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"Work practices in Silicon Valley are just so much more effective"

Few would dispute that Christopher Obereder is one of those "high-achieving digital native" types. Having built up Facebook pages with millions of followers and created a portfolio of popular apps in his teenage years, he moved to Silicon Valley in his early 20s.

13 Apr. 2018
Christopher Obereder
Christopher Obereder

At age 25, the serial entrepreneur had already made it onto the "Forbes 30 under 30" list. These days, the 26 year-old is back in his home town of Munich, where he works for a number of international clients, most of whom are US companies. In this interview, Obereder discusses the differences between workplaces in the US and Germany, his first stint at CEBIT and what type of startup he would invest in today.

You worked in Silicon Valley for a number of years. How does working life there differ from Germany?

In Silicon Valley, work is all about achieving goals, not punching the time clock. And planning cycles are a lot shorter than the standard one-year period we’re used to in Germany. Over there, people plan month by month and give daily stand-ups detailing what they intend to achieve on a given day.

And then there’s another daily meeting where the previous day’s figures are analyzed. That way, every person knows exactly where they stand at all times and what they need to achieve on each working day. In my view, that way of working is much more effective than what we do here in Germany.

Looking at it from the other angle, are there any German work practices that you prefer?

Yes there are. For instance, in the US, people have much more of a "hire and fire" mentality. Employment contracts in the US can typically be terminated at two weeks’ notice. This creates a world of stress for employees, who often work to their limits and change jobs frequently. In that respect, working life in Germany is a lot more relaxed and humane.

You are a living example of how the best of both worlds can be combined into a new way of working.

Yes. I can freely choose when I work and for how long. I can also choose where I work. And right now, that happens to be in Germany. My US clients still expect me to deliver results and update them on my progress on a daily basis. But as long as I deliver, they don’t care how many hours or where I work.

You are a serial entrepreneur. What kind of startup would you invest in right now?

Personally, I am really interested in how people will spend their time in autonomous vehicles once these are commonplace. The thing is, since autonomous car users won’t have to steer the vehicle or pay attention to the road, they will have a whole lot of time on their hands. But right now, the crypto hype seems to dominating everything. If you’re a crypto startup, investors are probably lining up to give you money.

I just wonder how long that can go on. Either crypto technology will kick off a revolution or it will go the way of the chatbots: At first, chatbots were the in thing, and chatbot startups sprouted like mushrooms. But the lack of profitable exits quickly put an end to the hype.

This year, you will debut as a speaker at CEBIT. Have you ever been to the show, and what do you think about its new format?

While I have never been to CEBIT, I have always considered it the number one trade show for the high-tech industries. And I think it’s really cool that CEBIT is fundamentally transforming to keep up with the times. So naturally I am delighted to be part of the action.

Speaker profile