Katka Nagyová
January 20, 2014

Lesson learnt of context booster: Why we came back to Berlin after being in the Silicon Valley

Our betahaus member Context Booster went to the Silicon Valley. Sebastian, the co-founder, tells us the story how they got there, took part in the Evernote accelerator and what made them come back to Berlin:

It all started with our participation at a hackathon in Berlin, organized by Evernote and Deutsche Telekom. We hadn't planned to join at all, but jumped in spontaneously two days before the start. Our hack Context Booster enriched Evernote notes with all sorts of related content from the web. And guess what, we won the hackathon, which took us right to the huge yearly Evernote Conference in San Francisco - and this is where the US story starts.

At the conference, we took part in the Devcup, where 200 participants of all worldwide Evernote hackathons competed. We won the prize for "best for productivity", entered the finals and came out winning the silver award of the Devcup!

From there we got the fast track to the first Evernote accelerator ever. Six startups from six countries spent four weeks at the Evernote headquarter. The accelerator is a great way for foreing startups to enter Silicon Valley - Evernote did not take any equity while paying for all the flights and accommodation. They provided us with an awesome office space right in their headquarter, and we even got a car and Evernote branded bikes.

One of the cool learnings the Evernote accelerator brought along was an intensive LUXR training for lean startupping (the same one which "500 Startups" is giving to their participants). And they set up countless meetings with famous investors, companies like Google and Pocket and great mentors like Guy Kawasaki.

The time in the accelerator was absolutely challenging. Many of the startups pivoted their products completely to aim for more users or more revenue. We’ve done some changes to Context Booster as well, but still remained one of the few teams who sticked to the initial product. We improved our algorithm to analyze Evernote notes even better and now aggregate an amazing page with facts, articles, images and videos according to any identified topic.

 

Along our stay we went through all phases of excitement about the Silicon Valley. The first: all the people are so great, we want to move to the US! The second: there is plus and minus, so what do we do? The third: we do stay in Berlin and we are confident about it!

What impressed us in the first phase (and still does) is the fact that in the US everybody "thinks big". When we pitched, the most common question was: "How are you going to scale the product?". We seriously and repeatedly heard the comment: "Why not become the next Google?". This is the sheer opposite of German thinking. Feedback in Europe consists of concerns and many reasons why the product will never work. The American way of thinking: try, think big, make things possible. This is very encouraging.

Our second and third phase was dominated by facing the reality of living & working in the Valley. On the business side, staying in the Valley would mean to compete with Google and Facebook in the field of augmented intelligence, especially when looking for talents. This is a losing game, as the big companies pay enormously high salaries complemented by mega conveniences and extras which no small company can afford. Compared to this, it is still possible to hire good staff in Berlin.

On the living side, the Silicon Valley has reached the incredible price level of New York - for no particular value except being where famous companies cover some suburbs. What you get there instead is fast food, daily commuting and the beach still too far for an evening surf.

Looking at it this way, rising a $1mil in the US pretty much equals to 300K Euro in Berlin. In Berlin, we have better access to talents, the quality of life is exceptional, and if you have a great idea you really stick out. When we explained this to US investors they mainly agreed with us - even if they just had told us we had to move to the Valley to get funded.

After all, the Evernote accelerator and the Silicon Valley trip has been amazing. We will definitely return there often, but Berlin won for our company! Also, betahaus is such a good, flexible solution for our team, as we work and meet here, but also work remotely from different locations. Now our team is growing and we are looking for the best geeks of backend and frontend development. Berlin, let's think big together!

Curious about Context Booster? Just register at www.contextbooster.com!

And if you want to join the community, follow this link! 

Working for Lufthansa back in 2002, Joachim (CEO & founder @ Jolocom) had the idea to develop a better system for companies to swap data internally and for people to share their data with companies. Back in 2002, the resistance to open networks and communication was strong. However, just a few years later, social media and blockchain changed the rules of the game, which led to the founding of Jolocom in 2014. (Read the whole story here


Photo by Lea GK

Ellie joined the Jolocom team in the fall last year. She’s part of the content team and is responsible for communications and online platforms maintenance. 

Volker is currently studying IT-Systems Engineering at HPI, working on his master thesis with Jolocom. He joined the software development team in March this year and has previously worked from betahaus for another startup company.

With two locations in the heart of the city, betahaus l Sofia is a home of some of the most successful Bulgarian startups and is one of the leading innovation hubs in Sofia. Their main space is located just two minutes on foot from Sofia University and the second one stands right at the central Slaveykov Sqaure and has a beautiful view over the city.

As all of our locations, its pet and bicycle friendly and offers the same comfy and relaxed atmosphere you've come to expect from betahaus. Identical to our space, betahaus | Sofia uses glass doors for its team rooms, to build transparency and inclusion.

betahaus | Sofia @ Shipka 6

betahaus | Sofia @ Shipka 6

betahaus | Sofia is spread across 1800 q.m. divided into 2 separate spaces. Shipka 6 is 1300qm and takes over the entire 3rd floor of the UBA – Union of the Bulgarian Artists. Slaveykov Square is placed on the roof top of another historical building in Sofia. There they have two balconies with 360 degrees view, a cafe/bar and a shared kitchen.

Membership plans start from 350,– BGN for Workspace and go up to 435,– BGN for Private Offices. Currently, the space has around 190 members and will soon implement also Club Memberships plan. Every member of the Club will have access to events, conference room and betahaus community.

betahaus | Sofia @ Slaveykov Square
betahaus | Sofia @ Slaveykov Square

Ellie: Currently we have around 5 active pilots and we effectively work B2B2C. So we build our application for businesses which have their own user bases.

Volker: One of our ongoing projects is a pilot with Telekom. With their team, and partners from Riddle & Code and Simple Mobility, we have created the Magenta Scooter — an innovation in e-mobility that allows users to ride share while using their decentralized digital IDs. That means users can rent the scooter with our app and our identity. The main advantage there is that you can store your drivers licence in your Jolocom SmartWallet and then share this license with the app of Telekom. This eliminates the long onboarding process of verifying your license. 

Ellie: Another example is our e-government collaboration with The City of Antwerp called Blockchain on the Move. Using the SmartWallet, municipal employees can issue and validate their own credentials and create eIDs for citizens – it’s a digital ID with which you can register at the university or go to a swimming pool, as two examples.

Photo by Lea GK


Want more? Check out betahaus | Hamburg and betahaus | Barcelona.

If you want to know more about how to travel and work from different coworking spaces with one membership, click here.

Ellie: Two years ago we adopted a new legal structure for Jolocom GmbH according to the purpose model of ownership, manifesting our commitment and dedication to building a self-sovereign organization. That means we can’t take VC funding or sell public shares of the company. 

Volker: Jolocom is a community driven organisation – both in a tech sense but also much further beyond. We’re hugely involved in the DWeb community where we organize and attend events for the decentralized community. Every year we also help organize and attend the DWeb Camp in San Francisco, which brings together all kinds of creatives so this technology of tomorrow is built in a collaborative way.


Ellie: I know that before joining betahaus Jolocom was in the Ethereum office – a collaborative blockchain space for companies also building on the same platform and the idea was always to stay within a coworking space. When they closed and we had to move, the next closest choice in terms of company culture was betahaus. 

Ellie: The people in the building and the spaces are just really cool. I personally don’t go to community events as much as i would like to but I still end up meeting a lot of people here. Mostly in the kitchen. One of my good friends is actually someone I met in betahaus. 

Volker: I once saw a friend of mine presenting at betabreakfast and I didn’t know that he would be here. It was so funny seeing him on the stage.

Photo by Lea GK

Volker: There is this really nice place, called Green Rabbit with salads and baked potatoes where I like to go to. Sometimes I just keep it simple and go to Lidl.

Ellie: I eat a lot in west.berlin cafe which is here around the corner and I love the Matcha Lattes from Starbucks.

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