The Third Degree: Zoe Adamovicz of Xyologic

By Claire Adamson |

This week in the Third Degree, our weekly feature where we sit down with Berlin’s best and brightest CEOs, we chatted to Zoe Adamovicz of Xyologic about military strategy and taking inspiration from Alice in Wonderland.

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

ZOE ADAMOVICZ: I probably would be a general in the military, seriously. I come from a military family, many of my family members were soldiers. My grandfather was a military strategist, with the battle maps and combat, and the difference between strategy and tactics, and all these things, I really enjoy them. Also, organizing your troops and sending them here or there.

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

ZA: I’m a Berlin fan; I’m really passionate about the city. It’s interesting to see that so many people are passionate about it. You have these Berliners who love the city for the sake of it, and I guess an interesting question to ask is, why? It’s not like every city in the world is sparking this kind of affection. I’ve been asked this question many times, and every time the answer is different. I think that for entrepreneurs in particular, it’s super interesting to participate in the growth of something else than just your company. Because this city is emerging right now, it’s a startup in itself.

It was completely destroyed and divided, and now it’s connected again and it’s aiming to be the best in the world in certain areas. And you co-create this. Berlin is very poor, compared to the rest of Germany at least, and it’s generating constant losses as far as I know. However, it’s the capital of one of the leading economies in the world. So the result is that the city is fully subsidized, and everyone is coming here and playing without having much money and doing whatever they want, but being constantly taken care of. So, children in the sandbowl, right? With the big mother Angela Merkel taking care. How comfortable for us entrepreneurs.

SA: East or West Berlin?

ZA: East. I never go to the West, unless I really have to. It is the East that has been colonized by the entrepreneurs, artists and the global Boehme. The West is still there and it’s beautiful but it’s just a normal city, and this is the new… it’s like America in the 1400s, and we invaded it, and now the East is ours.

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

ZA: I like Cape Town, and I’ve grown to like Moscow. Both of these are parallel to Berlin in a way. Cape Town is very entrepreneurial, it even looks like Silicon Valley with the hills and the vineyards and what not. And Moscow is very entrepreneurial too, and if there’s one thing I’m really passionate about in my life, except for Berlin, it is entrepreneurship as a concept. It’s all in these little hubs everywhere, it’s really exciting for me.

SA: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

ZA: I guess the best answer is I work all the time, yet I never work. I actually do not differentiate between working and not working, or private and business life. I think this is coming from some industrial era when everyone was going to the factory and doing his thing, then coming home. We don’t do that. I mean, am I working now with you? Is this work? I don’t know. I don’t differentiate.

SA: What’s your favourite cafe, bar and restaurant here in Berlin?

ZA: So many beautiful places. I actually really like Soho House. I think it’s very cool. For restaurants I love Bandol Sur Mer. It’s a tiny French place that’s built in a former kebab bistro. Really good food, wonderful French cuisine. And they have this glass cabinet like this cafe, but they had to create a toilet because it used to be a bistro, so they built a wall through the glass cabinet. So you go to the bathroom through this glass thing and there are bottles of Champagne in the toilets. It’s very cool. Bars, I go wherever the flow is. There are so many nice places, and bars in Berlin are changing all the time.

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

ZA: Do you have a lot of time? Right now, Internet is something that you can go and log into. And for me it’s absolutely clear that in the next ten years, maximum, it’s not going to be like this any more. Very soon all these little pieces of intelligence are going to be embedded in everything that’s surrounding you, there will be no real separation any longer. And right now the Internet is more like the Internet of ideas, so we as humans are inputting the data into this. But when this thing comes into everything around us, and gathers data from this glass that I’m moving or the chair someone was sitting in, then it actually starts to have information independent from what is inputted. At Xyologic we are dealing with the first baby step that happens which is apps. I have this exercise: you know Alice in Wonderland? Her father in the book was always telling her ‘think of six impossible things before breakfast’, and I will think of six impossible apps before breakfast. And I do this exercise every day.