Hardware.co Demo Day 2014



Christoph Fahle kicking off hardware.co demo day.


Pitch #1: Feel The Beat, a wearable metronome for learning to play music.

This is what the current Feel The Beat prototype looks like:


Pitch #2: BeaconInside, a solar-powered indoor Bluetooth Low Energy beacon for indoor location based services.


Pitch #3: Get Track ID, low cost music identification hardware for clubs.


Pitch #4: EasyCharge, a simple to install, ceiling mounted charging point for electric vehicles.


Pitch #5: Wotch, a strap to add smart watch functionality to your traditional watch.


Pitch #6: Scoutee, a device to measure the speed of your baseball pitch.


Pitch #7: The Basslet is a wristband that lets you feel the bass of music.


Pitch #8: Prepaid Power, open source, decentralized electricity supply.


Pitch #9: Superclock, a connected clock that displays when your subway will leave the station.


Pitch #10: Coolar, an add-on to fridges that turns heat into cold through evaporation and Silica gel to save energy


A complete list of all the teams:


Betapitch Global: Congratulations to the winners!



Last night I was on the jury for Betapitch Global where the winners of the local Betapitch winners competed for a nice price bundle including 10K, time in the Silicon Valley or with entrepreneurs and policy makers in Paris, as well as offers to join Telekom’s or Axel Springer’s accelerator programs, and a whole slew of other things. In other words, good stuff.

It’s not easy deciding the winner as the range is just incredible. From earliest days to funded, from app idea to hardware or traffic infrastructure, from first timers to seasoned entrepreneurs – at Betapitch we regularly see the full range.

After seeing 15 startups pitch, we decided to split the price between several promising and ambitious startups, trying to distribute the prices so that the startup teams would get the maximum out of their wins. After all, we’re there to help the startups, that’s what pitch events are for.

Congratulations to the winners

First price went to Statace, an ambitious product that aims to make complex statistical analysis easier to use, more collaborative and more distributed. Might not sound like the most exciting thing, but it’s extremely relevant both for science and for big data analysis.

Get2Play (online music learning), Diagsum (cheaper diagnosis of retinal diseases which otherwise often go unnoticed) and Bikway (physical prototyping of bike lanes in cities) also earned prices.

Congratulations to all the winners, you rock! The teams that didn’t win shouldn’t take this as discouragement. Not everyone can win all the time, and at least one team clearly simply didn’t need any of the prices as they’d outgrown that stage of startup life by the time they pitched.

Show your tech & don’t think too small

There were a couple of teams where it became obvious after the pitch that their technology stack might actually be much more solid than transpired in the pitch itself. That’s something that is hard to account for – as jury, we get a brief paper outlining the service before the pitch. And while the pitch itself is what counts, if in doubt we will refer to the paper to figure out what’s under the hood. If technology (not design, idea or your network) is the core of your USP, you’ll need to find a way to make sure you can convince the people in the room that you know your stuff.

One thing that was pointed out by Thomas Madsen-Mygdal found broad support in the jury (if not so much in the audience, it seemed): Founders focusing to much on their home market, in this case Germany or the German-speaking countries. Thomas calls it the “German disease”. Unless the service is for whatever reason focused exclusively on the German-speaking market, this is almost certainly a dead end. By the time you reach critical mass and market validation there, clones will pop up everywhere. Founders, go global from day 1! Don’t make yourself small and aim too low! Chances are your service will still grow more quickly at home then abroad, just don’t artifically restrict it to that market.

Of course, as so often is the participants might get even more value out of the hallway conversations on the side, over drinks and BBQ, than out of the actual pitch. This is where contacts and war stories are swapped and collaborations are explored informally. So if there’s one tipp I’d give you is don’t run off after the pitches are over. Rather, stick around for a bit, and chat with the other folks around. They’re all there to meet new people just like yourself.

Betapitch 2012: Congratulations to Go Europe & Solarbrush


Betapitch 2012

Last night at the People in Beta Festival we had another Betapitch, where I was honored and delighted to be part of the jury along with Fadi Bishara, Jörg Rheinboldt, Thomas Mygdal and Philipp von Bieberstein.

And boy, was that a series of excellent and sometimes hilarious pitches – the best lineup of pitches I’ve seen at Betapitch yet.

We saw everything from a B2B marketplace for photovoltaics; a social event planning app; an app suite for conference organizers; a much more efficient database processor; and plenty more. Keep an eye on the Betapitch website for details and links.

In the end, we settled for two winners as our scores tied both at the #1 spot:

Go Europe (not web presence yet as far as I can tell) boasts a top notch team, and a big vision: Easily plan your trip across Europe. It’s a huge undertaking given the fragmented European market of rail, bus, air and other transportation.

Solarbrush is a very engineering-focused company with a simple, but powerful vision: Increasing the efficiency of solar panels in dusty and sandy regions (where solar power is biggest) through a robot that autonomously brushes the sand of the solar panels – cheaper and less dangerous than human cleaners, and because it’s dry cleaning it doesn’t waste any water. It’s a clear cut problem and solution, and if they manage to just increase solar power efficiency by a couple of percentage points, it makes a huge difference.

As one participant pointed out at the party afterwards as his unified theory of pitches, “Robots always win”. But even accounting for the robot factor, I never expected to hear a crowd cheering like this for a solar panel cleaning solution.

I’m sure we’ll hear quite a bit about both of them in the near future.

Save the date: TEDxKreuzberg, 9 Dec 2010



It’s official! There is going to be a second installment of TEDxKreuzberg. On 9 Dec (Thursday), 7-10pm, we will have a spectacular line-up of inspiring speakers at Betahaus Berlin.

Last year we had a fantastic time. I was really happy to hear that Christoph Fahle wanted to go into round two as well. So this time it’ll be a co-production of Betahaus and Third Wave Berlin.

For all the details please read the official announcement and follow the blog for updates as they come in.

Weeknotes #186


olafur eliasson

The paperwork up front: As J. pointed out, weeknotes aren’t supposed to start at number #001 necessarily but rather at the first week of whatever it is you’re making notes on. I had a bit of a hard time finding a good starting point, but now figured one out: So from now on I’ll count from the first week after I decided not to stay in my job as an editor for a political magazine-slash-think tank, but rather went freelance to do web stuff on my own. It’s somewhat misleading as I had worked freelance for years before as a student, and would still be writing my masters thesis afterwards, but that’s as symbolic a starting point as there is. So, dating back to the first day after my brief editing stint, 17 October 2006, today it’s week #186.

It’s been a pretty productive week, and there’s just three things I’d like to highlight:

Betahaus study

We did a brief study on social security among the coworkers at Betahaus. I won’t go into the details (executive summary), but rather at how we got there, as I think it’s a good example of how quickly you can get something off the ground, particularly in a coworking context: Christoph Fahle of Betahaus and I talked about all the journalists checking out Betahaus and how the majority seems to expect coworkers to be there because they’re poor they can’t afford a “real office”. Since we had a gut feeling that they might – like ourselves – be at Betahaus voluntarily we decided to just ask and do this mini study. That was a couple of weeks ago. The first draft of the form was online hardly 48h later, then it took us a few hours over a span of maybe a week to tweak the details. Two emails (to invite and remind the potential participants) and 16 days later we closed the online form again to sit down and crunch the data. That, plus writing up the report, took about two full days. Idea, a few emails to coordinate, then just get it done: that’s the agile coworking way. Or at least it felt pretty good.

Mozilla Drumbeat

Mozilla organized a Berlin event (also at Betahaus) to spread the Drumbeat love. This deserves its own blog post, but allow me to summarize: It rocked.

Olafur Eliasson

There’s a new exhibition in town. Olafur Eliasson (Wikipedia) is a Danish-Icelandic artist living in Berlin these days. With major exhibitions at Tate Modern and the MoMa he certainly doesn’t need introduction, but if you’re in town, do not (NOT!) miss his exhibition at Martin Gropius Bau Innen Stadt Außen. (Don’t let the boring website turn you off.) In fact, go there now.

Image: Olafur Eliasson

Study: Are Coworkers Poor?


Spoiler: not necessarily. They tend to be under-insured, but they don’t seem to mind.

Christoph Fahle and I conducted a short study on social and financial security among the coworkers at Betahaus Berlin. Betahaus is one of the largest coworking spaces worldwide, and certainly one of the coolest, too.

We did the study simply because so many people are interested in coworking (some recent media coverage: “the future of work“, “digital nomads“). Journalists often try to frame coworkers and other Macbook-hugging knowledge workers like some kind of digital peons. Since both Christoph (as co-founder of Betahaus) and I have a slightly different take on coworking – we both love it and chose to pursue this style of working very much voluntarily – we thought we should go on a fact-finding mission.

So we asked the residents of Betahaus about their financial situation (income, insurances etc), threw in a few demographic questions (age, gender etc), stirred for a while and out came this brief report. For good measure we also tacked on some ideas for improvements of the overall situation of freelancers at the end of the document.

The whole report is available here (in German): Betahaus Kurzstudie “Soziale_Absicherung” (PDF)

Here’s a translation of the executive summary:

Betahaus is a central work space for freelancers in Berlin, from so-called Digital Bohemia to laptop knowedge workers. The large majority of Betahaus users is freelancing or just founding a company. (A few full-time employed are the exception that proves the rule.) Beyond that, the residents of Betahaus can hardly be pigeon-holed as the Betahaus workforce is a very diverse, heterogeneous group regarding income (below €1.800 to over €5.000), age (22-47 years) or profession (design, media, mechatronics…).

If you were to depict a typical Betahaus resident based on the average of all data we found, he would be male, 25-35 years old, freelancing and working full-time. He has health insurance, but no pension plan and hardly has any insurance besides that, but feels sufficiently socially and financially secure. From the government he wishes less bureaucracy, more flexible support and less disadvantages compared to full-time employees. But not just the average, but particularly the statistical outliers find a home at Betahaus, from precarious post-grad to well-earning startup founder or regular employee who is looking for an office away from his office.

In the study we paid particular attention to social and financial security. We came to some remarkable and partly alarming results: Just about 40 per cent of respondents have an all-round insurance package, i.e. health insurance, pension plan and at least one more relevant insurance (occupational disablement insurance, additional private pension plan or life insurance). Still, more than half feels sufficiently financially and socially secure.

Asked for their vision of a perfect social security system, the respondents criticized Germany’s social security system and expressed wishes aimed at politicians: Freelancers are structurally disadvantaged compared to regularly employed, and Betahaus residents wish equal treatment. This includes less bureaucracy as well as more flexibility in the social security system: flexible rates of contributions, the option to exit or change membership in the social insurances, unbureaucratic support in bridging temporary crises or phases of client acquisition. The wish for the option to easier switch between regular employment and freelancing was expressed, particularly in regards to pension plans and health insurance. Particularly young freelancing parents have a hard time as the system for financial support for parents is aimed primarily at regular employees.

We, the authors, are part of the demographic we studied here. In addition to the mere interpretation of the data we would like to offer some perspectives and food for thought in the last chapter. These inputs are aimed as much at politicians as they are at the freelancing community:

  1. Equal treatment of freelancers and regular employees
  2. Make the first steps easier
  3. Allow flexible switching between employment and freelancing (and back)
  4. Flexible micro credits
  5. Support young freelancing parents
  6. Support coworking spaces
  7. Collaboration instead of competition

Christoph has more details in German at the Betahaus blog.

The study is licensed under Creative Commons (by-nc-sa), so share as you wish.

Thanks everyone at Betahaus for your contributions!

Open Design & Tinkering in Berlin


Lately so much has been going on in Berlin that has to do with the whole field of open design, tinkering, DIY – and last week was another highlight. I had the chance to drop in at the Open Design Workshop at Betahaus. (Sadly I could only pop in for a few minutes, but that was enough to see – among many other things – Jay Cousins cooking up bioplastics from some starch and Martin Bauer doing some serious laser cutting. Awesome stuff, all of it!) It was the latest, but certainly not the last congregation of the whole cluster of tinkerers and makers and builders in Berlin. It’s a trend that has been going on for awhile, and all over the world, but it seems that Berlin is a very fertile ground for this kind of maker culture. (We also noticed that by the massive positive feedback as we were putting together the atoms&bits Festival last year.)

The Open Design workshop was a part of Social Media Week and organized and attended by a very diverse and cool group of people, all of which are extremely fine folks (and some of which are close friends of mine, so I’m totally biased here).

These two videos emerged from the workshop:

Delivered in Beta from KS12 on Vimeo.

I can’t find a good link except a Facebook page, so here’s the list of organizers taken off the Facebook page:

  • Michelle Thorne (http://thornet.wordpress.com), free culture advocate, works for Creative Commons, where she coordinates international CC activities.
  • Ronen Kadushin (http://www.ronen-kadushin.com) is a designer and educator pioneering “Open Design” as a concept and also as a company.
  • Luis Berríos-Negrón (http://www.luisberriosnegron.org) is an artist/architect and will contribute thoughts on his ongoing project ‘The anxious prop’
  • Jay Cousins, Mendel Heit, Chris Doering (http://jaycousins.wordpress.com) are part of the palomar5 network, material specialists and upcycling pros.
  • Martin Bauer (http://lasernlasern.de) is an expert at the lasercutting machine. He has used it to produce nearly everything imagineabe.
  • Philip Steffan (http://bausteln.de) is the founder of Bausteln, a network and platform for tinkers to meet, exchange ideas, and build things.
  • Nadine Freischlad is community manager at jovoto and involved in the open_sailing network (http://twitter.com/texastee)
  • Gabriel Shalom is a filmmaker and founder of KS12 studio, currently working on the collaborative (film)project (http://www.postcardsfromberlin.com)
  • Erik Nap and Arne Hendriks (http://waag.org) are representatives of Waag Society who’s hosting Amsterdam’s Fablab. Bas van Abel is representing Creative Commons Nederland, where he coordinates the open design program.

This is great stuff indeed. Props to the organizers, and thanks for the videos!