Blogwerk and the German-Speaking Community: An Interview with Martin Weigert

On November 11, 2012, Sharnoff’s Global Views interviewed Martin Weigert, editor of the tech blog netzwertig.com. Weigert was born in 1983 in East Berlin. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Business Communication Management.

In 2006 he moved to Stockholm to make his dream of living and working in Sweden come true. In 2007 he started to blog about technology and the web 2.0, and in 2010 he became editor of the tech blog netzwertig.com, serving the German-speaking tech community with quality news and analysis about the web business and latest online trends. To learn more, please visit Martin’s personal website martinweigert.com.

SGV: Martin, you were born in Germany. Where did your interest in technology and social media come from?

MW: During my teenage years in the late 90s I discovered the Internet and was fascinated by the thought of being able to instantly communicate with people anywhere in the world. I started to create a couple of rather amateurish websites, and step by step I dove deeper into the topic. When the Web 2.0 took off I closely followed the appearance of fancy-looking web services based on user generated content, and together with a friend I eventually launched a blog covering this trend. Years later, what once started as a hobby became my main profession. I’m still as excited and enthusiastic about writing about technology and everything related to the social web as I was when I started more than five years ago.

SGV: Can you describe the tech scene in Berlin?

MW: Since I moved away from Berlin in 2006 – exactly when the Berlin hype started – my view is rather an outsider’s one, even if I keep myself updated about what’s going on there and visit on a regular basis. The tech scene is growing quickly, even if it’s still small. It has become pretty international in the past years. There are some start-ups that already have gained international credibility, but mainly there is still a lot of base-work being done, where we hopefully will see the results in the coming years. Many young start-ups with first-time or second-time founders are learning a lot of invaluable lessons right now.

SGV: You are now working in Sweden as the editor of netzwertig.com. Tell us about this company.

MW: The fact that I’m living in Sweden actually has nothing to with my work at netzwertig.com. I could be doing this work from anywhere. Netzwertig.com is run by a Switzerland-based company called Blogwerk. It’s one of five special-interest blogs, all targeting readers in the German-speaking region. Many of the Blogwerk editors and writers are based somewhere else than at the headquarter in Zürich – which is great because it gives individuals lots of freedom, and it simultaneously enables the company to run “lean,” which might be one of the biggest advantages of new media publishers compared to the traditional ones.

SGV: Who are your analysts and contributors?

MW: It’s a couple of writers from Germany, Switzerland and Austria who all share a fascination of the change that the Internet and digital technology does to all parts of our life.

SGV: Your company focuses on German-speaking start-ups. What are some examples of these start-ups and is there one company that you particularly think stands out among the rest?

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MW: German start-ups are somewhat notorious for copying existing, proven business models from other countries (mainly the US). But with an increasing focus on global markets, that is changing now. In my eyes, there is not THE one company that stands out among the rest, but there are a couple ones that seem to succeed in capturing market share and share of mind outside the German-speaking area and even outside Europe. But at the risk of being boring I won’t point them out here since I definitely would forget some of the most promising ones, and it always depends from what angle you look at i.e. media attention, number of users, revenue, profit etc. Overall, there are hundreds of tech start-ups from Germany, and of course among them a few with great potential.

SGV: Where do you see netzwertig.com in five to ten years? What is your long-term vision for your company?

MW: Since I’m “only” the editor for netzwertig.com, I cannot speak for the company behind (Blogwerk). And to be honest, I’m not sure if it is possible to say what will be in five years. I mean, five years on the Internet is like… twenty-five human years or something?! But the general vision is to grow the team and to bring quality news and analysis about the start-up scene and the web world to an even bigger audience – to help people realize the potential of the digital age and to give inspiration. That’s what mass media in Germany isn’t good at. They instead focus on the risks and dangers caused by technology in regards to privacy, security and global dominance of a few big Internet firms. These are definitely aspects to discuss, but there is so much positive going on with the Internet that sometimes it is not pointed out enough. This gives us a lot to write about.

SGV: In your view, how has Internet technology and social media revolutionized the world and the way we communicate?

MW: It brings people together that haven’t had a chance to talk to each other and work with each other before, and it removes hierarchies and entry barriers into specific markets or groups. Also, it provides us with lots of new, better solutions to problems that were hard to solve before.

SGV: Which companies and entrepreneurs do you admire?

MW: I admire all entrepreneurs and companies that manage to improve people’s lives with the help of the Internet, and that solve real problems that either have not been solved before, or where the previous solution was inefficient and ineffective.

SGV: Finally, what is your message to aspiring entrepreneurs and tech start-ups in this economic recession?

MW: I’m convinced that technology and start-ups with great ideas can help to restructure and reshape the societies and economies in the way that needs to happen to create a sustainable future for all. Everybody who wants to participate in that process really should take this huge chance. The timing is right.

SGV: Thank you for your time.