Can you write about beer and still bring in a lot of random startup things? I can, as you can see in my third Startup Guide Berlin blog guest post. I still need a really good idea, but the next post should be published somewhat soon-ish. If you have a suggestion for a topic, let me know on Twitter!
As I may or may not be looking for a job in May (may, may, May – ain’t that poetic?) and it is just 5 Euros for a jobseeker ticket until the end of March, I just got myself one. I been to two editions of Startup Safary before. So far, I did not get any job or interview through, but, as far as I know, it is the best event series around to get to know and in touch with some startups in Berlin that are hiring in a rather short amount of time. The great thing about it is that it’s actually not just one jobfair event, but rather events at different offices of startups and co-working spaces, organized by the companies that are hiring or otherwise interested in getting to know people. Some of the events even actually are not just interesting for jobseekers.
1) You’re originally from “Stralya”. Now you’re in Santiago, before you were in Berlin and at some time before that also in Delft/Rotterdam and Guernsey. Sterio.me, one of the startups you are involved in now got started in Zimbabwe and has Lesotho as it’s first pilot market. Do you sometimes start to think it would be nice to stay in one place for some longer time now? 😉
I think you would get along well with my mum. 😉
There are pros and cons associated with living and working in different locations. Personally, I get energy from visiting and living in new cities. I think it gives a deeper understanding of a range of cultures, behaviors and mentalities, which as a whole, form a deeper understanding of how your company can achieve product-market fit and build a relevant and beautiful solutions suited to your users. I am, however ready to stay in a place for a longer period of time, as stability provides freedom of thought to focus on solving a problem, as well as building a great team.
The next round of recommended reading:
- Free your data, by Protonet, covered on Techcrunch, by Natasha Lomas: Interesting move by Hamburg startup Protonet – they started a data privacy campaign, including a petition on change.org. Let’s see how that goes!
- The Moment I Knew Twitter Had To Buy Periscope, by Shane Mac: In case you don’t know Periscope, it’s a livestreaming app like much-hyped Meerkat. However, that’s not the point. This article is bizarre, that’s it. You have to wonder how it ended up on Techcrunch. Or maybe you don’t have to, anymore, these days. Not sure.
The 4Q4 Q&A series continues, this time with Yuki “Charles” Mochzuki, CEO of Xvolve, a company that you will probably hear more about soon. Xvolve is new to Berlin, but already established in San Francisco and Tokyo.
1) Have you always been into tech and startup things?
Yes, but we are not just focusing on the tech industry. If we have a chance, and if we think it’s better to start in another industry, we are willing to try anything. Our final goal and answer is not in business. Our mission is to “change the world to make a better place”. Business is just a spring board for us.
Therefore, if opening a grocery store is the quickest way to our final goal, we might open grocery stores to get there. But for now, we think that IT and tech are the fastest way to achieve our mid-term goal which is “to be larger than Google by 2020”.
2) You are around Berlin for a few weeks already now. What are you first impressions?
People are very diverse and very open. It feels like I am back in San Francisco. The startup scene is growing here, but there is also the artist philosophical side too. It’s like California in Germany, minus the weather.
AtomLeap might be the new hardware accelerator guys in town, but one should not forgot that Hardware.co is still here and alive and well. Tomorrow evening there is a meetup at Betahaus by them and Make: Berlin that is a good opportunity to see what they are up to and, at this moment, there’s still tickets available. The meetup will be both about learning stuff as well as checking out cool hardware projects, so it should be interesting. I will be there to see who needs electronic engineering help (from Oliver and our agency) and to possibly get feedback on this blog (if anyone there read it already…).
In case you did not see it yet, now you have time to look, as there’s nothing new here (yet): I wrote a second guest post on the Startup Guide Berlin blog, on startup definitions (of Blank, Graham and others), which got published last week.
Time for another edition of recommended reading. This time, it is going to be a bit more extensive, in terms of the number of articles, at least.
- How to create a €100 Million-Startup in 10 days (in German), by Ehssan Dariani, founder of StudiVZ: Ehssan explains how to create any valuation you want (on paper) with some very simple arithmetics and pricing in in-kind support, like shared services of an incubator or company builder (like Rocket Internet). I hope this article gets translated into English at some point, because the same kind of “mechanism” is probably also at work elsewhere, outside of Germany, and helps understand some of the things happening here. Explains why one should take any valuations and investment rounds that do not involve true outside investors with a grain of salt.
This might be interesting for everyone that is already in town tomorrow, before Startup Camp starts on Friday: Smau, an event about Italian startups and SMEs is coming to Berlin. Some of the things there will probably be oriented rather towards established companies, a macro-perspective, politics, investing etc. than startups itself and maybe only interesting for people that are really into Italy specifically, but… it’s free and in a central location (near Friedrichstraße), so you might as well go check it out! With initiatives like digItaly Berlin, Italians also are one of the most influential communities here. I looked over the program and with Giuseppe Colucci there’s at least one familar (Italian) Berlin startup face that will make an appearance as a speaker. Register on Eventbrite.
1) You previously worked at mymuesli, one of the most well-known German startups, in the mass-customization space. Is that what you really got you started in entrepreneurship, or did you always consider starting your own business?
When I started working at mymuesli I already had a desire to start my own company someday and also the intention to work on oxbridgebewerbung.de – I had secured the URL, completed a web development course, read UX books and tutored Oxbridge applicants on the side well before then!
However, my experience at mymuesli was invaluable for helping me learn about online marketing, was my first point of contact with Google Analytics and Adwords, and gave me some behind-the-scenes perspectives on how a young company can operate.
2) In 2008, you graduated from Oxford. How does your own, personal Oxford-story relate to the idea of Oxbridge Bewerbung?
Studying at Oxford was quite a coincidence for me. It did not cross my mind that it was even an option until my boss at an internship commented that Oxford would fit my academic interests. I did not take the idea seriously at the time, but credit him now with planting the idea in my mind.
The application time was a confusing one for me. I managed to get a handle on the application documents, but feel lucky I passed the interviews that are so critical for many international applicants. I had previously competed at the World English Debating Championships, so luckily I was comfortable engaging in the academic debate required at interviews.
After everyone going crazy about a named-after-a-fruit company’s watch (that has a battery life of about 5 hours when it is used a lot), there was another widely-discussed piece of tech news last night: Gigaom is in trouble. While Om Malik as the founder has not been very involved in it anymore already for a while, founded in 2006, Gigaom is one of the oldest major tech media companies that is (or was) still around. Whether you interpret this as the normal replacement of old media outlets with new ones in a similar category – like, for example Pando Daily, started in 2012, by former TechCrunch writer Sarah Lacy, or Re/Code started in 2014 by former reporters of All Things Digital – or as another sign of the (tech) media apocalypse, or both or something in between, is up to you.
After a short break with focus on FreeCodeCamp, job applications and other things, back to the blog! The last week was rather eventful for Berlin and startups, in terms of exits – Absolventa and Quandoo found theirs. Hamburg startup Metrigo “switched” theirs, from one Berlin-based buyer to another. Fab, if you want to count their leftovers as a Berlin startup nowadays, also found one. As that’s all old news by now, one more interesting thing to speculate is who might have an exit soon. Or who might need an exit soon. First, the old news…
English-language media on Berlin startups is not exactly flourishing these days. That’s why one should read and support amateur on-the-side things, like this blog, or the somewhat more professional but not so active Startüberlin (which is, by the way, open to posts from the community, I think), or listen to Hipster & Hack from the Silicon Allee team and subscribe to the TechBerlin bi-weekly newsletter. Despite Felicitias Hackmann’s efforts, VentureVillage is not what it used to be. While it’s still worth a read, especially for people that do not understand German and therefore Gründerszene (the German-language startup blog of Vertical Media, the Axel Springer-owned company that’s also behind VentureVillage), there’s not many original posts there anymore. One positive thing is that Charmaine Li, formerly writing for VentureVillage, has found a new home at Tech.eu.*
This brings me away from this “side track”, to the actual topic of the post: Tech.eu as a whole is not puting a particular emphasis on Berlin, probably because Robin Wauters as the main writer is based in Brussels and most of there other writers are scattered around Europe, but Charmaine still brings stories from here frequently and now she’s also host for a (GE-sponsored) event. The “After Hours – Start up Showcase with Charmaine Li of Tech.eu” at the Factory on the evening of Tuesday, March 24th will feature pitches from Changers, Priori Data and Neuronation – some interesting local startups – as well as Kacper Nowicki from GoEuro, one of the more succesful Berlin startups, and Tanja Kufner from accelerator Startup Bootcamp, as keynote speakers. If you want your startup story to appear in Tech.eu, this probably is also a good opportunity to try to pitch Charmaine. 😉
* Unlike a number of other former colleagues that switched to PR or left tech entirely.
Berlin startup Patience.io* has made it onto Product Hunt today and for the moment it looks like they collect a decent number of votes. Patience offers a SaaS solution for anyone to offer and sell their own online classes. Investors in the e-learning platform include Holtzbrinck Digital and RI Digital. You can also check them out and follow them on Angellist.
Talking about Product Hunt and Berlin, you should not miss their next meetup, coming up in a week, on March 11th.
Further talking about Berlin and Product Hunt, there is a collection of Berlin Startups, by David Nagy you should check out. At this moment, it’s still somewhat small and incomplete, but maybe this post will motivate him to do something about that. 😛
* Disclosure: I met Nikolaus Thomale, their CEO, during the early days of DailyDeal.
I came across three rather interesting articles the last couple days, which I think you should read, too:
- Y Combinator and 500 Startups — A founders comparison, by Milan Thakor, founder of Unwind Me: Individual results may vary, of course, but nevertheless it’s quite interesting to read this comparison of two of the most hyped accelerator programs in Silicon Valley from someone who went through both programs.
- Kreditech – Wucherkredite*(in German), by Daniel Brückner: If the previous article got you in too positive of a mood about startups, this one will certainly cool you down a bit. Despite the strange SEO-ish domain name “Toptestsieger”, Daniel’s blog is one of the go-to places if you want to read about the dark side of startups, in particular questionable business practices. Here he shows how Kreditech, which likes to portray itself as a fancy big data play, operates as a loanshark with absolutely ridiculous interest rates, north of 3.000%, in countries such as Poland, Russia, Peru and Spain (which apparently have less stringent financial regulations than Germany, where Kreditech did not have a micro-loan platform open for long…).
- Customer Development Resources, by Vidar Andersen, Founding Principal of +Andersen: Finally, if you’re looking for something (more) useful rather than interesting or infuriating, this is the post you should read. Customer Development is a pretty extensive topic and in this post Vidar clarifies a few things and points you in the right direction for some resources to really get into it.
If you think these posts were great, or useless crap, or you want to point me to some good articles for future editions of “Recommended Reading”, let me know on Twitter!
* That’s the German word for “loans with extremely high interest rates” – today you learned.
Fala português? Juliane Zielonka’s meetup group Silicon Valley Mindset for Entrepreneurs lets us know that there will be “IT Business Opportunities in Minas Gerais, Brazil – Roundtable & Networking”², taking place at the Embassy of Brazil on Friday, March 20th. This is the second meetup at an embassy by them in a row, after one at the US embassy a week ago, which apparently was quite popular³. This event already starts at 9am in the morning, so I will be curious to see what effect that has on Berlin regulars versus others showing up. There’s not that much insights on Brazil or South America in general you usually get in (startup) Berlin, everything is very much about Europe and the US, so this should be quite interesting. You do not actually need to speak Portuguese, however, you do need to also register by email to the event – signing up to the event on meetup is not enough.
² Minais Gerais is one of Brazil’s biggest and most economically important states, in case you did not know.
³ I did not apply to go to that one. Currently not a startup founder (yet – in the process of possibly becoming one) or investor and it was supposed to be exclusive to those.
Time for another update on my freeCodeCamp progress: I am now close to completing the CS101 course on Stanford courseware, which are the challenges 18 to 23 on freeCodeCamp – one for each week of the course, bascially. The content is quite easy or basic, at least for people that have been interested in – although not necessarily super-knowledgeable about – computers for a while, like me. This surprised me, because I remember trying to do a Harvardx course a longer time ago that was considerably harder to really get into. Might have been because my motivation was different, or because it was actually a slightly more advanced or ambitious course. As I do not remember which course it was, I can’t really find out easily now. Anyways, here are the things I like, want to criticise and found interesting about this part of freeCodeCamp, starting with the negatives.