When it was announced at the NEXT conference back in May, hub:raum attracted its fair share of skepticism among Berlin’s startups. As the new tech company incubator from Deutsche Telekom, that was perhaps to be expected – a suspicion of corporate entities comes with the territory of being an entrepreneur. So the proof was always going to be in the pudding for hub:raum, and on Wednesday it provided a look at the first 14 participants as they started out on their eight-week program.
And they are indeed a mixed bunch, with a wide range of business ideas and backgrounds – one of the founders, at 61, proves that age means nothing – and hub:raum boss Min-Kin Mak told Silicon Allee that Deutsche Telekom has nothing to lose and everything to gain from the venture.
The event was held at Betahaus and featured an explanation of what hub:raum is, as well as its partner General Assembly, before the assembled participants were given 15 seconds to explain their ideas in a nutshell.
Each of the participating teams gets office facilities, mentoring and advice and the chance to leverage Telekom assets, as well as the chance to secure funding of €150-300k. The program focuses on developing a sound business model, minimum viable product and investor pitch, and will conclude on January 31 with a demo day.
The first batch of startups includes names you might have heard of already, like Capsule.fm, Toywheel and Eisenhower, as well as ideas with a slightly different twist – Solarbrush makes robots which clean solar panels, while The New // Africa wants to act as a broker for the new mobile generation of Africa.
Afterwards, Min said that the eight weeks will be spent on shaping the ideas and reaching a point where they can see how the startups will work as businesses: “So defining the market strategy, defining how you will roll out a stable business, how to scale, and also, to be very open, how to work with a strategic partner like Deutsche Telekom because that is the background of why we’re supporting this kind of program.”
As Europe’s largest telco firm, the impact of a few tech companies in far away Berlin – corporate HQ is in Bonn – may be slight for now, but Telekom appears nonetheless determined to hop on the startup wagon.
Min added: “There is nothing to lose… [and] I think a lot can be gained because essentially, we recognise and understand that most of the innovation is not taking place within huge corporations [and] that in order to stay in touch with what customers want today – or more likely tomorrow – it’s a must to work with external companies and also to consider things which for the time being might not be so large… but which then could turn out to grow faster than anybody might have expected.”
As for the reaction hub:raum has received in Berlin, Min believes that people are curious to see what will happen: “There is still some question over whether it is going to work out. So thats’s why we have put much emphasis, before launching hub:raum, on… being able to offer more than just co-working space, a little bit of money, a network of mentors; all that is good and fine, but at the end of the day, we’re here to really support businesses in scaling.”