Digital win-win: Axel Springer Plug and Play promotes sophisticated start-ups

23. November 2015

Digital win-win

Axel Springer Plug and Play promotes sophisticated start-ups

Ulrich Schmitz, Geschäftsführer der Axel Springer Digital Ventures. Bild: © Adlershof Special

Ulrich Schmitz, CEO of Axel Springer Digital Ventures the Adlershof company Phizzard. This has developed a touchscreen solution that customers in shops can use to find clothing quickly in their size. CEO Peer Hohn and Ulrich Schmitz, Managing Director of Axel Springer Digital Ventures, talk about shared expectations, effects, and added value.

Can you outline the objectives of Axel Springer Plug and Play?

Ulrich Schmitz: Axel Springer Plug and Play is aligned to German and European start-ups, intending to provide these with specific support in the development and realisation of their digital ideas. At the same time, this programme supports US start-ups in their expansion to Germany and Europe.

What is the business model of Phizzard?

Peer Hohn: Our customers are fashion and shoe retailers with physical branches that benefit from our transfer of e-commerce technologies. Our core solution comprises a touchscreen size adviser in the changing cubicle that helps the customer to find a fitting article faster than normal. We know that most people enter a cubicle only twice. If they haven’t found anything that fits by then, they leave the shop without buying anything. The handling is very easy: scan in the article’s barcode, and assess whether the article will fit or is too small or too large. Then the shopper sees in the cubicle the other sizes available in the shop and the articles that fit better. We also recommend additional articles. In this manner we increase turnover for the retailers.

What’s the motivation for Axel Springer? Why is your company running an accelerator?

Schmitz: First and foremost, it’s an investment in the future. We want to find and promote great companies at the earliest possible stage. This is, so to speak, our way of keeping our ear to the ground in our search for innovations, trends, and potential partners.

What do you expect from a start-up, say Phizzard?

Schmitz: What we expect above all from all participating companies is that they achieve business success, and we do our part to make this so. At the same time, we positively encourage start-ups to extend their business lines beyond the media focus of Axel Springer.

What are you hoping from Springer Plug and Play?

Hohn: Primarily help in sales and in addressing investors.

What effects have been obtained?

Hohn: Our presentations to investors have improved considerably. Also, Axel Springer helps us to address retailers who are also their customers. In addition, they have corporate partners, companies that cooperate on the best terms. As is the case with us as well – but we can’t disclose the name of our cooperation partner just yet.

Where do you see the mutual benefit for both companies?

Schmitz: With the investment, we enter into a partnership where both parties get to know each other and can start cooperation at an early stage. If the new company turns out to be a success, we both profit from the joint path taken and the achieved increase in value. Moreover, we’re building a bridge between Berlin and Silicon Valley that can help companies to think on a more global scale.

Hohn: In this manner, Axel Springer introduces new ideas to the company und can profit from the increases in value contributed by the participating companies. Innovations are then generated that benefit both sides.

So how will you proceed after the accelerator phase?

Hohn: We won the Best in eCommerce Award and gained the ANWR Group, with over a thousand shoe retailers, for a pilot project at several shops. At present, we are holding talks with potential investors.

Will you continue to promote start-ups in this manner?

Schmitz: Our partner Plug and Play Tech Center, a leading accelerator and start-up investor from Silicon Valley, and we are thinking of a long term commitment.

By Chris Löwer for Adlershof Special

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