Christoph Fahle
February 1, 2012

Rising to the Challenge: Great Challenges Berlin (January 16-18, 2012)

How can we curb the rampant waste of food and consumer goods in the developed world? How can we ensure equal and open access to digital and mobile networks throughout the world, as these take on an increasingly central role in people’s lives? How can a small group of individuals, through simple collaboration, find solutions to problems previously deemed unsolvable by many?

How can we facilitate access to sustainable sources of energy for individual consumers? How can we curb the rampant waste of food and consumer goods in the developed world? How can we ensure equal and open access to digital and mobile networks throughout the world, as these take on an increasingly central role in people’s lives? How can a small group of individuals, through simple collaboration, find solutions to problems previously deemed unsolvable by many?

These are some of the greatest challenges faced not only by businesses of all sizes, but by individuals and by society as a whole, in the present day. On January 16, the Stockholm University subsidiary SU Innovation brought a group of students, academics, and entrepreneurs to betahaus for Great Challenges Berlin, where the group spent three days exploring these different challenges, as well as the ways in which they could be faced. During these three days, participants were invited to present their own ideas and strategies while getting to know the many examples of individuals, startups, and advocacy organisations facing these challenges in the city of Berlin.

The conference began with a series of presentations by entrepreneurs and thinkers from Berlin and from around Sweden, each one presenting their own solutions to different challenges. Speakers, from companies such as Jovoto, Doonited, and SecondMuse, among others, discussed the many ways in which even small-scale initiatives, when carried out as a collaborative effort, can have a significant impact on the world.

Several more startups, many of them from across Sweden, then discussed their own innovative strategies for addressing the challenges of sustainable living and resource management. These strategies involved either directly providing sustainable products or services to consumers, or providing incentives for consumers and companies alike to make conscious choices. Participants learned about how goods and services; such as portable solar-powered chargers, regional grocery-delivery services that make use of as many locally-sourced products as possible, or a service that collects and donates leftover bread from bakeries to soup kitchens, can help overcome these challenges on a local or individual level. Meanwhile, companies such as Gadimu, Cryptango, and Pamoja Cleantech, presented similar strategies with a more global reach; such as information-security for industrial waste-management systems, or inexpensive, environmentally-friendly technology for rural communities in developing countries.

On the second day of the conference, participants were taken on a tour of Berlin, focusing on the city’s many different examples of innovative strategies for dealing with the challenges of today’s world. The tour began with a visit to nearby Impakt Social Labs, and continued on to various other projects and places in the city, ending with a light-hearted drink at the café and coworking space, St. Oberholz. Throughout the day, participants learned how Berlin came to be a European centre for culture and innovation, and continues to maintain that status today. The day concluded with a dinner at betahaus, held by Sandbox, an organisation which seeks to foster young talent across the world. The Sandbox dinner provided a relaxed environment, in which guests were encouraged to network and meet others by discussing their main fields of work or other topics that interested them.

The third day offered participants the chance to either experience the coworking environment of the betahaus, or to visit one of Berlin’s most successful green startups, Coffee Circle, which works to provide high-quality organic, direct-trade coffee from Ethiopia to customers in Germany and across Europe, and 6wunderkinder; another young, Berlin-based startup providing mobile apps with practical, everyday uses. The final official event of Great Challenges Berlin took the participants to the Swedish Embassy, where they were then able to participate in a round-table discussion on the role of impact investment in the future.Great Challenges Berlin provided both SU Innovation and betahaus Berlin with the opportunity to collaboratively discuss and explore the great challenges faced by all in the 21st century, as well as the new and innovative solutions that many companies and individuals continue to develop each day.

More upcoming events and announcements you can find in our beta calendar!

Claudius: Design is the core of what we do and what we’re all passionate about, but hardly our only focus. Design, at LAUDO, stands more for designing a whole strategy, often very close connected with marketing. We’re developing websites and apps for our clients, but also help them reach their target audience through SEO, Google ranking developing newsletter systems, print brochures etc.

Claudius: A lot of other companies are seeing themselves as a service provider and don’t really question what their client wants and why. We pay very close attention if the work we provide for a client is in line with our personal values and vision. It’s not just delivering a product to the client, getting the paycheck and leaving, but also building relationships with clients and collaborating. Because they are often our doors to new opportunities

We see LAUDO as an airport, where the clients are our gates to new guests, new perspectives and new potential clients. It happens all the time that whoever we’re working for, from there we get a new project, which wasn’t planned before. So we open up a new gate. That’s how we were able to grow and why good connection with our clients is so crucial for us.’

‘’We see LAUDO as an airport, where the clients are our gates to new guests, new perspectives and new potential clients. It happens all the time that whoever we’re working for, from there we get a new project, which wasn’t planned before. So we open up a new gate. That’s how we were able to grow and why good connection with our clients is so crucial for us.’’
Photos by Lea GK

Orietta: I think one thing that makes us stand out on the market and our number one strength is the team. We’re a small team and we all look in the same direction and have the same approach and vision. That makes the communication go smoothly.

Joey: Another thing is that we have a very hands-on approach. We are the guys, who say: ‘’Okay, let’s do it’’. That’s our culture.

Orietta: When we started looking for a place I was already involved in the betahaus community. Working from previous betahaus locations and attending the community events, I already knew a lot of people in the 'haus ...

Joey: Yes, I remember on the first day we came to betahaus Orietta was like ‘’Oh, hey! Hi! Hey, how are you doing? Hi!'' giving high-fives to everybody and we were like: What is going on, why does she know everybody?!

Orietta: Well, the vibe in betahaus is just super easy going. You directly feel that you can meet people easily. If you go to the kitchen for example and just ask ''Hey how are you, what are you working on?''. We made many new contacts too.

Claudius: What makes it nice here is that people are enjoying being here and working on their projects.

Photos by Lea GK

Claudius: The truth is, we could probably afford an office for the same price, but that would put us between these four walls, which put you into a box, much harder to exit and to connect with new people. We went for a Team Desk because here we have so much more space and everything seems much more connected. You can easily meet people.

Orietta: And it’s just so spacious here. We have this super nice garden.

Claudius: I like being focused on my work but I also like if someone disturbs me from time to time. It helps when the door opens. In an office we would work in a whole different way. Here Gillord (Coworking Manager) is coming in everyday, giving me a hug, telling me about his workout .. that’s the main reason - the personal connection.

The day in betahaus starts with a hug and ends with a hug. The time in between is pretty much spent on doing what you love.
Photos by Lea GK


After you’ve taken care of your paperwork and you’ve signed up both in Bürger- and Finanzamt, you are all set up to start working. One of the best ways to get integrated into the city fast, meet like-minded people, and even find clients is by working from a coworking space. There are tons of benefits for freelancers and luckily Berlin has a lot to offer in this way. A coworking space is a physically collaborative shared workspace, which brings all kinds of creatives and entrepreneurs together. It’s a perfect place for startups, freelancers, digital nomads and even corporates searching for innovation. And it’s the biggest advantage towards the typical office space is that it pushes a collaborative exchange between its members and facilitates the creative process and networking.

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