polaroid cameras

The Berlin startup bringing a 70s icon back

Oskar Smolokowski
Instant portrait: Oskar Smolokowski, CEO of Polaroid Originals. Source: Marc-Steffen Unger for Handelsblatt

The place looks like your typical Berlin startup. A factory floor, complete with a vintage leather sofa and a DJ booth, collectible, retro cameras on the shelves and Polaroids everywhere. The latter show pictures of the Berlin sky, the plants on the office shelves and snapshots of hip, young guests at a company party.

And in many ways, the headquarters of Polaroid Originals is much like a startup, argues the company’s CEO, Oskar Smolokowski. “It took [Polaroid’s founder, Edwin] Land 40 years of fine-tuning to achieve the great quality that Polaroid had. We had to start from the very beginning,” Mr. Smolokowski, 28, says. “We really are a startup.”

The current incarnation of Polaroid, based in the German capital, has been a long time coming – 80 years in fact. At the height of its success, Polaroid was one of the most admired tech companies around. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it had turnover of around $2 billion and 50,000 staff. The brand was known around the world for its distinctively designed instant cameras, the film that came with them and the photos they made. But years of mismanagement drove the company into the ground, with its first bankruptcy declared in 2001.

Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.