Alexander Köppen-Dlugosch is a co-founder of PocketWeb, a company specializing in mobile platforms that integrates social media and location-based services to make them easily usable for startups as well as large enterprises. Based on their PocketLife Platform they launched one of the first location-based social media networks in 2008, accessible online and on mobile networks worldwide. Based on their platform they have worked with a number of startups and enterprises to develop innovative mobile services in a variety of fields.
1. You founded one of the first location-based social networks, PocketLife, well before similar platforms, like Foursquare or Facebook’s “check-in” feature, had taken off. What initially inspired you to develop a location-based platform?
We came together as a team of entrepreneurs who wanted to address the upcoming market of smartphones and their new features. We then founded PocketWeb to empower startups and also large enterprises to provide innovative services on smartphone platforms such as iPhone or later Android. The PocketLife Platform was created to provide social networking, location-based services and most other relevant mobile services basically out of the box. This way other companies can provide their own services globally scalable and in a seamless way across mobile platforms. At the same time they save cost and time to market. Since then, we’ve developed several solutions partnering with clients such as Vodafone or The Volvo Group, but also with startups and smaller companies. One of the more recent ones was www.get-neutral.com, the world’s first online platform for climate-neutral consumption, allowing users to offset their CO2 consumption by understanding the impact of products they have purchased..
2. So the PocketLife Platform is generally geared more towards businesses rather than towards individuals?
That is correct. Companies approach us to provide the technical basis so that they can run individual-oriented services, for example solutions similar to Foursquare or other prominent mobile services. Based on our experience we also help them to design their services and business models.
3. Since the development of PocketLife, you have, amongst other things, used this platform to promote various initiatives related to sustainable travel, and have established both Commute Greener! and Green Travel Choice, in cooperation with other companies and organisations. How does the PocketLife Platform help promote sustainable travel in either case?
What we do is to support our customers in providing their services – in many areas and industries. More by chance, a few of our clients happen to be involved in the field of environmental care and sustainability. The Volvo Group, for instance, motivates commuters with www.commutegreener.com to travel by bike or bus, rather than by car, by allowing them to track and improve their commuting behaviour with their smartphones. Another one is a new service called Get-Neutral, which allows you to scan all kinds of products with your smartphone to determine its carbon footprint.
4. So with Get-neutral, you can scan any product, which it will then recognise and, based on that, determine your carbon footprint?
Yes. You can use your smartphone to scan the barcode of any kind of product - from a bottle of beer, to a laptop - and receive information on its carbon footprint and on how you can offset it. There is also a social-networking aspect involved where you can receive points and badges for your activities, and then compare your scores to those of your friends.
5. You are an international firm that operates in the Asia-Pacific region from New Zealand, and in North America and Europe from Germany. What made you choose Berlin, specifically betahaus, as your base?
PocketWeb was founded in New Zealand by one Brit and two German guys. I was one of the founders, and I eventually moved back to Berlin. Also many of our clients are based in Germany and Europe. Berlin has also recently become a hotspot for all kinds of mobile and internet services. So this is a place where we can find clients, partners, and talent to hire. At betahaus, we can meet startups with whom we can partner, as well as a lot of young, motivated people who can work with us.
6. Finally, what advice would you have for anyone looking to create their own startup?
Based on our own experience, I would say that it’s important to always consider the customer first, and not to over-engineer your services. We often meet startups who are very into what they are doing, and thus tend to over-engineer things – they add too many things, and their services end up being so complex that no customer can understand them. Essentially, their point gets lost. So my advice would be to keep your services simple and customer-focused.
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.
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