Creative Businesses

Start-ups now shaping media in Hamburg thanks to Media Lift

23 August 2022
SERIES on Idea Accelerators (1): Incubator covers AI-based business models and fosters young journalists

BotTalks’s artificial-intelligence-based text-to-speech application converts a written text into an amazing human sound while Musicube relies on AI to choose the right music for every mood. Yournalist, on the other hand, wants to whet students' appetites for journalism and is developing a special app for its target group. These are among three start-ups admitted to nextMedia Hamburg's Media Lift incubator based on their business potential.

Viable business model and technological innovations

"The nextMedia.Hamburg's Media Lift is an incubator for innovative business ideas at the interface of content and technology. Our six jurors seek a viable business model during the selection process. If that aspect is given, the focus turns to technological innovations," said Bruno Marks, Programme Manager. AI is a hot topic in the industry at present. Take, for instance, assistance systems for news editors that automatically highlight references from a sports article to climate topics. The metaverse, a virtual-reality space in which users interact with a computer-generated environment and other users, and how augmented reality could develop into a relevant market is another trending topic.

Three phases to incubator 

The teams' business models are tested repeatedly for viability during the four-and-a-half-month scheme. The incubator is divided into three phases each of which ends in a pitch and an award of EUR 5,000 for the winner. The chances of success are boosted by coaching, workshops and pitch training. Emphasis during the first phase is on the idea and the team, said Marks, adding: "The focus is usually on further developing the idea. But we've found that team spirit is just as important." Thus, even more attention is paid to clearly defined roles and tasks and whether the teams have all the required skills. Commitment is also important and whether the teams plan to become a full-time entrepreneurs.

On your marks, get set, go, (Pitch 2021)

BotTalk - text-to-speech application

During the second and third phase, emphasis is on prototyping or testing a tangible product on real users, and on developing the business model towards follow-up financing. The maximum grant of EUR 15,000 that the start-ups receive without giving up shares is used up quickly as they strive to launch on the market. The Hamburg-based BotTalk is already on the market and now counts Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa and the daily Hamburger Abendblatt among its customers. "BotTalk's application is behind the read-aloud function of many media and sounds like a real newscaster sitting there at the microphone," said Marks. Podcasts compiled from news or an audio analysis that determines the listening time or the most popular article are other audio products to emerge from Media Lift.

Bruno Marks, Programme Manager, Media Lift

Musicube - AI-based search for music 

Musicube's audio analysis is a novel search engine based on AI and has a database of more than 50 million song titles. The idea has already won over the U.S. based music company, Songtradr, who bought musicube in June. The Hamburg-based start-up prepared for its pitch among others in the incubator's Storytelling Clinic. "That involves coaching to create a convincing story, but also trains pitching skills," said Marks.

Denmark's Yournalist - visual for teenagers

The Danish start-up, Yournalist, is still fine-tuning its app to pave the way for a new generation of journalists. The team is working on a visual format for teenagers who tell their own stories in a protected setting and learn the importance of facts and critical thinking in an entertaining and informal manner. "We have the Danish start-up Yournalist in Batch 4 and changed the instruction language to English spontaneously," said Marks. The team had applied to the incubator in a bid to launch on the German market, "but also because there is no way around Hamburg for content start-ups. Many global tech companies such as Google, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitch are based here in addition to well-known agencies, platforms and media firms. Hamburg is Germany's most important games location after Berlin and there are many top funding schemes such as Media Lift. Naturally, Yournalist wanted to go to Hamburg!"


Sources and further information

Startup City Hamburg

The platform, Startup City Hamburg, gives an overview of all the start-ups based in the city as well as funding opportunities and networking possibilities. The platform serves as a digital, single point of contact for Hamburg's start-up ecosystem and raises Hamburg's visibility for young companies in Germany and abroad.  The website is the result of a joint initiative by the Ministry of Economics and Innovation, Hamburg Innovation, Hamburg Invest and Hamburg Marketing as well as the Institute for Innovation and Technology (IIT).


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