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Christoph Fahle
June 25, 2013

betahaus | Hamburg - What Happened?

Dear awesome people

We thought we'd share a little of our thoughts with everybody regarding the latest fail of betahaus | Hamburg and Cologne. Most of the practical reasons you can find here (Hamburg) and here (Cologne) if you are able to speak German. The short version: We just didn't make enough money (in CGN and HH) with the business to pay all bills. That happens sometimes when you have a crappy business model. Still there is more about it. Here comes the long version blended with thoughts from the mothership:

I do not know who still remembers how we started our home-space 4 years ago in Berlin: A mixed group of young adventurers that didn't really know what exactly they were up to. Just that suddenly we had created buzz that just knew one direction - forward. And forward it went. Enough people on the waitinglist to fill three spaces, requests from all over the world to open branches abroad and three business models in one at its core from which we still today don't know what is the most important one.

From the beginning on we put people and culture first, business second. First we decided how the place should feel and look like and what kind of people should be around, then afterwards we tried developing a business model around it like an API to the real world. Sometimes this led to the situation that we had great people, an awesome atmosphere but no way to sustain it. We also had serious business going on but nobody really liked the way it felt. In both situations it was the constant change that defined what we are and never stopped. We found ourselves being in situations where we had to stop things to start new and better. We lost a space in Cologne and fear to lose one in Hamburg, too – but we also had whole teams had whole teams working on Lisbon and Zurich that never opened a space because the combination of people, culture and business just wasn't right at that particular moment. This is part of it.

Anyways what we see today is another of those situations we are sad about and grateful for at the same time. It ends something great that was part of our lives for many month both business and people wise and we learned a lot. And it also creates room for new stuff and doesn't keep our energy trapped and we are looking forward to what will happen with all those loose energy and time.

Nevertheless looking at the facts here's what we learned:

  • Small spaces are not impossible but way harder to run as a business because you can't take advantage of scale effects while you lag gravity.
  • 1500sqm upwards works
  • Selling desks can pay your bills but it won't save your ass on the long term. More products need to be sold. Events, Coffee Shop, Workshop, Education. Try-harder-style.
  • YOU HAVE TO BE AT THE PLACE! Hence you need to control the building (like in Berlin, Sofia and Barcelona) or at least big part of it. Have a look at other spaces in Berlin.

Well, while I write this there is more interesting stuff to read. People and culture took over on this blog and in this google doc (again only in German, sorry) to save Hamburg. I feel you can haz superpowers. If you have any further questions, get in touch at christoph@betahaus.de

Over and out,

c

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