January 9, 2012
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.