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Insiders – Sheila Wolf

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This month’s interviewee ranks among Berlin’s foremost burlesque Drag-Queens. When entertainment time is up, she turns into Wolfgang and runs an ad agency. We present: Sheila Wolf!

First things first – how did you become a Drag Queen?

I guess I’ve always had a knack for dressing up. I started as rockabilly as a teen, before I met this drag couple. I was really fascinated about the way they were living. Years later, I started dressing up too and posted pictures on blogs before there was even MySpace. At some point I really wanted to go public. And I did. The adrenalin rush was intense, it almost felt like I was riding a wave. It turned into a hobby. 

Why the name “Sheila Wolf”?

Well.. I felt a little shy at first, so I called myself “Shei”. Of course that turned out to be nonsense. I’m not shy at all! I changed it to “Sheila”. “Wolf” is part of my real name. Wolfgang.

You’re a prominent Drag Queen, run an ad agency and have a family – how do you manage?

It’s all about time-management really. Sometimes important things fall by wayside – the agency, the shows and sometimes even family. It’s not always easy to handle all things well. When it comes to money, the agency comes first. That way I’m independent from the money I make with the shows. It stays more enjoyable that way.

How did your wife react when you revealed you wanted to dress up as a woman?

She was worried – is he turning gay? Does he want to be operated? Or is he just going crazy? Honestly, I think people are either born hetero or gay. They don’t turn gay by some magic force. After that was settled, she was a little concerned I’d fall for one of the young girls in the narrow changing rooms. But the way my dress pinches off my penis… nothing even could happen. *laughs* On the stage I tease men and women a like, but it never goes beyond teasing.

I thought most drag queens were gay. Are there many hetero drags? 

There’s definitely a lot of hetero guys in mommy’s clothes who post it online. They like to dress up in private, but I don’t think anyone does it the way I do in public. It works because for me it’s nothing sexual. It’s a show, a provocation – it’s burlesque!

What do you love about being a drag?

A younger me would have said: I love being able to take a vacation from myself. My personality changes when I get styled. Sorrows and worries just disappear with the dress. Now I’m managing 3-5 performances a week, so it also gets stressful. What still drives me is the chance to connect with amazing people and make new friends along the way. 

Do people sometimes feel offended by your look?

I found this see-through look 3 years ago. It looked like I was nude below. A woman’s body. Of course it’s all an illusion. But sometimes, real tough hetero guys can’t tell in the dark. They approach, expecting to find a curvy lady. What they get is a little different. I think I already caused some heart-attacks. Some get confused by the deep voice and run away, others get aggressive. Then it’s time for me to tell them to calm down and soothe the waves. But the thing is… I really like to provoke.

You were born in Berlin. How did the city change in the past 10-15 years?

I love Berlin. I’m in a happy and deep relationship with this city, it’s literally the only place I’d want to live. But it’s easy flair from the 80s is long gone, what’s really pissing me off today is gentrification. Small shops and venues have to close for malls and large chains of stores. Parts of the creative scene are breaking away because they can’t afford the rents anymore. It’s sad to see, but no one leaves anyway. 

Berlin in 3 words?

Creative. Colourful. Sleepless.

What’s your favourite place to go?

My new favourite restaurant is Funky Fish on Alte Kantstrasse. Amazing selection of fish dishes and absolutely delicious! A must-visit if you’re in Berlin is our city’s little Moulin Rouge: Wintergarten.

Ok, we know where we’re going to dinner tomorrow! Thanks for the interview, Sheila.

If you want to see Sheila Wolf perform live, swing by at her new revue show at Wintergarten on October 15th. Sheila invited the crème de la crème of the international cabaret and burlesque scene, rounded up by a portion of boylesque and drag. Learn more here

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On Tour – Trend-hunting with IKEA

Great furniture, delicious hot dogs and åwesøme product names. I guess you already know who we’re talking about. To discover retail concepts and innovations that will change the way we shop, eat and live in the future, we teamed up with IKEA’s sales department for a special trend hunting tour. Did we deliver? Read on an find out.

First stop. A restaurant that doesn’t want your cash. Wait, what? At Data Kitchen, you order online and pick up your freshly-cooked food from a glass box. The next big thing? Maybe not. But definitely fun. Just imagine ordering 5 hot dogs before you’re even at IKEA. The future is now, ladies and gentleman. Next on: Nike’s flagship store. Shop assistants connect with customers as they stroll through the store. If you want to buy something – zzzap – it’s done on the spot with a mobile look-alike terminal. The latest fashion trends can be found in LNFA store at Bikini Mall, where local designers showcase their newest creations in an industrial-like concept store.

At the world’s first vertical garden & restaurant, you watch your food grow. Good Bank is a pioneer for circular economy and they grow their salad behind the counter. No spraying, no waste. Further south, their brother-in-mind ECF Farm operates Europe’s most advanced aquaponics project. They use nutrient-rich water from their fish farm to cultivate vegetables. The scale is a little bigger here – they’re the supply basil for REWE, a Germany wide super market chain. 

Last but not least, we visited creative Berliners at their home. For laughs? Yes. For drinks? Certainly. But especially to show our clients how IKEA furniture is set up at private homes by Berlin’s notorious out-of-the-box-thinkers. So, if you see in-store gardening, personal shop assistants or a cashless IKEA in the future… just remember. The ideas were born in Berlin. 

The Scene meets Kleine Nachtrevue

Love is in the air. But not here. Here, it’s raw attraction. Arousal. Temptation. The first round of drinks has been served, the light is dimmed low. Is it just us or did it get hot in here? Two beautiful burlesque dancers appear on stage. It isn’t long until they start slipping out of their sparkling red dresses. The energy level rises. A woman sitting next to us in the dark whispers “God, even I would take these beauties home”. 

In Berlin wet dreams are never far, but finding something sophisticated can be challenging. Luckily, Kleine Nachtrevue isn’t a strip club but an intimate burlesque venue tickling your erotic fantasies. It’s a haven for erotic theatre, nude ballett and all things kinky. It makes you smirk, cheer, admire and of course – aroused. The easy play with nudity makes you want more at one second and lets all sexual appeal disappear in the next. Suddenly, you see it clearly: it’s just naked bodies dancing. Only a moment later, the show shifts back to its seductive play and temptation returns with a bang. Wonderful!

The show has its edges (super weird scene including a baby costume) but they just make it more likeable. It’s raw, authentic, honest and doesn’t crave for perfection. It’s Berlin in a nutshell, with all the hedonism, twists, turns and kinkiness. When the curtains fall and the star of the show enters the stage, you realise maybe you were wrong. Love IS in the air. 

Opened Wednesday to Saturday, shows start 9pm. Swing by and be amazed!

Insiders – Dirk Dreyer / General Manager 25hours Hotel Berlin

This month’s interviewee is hotel director and former DJ Dirk Dreyer. He’s been well-known in Germany’s house scene and was a DJ from 1995-2009, before becoming hotel director for Berlin’s Lux 11, Indigo Hotel, nHow Berlin and finally 25hours Hotel. His career has been stellar behind the decks as well as behind the desks, and we’re thrilled to have hime for our interview series!

Hey Dirk. First things first. From DJ to hotel director – you’ve made quite a career. How did it all begin?

When I was a kid I used to record tapes from the radio and play them on the school bus. Even then I would secretly observe how everyone reacted to the songs. At 18, I had my first residency in a Frankfurt club, but it wasn’t until the mid 90s that I really started digging house music. My job at BMG back then was a perfect fit. I was sending new tracks to DJs to get feedback, so I had an almost unlimited access to fresh music. At some point I had collected 15000 vinyls! When I started working for Sony, we created the dance department and signed hits like Run DMC’s “It’s like that”. The platin disc is still hanging on my wall today. In the bathroom.

You were born in Frankfurt – a city rooted deeply in electronic dance music, much like Berlin. What was the 90s Frankfurt scene like? Sex, drugs and hedonism? 

I was too young to actually understand what was going on behind the scenes. The techno scene had very distinctive marks. Short hair, bomber jacket, combat boots. Not nazis, but very martial looking. Berlin already had a flourishing gay scene in the 90s, while Frankfurt was very hetero, very straight. The gay scene was small, but it was there. In the end, going partying with my gay friends was what really shifted me towards house music. I was the only hetero in that clique. I enjoyed everything from going out with them to their hysterical fits!

So, why come to Berlin? 

Sony’s headquarters moved to Berlin. As a DJ in his late 20s I was absolutely thrilled. My own office at Sony Center and the city was waiting to be discovered. It was what everyone was dreaming of. I had only been to Berlin for the love parades until then and all of a sudden I would live here! I went to five parties a night. We turned days into nights and nights into days. Berlin’s culture and nightlife is still a major drive in my life. The experiences, the endless possibilities, the unexpected encounters and most of all – the people. It’s like the whole world is sending their best folks to Berlin.

Berlin has a firm grip on its night owls. Are you still going out?

Well, the last time I went to Berghain was 2 years ago. I wanted to see Danny Tenaglia and he was playing at 6 in the morning. I was really worried maybe I couldn’t stay up so long anymore. We arrived at 2 in the night and my worries were soon gone. We left at 2 in the afternoon. It was then I knew I still had it in me! Not without a hang over for several days, but still. These days I mostly party in the first half of the night. And I usually sit. 

From DJ to hotel director – quite a jump. Why did you make the change?

I met my wife in 2005 and she already had a kid. We became a small family. It didn’t really feel good anymore to come home from parties and sit down at the breakfast table. So one night, I had a fateful dinner with a hotelier. I was hoping he’d connect me to one of his clients like Adidas, Red Bull or T-Mobile. It seemed to make sense to find a job at a music affine lifestyle brand. Two bottles of wine and a few shots later, he convinced me to become hotel director for Lux 11, Mitte’s first boutique hotel. He said he needed someone who knows the city and who’s known by the city. Next morning I woke up with a hangover and thought: Well, that didn’t go to plan. It was a jump into the deep end, but an amazing chance at the same time.

It worked out perfectly. Since your successful start at Hotel Lux 11 in 2009, you also ran hotels like Indigo and Berlin’s music hotel nHow. What do you think are the hotel trends for the future? 

There are two major trends right now. First – huge standardized places like Motel One. They’re big, affordable and efficiently designed. The services and equipment are reduced to a minimum, guests only get what they really need. The other trend is boutique and design hotels with a distinctive atmosphere, just like 25 Hours. Style and form create individual experiences for the guests. I think in the future we will see a repositioning of older hotel brands. Today’s travellers have grown up in the world’s Motel Ones and many express themselves through their choice of hotel. These people will opt for stylish places that fit their needs for individuality. So, the new mainstream hotels will be more stylish by default and adjust to the trends we see now. 

In your eyes – how has Berlin changed in the last 15 years?

The city has become a lot more organized. When we were throwing parties in the early 2000s, you’d call some phone number, arrange a location with some random guy and you would be lucky if things went halfway according to plan. It’s on a really professional level now. It lost some of its charming spontaneity, but that has more reasons. 15 years ago there were many free spaces for up for the taking. That was all part of the zeitgeist, you can’t keep the same state forever. I really like the new internationality. I feel that just the right people are coming to Berlin, from all over the world.

What’s you favourite place for food and drinks?

My favourite restaurant is the Pantry. Only few restaurants manage to create great all-round experiences, there it’s just right. Cozy armchairs, an harmonious concept, great design, music and a very friendly staff. My insider tip would be Korean restaurant Maru in Friedrichshain. The owner has dyed peroxide blonde hair and looks a little bit like a villain from a Hollywood movie. It’s an uncomplicated venue with great food. I often go there with my family.

If there was one thing in Berlin you could change, what would it be?

Berliners just love complaining. Not everything new is a threat. Cheer up people!

The Scene – 10 New Hotspots in Berlin

Spring descends upon Germany’s capital of cool. Berlin’s hipsters, foodies, lovers, bar hoppers, clubbers and lunatics curiously stick their heads out of the holes they have been hiding in during the freezing winter. Time to discover what’s new and trendy in Berlin city! We’ve compiled a list with the best new hotspots, from bars and clubs to restaurants and breweries.

Cafés

Mario Kaiser Patisserie
When Mario Kaiser left Berlin to work in kitchens around the world 8 years ago, Berlin’s trendy food scene was still a long way coming. With Mario having refined his skills in Paris, London, Zurich and the USA, he now offers delicious pastries in his brand new Prenzlauer Berg patisserie. Berlin is finally ready for upscale confectioners and Mario is planning to expand his menu soon. Just like trendsetting Coda Dessert Bar in Neukölln, he’s planning to add alcoholic beverages to pair with the delicacies soon – a promising concept.

The Visit Roastery
A bar-raising new addition to Berlin’s flourishing specialty coffee scene. Located in a Kreuzberg backyard near Kottbusser Tor, the coffee bar creates a strong contrast to its somewhat shabby surroundings. The stylishly decorated space inside is both welcoming and inviting, its openness allowing you to relax at either a regular table or in the MacBook-loaded sitting corner. The place feels very clean  – and a little sterile. As soon as you take the first sip on your specialty coffee, that’s easily forgotten.

Restaurants

Mine Restaurant
Mine’s Owner Aram Mnatsakanov is often considered the Russian Jamie Oliver. His Italian restaurants in Moscow and St. Petersburg rank among the best in their category and he’s been a prominent host for TV shows like “Hell’s Kitchen Russia” and “Hell’s Kitchen Ukraine”. With his intriguing modern interpretation of classic Italian cuisine and a premium selection of ingredients from all over Europe, you’ll find Mine’s dishes to taste familiar and yet refreshingly different.

Izakaya at Sra Bua
Renowned fine-dining restaurant Sra Bua by Tim Raue located on Hotel Adlon’s ground floor is surprising gourmets with a new concept this year! While the main room is still dedicated to classic menu service, the Izakaya section pays hommage to Japan’s dining culture, essentially creating two restaurants under one roof. The concept is to sit back, enjoy drinks (sake anyone?) and socialise as light dishes are shared family style. The delicacies range from spring rolls with green applesauce to delicious beef tartar “japan style”.

Bars

Mampe’s neue Heimat
Strictly speaking, Mampe isn’t a bar. It’s Berlin oldest existing liquor brand, on its way back to world domination. Their new location “Mampe’s neue Heimat” is an all-in-one museum, exclusive liquor store and event location housing its own distillery. With distilling workshops, liquor tastings and a strict Berlin-only delivery policy, Mampe is setting sail to once again become Berlin’s most prestigious and exclusive liquor brand.

Wine Bar
Mine restaurant’s bar is located in the neighbouring building and one word sums up the space perfectly: small. In fact, it’s better known as Berlin’s smallest bar and invites guests to sip on tasty aperetifs before dinner or tol roll over for a nightcap after a long meal. Don’t forget to check out the space at the back as you’ll find some hidden corners ideal for mingling.

Clubs

Beate Uwe
A small and intimate club hidden right under the noses of most tourists. Despite its close proximity to Alexanderplatz it remains a refuge for a very leaned back crowd. It’s the perfect start into a wild night out, but it’s just as perfect if you’re looking for an electronic club night without stomping on people’s feet. Probably the only club in Berlin where you can dance barefoot.

Haubentaucher
When Haubentaucher opened its doors two summers ago, it immediately drew a huge mixed crowd of sun-hungry Berliners, hipsters and tourists. Within weeks, it became the “in” location of the summer 2015, and 2016 was no less busy! What most people don’t know – they boast a small but high quality club with great lineups and even better party. Check it out!

Breweries

BRLO
The slavic word “BRLO” is the origin of “Berlin”. While they have strong roots to our beloved capital, BRLO is a creative brewery also inspired by international influences. With their German IPA, Pale Ale, Weisse, Helles and Porter they offer a solid selection of high quality beers. Brewmaster Michael Lembke secrets range from ecological malt to brewing water energized with gemstones. Added value: a fabulous food concept with shared vegetarian dishes (meat comes as sides) and a huge terrace for sunny days. They stick to the motto “Save the planet, it’s the only one with beer“.

BrewDog
Us Germans, we love beer. We absolutely worship it. Hence we’re thrilled to welcome Scottish brewery BrewDog to Berlin, where they opened their first craft beer bar in Germany. With its typical Berlin industrial charm, brick walls, vintage lamps and pinball machines, it’s the perfect location for thirsty beer lovers.

The Scene meets Nithan Thai

Paris, Amsterdam, New York, Mumbai, Prague, Tel Aviv and now Berlin. Chef Shahaf Shabtay’s impressive resume sounds like a rockstar’s tour schedule. Though he may never become a guitar hero, his restaurant series Nithan Thai is sure to strike a chord with foodies all over the world.

Shahaf learned his handicraft in Paris, the undisputed Capitol of gourmets. His talent landed him jobs in world class kitchens, but his inspiration stems from more exotic environments.

Every now and then he packs his bag and travels small villages all over Southeast Asia, returning home with unheard-of cooking techniques and culinary wisdom beyond his years. His aim is to promote a food language that is relatable, down-to-earth and yet innovative. Why not focus solely on French cuisine, though?

“French food takes too long to cook. I prefer the fast-paced Asian cuisine” Shahaf tells us with a grin. While his French teachers doubted his vision for a long time, the exceptional blend of Asian and French cuisine that Shahaf has brought to perfection is now held in high regard even by his old masters.

Tasting his Thong Kum, a roll filled with Bangkok style beef, calamandi orange, smoked sesame and Tia-To Nanami, we can’t quite believe our tongues. A slowly unfolding taste explosion. It’s meaty, fruity, sweet, bitter, salty and even a little crunchy. While chewing, the rest of the world seems to fade away as our brains try to process the firework of sensations. What many chefs struggle to accomplish in a whole menu, the Thong Kum does in one bite. Amazing!

The exceptional menu is complimented by an elegant and laid back interior design, held in a discreet mix of grey, green and yellow, topped off by dark wood elements. The Asian touch shows on the decor. A golden elephant here, a few white flowers there and golden vases around the room remind you where Shahaf finds inspiration.

Now, for the best part. Main courses are around 20€. That’s 20€ for dishes that easily compete with michelin-star kitchens. Nithan Thai’s pricing fills the gap between high class cuisine and your usual neighbourhood restaurant, while the taste is nothing short of spectacular. 10/10 from Berlinagenten!

Insiders – Monika Vögel

This month’s interviewee is former model, night club owner and make up artist Monika Vögel. She was one of the biggest icons in Berlin in the 1970s and has worked internationally until recently.

Hey Monika. We’re so glad to have you! First off – you’re 70 years old and still radiating with life. What’s your secret?

The secret is: There IS no secret. I’ve always been this old, but younger… which is also the title of my forthcoming book, by the way.

What are you best known for?

I started modelling at 14, ran two night clubs and a student restaurant, I’ve released an album and I’ve worked as self-taught make up artist for many years for TV, movie and big opera productions. People used to say for a joke that I don’t belong to the scene – I am the scene.

You came to Berlin in 1966. The hippie era was just taking off – what did you do then? What was Berlin like?

Berlin was super super super super SUPER! I was really fascinated by the hippie culture and soon became a hippie myself. Sex, drugs and Rock’n’Roll, baby! Well, for me it was sex, love and Rock’n’Roll. I never liked drugs, but in the hippie time, people were crazy for them. Berlin was crazy back then. There was so much freedom, love and joy in the air. I had friends from all over the world from Turks, to Italians to Germans to my neighbour and even to David Bowie. If you think Berlin is crazy today, you should have seen it in the 70s!

In your time as a night-club owner you must have lived through some crazy stuff. What comes to your mind when you think back to that time?

I had this friend, Jean-Claude Baker. He opened a mixed club for heteros and gays in Berlin called „Pimm’s Club“. Since I already had some experience with running a club from my time at Sgt. Peppers, I took over the Pimm’s Club when Jean-Claude left for New York to open the first French cable TV in the USA. There were more scandals at Pimm’s Club than I could tell you about in a lifetime… once a month I did a travestie show with my friends, even playing myself, bunt gemischt mit freunden. It was the best time ever. Once I had to take up a fight with all the street pimps, because I wouldn’t allow them in the club. They lured me outside and formed a circle around me, ready to attack. I told those assholes that I knew all their bosses, and if anyone so much as dared to touch me, they would be dead! I didn’t have trouble with them again after that.

You left Berlin in 1981 and didn’t come back until almost 15 years ago. Where did you and why?

I left for Frankfurt to work as make up artist in TV shows and advertisements. I landed a good job as make up artist for a cinema production from Wien and later met my 4th husband, Tommy, in Wien. After that, I stayed for love. It wasn’t long after that until I found myself confronted with a dog every day… I did make up for more than 200 episodes of Kommissar Rex (Inspector Rex)!

So… did you do the dog’s make up too?

Haha, screw you. I used to say I did his lipstick. Luckily the cast was bigger than just the dog.

You were also good friends with Falco. How did you become friends?

I was hanging at this bar in Wien when some guy approached me and invited me to a glass of champagne. I’m not crazy for drinks, but he was really nice and it was hard to say no. After the barkeeper told him my husband was Tommy, he started laughing. He knew Tommy well and from this point on, we were friends. Tommy did set design for Falco’s videos and I started doing the make up for all of Falco’s videos. One day I met Falco in the city and we talked for the best part of hours without sitting down or even moving. Four weeks later he was dead…

The best die young… well, except for you! You were quite a musician yourself in your time – in 1987 you released your album “Sag ja” (Say yes) and stormed the charts. What was being a musician like?

There was this film scene where my band and me performed 6 songs live in 22 minutes which created a big media echo and my first album did pretty well. (Un)fortunately my band was full of great artists, and of course after they didn’t like the commercial direction it was taking. I would have needed a new band, so I thought: What the hell. I’m done anyway and I need a paying job. That was right before I started with the Kommissar Rex, opera and TV productions.

With so much going on in your life, we can’t help but wonder: What are you working on these days?

I’m collecting input for my memoirs and writing poems. The book will be called „I’ve always been this old, just younger“. Expect to read a lot about the untold scandals from my days… it will be worth the wait.

Thank you for your time, Monika… we can’t wait for your book!

The Scene – 5 Best Summer Openings

The end of summer often marks the hour of truth for the thinkers and doers who opened new establishments this year. Success, or just another person’s dream crushed by the sometimes harsh Berlin reality? Though Berlin still has lots of space for culinary treats, not everyone manages to hit the nerve. We journeyed though Berlin’s raw, sexy and hip districts to find those who we believe will stay for good.

Fechtner Delikatessen

Opening a restaurant near Rosenthaler Platz isn’t exactly the most innovative idea of the year, but it admittedly still works well. Especially if you’re going with the times and open a lunch spot for health-conscious foodies looking for a quick snack. Fechtner’s emphasis lies on fresh and regional ingredients, both healthy and of highest quality. Expect great salads, sandwiches and self-made smoothies.

893 Ryotei

On busy Kantrstraße there’s a building that looks like a vacant, run-down supermarket with a mirror front panel. But don’t be fooled, beneath the dreary outside lies a culinary shrine for gourmets! Inside lies 893 Ryotei, the latest restaurant by food guru and chef The Duc Ngo, who already brought us Cocolo Ramen and legendary Kuchi. Sitting around a vast open kitchen you’ll find some of the finest fish creations in West Berlin, all the while being amused by the people outside who check their looks in the mirror panel, believing the place was deserted.

Coda Dessert Bar

You can expect greatness when a renowned restaurant designer and a leading pâtissier work on a new concept, and at Coda you get no less than brilliance. Newly opened in Neukölln it offers the perfect symbiosis between dessert and beverages. Many of the drinks are self-made and innovative – you won’t find them anywhere else in the world. They’re paired with world-class desserts and create a unique food experience starting at 15€. Absolutely new concept, unseen in Berlin. Check it out!

Panama

A beautiful two-story restaurant in a Schöneberg backyard paying hommage to Janosch’s children’s book “Oh, wie schön ist Panama” (“Oh, how beautiful Panama is”). It’s the story of a bear and a tiger who go on an adventure to look for an exotic place called Panama. When they finally find a beautiful and exotic cabin by the river, they believe they found Panama – not realizing it in fact is the very home they had left behind. The restaurant’s interior feels exotic but familiar – everything it contains was crafted in Germany. Chef Sophia Rudolph also pays hommage to Janosch, using local ingredients to create exotic tongue-pleasing flavours. 10 points from us!

Shiori

Shiori is a very well-kept Japanese secret in the heart of Mitte. There’s only 10 seats in total, creating a very intimate and private atmosphere that invites you to get in touch with other guests. The food is as brilliant as the minimalistic design – the perfect combination. Be advised: Reservation in advance is mandatory!

The Scene Goes Co-Working

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Berlin has given birth to cutting edge startups like SoundCloud (read our interview with SoundCloud CTO Eric Wahlforss here), Zalando or Delivery Hero, all taking international markets by storm. In Berlin’s creative sphere ideas arise in all forms and places. Sometimes you dream of the next big thing while having a beer with a stranger at Sisyphos and sometimes the ideas are born and cultivated in the shaded offices of creative agencies. A new trend promises to  even further enrich the creative minds roaming the Capital: Co-working spaces.

The idea is as simple as it is genius: you share a vast, open office space with other professionals, often whole companies. It’s a fundamentally new approach to our relationship with work. Co-workers work in an environment that is based on community-building and sustainability. You share your experience with others, and in return you can build on their experience. You generate a network of skill and knowledge around you that’ll help you and your company grow and create a whole new flow of creativity. How cool is that?

Over the last few years the co-working concept has come of age. We selected some of Berlin’s coolest co-working spaces for you to check out.

Factory
Factory is the pulsing heart of Berlin’s creative scene. It’s home to SoundCloud, Twitter6Wunderkinder and more stars of Berlin’s start up sector. It creates the perfect environment to focus, meet, chat and relax. They also offer lunch yoga (not quite sure if that means doing Yoga while eating or afterwards), end of the week drinks (quite sure what that means) and cozy afterhours on the spacy outside terrace. The design is easy-going and has made many a worker forget that he’s at work at all. Go to Factory 

Mindspace
Mindspace opened in The Q shopping center in Mitte last month and is the brainchild of two entrepreneurs from Tel-Aviv, who’ve opened Mindspaces both in their hometown as well as Berlin and Hamburg. At Mindspace class and unpretentious style fuses to create a creative surrounding with flexible office sizes depending on your personal requirements. They’re one of the best looking spaces in the field. Go to Mindspace

Betahaus
Betahaus is the only space who also offer a hardware lab & woodshop. That means you can design your ideas in the co-working areas and get right to frankensteining them to life in the lab, before blowing your hat off at one of the community events. Which is a nice way to describe free beers on Thursdays at “betabeer”. The design is nice and clean and lures companies from all different sectors. Go to Betahaus

Unicorn
WORK EAT MEAT. No, wait. WORK EAT MEET. Yeah, that’s the one. At Unicorn sophisticated and minimalistic interior meets healthy, green, freshly-prepared food and delicious coffee. The focus at Unicorn is to combine the benefits of co-working with health-conscious food, putting them apart from the other co-coworking spaces thanks to their amazing food concept. If you’re someone who gets hungry at work a lot, Unicorn definitely is a great choice. Go to Unicorn

Ahoy
Likeable and relatively minimalistic design, described as “nautical” (hence the name). Ahoy considers co-working as a lifestyle and puts networking on the throne of the co-coworking virtues. Working at Ahoy is like being on a cruise ship – you easily drift through the waves as you’re making contact with the other passengers, be it start-ups, freelancers or corporate, this is where worlds meet. They also have a punching bag. Go to Ahoy

Office Club
Formerly known as Mobile Suite, Office Club has recently been redesigned and boasts a minimalistic office landscape that leaves your focus where you want it to be: on your work. They’re the perfect choice for freelancers or start-ups that don’t earn a fortune yet. Their prices and offers are very flexible, which is great if you’re working from project to project. Our tip for anyone who’s looking for value for money. Go to Office Club.

Soho House
Even though Soho House’s co-working space isn’t an officially dedicated one, it’s definitely where you’ll find the international elite of creative representatives drinking their coffee. Don’t expect too many start-ups here. Though the space is open to all (accessible via “The Store”), Soho House is a members’ club for those who’ve already made it far in the creative scene. The design is very cozy and the coffee is great – plus, you might be in for some promising acquaintances. Go to Soho House

Insiders – Eric Wahlforss

Eric Wahlforss

This month’s interviewee is Eric Wahlforss. Eric is co-founder and CTO of the Berlin-based company SoundCloud, known for their online music streaming service with 175 million monthly visitors. Just yesterday (10.05.2016) SoundCloud has launched their new subscription service SoundCloud Go in the US, UK and France which allows you to stream millions of songs from all the major labels ad-free! 

Q: Hey Eric. Pleasure to have you here. So, you and SoundCloud, huh? How did that all start?

A: Me and Alex Ljung met in Stockholm in the early 2000s. We both played music and Alex had this studio where we started hanging out. We did some projects together and at some point decided to solve a really obvious problem. There was no dedicated online platform for musicians to share their music with people who wanted to listen to it. We realised how huge the demand was when we made SoundCloud public after 2 years of testing. The user numbers went through the roof. Today we have 12 million creators, 175 million listeners per month and more than 125 million tracks online. In comparison – Spotify and Apple music have about 30 million songs.

Q: Almost 10 years into leading a company – you must be stressed out!

A: You learn to cope with the stress. These days I try to disconnect as often as possible. My girlfriend Sophie is a big help for me. She’s also running a company and we’re amazing at being lazy together.

Q: You’re a musician. Do you still find time to play?

A: Well, I released an album in 2012. It’s made from the sounds of strings, organs and choirs. For the percussion I used only wood, stone and metal. The album took 3 years to produce and with SoundCloud going stronger than ever, I don’t really find time to play often these days. But we’ve had this concert at Berghain a few years back and me and Alex played at Burning Man last year. That was intense!  

Q: Ever feel tempted to feature your own songs on SoundCloud’s homepage? 

A (laughs): The most important thing is that the right music finds the right people. So… no.

Q: Just a trick question. What drew you to Berlin?

A: I first came to Berlin for the love parade in 1997. It was a total game changer. I had the most amazing time and went to clubs like Tresor even though I was only 17. For SoundCloud we also considered London, Vienna and Barcelona but were drawn back to Berlin in 2007 because we found an investor here. Berlin has grown up since. But it’s still rougher and crazier than other places. Compared to London or New York, Berlin is very chilled out. The energy is on a whole different level. 

Q: What do you not like about the city?

A: The service is terrible. TERRIBLE. Maybe it’s worse in Russia or Poland, but Berlin isn’t far behind. Especially when you want to bring new people to Berlin. They either have a great time and instantly love it, or they’re unlucky and have a terrible experience with human interactions here. Shouting cab drivers, unfriendly staff in restaurant, the whole service sector.

Q: Cool things you’ve experienced in Berlin?

A: Last summer Sophie and me drove around on our bikes. We heard electronic music in the distance and spontaneously decided to check it out. It was this amazing open air festival at Rummelsburg, located right at the Spree. After a little dancing we saw people swimming and thought what the hell, let’s go swimming! A few minutes later we were sitting in a small boat, drinking beers with strangers while listening to techno music. That’s the vibe that makes Berlin special and that it has always kept over the years.

Q: Your favourite place in Berlin?

A: I live between the office, my flat and Soho House, where I work out. I also really love the Piano Salon Christophori. It’s this super rough piano factory, like an old warehouse, and they also give concerts with great pianists. 

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

A: Probably still in Berlin. Maybe with a family… :-) 

Thanks for your time and all the best for you!