“Be nice, be open, don’t be an asshole.” – EyeEms Ramzi Rizk on Berlin, Photography & EyEem
By Philip Eggersgluess . April 2, 2015
Ramzi Rizk is EyeEm’s CTO and one of its founders. Before starting EyeEm, he was a doctoral candidate in Information Systems, researching and lecturing on privacy in social networks, and spent years leading engineering teams focusing on mobile and web technologies at various companies and startups. Ramzi is a passionate photographer and pianist.
Ramzy you are running one of the biggest mobile photography communities online out of Berlin. For our readers that do not know EyeEm yet what is so special about it?
EyeEm provides a home for visual enthusiasts; people who appreciate beautiful photography, and have an eye for capturing great moments. We believe that anyone has the potential to take beautiful photos, and we want to offer them a space to share that content and get recognition and feedback for their work, and maybe help them to become professional photographers. Our apps are used by over 13 million photographers worldwide, and our recently launched marketplace, powered by some very advanced search technology, allows our community to possibly even earn money with their beautiful photos!
What differentiates you from Instagram?
Photo sharing is a commodity nowadays. There’s nothing easier than taking a photo and sharing it to Facebook or Twitter. We think the journey of a photo starts after that, and while we provide a great editing experience, and all the requisite sharing capabilities, our focus is on connecting photographers with other like-minded talents, allowing them to participate in photo missions and get discovered, and also to earn money with their beautiful shots.
Another thing that differentiates us from everyone else is that we have one of the best computer vision and search teams out there, working on some cutting edge technology. Our search can automatically recognize and describe the contents of photos, and rank them according to their beauty based on our proprietary “computational aesthetics” technology. This allows us to search for and intuitively find the needle in the haystack that is the billions of photos available online.
When did you get to Berlin in the first place and why?
I moved to Germany almost 12 years ago, to work on my Master’s in Hamburg. I immediately fell in love with Berlin and move here shortly after. It’s not easy to build a life somewhere else, but Berlin is definitely home for me- it’s got the perfect balance of technology and art, is full of inspiring people, and offers an amazing quality of life. It’s edgy and grumpy and dark, which I love; sometimes the sun shines and it’s a beautiful oasis. I can’t imagine living anywhere else here.
Have you ever thought about building EyeEm anywhere else then Berlin?
My cofounders and I all met in Berlin, and had lived here for a while before starting EyeEm. We have an office in San Francisco, and are considering additional locations, but Berlin, aka home, was the perfect place to build and run EyeEm out of.
What do you love about running EyeEm in Berlin?
The cliche of “arm aber sexy” doesn’t really apply so much anymore, and that’s alright. Berlin offers a very eclectic mix of culture, technology and art, it makes absolute sense. There’s a great tech community here, a lot of passion about open source and collaboration. It’s pretty easy to convince very talented people to move to Berlin, we have a lively night scene, great and very affordable quality of life, and the most amazing cities in Europe are an hour or two away at most.
What do you hate about it?
The tech/startup ecosystem leaves a lot to be desired; laws are complicated and antiquated (the tax code must have been written in the middle ages), doing paperwork is a nightmare, it takes months to get a decent internet connection, etc… furthermore, since the ecosystem is so young, a lot of the times we have to play it by ear, compared to more established ecosystems where knowledge-sharing is a default, and many other entrepreneurs have already paved the way. To be honest though, there isn’t really that much to complain about.
In our series “How to make it in Berlin” we introduce Berliners “making it” in Berlin. Whats your advice on how to make it in Berlin?
Be nice, be open, don’t be an asshole. Also, be a bit of an asshole, because no one likes a goody two shoes. Berlin is a city you have to love before it loves you back, it’s more complicated than the impression you’d get from a short summer trip. It’s a dangerous place, and it’s very easy to get lost here. I’ve seen people move here to found companies, only to have them disappear in Berghain and never be heard from again. Discipline, drive, dedication… the same applies anywhere, I guess.
Berlin is full of conferences and meetings for entrepreneurs. How do you select the events you go to?
I try to avoid conferences, to be honest… it’s not the best use of any entrepreneur’s time, I’d much rather be at the office working. That being said, they are necessary evils. I tend to focus on events/conferences where I could reach potential new team members, or meet people from the industry who are open to exchanging knowledge and experiences.
You will be speaking at Apps World this April. Do you already know what it will be about?
Not yet, no. It’ll be something on building a company, or lessons learned, or engineering… You’ll have to drop by and listen to the talk, I guess :)
Everyone is using many Apps every day. How will the Apps and App Market look like in five years from now?
I believe that mobile devices will look very different in a few years’ time. I don’t think that “smartphones” are a permanent fixture – they’re more of a transitional technology… think of it, the only reason we hold a piece of metal/plastic/glass to our face is because its form reminds us of Alexander Graham Bell’s invention. I believe the next few years will be the dominated by VR, embeddables and wearables, with computing and storage all on the cloud. Apps will need to change respectively.
Anything else you would like to say?
Thanks for taking the time, and sorry for taking so long to finish this interview, I’m always happy to lend a helping hand/ear to startup folk (@ramz), and look forward to meeting everyone at the conference (or at Berghain!)
Thank you Ramzi for the great interview!
Ramzi will be speaking at Apps World Germany – your chance to dive in more into the topic!
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Apps World Germany
CityCube, April 22nd-23rd