Media Lab Bayern: an incubation unit for digital media development and innovation
Located in Munich, the Media Lab Bayern is a co-working and incubation space dedicated to media innovation startup companies. Focused on enhancing digital journalism and developing media projects, the Lab uses a multidisciplinary approach to encourage and support the evolution of projects from the initial idea to the foundation and launch of a start-up company.
The media lab was created in 2015 to foster media innovation, “to bring together [multidisciplinary] teams and to support entrepreneurship in media,” explains Lina Timm, director of Media Lab Bayern.
The lab provides a creative and supportive space for startups, offering aid and advice for teams developing media innovation project ideas. It is aimed at both students and professionals from the media, journalism, information technology, design and business development sectors.
The lab employs a variety of approaches to foster and develop media innovation ideas from inception to market launch, mainly focusing on design thinking and lean development. After thorough analysis of every team’s needs, these methods are then taught to candidates and future company owners during three programmes tailored for specific needs and targets.
These programmes are:
- Open-space programme: a co-working space allowing teams selected by the Media Lab to work on project ideas related to innovation and media with coaching from specific mentors brought in by the lab
- Media entrepreneurship programme: a three month long design thinking course which focuses on identifying trends, researching how the audience approaches media and doing research on issues within the media industry and provides aid for people without teams and/or with rough project ideas
- Media Startup Fellowship: a six month long incubation programme which offers mentoring, business coaching and financial aid of up to €15.000 to launch a product or company on the market
The lab also organises Hackathons, two-day events which bring together teams journalists, programmers and web design to develop new ideas, concepts and prototypes which are then evaluated by a jury.
As the unit is focused on supporting and mentoring teams to develop project ideas and startup companies, Media Lab Bayern measures their success through analysing the number of companies launched during or after the startup fellowship.
Other metrics used to evaluate the success of the media lab are the number of attendees in the three programmes offered, the popularity of the events organised and results of the startups incubated within the lab after their launch on the market.
The lab is currently looking into developing additional metrics to assess the lab’s success more effectively and to continue to enhance the lab based on these results.
Media Lab Bayern is affiliated with the Ministry of Economics and the Regional Ministry, who provide the majority of funds for their projects, as well as the Bavaria Regulatory Authority for New Media.
Due to the collaborative method of work, the Lab maintains strong connections with a variety of media and business experts from Bavaria, who are often brought in as mentors to offer advice to the teams participating in the Lab’s programmes, as well as supervise their activities.
The relationships with developing and design partners is also maintained through the Hackathon events organised by the Media Lab Bayern. The events allows the Lab to connect experts from various domains, including journalism, business and computer science, with teams signed up for one of the three programmes offered by the Lab, in order to broaden the collaboration network.
In addition, the Media Lab often collaborates with Red Bull Media House on various projects dedicated to media innovation.
“I’m constantly trying to be open my network from media companies, publishers, from broadcasters, radio stations, everyone who’s in a big company in media in Germany, gets to help our teams to get first customers or to get a test project or something with the others,” says Timm.
One of Media Lab Bayern’s most successful projects is the launch of VanishTale, a startup company producing Snapchat stories, videos and features for publishers and brands.
The company also develops marketing strategies and guidelines for brands, as well as provides data relating to audience engagement with content, growth rates and content analysis.
VanishTale was formed as a collaboration between two participants in the lab’s open space programme after their individual teams got disbanded. The two approached different project ideas throughout the startup fellowship until settling for their Snapchat marketing developer company, and continued to develop it through the Axel Springer Plug and Play Accelerator.
“For me, this is a really huge success, even if they’re not uniform yet. It’s my favourite team because they paved a path, they did their homework, I think they really learned the tool sets, how to do innovation, how to give up another idea, and they worked together as a team, so I’m really proud of them,” says Timm.
Another project conducted by Bayern is FutureLab, an event which consists of five workshops and one Hackathon where 10 partners discuss themes concerning:
- Smart Mobility
- Smart Homes
- Artificial Intelligence
- Augmented Reality
The participating partners include Lufthansa, Red Bull Media House, ASUS and IBM Watson.
Looking to the future
Media Lab Bayern will continue to provide counseling and funding for developing startup companies in the near future, as well as organise Hackathons and other events. The team will also continue to further broaden their media network to improve their services and increase the number of mentors available for consultancy.
In addition, the lab is planning to attend a number of conferences on media innovation, such as Media Days in October, and organise innovation tracks starting this autumn.
“We have so many things that I don’t know when to do all them, but it’s going to be cool!” says Timm.
Journalism student at UCLan and intern on the Media Innovation Mapping project (summer 2017).