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Elizaveta Bersegova
July 14, 2015

People in beta: Christoph Raethke

Welcome to our PEOPLE in Beta series. For the next 2 months, we´ll be requesting a little insight from speakers and workshop holders of People in Beta festival about who they really are.

With over 15 years of experience and success stories, Christophe Raethke has an exceptional array of knowledge in the digital industry scene. In the summer of 2012, he founded Berlin Startup Academy - one of the most remarkable accelerators. Raethke is known as one of the main faces within the Berlin Startup ecosystem, as well as the roughest person to get feedback from! We like to think of him as a guru. And here's some insight on whom he dreamt about being when he was 5 years old.

You are one of the best known gurus of the startup scene. What made you pick exactly this field and stick to your decision for over 15 years?

My first start-up team which I joined in 1999 changed everything for me. I had been working in internet agencies before, so at that point it was likely I would stay in the industry. But until the moment we built a business plan for our own idea I had assumed I would always be working for someone else. Until that moment, I was sure that starting a business was not for me. That it was only something for brilliant individuals who knew everything about business and finance – which I knew nothing about.

We didn’t get investment for our idea, but despite that I knew now that I was no worse in working on a great idea, thinking through all implications, and designing a business plan than everyone else. We failed with our idea, but I was a changed man. From that moment on I knew that I could rely on my own resources, create my own job, start my own company. All of a sudden, my options had multiplied, giving me a personal freedom that over time became ever more addictive. That’s the needle I’m still on today.

You are well known for giving rough, nearly shocking feedback. Which is most probably a well thought through decision. Why so direct?

From my view, all I’m doing is spelling out the obvious. Not doing that would be cowardice, a betrayal both of the person I’m giving feedback to, and of myself. If you are in a position to tell the truth, you just shouldn’t lie. I believe that as human beings we need to be committed to saying things as they are, giving our opinions to the full – or not at all. I guess it is a German thing, too: do things right or not at all; don’t be superficial; be suspicious of Big Words; examine and be critical; say as you mean. And I embrace being German through and through; I‘m the most profoundly German German you’ll ever meet.

Whom did you actually want to become when you were small?

I wanted to be an archaeologist. My mother tells me that I could read and write at age 3, and at age 6 I was reading Die Sagen des Klassischen Altertums. My parents were teachers, and we had Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey at home, with many pictures, for children. Gustav Schliemann, explorer of Troy, was my childhood hero. Today, many declare Steve Jobs or Elon Musk as their role models. Mine is Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor, philosopher, and author.

Once you are off duty, how do you spend your time on the weekends?

On summer weekends, I like to rent a convertible and explore Brandenburg. Brandenburg is a country of well-hidden gems; if you don’t know where to look, you find yourself cruising an empty, boring countryside for hours. On the other hand though, it is a country of no less than 3000 lakes, of Prussian small towns, and endless tree-lined roads. Apart from that, I try to read, write and play guitar on weekends. And like every civilized male, I watch lots of Bundesliga football. My team Borussia Mönchengladbach actually is the best football team in the world.

What do you value in people most?

Authenticity. I get along with everyone who is being himself, no matter if they’re timid or boastful, spiritual or level-headed, emotional or cool. I like everyone who has a genuine point of view, an idea of and a certain style about himself.

Who is your nearest and dearest person on Earth?

At the moment, that’s still my parents, particularly my father, because he is 86 and the day is inevitably getting nearer. My father is a wonderful man and still full of love and concern for his children.

 

What do you love most of all?

That has to be freedom, also in the sense of liberty and liberalism. Freedom to be who you are means freedom from discrimination and being master of one’s destiny.

What do you hate most of all?

I absolutely hate Nazis, and to a lesser extent I also hate the Left. Hating Nazis is an obvious thing to do, but with the Left, I have to explain. As a kid, I read Solshenitsyn’s  „GULAG Archipelago“, and most of his other works too. I was always interested in Russia, its literature and history; I even chose to learn Russian in University and spent two months studying the language in St Petersburg. Now Russian history of the 20th century is a story of the devastation that left ideology will inflict on humans. The closer you look, the more insanely cruel it becomes: the millions killed and tortured, the millions willingly starved to death, the senseless rape of traditions and beliefs. What’s important is that these occurrences were not aberrations of a well-intended idea, as leftist folklore has it. To left ideology, killing millions is not a bug, but a feature. And unlike the Nazis, the Left is not universally discredited, despite their track record of killing millions from Russia to North Korea, from China to Cambodia, from Ethiopia to every dictatorship of the Warsaw pact.

Tea or Coffee?

Coffee. Too much of it.

 

Give us a line of wisdom - no matter if invented by you or somebody known or your mom. 

Der eigene Hund macht keinen Lärm, er bellt nur („Your own dog doesn’t cause a disturbance, it merely barks“). Kurt Tucholsky, my other hero.

 

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