Interview with Christoph Hüning
Next Media Accelerator
was initiated by the German Press Agency (dpa) and founded in 2015 in Hamburg by several independent partners in order to offer media-related startups a place to succeed. Christoph Hüning has a degree in business mathematics and shows a track record as consultant and entrepreneur in digital media and communication industries since 1999. His focus is to connect our startups with media companies and investors to foster the digital media landscape.
What's next for your work with the Next Media Accelerator? Where do you see the Accelerator in 2020?
Our current fund is running from 2017 to 2022 so we have money to invite every six months new teams to Hamburg and this is what we are focusing on for sure. And then we are working on your ideas how to make this program more attractive for teams and investors to join as we, for example, go to New York this year for the second time, we were there last year for the first time, doing a format called media match like connecting startups with media investors and companies, and this went quite well, so we are doing this year again, and we are doing it in Austin and Southwest for the first time this year, so we try to do something new every year every batch, and we are very happy if we find international cooperation models which brings a really really high value to our teams and to our investors.
Besides that, we think about how to do later stage investment with a new fund and things like that, but this is at the moment a very early stage, so yes at the moment we focus on the exploration program until 2022 and connecting our teams to the media partners, we have we have a very nice office where we just moved in last year, so we will be here in 2020 as well, so please come around if you are in Hamburg for a visit and a coffee and we will talk about media innovation.
Christoph, could you please introduce your work with the Next Media Accelerator and what led to your becoming a Managing Partner in 2017?
I have a background in media consulting and I work for the NMA, in the beginning as a freelance consultant as an intern manager and after one year doing that we discussed what about coming in on a permanent position, as I see the NMA as one of the most interesting projects we have in Europe in the media industry at the moment, I surely agreed on that and started last summer on a permanent position as a managing partner.
The NMA consists of a team of seven in total and we are three managing partners being responsible in the end for the results of the program because we have a fund where media companies and agencies from Germany and Austria put in money and we invest that in media tech startups from all over Europe up to Israel, and we work with them in Hamburg for six months on the products and business models and connect them with the drum speaking media industry and in the end we are together hope, I was a little bit more than just hope, that they survived and have a good development, and one of them might become an unicon, but unicon is not the main topic we focus on in the media industry, this is more and fintech or wherever, but we really like what we see and innovative ideas and spirit of the teams.
How important is it for veterans and legacy media organizations to become familiar with new media technologies? What can legacy media organizations do to keep up with the changing industry?
As you can see here, I hope you can read that one of our slogans is it's on my business card printed innovate or die, and this is how we look at the media industry like if you don't innovate your business models and technologies you have a really tough future ahead.
We all know that print revenues are declining. When it comes to paying for the content or for the advertising industry and yet everyone has to keep the eye on media technologies. What can they do? They can work with us, we have 50 startups in our portfolio and they are becoming 8 to 10 more every six months, and it's not just the number, It's the background they come from. We have roughly 15 countries now on our map and they really bring in new ideas and a new spirit and how to deal with the change like embracing it and not being afraid of, so we really recommend every media organization to get in touch with us, or do their own acceleration program or incubation or whatever but find new ways besides classical product innovation.
Now that NMA Batch #8 has arrived in Hamburg to start the program, what will be your main focus for the next six months? What do you hope each startup takes away from their time at the NMA?
Batch 8 started just one week ago and we are very happy with our selection. We have 10 teams, eight of them with an international background, six of them with a female founder or co-founder, and this is a very interesting mix for us and our investors to get insights in diverse teams and new ways of thinking and working on media technologies, that's what we're here for.
We will focus on understanding the products, understanding the business model and then connect them with our network because most of them are coming from significantly smaller countries than Germany, and we deliver them the access to the German and Austrian media market which is roughly 100 million German-speaking people and this is a really interesting leverage for all of them coming from Scandinavia, Benelux or the Baltics, and we will see what our investors say because this is a real-time testing scenario that we are delivering all our investors would like to test their products and they give real feedback like, I love that idea, Oh no this idea isn't working, and then the startup somehow has to deal with it.
We hope they take away a lot of feedback, a lot of insight in the industry, a lot of contacts and as we are a real investor we will keep in touch with them, after the six months as well, and we will see together how the further development might go.
What are some of the main challenges facing the European media industry? What role do accelerators such as NMA play in the media landscape of the continent?
I think the underlying global challenge is that the traditional business model on media, which is based on print or linear TV or whatever, is so strongly declining in the moment that no one has a real answer on how to replace that revenues that are breaking or losing ground, and when you have a running online advertising model then there are Facebook and Google from the US again, and they are keeping most of the budgets in their own pockets, and this is a real challenge for the European media industry at the moment.
We are trying to help the industry, solve that problem, we are not solving it alone, to be fair ,and with our startups finding new ideas, technologies and solutions, and Europe needs a broader approach than at the moment to all these local and national institutions deliver.
We see ourselves as a pan-European approach, we had teams from more than 15 countries in our program yet, and we are still hoping for more. Now we have 80 percent international teams in the current batch, and we think this is very very important because Europe starts again with the number with the number of languages we have in our continent, in comparison to the US, and this is the main obstacle for building up a new platform, and we see for example teams from Scandinavia or the Benelux thinking in English from the beginning and not like Germans or French people who start in their own language and then get surprised that their market isn't big enough to scale in a really global way. So yeah we are working on that.