#DerAndereOsten: SpinLab and the US of A
In recent times, there’s been a lot of political activity in Europe, some for the best, and some…well…not. Needless to say, we keep an open mind here in the SpinLab when it comes to political dealings, as our priority is innovation and the development of startups. That being said, it can hurt to see a lot of negative impressions of the region here in Saxony, where we call home.
Our priority is innovation and the development of startups.
What’s the deal with the former DDR?
As everyone knows, after the WW2 Germany was torn into two halves, the democratic West and the communist East. Leipzig is located in the German State of Saxony, which is one of the states that was formally in the DDR. After German reunification in 1989, there were certain stigmas, such as the people there are all uneducated, the people there still want it to be communist, there’s nothing worth seeing in the former DDR cities, all the problems in the German political system come from politicians from the former DDR cities, etc. created about the former DDR that unfortunately just kinda stuck.
It’s truly unfortunate, because Leipzig is our home and the city, even beyond the amazing startup ecosystem here, is growing tremendously fast in every respect, has a wonderful international community, and some of the best research facilities and universities in the country. When you add the robust startup scene to the equation, Leipzig is right on par with the bigger cities in Germany as an economic and innovation powerhouse.
Sadly, there’s still a lot of people that are blind to the types of amazing progression and initiatives that are taking place right here in the former DDR. A fine example of this are the comments in response to a January 2018 Tweet posted by So geht Sächsisch, were they highlighting Leipzig’s creative scene, and as a result the SpinLab and Spinnerei were also showcased in their article. Because they mentioned the SpinLab Twitter Handle in the original Tweets, we’ve been getting notifications all year when someone comments on the Tweet. We’ve posted a picture of the original Tweet below, along with some of the “finer” comments the Tweet received. Click on the picture of the original Tweet if you’d like to visit the original thread to see even more. (Apologies to our English speaking crowd, but the interactions were entirely in German).
So what’s our plan to get involved in changing the world’s opinion of the former DDR?
It’s really simple, we’re going to do everything we can to highlight of the amazing things happening in the region, so the rest of Germany and world can find it and learn about it more easily! Luckily, it seems we’re not alone in our conquest, some people are already on the same mission, such as political blogger Stefan Krabbes. He’s started the hashtag #DerAndereOsten, which translates to #TheOtherEast to showcase everything that is AWESOME happening in the former DDR.
We’re going to do our part to raise awareness, and we’re going to use our amazing startup community as a vehicle to show the world just how diverse our city and scene here is, by conducting a series of interviews with international people in our community who are from other nations, to get their take on their experiences here. So without further ado, let’s get started.
Let’s play 7 seven questions with SpinLab’s Marketing Manager – Shawn Segundo
Shawn Segundo has been the Marketing Manager at SpinLab for the last two years. He’s an American, originally from the city of Chicago, and his professional background includes a BSc in Graphic Design, an MSc in International Marketing, five years of service in the United States Armed forces, and he’s also worked extensively with online marketing with companies of all sizes in the United States and the European Union
1. Shawn, when and how did you come to Germany?
I came to Germany in July of 2014 and first lived in Munich. I managed to get a job offer with a Swiss company that had an office in Munich while I was still living and working in Boston, and I couldn’t let the opportunity to live abroad pass me up.
2. Since you’ve lived in another German city, tell us how that compares to Leipzig.
I consider Munich to be my “German Home” haha. Munich is always going to have a special place in my heart, because it was the first international city I’ve lived and worked in long term. It’s also the perfect city for a foreigner to first visit Germany, because every German stereotype you have in your head will be fulfilled – the Oktoberfest, the clothes, the huge glasses of beer, everything. It’s a beautiful city, and in a great spot, it’s easy to get anywhere from Munich.
Leipzig is very different from Munich, in the sense that it still feels like a little well kept secret in Germany. I love the compactness of the city, you feel like you’re in a real city, but you’ve got massive parks, lakes, rivers, right in the city itself, you never have to leave it! It has a great culture scene, and amazing vegan food (If that is what you’re into). I’ve met some amazingly smart and interesting people in the city, and it seems to be expanding more and more every single day.
3. Would you say that you feel warm and welcomed in Leipzig?
Yes absolutely, as a foreigner living here I’ve never once felt uncomfortable in the city.
4. Being in Germany for a while now, what’s the biggest difference compared to people in the United States?
We don’t use cash anymore in the United States, and that drives me crazy in Germany haha!
Going to the bakery in Germany be all like…
But in seriousness, from a customer service prospective, the US is in a completely different world when compared to Germany. Companies in the US generally strive to make things right at all costs, it’s a very customer-centric mentality. I find in Germany this is not so, and there are generally no two sided conversations in this respect, if a company says no to a customer, that’s basically the end of the story.
5. What is the most important thing you miss from your home country?
Aside from family and friends, I miss the overall efficiency of doing everyday things. For example, we can open and close almost any type of account online, we can book doctor appointments online, cancel them online, we can always pay with credit cards, or paypal, or venmo, or Apple Pay, Uber doesn’t disappear every three weeks. This is stuff that is slowly starting to appear more and more in Germany, but it is still very much a country of sending in paper letters, and/or making appointments months in advance and going somewhere to do something in person, that would take me all of eight seconds to complete online in the US. It’s just unnecessary complications in 2018.
6. What is your favorite German food dish? What is your favorite food from the US?
Well, I’ve been a vegan for about the last year and a half, so traditional vegan foods from Germany are actually somewhat non-existent. BUT you could find pretty great variations of this, for example I love the vegan Currywurst and Pommes from Curry & Co. in Leipzig’s city center.
From the States, I miss Mexican food most. I was just in the States last week for a conference and I am pretty sure I ate 23 vegan burritos. Spicy food just doesn’t exist in Germany, and this kills me!
7. Could you imagine yourself staying in Germany forever?
Absolutely, and without question. While I do miss my home sometimes, I have integrated into the culture in Germany quite well, I speak the language, I am annoyingly always on time, and I complain about the weather constantly!
But above all, I am happy in Leipzig and Europe. It’s the only place in the world where you can get on a plane and fly 90 minutes in any direction, and you’re in a completely different culture, with a different language, and difference architecture. I’ve come to love that about living here, and plus making a culture that wasn’t mine my own.
My testimonial on Shawn
I really enjoy working with Shawn, because of his great expertise in the field of online marketing. As American who was trained in the US in theory at Boston University and practice at HubSpot, he brings his state-of-the-art knowledge from one of the most important startup regions of the world. Being a native English speaker, he helps us improve our international communications. I enjoyed spending time with Shawn right from the first meeting, because he is very communicative and it is easy for him to come in contact with other people. He organizes so many community events at SpinLab and even does standup comedy in Leipzig. Without Shawn, our working lives would miss a lot of happiness and a proper office dog!
Leipzig’s an amazing place, not just for startups, but for anyone. I am thrilled to be surrounded by so many international and German people alike, that lift me every day and teach me something new every day. Stay tuned to our blog to see the next chapter in this series, which will feature another international member of our community!