SILICON ALLEE: If you weren’t the CEO of a startup, what would you be doing?
DAAN LÖNING: I think I’d be on some other adventure. When we founded Kinderfee I was working at a bank. I liked being there but I wanted to do something new. And my alternative would have been to move to Uruguay and work on a pony farm or something. I just wanted to see something new – to be in a place where you learn a lot. I think that was one of the big motivations to found a company. I was actually looking at where I would go in Uruguay – it wasn’t super concrete but it was realistic to do it. I wanted to go to South America, be outside, learn Spanish.
SA: What do you like about Berlin?
DL: What I like about it is that it’s home for everyone. It’s rough and edgy and people aren’t always friendly but they’re open. Even if you have the wonkiest idea, people won’t necessarily judge you, which can be a good thing or a bad thing – people sometimes are encouraging and overfriendly even if you have a wonky idea. In comparison to every other city I’ve lived in I feel very free, and in comparison to London or New York you don’t really need any money to live here and be happy. And that’s awesome because that sets you free as well.
SA: East or West Berlin?
DL: I’m from the West, I like being in the West and I still live in the West. I feel at home there but I feel like East and West is shifting. For the first time now you don’t really know which parts are West and East and I catch myself saying stuff like, ‘We need to drive to the East to Kreuzberg.’ And now Kreuzberg feels more East and Mitte feels more West.
SA: When you leave Berlin, where do you like to go?
DL: I really like to stay in Berlin, I enjoy being in Berlin in the weekend. My mum lives 50km south of Berlin so I like going out and sitting by a lake where it’s nice and quiet. Otherwise I love going to India – I’m a big fan. You really know what you have being in the West. I like Mumbai a lot – I like big cities, any city that’s really big and stinky with people running around. I flew from Mumbai to Hong Kong for a wedding, my friends flew from Germany and they were like ‘Man, this is such a big city, and everything’s so messy,’ and I had the feeling it was like a holiday compared to Mumbai.
SA: What do you like to do when you’re not working?
DL: I like to work a lot. For me the company is kind of like a video game, a strategic game where you want to win. It’s not necessarily about beating the other team but learning how to progress, building your character, and in a sense being in a company or having your own company is similar. So I enjoy working a lot, but when I don’t work I like hanging out with friends.
SA: What is your favourite cafe, bar and restaurant in Berlin?
DL: I think my favourite restaurant is Ixthys in Schöneberg. Ixthys is a really tiny Korean place, there are two old Korean ladies and not only do they have really great food but they’re really Catholic. It’s a tiny shop; there are maybe four tables and space for 20 people. What they’ve done is taken paper and transcribed the Bible in German on the walls. So you are sitting next to the Bible. But they don’t speak German very well so there’s a bunch of errors in it – it’s pretty funny. It looks a little scary when you go in but it’s awesome food.
I like bars more than cafes, but I’m not too picky – anywhere that has a couch where you can sit down and have a chat is great. I really like the Green Door bar because they have the best cocktails in Schöneberg. I also like the Soju Bar a lot; I really like small bars where you enter and even if there’s only ten people you can feel the vibe.
SA: If you could employ anyone, who would it be?
DL: I don’t think there’s one person I would hire. We always try to hire people with a certain mindset – someone who is motivated to the maximum about the idea that we have in a similar way to how we are motivated, because those are the best employees. You really have the feeling that they’re not only working for the money but they really like the idea, they want to push it forward and they are really generating their own ideas.
SA: What do you think the Internet will look like in ten years?
DL: I thought about that on the way here, and I thought why am I not thinking about this normally because I’m in the Internet industry? But then I realized ten years is actually so far away that it doesn’t really make a difference to us today: where we will be in two or three years is really important. I’m not sure who said it but there’s a quote: ‘You’re a big thinker if you know what the world will look like in ten years, but you’re a genius if you know what it will look like next year.’ And I think it’s in our hands what it will look like in ten years: we should think what we want it to be like and then make that.
I hope that it will be open, I hope that it won’t be in the hands of anyone who is controlling it and that it will be a lot more personal and helpful. The integration of offline and online, we’re only really starting that. But I think it will happen a lot quicker, the next two or three years, that mobile is really taking the Internet offline. And integrating it into our daily routines. I think that will be the next big change.