A filter coffee with Ange



August 21, 2017

This is the third part in our article series “We are WATTx” in which we pull back the curtain and give you a sneak peek into how it is to work here. Hailing from the US, now finding herself at home in Berlin, Ange enjoys a good Colombian coffee @ BEN RAHIM in her neighborhood every other day. That’s also where we met our office angel to talk about her path going from the US to Europe, and changing her career from operational and political strategy to chief of staff.

Ange, why did you decide to move to Germany and leave the U.S.?

For a couple of different reasons. Mainly, I wanted to stay working in tech. Having lived in San Francisco, DC, and New York, and having seen tech ecosystems being built and be very solid, I wanted to be part of growing a new community of tech companies and supporting the development of valuable technology. And I wanted to be part of it in Berlin. Going from New York to Berlin is quite a change. It’s slower paced. So, having to take my personality which skews more towards ‘go, go, go’, ‘5-year-plan, go’ to much more of a day-to-day enjoyment and living more in the moment is something that I really wanted to embrace. And, of course, it goes without saying that Berlin is simply a fantastic city - with a rich history, constantly evolving culture, and filled with art.

What do you do at WATTx?

As Chief of Staff, I’d like to think of myself as being there at any point doing whatever is relevant. I do a lot related to internal processes, working with Martin (CTO) and Bastian (CEO) on some of the longer term vision and strategy of WATTx. And, as our portfolio starts to grow, I’m moving into portfolio management, creating an ecosystem so that our new founders can hit the ground running. Whether that means putting in place relationships with VCs, service providers like Google Cloud, or freelance designers that we really like working with. It’s a bit of all sorts of things.

I also work on communication and branding in order to make sure that - as we at WATTx have changed over the last year and a half - we are projecting that new energy and vision.

So, how did WATTx change? Can you compare WATTx one year and a half ago with how it is today?

We’ve become a lot more professional, built out a research and prototyping process that works, and have honed our value add. We have a place in connecting old infrastructures and industry verticals, and their associated skills, talents, and deep engineering knowledge, with insights into what’s going on and where tech is quickly moving, in addition to us benefiting from their expertise in machinery or as a pilot customer.

You sound like you do many things at WATTx. Can you describe one of your normal days?

It usually focuses on news and emails first. Probably the night before I’ve gone to a networking event, so I write follow-up emails the next day. Then there is a lot of being pulled into “Can you edit this blog post?”, “Can you give me advice on this person we’ve met at this Mittelstand company event?”, “Can they help us?”, “How can they help us?”, or “How can we think about partnering?” - it’s about connecting the dots.

Another important part of my job is thinking critically and sketching out different scenarios in which we as WATTx might change in the future, especially from a financial perspective, like: How can we get other Mittelstand companies involved in what we’re doing here?

So, how do you envision WATTx in the next two to five years?

I think we’ll have streamlined our research and prototyping process. I think that we’ll have seen several of our portfolio companies get series A funding rounds. In general, I think that we are changing the way startups meet financing needs and how they grow. We are using company building as a way to really harness a core team experienced in deep technologies and leverage insights from external companies and investors.

WATTx’s management revolves around transparency - which is really unique.

Can you tell us a bit about the management structure at WATTx?

WATTx’s management revolves around transparency - which is really unique. As much as Bastian and Martin are making a lot of decisions, I think that our management is very clear about what is going on at all times.

Generally, I also think it’s a management that encourages everyone to grow, professionally and personally. There’s a lot of support for strengthening employees and providing them with more opportunities that they want.

What did you learn both as a person and a professional? How do you want to develop further?

Since I decided not to go to business school, it’s about learning these harder business related skills at WATTx. Whether that means finance, competition analysis, or designing a successful business model. And I’ve already learned a lot - with such a small team and it being so fast-paced, with working among many different projects at the same time; we learn so much by osmosis, just by being around it.

We learn so much by osmosis, just by being around it.

Regarding the tech ecosystem in Europe and the one in the US, do you see any big differences?

There’s consistently a dialogue comparing Berlin, or Paris, or London to San Francisco. But it’s like comparing apples with oranges. There are strengths over here that do not exist in the US. The industrial economy is truly the backbone of Europe, and there are a lot of legacy manufacturers that have been working for decades or centuries. And this can all be leveraged as we enter this new age of automation.

As we move forward, we have to connect these types of services and experiences of the internet economy with industries that already exist. We really have to do these connections between different cultures and mindsets, new technologies and old infrastructures. I think there’s a lot of potential to do just that, that’s where Europe can strongly contribute in new technologies.

WATTx is connected to a leadership program called Girls Gearing Up (GGU). Can you fill us in on that?

GGU is a program that provides 12-17 year-old teenage girls with different activities, inspirations, and role models, and exposes them to different industries they might not be familiar with, such as human rights law or journalism or tech. Once a year, the program organizes a one-week camp, where, this year, Pedro and Wen from WATTx contributed from the tech perspective by giving a one day workshop on building block technologies of IoT.

Initially, we got involved with the program because we want to support the new generation of tech builders. Especially exposing more women to technology at an early age. It’s important to demonstrate to them that technology is 1) not a big black box, and 2) not just for boys, as well as that 3) boys and men can be supportive of women in technology.

And then of course we have a self interest: If we educate them now, and they become engineers or get involved in the tech industry by becoming e.g. UX experts or back-end developers, they might work for us in 10 years! That’s a long term investment (laughs).

What is your best memory at WATTx?

There’s so many good ones, it’s really hard to chose. On a daily basis, I laugh a lot. And the Girls Gearing Up workshop was definitely a highlight.

Last question: Do you remember a specific technology from your childhood that you loved?

This huge laser-disc player. My favorite disc instructed you how to play games, sing songs, or complete fun activities. There was just something magical about it.

And of course Nintendo 64; I would totally still play Super Smash Bros.