Some of the pitches may have been rather familiar but the Demo Day marking the end of the first hub:raum accelerator program also threw up a surprise or two. Among them was the team behind task management app Eisenhower revealing they were pivoting away from being an out-and-out startup to more of an agency model.
A decent audience at betahaus, where Deutsche Telekom’s startup experiment is based, were treated to 15 pitches which, if not all exceptional, were at the very least solid; a result of the intensive mentoring and training the teams have been subjected to over the eight weeks of the program. Hub:raum itself, meanwhile, will now turn its attention to its incubator with the next accelerator program not set to take place until October.
The teams had been slogging away since November 19 with help from partners such as General Assembly and visits from the likes of Facebook and Apple, and they were clearly relishing their chance to shine. They included:
They were a diverse bunch, from a hands-free cooking app (appetico) to an internal corporate app (Mighty-Office) to a conference in Ethiopia (The New//Africa). That diversity also extended to the teams themselves, and it was clear that they had bonded with each other.
Oliver Wilken of Scolibri, a virtual classroom tool, said that, alongside the network he had built up, those bonds were one of the biggest things he had taken from the program.
“It feels like a class of startups that graduated,” he said. “In two or three years time we will probably all be meeting up to see how were are all doing, like a class reunion.”
For Eisenhower, whose app has met with plenty of success, the program has led to a dramatic change of course. Now known as Rheinfabrik, the team will be creating premium mobile both for themselves and for clients – a “mobile app boutique,” as they have dubbed themselves. An unusual move for a Berlin startup but one which feels to have been a natural progression.
When considering hub:raum and the bigger picture, though, the overarching importance of the program was whether it would impress the corporate bigwigs. Fee Beyer has been running the accelerator program and she told Silicon Allee that it had provoked a great deal of interest within Deutsche Telekom: “It is such a great platform to connect the corporate world to the startup world because it brings people together. So for example each Wednesday evening was open, and in addition a lot of people from the corporation came over and mingled with the teams. They really saw there was something different – how we work, what’s going on, why we do it .”
There was also the opportunity, Fee added, to consider each individual team and connect with them suitable units within Deutsche Telekom with a view to potential partnerships. That will continue with the second program in the autumn, she said, which will be leaner and which will see some tweaking to the format as a result of their experiences the first time round.
One thing they won’t be changing is the comparatively short length – eight weeks (with a two-week break in between) as compared to three months for most accelerators. They believe, Fee said, in the higher energy and greater pressure to succeed which is generated by the shorter period.
Peter Borchers, the head of hub:raum, said that its focus would now alter: “We are a startup ourselves with a small team and what we want to do now for the next few months is focus more on building the incubator.” He also suggested that several new additions to the incubator, alongside Blinkist, can be expected soon.
While some of the teams involved in the accelerator program have become quite well known on the Berlin scene in recent months – Toywheel and Capsule.fm pitching at hy! Berlin, for example – others will now need to go out and brave the outside world. But, talking to them first hand, they do now seem well prepared for whatever comes next.
As for the impact they have had on Deutsche Telekom as a whole, hopefully they have been part of a larger process to bring not only DT but other major German corporations into the startup sphere in a way that will be beneficial to everyone. It would have been nice to have seen hub:raum use the momentum it has created and start working on a second accelerator program straight away, but nonetheless it now has a decent foundation to build on. Perhaps what is needed most is to persuade the big cheeses in Bonn that more resources need to come the way of hub:raum.