Rooftop parties, noise complaints and innovation: this was 2014 at hubraum

This May marked ten years of hubraum! To celebrate the occasion, we’re compiling a potted history: the milestones that defined hubraum, year by year. This chapter focuses on a year which felt incredibly vibrant and exciting for those who were involved with hubraum: the heady days of 2014.

We last spoke to Flexperto shortly after their exit, in April last year. But this wasn’t the start of the customer engagement solution’s collaboration with hubraum: they first started working with us back in 2014, when both Deutsche Telekom and hubraum supported the development of a leading platform for everything from digital sales to customer communication.  

As such, we thought Felix Anthonj, Flexperto’s founder, would be ideally placed to give us the best insights from that year. We also reached out to hubraum fund Managing Director Florian Steger to find out why 2014 was a golden year for the startup incubator, why the police stopped by at Felix’s birthday party and what their number one tip for startup success is. 

Hi Felix, hi Florian. Obviously this isn’t our first interview. What has changed at Flexperto since our last conversation? 

Felix: A lot has changed. We have joined RGI, which is a big corporate software player from Italy, so we have a completely new governance of the company. We haven’t been integrated into the company, so we have continued our operations in quite a stand-alone fashion, but it has been a completely new experience for me as a CEO to deal with the international market and experience working in a corporate setting, with all the advantages and disadvantages this involves. Obviously after an exit, you’re a bit more — I wouldn’t say relaxed, but you’re a bit more content with your lot and less nervous about things going wrong. You can sleep a bit better, let’s say. 

And if we can go even further back in time than last year — you joined us in 2014. What was it like at hubraum back then? 

Felix: It’s a time the whole Flexperto team thinks back on very fondly. We have such great memories of that era. hubraum for us was such an exciting space, a lot of cool people came to hubraum, we threw some amazing parties on the rooftop. I remember holding a party to celebrate both scoring some funding and my birthday in the hubraum cafeteria which was stopped by the police at some point.  

Stopped by the police?

Felix: Yes, they were very nice! They stopped by to tell us we were being too noisy — and because some of the women at the party were dancing on those cubes that are dotted round the hubraum cafeteria, and the police thought it didn’t look safe. They were knocking on the window and gesturing at them and the women were just waving back! But eventually we opened the door and they just told us to keep the noise down and let us continue. 

But besides that party — the spirit in the office was amazing, there was a lot of cool companies there like Personio and Study Drive, and all these people who later had quite successful exits or big funding rounds and huge successes. 

How do you remember 2014, Florian? 

Florian:  It’s really interesting to think about how much has changed. And change comes with both benefits and disadvantages, right? We had a close-knit community that was at that point in time, was really focused on being around each other all the time, hanging out a lot face-to-face during and after work. But the incubator was really focused on Berlin and on what was going on here and nowadays we have a much broader and much more virtual way of working.  

We have companies from all over the world, our programs are more or less fully virtual. Of course we still use this campus in Berlin but to be honest, I can’t remember the last time there were only people from Berlin in the room. Nowadays, people come here from all over the world. Which is great — but on the other hand founders don’t throw their birthday parties here anymore. 

Felix: Do you remember how you had visitors every day from big corporates? This was because having an incubator was something relatively new and corporate incubation was a new concept so all the companies came to look what is happening, it was like a little zoo. (laughs) There was always a delegation of corporates coming in, looking what the startup people were doing, how they were working, how they dressed, how they smelled, I don’t know! (laughs) I don’t know if that is still the case. 

Florian: That has also changed! 

What was your favorite memory from that year? 

Felix: You already heard about this birthday party, this was our first financing round and we felt like the kings and queens in the most amazing city in the whole world. If it had happened today, I’d think: 850 000 euro, that’s nothing, but for us it was wow, this is like, we have so much money we can do anything we want — this was an absolutely amazing moment.  

Florian: We shouldn’t just plan for the tenth anniversary of hubraum this year, we should also plan for the ten year anniversary of that party two years from now! 2024!  

Florian, do you have a favorite memory? 

Florian: It was such a long time ago. I have a lot of great memories about the startups and colleagues who I worked together with at that time, at hubraum. It’s still a really good network, wherever I go, not only in Berlin, even in Germany and in Europe, I can generally connect to someone from that time, whether they’re from a startup or from the hubraum team, so that’s really special. 

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