I am thrilled and happy to announce that tomorrow I will start working for Airbnb! Whoever has talked to me in the last months got first hand proof that I was really excited about this company. I reached out to them and the ink under our contract just dried a few days ago. I will be building Airbnb in Spain, the world’s No. 4 tourist destination!
Here are a few things I love about Airbnb:
1) It fixed my problem. In the last year I have been on the road a lot. I put my Berlin apartment on Airbnb and rented it out to people coming to visit, mostly for a period of 3-5 days. I got a lot of requests and over the “summer” (may - september) my place was rented out 80% of the time. Guests were generally amazing and caring so after some worries at the beginning I felt really at ease and safe once I saw that the system worked.
2) I love the economics of the model. It provides great value for travelers and great value for hosts. For travelers it provides amazing places for unbeatable prices. Just look at all the rooms and apartments you can rent all over the world and compare them to hotel prices in the same cities. You can stay with five people for as little as 89 € at my place. Try to get a decent hotel room for that price in Berlin. To hosts it provides a great way to earn some money with spare space, no matter if it is the whole place, a room or some space on the floor, you can rent out anything that accommodates a person for a night. Actually there is a guy who rents out his car :).
3) Airbnb is a design driven company. I think one thing that sets many American tech companies apart from European ones is the excellence in product design. Apple is the obvious leader in class but there are many more companies who produce around great design, e.g. Square, Vimeo, Tumblr AND Airbnb. The company was started by two design dudes so you can really see and feel that they care about a great look and feel and user experience in general. In my former company,Young Internet, I came to believe that for kids every click needs to be a fun experience and I believe the same goes for grown ups. I think Airbnb has done a very good job here and keeps on improving.
4) Hospitality Exchange has been my way of traveling for a long time. Since my brother Veit started HospitalityClub in 2000 I travelled a lot by staying at other people’s places. In the last years traveling became less frequent so I started hosting a lot of people here in Berlin. Now while staying through HospitalityClub or Couchsurfing has the advantage of being completely for free, it does require some time to arrange the accommodation with the hosts. You need to send mails to many of them before you close a couch. Since I started working, time is more of an issue than before but I didn’t want to give up this way of traveling. Enter Airbnb. Airbnb gives me the possibility to stay with people and get the local perspective or just stay at their awesome places. For me it is the obvious sequel to 10 years of couchsurfing.
5) The story. Airbnb is a problem turned solution turned company. The beginning was the founders problem to pay the rent for their apartment. They came up with the idea to rent out some space on the floor during a conference and turned this into a solution for everybody with the same problem. I think this story is really strong because it shows how simple the approach to building something meaningful can be. It all starts with a problem.
I am very happy to be part of this and look forward to an amazing journey!
A few months back I read the great book Delivering Happiness by co-founder of online shoe shop Zappos, Tony Hsieh. It is an inspiring story of his path as an entrepreneur and the development of Zappos from a company that sells shoes to one that is all about creating an extraordinary customer experience. There is a lot about the truly unique culture at Zappos (where new hires get an offer of 2k USD to leave the company after the initiation process in order to keep only the ones who really want to stay) but also the connection of personal happiness, happiness in your job and the happiness this creates for customers. The economic sensibility of the whole approach is arguable and Germany based shoe shop Zalando has managed to get to a comparable size as Zappos within three years in the German market. Nevertheless I am a fan of this approach because it works in the long run and I am sure they will be able to use the strong connection built with their customers for other products. Tony Hsieh is working on building an airline now :).
My girlfriend Catalina is from Colombia (nah, that’s not her on the photo). We have been in a long distance relationship for the last 18 months and - oh lord - ldr sucks! I committed because I love her and I knew that eventually she would come to Europe and we would be together.
Before we could be together there was a minor issue to be solved, the visa. Since Colombia is not part of the most-wanted immigrating nationalities in Germany, this looked like a fun bureaucratic project. There were three options:
1. Student / Language course visa.
Pros: comparably little paper work. Cons: Language course or studies need to be setup before, including financial commitment to either one. No work possible during stay. Max. duration 12 months.
2. Au-Pair visa.
Pros: little paper work. Cons: No real interest to do au pair. Limited options to work.
3. THE ARTIST FREELANCE VISA!
A friend of mine from Canada, Aycha, told me that she got her visa through a woman, Steffi, who is specialized in getting visa for artists. The best of all: It allows the holder to work as a freelancer! The service is straight forward and the price (750 EUR) seemed ok.
So I got in touch with Steffi and we hired her.
Happy Ending: Steffi guided us through the process very smoothly and everything worked out as planned. Catalina just got her visa and is coming to Europe in a few weeks!
There are a few questions we had before we started with Steffi, which I have put together and answered below.
If you consider moving to Germany / Europe and would like to work here, get in touch with me. I am happy to introduce you to Steffi and help with the visa!
Steffi runs a Berlin based agency that specializes in getting freelance visa for international artists. In the last years she organized visa for dozens of artists from all over the world.
She is spezialized in getting the so-called freelance visa for artists. The german immigrant law has very strict rules for most professionals trying to come and work in Germany, except for artists / freelancers. While for other professions the approval process of foreign certificates is very tediuos, for artists / freelancers it is not. The reason is simply because the formation of an artist is not as linear and formalized as other professions and thus it does not require an official certificate. Another reason is that the freelancer status is non-threatening for german authorities since the immigrating freelancer will not take any jobs from germans. In almost all cases the freelancer working and living in Germany will generate income and pay taxes in Germany.
For how long can I stay with a Freelance Visa?
Your visa will be granted for 12 months. After those twelve months the visa is easily renewable and will be extended for another two years.
What can I do with a Freelance Visa?
As a freelancer you will be able to offer your services to any kind of company that accepts invoices. Freelance work is most common in areas such as programming, design, consulting. Opposed to a normal employment you will need to cover your health insurance yourself (Steffi will advise you on which one is the best) and income tax is not automatically deducted every month but once a year (Steffi will assist you with this at the end of the first year of your visa).
Basically as a freelancer you can work for any given company in a very similar way as an employee, you just need to invoice the company instead of getting a salary.
Do I need to be an Artist?
No. Steffi specializes in visa for artists but you don’t need to be a professional artist to work with her. She will need to prepare your application in an artistic way so every bit in your personal history that has an artistic touch, everything that could be related to you being an artist helps a lot. If you really have no artistic roots, she is also capable of guiding you through the process of applying for different visa (e.g. language course, au-pair).
Where can I live and work with this Visa?
The visa will be issued in Berlin, Germany. The visa is National visa that allows you to live and work in Germany. BUT: In order to comply with these rules, you need to officially spend 180 days of the year in Germany. Since there are no boarder controls within Schengen states, this is hard to control for the authorities so basically it gives you the possibility to live anywhere within the Schengen states, as long as you stay registered in Germany.
For your work live it is even easier: Since as a freelancer you might be working for foreign companies but can do your work remotely in many cases (programmers, designers) the mere fact that you are working for a foreign company is not enough to prove that you don’t reside in Germany. Just for work relationships where on-site presence is required it is important that the amount of work days doesn’t exceed 180.
So basically the visa gives you the freedom to live and work wherever you want within the Schengen states, without being an official Schengen visa.
How much does the Visa cost?
Steffi charges a fee of 750,00 EUR for our services. Here is her service in detail:
Advice for preparation of the required papers for a work permit (1 year) (incl. opening a bank account, getting health insurance etc.)
Assistance for the appointment at the German embassy in the originating country.
Setup of the appointment at the Visa office in Berlin, Germany.
Personal assistance at the visa office to translate and help after arrival in Germany.
Steffi has built a strong relationship with the authorities in Germany in the last years and until now all visa she applied for were approved.
How do I know this is not a scam?
True, there are a lot of shady people out there trying to make money of people’s desire to come and work in Europe. This is not the case with Steffi. She runs a small agency that started of by helping international artists come to Berlin and would like to open this to a bigger public now. If you decide to work with her, she will sign a contract that defines her obligations and contains her legal information. In addition to that she can provide you with contacts of people who she has helped to come to Europe.
If you think that the freelance visa is the right visa for you, here is the process:
1. If you decide to work with her, she will sign a contract stating our and your obligations.
2. The service fee is due upon signing of the contract.
3. After the service fee is paid, she will send you a list of all documents needed for the application process. She will assist you in the preparation of the documents ( bank statements, health insurance, reference letters). From experience with former clients she can say that this step takes approximately 2 - 4 weeks.
4. You set up an appointment with your local German embassy.
5. For the appointment the package of document needs to be ready. You will personally go to the embassy and hand in your visa application with the complete package of documents. This package is sent via mail to the authorities in Berlin.
6. She is in touch with the authorities in Berlin to make sure to get notified as soon as the package arrives. She will then make sure that the details are ok and your case gets approved as fast as possible.
7. After your visa is approved by the authorities in Berlin, they will notify your local German embassy. You will then get a notification from your local Germany embassy, that you can go and pick up the visa. Usually they first give you a 90-days visa which then will be extended to a 12-months visa upon your arrival in Berlin.
8. As soon as you know, when you will get to Berlin, she will schedule an appointment with the authorities. She will accompany you to this appointment and make sure that you get your 12-months visa and work permit!
Great interview with James Hansen, one of the leading scientists working on climate change, addressing the upcoming changes in the global ecosystem caused by the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and how to address the issue and reduce the impact by taxing emissions with a carbon tax.
If what he says is really going to happen, then “Good night humankind”.
My brother Kjell has always been a dedicated activist. From watching and protecting birds, to saving Pandas and indigenous people, he has been fighting global warming in the last years. He has now found his calling at a great project, Plant for the Planet.
The idea is simple: Plant trees to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. The project was started by the nine-year old Felix Finkbeiner in 2007. It spreads through courses about global warming and tree planting at schools, organized by kids for their peers. More than 3 million trees have been planted up to date. Kjell is building the project in Latin America and I think it rocks!
In the book about the inner team he adresses the challenges of conflicting personal motivations. The basic idea is that everyone of us deals with various internal characters who represent aspects of our personality, our inner team. There might be a very critical person, a proactive one, an angry one, one that always wants to make fun of everything, a caring one and so on, and the team leader. It is the job of the team leader to aknowledge all persons of our inner team and lead them to sensible decision. This is crucial for inner peace and for clear communication with the outward world. I know it sounds a bit schizo but it is actually an easing idea for everybody who ever wondered why it is sometimes hard to be always absolutely convinced of what you are doing or saying.
He brings up the example of kids who sense when parents are not 100% convinced when enforcing a rule which I can confirm from my experience with my kids, Luana and Mio. They are pros in discovering any weakness in my arguments, will or consistency.
I really like the implications for leading real teams. Having worked at Young Internet it confirms my believe that the best decisions are the ones which not necessarily everyone agrees with but the ones that included and adressed everybody’s arguments in the process to have everybody on board. The role of the team lead is to moderate and bring everybody’s ideas to the table and finally take a decision that adresses all raised issues. Not only does the decision gain support but it also prevents from team members feeling left out or being overruled and disconnecting themselves from the decision.