A day in Germany…
Published by MartinVarsavsky.net in Fon with No Comments
Last Tuesday, we did three cities in one day: Munich, Dresden and Berlin. In Munich, we had meetings with Hubert Burda and his team. The professionalism of Burda is unbelievable. We arrived with Christiane where we met a group of 12 editors of magazines and websites. Burda is a type of Prisa but without Sogecable. Hubert Burda himself is a type of Jesús Polana, they’re about the same age, about the same height and both are very successful and very intuitive. One major difference though is that Burda has bet on the internet while Polanco has bet on digital TV. There are great possibilities between Burda and FON but I cannot yet talk about what we’re planning together. When I see the success we have outside of Spain, I wonder why is it that in Spain we don’t meet with Prisa, for example. Nor do we meet with Telefónica. In Germany, we’ve already met with T-Online and they are interested in FON. Many ISPs are realising that converting their clients into hotspots and charging more by doing so is a way to increase both revenue per customer and customer retention.
Then came my meeting with Nicholas Negroponte at the airport in Munich. He was coming in from Switzerland to meet with me and we then flew to Dresden on my plane. I was heading there to meet Brainslayer and Negroponte wanted to present me his $100 laptop because the argentine government is considering buying 1,000,000 of these computers and Educ.ar is in the descision-making process. I really enjoyed listening to Negroponte. He belongs to that small world of big people, big in every sense of the term. He’s a really nice guy, intelligent, concerned and fascinating. Iurgi of FON was with us on the plane, Christiane too and all three of us listened to his presentation very attentively and we then talked a lot about the characteristics of the laptop and the makers of its components. $100 is risky, but for $150 it might be worth it.
Upon arriving in Dresden, we met up with Brainslayer. What a team! Christiane, Brainslayer, Negroponte, Iurgi and myself. Brainslayer showed us around his company and showed us his software. As you know, at FON we have two versions of our open-source software: our openwrt version and our dd-wrt (Brainslayer) version. Negroponte was amazed with all the functionalities of the dd-wrt. It’s truly amazing the things that you can do with a router using this software. You can choose how much bandwidth you want to share, you can block someone from abusing your connection with excessive traffic (eg. using bit torrent for example) etc… You basically can configure it to do ANYTHING you want.
At the end of our meeting, Negroponte left for London and we went to Berlin where we had dinner with a group of foneros. We already have 500 registered foneros in Germany. For me, the country remains the big mystery in Europe. I find it amazing the quality of life here considering the last 10 years have been a real economic disaster for Germany. Apartments and restaurants are cheaper in Berlin than in Madrid. It’s much cheaper because of the economic crisis. There a loads of restaurants but very few clients. And add to that the very high unemployment rate. It’s this kind of phenomena that can be explained in a thousand ways, but none of them matches completely.
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Kathrin on February 24, 2006 ·
I also would like to comment the last paragraph about Germany. I am German and have lived several years in Spain.
My conclusion of what is going wrong in Germany is, apart of the economic crises and the obvious need for reforms, the German mentality: rather than the crises really has reached the people, people fear that it could reach them. Talking to any German, you’ll find that people’s greatest fear is the social downfall. It is obvious for everyone, that the German social system cries for reform, but this is also what many people makes worry: They think that when the social system will be reduced, there will be no net that could prevent them from falling down. And this fear has become a national hysteria: even people from the middle class who are far away from losing there jobs are affected.
We have lived more than fifty years with the knowledge of a strong state being like a father, taking care of us when necessary, that even the mere announcement that this will have to change has deeply frightened and unsecured people. Though there is no reason for it. You hear everywhere in Germany that all is so dramatically bad, but this suffering takes place on a really high standard, compared for example to other countries like Spain.
This fear combined with the protestant ethic of hard work and less enjoy keeps people away from consuming and that’s why you find the restaurants empty. Spaniards with their more hedonistic and enjoying life catholic background are the other extreme: I always wondered how many people are in the restaurants and spending money for shopping, knowing that many of them actually could not afford that.
vasco on February 24, 2006 ·
It remains a mystery to many people outside Germany. Has there been a conference where Loic does not ask the big “WHY?!!” question regarding blog development in Germany when the topic touches the 80m+ country ?
Sometimes, people have to prove for us Germans that something new really improves things. I personally have the feeling that Germans are not fans of change – like other cultures. In some cases, you simply have to stand up and stick to what you believe. You´ll win them eventually, but once you have them, you also have a good position in a large European market.
wingthom on February 28, 2006 ·
Your presentation at DLD was great (“the GOOGLE paparazzi” is already a bonmot in Germany) – but your perception of Germany isn’t. Don’t listen too much to old Media People who lost their future believing in: cross media, convergence of media, paid content blaaaah during the last 10 years.
There are a lot of very strong companies, scenes and regions in this country without depression, and if it is really necessary the drive of those people is enormous – but not for fakers, maybe for foneros.
maybe you can join forces with Burda’s last great investment: http://www.europeonline.com – this was totally top down designed and a disaster in financial terms but still alive.
Jo on February 28, 2006 ·
I can absolutely agree to vasco. This also becomes obvious if you take a look at the fon board at http://boards.fon.com/viewtopic.php?t=108 where everybody is just concerned about legal problems and complaining about the dangers of fon instead of just moving on.
By the way, my router has just arrived and it works already.
I am curious how the other big ISP´s in germany will react (arcor, 1&1…).
Many years ago I´ve lived in your home country Argentina for one year en Alta Gracia/ Córdoba – y para mi tambien es un fenómeno como la gente puede vivir con tanta alegría (bueno no siempre pero…ya sabes) en una situación tan problematica. Gente se acostumbra y los que no se acostumbran o quieren hacer algo salen del país. Cómo vos también… lo puedo enteder muy bien – y me encanta como todavía ayudas a tu gente con tus proyectos y que no te olvidas de tus raíces.
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CountZero on February 23, 2006 ·
hi, as I am a German, I want to take position on your last paragraph, where you talk about our country being the big mystery 😉
It is true, that we currently suffer from a significant economy crisis and an unemployment rate that was only higher before the nazi takeover in the 30s of the last century, but in my opinion the quality of life is still significantly higher than in many other european countries as well. Thanks to our social system (that’s bleeding itself to death due to this crisis) even the long term unemployed still live pretty good – at least compared to many other countries. Okay, those Hartz IV receivers don’t stop whining about that money (to much too die, but not enough to live in prosperity – hey, never anybody said, that the social system will allow a life in prosprity!), but it’s still enough to live. Okay, it’s not enough to buy a flatpanel TV, a BMW and to pay expensive holidays, but again – that’s not the purpose of the welfare!
Econimic situation improves, though, for several month now. But this is not a merit of our government – they act so ridiculously often against the simpliest economic rules, that it’s even striking we have a growing economy at all these days 😉
But again, hey, little improvements are still much better than no improvements.