Meet Nora-Vanessa Wohlert, Managing Editor at Gründerszene.
Interviewed by Nadia Boegli, Head of Communications at Tweek.
What does your normal day at Gründerszene look like?
Working in the startup scene and covering news and developments within the internet economy, you never know what happens! That is normal. But there are some general processes every day. We start with a quick conference for the topics of the day. As managing editor I receive the most news and I always check my email after I wake up. Often I do some calls to find out details afterwards, and I also have a look at different media to check what they already covered. Other than that, every day is different. Interviews. Research. Meetings. Ideas. Social Media. Writing. Presentations. Checking. Planning articles. Number crunching. Developing new features. Strategy. Conferences. Networking.
What made you want to become a tech journalist?
This is my opportunity to do what I love everyday. Before I started working for Vertical Media, I worked for a startup, a big agency, several newspapers and blogs and a big consultancy company. Working at Gründerszene as a managing editor is combining everything I love to do: managing, developing strategies, networking, finding out about new ideas, opinions, writing about the internet scene, developing teams, growing and never standing still. The biggest difference between a startup (as we are a startup ourselves) and a big company is the movement.And I have a big advantage working for a startup which covers startups and is providing services for startups such as a job board, events, seminars and deals. So there is movement everyday inside and outside the company.
Have you ever thought about starting your own business? If yes, why didnt you?
Being a journalist almost nobody asks me about myself. If I would have to pinpoint a question that a lot of people have asked me before, it would be exactly this one.With a growing team of currently around 30 people at Vertical Media, my work is kind of being part of running my own business (without having shares!) - together with the greatest team ever. We all have ideas and execute them together. Right now there are tons of projects being done. But sure, in my position I see new ideas everyday and who knows, maybe one day I will found a company. The only reason I haven’t so far is that I have everything I want around me right now.
Seeing so much from the Berlin scene and having gone to the Valley in Spring, what would you say is the main difference between the two Startup hubs?
There are a few big differences, even if I like the spirit of both startup hubs. The Silicon Valley is a magical area, many things come together: ideas, talent, California and money. That is unique and always will be. Even if we tend to compare Berlin and the Valley. Both are different and this is also a benefit for Berlin. The Valley ecosystem has been growing for many decades. We have to go step by step. In my opinion the main differences are:
Is there a woman you look up to? Who is she and why?
I look up to many women. For sure my mum for managing me and being herself in her job and beliefs. I also look up to all my female friends, you and my former boss Mirjam Stegherr, who taught me in many ways. If you mean someone more famous, I do look up to Arianna Huffington.
If you look at all the female entrepreneurs and male entrepreneurs you have met, what is the biggest difference between the two sexes, if there is one?
All founders, male and female, have things in common. But I have never met a female founder who didn’t love her company 100 percent and just did it for the money.So this is why I think we need more female entrepreneurs.
You can follow Nora on twitter @Noravanessa
Meet Jeannette Gusko, PhD student in communication management and freelance PR consultant. While following the red line of strategic communications she constantly challenges herself by working in different environments and expanding her professional playing field. Up until now she has worked in academia, in big public companies and for startups in Germany, France, Spain, Australia and the USA.
Interview by Franziska Krüger, Head of Germany at 23.
Please tell us a little bit about where you’re coming from.
After my A-levels I decided to do a gap year in Australia, which to me back then was “The land of the free” meant to be discovered. When I returned to Germany I opted for Business and Communication in Berlin and École de Commerce in rural France for my bachelor’s degree. It was also during this time that I became involved with socially relevant entrepreneurial projects. I joined the organizing team of BruttoSozialPreis which helped nonprofits to professionalize their communication. A year later I got to work for Mercedes Benz in New York which helped me to gain professional insights into branding and pricing but also understand the processes and culture of a corporation. I continued working with different organizations, amongst others startups like younect and allmaxx. The red line has always been consulting and strategic communication which led me to my Masters in Leipzig and eventually to starting my PhD.
Can you tell us briefly what your PhD is about?
I research the role of strategic communication in startups. Based on a lifecycle model I look at two sensitive situations that most startups have to deal with. On the one hand I concentrate on times in which startups grow too quickly, which influences the organization on an internal transformational level. On the other hand I focus on communications addressing the financial community in terms of establishing long-term relations and investor readiness.
How do startups and science go together?
First of all I’d answer that creativity is the linking factor of both fields. I also definitely see mutual learning potential. Science is all about discovering patterns, developing models and providing them to society. My PhD project is designed to give startups an analytical framework to navigate, create room for manoeuvre and minimize risks in a sensitive decision-making process. On the other hand, in the startup community, I really value the drive, the power of networks and the great willingness to succeed.
What makes a successful startup?
If there is only a technical solution that is interesting, but doesn’t create any meaning or a real solution for a specific problem, it is not appealing to me. Innovation is about being user-centric and creating value, not about a pretty nice-to-show-around idea. I guess this is why I am passionate about design thinking approaches to tackle a problem. The more I work with startups the more I realize that success depends on what you are able to add to a community, what you add to your customers daily life, and to what extent you are able to inspire others and change perspectives.
How would you define success for yourself?
Success is a very personal matter. To me success is about establishing a balance between constantly challenging myself and taking time off to recharge and reflect. It is important for me to learn something every day and to always take a leap forward. Success is more than being successful on a professional level. Of course completing my PhD alone would be a success but I also hope to achieve something else in the near future: I want to drive organizational transformation and the way we communicate change.
What should aspiring women keep in mind to reach their goals?
Firstly it is important for women to understand that producing something relevant and being visible with it is key. Secondly strong networks and role models will always have a bigger impact than one individual alone. This is what makes Berlin Geekettes a very attractive grassroots hub for women in tech. Focus on something you are truly passionate about, don’t settle for mediocrity and follow through. To me the essence of reaching goals is dreaming big in the first place.
Follow Jeannette on Twitter @JeanneRaffut
Meet Franziska Krüger, Head of Germany at 23. A German native, who has lived in Austria, Australia, Taiwan and the Netherlands before deciding to help change the way we will look at websites in the not-so-far future.
Interviewed by Jeanette Gusko, PHD student and PR consultant.
Please tell us a little bit about where you’re coming from.
I originally graduated in business. Next to my studies I was part of a junior enterprise - a consulting company started and run by students. Everybody in my environment was very driven: most of my friends wanted to work in consulting or investment banking and everybody thought I also would go straight into a consulting company or work as a trainee in a corporation. Even I thought it at some point. Studying abroad gave me some distance to explore different academic disciplines, meet different people and ultimately think differently. When I came back to Austria the startup weekends organized by StartEurope kicked off. Some of the founders were friends of mine from our office in Vienna. Thanks to these guys I got more involved with the startup scene and met more people with an entrepreneurial spirit. Then I heard about Knowmads, a program for social innovation, business design and entrepreneurship. They seemed to answer a lot of questions that I had at this time. So I went to Amsterdam.
What is it that you want to achieve?
That is a big one. To a certain extent I am still exploring. There are no fixed 10 steps to final destination. The cover picture on my Facebook profile sums it up pretty well: “Life is an amazing journey to nowhere”. I know the direction I want to go. Knowmads helped me discover that it is not so much about what exactly I want to do, but rather how I want to do things. My biggest takeaway was to look actively for a different perspective. I learned to value real diversity and all the annoying parts that can come with it. Working with people from extremely diverse backgrounds challenged everything I had learned for years about how to work or how to approach a problem. But ultimately I value the different perspectives that diversity creates and the different insights you gain. In my work I try to consider the system as a whole and to put humans in the center of the process. I guess that’s also the reason for my fascination with design and the design process.
What are the common grounds of women in tech?
I used to be asking myself: Why do we need specific groups for women? Why do we need a female quota? I still have not made up my mind completely, but what I really like about Berlin Geekettes is that you create role models. We are role models for each other as well as the future generation of women coming after us. You meet people with similar backgrounds and support them. As much as I am looking for different perspective, it is very helpful to meet likeminded people and to know that you tackle similar challenges.
You just moved to Berlin to work for 23 as the Head of Germany. What’s your company’s story?
We help companies and organizations to build video centric websites. Video on the web isn’t about the single video or a single player. Video on the web is about using all the possibilities the web has to offer, about building an experience around your videos, people browsing multiple videos at the same time etc. With us you can build your own Youtube or a site like TED.com out of the box in pretty much 3 hours.
Can you see yourself doing the same thing in 10 years?
Even a job I love dearly, I would not want to stick to for a long time. Doing the same thing in 10 years would feel like stagnation and maybe also a little like reaching that final destination I do not believe in. I really hope to keep on exploring for a long time.
If you had not become involved in entrepreneurship what would you do?
I come from a very musical family. When I was born, I received a piano from my grandmother, who is a great piano player herself. I even specialized on music during high school but I also realized that pretty much everybody else there was more talented than me. So I started doing other stuff, became the Editor-in-Chief of our school newspaper and shortly after that student representative on state level. Both functions taught me a lot and probably were the first steps into the direction I’m following today. Also, even today I’m still engaged in education. I teach design thinking, mentor at startup events and am involved in a couple of other initiatives for example Mycelium. For me it is very much about empowering and inspiring people to find out what they want to do in their own lives, what it is that they are passionate about and what they want to bring into the world. This is the foundation of entrepreneurship for me.
Follow Franziska on Twitter @frantastique
Meet Shermin Voshmgir, Founder at Cinovu.
Interviewed by Silvia Foglia, Country Manager at twago.
I met Shermin few months ago during a Silicon Allee breakfast. While I was talking with another startup, she happily came directly to me saying “Finally, another woman!”, and since that moment our paths have crossed many times again within the startup world and of course within Berlin Geekette meet ups.
Shermin was born in Vienna, daughter of Iranian immigrants. She has travelled and lived in different countries which include Spain, Australia, and Berlin for over a year and a half. She is the Founder of Cinovu, a platform for independent filmmakers and most recently one of the finalists of TWIST Berlin Pitching Competition with Jason Calacanis.
I wanted to try everything
“When I was younger, my father was always telling me ‘technology is the future, you need to work in telecommunications’, as he called it”, she explains to me. This idea has always spun in her head, but at that time she couldn’t really decide what she wanted to do in her life. She wanted to study everything, wanted to know and try everything. But she chose Business Administration. She believed this was the way to keep all doors open to every industry. After studying, she worked in an IT consulting company, but wasn’t feeling fulfilled so she went back to her studies and enrolled into a PhD program in IT Management.
In 2001, she started a research with few students on the area of video on demand business models’. What she was working on “was a good idea but too much into the future”, she explains me. “At that time it didn’t really make sense, the internet didn’t have enough bandwith, and video compression wasn’t as advanced”.
Moment of crisis – moving on
What she has been studying until that time has been interesting, but she wanted to try something new, so she quit her job and left Vienna. She went to Spain thinking she would only stay for few days but ended up living in Madrid for 4 years. There she studied film making and created her first films.
My vision becomes real
For her last movie she came to Berlin planning to stay just for a little while. One night she met an old friend from Vienna and through this reconnection she got to know Martin and Michael – now Cinovu co-founders. By the end of the night they decided to start working on Cinovu together. “The funny thing” she tells me “is that the friend I met that night in Berlin, was a colleague I was working with for the project in the university about video on demand – for what at that time didn’t exist yet”. They talked all night and at the end, in a techno bar, they decided to found Cinovu together.
What’s important? The people, the vibes!
What does Shermin like in Berlin? The people! They are creative and at the same time they are practical. For many years she has worked and lived into 2 different worlds: the business world where people are pragmatic and the creative world where people tend to be less organized but more open minded. Startup people represent both worlds: they have their head in the sky but the feet on the ground, and she enjoys this dichotomy.
Everything makes sense – I feel empowered
“For the first time in my life everything finally makes sense. I see now how all things are interconnected. And this is a great feeling: I see that my vision, after 10 years, finally becomes a reality, and that I´m making it! Now I feel 100% confident that I know what I’m doing in my field and this empowers me”.
Shermin is happy to be in Berlin, she knows you can’t really plan too much in life, you never know where it can bring you. Last year, one of her movies was selected for Cannes 2011 and this year she is following the scene from the Cinovu perspective.
Let’s see what happens next!
Follow Shermin Voshmgir on Twitter @sherminv