I’m Vidar @blacktar Andersen and I don’t talk about myself in the third person. I’m a hungry Norwegian hack(er), entrepreneur, startup founder, (micro) investor, educator, learner, speaker, advisor, consultant to large companies on corporate innovation and growth through entrepreneurship and science and an Internet software veteran currently living in Cologne, Germany (and in airplanes around the world).
“[Vidar Andersen,] one of the most important persons in the German startup scene.” – Wirtschafts Woche, April 2015
I take stuff apart to see how it works. I reassemble stuff in different ways to see how that works. I create new stuff to see if it could work. I question the how and the why of the now.
Because I have a compulsion to make stuff suck less.
Most people think I’m much younger than I am. That used to be very flattering until I realized the
motherfuckers charmers are unwittingly discounting a significant chunk of my professional experience on first impressions.
This page is about what’s been happening in my life in the most recent years. If you came here looking for details on my
15 years as a slave past as an on and off professional salaryman, perhaps my LinkedIn profile will be more your sort of thing.
[…] Vidar is what some would call “a hustler.” He runs several local meetups in Cologne and works tirelessly. Easily someone I’d count among the people I’d start a company with, given the opportunity. […] – Named one of 5 top people to know in Germany by Liam Boogar, Editor of The Rude Baguette
Some of you might known me as the co-founder of Plone, the wildly popular open source content management system – actually one of the top 2% open source projects in the world – and it’s used by high-profile organizations and corporations like NASA JPL, The FBI, The CIA, Deutsche Telekom, Yale University, London College University, Oxfam, Discover Magazine, The Government of Brazil and many more.
I found my own tech startups to solve my own problems, help large companies achieve innovation as a scalable, measurable and repeatable process driven by entrepreneurship and science, lecture on startup entrepreneurship to university students to help young people avoid my mistakes and make their own, keynote entrepreneurial events to help spread entrepreneurship to more people and corners of the world and volunteer for the local startup ecosystem as a founder of the Hacker News Cologne Meetup, Startup Weekend Cologne Organizer (retired) and a global Startup Weekend Facilitator (retired) and as an Instructor at Next Cologne (retired) and Lean Launchpad Düsseldorf and Cologne – because someone has to do that too.
First and foremost, I’m a problem solver and a product guy at heart.
When I grow up I want to fund YOUR BIG IDEAS to make the world suck less. For now I invest my time in people like you, helping connect the dots and sharing my mistakes and experiences in the hope that it will help you go further faster.
Currently, I’m investing in entrepreneurs by paying it forward, advising and helping early-stage, non-funded startups for free (as taking money from early-stage startups would be bad Karma). Book one of my free Open Office Hours every Wednesday.
I also teach and lecture at universities as a certified Lean Launchpad Educator trained by Steve Blank and Jerry Engel at Stanford, to help young entrepreneurs make their own mistakes instead of repeating the common. Universities so far include Cologne University (one of four elite universities in Germany), Karsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Islamic Azad University of Qazvin, Iran (Iran’s largest and most successful private tech university), University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, BiTS Iserlohn, Knowmads Business University Amsterdam, Maastricht University, Northern Institute of Technology Hamburg, Karlshochschule International University, Cologne University of Applied Sciences and more.
“Vidar Andersen, you rock.” -Robert @Scobleizer Scoble
As a consequence of my activities I’ve received multiple requests from global F100 companies to help them take advantage of the latest in learnings and methodologies from startup entrepreneurship and a more scientific approach to data-driven and predictable innovation, that’s why I founded +ANDERSEN & ASSOCIATES in early 2013 to be able to respond to the requests I was getting from global F100 corporations. They find I have something very valuable to bring to the table with my unique combination of extensive firsthand academic, corporate and startup experience helping them achieve real innovation and creating growth through entrepreneurship and science, from the inside out and from the bottom up.
I’ve been helping friends and business colleagues finding new awesome career opportunities, freelance gigs and great new employees that fit company culture since I dropped out of university in the nineties to start working in the nascent web tech industry, and because a significant increase of requests in the later years, I founded +A RECRUITMENT to help better serve the demands of both people and companies – and quite selfishly to better provide high caliber freelancers and EIR (Entrepreneurs in Residence) for my own +ANDERSEN & ASSOCIATES‘ corporate customers’ innovation programs.
Because of having being invited to pitch my startups at the most noteworthy startup events around around the world, I’m also sharing my pitching experience having helped over 220 startups (and counting) for the Rheinland Pitch event become better storytellers and make sure they know what investors are looking for and how to properly pitch them.
I guess it’s because of all of this, I also often get invited to speak or moderate at events and conferences on the topic of startups, corporate innovation, entrepreneurship and education.
“Most of the time I think of myself as a failure.
When I’m optimistic, I think maybe I’m just a late bloomer.”
– Dave McClure
In February 2013 ‘The Rude Baguette’, a leading European tech blog named me one of the top 5 must-know people in the German startup scene.
In June 2013 I was invited to Stanford to receive the Lean Launchpad Educator training by Steve Blank and to speak about the Cologne startup community. And to include the whole Cologne startup scene in bringing the number one startup entrepreneurship curriculum from Stanford to our local universities (that and the fact that my bank accounts were frozen and there was a warrant for my arrest at the time) we crowdfunded the trip in 12 hours.
— steve blank (@sgblank) June 20, 2013
In 2012 I was also awarded a GEAP scholarship by Deusto Business School at Deusto University in Bilbao, Spain.
Faculty and mentors included startup legends like Chris Shipley – founder of the DEMO conference, Diane Greene – co-founder of VMWare, Doug Solomon – former CTO of IDEO and current IDEO Fellow, Alex Cruz – CEO of Vueling and Dave Siffry – founder of Technorati.
In 2011 I founded what is my latest real startup to date, “Gauss – The People Magnet” which got me invited to LeWeb 2011, SxSW 2012 by TechCocktail, London Web Summit 2012, Monaco Media Forum and more, landed us on the front page of The New York Times – both online and print, on CNN, Business Insider, TechCrunch, Forbes, and numerous other international renowned media. It also won the “People’s Choice” award at the Nordic Startup Awards 2012.
It was sort of a big deal. Despite of all of this, it closed in early 2013. It nearly broke my back.
“[…] Social discovery on location is hot right now, see Highlight, Glancee, Sonar etc. It’s an early market so these guys [Gauss – The People Magnet] have a good as chance as any if they get it right.” – Mike Butcher, TechCrunch.com
Here’s a video of the beta Gauss app that was available on the Apple AppStore:
And here’s another sneak preview of the next iteration that never shipped:
Oh, and I’ve created a number of world and web industry-firsts for F500 enterprises, governments and GOs in my days as an on-and-off salaryman 1996 – 2010, most of which under NDA and behind firewalls.
At around the ripe old age of nine I started my first entrepreneurial venture; putting on a magic show and charging the neighborhood kids for admission. Not very novel perhaps, but in retrospect it probably says something about my urge to
fleece my friends create and manipulate people tell stories.
I think it was around that age I promised my mother to buy her a house with a swimming pool for her retirement. I’m still working on making good on that.
I was a student of the liberal arts, although I later discovered I am more of a hard sciences kind of guy by nature. Curiously, I come from a line of male engineers on my mother’s side and sometimes I suspect I was nudged as I was growing up towards the liberal arts by my mother as a subconscious drive to distance me, to differentiate me from her father. Cue field day for shrinks.
For years growing up, I thought that getting a university degree and graduate at a film school of some repute would be my railroad express to fortune, fame and changing the world. I thought that making movies was how I would be sharing my ideas and thoughts with the world, exerting my agency in the world.
It quickly became painfully clear to me that university was not the promised land after 19 years of obligatory educational hell in a small town in the sticks after all. It was just more of the same that I already had learned to hate – everything that is still wrong with education today;
Reading an arbitrary selection of books and views and then feeding what you read back to an arbitrary authority figure for an arbitrary and highly subjective grade. The absurdity of this “educational” methodology is even more clear to me today as a somewhat
more reflected adult older geezer. To me, this isn’t learning. To me, real learning comes through experience – through testing, trial and error.
In my second year, I did a calculation on the student debt I would have accumulated on graduating versus the probability of becoming the next Steven Spielberg or David Lynch – and fell into a deep disillusioned depression.
reality set in the commercial Internet hit Norway in 1996 and I dropped out to cash in.
I then went on to found blacktar.com in 1997, co-found the Plone CMS, together with Alan Runyan and Alexander Limi in and around 2000 and in 2010 the Social Media Lunch Cologne, 2011 the already 200+ members strong and growing Hacker News Cologne Meetup and Gauss – The People Magnet happened. 2012 I co-founded Startup Weekend Cologne and became an instructor for Startup Next Cologne and more.
Past Professional Career
“The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.”
– Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Since 1996 I’ve perpetrated a ridiculous amount of hours creating software to make work suck less, from behind NDAs and corporate firewalls,
prostituting contracting for governments, national companies and global corporations. Yes, I am guilty of doing work for big telcos, big oil and big publishers. (The latter probably being the bigger evil if you ask me).
With only one short exception, I’ve mostly worked for small upstarts on and off with my own entrepreneurial breaks in between. It conditioned me to a “normal” where wearing multiple hats, filling multiple roles, being accountable and responsible – and just getting shit done regardless of previous skill set or job title, learning by the seat of my pants – because there were no one else there to do it for me; One moment I’m doing menial tasks, the other creating solutions to problems never before solved with technology and pitching global corporations and governments for millions in contracts. I never knew “work” as anything but this.
I helped write, pitch, negotiate and win multi-million Euro bids to tender – and manage the projects – before the age of 25. I have over 20.000 hours of flight time solving problems with software. In the bear share of my professional career I had precious little life outside “work”. It’s a sad fact. However, it rarely felt like “work” – mostly just a continuous stream of problems to be solved in new and interesting ways. Usually with something named “employer” or “politics” getting in the way of quality, of true excellence – of making a real dent.
Somehow I survived the roller coaster Internet bubble ride v1.0 unscathed (I guess solving real problems for real corporations helped) a and without ever receiving a dotcom cent. Yes, there were some obligatory options. Yes, of course they went bankrupt. Yes, I’m not bitter.
I don’t know about you, but I never liked being told by others what to do – especially by dispassionate, meritless suits. And I don’t take orders and I take issue with rules, so early in my professional career I thought I’d be happier becoming the suit in management telling others what to do instead of being stuck with executing their politicalized ill-advised compromises, their product decisions by committee fueled by technical ignorance and incompetence serving only their agendas of personal promotion – or worse; just for cashing out that monthly paycheck.
Thus I climbed the proverbial well-lubricated salaryman pole and became “the man” – and realize that I hated being it. Not so much for telling people what to do – I still
love that find that a useful application of my faculties – but for the shift of focus and responsibility from innovating and creating something new in the world to just manage and optimize the status quo and minimizing risks and costs.
Not so much for the pay – it was pretty awesome – but it sure wasn’t “Fuck-You Money”. And after reaching a certain threshold, I learned that the rise in monthly salary didn’t make me any happier. Nor was it worth the time of my life wasted.
Nor did it help me change the world.
My Biggest Mistake
“I don’t care if you’re a billionaire. If you haven’t started a company, really gambled your resume and your money and maybe even your marriage to just go crazy and try something on your own, you’re no pirate and you aren’t in the club.”
– Michael Arrington
In hindsight, staying an employee for so long and playing along in the rat race game is the biggest mistake I’ve made in life so far. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t have been where I am – who I am today – if it hadn’t been for those experiences and the opportunities given to me along the way to work on big projects for big customers together with great people.
But somebody told me “just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean that you should be doing it”. So in 2010 I decided to stop.
And thus I returned to my entrepreneurial natural self and quit the salaryman life for good.
“I am down to 10 US dollars but have developed a theory which will go down as Thompson’s law of travel economics. To wit: Full speed ahead and damn the cost; It will all come out in the wash.”
– Hunter S. Thompson
Since then, I’ve received several highly generous offers to come back to the world of employment in the C suite. I hope to prove I’m right in turning them all down.
Most of the time I feel like an introvert that’s somehow successfully masquerading as an extrovert so I guess I’m probably more of an ambivert. And to everybody’s surprise (especially my own) I score crazy high on high-functioning autism, Asperger, Bipolar Type 2 and ADHD tests. However, I think that says more about how fucked up the sweeping definitions and blunt diagnostic tools are.
I guess you could call me a hacker in the classical sense. I can code, design and
sell hustle. However, most of the time I consider myself more of a hack. Yes, I have a bad case of impostor’s syndrome.
I owe whatever streak of creativity you think I might possess to my father’s genes, a nationally recognized artist and a veteran AD/CD of the Norwegian ad industry that won about every award there is to win, and every single entrepreneurial one to my mother, a feminist pioneer inventing and founding her own independent and innovative businesses in a time where women – even in Scandinavia – were still expected to be stay-at-home moms – or at the very least take cookie-cutter jobs.
My biggest pride and joy in life is my sister – the graduate in the family and the most wonderful mother to the most fabulous nephew and niece ever. Unlike me, she is not an online person.
I have no role models or idols except for my late engineer uncle. He was gone much too soon. I like to think that some of his passion for tinkering, building stuff and genuine child-like interest in other people lives on in me. I will forever miss him.
“Crazy magnetic viking guy. […] OK. You should come and do the talk instead of me. Stand up!” –Yossi Vardi, the kindest man I’ve met so far on my journeys, that time he let me pitch my startup in the middle of his CampusParty 2012 keynote speech.
I got my first computer around 1983. It was a Dragon 32. It lead to harder substances like the Commodore 128D, Amiga 500 and ultimately to the top of the heap with an Amiga 4000 before I caved and turned wintel PC in 1999. Today, I’m a total Apple convert since 2009.
I haven’t have a landline telephone since I got my first mobile phone in 1994, I haven’t owned a TV since 2004, I’m a shareholder in the Aston Villa Supporter’s Foundation and a member of the ACLU, although I’m a paternalistic libertarian in the sense of the authors of Nudge and not a liberal (in the American sense) at all. I am a sceptic, an atheist, a supporter of separation of church and state, KBHC supporter, proud member of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and a card carrying member of EFF.
I’m into entrepreneurship, making a dent and changing the world, removing gatekeepers, disrupting status quo, behavioral economics, cinema, storytelling, knowledge, (hard) science, reading, photography, design, MUSIC!, Open Source, the global village (you know, the Marshall McLuhan kind), innovation, usability, Squash, inline skating, swimming and you – Yes, YOU – so let’s talk.
Music is my hot hot sex.
Entitlement, non-artists (aka people who don’t experiment and risk some level of personal failure), people who have no understanding of, or no operating proficiency of, tacit knowledge and lateral thinking (aka learning by doing, not by blindly following pre-programmed recipes) are my biggest turnoffs.
I’m trilingual; Norwegian, English and German. Sometimes I think in one language, speak in another, write in the third and dream in all.
“Let’s face it. It’s the tension of life that keeps the light in a man’s eyes, and keeps the foam in his nuts. It’s really the only thing you cannot afford to lose.”
I have no agenda other than participating in this global village, the global conversation. Actually, this
blog soap box is probably more about you than it is about me. I’m sincerely interested in getting to know what’s on your mind. Don’t hesitate to reach out and get in touch! I’m convinced you have some great stories to tell and I’m super excited to hear them! Don’t be a stranger – say hello and let’s grab a coffee or a beer if you’re around – I’m quite the accessible geek.
Voice FaceTime/iMessage/iPhone EU – +49 151 40 133 149
Skype – blacktar
GTalk / Hangout – blacktar
Bitcoin (breakpoint hyphen for layout purposes)
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“However, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. Do not believe—and I am dead serious when I say this—do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life. Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that the authentic human being can live. And it is the authentic human being who matters most, the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new.” – Philip K. Dick