May 12

My three favourite Buffett & Munger quotes.

I am a regular visitor to the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. I don‘t go there because I hope that something  magic rubs off, but because it is a lesson in sanity and clarity in thinking.  I have now more than my fair share of Buffett or Munger quotes that I can instantly pull out of my memory and I wanted to share three of the less known ones that have helped me with my own thinking.

  1. If it ain‘t worth doing, it ain‘t worth doing well“ 
    is Charlie Mungers way of saying that it is not worth going after too small opportunities.
  2.  „I am a better businessman because I‘m an investor, and I am a better investor because I‘m also a business man“ 
    has become a confirmation of my choice of profession.
  3. „I‘d rather pass on a fantastic opportunity, than lose one night‘s sleep over it“
    – this one has helped me save more money than any book on investing.

Feb 12

Hiring: The Spark in the Eye

Arguably the most important task of an entrepreneur is to assemble a truly outstanding team. I am proud that I was able to bring many great teams together in the past. And I am grateful to work with so many outstanding people at Qype, at 9flats, and at avocadostore. I made many mistakes on the way. It is worth sharing some of my principles in hiring.

Hunt for potential, not for experience

Many people make the mistake of just looking at people‘s CV or likedin profile and look for the ones who‘ve done exactly what you need. I like people with experience. They can save you a lot of money because they don‘t need to experiment. But more important than where people have been is where they can go.

Hire for attitude

People who want to join us often bring rare and much sought after technical or marketing experience to the table. But we often failed with people who had the right skill, but the wrong attitude. I‘d rather have someone less experienced who will really find out how something can be done than an expert who tells me why it can‘t be done. At 9flats, we‘re looking for people with that spark in the eye.

Hire the best for all positions

„Hire the best person you can afford“ has been my mantra for a long time. Whenever I deviated and tried to make a shortcut, I invariably failed. Most people understand the concept of getting great people when hiring really „key“ employees like a CTO. But they fall short of the excellence principle in the „non-key“ areas like office management or accounting. The difference a truly great person makes to a simply average person is striking. In all areas.


Recently I have met an increasing number of extremely successful people with poor ethics. Some on the investments side, but also some who applied for a job. The minute I spot this, I just switch off. I have lost some great potential this way, but I like to think that I gained in the long run. I won‘t give away all my tests here, but one: someone who offers to bring his coworkers to join us, will be shown the door immediately. This is purely selfish. Anyone who brings their friends to join us with them, will take them to the next shop afterwards.

The weekend test

The most important question I ask myself about every person that works directly with me is the weekend test: Would I like to spend a weekend with her or him. If that thought becomes just too stressful, boring or otherwise unpleasant, I just pass.

Pass on opportunities

I‘ve passed on many great hiring opportunities. And I will never know for sure if I have missed some great people that way. But I do know that with most of the people where it didn‘t work out in the end  there was some hunch in the beginning. Something was not right. Someone was not exactly thrilled by the person. So my most important rule for hiring is: Don’t hire if something feels not right.


By the way, a link to our Entrepreneur Intern Program (unfortunately German only, will be updated)

Open positions with 9flats.com in Berlin or in Hamburg

Jan 12

The Power of Single-Tasking

For most of my entrepreneurial life, I was proud of being able to handle a multitude of things at the same time. And I did get a lot done. Over the past years, my multitasking has become more pronounced instead of less. Phone calls, Telcos, Blackberry, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, handling people, investors, press: All at the same time.

However, this came at a cost: During the past  years I realized that friends became increasingly annoyed that I was always 10 minutes late. My kids got used to addressing me three times in order to get my attention. In the rare events when I was winding down, it took me half a day or so to relax.

Today, I‘m making a conscious effort to really focus on the one thing I am doing. As I‘ve spent more than 30 years learning to do several things at the same time, I am now slowly unlearning that behavior.

The initial results of single-tasking are amazing:

People give me positive feedback about my presence.

I am able to concentrate better on the things I love doing.

My written communication has become more powerful.

It still requires effort, but here are a couple of the things I changed:

Working out
The gym used to be the most boring place for me. My time on the cardio equipment was spent thinking about business. I tried music to get me through the time needed. Today, I focus intensely on my movements, my breathing, my pulse. As a result, the intensity of my work outs increased dramatically.

No more push messages
I pull them emails when I need them. And I try to do them in larger chunks. This was probably the hardest thing to change after an 8 year infatuation with blackberry. I find it even harter to reduce twitter and facebook. But the quality of my real life has increased as I decrease my virtual life.

Books and music
I discovered that I can‘t even enjoy music at the same time as  reading. Yes I can do it, but I do neither enjoy the book or not the music. It puzzles me how people can do that. So now when I pick some music I really dive in to it. Close my eyes. Or the other way around with the ears…

No late calls
I have started to refuse taking calls after 7 pm. In the past I had investors who wanted to discuss strategy when they had time, around 11 pm. This resulted in me being preoccupied while spending time with the family. I just don‘t do that any more.

Quiet one on one meetings
Less meetings with people in my team. But longer ones. When I talk to people I try not to cover only the most urgent points, but touch on the overarching goals of their area and their ability to achieve those.

Taking time to think
My train commute between Hamburg and Berlin with its poor connectivity has taught me the beauty of spending uninterrupted time to think. I now am actively creating time to sit down, even if I‘m not on the train.

One thing has not changed though: My attention span is still very short. So if I‘m typing away in a meeting that means I‘m not focusing on that meeting, but on something else. Entirely. In general that is an indication that I feel my input is not required in that meeting and I resolve to be not in that meeting the next time.

Jan 12

What to look for in an Angel

Angel investors have the most sexy name in the industry. They provide startups with money when nobody else does.
Some aren’t actually angels,
but that is another story…

Many people ask me if I would like to invest in their startup.
Time for some reflections on what to look for in angel investors.

 1. The most important thing you want from angels.

When people talk about angels, they often talk about subjects like
value ad, network, perspective, input and so on.
But in reality, you could get that from mentors as well.
When you pitch angels, of course you tell them how
much you value having them on board,
but in the end, don‘t kid me and don‘t kid yourself:
You want the money to start building your business.
And you don’t want to court them forever, because
your time is better spent in building your business.

So you need money. 

2. The second most important thing.

Every business that I have been involved in has been a roller coaster.
Fantastic ups, threatening downs.
Key people leaving, competitors walking in,
numbers not growing as quickly as you want them to.

You want an Angel to be relaxed.
Someone who has given you their 30k from
their savings account is not relaxed.

The third thing you want

You don’t want much of their time.
Some of the best angels I have are really hard to reach,
will listen only for a limited period of time but help tremendously.
The worst angels are people with time on their hands.
Giving lots of unsolicited suggestions.
At worst: looking for a job in your company.

You want their experience.
You want them to be experienced either as angels or as entrepreneurs.
So they know when not to bother.
More importantly, they should know when and how
to give you the essential messages you would otherwise not listen to.
So they can look at the business with the outside view and give you the two or three hints that you need to go into the right direction.
So they pull some weight with you when they see something coming that you don‘t.
That they do have something to say in the rare cases when you need advice. I have received some great input from the experienced guys.

A word of caution.

Not all angels are angels. Some people are actually sharks.
You will see that in their business terms.

The people who blog or twitter constantly about themselves in the world:
For me, they have not done much. The really good angels I met are often
very restrictive with what they say in public.

The people who boast beforehand about how much they would do for us?
never heard again from them afterwards.

Give back

I like to keep all my angels for the long term:
I have always found that it pays well to keep them informed,
albeit I still don‘t do this enough.

Try not to surprise them; if there is some rough terrain ahead,
I shout early as they are along for the ride.
It is also a good idea to help them make money.

As you may have gathered,
I don‘t consider myself a great angel investor.
In fact I invest very rarely and cautiously.
I do have to earn a living and hence
I‘m not relaxed enough to trust other people with my money.


Jan 12

Do less.

I am a master of the to do list.
I’ m quite good at getting stuff done.
Both in business and in private life.

I do even better with my long term goals:
Write them down, forget about them and
a couple of years later they are achieved.

I don’t mean this ironically.
It is a fact of my life and most people would envy
me for my ability to get stuff done.

A few of my friends are even better
at this game than me.
Entrepreneurs who are even more determined than me.
They achieve bigger goals, faster than me and
and then move on to the next one.

But recently I picked up on some strange signals that make me
want to get out of this game.I realised that while I felt
some contentment about achieving a lot,
my happiness did not increase with getting more accomplished.
One trigger was a simple statement,
picked up on twitter:

You are not your to do list.

    Later, over Christmas,
    I read a book with the rather blunt title “fuck it”.
    It’s  more refined message is, in my words:

    We attach so much meaning to so many things in life,
    that we become too attached. And we miss life on the way.

      Aterwards I discovered the fantastic blog
      of Leo Barbauta, http://zenhabits.net/.
      (My favourite  post)

      Leo writes about a lot of the  things that
      I’ve been doing for quite some time now.
      Getting fit, consume less.
      Our home is actually quite minimalist
      and I work a lot to keep my life simple.

      – Er, repeat that: I work a lot to keep my life simple.

      Phew. There I said it. There must be a better way to do this.
      I don’t want to work a lot to keep my life simple.

      Do less. Want less. Breathe.

      Oct 10

      Ideas having Sex

      I have read this great book by Matt Ridley, but did not really know how to shorten it appropriately to derive the essence for a blog post.
      So much for the better that I discovered this Video on TED.
      I have rarely seen a more inspiring and fascinating view on human development, prosperity and how it all goes together. Enjoy.

      Apr 10

      Die wirkliche Bedeutung des iPad

      Als das iPad vor 3 Monaten präsentiert wurden, waren die Web-Propheten wenig begeistert. Kein Flash und so weiter. Jetzt ist es der große Hype. In spätestens 3 Monaten werden wir das Android Pad haben und nächstes Weihnachten haben die Massen ein Gerät von Medion. Aber immer noch hat kaum jemand verstanden, was da passieren wird.

      Meine These: In der selben Art und Weise, wie das iPhone endlich den Durchbruch bei der Internet-Nutzung unterwegs geschafft hat, bringt uns das iPad vom Schreibtisch auf die Couch.

      Ich habe kürzlich zuhause einen Downgrade vorgenommen: Vom 17″ Notebook zum 13″ Macbook pro. Dadurch hat sich mein Surf-Verhalten vollkommen geändert. Arbeit, die Konzentration erfordert, Dinge die ich erledigen muss, erledige ich am Schreibtisch.

      Wenn ich entspannt rumsurfen will: Top Gear schauen, mit den Kindern nochmal Maus sehen, oder auch bei eBay nach altem Fischertechnik suchen: Das mache ich auf dem Sofa.

      Das hat ganz viel mit dem guten alten Entspannungsritual zu tun.

      Ich glaube genau das wird das iPad erreichen: Eine neue Nutzungssituation bei der alles zusammen kommt: Ein kleines, handliches Gerät, WLAN überall, und vor allem ein Touch Screen mit toller Benutzeroberfläche.

      Die Konsequenzen daraus kann man zum einen natürlich aus den iPhone Apps extrapolieren. Schönes neues Surf-Erlebnis, Lesen, Video schauen.

      Für den eCommerce wird sich dadurch aber auch etwas ergeben: Suchaufträge mache ich immer noch am Schreibtisch. Das wird in Zukunft auch so bleiben. Wenn ich weiss was ich will, wenn ich es schnell brauche, dann wird das schnell vom Schreibtisch aus erledigt.

      Aber wenn ich nicht weiss, was ich will, wenn ich stöbern will, ähnlich wie früher im Versandhauskatalog, dann nehme ich das iPad.

      Und noch etwas: Die IPTV Propheten, die seit 15 Jahren irgendetwas von Konvergenz faseln, sind endgültig am Ende. Der Fernseher als zentraler Mittelpunkt existiert noch. Wenn man wirklich mal was gemeinsam sehen will.

      Aber wer einmal versucht hat, einen Internet-Screen auf dem Fernseher mit Remote Keyboard oder Fernbedienung zu bedienen, der weiss: Sobald jeder für ein paar Hundert Euro das ganze Geschehen buchstäblich in der Hand haben wird, wird die Interaktion in der Hand sein. Ein iPod für jedes Familienmitglied zum individuellen Sehen und Blättern. Wenn man wirklich alle das gleich wollen um nachher mitreden zu können – von DSDS bis zum Tatort, dann wird es die Glotze bleiben. Aber Einkaufen am Fernseher – noch nicht mal Oma.

      Ach ja, die Zahlen auf dem Chart oben: Das ist meine Schätzung. Definitiv genauer als alle Trendforscher zusammen.

      Mar 10

      The Fab Four

      There are four excellent companies who dominate how we search, how we shop, how we communicate, and which gadgets we use: Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook.

      The first three of these companies also are among the top 5 of the Fortune Magazine’s 50 most admired companies in 2010 . (Facebook is not in this list and this fact does not so much discredit Facebook as discredit the Fortune list).

      But why write about this obvious fact of the Fab Four?

      All these companies are product driven. This of course applies to Apple. The product is the hero, not the service around it, or the pricing. At Google, an engineer is much more important than a sales person. Just look at the amazing Zurich facility of Google and compare this to any sales office. If you listen to Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, he will mostly talk about the product and new features that help Facebooks users to use the site in yet another way. Amazon has lead in meticulous A/B testing of it’s website, to make sure it stays ahead.

      The other point I want to talk about is the sheer share of mind of these companies.

      “Which startup is hot at the moment?” this question by a friend made me think recently. No offence to my fellow startup entrepreneurs, but it seems to me that at the moment where even a small redesign by Facebook will automatically be more talked about than the most exciting new business idea.

      Even the slightest new announcement from Apple, Facebook or Google, – the aptly worded “buzz” as latest example – commands more press interest than a new car model or even the most fantastic new startup. Bloomenergy.com is at least here in Europe virtually unheard of. This share of mind is even more scary than the user numbers, as it makes life harder for new entrants.

      The good news: Five years from now, the Fab Four will not be the same companies. Someone will get it wrong, someone else will get it right.

      Five years ago, I would have included Ebay in that list, today no more. There is a nice account of how companies historically fail to stay at the top in the Black Swan by Nicholas Taleb. At writing of that book in 2006 , only 74 of the S&P 500 companies of earlier times had survived. But I am willing to bet that even in 5 years from now, at least three out of the four dominating companies will be from the West Coast. Probably the fourth as well, you never know with these Black Swans…

      Feb 10

      It’s not about who you know…

      I admit to be totally biased as I am naturally a big fan of the power of reviews. However, I need to highlight this little feature in the new Qype personal page called ‘Insider Tips’. It does not show me the reviews of my friends, but it shows me places that are liked by people who like similar stuff I do. I really have no idea how they do it – too remote for that – but the results are truly amazing for me. Every time I reload this, I see places I always thought might be cool, but have not checked out yet.

      Two rather philosophical thoughts come to my mind.

      • One is the one I mentioned in the headline: It is not who you know. It is what people like who behave like you also like. Amazon has done this in an amazing quality. “People who bought this also bought…” I am very proud that Qype is proving to be able to do this as well. By the way this also contradicts the tradional power of your social graph.
      • The second thought: What we thought initially when we launched Qype in 2006, that the person who shares her views gets something back, is now being executed on in a material way.

      Check it out.

      Jan 10

      Loving what you do.

      I spend quite some time these days coaching friends, former colleagues or fellow entrepreneurs about “what should I do next“. There are some interesting parallels in these discussions. Strikingly, the self-imposed limitations of what people feel they can do constrain people’s choices in an amazing way. And this is true for any income group. Despite the fact that single mom with a low wage job has fewer choices than the millionaire several times over.

      I found over time that many people can not simply tell you what they love best. But when you ask people why they are unhappy in their job, it is rarely because they don’t love what they do, but  more often because they feel they can not do things the way they want, or because the someone as a boss who does not value them and their achievements.

      In this context, stumbling upon this very inspirational blog post from Cal Newport, author of a study guide, (thanks, Dave Ambrose for the link) has structured my thinking on career achievement amazingly.

      Newport quotes work from Edward Deci who found that

      “To be happy, your work must fulfill three universal psychological needs: autonomy,competence, and relatedness.

      • Autonomy refers to control over how you fill your time. As Deci puts it, if you have a high degree of autonomy, then “you endorse [your] actions at the highest level of reflection.”
      • Competence refers to mastering unambiguously useful things. As the psychologist Robert White opines, in the wonderfully formal speak of the 1950s academic, humans have a “propensity to have an effect on the environment as well as to attain valued outcomes within it.”
      • Relatedness refers to a feeling of connection to others. As Deci pithily summarizes: “to love and care, and to be loved and cared for.”

      So for students, Newport argues that they should find something the really like and then become excellent at it. This will nearly always enable people to find a work environment where they can achieve a great sense of autonomy, competence and relatedness. Newport:

      Your love of a subject will grow with your level of competence and autonomy

      This also explains why many CEOs are unhappy in their jobs. Even if they are competent, the often suffer from a lack of autonomy. And if you encounter an entrepreneur who is unhappy, you can check with him whether his level of autonomy is where it should be.

      Nov 09


      Spent – Sex, Evolution and Consumer Behaviour by Geoffrey Miller

      I’ve been postponing to write about this book simply because I still am overwhelmed. Geoffrey Miller works in the field of evolutionary psychology which brings him extremely close to the currently very fashionable field of behavioural economics. And I am extremely intrigued to learn why we all actually behave the way we behave.

      Particularly, I am spooked by the way I behave. On the one hand I have my ZEN inspired days. Less is more, breathe. The most important things in life are free. On the other hand, I have days where I crave things like powerful cars, the next watch, a slightly bigger living room. We all know how this works, I guess.

      Miller’s book is all about behaviour, particularly about our spending behaviour. It put me at ease with myself. It explained to me why I behave the way I behave.

      Geoffrey Miller manages to explain, why some people buy Hummers (without condemning them) and why others blog – all in the same book.

      The book is extremely well written, funny, witty, well researched. There is no reason why you should not go and buy it now (use the link below, so I can afford more conspicious consumption). I was laughing loudly in my airplane seat when I read the story about Gérard, the Cro-Magnon and modern man from the future.

      But just as an exercise, let me try and summarize from memory:

      1. Most of the objects we buy, are signals that we as hypersocial animals send about ourselves. Conspicious consumption, can be broken down into conspicious waste (Hummer SUV’s), conspicious precision (the Rolex watch) or conspicous reptuation (here comes facebook into play).
      2. There are only six defining (and mostly stable) personality traits everybody has: Intelligence (G), Openness (O), Conciencousness (C), Agreeableness (A), Stability (S) and Extraversion (E), combined and to memorize them better: GOCASE, like I can go along or wherever with that person…
      3. Evolutionary, it is very important to communicate your personality traits and relative fitness indicators to others, either the real ones or the ones you want others to believe you own. This happens not only when girls by mascara or boys go to Gyms but as least as importantly,
      4. We spend most of our time buying and displaying other fitness indicators as well. Intelligence (blogging for example, discussing books about behavioural economics), Openness (displaying our political views), Agreeableness (driving a Prius instead of a Hummer, or driving the BMW if we want to express that we are less agreeable), Concienciousness (by sticking to a hobby that requires meticulous attention to detail), Stability, or Extraversion (think about that pink hat that Girl wore at the party or facebook again). All this is mostly just signalling to others. If I buy a rifle, I could as well say: I am not dramatically open, and my agreeableness has it’s limits. Much easer to buy the rifle.
      5. Without being judgemental, Miller  then goes on and suggests that very often instead of buying all these things to say something about ourselves, we very often much rather could talk to people, which might work better (and would also dramatically improve our resource efficency in my view). His lists of things in life that really matter are a nice reminder.
      6. Getting even closer to behavioural economics, Miller gives a lot of support of a tax system that taxes consumption more than creation (work).

      Only on the last pages, the nice and easy pace of the book accelerates a bit and the professor is released. Seems like he liked to squeeze just a couple of more thoughts in.

      But that does not diminish the fact that when I started reading the book on Kindle*, and I tried to mark the best quotes and passages, my ‘notes’ section quickly got to more than 20% of the book. I am a big fan.

      Buy at Amazon (DE):

      * a purchase I made to show off my intelligence (reads), openness (to new technology) and whatever

      Oct 09

      Qype’s European footprint

      When I founded Qype more than four years ago, I always dreamed that this should be a Pan-European business, not just a German one. I remember vividly how hard it was, particularly in the UK, to get early traction. Since then, we have launched in a total of 8 countries.
      Today, the Qype team surprised me with a visualisation of what we have achieved. Europe-in-Reviews
      Particularly the South of England, the Baleares, Isle de France and coastal regions are shining as brightly with reviewed businesses as the most densely populated areas of Germany.

      Sep 09

      Cradle-to-Cradle Design

      Kürzlich habe ich das Buch “Cradle-to-Cradle” gelesen, das international ein Bestseller ist. Brad Pitt wurde zitiert mit “eines der drei wichtigsten Bücher, die ich gelesen habe”.

      Michael Braungart tritt engagiert gegen die Verzichtsethik der deutschen Nachhaltigkeitsbewegung auf. Er setzt gegen das existierende Paradigma der Öko-Effizienz (“weniger Schadstoffe, weniger Ressourcen, weniger Menschen”) ein völlig neues Paradigma, das der Öko-Effektivität: Gebraucht, produziert, aber die richtigen Dinge!

      Braungart tritt laufend öffentlich auf, provoziert gern.

      Michael Braungart: Why Less Bad Isn’t Better? from The DO Lectures on Vimeo.

      Mir scheint, Michael Braungart ist international deutlich bekannter als in Deutschland. Mich beeindruckt besonders: Er tut was und redet nicht nur darüber. Und er weiss viel. Er hat Philips,Trigema, Unilever und Henry Miller beraten und mit ihnen Produkte entwickelt, die nicht nur weniger, sondern keine Schadstoffe enthalten. Flugzeugsitze, die man essen könnte, theoretisch zumindest. T-Shirts, die wirklich kompostierbar sind.

      In der Taz findet sich ein sehr guter Beitrag über Braungart. Hier kommen auch Kritiker zu Wort.

      Man kann die Diskussion so zusammenfassen:

      Weniger Schadstoffe sind besser als viele Schadstoffe, sagen die Nachhaltigkeits-Vertreter. Das geht Braungart nicht weit genug – ich finde “weniger Schadstoffe” dennoch einen richtigen Schritt auf dem Weg.

      Braungart setzt dagegen: Mit etwas mehr Nachdenken gar keine Schadstoffe zu produzieren, sondern wirklich in Kreisläufen zu denken, und das ist meines Erachtens mehr als ein Utopie, sondern das einzig sinnvolle Ziel.

      Jun 09

      Next Steps…

      I deliberately took a while while to decide how I want to work and where to get involved. I pondered to join a VC (too far away from the business) and looked at direct investments in other people’s ideas (sometimes felt I could come up with better ones myself). I enjoyed the last couple of months with discussions with fellow entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and would be founders and now it is time for the next steps.

      I said that I would only be interested in businesses which make life easier for everyone, make markets more efficient and disrupt the status quo; or help reduce emissions.

      So here is the news:

      We have identified several business concepts that fit the abovementioned criteria. True to what I said earlier, neither of them will involve dating or gambling. None of the concepts is a clone of something that works somewhere else, so there is considerable risk involved, but also ample opportunity.

      For all businesses, we will be looking for entrepreneurs to launch and manage them. They will be able to count on input and advice, and will get enough freedom to run their businesses. And they will get reasonable shares to make them real entrepreneurs. Upspring will provide ideas, know how, infrastructure and seed funding.

      So from now on, we will be scouting the market for real founders with

      • great business accumen,
      • team spirit,
      • lot’s of potential
      • at least 2, but no more than 5 years of job experience.
      • An excellent business education
      • and demonstrated entrepreneurial skills.

      Locations will be Hamburg and Berlin. Do contact me via xing if you know of someone. If you want to apply, send a CV via Xing.

      Mar 09

      Success of persistent entrepreneurs…

      Cem Basman brought this interesting article from Harvard Busines School to my attention: There is a new study out that measures the success of first time entrepreneurs versus repeat entrepreneurs.


      Successful entrepreneurs in the study had a 34 percent chance of succeeding in their next venture-backed firm, compared with 23 percent for those who previously failed and 22 percent for first-timers.

      This is not to say that I am about to start a new venture, but it does make me think 😉

      Mar 09

      What does your company do better?

      Whenever I work with web entrepreneurs, the discussion quickly goes onto one point:

      What is it that your company does better than anybody else?

      In an era with unprecedented low barriers to entry, and where competition is absolutely global, answering this question correctly and then executing on it becomes more important than ever. And it is surprising how easily we are all being drawn away from that.

      Take Qype for example: Qype is successful because it only focuses on local reviews. We had to develop a local search for each market, just to make reviewing simple. Qype reviews are easy to find via Google, on your mobile phone. That is what Qype does really well. Whenever we ventured out of this area, for example with local Groups, we found that we just could not focus the same amount of energy into this.

      Nearly every great company stands for one thing they do exceptionally well.

      • Doodle.ch is a fantastic example of this. It does one thing extremely well and is being used for just this: Agree on something, mostly a convenient time for a meeting.
      • Facebook is (and will be) successful in essence, because it will continuosly strive to deliver the best product to connect with your friends. Whatever form this may take. And they have the resources to do so.
      • While a BMW is a car like any other, BMW make the experience for people who like driving just better.
      • Ryanair is fantastic at lowering their costs for flights. Even to the point that they seem to only buy new planes in an economic downturn.
      • Many German Mittelstand companies simply turn out the one product and do that better than everyone else, legions of books have been written about this phenomenon.

      You know if a company stands for something if it does one thing really well. And here I find too many startups trying to do too many things at the same time, becoming mediocre in each one.

      In the old marketing days, this was called a USP, a unique selling proposition. But today you have to live up to it. And that means focusing all your efforts on this one thing.

      Feb 09

      Business ideas that excite me.

      Finally getting to talk to people again. Discussing ideas, market developments, the underlying trends, barriers to entry, business areas worth disrupting and all these things just plain fun for me.

      I will get bored eventually as I prefer to do things instead of talking about doing things, but for the moment I enjoy the conversation. Most of it, at least. People have been trying to drag me into their ventures and ideas and a surprising number of people, even good friends, have pitched business ideas and concepts that are just not for me.

      So, here is what I find interesting:

      (1) Businesses that make life easier for everyone

      When I started working on  TravelChannel in 1998, I wanted to make it easier to book flights. We build the first engine that could compare flights in two totally different pricing mechanisms – the official IATA tarrifs and the so called grey market in one go, enabling people to find the cheapest flight.
      Qype was started from  a similar starting point: If everyone starts telling everyone about their experience in restaurants, butcher shops or dentists, then there will be less bad experiences.

      Bigger examples that fit this category. Google, Flickr, Facebook, you name it.

      (2) Business that make markets more efficient and disrupt the status quo
      The fun being involved in DocMorris, Europe’s largest mail oder pharmacy that delivers prescription drugs and allowes people to save was that it worked against the existing distribution structure with it’s extremely high cost to the public.
      Qype also is ideally positioned to challenge existing near-monopolies like the yellow pages in each market to give local businesses more efficient advertising.
      Other examples that make markets more efficient: Ebay, of course. But also craigslist, hitflip , nestoria and many others.

      (3) Businesses that help us to reduce emissions
      Together most other people on this planet, I am convinced that we are in a massive climate crises ,  and that mainly our carbon emissions are at a suicidal level.
      I am therefore  – like many other entrepreneurs I know – particularly interested in businesses that help us reduce our carbon emissions. This is where I do most my research at the moment.
      So I will try to combine my background – a degree as mechanical engineer –  with my experience in business-to-consumer internet and starting up companies.
      Here I am not alone. Look at people like John Doerr, Shai Agassi, the Google guys with google.org – lot’s of inspiring examples.

      In summary: Useful, disruptive, saving the environment. These are the discussions I enjoy and the businesses I will get involved in.

      Jul 08

      Zitat des Tages

      „Die Deutschen werden andere Autos fahren und anders wohnen, mehr Geld für Nahrungsmittel und die monatlichen Heizkosten ausgeben und härter arbeiten müssen,wenn sie ihren Lebensstandard halten wollen. Und vor allem: Sie müssen Energie sparen, bis es weh tut.”

      Der Spiegel, 7.7.2008

      Oct 07


      Just received a nasty comment (anonymous) about unnecessary air travel to conferences. This exactly the point. I have not yet been to great conferences like reboot, SIME, leWeb, Picnic. But the few successful conferences I have attended just demonstrate the point that you can not replicate the experience via video conferencing. In fact, I need to attend more conferences. Meeting great people is too important.

      As I have said before in this blog: I do not drive an SUV, we are not using much energy at home. But I will stop feeling guilty about travelling to meet great people.

      Oct 07

      Nearly forgotten: Turboprop planes

      Even the smallest regional commuter planes now come as jet. I recently had the pleasure to fly with a Dash 8 Q300. Did you know that the fuel consumption per passenger kilometer is considerably lower than on a comparable jet plane?
      Also, as these planes cruise at a lower altitude, I assume that the additional effect of emissions at high altitude will be lower.
      Propeller planes have two disadvantages: Their maximum speed is only about 500 km /hr as opposed to 900 km / hr for jets. However, for anything under a distance of 1,5 hrs this amounts to only about 10% more travel time. The other disadvantage is the higher level of cabin noise. Guess what: with the latest in Noise cancelling headphones, this does not matter.