Bank on Monoqi to Unveil the Best New Design

By David Knight |

When you talk to the team behind Monoqi, it quickly becomes clear that a passion for design runs deep. The firm has an international team of scouts sniffing out the best in new design – and the fruits of their labour will be available to the public from Monday when the beta goes live.

What’s most striking at first when you visit the startup, however, is their office. Housed in a former bank on the ground floor of an ugly, GDR-era concrete monstrosity near Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, the green colours of the now-defunct Dresdner Bank remain above bank tellers’ desks.

And even better, the reinforced bank vaults are still there. The heavy doors were hanging open as Silicon Allee sat down with co-founders Simon Fabich and Sarah Mettler ahead of their big launch* – and some of the staff are even using discarded safety deposit boxes as desk trays.

“We weren’t intending on moving into a bank,” said Simon, “but we were interested to see it and got the building owner to let us in. Everything was still as it used to be; it was amazing to see.”

Running Full Pelt

Moving office was an urgent matter, as well – there were 20 people packed into two rooms, with some having to work with their computers on their laps. That, though, is a sign of how quickly this idea has taken off. Simon first voiced the concept for a service opening up design to the people in the summer of 2010: “I was working in the SoundCloud office and saw the really nice design items that they have. They have a great office and were always getting these fantastic items, and I was always asking myself where can you buy those things, where can you find them? I wanted to have them at home but didn’t know where to go.”

With too much on his plate at the time, Simon didn’t act on the idea till last summer, and Monoqi has been running full pelt since November. So how does it work?

The service curates the best new design, and users can follow the latest on the blog and in the newsletter. A number of different designers will be featured each day, with products for sale. Sarah said: “Monoqi is great because there are so many nice design objects that you see but you don’t know where to buy, and we bring that together on our platform. You know about the designer, you know where the object comes from and you know where to buy it.”

“It’s something very different from just having a shop,” Simon said. “It’s something where you can just create your own story every day. Monoqi is about being able to curate and create a story.”

Smart and Great Quality

So what kind of product will the service feature? “Everything that is great design. It could be headphones, could be a lamp, could be a chair, even a nice shirt. It just needs one common denominator; it needs to be great looking, needs to be smart and needs to be great quality.”

Users first need to subscribe to Monoqi and then they can access the store to see the products, read about the designers responsible and of course buy them. Simon said that the platform would be international from day one, and that goes for the team whose job it is to sources the products.

“We have an amazing team of scouts. Probably 70 to 80 percent of the company has a background in design, has worked in design before, or has even built their own design company. So they know the market, they know the people, they know the environment very well. Our whole design scout team is international; there is one German and the rest are from around the world.”

The real deciding factor behind whether Monoqi will prove a hit, however, is the passion for design which the founding team clearly has in spades. “I think we are very authentic, we are very real and we are true to ourselves concerning what products we select, what we are writing about, our content – it’s very important for us to be known as a real design brand.”

As Sarah puts it: “We want to be synonymous with design; if you think of design, you should be directly thinking of Monoqi.”

Berlin has long been known as a style capital, and with Monoqi joining the likes of Fashionism and Motomodo, that reputation is set to be further enhanced in 2012.

*As a special treat for Silicon Allee readers, you can click on this special link to gain access to the Monoqi shop instead of having to invite three friends first! And don’t forget to catch this month’s F@6 radio show tonight (Friday), live from the Monoqi office.