As_Ambassador, Internet entrepreneur Petra Vorsteher establishes alliances with corporations in San Francisco.
Hamburg. On one of the top floors of the Emporio-Tower, Petra Vorsteher admires the view that her staff will soon be able to enjoy. Rain is slightly blurring the city’s panorama today, but being based in the landmarked and elaborately refurbished former headquarters of Unilever Germany, is confirmation of being established - in Hamburg as well as in the economy of the Hamburg Metropolis. In September, the approximately 70 employees of Smaato’s Hamburg office will move from the Gerhofstrasse, near the Gänsemarkt, to the newly designed office space of the Emporio tower. “We’ll have room for over 100 employees”, says the internet company’s Co-Chief. Smaato will need that space - the company is rapidly growing. And most of the employees - internationally currently about 120 - are based in Hamburg.
Vorsteher’s company Smaato mediates advertising for mobile devices
The office relocation in the Hanseatic city, the development of Smaato, living on the go and being active in numerous networks – seem to come easy to Petra Vorsteher, 57. One does not notice the hard work and discipline behind her accomplishments.
On the road for almost half of the year, she travels the world, now more than ever for the city of Hamburg. In May, Hamburg’s first Mayor Olaf Scholz honored her with the appointment as ‘Hamburg Ambassador’ for San Francisco. Vorsteher already serves the city as a board member of “Hamburg@work”, a trade organization of approximately 700 Hamburg based IT and tech companies.
Appointing Vorsteher as the representative of Hamburg’s economy in California was a smart move. For more than 30 years, the manager and entrepreneur has been part of the development of information technology in its globally most significant hub - the Silicon Valley. Hamburg’s Senator for Commerce and Innovation Frank Horch first met Vorsteher during his delegation tour to the USA’s east coast and Canada, and suggested her as Hamburg Ambassador to the mayor. “Mrs. Vorsteher is at home in two worlds - in Hamburg and in San Francisco. This makes her the perfect fit for this honorary appointment”, says Horch. “Petra Vorsteher also stands for the vision of our city: cosmopolitan, modern and welcoming, economically and culturally attractive for citizens, companies and travelers. She will be excellent at representing Hamburg in the USA.”
Currently, 35 Hamburg Ambassadors - renowned people from business, politics and culture - represent Hamburg worldwide. In the beginning, the ministry of foreign affairs in Berlin was skeptical about the network of Hamburg’s honorary Ambassadors. For Hamburg, the program has been very successful time and time again. “Hamburg has a global network of personalities that is unique in this shape and form”, Horch stated. Hamburg’s Ambassadors contribute business contacts, consult with the development of new companies and engage in representative functions, as well as promote the city across the globe - be it in Tokyo or Paris, Boston or Shanghai. And now in San Francisco, too.
Vorsteher - born near Hamburg, moved to the United States in the early 80s and soon entered the world of IT as a consultant. At that time, a technological revolution was underway at the USA’s West Coast, with companies like Microsoft, Apple, Cisco Systems and Oracle fundamentally changing the world. During the New Economy, Vorsteher helped build and grow the German company Intershop, a developer of online marketplaces that now belongs to the Ebay group.
“Petra Vorsteher stands for the vision of our city. She will be excellent at representing Hamburg in the USA.” - Frank Horch, Senator of Commerce
In 2005, she co-founded Smaato in San Francisco, putting herself at the start of yet another technological wave. “Initially, we were developing an application for mobile devices to track communication costs. What you call an app today.” Soon though, Smaato pivoted to advertising aggregation and mediation for smartphones - a business that skyrocketed upon the release of Apple’s first iPhone in 2007 and the subsequent development of tens of thousands of apps. Approximately 90 billion ad units, so-called “banners,” are being delivered on Smaato’s technology platform globally per month, according to Vorsteher. “If for instance a marathon is taking place in Hamburg, a sports apparel manufacturer such as Nike can specifically target advertising to devices in the area - for a few hours, a couple of days, completely flexible,” Vorsteher explains. Smaato connects app developers and mobile publishers with advertisers and agencies on its platforms - a business that is constantly changing and rapidly developing. “Globally, we’re the leading independent company that focuses on mobile advertising,” she states, in reference of their most important competitor, Google.
Smaato’s headquarters and their main office for their innovation experts are located in San Francisco. All technical development of their platform is located in Hamburg. From Singapore, the company tends to the rapidly growing Asia-Pacific market. As a location in Germany for young and innovative companies, Hamburg especially competes with Berlin. Smaato chose Hamburg as their European headquarters: “The decision in favor of Hamburg was already made very early,” Vorsteher said. Hamburg is an established commerce city and is very open to the development of information technology and its immense possibilities of utelization. The city promotes companies extremely well through interconnection - and the local universities offer a strong foundation for well educated and promising new talent.
The connection to San Francisco through Vorsteher’s various functions is of special value to Hamburg. Vice versa, benefits Smaato from the close ties that its Co-Chief has with Hamburg’s business network. And now, Vorsteher is promoting Hamburg more than ever in Silicon Valley. Her first Hamburg event in San Francisco took place in June. Around 80 guests responded to the new Hamburg Ambassador’s invitation to the city’s German Consulate General. “I view it as a great honor to represent the world’s most beautiful city,” Vorsteher says, living and working in two of the world’s most beautiful cities.
Originally published in the Hamburg Abendblatt newspaper on July 14, 2014