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)!

Recommended Reading: Triple Unicorn / Historical Perspective / #500Stable / Bonus

Before I forget, here another edition of Recommended Reading… that I was meaning to get out for a couple days now!


  • Press Release: 37Signals Valuation tops $100 Billion after bold VC Investment, by Jason Fried on Signal v. Noise: An oldie, but a goldie. And pure coincicence that I link to it right after the news on Delivery Hero, certainly.
  • #500stable, by Dave McClure of 500 Startups: Technically not at all a “post” that you need to “read”. However, it’s important anyway. First of all, so you realize that this blog has a Facebook page. Which you can like, if you want to. Sometimes this page got content that this blog does not have. Secondly, this piece in particular, gives us additional funny industry lingo, for the startups that are still a bit more modest than Delivery Hero. Hello to all Centaurs and My Little Ponys out there!

Bonus – Recommended Watching

See you next time!

Don’t .gitignore this friendly reminder! / Daigaku at #RUGB

I learned something the hard way this week:

Setting up your .gitignore in the beginning of a project can help you avoid a lot of unnecessary work! I ran into the problem with my video upload & player project (one aspect of which I wrote about here before). In my case, it was not quite as bad as for this guy, who accidently commited a DVD iso to his repository, but… even 60 (unnecessary) mb in an old commit can be really annoying! I still haven’t quite fixed the problem, I think.

Anyways, so much about that (for now, at least).

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Berlin Events: Hispanic Startups Day on June 13

This should be cool. I think so, because I know one of the organizers, David Grajal, and some of the speakers, from the associated meetup group. I been there a couple times, to practice my Spanish (as additional benefit to the usual “getting to know other people in tech” of other events), and it’s quite a fun crowd! There will be the (usual?!) presentation by Startup Chile – they are supporting the event – but also some “more original” content. For example, this one at 14:30 sounds like fun: “Startups en Berlin, Hipsters Hispanos y otras elucubraciones”. 😉 Right after, there will be a potentially quite useful presentation on funding by Oliver Schmidt, so that might be a good time to be around the conference, even if you cannot come the whole day.

Sign up on!

Recommended Reading: 6Wunderkinder Special Edition

This time, a special edition of Recommended Reading, about the acquisition of Berlin startup 6Wunderkinder by Microsoft:

  • Microsoft Buys To-Do List App Maker, by Amir Mizroch in the Wall Street Journal: The first article most people read about this acquisition, it seemed, with the not exactly precise range of “100 to 200 Million Dollars” mentioned as the price.
  • We are all 6Wunderkinder, (in German), by Alexander Hüsing, Deutsche Startups: And the award for the most ridiculous headline and idea for an article goes to… Well, someone has to defend these freshly minted multi-millionairs and a billion dollar from criticism, right? 😉

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Using MediaelementJS in Rails

Based on the information on the site, the integration of this mediaplayer seems to be simple enough: You just need to copy over a JavaScript file to Rails’ JS folder and a stylesheet to the corresponding folder in assets. If you are not using jQuery in your app yet, you also either need to put jQuery in the JS folder – or integrate a CDN version in your application.html.erb layout (see “Using jQuery with a CDN”), for example. In this case, I used a locally installed version of jQuery, while on previous projects I usually used the CDN version – both generally work fine. What was unclear (at least for a Rails beginner like me) is where to put the image files that make up the controls of MediaelementJS.

Nevertheless, I got MediaelementJS to work “50% of the time, all the time”, with just these basic steps, right out of the box – albeit with missing images of the controls. The 50% of the time where a problem though, and having a visible play button etc. also would be “good”, so some “fixing” was necessary.

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Recommended Reading: Asset Prices / German VCs / Bike Startups (x2) / “Startup” critique

Time for another round of… recommended readin’!


It’s all in the books, man!

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Recommended Reading: Kelsen / More Unicorns / Gen Y Identity

This time, two “leftovers” that are two weeks old that I did not get to post then and one actually recent post:

  • Kelsen is not a killer startup (in German): Some things – or startups – are not what they seem. When I heard about Kelsen, I thought it was pretty interesting idea. A more specific, domain-focused version of one of the startups I worked for before. Looks like this did not really actually have anything much at all (yet?). Interestingly, the Microsoft Accelerator thought they had good potential though…

RecommendReading2A whole new stack of stuff to read. Continue reading

Berlin Events: Bistream Venture Summit on May 26th

By recommendation of David Nagy, you should check out the Bistream Venture Summit tomorrow – if you have time, and are intersted in the “investors, trends and markets of East Asia”, that is. There are some fairly well-known Berlin-based speakers coming, such as…

  • Robin Haak of Jobspotting
  • Miho Tanaka of Airmarkr
  • Mikko Alasaarela of Inbot (formerly known as Linko)

and Berlin startups participating…

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4 Questions 4: Mengühan Ünver (StartupCVs)

This time in 4Q4, Mengühan Ünver, one of the founders of StartupCVs. 

1. You have some recent experience in startups in your team, but also some corporate or consulting experience. What can you bring from these other experiences outside of startups into your current work?

The differences between working in a corporate environment and working in a startup are immense. In a corporate environment, you take a much more reactive role where problems are externally generated and need to be solved by you. In a startup on the other hand, you actively have to generate problems and initiate things, otherwise you and your employees simply have nothing to do. Adjusting yourself to this type of working is quite difficult for new startup founders/employees coming from the corporate world. Nevertheless, the most important experiences I could take from corporate were:

  • Knowing organizational processes and structures: learning from a highly developed organization makes it far easier to create your own structures and processes
  • My skills in sales and (online) marketing: my technical knowledge was very handy many times, I was not required to hire someone until the later stages of our company
  • The fact that I know I do not want to work in corporate​ as an employee in the near future​ – this one is the most important. Quite many professionals do not know which type of environment suits them best. This is something that you have to experience yourself.

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Recommended Reading: ALDI goes EV / Peak Tinder / End of Skolkovo / Unicorns

Coding keeps me from reading as much as usual, but… I still came across a couple interesting stories the last couple days:

  • Discounter opens first charging station for EVs (in German), by Georg Weishaupt in Handelsblatt: Discounter supermarket leader ALDI makes a move to supply the growing number of electric vehicles in Germany with “juice”. 50 stations will be build across the ALDI Süd territory until June.


Keepin’ it old school (like ALDI used to?)

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Berlin Startups: Heyyo, seriously?

After about five years in tech, it’s sometimes hard to not become cyncial about and/or overly critical of some very early stage projects that seem rather… not so “promising”. These days, I manage to have a somewhat positive attitude towards most new things, even if they seem somewhat (s)crappy on first and second look. Lots of great companies started out that way, after all, and things looked significantly better for them after a significant pivot etc.. Sometimes you just have to also criticize quality though. (I very much like to criticise questionable business practices and unethical or “illegal” business models of startups – although maybe not quite as much as Daniel Brückner – and think it’s a good thing to do that frequently, but that’s another story.) Maybe it will actually help and get the startup to make a succesful pivot? Ideally before the bubble bursts
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Startup Events: Start Up Lebanon – NYC on May 21st

I will not be able to make this one, but if you are in New York at this time in May, you should consider getting a ticket to Start Up Lebanon NYC. Not Lebanese? Neither are several of the speakers. Not particularily interested in Lebanon yet? I think you probably will be, after the event. Ramzi Rizk of Berlin’s EyeEm will be there, as well Parker Thompson from 500 Startups. I must admit that there’s a couple names of people in Lebanese tech that I would expect there, who are missing, but… probably not so easy to get everyone to New York on a limited budget and maybe some of them are just participating, not speaking. Hope that there will be more Startup Lebanon events elsewhere in the future, so I can maybe make it to one then, too! 🙂

Recommended Reading: Politico in Europe / Creative Resume / Twitter’s mistake

After a rails course-related break during this week, it’s back to action with another edition of Recommended Reading:

  • The birth of a new publication on Politico Europe, by John F. Harris and Matthew Kaminski: Politico launched in Europe, with coverage focused on the European issues developing in Brussels. Will it be any more relevant here than the Huffington Post? Probably, but that’s not exactly setting a high bar, especially for Germany, where these days it sometimes seems like I know more people proud of writing for HuffPost, than people reading it overall.


Read. Read. Learn.

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Enabling instead of Blocking – How Etsy’s approach to Security is Different

Stefania Druga, one of my fellow-attendees of “Code as Craft: Crafting an Effective Security Organisation”, a talk given by Rich Smith, Director of Security at Etsy (on Tuesday at Etsy’s Berlin offices), already has written a post about it. Since she has done a good job summarizing several of the key points of the talk, you can get a good idea about the content as a whole from her post and Rich’s slides. I want to focus on one single aspect that stuck to my mind after the talk.

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Recommended Reading: Tesla / Bubble talk / Kickstarter stories / ex-Pirate astray

The last one I just published a few days ago, but I feel like another edition of Recommendation Reading again – so here it goes!


 I guarantee that these articles are slightly more fresh. Just slightly.

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4 Questions 4: Sissel Hansen (Startup Guide / MOVE-MENT)

Another edition of 4Q4, with Sissel Hansen, founder of Startup Guide and athlete participating in MOVE-MENT.

1) Denmark and Germany are neighbours and somewhat similar, but there’s also some differences. How do you think the entrepreneurship and business culture are different in Denmark?

In general, I only lived and worked in Berlin (and I guess the German entrepreneurial culture are different from the culture in Berlin), but there is something that is common for Berlin and the rest of Germany, which is the bureaucratic process of starting up a company.
It is extremely difficult to start a company in Germany in comparison to Denmark. In Denmark you can start a company in 5 min on the internet, in Germany it is a slow and sometimes expensive process.

2) I just signed up for my first run over a more or less long distance (7,75km). As you are a rather experienced and accomplished endurance athlete, what advice can give you me for that? 😉

Start slowly with the training. Remember that 90 % of the time you go for a run, you should it enjoy. The motivation to go out and train should not only be to accomplish the race but because you enjoy it. Then you will also get the training you need, and then you mind will do the rest when you are racing.
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Recommended Reading: Thiel lands in Berlin / EyeEm’s Flo on their Round / Volo-Rocket / Congress & Cybersecurity

Some interesting news and articles again this last couple days:

  • Peter Thiel changes course with funding of two Berlin start-ups*, in the Financial Times, by Jeevan Vasagar and Murad Ahmed: After two investments in London, Deepmind and Transferwise, and one investment in Berlin in 2012 (Research Gate, via Founders Fund), Peter Thiel invested again in Berlin – twice, in Number26 (€10 Mio) and EyeEm (€18 Mio). FT more accurately describes Number26 as a “mobile banking app”, whereas some other outlets like to call them a “Fintech startup”, for some reason. In any case, 10 Million is quite a bit of money, for a B2C startup that itself just claims 8.500 current active users!

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Berlin Events: Silicon Drinkabout Berlin on April 24th

… and on most other Fridays as well. Silicon Drinkabout Berlin is a regular, frequently reoccuring event, yet it is definitely worth a mention here anyways. As far as I know, it’s originally a London-thing and started (mainly) by developers. This somehow makes for a different, more interesting crowd than most events in Berlin. Since you also have some “regulars” around which come almost every week, one nice additional benefit is that you do not have to constantly introduce yourself to everyone. Also, the event moves around from one bar to another every week, so you also get to know some new cool places in Berlin.

This week, which is the 36th edition, it will be at Salt n Bone, a bar in Prenzlauer Berg. See you there!

freeCodeCamp – Part 5: More Bonfires & Node.js on Nodeschool

Since the last update a month ago, I made some progress, yet not quite as much as I liked. This is probably because I now moved beyond the very basic programming concepts and skills, which I have worked with multiple times, even in different programming languages, in PHP, Pascal, Basic and partly also in Python. In other words, I got to the content now that is more or less completely new to me, like proper frameworks and, in the current bonfire, more advanced things with objects than simply adding to or creating them. Learning new stuff obviously takes a bit more time and effort than merely repeating what you already know, even if it is in a different programming language, or a somewhat more complicated application of the same concepts.

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Berlin Events: Startup Night – Traction With Viral Marketing on April 14th

Another Society3 meetup for startups  is coming up tomorrow. As the organizers, an accelerator, is active in several cities now, their Berlin events have become a bit more rare. I am not fully convinced by the concept of their accelerator – I’m sceptical of most accelerators, actually – but their events so far usually had a good crowd. At one of the past editions, Sergiej, the founder of CleanAgents pitched, for example. (He pitched in many places though, of course. Just one example.)

Resources & Links: Pitch Decks & Pitching

If you want to learn pitching from the best, you should probably start with watching some demo days from the leading accelerators (like YC, Tech Stars or 500 Startups), check out old pitch decks from startups and take a look at what smart people wrote about pitching and pitch decks. Afterwards, at some point, you might want to get into touch with a pitching consultant, if you can afford that. Here is a collection of useful links for these things that I will update continously (whenever I feel like it).

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4 Questions 4: Herbert Hellemann (

This time on 4Q4: Herbert Hellemann, a Berlin-based founder of that has been around for a while.

1) You previously worked at ReBuy, an E-Commerce startup that buys up used goods from consumers and sells them again. What is that market like and how have things changed, over your time there?
I had the impression people were not so open to buying used stuff in the beginning, mainly because they thought the quality was not good enough. We really tried to work hard on that and I think people got the point. They started seeing used stuff as still useful and were open to the idea to buy things that were pre-owned.

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Dark future for regional crowdfunding platforms ahead?

The viability of many small, regional crowdfunding platforms was questioned from the beginning, simply based on the economies of scale some of them will not be able to reach. In Germany, some platforms like Seedmatch also face image problems now, based on projects and companies, like in the case of Vibewrite, going terribly wrong. Vibewrite went insolvent, basically right after their crowdfunding campaign was completed, which made some people wonder how that even was possible. (The explanation that made it seem a little less strange was that part of the funds collected are already paid out during the course of the campaign, in several tranches.) Some startups seem to have problems getting traction for their campaigns on Seedmatch, which is one of the leading platforms in Germany, now and these cases – beyond Vibewrite there’s many more, an extensive list you can find on the Crowdstreet blog – might have something to do with it. Now there’s potentially even bigger problems coming up though, for all the (comparatively) small platforms.

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Berlin Events: Startup Safary on May 6-8

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.

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4 Questions 4: Danielle Reid ( /

Time for another 4Q4: Danielle Reid, who currently works on two startups, and

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., 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.

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Recommended Reading: Protonet initiative / TC weirdness / Firing People (x2)

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 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.

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