Pale, unworldly and closed-off: all the prejudices usually brought out to describe computer geeks are impossible to apply to Klaus Bechtold. With his internet portal GPSies.com, the software developer has managed to combine his enthusiasm for technology with a love of sport, providing circuits for cycling and walking. He is one of the creative brains that have been steadily transforming Berlin into the Silicon Valley of Europe.
When Klaus Bechtold puts on his cycle helmet and mounts his bike, he’s not just considering the quickest way to get to his destination. At least as important to him is the route itself. Routes – whether on foot or by bike – are his hobby, and that might even be an understatement. Since when he is not working in his job as a software engineer in an agency in the Mitte area, the 46-year old can be found cultivating the website GPSies.com (pronounced “gypsies”) for at least two hours a day and even more at weekends.
Here he provides 1.2 million itineraries free of charge that can be downloaded onto a GPS device or a smartphone. Users can also upload their own routes for joggers, walkers or cyclists so that they become accessible to the international community.
Klaus Bechtold had the idea for GPSies back in 2006 when he was still using a GPS walkers’ watch – a clumsy great thing that is resistant to wind and weather. “I was experimenting a bit at the time”, he recounts. “Then Google Maps came out and that allowed me to develop an app you could use to visualise the routes that you’d covered”. A year later, the editor function was released and with it the possibility of creating your own online maps and transferring them to devices such as GPS watches and iPhones. Users of GPSies can now develop their own apps using a program interface.
Ideas such as Klaus Bechtold’s have helped to transform Berlin into the Silicon Valley of Europe: entrepreneurial culture has been seeing a boom in the world of internet startups. Global players are also pitching up in town, with Twitter announcing intentions of opening up a German headquarters on the river Spree. Klaus Bechtold likes this creative spirit of optimism. He himself worked in a variety of start-up companies before he began at his current agency nine years ago, where he is now responsible for a big hotel reservation portal. Professionals like him are greatly sought after.
Klaus Bechtold has also kept on discovering new things in his immediate surroundings. He recently travelled a section of the Berlin Wall cycle path with his wife, describing it as “a really beautiful route”. During this bike ride he came across new ways in which the work of GPSies is still needed, such as when a section of a route is unexpectedly closed off. “My vision is that of producing individual maps for cyclists, runners or inline skaters. That’s a huge amount of work, so I probably won’t be able to do it alone”, he says. Luckily enough, though, Klaus Bechtold is in good company in the cyber city of Berlin, along with his extensive community at GPSies.
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Klaus Bechtholds favourite places are: