The Third Degree: Gunnar Berning of Twago

By Toni Ellis |

This week in The Third Degree, Silicon Allee’s Friday feature where we get up close and personal with Berlin’s brightest CEOs, we spoke to Gunnar Berning of Twago about life in Potsdam and the downfall of Google.

SILICON ALLEE: If you weren’t a CEO, what would you be doing?

GUNNAR BERNING: From the bottom of my heart, I think I would be a journalist or a sports photographer. I worked as a professional sports photographer for Germany’s biggest sports news agency to finance my time at university, where I got to cover the Olympics in Atlanta and Sydney. It was fun, at least during that time, but I don’t know whether I would like to do it now.

SA: How would you describe Berlin, and what do you like about it?

GB: Berlin is, from my point of view, the only German metropolis that can compare to London or Paris or New York. Though it’s of course smaller, it’s the only city in Germany that has all these influences from different nationalities and backgrounds. In Munich, for example, you only have the ‘top of the pyramid’ of the population, so the top 10 percent. But here, you have everyone, from the bottom to top. That’s what I really like, because that’s real life.

And from a business point of view, it’s perfect. Twago have people from ten different nations working in the office. You don’t get the different people in Munich. Or you might get them, but it’s always a big fight against other companies. Here you get the right people – the clever people, the native speakers, and at the same time you have everything that employees want, including outside of work. The clubs, the bars, the atmosphere.

SA: So how do you spend your time away from work?

BG: I’m married and I have two kids, and I think maybe that’s unusual for people in the startup scene. So I spend a lot of time with my family. My son is six years old, my daughter is two and a half, and so we enjoy showing them the area around where we live in Potsdam. My son loves to travel by trains, he’s kind of crazy about them, so we do that a lot too.

Besides that, I still really enjoy taking pictures, and I love running. I’ve done two marathons; I don’t have enough time to practice at the moment, but I’d love to do another one. Living in Potsdam, it’s very nice to run around the lakes. I can really switch off from work.

SA: When you leave Berlin, where do you go?

BG: I love to visit San Francisco, though I’ve only been twice. It’s very interesting to see what’s going on [in the Valley], and I have a very good friend living there too. Besides that, I’m a big fan of Bavaria. I lived in Munich for six year, and I love it there, it’s kind of like a small village with lots of crazy Bavarians. I love going to the Alps too, to go mountain biking, hiking, and skiing in the winter. It’s such a beautiful landscape; it feels a completely different world.

SA: East or West Berlin?

BG: I prefer Potsdam actually. When my family and I first decided to move to Berlin to set up the company, we were traveling around the city, looking at East and West Berlin, to the suburbs and to the north, and in the end we decided to go to Potsdam. It’s just half an hour away, but it’s a completely different world. But in general, I would say East Berlin as there’s a lot more things going on. West Berlin has many parts that feel so standard, and a little bit boring, but East Berlin feels more authentic. I really love to see the history on every corner in the East; I find it so interesting to feel and see the different atmosphere.

SA: Favourite bar, cafe and restaurant?

BG: Actually, I’m not the biggest expert on Berlin places. I like Sankt Oberholz because I think it’s a great place for getting to know people for business. I really like the whole atmosphere around Rosenthaler Platz, with all the different cafes and bars, and small restaurants and breakfast clubs. In terms of restaurants, I love Speisezimmer. It’s run by TV cook Sarah Wiener, and while in the evening it’s more expensive and upper class, at lunch time it’s perfect. They do really great food, but other than that, I don’t really have any other special places here though, as I’m not really a Berliner.

SA: Favourite hangouts in Berlin?

BG: I don’t know about Berlin, but I can tell you about my favourite place in Potsdam. If you’re ever out jogging there, enter Sanssouci Palace from the south. You’ll be jogging down a big street and then make a 90 degree turn, and the palace will just appear in front of you – it’s so amazing, it’s really worth living in Potsdam just to have this jogging path.

SA: What do you think the Internet will look like in ten years?

BG: I think Google will have disappeared. [At this remark, a Twago employee sitting nearby gasps loudly and cries out “No!”]. I’ve observed that before though. I started my career in 1999, and during that time AOL and Yahoo were the dominant companies back then. Yahoo still exists, but nobody cares – people choose to use Google as a search engine over Yahoo. Google will still exist as a company, but whether they’ll be the number one – I don’t believe that.

We might see a completely different universe. So right now we have the Internet; it might be that Facebook creates a universe beside that for itself. And then we could have the third universe, which could be the Apple ecosystem. And I don’t know how these three will emerge, but I don’t believe that Google will be the dominant player that it is right now, and I also don’t believe that Apple will be as dominant as it is today. My guess is that the Internet will be completely dominated by new companies, there’ll be all new major players.