Archive for July 2016
On Saturday, I went to Hanlan’s Point Beach with a friend. It was the first time I’d gone there this year, but the beach was as beautiful as ever.
One thing: In the morning, there are plenty of seabirds and insects around. The seagulls I liked, the insects less so.
Another thing: Remember sunscreen. I forgot, and believe me, this is visible.
Adam Satariano and Stefan Nicola wrote for Bloomberg BusinessWeek about Berlin’s emergence as a startup hub. This is not mentioned in the article, but I wonder how Brexit will help or hinder this.
The Factory would feel pretty much like any big Silicon Valley headquarters, if you couldn’t see the death strip. In the 19th century, this 130,000-square-foot Berlin warehouse held a brewery. In the 20th, it was an air raid shelter, then rested in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. East German watchtower guards gunned down people trying to scramble across the border. (Hence the term “death strip.”) Today the retrofitted space is home to dozens of tech companies, including Uber and Twitter, and is the headquarters of the music streaming service SoundCloud.
Inside, the Factory is packed with all the perks of a Silicon Valley campus: nap rooms, scooters, 3D printing stations. Headphone-wearing millennials hunch over MacBooks or mill around a lounge where guitars hang from the wall near books with titles such as The Lean Startup and The Startup Game. Conference rooms are named for the regulars at Andy Warhol’s Factory. There are 700 people here; in addition to the full-time employees, a lot of individual tech workers pay €50 ($55) a month for access to a common work area.
“It’s a social club for startups,” says Factory co-founder Lukas Kampfmann, 30, wearing a T-shirt bearing the names Steve (as in Jobs), Elon (Musk), Bill (Gates), and Mark (Zuckerberg), printed in the font Helvetica like the familiar Beatles shirt. On the roof of the warehouse, with a clear view of the former death strip, Kampfmann says his community’s emulation of Silicon Valley isn’t an accident. “We admire American movies, culture, fashion, music,” he says, and this is the logical next step.
Across Berlin, young tech workers from throughout Europe are flooding into cafes and rehabbed Soviet-era buildings, drawn to the German capital by the promise of foosball-casual work environments, cheap rent, and an uninhibited party culture. It’s a package deal that can be tough to match elsewhere in Europe. A decade ago there were a few dozen tech startups in Berlin. Now there are 2,500, and the Investitionsbank Berlin, the government’s regional economic development agency, says there are 70 percent more digital jobs there than there were in 2008.
Although a handful of old-school conglomerates such as Siemens and SAP remain Germany’s most visible technology companies, they’re no longer the country’s main draw for aspiring hardware or software developers, says Martin Hellwagner, a 27-year-old coder who moved to Berlin from Austria in early 2014. “I really wanted to work for a startup,” says Hellwagner, who spends 60 hours a week working on Uberchord, a guitar-lessons app. “You have more responsibilities. It’s not just a 9-to-5. You actually change something, and your opinion matters.”
Fran Beesley was still in her bathrobe early one morning in June when she emerged from her home to find a Japanese family taking photos of her flowerbeds.
She lives in a 1970s-style one-story bungalow in the rural village of Kidlington, about a 90-minute drive northwest of London. It’s a quiet place. Doesn’t get many visitors. Beesley is retired and cares for her invalid husband. They’re both in their 70s.
It was what Brits call “wheelie bin day” — garbage collection day. Beesley walked down her driveway to retrieve her empty trash cans.
“And I saw this gentleman putting his camera away. Well, as you can see, it’s just my vegetables and geraniums!” she says, taking NPR on a tour of the flower beds. She says the Asian tourists politely put away their cameras. Their tour bus idled out front.
Beesley tried to offer tea to her unexpected guests, but they didn’t speak English. She managed a few words with their Polish bus driver, but he didn’t say much.