Interviews require being in the same place at the same time, or at the very least a (Skype) call, and that is very time-consuming to do. That’s why for my blog, I opted to go for Q&As which I will call “4 Questions 4″ instead. This is not an interview – keep that in mind, when reading “4Q4″! For this edition, I decided to “question” local expat-entrepreneur Nathan Williams.
1) You moved to Berlin from Montreal, Canada. When and why did you decide that you want to make the move to Europe? Did you consider other options than Berlin?
In 2012 I graduated with an MBA from the John Molson School of Business. My wife and I knew it was time to leave Montreal, partly because of the economy, partly to really kick-start a new period in our lives. We had looked at other cities in Canada including Vancouver, Victoria, and Toronto, but they were very expensive. Then my wife went on a business trip to Berlin and fell in love with the city. She talked with a few people who told her of the thriving startup scene here. I had worked in startups before and we had always wanted to live in Europe so I said “That’s good enough for me!” I took one German Class at the Goethe institute that September, applied for a visa and came over in February 2013, determined to start a new life in the Berlin Startup Scene.
2) Which things do you see as still missing or lacking in Berlin?
What does Berlin not need more of?!? Accelerators! – Well, okay, maybe Berlin can actually make use of this one called AtomLeap, to my knowledge the second hardware accelerator in town, after Hardware.co.
In the meantime, my excitement over Techstars coming to Berlin, previously the latest (significant) addition to the accelerator-field, had diminished a bit, since they announced they will partner up with Metro and focus on food and gastronomy startups. However, I just realized that apparently this actually will be a different, second program, seperate from the regular Techstars Berlin program. (Anyone else that got confused by their communication, or just me?) Either way, this move somewhat contradicts statements made by Jens Lapinski, the head of the local programs, just a few weeks ago.
As a short follow-up to my Cryptoparty event post, here a short explanation on how to get started with XMPP (Jabber) OTR chat with Pidgin, to spread some (very basic) knowledge. I deviate from the advice given at the Cryptoparty, because I did not use Jitsi, but rather Pidgin. The reason for not using Jitsi is simply that my brother advised me not to use it, as it is build with Java. Therefore, I reverted to Pidgin, a messenger client I already used before, not so long ago. We did not go into the other steps at this Cryptoparty, so I am not sure in how far they conform with the advice that is usually given there on that. Anyways… Let’s get started!
Quite a few event-related posts on here lately – but this time at least, I want to recommend two useful and educational kinds of events, not merely fun or entertaining ones. By coincidence, despite otherwise not having that much in common, both have “party” in their name, which really might make you expect something that is primarily just entertaining, however, in these cases, it’s misleading. I attended both a Speech Party and a Cryptoparty in Berlin this week, both are also happening in other places though (hence the Berlin in brackets, in the title). Both are regular, reoccuring events (hence no date in the title).
The second episode of Silicon Allee‘s Hipster & Hack podcast is out – actually already since about a week ago, I just did not notice before yesterday. If David and Travis keep up the pace, the next one should come tomorrow or the day after already. Topics of this episode are Netflix and how to access it from different places, Axel Springer investing in Business Insider and Slack (the startup that is getting so popular so fast that even their own founder does not know why).
What becomes obvious during this episode is that the Silicon Allee crew is probably not exactly unbiased towards Axel Springer, but given that David worked for the English edition of Bild.de before (and, to his credit, he mentions that he worked for AS before, on the podcast), I don’t think anyone really expected that either… 😛
I would hope for a bit more “Berlin-relevant” startup topics in the coming episodes, but otherwise and in general, the podcast seems fine to me.
Startups in the DC area are not huge, as I found out during my time participating in the Mach37 accelerator (in nearby Herndon, Virginia). The government is huge and almost everything relates to that, it seems, even the startup activity there. Mach37 focused on IT security – called cybersecurity over there – while 1776 focuses on solving “the world’s most important challenges”:
1776 is a global incubator and seed fund helping startups transform industries that impact millions of lives every day—education, energy & sustainability, health, transportation and cities.
Essentially both focus on things important to governments. Mach37 will probably not “go international” anytime soon, but 1776 will bring their pitch competition “Challenge Cup” to Berlin on February 24th, as one of 16 cities they will go to. 1776 is one of the most well-known players in DC tech, so if you have any amibitions of moving or opening an office there, it might be a good idea to register and come to their Berlin event. – Somehow most of the people in Europe only seem to be interested in Silicon Valley though, and no one seems to care much for the East Coast, so I doubt this will be the main motivation for many.
If your startup fits one of the four focus categories (mentioned in the quote above), you can also apply to compete – maybe the prizes will be a good motivation for that!
I will (most likely) also be around. As usual, I will also be looking for new opportunities in tech, as well as electronics and software development projects, so, if you need help with that – and have a budget – or just have questions about Mach37 and Washington D.C., talk to the tall guy with the red Union Berlin scarf, or ping me on Twitter.
When I started my first internship in a startup in late 2009, I did not know about the practice of “making intros”. I think the first time someone asked me to make one and also called it “intro” was when the founder of Bonusbox, Paul Gebhardt, wrote a message to me and asked me to introduce me to the founder of Biodeals*, Gero Gode. I do not remember actually making that intro, I think I simply did not know what to write and then forgot about the message – sorry about that, Paul!² 😉
These days I make intros somewhat frequently, which – I think – is normal when you work around tech for a while and are, at least somewhat, influenced by the Valley culture or approach, of helping each other, open sharing of ideas and so on. Of course, intros are made in every industry and context, even non-business³. However, I think it is usually seen as a bigger deal or favor, when you introduce someone outside of the “startup bubble”. By the way, to not give anyone ideas: I rarely ever make intros to investors (and only for people that work on something that seems quite impressive to me). I know a couple investors, a handful might even recognize and know me, too, however, I do not think I have much credibility with any one of them to be of much help. (If I did, I might have an idea or two of my own that I might look to get funded right now, too…)
I cannot claim that me writing an intro for someone lead to big contracts or anything like that either. At least not that I am aware of, or not directly. However, in a few cases a good speaker for an event or conference was found, some people met each other and got along well, exchanged knowledge, collaborated and so on. Always good to see that! However, in a few cases, I also had the opposite happening. Today, I will write about three of those cases.
The parties and events at Rainmaking Loft Berlin & nearby Le Labo are usually fun and/or interesting. In two week, there’s a special one coming up: The “Rainmaking Loft Berlin 1 Year Grand Anniversary Party!”, celebrating the launch one year ago. Within that year, Rainmaking Loft has become one of the main locations for “startup activity” in Berlin. Even though the space is more modest in it’s claims than certain other (self-proclaimed) hubs, there is actually more interesting things going on (than in some of the other places…). Therefore, this one should be good – register on Eventbrite & Facebook for the party on February 27th!
Interviews require being in the same place at the same time, or at the very least a (Skype) call, and that is very time-consuming to do. That’s why for my blog, I opted to go for Q&As which I will call “4 Questions 4″* instead. This is not an interview – keep that in mind, when reading “4Q4”! Originally, I planned to restrict this section to only “question” people (in tech and entrepreneurship) that I already know for a while, but this time I made an exception, because I was quite interested in the topic.
1) You work for Wamda, which, while not so well-known among people in tech in Europe, is probably one of the biggest names in tech in the MENA area, together with Arabnet and a couple others. Wamda also got an investment fund. Which Arab startups – Wamda investments or otherwise – are you excited about at the moment?
Yes, you’re right, Wamda
is one of the main media outlets on startups in the Arab world, but we also do events, research, and investment.
Since I cover mostly North Africa, I’d say I’m most excited about a Tunisian startup, Saphon, which invented a bladeless and rotation-less wind turbine, cheaper, less polluting, and easier to use than regular wind turbines, and a Moroccan one, Anou, which has build a solution that lets artisans to sell their products online on Etsy independently, even if they don’t know how to read or have never used internet before. (Read the story of Anou here.)
2) You are also one of the initiators of The Blue House, a month-long “work vacation” program in Morocco, coming up in March. What were the reasons you choose for Morocco? Which similar programs in other places do you know?
Last week’s Crunchies, the startup award show of TechCrunch and Venturebeat, apparently did not go so well. Not well at all, actually, if even Michael Arrington (as the founder of TechCrunch) had this to say…
The “field” of podcasts on tech and startups in Berlin is not exactly crowded now, as far as I know. There’s Berlin Startup Radio – not to be confused with the German-language Startup Radio, produced in far-away Frankfurt am Main – and the currently still inactive Friday at Six, my favorite startup media outlet, originally started out as a podcast or radio show (before it became a TV/video stream show), too.
Now the Silicon Allee team has started something which is more interesting (to me) than their current posts on fashion e-commerce on medium: Hipster & Hack, a new podcast. The first episode is about Opinion (the app), Zipjet, the Super Bowl and beer, essentially. The recording quality is quite good, as it was recorded at the studio of Soundcloud. I think this start is quite promising, looking forward to the next episodes with David and Travis!
Do you know of any other good podcasts on tech and startups in Berlin? Let me know on Twitter.
As you can also read over at Startüberlin – one of the lesser-known, sometimes only sporadically active, but in general pretty decent blogs on startups in Berlin – there is another event by Startup Guide Berlin coming up this week. Their events are usually good and this time it might get even better: There will be free food and drinks, that are probably – I can only assume – sponsored by Debitoor and Paychex, who are supporting this event. Plus, it will be a pub quiz, which is fun even when it is not about startups.
So, if you do not have any plans for Friday evening at 19:00, head on over to the Facebook event to sign up to meet the talented and attractive people working on Startup Guide Berlin and have some fun at Le Labo. I’m not sure how the formation of teams for the quiz will work and if putting your own team together will be allowed, but if you are serious about winning and would like to join mine, let me know on Twitter! – Otherwise, this event will also be the ideal opportunity for you to tell me that you think that my blog sucks etc. 😉
I been writing on a longer post about Jobspotting for about a week now, but the way things are going, I will be spontaneously writing about some more other, more current things first. Before re-starting this blog in late December, I wrote on a fairly extensive post about the state of English-language tech media in Berlin. Basically it was a kind of reaction, follow-up or update on what Christoph Räthke from Berlin Startup Academy wrote back in March ’14, focused on media in English only, as that is more important to me* and also has taken a more “drastic” turn to the negative (than the German-language media), in terms of quality, quantity and relevance. I then decided to scrap the article, among other things because I did not want to start out on a negative note, with critique, lamenting the status quo without doing anything much about it etc.. However, there’s really no way around saying this anymore now: things ain’t pretty!
Back in December, I already wondered if Silicon Allee went on an early Christmas break of sorts, as rather few new articles were published on the site. Even more so in January, with just two new posts published. The explanation I got at a Startup Safary event by Twilio last week, talking to Andrew Haw, Silicon Allee’s
resident tennis ace community manager. The full implications of the new strategy, I just understood going on the main site and Silicon Allee’s Medium page today.
Away from Berlin for a moment, to Cologne, back to “territory” I used to cover when I was writing this blog (in it’s first “incarnation”) from Maastricht:
Startup Weekend Cologne is certainly one of the best-organized and -supported Startup Weekends around* and it is happening… right now. In case you are interested what they were up to this weekend, take a look at the livestream over at Nerdhub. The final presentations should start soon, at 5pm CET.
* I know – or I am bit biased – because I volunteered there once. Good place to get to know more (Cologne) tech people! When I was there, even Andrew Hyde showed up briefly.