News of the World: Hy! Berlin Returns with a Whirlwind of Announcements

By David Knight |

It was all going off at the third hy! Berlin event on Sunday evening – a series of entrepreneurs and investors took to the stage at Radialsystem V to make announcements; from a new fund at the German Media Pool to €10 million in investment for a member of the HitFox group, via the launch of a hardware startup accelerator and the return of The Kernel.

The second half of the live show saw Austrian tracking app Locca scoop the €30,000 in cash from hub:raum as winners of the startup competition, seeing off some stiff competition in doing so from the likes of Petcube.

In the first part of the evening, the news came thick and fast. GMPVC’s Niko Waesche revealed that the company was launching its second media for equity fund featuring a new partner, German TV station RTL II, alongside existing ones N24, REGIOCAST and Wall AG.

The company invests in startups not with money, but with media – i.e. advertising – from its partners. Waesche said: “With RTL II we have gained yet another strong media partner. This means even more media power for innovative startups with awesome business models. We are extremely happy to adopt the next generation of startups into our portfolio family. We already have some exciting new companies in our sights who want to supercharge their growth with media.”

‘One of Berlin’s Biggest Success Stories’

Jan Beckers, the man behind HitFox, gave a keynote in which he revealed that mobile games marketing platform AppLift had raised $13 million (€10m) from VC and growth equity firm Prime Ventures. The company is aimed at connecting mobile games publishers and gamers more closely, and a year after its launch, AppLift is already working with more than 80 of the former – such as Wooga and Kabam – as well as 500 plus media partners.

Jan said: “The strong market position of AppLift is based on a world-class team, cutting-edge technology, a sustainable approach to partner relationships and an unwavering focus on flawless execution. With the new funding AppLift has everything required to become one of Berlin`s biggest success stories.”

It was a theme he picked up on in his speech at hy!, in which he told the audience that AppLift was proof that Berlin works as a tech hub: “Berlin is very real and we have strong competitive advantages over other clusters in the world.”

Jeff Katz from the Hardware Berlin Meetup, meanwhile, announced the Berlin Hardware Accelerator, which is set to launch in September. It will provide much-needed support to help hardware startups, a uniquely difficult proposition, get off the ground.

In addition, it was revealed that event host/barman Milo Yiannopoulos will return as editor of a newly revived version of The Kernel. The blog, which Milo originally founded last year, was forced to close several months ago after running into financial trouble. But Berlin42, the parent company of hy! Berlin, acquired the rights to The Kernel and Aydo Ali Schosswald will act as the new company’s CEO, with editorial continuing to be based in London.

Taking a Deep Breath

Elsewhere, Francis Pedraza, CEO of Everest, announced the launch of its services in Europe while Clue founder Ida Tin gave an exclusive insight into the app that supports women in tracking their cycle. And, deep breath, previous hy! participant Stylemarks launched its app, GetYourGuide CEO Johannes Reck introduced a new homepage design and last year’s startup contest winner, Toywheel, unveiled a new app aimed at promoting new and innovative ideas in education.

It wasn’t all announcements, though. Hy! regular Mathias Döpfner – he’s the CEO of Axel Springer, which has taken a 49 percent stake in hy! – was on hand to discuss how the media giant is undergoing wide-ranging changes as it embraces the digital economy. The key, he argued, was to avoid approaching innovative companies which Springer has acquired or invested in like a “colonial power telling them how to do business properly” and instead “appreciate the culture of a younger digital company being a startup” and to learn from that.

And EyeEm founder Flo Meissner also took to the stage, broken hand and all, just hours after the end of his company’s third Photo Hack Day. The 24-hour hackathon attracted more than 120 developers and designers trying to come up with innovative prototypes of new photography apps before presenting them on Sunday afternoon.

The winner was Photoration, an app which identifies the exact location from where a picture was taken through its metadata – an idea which, according to creator Albert Poghosyan, came out of the desire to know which place and time is the best to take a photo of certain famous sights in Berlin.

A screenshot of the winning Photo Hack Day app, Photoration

A screenshot of the winning Photo Hack Day app, Photoration

Second place went to Ambeer, an app which extracts colours out of photos and creates an ambient light show out of it, while Digitalanalog won third prize with its exploration of analogue images in a digital world. Photo Hack Day 3 was presented by EyeEm and co-hosted by Google and Fotolia, and you can check out all of the hacks here.

Later, in the second half of the hy! live show, Locca beat Petcube, JoyTunes, Atooma and Vubooo in the pitch contest to land the €30,000 main prize, as well as €20,000 worth of Google Cloud services, PR and tax consulting and a trip to Silicon Valley.

The third running of hy! Berlin, then, proved to be a whirlwind evening. But in truth, the slew of announcements and the chummy nature of the talks – the DeliveryHero pizza ‘demonstration’ was particularly cringeworthy – left many in the audience feeling the tone wasn’t quite right. Many were quick to point out what they saw as the irony of Dr. Döpfner being asked about the dangers of a rise in advertorial content, giving the promotional nature of many of the preceding talks.

There was also the fact that some in the audience – enough to leave the auditorium visibly emptier – left for the sanctity of the bar before the break; Sunday evening is a hard time to concentrate for so long, it seems.

That’s not to say hy! was a failure; far from it. It’s good to see the team learning from previous events and no doubt they will take on board the feedback this time, and hopefully persuade a few of the stayaways this time around to return for event number four.

For now, the third hy! continues over Monday and Tuesday with a closed summit featuring 150 tech leaders from around the world.