The case for learning Arabic & BDLA16

This is only vaguely related to Banque du Liban Accelerate 2016, as some of the points I will bring up relate to the promise and purpose of the conference and I got this question a lot there – but also before and after. (Somewhat surprisingly, I think I got it more often from Arabs than others.) Other than that, it is basically a personal post, somewhat off topic from the usual topics on my blog. The question is:

Why the f**k do you want to learn Arabic?

In the following lines, let me explain myself, and also explain why I think it might be a good idea if more people did the same.

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The IoT Security Time Bomb has gone off

For mobile, security had been a topic long before it was a real issue. For IoT, everything went a lot faster. Plus, the problem is a lot bigger, at least in terms of “global” impact, on the internet in general. (While mobile remains the bigger issue for personal security. Luckily, not everybody is at a high risk of becoming a victim of highly targeted attacks, like Ahmed Mansoor.) Actually, IoT is shattering records.

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The case of Movinga or how the Berlin startup scene ACTUALLY wastes (some of) it’s potential

The Local – a site on which you can read local (in this case German) news in English – is not a news source that I would expect to have a particular expertise on startups. Nevertheless an article titled How the Berlin startup scene is wasting its potential which was published there made the rounds last week, also among startup circles.

Some of the points raised apply to startups everywhere: I have yet to see a startup ecosystem which is not male-dominated (3.), including Sweden – which seems to be the author’s favorite. The Swedish startups mentioned by the author on a previous point (1.), Truecaller, Spotify and Tictail, are very much male-lead, having investors such as Atomico and KPCB, which are also male-dominated. Early-stage startups lacking experienced employees (4.) is the rule rather than the exception, too, and many of Berlin’s startups are still rather early-stage.

For some other points, I have seen examples of exactly opposite at startups in Berlin and I would argue that I have a more representative sample, being around a number different startups since late 2009, compared to the author Shaun Kemp, who seems to have worked for exactly one (!) startup (Twago) for 2 years, since he arrived in 2014, according to his LinkedIn. I have seen hierarchies that were anything but flat (5.), and I have seen innovation slowing down because of too much structure and hierarchy levels (7.) and (8.).

So what is actually going wrong in Berlin? First of all, I would say: not everything, or most things, as Kemp’s article seems to imply. Things are definitely not “ideal” though either. To give a current “case study”, consider Movinga.

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Berlin Events: React.js at Coffee & Code 0.16 on August 13th

The next Coffee & Code is coming up next weekend. After Daniel gave us an introduction to Linux at the last meetup, we again have a topic we will focus on. This time, it will be React.js, the powerful front end framework that is developed at Facebook and powering it’s user interface. If that sounds interesting to you, come join us!

If you have a topic to suggest to focus on in one of the upcoming meetups, let us know in the Free Code Camp Berlin Facebook group.

FCC Berlin: 13 meetups & counting

After a long break, it’s time to post something again. This Saturday, the freeCodeCamp Berlin group had it’s 13th “official” meetup. And by official, I mean “announced as a Facebook event”. There’s been other times where I, as the main organizer, as well as other group members informally met up to learn coding together on short notice. There’s also been times among these 13 when nobody showed up though. Time for a first evaluation!

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Berlin Events: The Logan CIJ Symposium March 11-12

The last time I wrote a longer post about something political (in the context of the Landesverrat protests), I got accused of being part of a politically ignorant or apathetic bunch in Berlin tech – even though I thought it was pretty clear and obvious that my post was meant to be descriptive of the status-quo, rather than prescriptive or approving.

In any case, I’m doing my part, for today, and wanted to let you know about an interesting and important event in town, happening tomorrow and the day after: The Logan Center for Investigative Journalism Symposium is – you guessed it – a conference about investigative journalism. In this day and age, that topic should be important and relevant not only for journalists, but also for other people that are interested in politics, privacy laws, surveillance and technology. (And Markus Beckedahl from will be there, too.) There are still some tickets and, in case you cannot make it to BCC, there will also be a livestream of the event.

How to: Become a developer in Berlin

My own path to become a developer in Berlin probably cannot be “replicated” easily: I relied on the help and generosity of other people, which I knew for more or less long, and also got lucky to be accepted in the end, even though I was not on a high skill level yet, probably simply because I am – and make the impression to be – eager and able to learn more.

I do think, however, that it is not rocket science to become a developer here. There is demand, as well as a lot of help and opportunities to get in contact with the right people. Today at the Free Code Camp Berlin meetup, we talked about some things that improve your chances.

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4 Questions 4: Simon Tadros (JSConf Beirut)

Next up, another 4Q4. This time we go outside of Europe, to Lebanon.

1. When I first met you, you were still mainly into PHP. When did you leave that behind and why?

It’s not about leaving behind. PHP is a great programming language and it’s open source. It all started with a hello world, exploring Node.js and I was impressed by the node package manager and libraries available, especially those connecting to IoT.

2. You are organizing a JSConf in Beirut in February. What do you think will be the highlights of the program there?

JS is not well spread among Lebanese devs. Here the majority of developer use PHP, JQuery, some native JS. So it’s gonna be like a big introduction to front end stacks, like Angular and React, intro to Node.js, the Ionic framework on mobile and robotics. However, we will also push some advanced topics.

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Berlin Events: Refugees on Rails – #2 TechTalk on December 8th

Refugees on Rails is not only an interesting – and one of the more sensible – initiatives for refugees in Berlin, they also host some interesting “TechTalk” events. The next one is coming on December 8th and will be given by Gianluca Varisco, VP of Security at Rocket Internet, about security architecture. As IT security is one of my favorite topics which I like to learn more about, I definitely plan to be there, too! 😉

Recommended Reading: Berlin Beer City / Funds (x2) / Rocket / Tidal

This week, again, Recommended Reading for… everyone that likes to read! 😉

19042015 4Q4 Sissel

Startup Guide Aarhus: Also recommended – if you are interested in Aarhus.

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Berlin Events: PUBLIC VIEWING – Die Höhle der Löwen (VOX) on October 13th

I have to admit that I missed most of the last couple episodes of DHDL – since I have regular full-time work now, I rather spend my free time with basketball or meeting friends, rather than at networking events or watching TV – however, I still think the German version of Shark Tank is worth watching. A more interesting setting to watch it, rather than just alone at home, is the meetup organized by the Berlin Startups meetup group at Hubraum. The next one is this Tuesday, starting at 19:45! I was there a couple times during the first season and it’s quite fun to exchange opinions on the presented ideas, the behavior of the investors etc. with other people that are interested in startups.

If you can’t make it to Berlin, you can just watch it on VOX at 20:15 instead and discuss about it with random people on Twitter (if you’re into that).

Recommended Reading: VW Scandal / Crowdfunded Failures / Post-Agile

What was interesting in the last week? Let’s see…


No posts in non-European languages, this time around.

  • My friend, the software-fraudster (in German) by Hans Bonfigt: Hard to verify, but Volkswagen might have been cheating already in the early 80s (with their catalytic converters) , according to this story. The author seems to have a pretty clear bias though, to be fair.

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Berlin Events: Hack and Tell #38

I already posted about this on the blog’s Facebook page (which is a lot more active than the blog itself lately), but this meetup certainly warrants another post here, too: Hack and Tell is a place to present your (side-)project, from a technical point of view. Unlike startup events, this is about the code, which libraries or frameworks you used to make it happen and so on, not for a fancy pitch with Powerpoint slides and story-telling about which (pseudo-)grand problem you are solving. Because some of the things you will see here are actually just interesting because “they can be done”, not because they are a big business idea or anything like that. Hack and Tell usually takes place every last Tuesday of the month, at c-base spacestation, which arguably is also one of the more interesting places in Berlin – if you are into code or hacker culture, at least.

Berlin Events: TV Hackday 2015 Berlin on September 26-27

Thanks to Hackevents, I heard about this upcoming hackathon in September, around the topics of TV and media. Also since I’m looking to ideally already team up beforehand with some people, I decided to post about it. Register for it on Eventbrite. If you are also going to the his hackathon and would like to work together, let me know on Twitter. I want to work with Rails, so I’m looking for other people using that, designers,  front-end people etc..

Berlin eMobility Overview

Is there a lot going on in eMobility in Berlin? I wasn’t sure, so I started to put together a list… I split things over a couple different categories, to make it more organized.

Local independent companies that do something that relates to eMobility – building or marketing vehicles, related technology or earning money with renting out electric vehicles etc..
  • Ubitricity: Works on electric car charging stations, integrated in street lights.
  • Unu: Well-funded startup that is building and selling electric scooters.
  • eMio: Electric scooter rental startup, currently focused on Berlin city center (area within the S-Bahn Ring).
  • coModule: Smart electronics for light electronic vehicles, partly in Berlin, partly in Estonia.
  • Grace Bikes: E-Bike constructor and producer, with connections to Biesenthal, north of Berlin.
  • Boréal Bikes: E-Bike and smart bike component constructor and producer.
Where to buy electric vehicles and accessories for them.

Why “the Berlin startup scene” does not care (much) for #Landesverrat

Last Saturday I did something I otherwise basically never do: I (intentionally) passed by a protest, in this case one for press freedom (see and even walked along, for most of it (shortly before the end, I had to leave). Admittedly, I most likely would not have bothered to go, if I did not have a meeting nearby soon after anyways. I am politically interested, maybe even somewhat “engaged”, compared to the average, but in relation to the total time and energy I have, I do not put a whole lot of it into politics at the moment.

Anyways. As there were not always (engaging) speeches or something else interesting going on, I read along the Twitter timeline for #Landesverrat, practiced some clicktivism/slacktivism by retweeting things I found interesting, writing a few Tweets myself etc.. Then I came across this Tweet that I found interesting: “You know whom I never see at these kind of protests? The Berlin startup scene. #Landesverrat” – I think it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what the startup scene is really “about”.

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How To: Essential Crowdfunding Tools

For my work for Boréal Bikes, an ebike startup, I recently started to look into a couple tools, which are useful for a crowdfunding campaign. As crowdfunding is getting bigger and bigger, more mature and and a more developed “system” (of testing product ideas etc.), there’s already quite a few companies now that do something especially for companies that are crowdfunding, or, even more specifically, just for companies crowdfunding on Kickstarter or Indiegogo etc..


Get ALL that money from the crowd. Every cent counts.

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Berlin Events: Bergfürst Grill den Gründer with C.H. WOLF on July 10th

Grill the founder – well, that sounds promising… okay, it is not about grilling the founders of C.H. WOLF in the literal sense, but it might get interesting anyways:

Bergfürst is one of the crowdinvesting platforms in Berlin and C.H. WOLF, a watch manufacturer, is a company that currently looks for funding on there. The idea is (presumably) that this is an event to get to know the founders and ask them questions about their business model, strategy etc. – and if you get convincing answers, you will hopefully invest in them (via Bergfürst). To get me to invest, it would have to be very, very convincing, but… let’s wait and see. 😉

If you’re interested in investing in a watch company (or just want to ask them some annoying difficult questions), sign up on Eventbrite!

Berlin Events: TOA Thursday Afterparty with Slush and Jobspotting on July 16th

The Tech Open Air satellite events are all neatly to be found on their website. For the parties in the evening, that’s apparently not the case though. (Maybe, at least in this case, because they do not use Eventbrite?!) So, here is a first tip for a party! Slush is running one of Europe’s major startup conferences in Finland, Jobspotting is one of the more interesting startups in Berlin, therefore, based on that, this might get good.

Berlin Apps: TrainTimer for iOS

Kevin, one of my basketball teammates has designed an app, which he finished together with a developer, a couple months ago: TrainTimer is a small showcase app – no, they are not a startup 😉 – which wakes you up before your destination, on the train. For now, it only works in the VBB area (Berlin and Brandenburg) and the app is only available in German. If you’re regularly commuting in a train in or around Berlin (or are just curious), you should check it out!

If you also want to get something developed – mobile or otherwise – contact me at johann(at)!