Archive for the 'Coming to America' Category

Europe — sort of a black hole for social application development (and that includes Germany, I take it)

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Stowe gives feedback on his More Europe project: The More Europe Project: Two Weeks In Europe

I think it has to do more with the small number of social application start-ups in Europe than anything else. Yes, I know all about and Plazes — in fact I saw Felix Petersen of Plazes in Lisbon a few weeks back — but aside from those two (and of course openBC!) there doesnt seem to be much going on, really. (Oh, I am using Fred Oliviera’s Goplan, a Basecamp competitor. and he is based in Portugal, now. Shouldn’t forget that.) On the other hand, I was in San Francisco the other day for Office 2.0, and I saw no less that 25 companies demoing their applications. I had invitations from companies in Mexico, Canada and Israel for meetings, but nothing in Europe.

I think that Europe is sort of a black hole for social application development. For some reason, there is just not much happening. Are there other stealth startups that I just don’t know about? Is it Graham’s hypothesis? Have all the inventive Europeans already departed for San Francisco? Is it lack of VCs? Surely not education; is it a cultural issue? People in Europe being less likely to quit their day jobs?

Sadly, I think Stowe is right on with his assessment.

I’ve been thinking about this, too, for the past 18 months or so (ever since I moved to sizzling Silicon Valley in May 2005). I think it’s a combination of cultural issues (Germans being a little too risk-averse all the time combined with a common disdain for failure) as well as lack of infrastructure (mainly, the aforementionend technology hubs and an ecosystem for funding).

I see small pockets of resistance, though.

Web Monday, the event I started almost a year ago, is aimed at addressing the cultural issues in that it gives people who not only have ideas but also want to do something about them a chance to present to their peers in an overall nourishing environment (that’s what Wiki Wednesday is to me). The recent Barcamp Berlin also helped bring people together (a mini-hub, if you will, though only for a weekend) who share the same passion about people and technology. And judging by what these people had to say afterwards, it will not have been the last barcamp in or around Germany.

A handful of successful internet entrepreneurs have begun to serve as angel investors: Lukasz Gadowski of Spreadshirt (who may join us for the upcoming Web Monday Silicon Valley, November 6) and Axel Schmiegelow of Denkwerk (who has invested in Qype, who will join us over the web and do a presentation from their Hamburg, Germany headquarters) come to mind. That’s only two, you may ask, but it’s a start.

The recent decision by the German government to pursue more of a hub approach with regard to their funding of universities is also a move in the right direction, in my view.

All this will take a while to really take root. In the meantime, if you’re the young and aspiring entrepreneur out there in the German hinterland, please do us all a big favor: Don’t think you need anyone’s permission. Don’t let the risk of failure overwhelm you. There are enough people who will gladly help you (even in Germany). Don’t wait until you have a perfect plan.

Just do it!

BBQ at my place today

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

Yes, we have been Weberized. Starts now. Come on over if you’re in the area. We have drinks, food is mostly BYO.

Resources for Germans moving to the San Francisco Bay Area

Sunday, June 4th, 2006

I get asked a lot from people who think about moving here. I tell them there is quite a large and active German community in the San Francisco Bay Area. My guess is that whatever question you have, someone must have already figured it out. So here is a list of resources I usually mention:

  • San Francisco Stammtisch — They meet once a month and have about 1,000 people on their mailing list. Check the archives and find answers to the most common questions for newbies (moving, job search, health insurance, driver’s licence, bank account etc.)
  • German American Business Association of California (GABA) — GABA is a member-driven non-profit organization that fosters transatlantic knowledge-sharing and networking among German-American and Californian business and tech communities. They do one or two networking events every month, which address critical business, technical and leadership issues, with specific industry programs focused on life science, semiconductors, venture capital, and legal corporate governance, among others.
  • GABA-Stammtisch — This discussion group is over 7 year old and has 700+ members. It deals with all sorts of business issues that are relevant to the German community in Silicon Valley. Members discuss issues ranging from visa, employement to where one can get real German bread in Silicon Valley.
  • Craigslist — Local listings for everything from jobs, cars and apartments to language courses, restaurants and nannies.
  • Software Development Forum (SDForum) — If you’re in IT, SDForum is a great place to get involved. Their programs cover a broad range of topics and are usually of superb quality.
  • More job search tools: LinkedIn, Simply Hired, Craigslist, KITlist, KITlist Tech, Yahoo! Hotjobs, Dice

From my personal experience, the German expatriates who live here have generally been very helpful, willing to share their information and their professional networks.


Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

I may have mentioned this before somewhere, but 30 minutes of watching C-SPAN will sometimes get you more information, context and insight than a whole week of watching the major news networks: Reform of the U.S. Intelligence Community

Destination Germany

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

I will be going on a trip to Germany this summer (June 29 - July 11) to visit my family. As it happens, this is the week of the soccer world cup final (and also the two semi-finals and the four quarter-finals). Lucky me! If the weather plays along and Germany makes it past the second round (however hard that may be, though) I’m sure it will be super fun.

Let me know if you want to meet for drinks.

I plan to conduct a few interviews about Germany 2.0 (phone, online or face-to-face). Just ping me if you’re curious.

One year in the US

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

So far, so good.


Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

Alameda toddler playing with gun shoots, kills man

Associated Press

ALAMEDA, Calif. - Police were searching Tuesday for the owner of a .38-caliber handgun a toddler used to fatally shoot a 20-year-old man.

The 3-year-old boy apparently found the revolver in a bedroom closet while his mother fed his 1-year-old sister, and two aunts and a grandmother played cards, police Lt. David Boersma said Tuesday.

When the boy walked into the living room playing with the gun, the adults tried to get him to put it down. But the pistol fired and struck the man, a visitor from Guatemala, in the chest. He was pronounced dead later at Highland Hospital in Oakland.

Early evidence indicates it was a “big, tragic accident,” but questions remain, Boersma said.

“I’ve got to tell you, I thought it was completely implausible that a 3-year-old could manipulate a revolver,” he said. “Was he using both hands? Just fooling around with it?”

Boersma said the gun may have been stored with the hammer cocked. It was unregistered and unlocked, he said.

The boy had recently played with a water pistol and may have been familiar with how to operate a gun, Boersma said.

The gun’s owner, who is the victim’s cousin, is now missing, Boersma said.

California law allows prosecutors to file criminal charges against adults when children find guns and shoot and harm somebody.

An interview with the boy wasn’t very helpful, Boersma said. Both English and Spanish are spoken in the home and the boy speaks neither well.

The boy was allowed to stay with his parents. Police believe they weren’t even aware the gun was in the apartment.

Guns don’t kill people…

Plantjes en Bloemen III

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

With the weather finally changing for the better, it was time today for the latest additions to the farm: hot chili peppers, a couple of eggplants and more herbs.


Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

One hundred years ago on this date, the earth shook (one reason my paternal grandmother always warned me against moving to California).

Anyway, better be prepared. It could happen again anytime.

Long weekend ahead

Saturday, April 15th, 2006

My work as a contractor at Pillar ended yesterday. It’s been a fun eight months thanks to a great team. I’m now looking for the next opportunity. My new job should fit most of the following tags: project management, social software, web content management, collaboration, community building, project controlling, business process management, wiki, weblog, syndication, intranet.

In the meantime, I will spend some time here, and here, here, here and possibly even here.