Ansgar Oberholz made his name holy by opening pioneering coworking space St. Oberholz ten years ago. He’s also a trustee at the Awesome Foundation, advisor in the Berlin Startup Unit, mentor at Techstars METRO Accelerator and mentor at enpact.org. He also owns a small publishing house. The entrepreneurial veteran is an expert on new ways of working and quite frankly, on the digital economy as a whole. Keep reading to hear why Ansgar believes that German Angst can make you happy and which famous Czech Wahlberliner inspires him more than any other person.
How has Berlin’s coworking scene and the city itself changed since St. Oberholz was born in 2005?
There was no coworking scene at all in 2005. The only idea that was going around was Frithjof Bergmann’s “New work” and his concept of setting up halls in which everybody could meet and collaborate on anything.
Coworking is still a niche topic if you put it next to how most people in the world commonly work. But today the phenomenon is well known and has proved to have a powerful effect on innovation and empowerment. It is a strong part of the sharing economy. And even old economy starts using the methods of coworking and collaboration. Berlin is the sharing economy capital of Europe and coworking culture in any form is the connecting part of that impact. But this is only the smooth beginning of a tremendous shift of work which we will see in the next years and in which Berlin will play a major role. Berlin has a long tradition of ‚Being not Owning‘ and a history that proves that any condition can be changed very fast.
What can expat entrepreneurs learn from German Angst?
Angst is an emotion. We are all steered by emotions; nobody can escape them. On one side, fear is not a beautiful thing and it is not advisable to be guided by it. But on the other side, fright in a healthy dose is a helpful feature in any part of life, especially in entrepreneurship.
Used like a seismograph, you can call fear ‘German Angst’. Use it as a gauge, but don’t let it rule you. Use it as another piece of information that helps you to make the right decisions. It fosters sustainability and will make you happy. Even the Germans themselves sometimes forget about the correct usage of that app.
When you were a kid what did you dream of becoming when you grew up?
What’s your favourite way to blow off steam in your free time?
Who’s your nearest and dearest person in the world and why?
Franz Kafka. He is the only one who brings me into a unique mix-mode of awareness and limbo that no one else did before. I read him to clear my mind. I read him to be focused; a few sentences are enough for that. When I read too much of his stuff my dreams start to look like old B&W movies, like somebody deleted the colours.
What makes you feel lucky to live in this time and place?
Following the idea of Here and Now, I am convinced that everything we have is everything we need and it does not matter where we are, we are always at the perfect place. But it does not mean that we shouldn’t change things. The acceptance of the Now and Here is the first step of change. The next Here and Now is just an eye blink away and can be totally different. The only one who can influence that is you.
What’s the one thing you would change about the world if you could?
I would ask the universe if we could get back the unconditional basic income that humans already had some thousand years ago.
Tea or coffee?
Coffee! Filter coffee! Perfectly made filter coffee is closer to a perfectly made tea, than a badly made tea is to a perfectly made tea. We prove that in St. Oberholz.
Share your favourite piece of wisdom with us, whether it’s from a well-known hero, your mom or even yourself!
Courage and humility are two poles of one polarity. One can not exist without the other. In the German words ‚Demut’ (humility) and ‚Mut’ (courage), you can easily detect the old connection by looking at the etymology. If you suffer under a lack of courage you should check on your humility. Give it a try. It works immediately.
This interview appeared previously on the betahaus blog. It has been reproduced here with kind permission.