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.
January was the month we settled in our new ‘haus at Rudi-Dutschke-Straße. Just like moving into a new apartment, it was cold at the start. It felt a little new and different, but the moment the Club Lounge started filling and members were getting lunch together at the betahaus | Cafe, a new magic started to happen. The magic we call the betahaus community. It takes time to build, but the connections that blossom inside the ‘haus stay forever.
In February betahausX released The Accessible Transportation Challenge - a partnership with Toyota Mobility Foundation for the BETAPITCH challenge in Berlin. Devoted to making Berlin a more accessible city, this edition of BETAPITCH gathered many startups working on great new transportation solutions.
In March, we announced a soon-to-be-open second location in Berlin in our favourite neighbourhood in the city. We took over the iconic Geyer Werke building in Neukölln and with the help of our architects from Kim Wang we turned the place into a four-floor coworking space. We shared with you some fun facts about the space before it’s opening and made a virtual map with our favourite businesses around the ‘haus.
In April, we celebrated a decade of coworking with our biggest party in the last few years - ''10 Years in beta''. For this one we transformed the coworking area in betahaus | Neukölln into a party venue. An art exhibition took over The Basement underneath and The Garden was filled with activities like acro yoga, mandala painting, and a collage workshop.
‘’One of my many favourite betahaus moments this year was when Christoph, Max and I stood nervously in the Garden to give a speech in front of all our friends and members at our 10th birthday party. We talked about our values, our future goals after this whirlwind of a change and our intention to make tech more human. There was just so much love and appreciation around us.’’ - Madeleine (Co-Founder, betahaus)
"My favourite betahaus moment of the year is the woman who was gently putting beef and minced meat around our 10 years party installation. Until this day, no one knows exactly who she was and if this was a part of the installation, but out of all the things we saw on the 10 years in beta, she stays my highlight.’’ - Maria (Graphic Designer, betahaus)
The 10 Years in beta party was also the official opening of betahaus | Neukölln. Spring was the perfect time for our new project to start growing. The Club Lounge started filling, amazing new teams joined the community such as LAUDO, Obst Digital, Wonderwerk, Trybe and The Zeitsprung Project. Our Gil became the Lord of the house, giving hugs to everybody, fixing all kinds of problems in the ‘haus and keeping it run smoothly with the rest of the Front Desk team. This was also the month when we launched our beloved weekly yoga classes guided by our dear Cynthia from Arrive Yoga.
" People matter! Community was always what we were all about. ‘’
In June we launched #PeopleInbeta - our monthly blog post series in which our Content Manager - Vihra interviewed teams and freelancers from the betahaus community to present the variety of creatives we have in ‘haus, to understand their missions and get some useful advice for our audience. We talked on topics such as sustainability (with PlanA) , decentralized digital identity (with JOLOCOM), curated music experiences (with Bespoke Sounds), freelance photography (with Sara Herrlander), full-stack development (with Obst Digital), design (with LAUDO) and much more.
In the summer, we launched a couple of new events in Neukölln like Freelancers, Unite!, The Backyard Sessions and My friend’s BBQ.
Freelancers, Unite! developed as our productive coworking session with freelancers from in and outside the ‘haus. Once a month, we picked an important freelance topic (such as taxes, time-management, etc) and invited experts to give us insights on the topic. We saw so many new faces and had the chance to come back closer to where we started from - the freelance, grassroots culture.
Another event, which started in July (and turned out to be our favourite events) were The Backyard Sessions. Organised by our queen of Neukölln - Robbin – the Backyard Sessions are our creative evenings with live music jams, movie screenings and cocktails.
This last event was hilarious because for quite some time, nobody knew exactly who organised it or invited them. The friend was throwing a BBQ for the community in the garden and this led to all our members joining and staying after for a beer or two with us.
‘’My favourite moment this year was the second friends bbq which was actually cancelled because of the rain forecast. But despite the bad weather, people show up and it turned into a super nice intimate evening with Elizaveta and Paul giving a garden concert.’’ - Robbin (Community Manager, betahaus)
''In July, it was great how the casual after-work BBQ turned into an impromptu acoustic blues jam session with Elizavetta Barsegova and Paul, who have the voice of an angel. Actually, all of the My Friend's BBQ's and Backyard Sessions were AWESOME.’’ - Paige (Head of Marketing, betahaus)
This year we released a new event format in Kreuzberg called ‘’The betaSalon’’. It's an open panel discussion which aims to give stage to important topics and give free speech on them. The fist one we did on the EU elections, last month we talked about changemakers, but our favourite one for this season stays ‘’Mother + Founder’’ where we partnered with FemGems podcast and recorded a live podcast episode for them having Madeleine Gummer von Mohl (betahaus co-founder), Kristine Zeller (co-creater of ooshi period underwear) and Luisa Hoffman on the stage.
Every September, our co-founders take part in the Techfestival. in Copenhagen, spending a few days disconnecting from the daily life and focusing on creating a better, more human-centered tech future. This year the think tank which included our co-founders Madeleine and Max came up with the TechPledge. The Tech Pledge was made to emphasize the need for a new direction in tech. Similar to the Hippocratic oath for doctors, the Tech Pledge is a promise to make tech a force for good and ensure responsible and sustainable tech leadership. It’s a commitment to driving a new direction in technology.
One of the most exciting projects for betahausX this year (which is also continuing in 2020) is their new startup challenge called The Werder Lab - a global startup competition that aims to reimagine the way clubs like Werder work with athletes, fans and partners.
This year couldn’t end without us having our favourite events - the end-of-the-year holiday party and the BETAPITCH Global Finals. On the 6th of December we saw the 9 finalists of the regional BETAPITCH competitions pitching in front of our jury. Congrats to Troy from Hamburg for winning the big prize.
We finished the year at our Holiday Party celebrating anything and everything at betahaus | Neukölln together with our members, friends of friends and our favourite artists from Passiflora LIVE, Tapete and Kotoe.
Thank you for being with us in 2019. It's been a crazy big year for us and it wouldn't been possible without your support, trust and the hard work of our amazing team. Have an amazing holiday time and we'll see you again in 2020.