How To Build A Platform: Zalando Is Reaching Out To Startups In Helsinki

Zalando Tech Blog

Zalando is in the midst of reinventing itself. One major part of this reinvention is preparing itself for the ongoing shift towards ever increasing mobile usage. Zalando is preparing the technological basis for amongst other things becoming a platform powering mobile apps by third-parties. The first app to use this new platform was the Amaze app which is using Zalando as a ‘full-service’ infrastructure.1 Amaze’s use of a Tinder-like interface for discovery of fashion on a mobile device is an excellent example for why a platform for apps makes sense for Zalando.

‘Build it and they will come’ is usually not working with platforms as we all know. And so does Zalando. Zalando began to reach out to developers over the course of this year. From their tech blog:

we want to share our learnings and insights by offering the next generation of tech startups in the fashion and lifestyle space a three-month residency at our new Helsinki Tech Hub.

We opened our Helsinki office this August as our second Tech Hub outside of Germany. Following the opening of our Fashion Insights Centre in Dublin, we announced that our Helsinki team would focus on developing new apps and mobile products. Helsinki is also home to a vibrant and active startup community that has truly impressed us, and was a major factor in our decision.

It is sponsoring local tech blogs for its Tech Startup Residency Program in Helsinki to get the word out to the local scene. Again Zalando Strategic Growth Manager Benjamin Wörner at Zalando’s tech blog:

Interested in participating? Here are the minimum qualifications:

  • You’re a team of 2-5 founding members with an innovative business idea and an already existing prototype/beta (ideally with first traction)
  • Your product solves a problem related to some area of e-commerce: eg. customer insights, smart logistics, adtech, product and brand discovery, fashion-related content
  • You’re already based in Helsinki, or willing to relocate for the duration of the program

At the beginning of the three-month program we’ll jointly define what is needed to fully develop your product, develop a go-to-market strategy, and reach a critical mass of users.

(..)

No strings attached, all this is 100% free for startups

It makes sense to do this to build a vibrant platform. It is also interesting that Zalando is doing so much in Helsinki specifically. Helsinki and Finland in general had a burst of new startups because of developers looking for new opportunities following the implosion of Nokia. It seems this is still a pool a company like Zalando can tap into. A hungry local tech scene, based in Europe, still not to far off from the mothership in Berlin.


  1. Amaze is building a mobile fashion discovery experience. It is using Zalandos products and its shop for all transactions. It is a mobile affiliate approach. More on Amaze in a future article. 

4 comments

  1. […] dazu auch in den Early Moves (“How To Build A Platform: Zalando Is Reaching Out To Startups […]

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  2. […] As has been said here before, Amaze is a great showcase for why an online fashion retailer like Zalando would want to go the API platform route. Amaze uses the swipe gesture made popular by the dating app Tinder to do several things at once, as co-founder Robert Lacher told the audience on stage at our K5 conference earlier this year1: […]

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  3. […] own event and its open source strategy and startup programs have to be seen in this context as well as its failed attempt to make Instagram photos […]

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  4. […] How To Build A Platform: Zalando Is Reaching Out To Startups In Helsinki […]

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