Vassilios P. Bartzokas is an innovator and entrepreneur. He likes discovering business ideas and leading them to success. He was the CEO of CARTECO in Greece a company awarded as one of the 10 best in Europe at the European Business Awards, together with companies like Air Berlin, Deutche Telecom and others. He founded The Archive, a design library for young designers and creatives, and started a design collective called 39.22, which promotes and develops ideas into products for the creative community. He launched a Greek e-magazine for architecture and design called Archisearch.gr. in 2011 which is also available as a free app at app store. Vassilios is also the founder and Chairman of the non-profit organization Brainlab, which organized the Green Design Festival in Athens. He also organized the Athens Architecture Workshop in 2009, which was attended by 100 students from European Universities. In February 2012 he organize ESW [eso ] Conference for Interior Design at the Onassis Cultural Centre. Now he is based in Berlin, and is running his startup, DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA, a platform promoting talented designers and people from the creative sector in Asia. He has been a member of betahaus since the middle of February.
You recently moved to Berlin. What made you decide to come here and develop your business? How would you compare the work environment here for architects and designers to that in Greece?
I moved to Berlin from Athens, Greece, 40 days ago.Things are starting to go really badly in Greece, and the situation is becoming very unstable. Greek politicians are very corrupt – as is the entire system – and it seems like there is absolutely no future, the way things are right now. I felt that I had no air to breathe, as I cannot function in such an environment, so I left in order to make a fresh new start with my wife and three kids in a new country that respects its citizens, and in a fresh and creative city like Berlin. I am not saying that things are perfect here, but at least this country is operating at around 75% efficiency, whereas Greece is not even at 10%. However, I invite you all to spend your holidays in Greece, as we are blessed to live in a beautiful country – and this has nothing to do with our laws or our politicians! You can come spend your holidays in our country and relax – Greece is simply amazing for holidays! Berlin is a great city with an open culture and a very creative environment. It is considered the Silicon Valley of Europe; and this means that it is a centre for startups and creatives. Berlin also has a long-standing history in arts, architecture and design – it’s like paradise for me! On the other hand; even though the Greek design and architecture scene has progressed and is considered as one of the best in the world, the working environment has always been very hostile towards entrepreneurship.The legal and tax systems are a mess, and consist of thousands of pages of laws – plus the working conditions are very tough right now due to the financial crisis and the resulting austerity measures. I love Berlin for its atmosphere, energy, and people; I feel that I have always belonged here. Ich bin ein Berliner!
Designlobby is a creative cluster representing the best of Greek Design in Asia. You also operate as design agents. Why did you choose Asia? Who do you want to reach with this new platform?
Asia is experiencing huge financial development and growth, compared to that of Europe, which is now facing its own unemployment and union problems. For us, Asia is a region with great potential and opportunities,and we are ready to explore them.
Our aim is to partner with important creative agencies in Asia, and approach companies of all sizes or end users who may need our services. As you know, there is a huge middle class in Asia that is growing fast. At the same time ,we are looking for government collaborations through our established relations with government officials.
You have organized many workshops, festivals, and have also launched magazines. Most of your work is connected with young designers. How you are doing business with young people?
It is great to work with young people, but it is also difficult at the same time. It is important for them to learn to control their enthusiasm, talent, and their sometimes very big egos! On the other hand, it is amazing and very refreshing to work with young and ultra-talented people.
How do you like working in a coworking space – particularly betahaus?
My wife discovered betahaus during a trip to Berlin a couple of months before moving here. She said that she has found a place that it would be a 100% fit for me and she was right! betahaus is an amazing space for creatives with great energy, people and staff. It is very interesting to work among other creative and inspiring people, from different countries and cultures in a beautiful space like betahaus, and to exchange ideas and experiences and collaborate on specific projects or ventures. You can find everything here; from software engineers to graphic designers, and from architects to magazine editors!
What are some plans or ideas for your future work? What kind of advice would you give to young architects or designers looking to become successful these days?
We are now establishing a worldwide network of designlobby offices; with chapters in Milan already established through our creative director and very talented young designer, CTRLZAK Thanos Zakopoulos. We are also working on building our branch in the UK through our design ambassador and very talented innovation & product designer, Christina Billiouri, and are working on establishing ourselves in other regions as well. We are seeking for collaboration and partnerships in Asia as well as in the rest of the world. We are planning to exhibit the work of our designers in Beijing Design Week in September, participate at the Hong Kong Design Year and perhaps get funded through their creative fund and get incubation space in their premises, we are working together with our London based office about creating an exhibition concept during the London Design Week Festival with the DESIGNERSBLOCK in September. We will also participate at the night shift design walk organized by Create Berlin and DMY the 7 th of June at the open design city in betahaus! I also want to curate a couple of exhibitions inside the betahaus and in other art and exhibition spaces in Berlin for our artists and photographers. We have lots if things coming up but the most important is to become visible in the creative community in Berlin and well respected through our work. We seek for collaborations and partnerships in Berlin so feel free to contact us !
My advise to young designers is as Steve jobs mentioned in his memorable speech at Stanford university in 2005, stay hungry, stay foolish! Stay hungry for knowledge, stay foolish enough to always ask and learn from others or your mistakes. My other advise could be don’t imitate, innovate! And my last advise is be humble, stay focused, work hard, and listen ! That’s all I think!