If you walk in during a talk without forewarning, stages three and four at re:publica 14 can be a little disconcerting. Sharing a cavernous hall, which has been split into three different stages using high drapes, the problem of overlapping microphone-enhanced voices which would render every talk unintelligible has been solved with wireless headphones.
So everyone sits there, audience and participants alike, little red light flashing on the side of their heads to show they are listening in – and if you don’t have headphones on, the silence is decidedly odd.
It’s a neat solution – everyone can hear the speaker perfectly well – although it catches the odd person out; one journalist, who definitely wasn’t me, found himself desperately trying to locate the ‘on’ button in the dark after the talk had started and he was being left behind.
It means that more content can be packed into the busy re:publica schedule – among them an hour of lightning talks from six startups with innovative themes, which attracted yet another packed Berlin Web Week crowd.
With yours truly as moderator, asking the presenters some (hopefully) pertinent questions, some genuinely interesting ideas emerged.
First up was Anett Gläsel-Maslov of metaio.com talking about Augmented Reality – an awesome technology, but it’s always been hard to imagine people walking down the street with their smartphones in front of their faces, ignoring everything else.
That’s why, as Anett said, wearables are the future; soon we will all have Google Glasses or equivalent to help us navigate our everday lives – with a “mixture of virtual reality and augmented reality.”
Next was Thomas Handorf of Webpgr, which is a new way to design a more interactive and content-happy website. It’s a departure from traditional websites, no doubt, and Thomas revealed that they are conducting a study to see if the new kind of webpage controls will put people off. But it looks great, and he insisted it’s easy to use – if you can use Photoshop or PowerPoint, he said, you can use this.
Third was perhaps the oddest idea – Atheist Shoes, as presented by David Bonney. It’s not the shoes themselves that don’t believe in a higher being, but rather their creators and, you would have to assume, those who wear them.
They have “Ich bin Atheist” written on the sole (or should that be soul?) and have been sold all over the world – including Saudi Arabia and Texas.
It’s a real Berlin-y project. The team decided to go ahead and make it a business after the idea went crazy on Reddit, but sales are strong. As David pointed out, tongue firmly in cheek: “The number of atheists with feet is growing.”
Next up was Elton Rivas from One Spark. Silicon Allee readers may already know about the crowdfunding festival – we’ve written about it before, and are very much looking forward to the first Berlin event this September. At re:publica, Elton was focusing on how crowdfunding represents a kind of democraticisation; crowdfunding is in effect people investing in people and interaction is crucial to that process.
With traditional crowdfunding – there’s a strange phrase – you might only interact with the project you are funding once, and even then only online. It’s far more effective, Elton argued, to gather a bunch of people together and let them interact with a wide variety of projects looking for funding.
When you think of buzzing startup hubs, Chile is perhaps some way from the top of the pile. But the Chilean government are keen to attract foreign entrepreneurs to help grow the newly-born ecosystem, and Start-Up Chile is the result. It’s a state-funded program designed to bring foreigners to the South American country and provide them with resources, money – $40,000 without taking any equity – and even a Godfather as someone they can turn to for advice.
In return, those taking part will take part in workshops and other events to share knowledge with the locals, as well as hopefully building companies which will in turn create jobs.
Presenter Carla Kirmis did a good job of selling the program – I certainly want to visit Chile, at least – but some of her logic seemed a bit off when pressed on why someone would want to travel to South America rather than, say, setting up in Berlin. But Latin America represents an awful lot of untapped potential, nonetheless.
Finally, there was AJ Majoor of Frismakers, a Dutch platform creating a marketplace for professional workshops of all kinds. Taking heavy inspiration from AirBnb, the platform is perhaps a little labour-intensive when it comes to rooting out unsuitable or inappropriate workshops, but marketplaces are all the rage and it will be interesting to see how it all works out.
After that is was time to take the headphones off and return to the noisy world of re:publica 14 – but keep your ear to the ground for some of these ideas.