Berlin tips for my visiting friends

Berlin is an exciting city so I often have friends visiting and decided to finally compile a list of my top recommendations.

To do

Teufelsberg – The former American listening station to spy on the USSR during the cold war. Ideal to visit on a good weather day but if you are into urban art and abandoned buildings, it is also worth doing on a cloudy day. It is a bit outside the city and you will walk through a park/forest for 30min before reaching the station turned street art gallery but once there you can chill at the beer garden and enjoy the view of Berlin. My recommendation would even be to take one of the tours in English and if you are lucky you will be guided by a former spy who was working at the listening station (He explained that his job was closer to an office job than to a James Bond movie but it was still great to hear about the place from someone who knew it inside out). You can contact the place there but tours have been suspended until further notice due to COVID-19. While being in the West side of Berlin take the opportunity to check out the Schloss Charlottenburg (from the outside) and the Berggruen museum a small and underrated museum that still hosts pieces from Picasso, Matisse, Klee and Giacometti. The most interesting thing about this museum is the research it supported about the provenance of its own pieces in the context of the 2nd World War and art stolen by the Nazis. The museum hosted a temporary exhibition in 2018 described here pointing out the difficulties of tracing the origin of art and with the intention to restitute any piece that would have been stolen. I randomly watched Monument Men the day before going to this exhibition and it was perfectly on point. A nice place for dinner in the area is Funky Fish, one of the rare good seafood places in Berlin.

Boros Collection (aka the Bunker) – In the middle of town walking around Friedrischstrasse you might bump into this impressive bunker and wonder “what is that and what is it doing here?” Well, it was a bunker during the second World War, then it was turned into a club, and more recently bought by Christian Boros who made his fortune in advertising and invested in Art. He opens his private gallery to the public every Friday, Saturday and Sunday and only 12 ppl are let in for 90min. The collection is modern art and both the pieces and the location are quite impressive. Book long in advance.

Hoffmann Collection – Similar to the Boros collection, the Hoffmann Collection is a private gallery opened to the public only on Saturday. It welcomes even less visitors that the Boros Collection, is much less publicised and can only still be visited until 2022. I heard of it because my best friend who works in Culture had arrange for us to visit it during one of her visit to Berlin and it was a blast. The visit finished in the living room of the owner and we could exchange a few words with Ms Hoffmann. It was a very unique experience.

Dark Matter is a permanent exhibition of light installations from Christopher Bauder that just opened in 2021. Christopher Bauder was the artist being the Lichtgrenze (“light border”) from 2015 to recreate the delimitation of the Berlin wall for the 25th anniversary of its fall, and the temporary exhibition Dark Matter (see pictures here). The location is in the outskirt of Berlin so while being in the area why not dropping by the famous Berlin club Sisyphos. They sell tickets on Wednesday for the upcoming Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Like most Berlin club they are open 24h so if you are not a party animal you can also enjoy a day-dancing experience in this large indoor + outdoor venue. You can also enjoy a nice meal or drink along the Spree at Hafenkueche and enjoy the nice riverside walk back to the S-bahn station Rummelsburg.

Kraftwerk is an old power station, a huge concrete hangar turned art space for temporary exhibition. If there is anything going on there at the time of your visit, it might be worth checking it.

To eat

Einsunternull (Michelin) Nice, classy and delicious dishes focusing on high quality ingredients. I was there for a team event at lunch but it seems that they only do dinner now.

Tim Raue (Michelin, featured in Chef’s Table season 3 episode 5) Haven’t tried yet but it is on my bucket list.

Shiso Burger – my confort food in Berlin. Order the Ebi burger. Weirdly enough they open a branch in Reunion island.

W der imbiss – I always thought it was sri lankan food but it turns out that they describe themselves as vegan/vegetarian/salmon dishes influenced by Indian, Mexican, Californian and Italian cuisine…. what matters is that they are delicious!

Liu 成都味道面馆 Nudelhaus Spicy Chengdu style noodles, very authentic… I’m mouth-watering just thinking about it.

House of Small Wonder (for Brunch) This is the cutest place to start your weekend and have a delicious breakfast, cake or japanese lunch. They don’t take reservation and it will get full so go there early bring a book to stand in line. This is the sister restaurant of House of Small Wonder from New York.

To have a great coffee

Ben Rahim and take the chance to wander around the 8 courtyards of Hackersher Markt and the “Dead chicken” alley.

Bonanza Coffee Hero and wander in Mauerpark.

To have a drink

Klunkerkranich – Despite its impossible-to-pronounced name, this bar offer a very chill ambiance in a very original location. It is located at the top floor of a shopping mall but you need to access it by lift to the parking lot, than walk the way up to the last floor. As Berlin has mainly short buildings you have a pretty amazing view of the whole town and a beautiful sunset view.

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Finding passion and home again… in Berlin

After being absent for more than 18 months (well I did update my last post on January 2014…) it is more than time to blog again!

Many things happened during that time, and not one month passed by without me thinking: “Damned I should really go back to blogging”.

But I didn’t. Because of time and failing inspiration. Still I have a list of things I definitely would want to write about:
– The difference in start-up culture between Beijing and Silicon Valley
– Top 10 things I did in California
– Organizing Makathon and the Maker movement
– What inspired me to become a Data Scientist
– Top 5 mistakes you’ll do when moving to Berlin…

But today I just want to introduce my new self and give a little bit of background on what happens in the last 2 years:

Last year I turned my life around. After a year in Silicon Valley (SV), travelling back and forth every 3 months, I spent Christmas holidays 2013 in Paris with friends and family and realized that… it wouldn’t be that bad to come back to Europe.

At that point I had spent 7 years outside of Europe. And to be completely honest, if I had any good prospect to get a package “awesome job + working visa”, I would have stayed in SV. But I didn’t want to stay at all costs. I wanted to switch career. And I wanted to find a company I was passionated about. Yes, my new dream was to join one day Facebook Data Sciences team. But I knew that would take time. So life pushed me out of the USA and I wonder “where would be the most fascinating place to be for a free-thinker and techie person in Europe”? I asked around and everyone pointed me to Berlin.

April 2014 I set foot in Berlin and found everything I was expecting to find when I first arrived in San Francisco:
– a strong creative vibe everywhere in the city,
– kick-ass infrastructure and transportation system,
– open minded people who don’t try to make you fit in a mould,
– a vibrant grassroot tech scene with friendly community (where sharing is more important than competing).

After 10 months here, meeting like-minded people, old friends, new friends, switching my career into my new passion of Data Analysis and Visualization, joining one of today’s most exciting tech company in Berlin… I can say that heureux qui comme Ulysse a fait un long voyage (happy like Ulysse coming back from the Odyssey).. it feels good to be back home.

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When WhatsApp is going to sell to Facebook (or Google)?

Quick overview of the Messaging app market:

  • WeChat – 300 millions (launch in Jan 2011)
  • WhatsApp – 250 millions (launch in 2009, estimate $20 million revenue per month)
  • LINE – 200 millions (launch in June 2011) ($30+ million revenue per month)
  • Viber – 200 millions (launch in Dec. 2010)
  • Tango – 130 millions (launch in Sep. 2010)
  • KakaoTalks – 100 millions (launch in Mar. 2010; $30 million revenue per month)

Do you see it? The 2 latest comers in the games are already #1 and #3 in users. Wouldn’t you be scared if you were Whatsapp?

And even scarier, these 2 Asian apps are supported by 2 monsters of the Internet: Tencent (WeChat) the leader in China – and #1 internet global internet company is market cap – and NHN (Line) the leader in South Korea.

We are all prepared to the typical VC question: “What would you do if Google/Facebook go in your market?”.
Well, here’s a new one… What would you do if the Google of China AND of Korea go in your market, at the same time and very aggressively?”

With a limited team of 45 and no intention to develop further their monetization model – Jan Koum specifically said he was not interested in developing stickers – I don’t see any outcome for Whatsapp than selling to Google or Facebook. And selling fast before they lose more ground in USA and globally and that the company value start depreciating.

Moreover Whatsapp faces the competition of another strong Silicon Valley based Messaging app, Tango, in the race for acquisition. Whatsapp has a strong hold globally (see cool pictograph here) but Tango already start his monetization transformation, becoming more social and game oriented. That is why Whatsapp has to act fast if Jan wants to get the best prize for his 4-years-old company.

Rumors said negotiation as been going on with Google for a month…But I would think that Facebook will be more willing to give a better valuation. They have the money and are in need of a great social mobile app much more than Google.

What I am expecting is that it shouldn’t be long until an acquisition news come by…

[Update from Jan. 2014 : http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/19/facebooks-19-billion-whatsapp-acquisition-contextualized/ ]

Some cool articles:

As Google acquisition rumors grow, is WhatsApp really worth a billion dollars? (VentureBeat, 8 April 2013)
WhatsApp knows about stickers and Asian chat apps. It doesn’t care about them, and it doesn’t have to. (TheNextWeb, 8 August 2013)
Korea’s Kakao Talk becomes the latest Asian mobile messaging app to pass 100 million users (TheNextWeb, 2 July 2013)
Viber founder: ‘People should be concerned about privacy’ (Thegardian, 30 August 2013)
With Nearly 200M Users, Messaging App LINE Is Gunning For The U.S. (Forbes, 12 July 2013)
WhatsApp Surpasses 250 Million Active Users (WSJ, 20 June 2013)

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Retrospective: Working in NHN

Everytime I enjoy a Capuccino it remind me of my good time in NHN, particularly the time I spent with my colleagues chilling in the cafeteria.

NHN for those who are unfamiliar is like the “Google+Yahoo” of South Korea. It is the biggest internet holding and they have something like 90% of the search and portal market (number to be verified) in this market.
They are super innovative, came up with the first IM and forum service and their culture is very much oritented around creativity and great design (see naver, see nciku, see LINE). And they have branch office in Japan, US and China, Beijing where I joined them.

When I was first looking for a job in Beijing back in 2008 I created my luck and interviewed with 2 major companies: Sony Ericsson and NHN.
I believe I’ve been declined to join Sony Ericson because my profile was too similar to the girl who made me pass the interview. I wouldn’t have added much value to the team.
I got invited to join NHN for a 1 month mission to study the French legislation regarding online gaming and betting and I made my way from there. I stayed at NHN 2.5 years, it was my first real job and I learn a lot: about internet, about process, about working in a big corporate, about working in a start-up like project, about working in a cross cultural team (Chinese, Korean, US, Italian, Cameroun, German..), about working for others.

But now almost 3 years after I left I know what has been the most valuable things working for NHN: the network. I worked with wicked smart people and am still in touch with most of them.
People from the local team are now in diverse tech companies like Renren, Sohu, Weibo, ku6. Some started their own startups, others changed industries and worked in Toyota and Boeing.

Among the consultants (team of Korean mid-level managers send from Headquarters to help out the young Chinese team) most of them stayed in NHN, stepped up and returned to headquarters. 2 that I know of left for Google, Yahoo or inmobi.

But the friendly connection remains. We regularly chat on facebook or if we get a chance to be in the same geographical place we’ll meet up for a coffee. If I need a favor or intro I ask them and they are always helpful.

I had a lot of complain about NHN when working there but you know what we say “we always stand naked in front of the mirror”. With distance I realize the company culture was and still is amazing and they attract very good quality people.

I am glad I’ve been part of NHN story. And NHN has been a very important part of mine.

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The Fall of Apple

I am a big Apple fan.

2003 – The first laptop I bought when I left my hometown and when study in Paris was an Apple. I stayed with Apple since that. At that time, my boyfriend was studying to become a software engineer and was nagging me:
bf – “Why would you buy Apple, a computer that doesn’t have the best performance but is much more expensive than others?”

me, being provocative and also very honest:
– ” Because it is pretty. It makes me feel happy and good about myself”.

2004 – After the laptop I bought myself the ipod shuffle when I was in Japan and customized it with a Hello Kitty skin.

2008 I bought myself the ipod mini, red.

2010 I was not convince by the iphone, I was thinking I want a phone just to call, and other device for music and entertainment. So I bought the iPod Touch.

2011-2013 I have been thinking to buy myself the latest iPhone but was always short of cash and couldn’t find a way to justify so much money on a phone.

2013 Next week I will buy myself the Samsung Nexus. (death silence).

I still love Apple, and for laptop, I have no plan to switch to another OS. But the thing is I see the small signs of decline in Apple products and companies.

The latest laptop I bought is not performing up to my expectation, sometimes it is super slow, even if I habe 8GB. It goes to sleep with no reason, the electrical plug doesnt work all the time… I dont know I am just a bit disappointed in my MacBook. Yes I bought a MacBook to be a little retro and not join the mainstream of MacBook Pro or Air. But now I find it a bit too thick.

Also my friend gave to me her old iPhone 3 and it is cool and slick, but super super super slow. I can not launch the facebook app. It is too slow to go online with wifi, I end up using it as a dumb phone. And anyway most cool apps I want to have are not compatible with the version.

Maybe I haven’t try hard enough to fix my laptop and iphone shortcoming, but that’s the thing. I didn’t choose Apple to then be tolerant of its weakness, I choose them because of their reputation of being top performer. And they are failing. Sure if you like a team you root for them in thin and thick but there is something else about Apple.

After Steve Job passed away I thought “How will be the world after Steve Job?”. And the world kept turning. And I thought “I guess Apple will be fine and as a great company”. But reading Steve Job biography I realize it won’t.

Tim Cook seems like a great guy, a high performer. But in Steve’s word: “He is not a product guy”. Basically he is a great captain when he has someone – a visionary – to give direction. I dont believe in can be the person who give the direction (no offense Tim!). He might be better than most at leading Apple but he is no Steve Job. And don’t get me wrong I dont think Steve Job is irreplaceable. He is like all of us. But Tim Cook is not the one to bring back the magic at Apple.

Apple is a cult. And what is the difference between a cult and a religion? For me, a cult is about one person. A religion is about an-ongoing community. This week the Christians have a new pope. There is a clear process to replace the pope and even if the religion / faith of the followers will be impacted by the personality of the pope, the church make it so that it impacts at less as possible.

Apple? not the case. Everything as been make to be about Steve. Like his Board of Directors. And that’s typical from people who fear abandon. He set up the ground for the company to fail after his disparition so that the world will remember: “It was better when Steve was around”. And that include choosing Tim Cook as CEO to replace him.

Another clue for Apple is not make to be a self-walking company (can not survive without Steve Job) are their products themselves. You buy an iPhone 3 and it become obsolete as soon as the new version come out? Apps are not retro- compatible? WTF?
It is like a person an insecure person telling you: “Yes you married me but now I’m different so you have no choice but adapt !”
I personally am not a big fan of threat in personal relationship. And the fact that Apple doesn’t value their community enough to ensure the best user experience for all their device is very disappointing.

One great CEO from my hometown, Alfred, was explaining how building a company is really just about building a system. You create a product but also a system to make sure the production of the same product quality will continue no matter what. And you sell the whole thing as an exit, not just the product. He is a great CEO with 2 companies but travels most of his time. He empowered people in both company to move forward without him micro-managing. He just advice or come help when needed.

In my view, this is how CEO should be.

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“How do you make a videogame that, in some sense, is a religion”

via Anson

Again how games can impact real life. And people doing interesting stuff. A bit crazy but interesting.

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/07/mf_chainworld/all/?pid=6414

I NEED to go to GDC now… (Game Developers Conference)

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I love Jason Russell

Hope to go visit Invisible Children in a near future in San Diego.

Kony2012 – One year later:

http://m.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/03/jason-russell-kony-2012-interview

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Serious Games and Jane McGonigal

A few days ago, I heart for the first time the concept of Serious Games. I was meeting for my work a famous Game developing company and they mentioned that Serious Games ought to become the fastest growing part of their business.

Serious Games? What the else is that?

A??serious game??is a??game??designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment. The "serious" adjective is generally prepended to refer to products used by industries like defense, education, scientific exploration, health care, emergency management, city planning, engineering, religion, and politics. (Wikipedia)

Of course I heard before of virtual world being use as a training for military, but I didn't know public institution were starting creating games to educate children on traffic safety, medical intern on medical procedure….

Last year at CHINCT conference one of the most interesting speak was the one from??Guillaume Wielezynski??of the World Food Program (WPF) when he explain that by cooperating with Zynga during the Haiti crisis they had been able to raise 1.5 millions of money in just 5 day. How? They simply create virtual items, like you can usually buy inside the games for your avatar or for the game purpose (a new weapon, a healing potion…) but for the specific cause. Such virtual goods were for example a bucket a rice for Haiti, you buy it only for – i dont know- 2$ and this 2$ will be 100% donate to the WFP who will buy and ??send food and first aid kits in the disaster area! Isn't it magical when something you would think as shallow as game become a life changing mean for good?

Being is SV where all the dots get connected, I met with someone from VirtGood, a company who easily allow any games developers to raise money for any cause. And because a user that usually dont spend on virtual goods might do their first buy for a good cause, you are converting more free users into paid one as the habit to buy virtual goods would have been created.

Going further than the "buy virtual goods for cause in games" Jane McGonigal, TED speaker and game designer is been an advocate of leveraging all the time and skill we earn playing games and turning them into Real life problem. (See her talk at TED 2012 below).

In this talk she mentioned using games to not have regrets at the end of your life and even increase your life expectancy.??

But I'm thinking… how about selecting the top 5 World of Warcraft players in the world every year and sending them together, as a team, on an offline mission like volunteering to build water filter in Western China?
What if playing MMORP became a way to enroll and get the chance to be selected to join a one-year mission to make the world better?
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Point de chute

Surprising how there is good translation for “point de chute” in English. Youc an loosely translate it as “a place to crash” or “drop zone” (more litteral). But a “point de chute” in French is a place when you travel or where you just don’t have a home, a place where you can rest, drop your stuff, a temporary home.

For me a “point de chute” (PDC) is a place that is not your home, but where you can stay / leave your stuff with no limit of time. A place where you dont feel like you’re bothering.

In China my place became the PDC of many friends. In my hometown I have several PDC (family and friends). But now jumping to the US, I realize I have no safe one and it made me worried. So I started thinking where are my closest PDC there?? Montreal I have a few, strangely people from my hometown in Montreal are quite numerous.

Then I might have Boston. But both are pretty far, still need to take the plane.

Maybe a PDC is also a friend’s place you just hang out where you feel down. I think Explorers needs that much more than Builders. Builders have their own while Explorer dont feel the need to have a home. They need a network of PDC.

P2190033
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People need to set themselves free of their secrets

http://www.ted.com/talks/frank_warren_half_a_million_secrets.html

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