Flannel trousers, frock coat and top hat were the identifying traits of a Hanseatic merchant who would certainly cause a stir strolling along the Alster in the 21st century. Yet, ideals such as correctness, reliability and commitment embodied by such merchants are still in great demand in the digital era. Other character traits included “beautiful handwriting”, but which is no longer essential. “Virtues such as decency and fairness are still the basis of modern deals, once sealed per handshake in Hanseatic tradition,” said Petra Vorsteher, co-founder of Smaato, the leading global real-time advertising platform for mobile publishers and app developers.
Smaato now has branches in San Francisco, New York, Shanghai and Singapore and Vorsteher is a frequent visitor. Her great cultural insight allows her to make comparisons and draw conclusions like no other. Naturally, her homecity of Hamburg is close to her heart and as Hamburg Ambassador, Vorsteher represents the city in the United States. The mayor of Hamburg appoints the ambassadors to their respective post.
Contest of ideas
Vorsteher has lived in Silicon Valley, where she founded the company with her husband Ragnar Kruse, since 1981. She remarked: “Hamburg and Silicon Valley have identical DNA, internationality and Hanseatic values and the same mentality. Silicon Valley has a trust code. People help each other and exchange views and ideas at dinner parties, markets and events without people fearing their idea is being copied. That is called 'paying forward’ here and it is deeply rooted in the valley’s DNA.”
“Many business ideas will never see the light of day. But they may inspire someone else’s project. That is the idea behind paying forward. Helping and supporting someone else and bringing them farther along a road unselfishly and without personal benefit – apart from taking a little pride in helping someone reach a breakthrough. You may get a helpful tip in future, which leads to success. That’s the DNA I mentioned. That is special about Silicon Valley.”
Mobile phone advertising – road to success
Smaato is a rare example of a strong, digital company in Hamburg, which operates on a global level. The company brings native, video and real-time advertising to mobile phones and reaches around 39 million Germans (76 per cent) – a greater part of the 51.8 million mobile phone users. Smaato reaches over 1 billion users worldwide, the company said.
In late 2016, Spearhead Integrated Marketing Communication Group, a publicly-traded Chinese marketing and advertising leader based in Beijing, purchased Smaato for USD 148 million. Operations for the 140 employees in Hamburg remain unchanged, said Vorsteher. Courses in Chinese are now on offer in Hamburg and have met with great enthusiasm, she noted, adding: “Plenty is happening in China at present – far more than most people assume. Incredible extents of innovation are occurring in nearly every sector.“
Hamburg is globally known for it’s international start up scene
Hamburg must make its strengths globally visible. “The city has good reason to present itself far more confidently,” Vorsteher noted. North German understatement is unmerited. The admiration for the city and its opportunities is plentiful abroad. And in that context, the understatement among Hamburg’s residents is often hard to understand.
“Hamburg has so much! The many high-calibre network events, for instance. NextMedia and Hamburg@work offer many interesting events for start-ups and established companies in diverse fields. More and more co-working spaces, venture capital investors, creative awards and accelerators are on offer.” The high standard of living, the creative spirit in the Speicher district and along the banks of the Alster and the Elbe are world class. That the city is identifying potential and backing start-ups by offering them their own hub is exactly right.
“Through international Masters courses taught in English, the Technical University of Hamburg-Hamburg (TUHH) now has students from all over the world. Hamburg is a ‘global city of innovation’ – a modern, international, cosmopolitan city that attracts talented people from all over the globe. And it is my great honour to represent the city in San Francisco.“