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Greasing the wheels for Berlin’s expats

In our ongoing feature series, The Local looks into a successful entrepreneur's life - the story behind their successes, major challenges and how being an entrepreneur changed them forever. This week, Sparsh Sharma talks to Mario Paladini, founder of Club GLOBALS, a 'community marketplace' for expats.

Greasing the wheels for Berlin's expats
Club GLOBALS founder Mario Paladini

Club GLOBALS aims to make international life easier for the growing number of professional expatriates by creating online and offline connections. Expats can easily meet other expats, global minds and English speaking local service providers.

How did you come up with this business idea?

As an expat from Argentina, I have lived in Berlin for seven years and faced so many challenges with regard to finding apartments, opening bank accounts, deciding the right insurance and other mandatory formalities that any newcomer from abroad has to complete.

Also, I was ambassador of the world's largest expat community with 10,000 expats in Berlin and co-founder of two international Rotary clubs. I developed a good network and over time, so many professional expats started asking me to help them face the same challenges I had had.

It's one thing to help a few folks but it was challenging to be able to help everyone while having a full-time job and a busy schedule. But I really wanted to. That's when I decided to leave corporate life and devote my full working day in helping fellow expats and connecting people. That's how my passion took the shape of Club GLOBALS.

It is now an important point of contact for expats as it helps them find the right English-speaking service providers who we call 'Solutioners'. These user-recommended 'Solutioners' can enjoy online and offline spaces to introduce themselves and their solutions to the community.

What were the initial challenges? How did you overcome them?

When you come up with a new business idea, you need a good team as well. I could do the business part well but I needed a partner who could build the technical backbone of this company.

Then funding was also a challenge. We applied for credit and subsidies provided to startups by the state but were asked a lot of questions. It was a cumbersome process.

So we went for the angel investors. But then also, we had to change and iterate our product several times before giving it the final shape of a 'community marketplace'.

How has the journey been so far?

It has been a roller coaster ride but our global vision – to make life easier for expats – becomes more successful with each new milestone achieved.

While you may be always full of ideas about making the world a better place, you also need to focus to make things happen. That’s why I started wearing frames (without glasses) to focus on milestones.

When we had to get our platform ready, I wore a black frame. Then to find our first customer, I wore a white frame. To get our first investor, a red one. And now, to see a six-digit number, I wear an orange frame.

How has becoming an entrepreneur changed you, personally?

I started wearing frames, which looks crazy but makes people support me and remember my story.

When you work in a corporate, you sleep in hotels and live a good life. However, it all changes when you become an entrepreneur. Resources are limited and you may even have to sleep at a friend's place instead of a hotel room while visiting a new city.

But you always need to have a purpose, keep the big picture in mind and think of the team so as to lead them by example.

Any other personal reflections or message to budding entrepreneurs?

I had thought of starting up a business on the side, several times. It was only after I decided to devote my whole time and energy into this idea that things started happening.

Don't give up and maintain your focus. Wear a coloured frame to focus on your next milestone.

Sparsh Sharma holds a Master's in business administration and a Bachelor's in electrical engineering. After working in top Indian media companies he decided to come to Denmark in the fall of 2012 to study at Aarhus University and later worked at Lego. A Danish green card holder, he is currently looking for marketing or consulting opportunities globally, while working as a freelance journalist for The Local and blogging about his experiences in Denmark. You can follow him on Twitter at @sparsh_s.

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TRAVEL NEWS

What we know so far about Berlin’s follow-up to the €9 ticket

After weeks of debate, Berlin has settled on a new budget ticket to replace the €9 ticket for a limited time. Here's what know about the travel deal so far.

What we know so far about Berlin's follow-up to the €9 ticket

So Berlin’s getting a new €9 ticket? Cool!

Kind of. Last Thursday, the Berlin Senate agreed to implement a €29 monthly ticket from October 1st until December 31st this year. 

It’s designed to bridge the gap between the end of the €9 ticket deal and the introduction of a new national transport deal that’s due to come into force by January 2023.

The Senate still hasn’t fleshed out the details in a written decision yet, so some aspects of the ticket aren’t clear, but we do know a few things about how it’ll work. For €29 a month, people can get unlimited travel on all modes of public transport in Berlin transport zones A and B. That means buses, trains and trams are all covered – but things like taxis aren’t. 

Wait – just zones A and B. Why’s that?

One of the sticking points in planning the new ticket was the fact that neighbouring state Brandenburg was reluctant to support the idea. Franziska Giffey (SPD), the governing mayor of Berlin, had annoyed her neighbours and surprised her own coalition partners by suddenly pitching the idea at the end of August – shortly before the €9 ticket was due to expire.

At the time, the disgruntled Brandenburg state premier Dietmar Woidke (SPD) complained about the lack of advance notice for a proper debate. He had previously ruled out a successor to the €9 ticket in the state. Meanwhile, the CDU – who are part of the governing coalition in Brandenburg – slammed the idea for a new cheap ticket as a “waste of money” and an attempt to “buy votes” for the SPD.

The blockade meant that plans for a Berlin-Brandenburg ticket run by transport operator VBB had to be scrapped, and the monthly ticket has instead been restricted to the two transport zones solely operated by Berlin’s BVG. Since zone C stretches into Brandenburg, Berlin couldn’t include this zone in the ticket unilaterally. 

Berlin transport zones explained

Source: S-Bahn Berlin

The good news is that zones A and B cover everything within the city’s borders, taking you as far as Spandau in the west and Grunau in the southeast. So unless you plan regular trips out to the Brandenburg, you should be fine.

However, keep in mind that the Berlin-Brandenburg BER airport is in zone C, so you’ll need an ‘add-on’ ticket to travel to and from there. It’s also not great for the many people who live in Potsdam in Brandenburg and commute into Berlin regularly. 

READ ALSO: Berlin gets green light to launch €29 transport ticket

How can people get hold of it? 

Unlike the €9 ticket, you won’t be able to buy it at stations on a monthly basis. Instead, the €29 ticket is only for people who take out a monthly ‘Abo’ (subscription) for zones A and B. If you’ve already got a monthly subscription, the lower price will be deducted automatically, while yearly Abo-holders will likely get a refund. 

You can take out a monthly subscription on the BVG website here – though, at the time of writing, the price of the ticket hadn’t been updated yet. According to Giffey, people will be able to terminate their subscription at the end of December without facing a penalty. 

What types of ‘Abos’ are eligible for the deal? 

According to Berlin transport operator BVG, people with the following subscriptions are set to benefit from the reduced price from October to December: 

  • VBB-Umweltkarten with monthly and annual direct debit
  • 10 o’clock tickets with monthly and yearly direct debit
  • VBB-Firmentickets with monthly and yearly direct debit 
  • Trainee subscriptions with monthly direct debit

People who already have reduced-price subscriptions, such as over-65s and benefits claimants, aren’t set to see any further reductions. That’s because many of these subscriptions already work out at under €29 per month for zones A and B. 

Passengers exit an U-Bahn train in Berlin

Passengers exit an U-Bahn train at Zoologischer Garten. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Can students with a Semesterticket get it as well?

That’s one of the things that still needs to be clarified. It’s possible that universities will choose to refund part of the Semesterticket price like they did with the €9 ticket. The Local has contacted BVG for more information. 

Can I take my bike/dog/significant other along for the ride? 

Once again, this doesn’t appear to have been ironed out yet – but we can assume that the usual rules of your monthly or yearly subscription will apply. So, as with the €9 ticket, if your bike is included in your subscription, you can continue to take it with you. If not, you’ll probably have to pay for a bike ticket.

In most cases, monthly BVG subscriptions allow you to take one dog with you for free, and also bring one adult and up to three children (under 14) with you on the train on evenings and weekends. These rules are likely to stay the same, but we’ll update you as soon as we know more. 

How much is this all going to cost?

According to regional radio station RBB24, around €105 million is set to be put aside in order to subsidise the temporary ticket. However, this still needs to be formalised in a supplementary budget and given the green light in the Senate. 

An S-Bahn train leaves Grünewald station

An S-Bahn train leaves Grünewald station. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

OK. And what happens after the €29 ticket?

That’s the million – or, rather, billion – euro question right now. In its latest package of inflation relief measures, the federal government said it would be making €1.5 billion available for a follow-up to the €9 ticket.

The ticket is set to be introduced by January 2023 and will rely on Germany’s 16 states matching or exceeding the federal government’s €1.5 billion cash injection. So far, it looks set to be a monthly ticket that can be used on public transport nationally, with the price set somewhere between €49 and €69.

However, the Greens continue to push for a two-tier model that would give passengers the option of buying either a regional or national ticket. Under their proposals, the regional tickets would cost €29 and the national tickets would cost €69.

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