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German startups in the Big Apple

The German government is helping young entrepreneurs travel to New York to develop their digital companies with a business incubator. And once they get there, they realize the sun doesn't only shine in California.

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Start Up Berlin - City of Ideas

It seems like a US business visa application is at least 200 pages long. The whole process takes four months.

Stephan Herrlich is one of those who made the grade - now he's allowed to run a business in the US for the next five years.

"It's obvious you can't just walk in and simply start working" the 38 year old says.

In his dark busines sakko Herrlich doesn't fit the image of a late night pizza eating startup renegade.

"That's just prejudice," he says in response. He says most startups are run by people between 30 and 40 - an age where they can grasp how to set up workable and sustainable business models.

Solving the staffing dilemma

That's true especially if they want to operate in the US.

Herrlich's business card introduces him as President of the Intraworlds company, which he co-founded. Intraworld helps companies build up talent pools - and has developed a special software for the task.

The program's algorythms help source suitable personnel. Intrawolrds already has a clutch of large customers in Germany - now it's out to sweep the US.

"Just imagine" Herrlich says, his eyes shining. "Price Waterhouse alone is looking for 15,000 new staff this year."

Soho desks

In New York's trendy Soho, Herrlich is esconced in an open plan office with 50 to 60 workstations. His startup has rights to one row of them. Another two companies have moved in here next to Intraworld - Stagelink and WyWy.

Other desks are occupied by Americans chosen by New York University, which operates the Accelerator. The German contingent moved in in July to form the German Accelerator New York.

The aim is to attract promising German startups to New York, and use it as a platform to tackle the rest of the US market. They're getting financial support from Germany's Economy Ministry. The German-American Chamber of Commerce is offering organizational assistance, along with numerous German and American companies.

Mentors decisive

Accelerator coordinator Teddy Goldstein once started a company in the music business.

He explains: "A jury selects the startups. It's a high pressure process. Those selected can work in the German Accelerator for three months, supported by mentors."

Goldstein doesn't want to name names, but he says there are some pretty well known characters amongst them.

"The mentor network is decisive" acording to startup WyWy's Tobias Schmidt. "You can rent office space anywhere - but it's contacts that count."

That's why he's been working shoulder to shoulder with other startups. He's already working succesfully in Germany, where he's attracted lots of venture capital. Now WyWy is focussing on the US.

"We've got 35 staff, numbers 33, 34 and 35 are here now" MBA Schmidt says.

Buy: Germany's Top Model

Tobias Schmidt also knows a business has to be close to its customer base in the US if it wants to get ahead. He's chosen the hardest possible adverstising market by coming to New York.

WyWy develops software that targets what are being called the second screens - smartphones and tablets. Schmidt's software allows a viewer to communicate directly with a TV show, and be approached at the same time by advertisers.

If someone likes a dress on the Germany's Top Model show it can also be offered for sale to them in realtime. Schmidt's mentor has put him in touch with a lot of new contacts inside a short space of time.

He doesn't want to go into detail though sasy he's happy. But living in New York is expensive, and the money for that has to come out of his own pocket.


That's why Nikolas Schriefer goes couchsurfing but he never stays with friends longer than two weeks. He lived in New York for a year as a student - and those contacts come in handy now.

He swaps ideas with American startups in the Accelerator, sometimes huddled in the small kitchen. There's even fresh draft beer in the evenings. No one knows where the beer pump came from but its a focal point for chat.

And sometimes Teddy Goldstein picks up his guitar to live things up. His passion for music saw him start his own company - now he helps others.

Music that pays off

Nikolas Schriefer's startup Stagelink suits the 27-year-old's background. He studied music and the piano, and wants to streamline the concert business. With two friends he's developed software that matches supply and demand.

Stagelink already has 350 artists in its databank. It's successfully organized 50 concerts - the musicians knew beforehand just how big their audience would be. Now Stagelinks's in the US. Schieffer says they've got enough money to tie them over until the middle of next year. "That's enough to begin with. Then we'll see what happens."

All the startups know there's no time to waste during their precious three months in the German Accelerator. The next candidates are already lining up for January - jury selection has just begun. Competition is stiff - with over 80 applications.

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