jenni: We think about them as digital role models. That is one of the parts our investors are interested in: How does product development in new markets work? Besides a return of investment we want to create a knowledge transfer so media companies can learn from our startups.
You are looking for startups creating new information experiences. But what are these media startups like? A freelance journalist is probably not a startup. Do you have a definition?
Nico: Not a very definite one since we hope to get confronted with a lot of ideas we didn’t think about yet. Every startup that creates or provides information or has tools to do so is interesting to us. Also companies with ideas to spread and monetize information are appealing – the ad market has still a lot of problems to solve.
Do you have role models? Matter.vc in San Francisco seems simmilar.
Jenni: Sure, accelerators aren’t a new concept. Programs like YCombinator or Techstars work because of their broad network and are role models to us. Matter is similar because they are funded by several different media companies. In the concept phase we spoke to a lot of programs and we took their experiences in our concept.
Axel Springer Plug and Play Accelerator takes in very different startups without a focus on media. Did you decide to go with media startups because of Hamburg, your investors or the City of Hamburg’s initiatives?
Nico: Our aim is to drive innovation in media, so nothing else is interesting to us. We know what the industry is looking for and know the most important people – that is the core asset of our program.
To be in Hamburg was set from the beginning. We have more publishers here than anywhere else, so the advertising industry is strong here too. That’s probably why Google, Facebook and Twitter chose Hamburg. We are in good company here.
What do startups need to apply for your program?
Jenni: A reliable team, a good idea and the aim to pace through six month faster than they have ever imagined.
How many shares do you take?
Nico: We offer three different packages: 50k Euro for 10% shares, 25k for 5% and only the program for 3%. But the program contains way more than only the financial investment, we will have a lot of coaching and workshops and have a lot of partners like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter or IBM offering their services for free.
What’s the deadline to apply and when does the program start?
Jenni: You can apply until July 15th, afterwards we will have interviews with the most promising ones and the program starts at August 1st.
The Hamburg Startup Monitor lists 45 startups working in the media industry. Why is Hamburg a good place for them?
Nico: There are a lot of great employers for media experts here, so we have a lot of schools educating people in media and in the end here are a lot of creative people looking for new opportunities.
Startups should choose their location carefully: Where are my customers? Where can I find people to hire and to work with? Where do I find a community? For media startups Hamburg can be the only choice.
Thank you for the interview!