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.
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.’’
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.
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.
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.