How Berlin-based start-ups are rewriting innovation for marketers

There are five Berlin-based start-ups that brands should watch in 2015
There are five Berlin-based start-ups that brands should watch in 2015

Berlin, with its strong privacy regulation, interesting ecommerce climate and seemingly unending supply of entrepreneurs, has unearthed start-ups that are prime to shake up the UK marketing industry with unusual opportunities.

This week Marketing was invited to meet start-ups in the German capital as part of the SocialBakers Engage 2015 event. The common thread to all the businesses is shared investors with the social data business and yet all offer a slightly different, if left of centre, opportunities for UK marketers.

Germany itself, with much stricter rules around privacy and data sharing and unique commerce propositions, such as an order now and pay later for unreturned items model, unearths ideas and innovations that could shake-up other markets.

Wunderlist: productivity as a purchase model

What is it?

It’s a project management tool that you don’t mind introducing to your social circle. While many of the major project management tools are solely focused on work, using lists to order projects for increasingly mobile workforces, Wunderlist adds in the personal and social element and aims to be more of a productivity platform.

It works on a freemium model, with a simple version of the app costing nothing and a more detailed version, which includes team-based functionality and full integration with partner apps, costing $4.99 a month per person.

Why should marketers care?

  • 13m users
  • 5% of which are in the UK
  • 1.2m to dos created every day
  • Launch app on Apple Watch

The reason search marketing is so effective is because it is intention-based, making that moment an essential touchpoint for many brands. To do lists are similarly intention-based but are potentially richer, dependent on the context and timing, something which a productivity platform would also have data on.

This, however, is not on Wunderlist’s plans. According to Benedict Lenhart, chief design officer at Wunderlist, the to do list is too much of a personal thing to monetise.

"We have the key to the world’s intentions. But it is very personal. You may have a to do list for your team but it is still your to do list. It would need to be hyper relevant but we would rather not because it is better [without ads] for the user. It is a dangerous game to play," he says.

We have the key to the world’s intentions

What next?

Despite not partnering with brands on advertising, although Wunderlist admitted that it was something brands enquired about often, the company does partner with other businesses. Lehart said the plan is for the business to become the "productivity backbone for your life" and admits that it can’t get to that point by itself. It has released a public API for Wunderlist and is already integrating with other services such as OneNote, group messaging service Slack and Scanbot.

Final word:

Advertising or not, being able to organise your life from one platform will become increasingly appealing to people. Brands that understand their place within the utility have the potential to partner, and benefit from, this unique decision-making environment.

One Football: The game changer (pun intended)

What is it?

A mobile app for football fans. The app aims to be the most beautiful, easy to use experience for football fans, providing content in real-time that is fully shareable.

It has content partnerships with major media brands such as Sky Sports, Talksport and the Barclays Premier League.

One Football Apple WatchWhy should marketers care?

  • 20m users
  • 208 countries
  • Averaging 50,000 downloads per day
  • Football industry is worth 100bn Euros with an estimated 1bn fans
  • < Launch app on Apple Watch

The World Cup in Brazil last year was a wake up call for marketers, clubs and media businesses alike in just how social and mobile football fans are. In an industry currently trying to work out how new apps such as Periscope and Meerkat play out in terms of both rights and uptake, having a safe and scaleable social/mobile platform to reach fans on already is attractive.

What next?

One Football founder Lucas von Cranach believes innovation partnerships with brands is where sports apps can offer the most value. He cites Under Armour’s $400m acquisition of MyFitnessPal as an example of where buying into start-ups offers a greater value than ploughing the same money into purely acquiring customers via ads.

"Adidas spends around $2bn a year on advertising," he estimates, "and that is split between brand marketing and getting people to buy from Every touchpoint they use to get someone there costs them money but then they have to spend that again to get them back."

Every touchpoint Adidas uses to get someone to costs them money but then they have to spend that again to get them back

For $400m Under Armour has bought "120m every day and it can capitalise on that if, in a balanced way, it doesn’t become an Under Armour app. And the platform is growing," he adds.

Final word:

The Under Armour analogy perfectly underpins the changing view that major brands are taking in the way they work with start-ups. There is no one-size-fits-all approach but the loyal community that these platforms have been able to cultivate is something that brands shouldn’t take lightly.

Navabi: On the plus side

What is it?

Ecommerce brand Navabi is the curvy love-child of ASOS and Net-A-Porter. The business is a high-end fashion website, both serving as an aggregator and creating its own ranges, aimed squarely at the lucrative, and currently sparsely inhabited, plus-sized market.

Why should marketers care?

  • The plus-sized fashion market is worth 10bn in Europe and 18bn in the US
  • The business is showing 100% CAGR
  • Its average basket amount is 300Euro
  • Over 50% of women in Europe are plus-sized

There is an unanswered need for plus-sized fashion, according to Navabi’s founders, as designers and mainstream media have moved towards size zero, the actual shape and size of the average consumer has shifted the other way.

The market is now getting more crowded; brands like ASOS are seeing huge growth on the lower end of the plus-size market and plus-sized models are getting much more mainstream media time But there isn’t the same level of inspiring ecommerce or retail experiences, leaving a significant untapped customer base.

What next?

Navabi calls itself 'rebels of the fashion industry'

First and foremost Navabi plans to expand in terms of markets and already has a base in the UK. Omnichannel is also a term that pure-plays are paying close attention to, with Navabi co-founders Zahir Dehnadi and Bahman Nedaei admitting that retail experiences will be something it adds to its roadmap.

Final word:

Navabi calls itself "rebels of the fashion industry" and serves as proof that being rebellious can pay off. In this instance being rebellious equates to cornering a market before anyone else has had the guts to admit it’s a worthwhile investment.

SavingGlobal: Turning off tradition

What is it?

If you have 10,000Euros knocking about, you may want to make sure you put it into a savings account. Going down to your local bank may not be the most lucrative place to put this loose change, however. SavingGlobal has instead created a platform which means you can opt into placing your money into another bank in Europe, offering much better rates, with one single sign in and no visit to the bank.

Why should marketers care?

  • 20,000 users in Germany
  • 350m Euros invested
  • 10 banks have signed up in 9 countries

Savings Global Banks

When we were all a little less jaded with the internet, having not been through a couple of boom and busts, the internet created opportunities that constantly blew our minds. New businesses were cropping up that totally changed our behaviour and created something totally new.

It’s the sort of business that comes along, gives the big guys a bit of a scare and before it’s too late it's a partner or die situation.

What next?

SavingsGlobal is the 'Amazon for deposits'

The UK. In short, SavingsGlobal is taking on the rest of Europe with English speaking countries first. Setbacks, however, include deals with the appropriate banking partners and regulatory issues.

Final word:

To help things, SavingsGlobal head of Europe Katriana Luch says it’s the "Amazon for deposits" but this actually does a disservice to its originality. Using technology to bypass regulatory or geographically complicated issues is the point of innovation and this particular solution could be very disruptive, and positive, for the financial sector.

Eyem: Doing community service

What is it?

At first glance, it’s another Instagram. On second look, it’s the authenticity-era Getty Images. It is a mobile-based community of amateur and professional photographers (the Instagram bit) which also has a marketplace in which it is able to monetise the photos by selling them into publishers and brands (the Getty Images bit), via a 50/50 revenue share model.

Why should marketers care?

  • 13m photographers
  • 40m photos
  • 150 countries in 21 languages
  • Clients include: Vice, Lufthansa, Mercedes-Benz, Nike, Uber, Amnesty International and Motorola.

Both brands and publishers, particularly in this era of real-time content and feedback, will have either been in one of the two following, less than ideal, situations:

We need a picture to go with this piece of content… now.

  1. Inserts horrible stock image photo of a group of suits brainstorming
  2. Takes a great image thought to be rights-free, only to find oneself trying very hard not to have to call the lawyers a few months later
Setting up your own content team may work for some brands but for others, the future will be in partnerships and in finding platforms that can help fuel grassroots talent, as well as monetise it

We are in a visual economy and that is great for brands. The problem is that our customers and readers now expect beautiful, cool imagery that feels close to them and expresses authentically the gist of what the message is. Stock imagery doesn’t do this and stealing people’s imagery shouldn’t happen but clearing rights can be too complex.

What next?

Eyem has only just launched its marketplace to the US and expects to roll it out to other markets this year. Currently photos can be bought for $20 for editorial use and $250 for extended commercial use. Eyem VP community Severin Matusek acknowledges that, particularly on the publisher side of the business, a subscription model would be preferred and there are plans to introduce that at a later date.

Final word:

Corporate studio imagery has its place but people, as users and consumers, have moved beyond this and authenticity is a demand that brands need to fulfil. Setting up your own content team may work for some brands but for others, the future will be in partnerships and in finding platforms that can help fuel grassroots talent, as well as monetise it.


Start Your Free 30-Day Free Trial

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free