Thursday, January 28, 2016

Luis-Daniel Alegría – Your Personal Guide to Berlin (and Everywhere Else)

It is about lunchtime in Berlin, I am on a subway and it feels weird. It seems like I have forgotten how to travel by anything other than bike and clearly underestimated the time needed to cross Berlin during rush hour. But Luis-Daniel Alegría seems to be far from mad when we meet near Nordbahnhof.

– Hi, nice to meet you! Fancy Italian?

I sure do, and we walk a couple of blocks to satisfy our hunger and my curiosity about Luis and his company Vamos.

– When I lived in Sweden, I went to Hyper Island to study Business Management. I always wanted to do something of my own. Why it became Vamos was more of a coincidence.

Vamos is an event guide, aggregating events from a number of large sources, such as Facebook, Ticketmaster, Eventbrite, Eventim and Stubhub.

– What’s special with Vamos is that we offer a rather diverse type of content. Regardless if you want to find a nice flea market or looking for a party, Vamos is the place to find it.

The app works in most larger cities and filled a gap that the founders encountered.

– We were in Amsterdam and wanted to find something to do that specific night. The existing event sources were quite limited and only showed us “top ten” lists. We were looking for a more complete event guide, combined with a map. The idea was written down on a piece of paper the same night, and soon Vamos was born.

The app was launched in August 2012. Since then, Luis has been operating out of Berlin. I ask him what’s so special about being an entrepreneur in Berlin, and he points out the supportive ecosystem and low living costs as advantages.

– Frankly speaking, Berlin is cheap. The money lasts at least twice as long as in Sweden, for instance.

Luis points to the restaurant menu on the wall, and I realize that the delicious pizza I’m having only will cost me three Euros.

– This makes it possible to be able to bootstrap and get up to speed for the first few months of your entrepreneurial journey. While we’re talking about living cost: In the beginning, one of the co-founders lived in Oslo… 

During the first months, the team was working out of Luis’ living room, until they received both capital and an office space from one of the early investors.

– This was a great opportunity for us, having a real office took us to the next level.

Since the start in 2012, Vamos has had a couple of funding rounds and has developed a lot. But Luis points out that there is still a lot more they want to accomplish.

– We have many great ideas that we want to realize. But due to economic limitations, we have to make incremental improvements. And even if the money lasts two to three times as long in Berlin, the bureaucracy also takes two to three times as long. We would like to move faster, but this is how it is in Berlin. On the other hand, Vamos is like a good wine – it’s getting better and better.

Since founding Vamos, Luis has really been working hard to realize his vision.

– Right now, I am also working at an early-stage investment fund, helping other entrepreneurs getting up to speed. Together with Vamos it is a lot of work, but hey, it’s definitely worth it!

I am really excited about listening to Luis’ ride, and meeting with a founder of a real Berlin startup. We finish our Italian cuisine before Luis says “¡Vamos!”, and heads back to the office.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Tarek Garir - Cruising Around Hamburg the Smart Way

After meeting with Flemming Kühl I hurry back to my hostel. I have an incoming Skype call with Tarek Garir. We were supposed to meet in person, but something else came up. After finding a reasonably (but not really) quiet corner of the hostel lobby I take the call. Tarek is punctual.

– Hi, sorry for doing this via Skype. I didn’t realize that it was my mom’s birthday today. We just had dinner.

I laugh and ask him to send her my best wishes. I don’t want to keep Tarek from his mom longer than necessary, so we jump right into it.

– So, my idea is called Skujou. It’s like scooter and joule, the unit of energy, combined. It is an electric scouter, made to make our lives easier.

I ask Tarek how he came up with the idea.

– I have lived in Hamburg my whole life, and I have been trying different ways of getting around. For some time, I used my car, but it was expensive and it was nearly impossible to find parking space. Moreover, it is bad for the environment. Then I tried biking, but who really wants to step into the classroom all sweaty? Not me at least. My last try was to go by public transportation, but it wasn’t flexible enough for me. I was just not satisfied with any of the alternatives. Then one day, I just realized the perfect solution that is flexible, convenient and environmental friendly. The solution is the Skujou Cruise.

Tarek sends me a link to the project, which is not yet fully launched. And it sure looks promising.

– I had a Kickstarter campaign up and running this summer, but we did not really reach our target. But hey, I’m not giving up, this just postponed the launch slightly.

Tarek is currently a student, but still no newcomer when it comes to entrepreneurship.

– I founded the site Lass mal Essen a couple of years ago. The idea is for people to sign up, cook and have dinners together with new people. The site is still up and running, but right now I’m focusing more on Skujou.

I ask him what he thinks about the startup community in Hamburg.

– To be honest, it doesn’t really interest me to go the startup events that are arranged all around the city. I believe that it is a mutual admiration society, and I try to focus in my stuff instead. In my opinion, if you are at all those events, your business is likely not doing well, since you have the time to do it. But that’s maybe just me.

I thank Tarek for the nice talk and for being able to steal him a couple of minutes from the birthday party.

I realize it’s time to start packing my stuff for tomorrow’s long journey towards Berlin, and I hurry up to my (and seven other people’s) room.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Appinio – The Fastest Market Research Tool in the World

It is three o'clock in the afternoon, and I’m standing outside Apple Store in Hamburg, waiting for Flemming Kühl to arrive. It was his idea to meet here, and now I realize why, after running around the whole afternoon, desperately looking for WiFi – or WLAN, as they call it here. Flemming is punctual – German style – when he arrives at our meeting point from the escalator. He is carrying a weird stick, and realizes my confusion.

– Yeah, I’m having a hockey game after the interview. Well, not what you call hockey, but anyways. Shall we?

He points at a nearby café, with a perfect view of the Alster, one of the rivers that flow through Hamburg. When I thought that I couldn’t be more surprised by strange sports, another one appears: next to the café there is a competition going on. I guess one would call it canoe polo. This even surprises Flemming.

– I’ve never seen this to be honest.

We order two cokes, and I ask Flemming what Appinio, the company he founded, is all about.

– In 2013, when a friend of mine did an internship at British American Tobacco, he experienced problems with expensive and slow market research. We decided to change it. With this problem on the one hand, and the recent development of apps on the other, it felt like a no-brainer to combine the two. And I still don’t understand why no one has done it before.

Appinio is a mobile app, where people can answer questions in real time to earn some money. The money can then be used to purchase vouchers to e-tailers, such as Amazon, or can be donated to charity. At the same time, companies can get almost instant response to their questions.

– We have the fastest response time in the world: A company can get 1000 respondents in less than 5 min. That really sets us apart.

Flemming is currently COO of the company, responsible for financing and recruitment.

– We are very happy about our financiers so far; they bring a lot of knowledge into the company. Since we are expanding quite heavily at the moment, we are always on the lookout for more investors, but they have to be right for us. The same goes for recruitment; it is rather tricky to find the right people, especially when it comes to developers. Of course it helps that we have gotten some attention in the media.

The Appinio guys have already won three competitions with their business idea, and are frequently figuring in German newspapers. Since the launch in November 2014, the company has focused on the German market, but the plan is to expand.

– The natural step for us would be to go into the Swiss and Austrian markets, first and foremost because of the language advantages. But there is a lot going on at Appinio. For instance, we are working on how to make the app even more user-friendly, and how to best implement more engaging features. You know, gamification stuff.

Suddenly, the crowd starts cheering – the Hamburg team scores in the canoe polo game. Flemming realizes that he is almost late to his hockey game, and that he needs to run. It’s really been a great time, we say goodbye and promise each other to meet up in Munich, when I have arrived.

But there is still a long way to get there.

Friday, October 2, 2015

New Interview!

The German Swedish Chamber of Commerce called me the other day. Please read the interview on the link below.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

I made it!

I am incredibly happy and tired right now. I will sum up the whole trip soon. Now I need some rest. And some shaving...


Time to rally!


In a few minutes, I am starting the final journey to Munich. If you guys believe that the portraits I have made so far (and will continue making) have been interesting, and if you agree with that it would be fantastic to hear similar stories being told from Stockholm School of Economics in the future - listen up now!

Today is SSE's 24-hour giving day, Rally for SSE. Only 19% of SSE's funding comes from state funds, and therefore the school is dependent on private contributions. The aim of Rally for SSE is to raise 1 million SEK to support the following 4 entrepreneurship projects:

1. International Learning Hubs at the SSE Business Lab
2. Social Entrepreneurship Workshops
3. Arts and Humanities Innovations
4. Entrepreneurship Research

ANY contribution is welcome, so please participate in the fundraiser before 18:00 today! I know I will!

The campaign can be found via this link.

In i kaklet!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Biking in Denmark

Leg 8: Höganäs - Helsingborg - Helsingør - Copenhagen
After a rewarding meeting with Alex Molvin and a beautiful ride along the west coast down to Helsingborg, it was with great excitement I left Sweden and crossed Skagerak with the ferry to Helsingør. I had been told that Denmark is an exceptionally good land to bike in, and these rumours proved to be right: dedicated bike lanes, great surface, and a rather flat landscape. I am not sure whether it was the good conditions, my excitement, or both, that made me accomplish the distance two hours faster than expected. This, despite the fact that I experienced the closest I've come to a crash, so far: in a small passage, some roadwork was going on. I therefore decided to take a shortcut across the sidewalk, since it was empty. Suddenly a roar comes from behind, and I can see a juggernaut coming at me. I'm still on the sidewalk, but the juggernaut has a trailer that is broader than the road. In order to not be hit by it, I throw myself sideways, but there is a wall covered in ivy. I manage not to get hit by the trailer, but instead, my helmet is stuck in the ivy. Shaken by the incident, I although made it to Copenhagen, safe and sound.

Leg 9: Copenhagen - Vordingborg
After a biking-free day in Copenhagen, I took Galaxersomsliterdinabraxer south towards the town Vordingborg. This was a quite unproblematic ride, and I even fell asleep for a couple of minutes when taking a break on lawn, next to an excavator showroom. I believe that Vordingborg is one of the many "summer cities" I will pass during this journey.

Leg 10: Vordingborg - Rødbyhavn - Puttgarten
The last day in Denmark offered many small and remote cities, such as Sakskøbing and Guldborg. In the middle of nowhere a parkway occurs, and my map suggests me to take a 90 degree turn. In the map, there is just a straight line, going tens of kilometres across the fields, it sure looks wrong. But it isn't, this is an old railway that nowadays acts as a so-so, but beautiful, biking path. After biking through the "byhåla" Holeby, I finally reach Rødbyhavn and the ferry towards Germany.

I believe that Sweden can learn a lot from the Danes when it comes to encouraging biking. In Copenhagen, basically all streets have bike lanes, and on the countryside the roads have broad verges with the bicycle symbol painted on them. Moreover, the flat landscape, funny signs and perfect weather made the few days of biking in Denmark really awesome!

På gensyn!