Photo credit: Brian Jakubowski

Passion economy

The Many (Many) Creative Pursuits of Fynn Kliemann

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Published on October 28, 2021

Photo credit: Brian Jakubowski

The German wunderkind isn’t tied down to any one interest, profession, or project. He explains how he uses Dropbox for all of his quixotic passions.

Photo credit: Brian Jakubowski

There are the people who make you wonder how they get so much done in a day—and then there’s Fynn Kliemann.

The 33-year-old German multihyphenate’s creative output defies reason and easy categorization, much like himself. His funny, quick-cut videos of his at-home DIY projects are how he rose to internet fame, but he’s not content to stay in that box. There’s a puckishness to Kliemann that feels both out of place and incredibly timely all at once, like if Peter Pan were a hypebeast.

A household name in his homeland, he’s a musician who can’t create enough paintings to meet the demand for his mixed media art. He’s a welder and tech investor who remodels farms and homes and dabbles in acting. He’s a social media influencer—his fanbase on Instagram and YouTube place him solidly in the “macroinfluencer” range—who codes open-source tools.

Kliemann is also a serial entrepreneur—not the kind with tons of market-fit failures in their CVs, but the kind who runs multiple thriving businesses at once, like his ad agency herrlich media GmbH and his record label twoFinger Records. He became one of the largest producers of face masks in Germany during the early days of the pandemic, and one of the first in the country to mint NFTs. Kliemann converted a late German country legend’s dilapidated houseboat into a home stay and music studio, then turned the project into a Netflix docuseries, because he always documents everything he does.

“Everyone who has ever founded something ... knows that moment when it really feels good."

Is there anything he can’t do? Yes, Kliemann admits, there is.

“I really want to be able to ride motocross properly,” he says. “It really gets on my nerves that I can’t really do MX jumps and stuff like that. I think I only dare to do certain things, then it always looks like I can do it.”

Those “certain things” all start as “wouldn’t it be cool if…” ideas that won’t let him go.

“Everyone who has ever founded something or everyone who has ever realized something knows that moment when it really feels good,” he says. “When you have the feeling, ‘Oohhh, there’s really something simmering. If I could do that, it would be so awesome. I can’t help but be awake for the next 60 hours and do that.’

“But,” he adds, “that’s also an addiction because that’s what I’m chasing all the time. To get that feeling again and again. Whenever I have that particular feeling, I always know the the outcome could be amazing and there will be a lot to learn. And then I’ll get right to it.”

For Kliemann, that means executing immediately. An idea doesn’t stay in a notepad or in his head for long; he’ll create a logo for it, build a website or prototype for it, or check if a trademark is available for it as soon as possible. Within a week, an idea becomes a minimal viable product and is ready for his friends to take a look at it.

“Then I say, ‘Look at—all my graphic designer homies—what I’ve built. Do you think it’s cool? Have you ever seen anything like it?'”

Photo credit: Brian Jakubowski

Kliemann’s crew of creatives is as varied as his interests. They hash out ideas via Slack, phone calls, and WhatsApp. And the ideas that make it past all the testing and vetting land in Dropbox, which houses all of Fynn Kliemann’s thoughts-turned-projects—and “all of our mistakes,” he adds.

“If you look in here, here are all the visuals from all the albums that are in there. But also collaborations with Boogie, the coolest photographer. We’re doing a collab with him and everything from him is there. All my songs are there, too.”

Dropbox is “very deeply embedded” in his life, he says.

“Every single company just works with it. The data, all the signs, every logo, everything.”

Each shared folder is part of Fynn Kliemann’s process, how he—as he puts it—takes “some stupid idea and then … make something definite out of it.”

Let’s take a look at some of those ideas.

Photo credit: Samuel Mindermann

Prolific painter...

For two years, Kliemann painted every day.

“A lot of rubbish comes out of it, but some of it you find really cool,” he says now. “And I think that the moment when that happened, that’s when I really, really got into it.”

He posted his work to his hundreds of thousands of followers via Instagram Stories. After people slid in his DMs to ask if they could buy his work, Kliemann created a PDF catalog of the 120 mixed media paintings, uploaded it to Dropbox, and sent the link to 15,000 people via MailChimp. “Write me what you want,” he wrote in the email, “and I’ll send you an invoice.”

“Within 20 seconds, I had 500 emails or so,” he says.

With each painting sold, Kliemann would update the digital catalog on Dropbox with a traditional art exhibition symbol: a red dot letting people know the painting was no longer available. The catalog sold out in no time.


... and future inventor of the next paper clip?

“I definitely have a new thing on my to-do list,” Kliemann confides: creating something small but influential that he can patent.

“Preferably something that’s not a responsibility,” he explains. And who could blame him? He’s got a lot of those on his plate.

“I want to make something very simple… something like a paper clip,” he says. “An ubiquitous object that you need to hold paper tightly, where you say, ‘The Kliemann clip.’ I’m still missing that on my life list.”

Real estate investor and developer / homestay host…

LDDG is one of Kliemann’s newest businesses: buying old ruins “all over Germany” and rehabbing them. Short for “lass dir gut gehen” (“have a good time”), the properties are distinctly Kliemannian in their backstory. They’re unique (Germany’s smallest house, a water tower) or ready to be deconstructed and reclaimed (a former Stasi holiday compound complete with a 24-bedroom house, restaurant, and bungalows).

LDDG is made up of many of the people you see in his videos, including his girlfriend and childhood sweetheart Franzi. They’re refurbishing, renovating, furnishing, and designing the properties. Sometimes they’re even sourcing and manufacturing materials themselves—they even opened an office in Portugal to make porcelain.

The goal is for people to eventually rent them through a contactless, automated system—sort of like a Kliemann take on Airbnb. It’s a logical fit for Kliemann, the self-proclaimed king of DIY.

The properties have brought up their fair share of challenges (“There’s no electricity, no water, no sewage, they all have nothing”) that he works through by collaborating with architects, construction managers, and planners in Dropbox.

These large teams access building plans, licenses, and, well, everything there. And they need that one source of truth—after all, dealing with water damage, broken roofs, multiple building permits, and the like isn’t easy.

Kliemannsland
Photo credit: Brian Jakubowski

… and utopia founder.

In 2016, Kliemann bought a little over 4 acres of land in Rüspel, a small village town in Northern Germany, an hour drive west of Hamburg. He looked across the land—and the main building, barns, and riding stables—and dubbed it Kliemannsland.

What started out as a way to work without disturbing his neighbors has become a creative movement of sorts. In true Kliemann fashion, a website went up and captured the information of 50,000+ people interested in becoming “citizens” of this new “country.”

Thousands of those citizens have descended on Rüspel to help Kliemann shape the property into the “anarchic playground” of their collective dreams. To Kliemann, Kliemannsland isn’t a place but a way of being.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like… It doesn’t matter if you have a lot or little money or none at all,” Kliemann says. “It doesn’t matter if you can do something or not. You meet people at eye level and learn and teach others something and take care of each other.”

Sure, that sounds idealistic. But as utterly singular as Kliemannsland is, it’s much like the utopias that came before it: an attempt to imagine things not as they are, but as the creator thinks they could be.

"... if I can make it so that that’s still there when I’m old, then I’ve done it all.”

Fynn Kliemann
Photo credit: Brian Jakubowski

Some flock to find collaborators for projects or to pick up a skill or two, like welding or woodworking. Kliemann and his crew act as a tourism board of sorts, taking the photos and videos of their projects and shenanigans they store on Dropbox and sharing them with Kliemannsland’s more than 1 million followers across Instagram and YouTube combined.

Kliemannsland is the only attraction in the area, according to Google Maps. There are go-carts, an art studio, garden, a pub and cafe, and rooms for visitors. People are even buying homes in the area just to be near the compound.

“There are also guided tours now, and sometimes I feel like I’m in Disneyland or something, when someone with 200 people in tow, who all have a Bavarian accent, walk past while I’m trying to weld something,” Kliemann says.

Kliemannsland recently celebrated its fifth birthday. In a video commemorating the occasion, you see several members of the community make a birthday wish and have those wishes granted in a way that’s pure Kliemann. Two guys get a skate park built on the property, someone who has always wanted to play the nose flute on stage plays “Take Me Home, Country Roads” to thousands of concert goers, a hardworking chef gets a special place to rest.

It’s an EDM concert meets monster truck rally meets Jackass meets Burning Man. But more succinctly, Kliemannsland is a place where people like Kliemann can find each other—and have some of their wildest dreams can come true.

“I think everybody needs to have experienced that, and that’s a bit of my job,” he says. “And if I can make it so that that’s still there when I’m old, then I’ve done it all.”