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!
In addition to the betahaus locations, we've formed a close relationship with some of the world's best coworking spaces. With your betahaus membership, you can work from any of our partner spaces for 1 day per month.
Republikken // Copenhagen, Denmark // Vesterbrogade 26, 1620 København V, Denmark
Le Laptop // Paris, France // 6 Rue Arthur Rozier, 75019 Paris, France
utopic_US // Madrid, Spain // Calle de la Colegiata, 9, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Nest 71 // Saravejo, Bosnia & Herzegovina // Milana Preloga 12, Sarajevo 71000, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Toolbox // Milan, Italy // Via Agostino da Montefeltro, 2, 10134 Torino, Italy
Edspace // London, England // Block D, Hackney Community College, Falkirk St, London, UK
Bios // Athens, Greece // Pireos 84, Athina 104 35, Greece
CoWorx // Kristiansand, Norway // Markens Gate 8, 4611 Kristiansand, Norway
CRU – Loja / Cowork // Porto, Portugal // Rua do Rosário 211, 4050-524 Porto, Portugal
SPARK // Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina // Bleiburških žrtava, Mostar 88000, Bosnia & Herzegovina
StartUp Armenia Foundation // Yerevan, Armenia // 0019, 1 Marshal Baghramyan Ave, Yerevan 0019, Armenia
Tøyen Startup Village // Oslo, Norway // Hagegata 23, 0653 Oslo, Norway
Smart Coworking // Prague, Czech Republic // Václavské nám. 806/62, 110 00 Nové Město, Czechia
Lighthouse // Tel Aviv, Israel // HaHaroshet 14-16 Ra'anana, Tel Aviv, Isreal
Fueled // New York City, USA // 11, 568 Broadway, FL 11, New York, NY 10012, United States **Maximum 3 Days
Capital Factory // Austin, USA // 701 Brazos St, Austin, TX 78701, United States
Público // Mexico City, Mexico // Puebla 403, Roma Nte., 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Area Tres // Buenos Aires, Argentina // El Salvador: El Salvador 5218, C1414BPV CABA, Buenos Aires, Argentina // Soho: Malabia 1720, C1414DMJ CABA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
HubBOG // Bogota, Colombia // Cl. 98 #18-71, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
CIT // Taipei, Taiwan // 10452, Taiwan, Taipei City, Zhongshan District, 玉門街1號
Of10 // Mumbai, India // Prudential, Ground Floor, Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400076, India
Kibar // Jakarta, Indonesia // Jl. Prof. Moh. Yamin No.1, RT.7/RW.5, Menteng, Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10310, Indonesia
Midori.so // Tokyo, Japan // Midori.so Nakameguro: 3 Chome-3-11 Aobadai, Meguro-ku, Tōkyō-to 153-0042, Japan // Midori.so Nagatacho: 2 Chome-5 Hirakawachō, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 102-0093 // Midori.so2: 3 Chome-13 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to 107-0062, Japan
Launchgarage Innovation Hub // Manila, Philippines // Level 2, Industria Mall, Circulo Verde, Calle Industria, Bagumbayan, Quezon City, 1110 Metro Manila, Philippines
Independent Studios // Melbourne, Australia // 39/40 Porter St, Prahran VIC 3181, Australia
Urban Station EGYPT // Cairo, Egypt // 2 Wadi El Nil Mohandeseen, Cairo, Egypt
Nairobi Garage // Nairobi, Kenya // Nairobi Garage, The Mirage, Chiromo Rd, Nairobi, Kenya
BONUS: Cowork & Relax at the Coliving Space, Coconat // Brandenburg, Germany // Klein Glien 25 14806 Bad Belzig, Germany // Get €10 off your stay
Toni: Currently, we’ve somehow ended up in this niche of building a lot of internal tools for startups and teams. But this is not the only thing we want to do. What I like about it is that we’re starting projects from scratch and we have full control over them.
Martin: The first project we worked on was a tool for a large scale real estate development company. What they needed was a tool for their Sales people - to be able to mark their different spots and locations at different stages of the sales funnel. So we created a tool that helps them in this process.
Toni: And this one actually served as a starting point for the tool we’ve developed for betahaus, which aims to allow the Sales and Management team to see which team rooms are occupied right now, which ones are free or will be occupied in a few weeks or months, so no double bookings appear.
Alex: These two projects were more focused on real estate, let’s say, but we’ve also done more design-heavy projects like the one we did for Artique which is an online artists agency. For them, we built a whole website and an online system to present their artists starting only from their logo. It had to be very flexible, because the artists needed to be able to edit their own profiles, putting their resume, changing colours.
Toni: Honestly, we have skillsets that you don’t usually find in developers. Because we've had lives that were not just about computer science. I think to some extent this is what makes us different.
Martin: I believe one of the reasons why people pick us over other studios is because it can be very hard working with developers. If you’re not understanding their work, if the communication is not flowing, you, as a client can feel lost. We're easy to communicate with and we’re always open to feedback and we're open to discuss anything. In the end, after all iterations, if you say we need to start the website from scratch and that you don’t like the idea, we won’t take it personally.
Alex: Also, I think, since we all work as coding teachers, we are officially qualified to explain what coding is to people who don't code, which is actually really rare because a lot of developers, as Martin says, don't want to, or literally just don't know how to articulate what they're doing. Whereas we are trained in articulating what it is that we're doing, why it's meaningful and why it takes a certain amount of time.
Alex: Zimt & Mehl - the Turkish bakery around the corner. It’s just soo good.
Martin: Oh, there is this Italian restaurant called Ristorante del Arte
Tony: Oh, my God, this place is so funny. It looks like a pretty average Italian restaurant, but the whole interior design inside is just decorated in such a weird way. The entire place is covered in frescoes. They have crystal chandeliers and Easter bunnies. Some Greek columns. It has a different name on the menu, on the side and on the Internet. And it was an ex-shoe-store.
Want to get in touch with Obst Digital? Come around betahaus | Neukölln and meet them here or send them an email to firstname.lastname@example.org !