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Cowoki | Photo: Daniel Grünfeld
Cowoki | Photo: Daniel Grünfeld

Co-working and conversations

|   digital cologne

Inside three of Cologne’s working hubs


Kalkspace is a small, grass-roots co-working community of tech people and creatives in the district of Kalk. Apart from providing a working space, they regularly host talks and events and engage with various social projects.

”As a programmer, I was afraid of becoming too nerdy, a ‘Fachidiot’ as we say in Germany. In the tech scene you quickly find your niche and then you’re like ‘Well, I only do PHP and I only talk to people who do PHP, or I only do JavaScript and everyone else is an idiot’. Tech people can benefit tremendously from talking to designers, users and all sorts of people from entirely different fields. It not only enriches you personally, but also makes you a better programmer. I’ve always wanted to work in a place that encourages these different kinds of input on a daily basis.“

Christine Gotthardt (co-founder)



Cowoki is a coworking space in the central Belgian Quarter of Cologne. It is aimed at both freelancers and companies and offers its members not only the facilities of a modern and comfortable office environment, but also a nursery for children aged 0-3, which is housed in the same building. We spoke to Eva Mohr, who runs the online store for urban ­cycling culture, about the benefits of having a nursery and an office in the same building.

“It’s great that we have both the office and the nursery under the same roof. It’s so efficient, purely in terms of time management. I go straight to work in the morning with my son and don’t have to drive all over the city again and waste another hour or so. If something happens during the day, I can quickly go down and check on him. But more than efficiency, it makes it easier for me, as a mother, to have this feeling that going to work is something I am doing together with my son. I don’t feel quite as guilty that by going to work, I am somehow abandoning him. Which by the way, is one of many topics I’ve had great conversations about with the other people working here. My situation is a bit different as a self-employed parent with a small child an d it helps to have other people around who are experiencing the same thing.”

Eva Mohr


The Ship — Oliver Steinki

Recently opened The Ship is located in Ehrenfeld. It is considered to be Germany’s most digitally advanced office building and while not a co-working space in the classical sense, it does provide a unique working environment for various companies, as well as a state of the art start-up accelerator called xdeck. Inside, The Ship feels like its own highly productive ecosystem. Everyone is free to choose how and where they work as the building offers numerous retreats, lounge areas and garden offices, and the different companies that work here interact with each other a lot. Oliver Steinki, one of three visionaries behind The Ship, and the co-founding member of bag label Fond Of, said that there were two reasons they chose this name. “One is because of the architecture of the building, when you look at it from above, the floor plan looks like a sailing ship; and second, because of the symbolism of a ship: setting off together, sailing to new shores, starting something new. And we also had “ship” in mind, as in entrepreneurship, relationship, friendship.”


The Ship — xdeck — TONI CORE

TONI CORE is one of ten start-ups that won the current round of applications at The Ship’s xdeck. Founders Jackie Paul and Felicia Hommel develop versatile, timeless products for women that can also be used during and immediately after pregnancy. The label follows sustainable design guidelines and the capsule wardrobe principle.

Felicia, how do you experience working at xdeck?

“The xdeck really personalizes the package so that, as a start-up, we receive exactly the input that is useful to us and moves us forward. The atmosphere here is very positive and founder-friendly. The people are really helpful, the exchange with other start-ups is also great. We feel that we are starting our collection with a lot of tailwind.”

Oliver Steinki explains how xdeck works:

“Xdeck accelerates early-stage tech and digital start-ups shaping the future of the consumer and commerce verticals. For our very first two batches, we received more than 250 startup applications and selected 15 outstanding ventures. Each startup batch stays with us at The Ship for a period of 4-6 months. During that time, they receive tailor-made support and access to our network of corporate partners, investors and the xdeck community. Our goal is to add real value and share our expertise from founders with founders. On this mission, we are supported by outstanding corporate partners such as McKinsey, Deutsche Bank, High-Tech Gründerfonds, Kienbaum and many others. In our economy, about 90% of all start-ups fail. We will certainly never make that a 0%, but it already makes a big difference to reduce the failure rate to maybe 70%. That would create many jobs and bring a lot of innovation into the Rhineland. We truly believe that the Rhineland has the potential to become the third German entrepreneurial hotspot next to Berlin and Munich. With xdeck, we want to contribute to that.”.