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Jack Henderson
June 20, 2017

Meet Our Members #2: Startup Founder & Weekend athlete Jon Sykes!

Jon, the European brit as he calls himself, is the founder of Us Berlin and Racemappr. Moving to Berlin to create his agency and startup he has been living in the German capital almost five years now. Growing up outside London in a small town called Harpenden, he graduated in Business at Cardiff and furthered his studies with a post-graduation in Advertising and Communication. Starting his career in a true “Madman” style Advertising agency, he worked with a whole spectrum of products like cars, beer, finance and health. After arriving in Berlin Jon ran an international agency where he met some great people in his job, he found the company’s environment limiting. So, he decided to invite 10 of his best contacts across design, writing, management, photography and more to openly talk through the idea of collaborating. Everyone loved it and never looked back.

There are other thousands of design agencies in Berlin. What makes you different?

The same thing that makes all agencies different - the people. Creativity comes from all of the influences, learning and culture that your individual team members have. Our structure is about creating the best environment to bring that together to challenge and improve the work - and we really see the impact it has. We are also far more than just a design agency, as our heritage is in architecture, advertising, strategy and business - and this is reflected in how we consult our clients. We remain more flexible than traditional agencies because our structure is more fluid.

You run your design agency from the betahaus, collaborating with plenty of betahaus members. Tell us about your team members and working style.

The collaborations extend beyond just the idea of client / corporate projects. As curators of the cafe walls in the betahaus cafe, we combine with other artists and designers because we love to broaden our own perspectives and influences. The agency is a structure to help us work on our own creative projects and ultimately make more happen. Teo, my partner in the agency, heads up the creative team. She’s worked with me since the beginning and helped craft the agency into what it is now. We balance out each other's skills and personalities to run the team, and get great new input from them on top.

 

‍Jon & his Us Berlin partner Teo

You recently launched Racemappr, a platform to discover running, triathlon or cycling races near you. Is it a side project? Did you develop it with the same team behind Us Berlin?

Racemappr is a platform to help anyone discover their next challenge. It helps inspire people by connecting them, on a local level, with racing communities and event organisers. It’s more than a side project and my vision is pretty big. Naturally having clients for the agency, their needs come first, but I find a way to manage it. It’s just about having a balance and I am supported by some great people. Yes, there is some crossover in the team, which is why it’s a great one. Everyone has shown amazing passion and support for it and have been instrumental in getting it this far.

How did you figure out there was a need for such a product? Are you active yourself in any of the activities Racemappr searches for?

I love to race myself. Particularly triathlon and running but I am also open to any challenge. The feeling of completion when you have pushed yourself is amazing, which is why the market and community is always growing. I just saw an opportunity that wasn’t being filled, mainly based on the idea that many other services were simplified versions of what I think can really help this community. It really is a case of mixing things together that I’m passionate about to solve my own needs. I’ve consistently shared the plans with organisers, racers and other stakeholders which has not only taught me a lot but also given me the constant drive, because they really want it too.

 

‍Racemappr in action

Running such big projects must not leave you with a lot of personal time. How has your life changed since you started your own company? Any wisdom to share with the other betahaus members about what you have learned in your entrepreneurial journey?

I always use the word balance to justify whatever phase I’m in. And I also realise that to function I need variety in both work and play. But at the same time, whilst sounding naff, most of it doesn’t feel like work. It’s just my journey of creating and growing what i’m interested in. Having won the beta fest ‘party animal’ award last year, I don’t think the violins need to come out just yet.

Some wisdom:

  • Run more. Always clears my head and helps me settle my mind towards tasks and objectives.
  • Commit. It all takes time to grow so be ready for the long haul, ups and downs.
  • Engage. Communities like betahaus can become such pivotal part of the experience so start talking. It’s helped in all areas.

 

We’re more than happy to grab a coffee with anyone who is looking for creative services to see how we can help them. Or anyone who is interested in what we are doing with Racemappr should join the site and is welcome to get in touch - we always welcome feedback.

Want to join Jon and other entrepreneurs at betahaus? See how here! 

" People matter! Community was always what we were all about. ‘’

In June we launched #PeopleInbeta - our monthly blog post series in which our Content Manager - Vihra interviewed teams and freelancers from the betahaus community to present the variety of creatives we have in ‘haus, to understand their missions and get some useful advice for our audience. We talked on topics such as sustainability (with PlanA) , decentralized digital identity (with JOLOCOM), curated music experiences (with Bespoke Sounds), freelance photography (with Sara Herrlander), full-stack development (with Obst Digital), design (with LAUDO) and much more.

Interview with LAUDO at betahaus | Neukölln
Interview with Obst.Digital at betahaus | Neukölln

"The Summer is the best time to host Backyard sessions and BBQ’s’’

In the summer, we launched a couple of new events in Neukölln like Freelancers, Unite!, The Backyard Sessions and My friend’s BBQ. 

Freelancers, Unite! developed as our productive coworking session with freelancers from in and outside the ‘haus. Once a month, we picked an important freelance topic (such as taxes, time-management, etc) and invited experts to give us insights on the topic. We saw so many new faces and had the chance to come back closer to where we started from - the freelance, grassroots culture. 

Freelancers, Unite! at betahaus | Neukölln

Another event, which started in July (and turned out to be our favourite events) were The Backyard Sessions. Organised by our queen of Neukölln - Robbin – the Backyard Sessions are our creative evenings with live music jams, movie screenings and cocktails. 

The Backyard Sessions at basement.berlin
Movie Screening at basement.berlin

This last event was hilarious because for quite some time, nobody knew exactly who organised it or invited them. The friend was throwing a BBQ for the community in the garden and this led to all our members joining and staying after for a beer or two with us.

‘’My favourite moment this year was the second friends bbq which was actually cancelled because of the rain forecast. But despite the bad weather, people show up and it turned into a super nice intimate evening with Elizaveta and Paul giving a garden concert.’’ - Robbin (Community Manager, betahaus)

''In July, it was great how the casual after-work BBQ turned into an impromptu acoustic blues jam session with Elizavetta Barsegova and Paul, who have the voice of an angel. Actually, all of the My Friend's BBQ's and Backyard Sessions were AWESOME.’’
- Paige (Head of Marketing, betahaus) 

The Garden at betahaus | Neukölln
My Friend's BBQ at betahaus | Neukölln



"As a coworking space, you have to give stage to important topics.’’

This year we released a new event format in Kreuzberg called ‘’The betaSalon’’. It's an open panel discussion which aims to give stage to important topics and give free speech on them. The fist one we did on the EU elections, last month we talked about changemakers, but our favourite one for this season stays ‘’Mother + Founder’’ where we partnered with FemGems podcast and recorded a live podcast episode for them having Madeleine Gummer von Mohl (betahaus co-founder), Kristine Zeller (co-creater of ooshi period underwear) and Luisa Hoffman on the stage.

betaSalon at betahaus | Kreuzberg

"We should fight for a more human-centered tech development’’

Every September, our co-founders take part in the Techfestival. in Copenhagen, spending a few days disconnecting from the daily life and focusing on creating a better, more human-centered tech future. This year the think tank which included our co-founders Madeleine and Max came up with the TechPledge. The Tech Pledge was made to emphasize the need for a new direction in tech. Similar to the Hippocratic oath for doctors, the Tech Pledge is a promise to make tech a force for good and ensure responsible and sustainable tech leadership. It’s a commitment to driving a new direction in technology.

Techfestival. 2019 in Copenhagen


"Startups are transforming European football as we know it.’’

One of the most exciting projects for betahausX this year (which is also continuing in 2020) is their new startup challenge called The Werder Lab - a global startup competition that aims to reimagine the way clubs like Werder work with athletes, fans and partners.



"You should leave time for the things you love most’’ 

This year couldn’t end without us having our favourite events - the end-of-the-year holiday party and the BETAPITCH Global Finals. On the 6th of December we saw the 9 finalists of the regional BETAPITCH competitions pitching in front of our jury. Congrats to Troy from Hamburg for winning the big prize.

We finished the year at our Holiday Party celebrating anything and everything at betahaus | Neukölln together with our members, friends of friends and our favourite artists from Passiflora LIVE, Tapete and Kotoe.

Love at The betahaus Holiday Party 2019


Thank you for being with us in 2019. It's been a crazy big year for us and it wouldn't been possible without your support, trust and the hard work of our amazing team. Have an amazing holiday time and we'll see you again in 2020.

With love,
betahaus

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