German publisher Axel Springer is taking a step forward into the Berlin startup scene, with an investment in new startup event and competition hy! Berlin. Axel Springer now holds a 49 per cent stake in the company that organised the event.
The news, officially announced on Saturday evening, marked the end of hy! Berlin’s successful second edition, building on an inaugural event last year as part of Axel Springer’s Media Entrepreneurs Day. This year brought 150 entrepreneurs, founders and investors from Europe, Germany and the US to Berlin for an invite-only day tour of Berlin on Friday and summit on Saturday.
The public competition, kicking off late on Saturday afternoon, drew a crowd of about 500 to watch 15 startups pitching to juries including Esther Dyson (EDventure), Paul Singh (500 Startups), Om Malik (GigaOM) and Megan Quinn (Kleiner Perkins). The winners of each stage – Infogr.am (launch), Solarbrush (hardware) and Knowable (alpha) each took a prize package including a trip to Silicon Valley and €10,000 cash plus mentoring from hub:raum, Deutsche Telekom’s incubator.
Axel Springer wants to be hy! Berlin’s “sparring partner”
The investment in hy! Berlin is great news for founders Aydogan Ali Schosswald and Hans Raffauf, giving financial fuel for growth as well as an influential and well-connected partner.
Axel Springer is no stranger to the online world. Digital media products – including a suite of online classified ad services – already make up about a third of the group’s overall revenue, and grew 21.5 per cent in the first nine months of 2012.
Senior staff from Axel Springer’s popular German tabloid Bild have also gone on to top roles in the German internet scene, including Rowan Barnett, now head of Twitter Germany, and Andreas Winiarski, head of global PR at Rocket Internet.
As for hy! Berlin, Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner (pictured onstage, left) said the group wanted to be not just an investor but a “sparring partner with regard to content”.
This year’s event included a strong focus on digital media innovation, with sessions including Döpfner, Martin Bryant (The Next Web), co-founders from Skimlinks and Visual.ly, and New York Times multimedia journalist Jacqueline Myint.