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.
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.
This time on 4Q4: Herbert Hellemann, a Berlin-based founder of Buddyguard.io 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.
Time for another 4Q4: Danielle Reid, who currently works on two startups, Sterio.me and Capsule.fm.
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 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.
Today, next up in my series of Q&As with business founders, Katharina Kunze of Oxbridgebewerbung.de.
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.
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?
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?