Michael Praetorius

"It's a good feeling to let something go and rely on it to work."

Michael Praetorius - NOEO GmbH

You could call Michael Praetorius a professional digitizer. For more than 20 years, he has been dealing with the internet and its impact on all other forms of media – from radio to television. Today, his company, NOEO, creates innovative content management systems and online applications designed for the connected age. Over the years he and his team have engineered everything from mobile apps to social tv solutions. His clients, meanwhile, range from MGM to Nintendo. At the bedrock of his offering is Host Europe. We met up with him to talk digitisation, trial and error and the qualities of superior servers.
You're known as a bit of a local celebrity, but what do you do for a living?

Somebody once told me that if you can't describe your job in one sentence, you're doing something wrong. In a nutshell: I am a digitizer. In other words, I help companies revolutionize their existing analog business model into the digital world.

What drives you to do that again and again?

I am an incredibly curious person and I am incredibly impatient. Maybe I am even more impatient than I am curious. My biggest challenge is to run ahead of the market while not forgetting people.

Have you ever failed?

I built a complete television studio in a suitcase, even applied for a radio license and organized events for it, but sometimes only 30 viewers watched my Facebook live streams. Other far less sophisticated things I have done editorially have reached far more people. However failure has taught me to let go of things. From this I developed a format with my colleagues where we fail and learn from weekly scenarios what doesn't work. It is easier to copy a success than to prevent a mistake.

Is that a principle that helps you understand digital change?

No one can claim that he or she has understood digitisation. I believe that digitisation must be exemplified. We can only exemplify digitisation, try it out for ourselves and then share things that work or don't work with others to strengthen that knowledge.

So how digital is your life now?

For a while I had two shared flats, one in Munich and one in Berlin. When you have two flats, you start buying everything twice. The next step is to put everything in the cloud. Then you think about whether 20 GB of data volume on your smartphone is still enough, because you have very few physical data carriers. These are in different locations and they synchronize with each other. And I don't rely on one cloud, but sometimes I even have the same documents in two or three clouds. So a little something with Apple, a little something with Dropbox, but also on my own structures that I have. That's how digital my life is now.

"A server should be like a pension plan. You install it, you set it up once, and it runs."

You used Clouds very early. What was it like in the early days?

When one could buy 250 MB as a unit, which was very expensive, the servers often failed at this then enormous scale. You constantly had to drive to your servers and restart them. I had a radio technician build me a module, so that I could restart the server with a phone call to a certain number. That saved a lot of time and fuel money. Affordable support 24 hours a day, seven days a week wasn't available back then.

In other conversations with customers, this was always praised for Host Europe. What made you become a customer of Host Europe?

At the end of the nineties I had to develop an editorial system for websites where users could have a personalized experience after logging in. This was especially important for the business-to-business sector, but the data to be made accessible was not intended for the general public, but only for the specific target group. Later we developed this system further. Security was a very important issue for our customers in the record industry. Host Europe was able to meet our requirements perfectly at the time and helped us to prove to our customers that certain security guidelines could be adhered to. It worked then and it still works today. It was an excellent fit with many of our B2B business models.

Do the services of a partner like Host Europe affect your business?

We haven't built our business on Host Europe, but it's a good feeling to be able to run something and rely on it to work. There are certain things you want to touch once and then never again. I think the most boring thing you have to worry about is a pension insurance. You take it out once at the age of 19 and then you don't want to touch it until you retire. It should be the same with servers. You install it once, put it on and it runs. When the project gets bigger, it scales with it and when the project is no longer needed, you cancel the server. And I always had the impression that we were able to work very well with Host Europe at this level.