The Third Degree: Ansgar Oberholz of Sankt Oberholz

By Toni Ellis |

For years, the Sankt Oberholz Cafe has been a renowned haunt for young entrepreneurs building their first startups while downing endless coffees and leeching off the wifi. We at Silicon Allee, from our perch in the co-working space, have had a perfect view of all this. So for this week’s Third Degree, our Friday feature where we get under the skin of Berlin’s brightest CEOs, we thought we’d try something a little different, and talked divas and drinking in hotel lobbies with Ansgar Oberholz, CEO and co-founder of Sankt Oberholz.

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

ANSGAR OBERHOLZ:  Hard to say – I guess somehow nearly everything I do has to do with founding or managing in some way. If I wasn’t the CEO of Sankt Oberholz, I think I would be writing more books.

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

AO: For me Berlin is an old diva. She has a very nice face, but one that’s hard to understand. That is how I see Berlin. And I love that Berlin is a city of change. That’s the reason why so many people are here – it’s not crusty like other German cities. I love the mixture of the changing aspects and the old diva. The changes are sometimes very exotic, and I feel that there’s no other place where so much is possible.

SA: How do you spend time away from work?

AO: I don’t really split my time from what is work and what’s not. But sometimes I try to get offline, just so it feels like I’m not working. I like to go out to Brandenburg, where we have a very small wooden hut, and that’s where I try to be offline.

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

AO: Other than Brandenburg, the last trip I had was Stockholm, which was very inspiring. They have these strange alcohol restrictions, where you’re only allowed to buy alchol from special shops that are run by the government authorities, from a state official. This was very interesting to see for me. I travel around and visit a lot of German cities too.

SA: East or West Berlin?

AO: I think that both parts of Berlin are very nice. Personally, I prefer the east, because there seems to be more possibilities and change here. But I like the tension between the east and west, it was always there, even before the war or the GDR. These tensions happen everywhere – I grew up in a small town with a river running through the middle, and there we called it “the other side.” And you were on this side, or the other side. But I find it funny how different generations are about the east and the west. While my kids don’t care, people around my age always want to know whether you’re from the east or the west – not where you’re living at the moment, but where you were born. It’s a way to know a person’s social background. Even though the wall fell 20 years ago, it’s strange to see people still hold on to the old ideas.

SA: Favourite bar, cafe and restaurant? We think we might know the answer to this one…

AO: Well, Oberholz is for sure my favourite cafe, along with our sister cafe, Sankt Meze at Helmholtzplatz.

My favourite restaurant is 3 Minutes sur Mer on Torstrasse. It’s the newer restaurant from Bandol. It’s very good, it has been equipped with old bar furniture from the Palast der Republik, combined with French designs from the 50s, with a lot of black – it’s very nice there. The meals are fantastic too, they’re quite unusual dishes.

As for my favourite bar – the last few times I’ve been out for drinks I’ve just been stuck in hotel lobbies. I don’t know why – it might be that I’m getting older!

SA: Favourite hangouts in Berlin?

AO: I really like this small place behind Mauerpark. When you leave the park to the north, there is this tunnel on the left side, which was one of the first places the Wall fell in 1989. If you go further, on the left side theres a hole in the wall, where there is a little area of grass and some chairs. I like that place very much.

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

AO: Google, Facebook and Apple will not be there. I think that the open source and crowd stuff is taking back the internet. This might not be the most realistic expectation, but it’s what I would wish for.