Friday morning, getting up after the Zanox Summer Party and heading straight to the Berlin Open Coffee Club in the Carras Café at Potsdamer Platz. The crowd was a little smaller than usual, due to the aforementioned party I think, but the networking was good. The idea is simple, existing more or less world wide, you arrive, grab a coffee and at some point the initiator introduces him/herself and then everybody else does the same. The aim is to meet at least three new people, because you know who is there you know, who you can talk to.
A lot of 3D and virtual world stuff was going on this weekend in Berlin, I missed the Second Life meetup, but since it immediately was followed by the bizzin3D meetup (organized by Tobias Neisecke from Youin3D), I got my fair share of what is going on in the 3D world. Roughly 80 people gathered and spent their whit sunday afternoon and evening together. I did not see many journalists, a shame since the who is who of virtual worlds was there and could have been interviewed: representatives from companies from the UK, Slovenia, France, Netherlands, Poland etc. The big worlds like Second Life (Linden Lab), Twinity (Metaversum), Habbo and others where on panels.
Clare Rees (Linden Labs), Michael Schumann (Second Interest), Mirko Caspar (Metaversum), Dick Davies (Ambient Performance)
The first panel of the Bizzin3D meetup was titled “The Immersive Internet – Virtual Worlds and the Transformation of Business”. I enjoyed the honesty of the panel – the transformation has clearly just begun and it will take many years till there is a clear change due to virtual worlds (VWs). The change we see is due to new concepts in our digital age, a shrunken world (in distances), a bigger world (in possible experiences). However, having companies like Linden Lab and Metaversum in Berlin existing solely on Virtual Worlds and their service providers like Second Interest and Youin3D is already a change to the old world. The VWs user growth is now in children and youths, so a new generation is growing and using VWs, the real Digital Natives are born not longer than 3-5 years ago. I doubt that many users watched the events in Second Life and twinity, though I think it is absolutely necessary to do the streaming of course.
It’s all about monetisation in the end, so to the question why companies should move to a VW, Clare Rees basically pointed to “collaboration”, Michael Schumann stressed future advantages: “these are strategic moves today for a strategic advantage tomorrow” and Mirko Caspar showcased his Asian early adopter Singapur, who has great plans for their digital future. ..and I guess all three are legitimate answers and all true at the same time. The general agreement was that, if you are able to bring your own audience, you can start now.
But again, in my opinion it will take years till we are at a stage, where use of VW is widespread in the corporate world. I, however, believe VWs will be a major part of the future natural habitat of Digital Natives, since interaction there is much more natural than over mail etc. The question I wanted to ask Second Life, when they will allow the use of real names (since they have already real cities (newBerlin e.g.) could not be answered (“we are thinking about it”), I give them another 6 months max., till they do that, the need is clearly there.
If you are interested in a much more detailed view on this event, Mr.Topf a.k.a Tao Takashi was there and has published a review in his blog.
The third year in a row Berlin has had its booth at the web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. I think I remember Berlin being the only German booth as well as being the only economic development agency there in the past. Counting all companies there now I come to approx. 10 from Germany and their majority from the Berlin region. With this I think the German constituency seems to be the largest but one cannot be sure, since the origin of exhibitors cannot be searched. I do not know about the percentage of Germany attendees, I however met several and suppose they constitute the largest group from continental Europe. The Berlin booth was organized by Berlin Partner, Brandenburg was represented by the Zukunftsagentur (both economic development agencies), Solidground (BizDev) and Ralf Otto (TaxConsult) offered their services. The highlight turned out to be Metaversum or rather its project twinity, a real life 3D model of Berlin. It attracted many visitors which were curious about the project and gave a us a good starting point for discussions. I am not sure how the founders would like to see it described, I’d call it a mixture between Second Life and Facebook, taking the best things out of each (i.e. the 3D animated world only with “real” cities and the social network with real names and “real” avatars). They will roll out Singapore and London next, I suppose the US will be tackled then. However, Zanox, who last time shared our booth had set up their own now and Germany Trade and Invest (the former Invest in Germany) had their own large booth, sharing it with the Fraunhofer Institute and Sachsen-Anhalt. Coremedia from Hamburg had a booth as well. Having been there already a couple of years one could see the recession, I guess the exhibition area was rented out by 30% less and there were 2.000 visitors less. However, the glass was half full in my opinion: most of the exhibitors seemed to have returned and most of the attendees as well (10.000 last year). I share Jennifer Pahlka’s optimism – the vibe was good despite the economic downturn. We were able to show steadiness in our approach with the booth to market Berlin as the ideal investment location for a European expansion of US entrepreneurs. Of course we tried to bring our message across about the digital side of Berlin – we had the chance to talk to Sean Percival (twitter), founder of the lalawag magazin about Berlin and our intentions. The lalawag covers tech culture, events, gossip and news from Los Angeles.
Another interesting encounter happened with Stuart Schulzke, director from FORA.tv who gather the “web’s largest collection of unmediated video drawn from live events, lectures, and debates going on all the time at the world’s top universities, think tanks and conferences”. They know now about my choice between the iphone and Blackberry and, of course, about Berlin .
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Yesterday the Webmonday Silicon Valley took place, i.e. the Webmontag web 2.0 Expo edition. I do not exactly know, how many people were there, I suppose around 40 all in all. It took place in Citizen Space, a co-working place in San Francisco’s city centre I have already used on previous trips, both as a place to get some work done and as the place where the previous webmondays were held, which I (Berlin Partner co)sponsored. There were organized by Tim Bonnemann, the inventor of the Webmontag concept.
I very much enjoy Webmondays, be it in Berlin or here in SanFran, you get to network easily and the presentations are always short and to the point, letting you make the maximum out of your time. Yesterday Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI) and Berlin Partner presented their services for investors expanding to Germany. Metaversum showed their 3D World Twinity and the Fraunhofer HHI showcased their video retrieval technologies, they are all going to be at the expo too. I found doodle, a Swiss company very interesting. They allow you to solve the problem of coordinating meeting or conf call times with people using different calenders. They have an outlook integration and opend their API recently (it goes on for 2 more weeks, you can win a trip to Switzerland) and I suppose to see even more of them in the future.
A project I will check out for the blogs I am contributing to is apture. They seem to have found an amazing way to improve the usability (surfing experience) of websites, integrating multimedia to your site in a very easy to use way. They are interesting for bloggers and publishers alike. Check out the lower part of their site to experience it. It’s great! There was camera running, I hope to be able to show some video footage soon.
Berlin will be present for the 3rd time in April 2009 at the web 2.o Expo in the Silicon Valley. Berlin Partner organized a booth for the capital region, which they will use together with the economic development agency of Brandenburg ZAB to market to international companies for an expansion to Berlin and Brandenburg i.e. Germany and Europe. Additionally Solidground and Ralf Otto Steuerberatung offer their services for a market entry in Europe to companies willing to expand.
Solidground ist specialised in consulting and business development, particularly for German-American projects and Ralf Otto Tax Consultants is specialised in helping international clients get advice and support in all matters of tax and finance.
At the booth Berlin will be presented in the virtual realm as well. Metaversum will show their project twinity, a 3-dimensional virtual Berlin, which you can explore with your avatar. As opposed to Second Life Metaversum counts on connecting the real world with the virtual one as close as possible, i.e. using real names and show Berlin as it is. The Berlin company works on models of Singapur and London as well.
During that week many events will take place in and around the Moscone Center – I would like to mention one particularly: the Silicon Valley Webmontag – Webmonday (on a tuesday ;-). I will report from there.