On the jury this year will be Swedish entrepreneur and business leader Joakim Barneus. In 2001, Mr. Barneus co-founded the European branch of Monster, and served as European COO until 2002. He is also the founder of the student staffing company, Komet, which employs over 5,000 students, and helped develop the business-oriented personality test Validero.
By now, you and your startup team may already be underway with your one-pagers, soon to be sent to our betapitch jury, and you may be wondering just how you can improve your chances of making it into the top-10 and, eventually, the winning spot.
Our jury will soon be swamped with one-pagers from all sorts of startups. From this mess of papers, 10 of the best will be chosen to pitch at betapitch on May 3rd.
Your applications will be evaluated on 4 criteria: your business model, your team, the purpose of your startup, and, finally, your originality and innovativeness. (more…)
Interview by Mateja Plaskan
Samsarah Lilja is the head of Lilja Design, and specialises in corporate graphic and web design. She offers a wide range of services, such as logo development, logo optimisation for various types of media, vectorisation of image files, and business cards. She has developed an overall design and utilisation concept which integrates many elements into her work.
Samsarah has had over 10 years experience in the fields of web design, programming, structure, and marketing and has gained substantial know-how through working at the Department of Architectural Theory alongside Prof. Fritz Neumever at TU Berlin, as well as completing an internship at the well-known international architecture office of Prof. Hans Kollhoff in Rotterdam. She is also the founder of archinoah.de; an internet platform for architects, and tektorum.de; an affiliated discussion board.
Samsarah has been a member of betahaus for over a year and a half.
The next betapitch | Berlin is on its way, preparations are in full effect, and the whole betahaus crew can hardly wait to get your onepagers into their hands. We also want to get that fire into you, get you ready for your pitch, and help you prepare as best as you can. So from now on we will supply you with more background info on some of the judges, in the form of interviews. This week we will start with Wolfgang Wopperer. Enjoy!
Enter Le Van Bo; architect, designer, and initiator of the Hartz IV Möbel project. Named after the national welfare system, Hartz IV Möbel is a DIY movement, centred around a series of basic, practical furniture pieces that are both simple and affordable to construct, making use of commonly-available, low-cost materials.
Le has recently published a book, the Hartz-IV Möbel-Buch, which not only contains instructions for all the furniture projects, but also provides tips on cost-effective living in small spaces, as well as features on prominent members of the DIY community in Berlin.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, what is the Hartz-IV Möbel project all about?
Hartz-IV Möbel is a social design movement, and I am its initiator. The basic idea is that I try to create construction plans for furniture inspired by classic Bauhaus-era pieces, which are normally very expensive. For instance, a chair, which would typically cost around four or five thousand Euros, can be made, using one of my designs, for 24 Euros, in just 24 hours. I call it the ’24-Euro Chair’, and you can even find one in the betahaus café – just look for the green “Build Me!” sticker.
What inspired you, as a trained architect, to start such a ‘social-design movement’?
It started out as a bit of a coincidence – I had constructed a chair for myself for the first time after attending a basic carpentry course at the local Volkshochschule (community centre). I had been designing wooden furniture, yet despite that, I had never even held a saw in my hand before – I had, as you might say, two left hands. So of course, this made me really proud. I then blogged about this chair, and told all my friends about how I built it. That was the beginning of the movement – I was so inspired by just how easy it was to build something so useful, and so were others.
I am neither a product designer nor a carpenter – I had never even held a saw in my hand before making my first 24-Euro chair, and I’m still a complete amateur even today. When I created the 24-Euro chair project, I wanted to inspire those who are not only not designers, but who may not have enough money to buy all of their furniture, to simply create their own instead.
The name and its reference to the welfare system is a deliberate provocation; to make it clear that this is not a project about design, form, or materials. For me, chairs and other basic pieces of furniture are a social issue, and not one of design, because the way in which one furnishes their home defines their wealth in a way. This project is intended for those who may be short on money, but who have good taste which they wish to express.
Has the Hartz-IV Möbel project been applied, or attempted, in any other cities, besides Berlin? Do you see this becoming a movement worldwide – somewhat in line with other “DIY-revival” trends (e.g. sewing, gardening, etc.)?
I know that there is definitely an increasing number of DIY projects like this one happening throughout the industrialised world. A lot of people are simply fed up with capitalism, and are starting to reconsider the actual value of products we normally buy at large-scale stores like Ikea or H&M – questioning why everything is so cheap. It doesn’t help that many of these companies cannot say just how, where, and by whom their products are made. Nowadays, more and more people are trying to regain power, particularly over what they consume. We see it with the Occupy movement, with guerilla gardening – the conversion of public green spaces into community gardens, and with something I organise called Guerilla Lounging, where unused public spaces are turned into “lounges” for the general public.
The book is a very special project because it is not carried out in the normal way in which a book is published. Normally, one writes content, finds a publisher, and then publishes the book. What we are doing instead is finding readers, asking them to finance the book through donations on StartNext, collecting their stories, illustrations, and other content they submit, and then finally finding a publisher.
The fun thing about this project is that, because it’s a collaborative effort, everybody can contribute to it in some way. This raises the question of quality control – many people wonder if this method would perhaps result in a patchwork of varying styles and quality. However, what this process revolves around is something called “crowd-storming” – a collective form of brainstorming, in which an idea is displayed to a public forum, and is open to feedback from just about anyone.
As for content; this book will contain not only all of the construction plans, but also some tips and advice on how to organise a small space in the best way possible. There’s one chapter, called ’99 ideas from the 99%’, in which we have collected 99 of the best ideas for various kinds of DIY projects. Another chapter is called the ‘Karma Economy’, where I try to summarize the things I’ve observed at companies who can successfully motivate people to do good with something other than money – something I call the “karma credit”.
We have a small number of copies available, and if you donate to the project on StartNext, you’ll receive one. We’re hoping to find a large-scale publisher soon, though we’ll try not to publish too many copies, as that would create waste – the one thing we’re fighting against.
Le Van Bo will be holding a ’1m² house’ workshop on 31.03 at Open Design City, where you can learn how to build the smallest, fully-functional house imaginable!
It’s almost time – the next betapitch will soon take place right here, in the ‘haus!
This year, betapitch will be held in two different locations: in Köln on March 10, and finally, in Berlin on May 3rd.
For betapitch Berlin, we’ve gathered together an impressive jury with several highly-accomplished figures in the world of business and entrepreneurship, as well as a prize package with just about everything you need to bootstrap your way to startup stardom. All that’s left is your application!
Applying to betapitch is simple. All we need from you is a one-pager, in PDF format, showing us your idea, business model, market, timeline, and team. If you’re nominated, you’ll be invited to betahaus to pitch your startup against 9 other nominees in front of our jury.
With mobile device ownership ever on the rise, an increasing number of companies are now turning to the mobile sector to extend their brands or services through applications. Research2Guidance, a mobile apps research and consultancy company, has specialised in this growing and constantly-evolving market since 2009, and provides companies with guidance for their individual mobile strategy, based on extensive statistical research on the latest trends in the market.
Sascha Konietzke is the founder of Thriventures, and the director of its main product, Storage Room. Storage Room is a cloud-based CMS (content-management system) for mobile and web applications, with which app developers can distribute, store and manage content. They no longer need to worry about creating a backend from scratch – something that would cost more time and money in addition to the creation of the app itself. Sascha has recently begun to work from betahaus.
What exactly is Storage Room, and how does it work?
Why are universities so slow to adapt to today’s means and methods of learning? How can we initiate radical change from within a system that actively discourages it? Are universities – or even schools – necessary in this day and age?
These were some of the many questions raised on the evening of Tuesday February 14, at the third edition of Beta-Salon. The topic: University 2.0 – For the <3 Of Learning. Four speakers, each with a distinct, contrasting position on the matter, set the theme for the evening as featured guests.
Hey, das betahaus geht im März auf Wanderschaft. Die Messe AG und der BITKOM haben uns eingeladen, unsere Zelte für 4 Tage im Herzen der Cebit auf der CGC (Cebit Global Conferences) aufzuschlagen. Was nehmen wir mit, was packen wir ein? Natürlich ein paar Schreibtische, den Lasercutter und unsere Freunde aus der Open Design City und dem Makerlab, denn wir werden vor Ort Hardware hacken. Mit dabei sind ebenfalls Deskwanted, the Masters of Coworking sowie ein paar Sandboxer und viele Andere. Zusammen mit Edelstall und Modul57 bauen wir einen temporären Coworking Space mitten in das Convention Center auf der Cebit und wollen Messebesucher zu Coworkern machen und Coworker zu Messebesuchern.
Ach und wer noch alles vorbei schaut: Von unsererem Lieblingscoworkingspace aus Wien, dem Sektor5 kommt eine Ladung Startups zu Besuch, aus Hamburg rückt Protonet an und rüstet den Space mit Social- und Wifi Connectivity aus.
Wir schalten in kürze das Programm online, so dass man sich einen noch besseren Überblick machen kann, als das hier schon möglich ist.
Ein ganz klarer Aufruf an alle Frühaufsteher auf der Cebit schon jetzt: betabreakfast von Mittwoch bis Freitag von 9-10 Uhr mitten in den Cebit Global Conferences gleich um die Ecke der Registrierung.
- Networking Breakfasts every morning
- Design students designing and making products at the event using our Laser Cutter and Makerbot
- Start Up Sessions, with the Sandbox Network
- Coworking with Betahaus, Edelstahl and Modul57
- Open Space for discussions/presentations
- Speed Networking
- Hosted talks
- Coworking explained
- Engaging demo’s from start ups
In addition to this we will be bring our usual spontaneity and respond live to the other activities at the fair and the conference.
Detailierte Infos zur zum Programm findet Ihr hier.
Wir danken insbesondere für die Unterstützung von :
Lorenz Graubner is the founder of Federball.de – a recently-founded company specialising in high-quality shuttlecocks for badminton players in Europe. A longtime badminton player, Lorenz founded Federball.de after noticing a lack of quality shuttlecocks available to professional players in Europe. The website, Federball.de, also serves as an online information platform for badminton players and enthusiasts, with a collection of videos from various tournaments, and written information about the sport.
The many individuals we meet on a daily basis often have far more of an impact on our lives than many of us can readily recognise. This was the realisation that lead Ian Kath to start Your Story – a collection of podcasts recorded by people all over the world; each one recounting a certain story that shaped their lives in some way. Since 2007, Ian has been hosting Your Story, and has invited over 65 people to each tell his audience a story central to their lives in some way. He has recently followed up this project with an online guide – Create Your Life Story – to telling one’s life story in an engaging and appealing way, and broadcasting it using various different digital media. Ian recently became a member of betahaus, and hopes to eventually be based in Berlin. (more…)
Eminent European universities, founded in cities such as Bologna, Cambridge, and Oxford, began as a new kind of space where people could congregate and begin to create, share, and develop knowledge—as centres of learning.
Nearly a millennium later, many other spaces—from coworking spaces like betahaus, to a multitude of online platforms such as Wikipedia or YouTube—have taken on this very role that universities once had. This development led to drastic changes in how we create and share knowledge, raising the question of whether or not the traditional university is even necessary in today’s world.
In fact, we already see distinguished professors beginning to leave academic powerhouses such as Stanford, and deciding to teach online instead. Given this reality, it is clear that universities now face a deep challenge of reinventing themselves to suit the needs and methods of learning in the digital age. We have invited four distinguished guests to present their perspectives and ideas on the matter:
- Dale J. Stephens, founder of the UnCollege movement, questions whether university is necessary to learning and personal development, and is challenging the high costs of college.
- Dr. Stephan Breidenbach, founding Dean of Humboldt-Viadrina School of Governance, recognises the pressing need for universities to stay relevant, and is actively working on reforming the way in which knowledge is created and shared at the university. Dr. Breidenbach is currently advising German Chancelor Angela Merkel on the question; “How do we want to learn?” – one of three main topics to be discussed in a dialogue on Germany’s future.
- Anna-Lena Schindl is a third-year B.Sc. Physics student at Jacobs University and organizer of the first TEDx conference at a German university. Its topic: Educate Concerned Citizens.
- Hannes Kloepper, M.P.P. is cofounder of iversity, an academic collaboration platform and educational startup near Berlin. He studied at many prestigious universities, and believes there is a strong need for digital & curricular reform.
The third betahaus Salon will bring together various ideas and insights surrounding the issue of University 2.0 – the reinvention of higher education in the 21st century.
We are looking forward to discussing the reinvention of higher education in the 21st century with these speakers, betahaus members, and guests on Tuesday, February 14, at 19:00 in the 4th Floor Arena. For the love of learning.
You may have noticed a strange looking device in the back corner of Open Design City these days – something resembling an oversized photocopy machine – and perhaps found yourself wondering when the next DIY time-travel workshop would be held. However, what you are seeing is, in fact, none other than a Helix laser cutter. Manufactured by US-based Epilog Laser, this piece of equipment will be available at ODC for one month. ODC manager Tom explains further.
So what does this laser-cutter do, exactly?
In recent years, Kresten Buch has become a name strongly associated with the emerging mobile-based startup scene in Kenya. The Berlin-based “serial investor” is behind several projects and initiatives designed to support the wealth of young entrepreneurs and innovators in Kenya and the rest of the East African region, mainly through the seed-investment company 88mph, and through the professional social network, HumanIPO, which he co-founded.
Kresten’s latest venture, Startup Garage, is set to open in Nairobi in mid 2012, and will be the largest coworking space in East Africa to date. He also plans to introduce a desk-exchange between coworking spaces in Nairobi and Berlin, in which betahaus will take part.
You initially worked within Denmark and Northern Europe. How did you become interested in Kenya, and what made you eventually change your focus to East Africa?
It all started when I sold a company in 2006 to investors in Eastern Europe. As part of that sale, I had to build a company in Eastern Europe, so that was what first got me out of Denmark. Following that, I decided to take a 14-day business course at Stanford University, and it was there that I then met David Owino, then the COO of Kenya Data Networks Limited. At that time, I was looking to start investing in tech companies, and he told me a lot about what was going on in East Africa: about mobile money and the growth of the mobile industry. Soon afterwards, I decided to spend a week in Kenya to see this for myself, and that’s how eventually started working there.
There’s plenty of talk about mobile business leading the way in regional development, not only in East Africa, but in a lot of developing regions of the world. How widespread throughout the economy and throughout Kenyan society are the benefits of this development – are they limited to only certain economic sectors or certain classes of people?
Mobile technology has really increased its presence in Kenya these days. For instance, the biggest mobile operator in the country, SafariCom, has over 22 million subscribers, and the population of Kenya is 40 million. One thing mobile technology has brought to a lot of rural Kenyans is the ability to have a bank account. SafariCom offers subscribers access to banking services, so they not only get access to a phone – something they may not have had before, but also the opportunity to send or receive money from the cities, or from abroad, with their mobile bank accounts. Phones prices are also much lower these days – you can easily get a perfectly-functional, Chinese-made smartphone running an Android system for about 80 USD.
Despite there being such a promising, talented population, Africa is still unfortunately associated with poverty, corruption, political instability, and the resulting capital flight, which, of course, deters potential investors. Do you believe that, through the growth of the mobile start-up scene – this so-called “mobile revolution” – this stereotype can eventually be overcome in the international community?
That’s definitely one of the more interesting challenges we are trying to face. There needs to be a change in the way people look at Africa – too many people only associate it with poverty, charity work, and so on. Africa also needs to be seen as a land of opportunity that is attractive to investors. We hope that we can eventually create some kind of regional success story through our work which would spread worldwide thanks to social media, ultimately changing everyone’s perceptions of Africa for the better.
One thing I’ve noticed is that, when you’re in Kenya, you feel surrounded by growth – strong population growth, economic growth, and so on. You’re able to take on projects which may not have the same impact on the markets in Europe. For instance, we founded a football website, Futaa.com, which found great success in the Kenyan markets – something that would not have happened as readily in Europe. A lot of people who do show interest in investing in East Africa mainly see the region as a source of cheap labour, and ignore the true potential of the local population and markets.
Of course. Obviously, I encourage Europeans to go down to Africa and start something. It’s great for the local population to be able to collaborate with foreigners, exchange skills, experience and expertise, and to eventually start their own companies based on that. I think that all successful economic growth is based on interaction between nationalities. In order for the economies in East Africa to grow, the local population has to be a part of it; and as equal players. I would love to see small companies being formed by a mix of nationalities – that’s one of the reasons why I’ve decided to start a desk-exchange with betahaus and other coworking spaces in Europe.
HumanIPO has just announced a desk-exchange between coworking spaces Berlin and Nairobi, and that betahaus will be participating. What are some of the main differences between the coworking scenes in East Africa and Western Europe, and what could either side learn from this kind of exchange?
When you look at Kenyan startups, you notice that the entrepreneurs there are a lot more hungry and a lot more driven than those in Europe. One of our employees in Kenya, for instance, had his taxi hijacked, and was held hostage all night. The next morning, he went straight to work, as if nothing had happened! Needless to say, many European entrepreneurs can at least be inspired by that level of determination. I also find that, in Africa, people are much friendlier and more passionate. This creates a good contrast when paired with Germans, who are more structured, formal, and reserved.
The space in Nairobi is almost ready for the desk-exchange; so it’s just a matter of enough people from Berlin applying for it. Our newest space, Startup Garage, is about to open, and should be ready in a week. The space has about 120 desks – not quite as big as betahaus, but so far the biggest coworking space in East Africa. Mind you, coworking is still a relatively new trend over there, as many Kenyan companies still hold on to a very traditional, hierarchical office mentality. However, there are more and more young, educated people today who are embracing the concept of coworking – of working openly with others. We’re hoping that, by allowing Kenyans to work in German spaces, and vice versa, we can not only promote coworking in Kenya and in East Africa, but also change the perspective many people in Europe have of Africa, and of doing business there.
How can we facilitate access to sustainable sources of energy for individual consumers? How can we curb the rampant waste of food and consumer goods in the developed world? How can we ensure equal and open access to digital and mobile networks throughout the world, as these take on an increasingly central role in people’s lives? How can a small group of individuals, through simple collaboration, find solutions to problems previously deemed unsolvable by many? (more…)
Peter Kirn is a musician, sound-designer, composer, educator, and writer, specializing in DIY electronic music and interactive visual arts. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of Create Digital Media, GmbH, an online magazine and community for those involved in music technology and audiovisual arts.
A member of betahaus since November 2011, Peter has already hosted events and workshops at Open Design City for users of the MeeBlip – an open-source synthesizer he co-designed – and plans to hold more events this year.
You are the co-creator and developer of the MeeBlip Synthesizer, and have already hosted a workshop here at Open Design City. Do you plan to hold any more MeeBlip workshops or any similar events at betahaus or ODC in the future?
Following my talk at the Create Art and Technology conference in November 2011, I hosted a very informal MeeBlip workshop at Open Design City. So far, these are the only MeeBlip-related events I’ve hosted here. Of course, I have a lot of plans for this year, and that includes more workshops and events at betahaus and ODC.
These events are generally attended by a mix of musicians and electronics geeks, but my long-term goal is to introduce a wider range of people to electronic music and synthesizers. The MeeBlip project is still in the early stages, and we have yet to win anyone over who isn’t already interested in this field. We hope to do a better job of making the MeeBlip more available in the future, and accessible to people everywhere.
I started out with CreateDigitalMusic, which focused on using technology as a window into music. It’s not just a gear site, nor is it a typical music site. CreateDigitalMotion was founded at a point when, very early on, it became apparent to me that a lot of musicians were moving from working with sound to working with visuals, especially with interactive visuals. I think that, as a musician and a live performer, you work a lot with time – an element most visual artists and designers often do not consider in their work. However, we have a new generation of artists and designers, as well as musicians who cross over to these fields, who do think in those terms – taking visual media and adding to it the element of time.
We’ll also be rebooting our social efforts with a site we’ll call Create Digital Noise; part of what I’m working on here in Berlin is engineering that site and creating something new for people exploring technology for music and motion. If anyone is interested in how social connections work for creative people, I’d love to talk.
There has been a backlash in recent years against the use of inexpensive software to produce music, with many blaming such software for the overall deterioration in the quality and value of music nowadays. Given that you specialise in external hardware, what do you think of this viewpoint?
Both James, the co-designer of the MeeBlip, and I are hardware users: we love the feeling of turning knobs, flipping switches, and so on. But we always try to be as open-minded as possible. Since I first started writing CreateDigitalMusic, I have always tried to cover everything. I try not to be too concerned about how people make music or what they use, whether they make music with an old GameBoy, big racks of analog gear, or an iPad. I think this backlash we’re seeing is mainly against the lack of variety in output, and the idea that people no longer have a choice in what they can do. Everyone has different tastes, different musical backgrounds, and access to different forms of gear. The great thing about music is that electronics, when in the hands of a musician, are no longer seen as disposable. If you give a musician an iPad, and a newer version comes out, they’ll simply get the newer one and have two musical instruments!
What inspired you to move from the US to Berlin, and what attracted you to betahaus in particular?
I recently moved to Berlin from New York to give both myself and Create Digital Media a new place to grow and develop. At the moment, I think there isn’t any better place for that than Berlin, and especially betahaus. I’ve always been interested in the intersection of technology and creativity – these sites themselves are examples of this intersection – and I see a lot of that at betahaus. It’s always great to see people from different fields – web people, musicians, people working with technology – come together to work on things. There is a strong sense of technological ingenuity, not only at betahaus and in Berlin, but throughout Germany in general, and I’ve been able to meet a lot of smart and interesting people since coming here.
Coworking spaces can benefit just about any kind of work, allowing for increased productivity, inspiration, and a sense of community. Unsurprisingly, we are beginning to see more spaces that apply the principles of coworking to a number of different fields that reach beyond traditional office work.
Since September 2011, a former apartment in Neukölln’s trendy Reuterkiez has housed a co-sewing space – Nadelwald (literally, “needle-forest” – the German term for a coniferous forest). This new space offers sewing equipment, patterns, workshops, and other facilities for designers and hobbyists alike to be inspired, create projects, and share their ideas and creations with others. We asked founder Swantje Wendt a few questions about her charming new space.
How did you come up with the concept of co-sewing – the idea of applying the principles of co-working to sewing?
I originally wanted to start a fashion label, specializing in scarves and accessories, and had been searching for a place where I could work on that. Since I couldn’t find a space where I could leave my patterns and materials, I simply created my own space, and began offering it to others.
What kinds of people normally use this space – professional designers, or simply hobbyists?
At the moment, the space is used mostly by people who sew as a hobby and who like to do their own alterations. Only one of our customers is a professional designer who comes here whenever she needs equipment she does not already own.
There seems to be a growing interest in sewing these days, particularly among younger people. Why do you think that is?
I think that, in the case of younger people, sewing and other forms of handiwork can be seen as an alternative to daily work, as many people these days spend most of their time at their computers. They enjoy being able to create something with their hands, something they can be proud of in the end.
You hold a lot of workshops. Do your workshops mainly focus on sewing, or do you branch out into other forms of visual art and handicrafts as well?
Our workshops focus on any skills related to fashion. We offer workshops on different sewing techniques, and even knitting, which is taught by a guest instructor, as knitting is not my area of expertise. I plan to offer a workshop on pattern-making, as that is my specialty.
You have a store here as well. Do people who use this space sell their finished work here?
Yes. It’s part of our concept – you can be inspired by our fashion and pattern books, work on your project and finish it, and finally sell it, all in the same space.
You yourself have worked as a designer, and have done some work for Berlin Fashion Week. Could you tell us a little more about that?
I started out as a tailor, but I felt I wanted to go further in the world of fashion. So I started out working for a Berlin-based high fashion label before working for another, larger-scale label based in Bremen. I found that working for a larger label really limited my ability to be creative – I simply communicated ideas between designers and buyers, and never created anything of my own. When I finally moved back here, I decided to start my own business instead of working for another firm. At first, I wanted to start a label as a designer, but since I was unable to find space to work, I simply created my own, and that’s how Nadelwald was born.
Few things can be more frustrating than job-hunting – sending out endless generic CVs and repetitive cover letters to eventually find a job we may not even enjoy. Luckily, Justin McMurray, founder of Somewhere, has decided to do something about this.
Founded in late 2011, Somewhere aims to provide an alternative way for companies and talent to find each other, based on factors that are not commonly considered in the standard job search, while aiming to increase satisfaction and “work joy” on both sides.
Companies have been using the same process of recruitment for years. What made you feel the need to develop an alternative to this standard process?
The standard recruitment process – CVs, interviews, and so on – is several decades old, and no longer that effective or relevant, particularly when you see how many people today are dissatisfied with their current jobs. The main reason for this is the lack of cultural fit between companies and their employees. In today’s economy, an increasing number of jobs rely on creativity and other human characteristics, rather than specific skills alone. A CV can list a set of skills, yet it cannot really show whether or not the employee would have a good cultural fit with the company.
You mention a specific need to consider ‘cultural fit’ when seeking out talent. What exactly does this term mean?
That’s a good question. We don’t think it can necessarily be defined, but we see it as a collection of intangible factors related to how an employee interacts with his or her workplace – for example, the company philosophy, the team, the work style, or the attitude, to name a few. Cultural fit refers to these kinds of factors which can’t really be quantified, yet are still important to both companies and employees.
Do you believe the cultural fit of an employee is equally important as his or her skills directly related to the job?
I think it depends a lot on the company and the industry. For professions that rely on a very specific skill set, such as medicine, cultural fit is obviously not that important. However, we are seeing an increasing number of creative companies where the skills required are diverse, and constantly changing. In these companies, employees can no longer be evaluated purely on their skills, but rather on their attitude, and on the chemistry they have with the company. Cultural fit, in that case, would be very important.
How does Somewhere help place cultural fit at the forefront of the recruitment process?
We’re just about to launch our first product which will mainly be targeted towards the creative industry; so towards creative startups, studios, or design agencies, and to create a rich showcase of what both these companies and prospective talent have to offer. We find that companies rarely provide information that is interesting or even relevant to talent, focusing instead on the interests of customers or investors. For example, employees often want to know about things like the working environment, the company philosophy, or even things like what kind of music they play during office hours or if there are any good cafés or bars nearby – things that will affect their satisfaction with the job in the long term.
Likewise, many companies wish to see something completely different from what they normally encounter when searching for talent. Instead of generic CVs that list a person’s skills and educational qualifications, what they really wish to see is their character – what makes them tick, or how resilient they would be when faced with a challenge – things that CVs cannot really show. Different companies look for different personality traits – smaller creative firms, for instance, may look for someone highly autonomous, while larger firms may look for someone who is sensitive to others and works well in a team.
As a new startup, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced in developing and promoting your idea, particularly as an alternative to such a well-established process? What kind of advice would you give to others who are just starting their own companies?
My main advice would be simply to start. Starting something does not rely on having a fantastic idea, but rather on the desire to solve a problem. Even if you do not immediately know how to solve it, you can simply learn more as you develop as a startup. There are, of course, many challenges that come with that, such as planning and coordinating each task, or time management. The biggest challenge, however, is working effectively with limited resources. We managed to bootstrap our discovery of the problem, the solution and our customer base, and we’ve developed our first product which will soon launch in five cities – London, Berlin, San Francisco, New York and Sydney. However, after that, we will need some outside support, either in the form of angel funding or seed investments, so that we can truly reach out to these five cities.
I specialized in the creative industries, so betahaus has the kind of clientele I can and want to work with. It therefore makes sense for me to be here. I work together with the international design center and the KfW bank, and often meet with clients here at the cafe. I have another office in here in Kreuzberg, and a lot of my clients who work there often ask to meet at betahaus. At some point I realized that this was simply the right place for me to work and to acquire clients.
You mostly work with founders in the creative industries. Why did you decide to focus your work on this area?
I studied business and cultural studies, so from the beginning it seemed logical for me to be involved in this area. I have worked in other fields before, but I simply realized that I prefer to work in the creative industries. That’s why I am here.
What kind of questions do you answer in your consultation hour? What are frequently asked questions?
I mostly answer questions from startups and freelancers about financing and financial support, not only during the founding phase, but also afterwards.
What do you hope to achieve with your consultation here at betahaus?
Above all, I do this because I hope that everybody who comes to me for a consultation can get something out of it. I also have the advantage of being an accredited consultant for the KfW bank, so I can offer aided consultation. I know that a lot of creatives, especially the ones that are in the process of starting their own business, don’t necessarily have the financial means to pay for such a consultation in most cases, so it’s a win-win situation.