In 2015, the Hamburg-based start-up Sonormed won the Digital Health & Life Sciences Technologies category at the South by Southwest creative fair (SXSW) in Austin, Texas with its Tinnitracks app. The opportunity to pitch a business idea alone is considered an accolade and a win boosts a start-up’s chances considerably
Developed by Jörg Land, Matthias Lanz and Andreas Nötzel, Sonormed’s app offers sufferers of tinnitus an individual course of treatment using Tinnitracks. In Germany alone, over 3 million people suffer from a bothersome ringing or buzzing in the ears. Tinnitracks allows sufferers to choose music themselves to treat the cause of the noise based on the so-called Tailor-Made-Notched-Music-Training (TMNMT). The effectiveness has already been confirmed by independent clinical trials. Land pitched the idea in Austin and beat nine rivals from the United States and Israel. SXSW has proved a launching pad for companies in the past and in 2007, Twitter reached a breakthrough there. Hamburg News talked to Land about SXSW and how Tinnitracks is now faring.
Great support from Hamburg Startups and IHM
Land attended SXSW as a delegate in 2014 and the trip paved the way for his stint there in 2015: “My trip to Texas was financed by the Ministry of Culture and Media and the Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft. We also met with Sanja Stankovic, co-founder of the private initiative Hamburg Startups, and Timo Wiesmann of the Hamburg Music Business Association (IHM) who encouraged us to enter the start-up contest in SXSW. Just before Christmas 2014, we were notified of our nomination and that was a huge step for us. Hamburg Startups in particular gave us tremendous encouragement without which we would not have made it.”
Important global prize for start-ups – worth USD 4,000
The founders first had to battle through several pitching rounds and a question and answer session to beat nine health start-ups despite the slight drawback of “Hamburger understatement”, Land remarked with a grin. But their perseverance saw them take home the coveted prize and USD 4,000. Hundreds of reports about Sonormed followed. Asked about the impact of SXSW on Tinnitracks, Land replied: “That was an outstanding experience and we are still celebrating. We have shown that our idea prevailed and this has sent a great signal to bigger partners. Yet such a success does not seal contracts. We have not been resting on our laurels and kept going and are still looking ahead.” This attitude is apparently paying off, as Tinnitracks is now a digital medical device prescribed by many Germany health insurers.
Munich-based start-up at SXSW Accelerator Pitch
The trio behind Sonormed are now setting their sights on even bigger goals. Land explained: “We still want to find our place in health care, grow prudently and develop new products.” Although the company will not be heading to Austin this year, Land will head to Texas in 2019 – maybe as a guest. Contestants in this year’s SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event have already been finalised: A total of 50 fledgling companies will pitch their business ideas in ten categories on March 10-11, 2018. The only German company among the contestants is the Munich-based eyecandylab start-up with a mixed-reality app for TV.