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.
Cost is a big one here. In regards to total transportation costs, the last mile comprises up to 53% of those - making it the least efficient part of the supply chain. Expectations of free shipping and next day deliveries add up to this.
Due to increasing digitalization and convenience services in every area of people's lives, the smooth and flawless process of getting the delivery to one's doorstep is exceedingly becoming what customers care most about. On top of that, for companies that package being delivered is an extension of their brand. The consumer is basically coming face-to-face with the brand, which makes it the biggest opportunity to heighten customer satisfaction.
If you live in a city and have even slightly observed your urban surroundings you’ve probably witnessed it first hand - urban congestion and crowded cities make it pretty tough to satisfy the growing demand and rising expectations of super quick deliveries. Add unpredictability in transit (like weather conditions), an incorrect address or remote locations, just to name a few, and you can see where this is going.
The worst part is, all those delivery trucks and vans that also produce a fair bit of emissions, are often only half full when they roll out for deliveries. This is mostly due to low drop sizes and stops along the route that are far and few between.
It’s not all hopeless though - Where there is a problem, there are solutions.
Same old, same old - isn’t always all that bad. Sometimes, all that’s needed are some new perspectives! The city of Utrecht, for example, implemented a zero-emissions electric barge nicknamed the “Beer Boat”.
Since 2010 it’s carrying beer and food to the city’s downtown restaurants by using waterways. Other electric barges in Amsterdam not only deliver but even collect organic waste, which is then turned into biofuel in processing plants! Isn’t that cool?
It becomes clear that cities, logistics, as well as urban planners, are equally part of solving the inefficiency of the last-mile. Tackling this mountain of issues calls for teamwork!
A centralized platform, hub or network for similar companies, could do the trick to fill up the delivery vans & trucks that are barely loaded. Parcels could be distributed more efficiently between different companies and their delivery vehicles.
Like a big pool of parcels from different companies with every single parcel going into that one van with the same route!
Delivery Driver Experience and Smart Delivery Vehicles are also areas with huge potential for improvement and innovation.
Ellie: Two years ago we adopted a new legal structure for Jolocom GmbH according to the purpose model of ownership, manifesting our commitment and dedication to building a self-sovereign organization. That means we can’t take VC funding or sell public shares of the company.
Volker: Jolocom is a community driven organisation – both in a tech sense but also much further beyond. We’re hugely involved in the DWeb community where we organize and attend events for the decentralized community. Every year we also help organize and attend the DWeb Camp in San Francisco, which brings together all kinds of creatives so this technology of tomorrow is built in a collaborative way.
Next to that on-demand experiences have become firmly embedded into people’s everyday lives - be it a mobile app to book a ride, send flowers to your loved ones or order lunch to your office. It’s all possible and has made premium features like real-time tracking a standard. The online consumer expects nothing less and certainly doesn’t like to wait.
Making that quick and instant gratification happen is another story though. Groundbreaking ideas and innovations are needed to tackle all these factors. Does your startup have one?
Volker: There is this really nice place, called Green Rabbit with salads and baked potatoes where I like to go to. Sometimes I just keep it simple and go to Lidl.
Ellie: I eat a lot in west.berlin cafe which is here around the corner and I love the Matcha Lattes from Starbucks.