Interviewed by Svenja Goebel, Community Manager Berlin at Yelp.
What is your background & how did you end up in tech?
I have extreme wanderlust and love exploring new cultures. When I was 19, I moved to California to study international business. I did it completely on own, not part of Erasmus or an exchange program, so there where definitely some rough patches along the way. Since studying in the US is also quite expensive, I spent my summers working at festivals in Germany and working at university during school semesters. Living and studying in San Francisco, I realized how much I enjoy diverse and international environments, which sparked my interest in working at a startup. After graduation, I moved to Spain for some months and then headed to London for a MA in urban tourism. I knew that I wanted to work for a company that is doing cool new things in the travel sphere, and all that is currently happening in the startup world, which is what led me to Berlin. Before joining Waymate I worked at a PR Agency for a bit, but I always new that the agency world is not my sort of thing.
What is Waymate?
Waymate is a travel & transport navigator that simplifies travel planing. With Waymate you can compare and book multiple transport modes for long as well as short distances. Right now, you can book Deutsche Bahn rail tickets in less than 90 seconds. After our relaunch on April 22nd, you can compare and book tickets for air and overland travel. We will also be releasing an iOS app for transit navigation on that day, where you can compare public transit, carsharing, and taxi services in one go in cities across Germany. The scale of what we are doing is very much unchartered territory, and I am super excited to see how everything will evolve. What I do know is that Waymate will change the travel experience for the better.
Out of all the cities you have lived in (San Francisco/London/Berlin), in which one do you see the biggest potential?
Wow this is a difficult question, all these cities are in completely different stages. I am a huge San Francisco fan and loved living there. The city is super compact, but has so much to offer and is home to a bunch of interesting companies and people. London, I would say, is in between San Francisco and Berlin in regards to the mindset as well as the ecosystem. Berlin is still at the beginning in regards to many things. We all know that Berlin has massive potential, but is also facing challenges. It will be interesting to see what politicians, companies, employees, and investors will do in the next couple of years, and also, which role i.e. universities will take on.
Where to you draw inspiration from for PR & Community Management?
When it comes to inspiration, I have a bit of a crazy mindset. I always tend to get more inspiration from random things and from smaller communities, rather than the classical ones that you often hear about. When it comes to loyalty, I really admire Wacken Festival. They were able to establish a very loyal community that harbors a huge level of trust. Every year thousands of people spend a lot of money on Wacken tickets without knowing the actual lineup at all, simply on the basis that they trust the organizers to pick great bands. I also like Astra Bier’s Facebook page. I know it sounds a bit bizarre, but everything they do resonates their community 100% and you can see it in the interaction. For overall engagement and brand communication, I really like Virgin America and also Inspired by Iceland. They both are very creative and daring enough to try new things out. When it comes to PR, I would like to spend a day with Ryan Holiday. He is controversial and provocative, but I generally like it when people bend the rules and push boundaries. His style of communication, obviously doesn’t work for every company, but I think his unconventional manner and execution are creative and would give me lots of ideas.
What is your #1 advice for anyone who wants to work in PR/Community Management?
Hustle! Setting up a network is really important, and to execute that you have to hustle. In Germany, we tend to analyze things from the “Why should we do it” viewpoint, I believe that the “Why shouldn’t we do it” question is more applicable. Unless I can find good reasons of why I should not be doing something, I do it. This especially applies to events and community management; you never know who happens to be in the crowd. So work the masses and network like crazy!
When did you first hear about the Berlin Geekettes?
When I first heard about the Berlin Geekettes I had just been in Berlin for a couple of months. A lot of women underestimate themselves and overanalyze rather than just going out and giving things a try, as their male counterparts do. The Berlin Geekettes are a great network for women in tech to overcome these boundaries; you meet women who are supportive, give advice, and also animate women to give new things a try – it is a network of opportunity. Many women pressure themselves too much and are too afraid of failure or not performing well, but life is about trial and error – or at least that is what I believe. We need to push ourselves to try out new things and use our skills, rather than questioning whether we are good enough. I just took part in the Geekettes community manager panel, something I have never done before. But I knew that if I gave this a shot, a Geekettes event would the perfect setting. People are supportive, so there is less pressure, and you can experiment and discover new strengths. I am sure that many others have been in similar situations, be it interviews for magazines, appearances, or discussions.
If you were not working for Waymate, what would you be doing?
I’m really into music and traveling, so best would be something that combines both. It would be a job where I can challenge myself and learn something new every day, and a little bit of traveling should be in the mix too. I think organizing festivals, concerts, tours would be something right up my alley. Or something completely on the other side of the spectrum like being a criminal profiler. I have always been interested in psychology, sociology, behavioral analysis, and the human mind in general.
Interviewed by Sophie Hechinger.
Let’s start with a short elevator pitch about yourself.
I’m a developer, designer, ethnographer and long-suffering vegetarian. I grew up in an old school, do-it-yourself, Connecticut family. My childhood was basically a combination between a Mark Twain novel and the movie Hackers. Thanks to my Dad, I started programming and playing with electronics when I was 5, and I’ve been building, breaking, and even blowing up stuff ever since. My fascination with tech took me all the way to getting a PhD in Information & Computer Sciences at the University of California.
Where did you live before you moved to Germany? What brought you to Berlin?
Over the past 7 years I’ve lived in: Rome, NYC, London, Portland (Oregon), Los Angeles, Lugano (Switzerland) and Boston. I came to Berlin this September with my company, frestyl, to join Startupbootcamp
What’s frestyl about in 140 characters?
With frestyl, music event organizers create & manage special offers on their upcoming shows that fans can discover & redeem through our mobile app.
Tell us a little bit about the team?
We’re three co-founders - and just like me, the other two are ladies with PhDs. Arianna is our CPO. She’s an amazing interaction designer and she’s in charge of conceptualizing, designing & testing our product. Emanuela is our resident socialite and official CMO. She heads up sales, marketing & communications. I’m the CEO, and besides the business side of frestyl, I also take care of coding and visual design. We launched an early alpha in Rome at the end of 2010, but it was quite a different product back then. We started with a user-generated community for sharing information about upcoming concerts. It grew to be the largest source of data for live music events in several Italian cities.
So it’s been quite a while. What drives you guys?
We’re here to lead the live music revolution, we just turned up a bit early. Seriously though, our long-term vision is to make it as easy to discover an amazing music event as it is to find new recorded music. iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, and so many others recommend cool emerging bands, but where’s the Yelp of live music? We’re working to make that a reality.
Which place do you call home and how long are you planning to stay in Berlin?
I’m a New England girl at heart (my co-founders tease me because my mom gives me a Connecticut calendar every year to remind us how beautiful my home state is). But I’ve lived in 5 countries now and traveled to at least 20 - and I’m starting to realize there’s no “one perfect place” for me. As much as it’s a pain to move internationally, I keep doing it every few years because I’m an exploration junky. As a team we committed to staying in Berlin for at least 6 months, but we all left Rome not intending to go back. We’ve transplanted frestyl here, and I’m planning to make it stick for at least a few years!
What do you think about Berlin as a Startup City? What are your expectations from the city?
I feel there’s a true movement going on in Berlin. The level of creativity and collaboration here makes me think that this our generation’s 1920s Paris. After being here for a month and a half I can say that I expect to continue meeting really smart people who are interested in building not only their own companies but also a larger ecosystem.
You are a female coder in a male dominated space and frestyl is the only female team at Startupbootcamp Berlin. Do you think this makes things harder or can you somehow benefit from that?
I know that our team attracts attention because 3 female co-founders are rare - but so are 3 co-founders with PhDs. It’s hard to be an entrepreneur no matter who you are, and I don’t think it’s any harder (or easier) for me because I’m a woman. As a team, we probably receive a little more attention and a little more discrimination than other teams, but I think the net outcome is the same. I’m so focused on building an amazing, successful company, that I’ll let people with more time on their hands analyze how my gender affects my performance ;]
What kind of bigger impact do you think initiatives like the Berlin Geekettes can have?
I had some amazing role models growing up. My great-grandmother was one of the first American women to attend university and my grandmother moved to New York City alone at 16 to eventually become a fashion designer on 5th Ave. And my mother is the executive director of the domestic assault crisis center which serves half our state. For me, the best thing the Geekettes do is provide real examples for everyone (not just kids or women) to look up to. I don’t believe in forcing women into technology, but I also don’t want there to be any barriers stopping them. When I told my father I was starting my company he gave me the best advice I’ve heard so far: “You are an unstoppable train, and you need to let everyone know that it’s their loss if they don’t get on board.” I think the Geekettes are inspiring young trains to leave the station.
You can follow Johanna on twitter @deadroxy.
Interviewed by Sacha Robehmed
Where are you from originally?
I’m from a city called La Habra Heights and it’s a small city in between LA and Orange County, California. My friends and I like to call it the magical little valley between LA and OC.
How did you end up in tech?
So as far as education goes, my first degree was in communications with a concentration in creative advertising and that was from Cal State Fullerton. My Masters degree was in Business Management, with a concentration in tech management. Tech wasn’t something I was proactively searching for, but when I found a graduate program through NYU in Tel Aviv, a light bulb lit up in my head. I knew I wanted to live in Tel Aviv, and an entrepreneur program highlighting management in the tech industry seemed pretty appealing especially in such a successful start-up hub. I went in thinking it was going to be entrepreneurship rather than tech focused, but in the end, most of our projects and case studies revolved around what was going on in the Tel Aviv tech scene. Most of my professors were consultants for big tech companies or had their own.
What brought you to Berlin?
After living outside of the US for a little over a year, I realized I wasn’t ready to go back. I had been so much more inspired outside of the States and decided to keep my journey around the world in motion. While living in Tel Aviv, I met my current boyfriend. One of the first things he said when meeting me was: “You are Berlin, you need to be there and live there!” After finishing my thesis in Tel Aviv, I was trying to think about whether I wanted to stay in Israel or find a new country to explore. Then I realized that being geographically in the middle of the world, I could go anywhere. So I thought why not see what I could make happen in Germany! My boyfriend and I had planned to leave Israel around the same time so I decided to follow him back to Germany.
What’s your work background?
While I was pursuing my Bachelors degree I was active as an event production consultant for a company called Wise Production group in Venice Beach. We organized a wide range of events from political to fashion to music to skateboarding. But most of my experience is in fashion — I became a fashion stylist at the age of 18. Then I worked at Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue as a stylist/personal shopper in designer ready-to-wear departments. After my undergraduate education I started working for Sony Pictures Entertainment in the Home Entertainment department doing variety of creative advertising projects. Having worked closely with an art director there I found out about what would be my next job. I became the Director of Publicity for Strand Releasing, which is a film distribution company focusing on independent films, foreign films and LGBT films. After this position I went straight to Israel. While in Israel I helped launch the fashion and culture magazine called QWHO, which is now based out of London.
What do you do and how did you end up in your current position?
I was put in touch with Marguerite Imbert from Venture before arriving in Germany the first time. When I met her in person at Mauer Park, we hit it off immediately. Within 10 minutes, she told me: “You need to come work in Berlin!” And so after hanging out with her a few times, she came up with the idea to write an article about me and another girl in New York. From that, I had a few interviews with Team Europe, Soundcloud and Stefan Wolpers. I met with Stefan the day before I was going home to LA for a month. In that meeting he pitched me his idea about ebookmakr. He was looking for a CMO, a head of communications and PR. Things were promising from that meeting. We kept in touch when I was home and he lined things up for me.
At the moment I’m handling all of the communication endeavors from social media accounts, managing the blog, and being active in related online forums. I am also heading the PR and Marketing department. At the moment we’re three people so I’m truly learning the ins and outs of a startup!
Ebookmakr is the easiest online platform for producing ebooks. Our tagline is “create, publish, and market ebooks online.” We have an easy to use text editor built into our platform, which formats new content or uploaded content, and our USP at the moment is our “create new ebook from blog-post feature.” A user can import content from their Wordpress or Blogger/Blogspot blogs directly onto the ebookmakr platform and export it as a Kindle format ebook, which can be sold on the Amazon’s online book store.
We are also aiming our product at publishing houses. Soon to come our platform will truly be a conversion tool, importing all major document types and exporting them into ebooks. This gives publishing houses and opportunity to convert all of their backlists into digital content.
How did you hear Berlin Geekettes?
I was really excited to first read about Berlin Geekettes when I arrived to Berlin. Up until now I’ve had very exciting women in my life, whether they be my best friends or mentors. There’s something amongst women that really gets me energized and motivated to move forward in all aspects of life. Whether it’s issues like women being the minority in tech or other things, I feel like getting a group of women together is always empowering whatever the topic. In my personal context, coming here with not so many friends, I was happy to hear that there was a group of women to add to my community, and just get that foundation set. Also I’m the only female on my team too. Depending on your unique life and paths, I think it’s important to remember that being a woman is something really special. We’re in a period where women in tech are growing, we need to empower and embody ourselves and be unique to who we are whether we’re one woman in a company or many.
You can follow Rebecca on twitter @mylilsunshin3
Photograph by Thomas Bonte
Interviewed by Jess Erickson
Can you tell me a little bit about your background?
I have a background in Music Information Retrieval (MIR), which is the discipline of automatic analysis of music to detect genre, tempo or any kind of low and high level information on a music signal. That’s what I studied in academia, and I am really happy to transfer this passion to the music industry world and do that at SoundCloud. I moved to Berlin to work for SoundCloud and at the time, I knew little about this city, but now I love it.
Can you tell me about your everyday work at SC and what you do there?
At SoundCloud, I am part of a team that works with complex problems such as search, anti-spam, recommendation, and some discovery topics. I work on backend engineering and build tools that focus on those type of issues.
What is your official title?
Music Information Retrieval & Sound Software Engineer
How many people are in your team?
Currently, I work with approximately 7 people (8 in total), but this number is growing as we continue to scale the company.
How many people are at SC?
SoundCloud has over 130 employees in four different offices around the world including Berlin (where we are headquartered), London, Sofia, and San Francisco.
Does SC value bringing more women into its company?
SoundCloud values all of its employees and sponsors numerous events and workshops tailored more to the female community including OpenTechSchool, Rails Girls and also the GirlGeekMeetup that is coming in September.
So in general, how did you become a developer? What sparked the idea in your mind?
When I was 18, I knew I wanted to be an engineer, but I didn’t know what kind of engineering I wanted to focus on for my career. In France, it’s very prestigious to become an engineer so you tend to be encouraged to go in that direction. I could have gone for chemical engineering or physics.
But then at some point I really had to make a choice. I had a few options. One option was to do programming and I had no clue what it was but it sounded a bit better. I went for it and I loved it. It was really a calling - this is what i want to do for the rest of my life. So I kept taking as many programming courses as possible and knowing that I really liked algorithms, I went for something a bit more theoretical, I walked down the academic path for a while. And now I’m back to the software engineering world. Computer science didn’t appeal to me at a younger age, as a girl, but I later found out it was extremely cool. What made it really work for me was that I combined it to another passion of mine: music. On the side, I have played guitar and flute since I was 5. So I found my way to Music Information Retrieval and that was the perfect mix. And I was very fortunate I made that call, and finished my studies, at the time music startups started sprouting up.
So do you think there is enough female developers in Berlin to have an all Berlin Geekettes hackathon?
Of course! For starters, I would suggest inviting the beginners from OpenTechSchool and Rails Girls. You can definitely hack something interesting even with just a few hours of programming. I would place one, more experienced developer on each team, so there is guidance and help in creating awesome projects during your hackathon.
Would you like to spearhead this?
Yes, definitely. I usually attend Music Hack Days, and in total, I’ve been to approximately seven of them over the years.
Do you think it’s important to attract and bring more women into the tech scene? Do women offer a different perspective in the creation of a product?
Yes, it’s important to attract more women into the tech scene and although computer science is one of the fields poised for great job opportunities over the next several years, lots of studies and recent media articles have shown that there is a glaring lack of women focusing on this field. Overall, I believe it’s important to introduce women to tech and science early on in their lives to get them excited about these fields.
For different perspectives, those exist every day and it’s not just based on gender. For me personally, I’ve always been around and worked with men. I learned computer science with a male-dominated class and was taught by instructors and professors who are men. But of course there is a different dynamic when working with women. I’ve found that women tend to highlight the positives first vs. negatives and by nature, they seem to be more openly encouraging.
What will Berlin look like 5 years from now? Will SoundCloud be bought out by Google?
At SoundCloud, we think the internet is a very silent place and we want to continue to unmute the web by helping anyone create and share their sounds to the world. That is no easy task so we will remain focused on this goal and of course, continue to scale and hire great people.
In five years, Berlin will be the next big tech hub, not just in terms of start-ups (beyond us, Twitter, Etsy, etc.), but we will see more established companies opening offices here as well. I just hope that with this excitement, the city remains affordable.
Do you have any advice you’d like to share with the community? For women who are thinking about joining the tech scene?
My advice is to go for it! If its your dream then it’s worth the challenge to make it happen. Fight for it, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.
Do you think that stigma still exists?
I encourage women to find family, friends, other inspirational women, connect with the Berlin Geekettes for instance. Have people push you when you think you won’t make it to always keep you encouraged and staying positive. Don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal.
Tell me more about OpenTechSchool.
I’ve been involved with OTS since its creation, a few months ago. I’m now part of the core organizing team, and I’m leading the OTS Python workshops as well. The idea behind OTS was to build on the activities that Rails Girls created. Like a friendly space where all the beginners can continue to learn. They learn and then teach their acquired knowledge to other beginners - we want something very sustainable. Extending it to other languages and technologies is also important. Having all those beginners to keep learning, attend meetups, exchange ideas, ask questions to each other.
We don’t want to just stay in Berlin. But have people bring that concept to other cities and on the road. It’s a really open concept, and we are happy to help anyone set that up anywhere they want. We are very keen on documenting everything we do. The organization process, the curriculum creation process and the learning process as well - we have students that are blogging about it! We want everything to be documented so that everyone could use this anywhere, learn from our mistakes and get inspired by our successes. A big part of the movement is being “open” to everyone.
We are already thinking of other activities for advanced users that could teach each other. Those developers who want to learn a new programming language, trade a skill for another, that kind of thing. We are looking to find people who can lead new initiatives. We want to have people bring their energy and ideas together.
These days we’ve also been busy with organizing OTS workshops at Campus Party, putting in touch coaches and participants coming from all over Europe. On top of that I’m also co-organizing a Audio Hack Day there, together with my colleagues at SoundCloud. I also helped with curating the audio program for one of the Campus Party stages.
**And if you’re a (female or male) developer apply for a job at SoundCloud, we’re hiring: http://soundcloud.com/jobs
You can follow Amelie on twitter @utstikkar
Meet Stefanie Hoffmann, Cofounder of loui Apps
Interviewed by Jess Erickson
Tell me a bit about your background?
I started my career in a German publishing house called Bertelsmann, where I worked as a product manager for over 7 years. The selling of content was the first contact I had with technology and the world of Internet.
Since I first came to Berlin in 16, I always wanted to come back and live here. When I had the chance I was starting to study communications strategy and audio visual communication at the University of Arts here in Berlin. I was exploring the art of animated film, writing, and various communication strategies. It was there I met my founding team of what became aka-aki, originally our diploma project.
We used a lot of the techniques we learned from our studies in movie making and strategy when designing the product. For example, we first made a video clip that described the product and than we started developing it. We wanted to create a virtual layer over reality. The problem we were trying to solve with it was how to meet interesting new people nearby and stay in touch with them through messaging. The idea of a mobile location-based social network was born.
The press picked it up very quickly because the issue was trending. From Spiegel Online to Michael Arrington, London Times and Le Monde the tech world was writing about us.
So how did you meet your Loui apps cofounder Gabriel?
Gabriel Palomino and I have been very active in the mobile startup scene for 6 years now. The mobile startup scene is a very small world and we both were attending most of the same conferences around Europe. I guess sooner or later something like destiny brought us together. We met in one of those conferences. I was CEO of aka-aki and Gabriel was living in London. After some time we started working together and so far, we’ve been quite productive. We are a good tandem.
How did the idea of Gabi come about?
We were thinking about how to experience social networks in a different way, giving more control to the user, and offering new ways to interact with it. The vision of Siri and Facebook integrating inspired us a lot. We started imagining how you could ask Siri about Facebook topics. We are fans of simple and easy apps so design and interaction were other aspects we wanted to improve in our approach. This is how we came up with Gabi. It was about how to see what’s relevant instead of the whole feed, and how to manage social networks in an intuitive way.
How does Gabi work?
Gabi answers almost every Facebook topic you can imagine, from “Which are the best pictures or the most commented-on statuses” to “Who are my single girl friends?” The way the user interacts with it is like a children’s game. You just have to tap and build the question. The rest of the magic is done by Gabi. It connects directly to Facebook and collects the right information to show you.
The app is able to show you only what you were asking, sorted and filtered depending on your interests and preferences and what is relevant for you. All the content always is fresh because it is collecting what is available from Facebook.
What is your role within the company?
I am in the role of director. My main responsibilities are art direction and design/concept.
So what’s next for Loui Apps? What are your plans for the future? Do you go beyond Facebook? Do you go onto different social media platforms like Twitter?
We get tons of feedback asking those questions through email and Twitter. People are very active in telling us what would be cool to have next in the app. Right now we are going through all of this feedback. We design always in relation of what the users wants next, and there are some clear tendencies developing among their requests.
Some of the new features are related to new ways of sorting your feed, which takes into account values other than likes and comments.
Additonally, there will be a lot of great features coming out on iOS 6.
In a near future we also will teach Gabi to talk to other social networks like Twitter and Instagram. We are a very small team so we will do it step by step, calmy, and always with the user in mind.
In general now, what advice would you give to Berlin women who want to join a startup or create their own like yourself?
Software is not only about technology. There are important aspects like interaction and making apps social. People want to have exciting experiences. They want to be fascinated when they open a new product. The next step for tech is getting closer to the user. When people think about tech companies they are often thinking only in code, programming and complex things they don’t understand. I think that fear has to be removed. It is time to think about tech companies as if they were restaurants. If you offer the plates that users want you have it.
Just like in a restaurant the right team is critical; to find a good developer, architect, designer will be difficult, like if you have a restaurant and you want to find a good chef.
The best advice is an old and common one, you have to really love it, do what you really like. It is the only way you can go forward, because you will have to work hard and fail once, twice…
You can follow Stefanie on twitter @nanou_
For more on Stefanie, please visit her Friday@6 profile here
Meet Marilda Qerimi, Country Manager Italy @ mobile.de / an eBay Inc. Company
Interviewed by Elina Tilipman, Head of Music for 88TC88
Where are you from?
I was born in Albania, but my mom has Greek roots. I grew up in Italy, studying and working there for more than half of my life. About 5 years ago, I moved to Berlin.
How did you get into tech/mobile?
I studied business administration at Bocconi University in Milan/Italy and there is some focus on “What’s next” – future trends and things like this. I was always really interested in knowing where trends come from, so it was really easy to develop something on that level and see opportunities.
What made you move to Berlin?
I was offered a job here with Fox Mobile (previously called Jamba). Before this, I worked in Italy for a startup. When I received the job offer in Berlin, I definitely wanted to get some international experience and start from scratch. I was a little bored in Milan. I felt the need for new challenges and a change. So I thought okay – lets take this opportunity to head to a new country and new city, to learn a new language and see if I can make it.
Does Berlin feel like a bubble to you or really open?
Berlin has been attractive in the past and the startup scene is bringing even more interest out here, adding international diversity and bringing new ideas. I think Berlin as a city always had a nice identity when it comes to design, art, everything that is really vital and creative. And if you add a bit of business – I think it’s the perfect city. In a way, it’s an open bubble.
Where do you work?
I work for an eBay company. I head the Italian business of mobile.de, the leading European car marketplace, as Country Manager Italy under the automobile.it brand.
It’s the best working experience so far, as it’s challenging and I’m surrounded by so many smart people. Automobile.it is something between a startup and corporation. It’s a small business. I joined a month after the platform was launched, and we basically started building the business from scratch. And it’s nice because it’s a small team developing something new from the beginning under a big brand like mobile.de and eBay. You pitch internally to get money to develop your business, so there is some startup feeling, which I like.
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
I would like to have my business in the future and that’s why I love hanging out with the Geekettes and startup people; to get ideas. I like challenging myself, this is the only way you can learn and develop. There is nothing else more satisfying and exciting than reaching the point of having something to call your own. But I think you need to find the right cofounders - it’s a marriage basically you are entering when you start up a project.
Is there a specific project you are most proud of so far in your life?
Honestly, I think I’m proud of every step I have made so far in my life, building a successful path. I’m happy with everything I’ve achieved. I come from a pretty unknown country, and given the barriers and cultural differences in all the places I’ve been studying, working and living, I’m proud to be where I am now; surrounded by great, smart people and connecting through different things.
What was the first thing you thought when you heard about Berlin Geekettes?
Cool! I like these kind of networks. And women in tech are definitely making a difference. The group was really needed. I’m personally happy about meeting new Geekettes day after day, because there is a lot of knowledge sharing, networking and also a chance to be mentored. All of us can benefit.
Any advice you’d like to give?
There are no problems – only opportunities.
It’s always worth a try. Never think something is impossible.
Stay Focused. Private, personal, professional – always pick priorities and stay focused on them.
Meet Elina Tilipman, Head of Music for 88TC88
Interviewed by Marilda Qerimi, Country Manager Italy at eBay
The first think you notice when you meet Elina is her enthusiastic and positive spirit. She was born and raised in Germany as the daughter of Russian parents. When she was only 16, she decided to move out and experience life to find her own path. “My parents always supported me in every single decision I took,” she said. Highly passionate about music, she started telling the story of how she grew professionally in the music business over the last ten years. She began as a booking agent. Her boss was asked to leave, so she alone had to book bands for the next three years. “I had no experience, and during those years I learnt that if I wanted something I can make it happen and even with no experience I can make it work. It is all about the little steps you make in your life that keep you going. [They] keep giving you more experience and give you a new perspective on life.”
Where have you been living in the last 12 years?
I moved to the US for a year as an exchange student during high school. Afterwards I pretty much landed in Berlin, where I studied Event Management and Economics. Currently, I work as Head of Music for 88TC88, a content distributor startup whose main market focus is China. We bring content like music, games, apps and ebooks to China and work on legalizing the market in every possible way. So far we are a B2B business, distributing content to mobile carriers in China, but we are currently working on launching our own e-commerce platform, which will allow western artists to sell their music directly via our platform Paishou88.
I’m in charge of music licensing and I’m thrilled to work with different partners all over the world to ensure that the best content will be delivered through 88TC88 and to also give artists a chance to finally connect with a Chinese audience. Therefore I’m also working on partnership ideas with festivals, magazines, etc.
What’s your typical day like?
There is no such thing I think! I travel all the time. When I am in Berlin I sit in the office, read my emails and I get bored working on long contracts. (Just kidding!) But when I am traveling, I am always on the frontline, meeting people, making deals, networking (which is so important for our industry) and trying to convince potential partners that China is the next big market. My typical day is always different but it usually takes place on an airplane traveling somewhere! Last year I spent about eight months out of the country and this year it’s already four out of the last six months. I’m a nomad.
What do you think about the startup scene in Berlin?
The fact that I have been travelling so much helped me a lot in building a solid network and connections in different parts of the world, including startup hubs like Silicon Valley, LA and Tel Aviv. Unfortunately, I still haven’t exploited the Berlin startup scene so much. It’s only now that I’ve started working in the tech scene here in Berlin - thanks to the founders of 88TC88 who offered my this great opportunity - and I am loving it!
That’s the reason why I like the Berlin Geekettes. I hope to get connected more if I have the time. I didn’t choose to be in tech, I was chosen by the tech scene and I don´t regret any single day working in it.
Besides that I love traveling, because I feel this is the best way to grow and mature, both professionally and personally.
What’s your plan for the future?
I don’t have a plan. Every day has its own single goal. Living life and be happy is what is all about me. People change their lifestyle following trends, so I don´t know where I ‘m going to be in the future. I am enjoying everything and for me it’s always related to music. It is all about music, travelling and happiness!
Which is the coolest startup here in Berlin?
Of course the startup I am working for. How many startups do you know here in Berlin who deal with China as their main territory? ;-)
What’s the main difference between the Valley startup scene and the Berlin one?
I guess they [Silicon Valley] started earlier. Berlin is developing pretty fast though. I moved to Berlin when there was no startup or tech scene really. Favorable conditions like cheap rent and the ability to easily find international talent have helped a lot to give a push to the city’s positioning, making it attractive also as a business environment. Slowly money is coming here too. Now I’m a bit overwhelmed by the amount of startups Berlin has!
Is there a particular experience you would like to share with the other women in the community?
I am happy to see that there are more and more woman empowered and motivated to do something in this field. I think there is a big change to come for the tech scene overall. Women have a different network and approach things differently to men. It’s about staying motivated and spreading the word. We can do what we want to do and no one can really tell us “No, you can’t.”
And any advice?
No matter where you come from, always stick to your ideas and try - otherwise you’ll regret you haven’t tried. Always trust your gut. It always tells you the truth. This is something I have experienced a lot in the past. Believe in yourself. I think this is really important for women. Also, like Abraham Lincoln said, ‘The best way to predict your future is to create it.’
You can follow Elina Tilipman on twitter @eelisam
Meet Nadia Boegli, Communications Manager at Tweek
Interviewed by Nora-Vanessa Wohlert, Managing Editor at Gründerszene
How was your day like so far? 3 new things you realized today, please.
So far it has been a rather relaxed day mainly working on marketing issues and waiting for some new developments to be ready so I can start with the copy.
Three things I discovered today: First, I am apparently not able to circumvent hey-fever this year. Second, that my blogging might be rather biased sometimes, but some movies like “Piranaconda” are just not worthy writing about. Third, I think I might actually be the only one in the office who has not used the table tennis for actually playing a game. Only had meetings on it :)
When I first met you some time ago you loved working for NGOs and you still design the most wonderful handcrafted jewelry (pretty girly) - why are you in love with start-ups now?
I am not in love with startups per se, I generally love to learn new things and to widen my horizon especially also when it comes to economics and tech. I would still like to work for NGOs, but right now I am trying to experience a whole new area, an area that is more concerned with investments, consumers and finding the right people to work with. I think these are learnings that will always help me in every kind of job, especially in a NGO that often lack people who know a bit more than methods of conflict management and the entire human rights declaration. I think for me it was important to gain a more realistic view on life, a view that is often more concerned with financial matters and selling your pitch. For me this is one of the most important areas to learn and work in, because it helps me try to find my way, establish my jewelry business further and still keep engaged with the NGO scene.
I could simply claim your love for start-ups is connected to your boyfriends profession - true?
You could certainly claim that, and I would probably not judge you for doing so. However my boyfriend is not the main reason why I became interested in the Berlin startup scene, he was the triggering factor for me to find out more about the scene and to meet people that work on very interesting ideas, but he did not help me to get a job, he was actually kind of against it even.
For those of our readers who don’t know about Tweek, what is it and what does your day look like working in communications?
Tweek is your social TV Guide for the iPad. Basically Tweek helps you to discover great movie/series content by showing you what your friends have already liked via Facebook or recommended on Tweek. You can discover, share and watch your favorite TV Shows and movies. My day usually starts with the daily stats oversight - I am not only doing communications but also a bit of marketing, then I start checking the latest Tweets, articles and posts regarding Social TV or TV innovation in general. Reply to emails, write blog posts and improve our copy in the App. I pretty much do everything that has to do with writing and talking :)
If I take a look around at tech conferences I almost never see women and if I spot one they do PR or journalism - why is tech so full of cliches?
I think one of the reasons for this has been discussed several times in our scene: women tend to start working for a startup before they found their own. I have met so many women in tech who told me that their job in the communications sector or PR is just serving as stepping stone to found their own business at a later stage. Women tend to try out the areas first maybe in order to gain enough expertise (for themselves) to have the courage and confidence to start their own thing. That is one of my theories. Another view is also that women tend to be very good in communications and PR and maybe just enjoy a job like that more than the tech ones.
What advice would you give to young women all over the world who are considering a career in an internet start-up?
Start coding! Not only because you will get paid very well, offers you amazing jobs, but also because you can build everything yourself and have control over the whole product. I think that is such an amazing part about coding, you are the one building the whole thing. I have been doing code-academy for a couple of months now and it has already helped so much in understanding the process that our developers go through and how to talk to them :)
You can follow Nadia on twitter @nadiaboegli
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