Aupeo! CEO on Breaking Out of the Berlin Bubble

By Toni Ellis |

Providing music world-wide, breaking out of the Berlin bubble, and being the “chainsaw of music recommendation.” It’s all in a day’s work for Berlin-based music streaming service Aupeo!.

But how exactly does a small startup build up a global brand in just a few years? Silicon Allee spoke to Aupeo! CEO Holger Weiss to find out, and to learn what advice he has for other startups looking to become the next big thing out of Berlin.

Starting in 2008, Aupeo! developed from two core ideas: Accessing data and content via the Cloud, and the rise of multi-connected devices. Holger explained how analysing the latest technology developments enabled Aupeo! to enter the competitive marketplace of online music: “We saw that both these things were flooding the market, so we optimised our service structure and infrastructure to match these trends.”

Combining these technological trends with that of their music-analysing algorithm, co-developed with the Fraunhofer Institute (where the MP3 standard was invented), produced a recipe for success -almost literally: “If we were to describe our recommendation engine, our ‘secret sauce’ of music discovery, then our algorithm would be its main ingredient.”

The Chainsaw of Music Recommendation

From this recipe, Holger’s advice for younger startups is to keep it simple and focus on one core idea. While integrating other features such as social networking aspects may appear to add extra depth, it can distract from the key use of the product: “Merging different features – it’s a little bit like a Swiss-army knife. You can do a lot of smaller things, but it’s difficult to cut down a tree with a Swiss-army knife; with a chainsaw it’s easy. So you need to be a chainsaw and focus on one thing, and I think we’re the chainsaw of music recommendation.”

With a worldwide reach stretching across Europe, the US and into Asia, Aupeo! has had plenty of success with expanding globally. According to Holger, having music licenses in over 40 countries is a big benefit what it comes to the model Aupeo! are following, a double-track distribution strategy: “On the one hand building a great service and building the brand proactively with strategic moves, but on the other hand building relationships with big brands like Samsung, Nokia, LG and BMW, who bring the service to the consumer which gives us, by nature, a relatively good uptake rate when it comes to reach.”

But for companies looking to expand out of the Berlin bubble, Holger said that, above all else, you must understand exactly what your product is.

“If you have a company and a brand you want to grow, it ultimately comes down to what your product is. For example, for MyTaxi to expand, they’d have to go to another country and acquire all these cab drivers before the service can run. You need local people, and it will take time.”

As for looking towards the future, Holger said that both Aupeo! and younger startups can operate  with the same, simple goal in mind: “Constantly improve. Improve the quality, the service and the features for users.”