The Third Degree: Florian Meissner of EyeEm

By Toni Ellis |

Ever wanted to get under the skin of Berlin’s best and brightest CEOs? You can do just that with Silicon Allee’s regular Friday feature, The Third Degree, This week we talked to Florian Meissner of EyeEm about a Bastard’s breakfast and startup basketball.

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

FLORIAN MEISSNER: I used to work for a magazine in New York which wasn’t for me, but I moved there because I really wanted to break out of the corporate life. I wanted to do what I really loved, which was photography, then my camera got stolen on the Subway, and I got a new iPhone 3G from a friend and that’s how I picked up mobile photography. I started capturing the city, published a little book about it, and I discovered the whole nerdy scene on Twitter and Flickr of people who would just take creative photos. So I would have never thought about doing anything else, because this is what I love. I wouldn’t even say this is my job – it’s my passion, I’m living my dream right now. If I was to stop doing this tomorrow it would feel really wrong, not only for myself, but for our growing community.

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

FM: It’s changed a lot. Five to ten years ago, Berlin was like a black hole – a lot of creative people came here and just got sucked up by the energy. They were scene artists, designers, advertising industry and tech music, and that’s when the whole image of Berlin being “poor but sexy” came about. And I think now this has completely changed. Berlin is cool, it’s innovative, people do things to create value. And this value is not only something that Berlin will benefit from in the long run, but also Europe. That’s the cool thing. There’s also such an amazing energy here, I mean just look at the Silicon Allee Made In Berlin list – it’s proof in black and white of just how much is happening here. If you have a good idea, you’re determined and you’re passionate about something, in Berlin you can make it happen.

SA: How do you spend time away from work?

FM: With my colleagues I started this group called Berlin Startup Basketball League. We began playing last summer, and it’s been great. I’m pretty active and I love sports, so it’s good to do stuff like this. I also have three brothers spread out across the world, one’s in Holland, one’s in the US and one’s in Finland, so when I’m away from work I spend a lot time Skyping with them. I’m also always working on personal photography projects, that’s what I love to do.


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

FM: Due to EyeEm I travel around quite a lot; it’s all about networking – not only within the German startup scene but also throughout Europe. The last holiday I took was when I was in the US. I had a meeting in New York, and then flew out to LA, rented a van, and then I drove down Highway 1 to San Francisco. It was amazing, five days, nothing but a case of PBR in the back; a proper surf trip and one of the most beautiful nature experiences I’ve ever had.


SA: East or West Berlin?

FM: I don’t care about choosing East or West; I feel that Berlin is a united city. I have friends who live in the West, friends who live in the East – that’s kind of the diverse part of Berlin, in that it has different parts. I mean, Charlottensburg is beautiful, but I wouldn’t live there, because in terms of density of people who work in the same field as us, where we are [in Prenzlauer Berg] it’s really, really high, so for us it makes sense to be in the East. There are a lot of things happening around here, the ecosystem is really being fostered, so I want to stay here.

SA: Favourite bar, cafe and restaurant?

FM: My favourite cafe or restaurant is Bastard. It’s this super tiny place in Neukölln where they have the best Strammer Max in town. It’s a traditional German breakfast, and it’s seriously the best Strammer Max I have ever eaten in my life! So that’s my Sunday morning. I spend a lot of time there.

Supporting the locals, there’s this one bar that’s hidden across the street from our office, called Buck and Breck. It only has fourteen spots, they don’t have any name outside, there’s just a buzzer that you ring, and the bar man comes out and tells you if there’s any space. It’s getting super hot at the moment, so if there’s no room, the barman takes you mobile number and calls you when you there’s room. The concept is good drinks for drinkers. Very high quality spirits. It’s not cheap at all, but it’s definitely an experience.

SA: Favourite hangouts in Berlin?

FM: To be honest, this is super nerdy and not really Berlin, but I hangout with my brothers a lot on Google+. Though it’s not about being in Berlin, it’s a great way to hang out with my family and the internet is a great medium to do that. It’s simple things, like sometimes in the morning I’ll have a coffee with my little brother online, it means a lot to me.

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

FM: For us, we see the internet as being all on here [holds up iPhone]. Mobile is changing our complete behavior, not only in terms of consumption, like how we actually discover things, but also in terms of creation. So things like the camera enables us to create content on the fly, to share and interact with people all the time. Also the mobile gives us different data points about everyday life that support companies like us, and recommend user content based on locations, based on time, based on the weather. I think this mobile trend is the biggest thing that’s coming up.