20 years after Fireball: Neofonie celebrates its anniversary
16. May 2018
The open source initiative, Google and Neofonie have one thing in common: they were founded in 1998. According to crunchbase, more than 3,000 “startups” were launched in the US at the same time, while in Germany it was only a fraction. As much as the term startup is one of the German vocabulary these days, 20 years ago it was more of a scene term among pioneers. Without venture capital investors, but with proprietary capital of 51,000 Deutschmarks (approx. 26,000 euro) the founders of the digital agency Neofonie left the Technical University (TU) Berlin in 1998 to start their own business. The project has paid off: this year, Neofonie celebrates its 20th anniversary and, according to the Internet Agency Ranking 2018, is one of the fifty leading agencies nationwide. The company has remained loyal to the Berlin location and employs around 180 people here – mainly software developers.
Even before Google: How the first engine search came from a thesis
When Oliver Paulus awarded a diploma thesis in 1996 – at that time he was a research assistant in the research project “Artificial Intelligence and Text Understanding” at the TU Berlin – he could not estimate the effects yet. The task: Developing a search engine for the internet – two years before Google was founded. The interest in this work was high, especially by the Hamburg publishing house Gruner + Jahr. The first joint projects motivated Oliver Paulus and his colleagues to finally leave the scientific environment and take the step into self-employment. “The positive feedback we received from all sides has confirmed our decision to venture the spin-off. It was a very exciting time”, says Oliver Paulus.
“The search engine Fireball was the most visited website in Germany for several months”, explains co-founder Nurhan Yildirim proudly, adding: “Without Gruner + Jahr as our first client and the TU Berlin, which provided us with space and IT infrastructure, we probably would not have started into self-employment so successfully.” Oliver Paulus and Nurhan Yildirim are still the shareholders of the company today.
After the iPhone Neofonie Mobile came
One year after the release of the first iPhone, Neofonie once again demonstrated the right pioneering spirit and founded Neofonie Mobile in 2008, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Since then, the hundred per cent subsidiary has been developing mobile devices for both Android and iOS. In the run-up to Silicon Valley’s recent Google I/O conference, Neofonie Mobile was named to receive the “Google Certified Agency Program” Award.
The managing director of Neofonie, Thomas Kitlitschko, continues to see great challenges and the associated need for change: “As a digital agency, we must constantly evolve in technological terms, constantly focusing on our customers and their goals. Especially in the field of consulting, our customers want a broader cooperation. Therefore, we are further expanding our competence and value chain as a digital consulting-agency in order to better accompany our customers in all phases of a digital project.”
Founder Paulus is motivated even after twenty years: “The digital project business requires that we are always up to date technologically. That keeps us energized.” “We have high standards for the quality of our solutions. In April, an app developed by Neofonie was awarded the European Digital Media Award. Such awards motivate us and confirm our work”, adds partner Yildirim.
About Neofonie GmbH
The Berlin-based digital agency Neofonie develops individual solutions in the fields of mobile, commerce, content management and artificial intelligence. As a full-service agency, Neofonie offers consulting, design and development from a single source. Customers include among others Wort & Bild Verlag, HUK-COBURG, Bechtle, Gruner + Jahr and FOCUS Online. According to the Internet agency ranking, Neofonie is one of the fifty largest full-service agencies in Germany and one of the top 20 for e-commerce and Top 20 for mobile solutions. Neofonie was founded in 1998 with the development of the first German search engine Fireball, as a spin-off of the TU Berlin and celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.