German Accelerator Makes NY Debut, Brings More Startups to the City

After winning it all at the World Cup, this week Germany introduced another team eager to score big.

The German Accelerator, which helps startups from Deutschland make headway in the U.S., has expanded its operations to New York. The three-month program was originally launched in 2011 as the German Silicon Valley Accelerator in San Francisco.

The emergence of the east coast branch came at the right time for one startup. Munich-based wywy had been looking to build up its presence in the U.S. market, says co-founder and COO Andreas Schroeter. Wywy offers ad tracking and analytics, and developed a service that lets TV advertisers put their ads on second-screen devices such as tablets and smartphones.

In June, Schroeter says, wywy completed the acquisition of Second Screen Networks, a New York-based company that synchronizes television ads with mobile devices and websites. The deal gave wywy a chance to break into the U.S. advertising and media buying markets, he says, which are huge in this city. Wywy has started hiring more staff in New York and Schroeter hopes mentors with the German Accelerator can help the company drum up more business connections here.

Schroeter says his company initially did not approach the German Accelerator because the wywy team thought the program only ran in Silicon Valley. But a chance meeting with a friend at an airport pub before returning to Germany brought word of the accelerator’s New York expansion.

Putting down roots in this city, Schroeter says, is crucial for startups that create technology for advertising and media. Wywy is tapping into the second screen phenomena, where people use mobile gadgets while watching TV shows. Schroeter says when wywy was founded in 2012, the team believed people were just using their smartphones to text and chat about the shows on TV. That was not the case. “They were writing e-mails, checking news websites, on Facebook, and playing games,” he says.

Such distractions got advertisers looking for ways to use mobile devices in their favor, Schroeter says. That is where wywy stepped in, offering to synchronize online marketing on mobile devices with television spots. “They get the same ad as a display banner on the second screen,” he says.

Many companies are trying to use mobile gadgets in tandem with televisions for advertising and other purposes. Microsoft sees second screen devices as ways to collect certain types of data from the TV audience. Shodogg created a platform that lets people share media from their mobile devices on televisions. Video game developer Playmatics has made tie-in titles for mobile devices based on popular TV shows.

Over at wywy, Schroeter says the company is developing software to better understand the online impact of TV advertising. Wywy can gather information on conversion rates from TV spots through second screen devices, he says, which would allow ad spending to be tailored to those patterns.

After its launch in Germany, wywy expanded its service to France, Britain, and Italy. Last December the company raised $7 million in a Series B funding round, with backers including Cipio Partners, to support its expansion to the U.S. Though the wywy team felt comfortable developing their technology, Schroeter says they had no experience with approaching the U.S. market. That led to a search for partners to collaborate with, he says, and the acquisition of Second Screen Networks.

Schroeter hopes wywy can gain traction quickly in the U.S. thanks to the acquisition and now with the help of the German Accelerator. Outside of the program, Wywy’s co-founders spend at least one week per month in New York, he says, to cement the company’s footing here. “I think the U.S. market is the most important for us,” he says.

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