Willkommen! Why Entrepreneurs Should Think Seriously About Berlin
For a few years now people have been buzzing that Berlin's "the next Silicon Valley," or "the hottest tech scene in Europe." So, if you have a brilliant startup idea or are looking to hop the pond with your company, should you really buy the next plane ticket to Germany?
After attending a panel at SXSW Interactive this week on the burgeoning startup ecosystem in Berlin, I was pretty convinced the answer is yes, definitely. (And it wasn't just me: When David Noel, VP of Community at Berlin-based SoundCloud, asked the room who was considering moving to Berlin, some 20 hands went up.) In no particular order, here are a few reasons why.
After the fall of the wall and reunification, the wealth of empty spaces in the run-down buildings in East Berlin became a hotbed for artists and musicians, and the creative, bohemian culture has continued to flourish. This is why Soundcloud (a music sharing company founded by Swedes and whose CEO doesn't speak a lick of German) decided to establish its headquarters in Berlin.
Germany makes it very easy to get a visa and hit the ground running, said Jess Erikson, founder of Berlin Geekettes and the Berlin Producer for General Assembly, and there's less red tape to jump through as a new business than in the U.S. And because modern-day Berlin is relatively young and new, opportunity and innovation abounds. You can go there and experiment with something no one else is trying, or get a gig doing something you have no experience in. The city's residents are open, diverse, and welcoming. It's also totally possible, even easy, to get by on English alone; there are dozens of startups in Berlin where none of the employees are even German.
Germany Isn't That Broke
During a tour of businesses in Berlin last week, Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel called technology startups “The yeast so that Germany grows," and recognized their significance to the strength of the country's economy. Though Germany emerged from the recession in better economic standing than most of the EU, some entrepreneurs still worry about the lack of capital in Berlin, and Europe in general, compared to Silicon Valley. Alex Farcet, an angel investor and cofounder of the startup accelerator Startupbootcamp, said in order to build a robust startup ecosystem Berlin needs more active angel investors and venture capitalists, but there are plenty in the city already, and moreover, the investors that aren't in Berlin will be on the next plane to Germany for the right startup idea.
It's Cool—And Cheap
Rent and cost of living are low, so you get much more bang for your buck in Berlin than in the tech hotbeds in the U.S. where housing is at capacity and it costs an ungodly amount of money for a latte. "We're lucky to be at a point where we don't have to sell the city," said Noel, who focuses a lot of energy on trying to recruit top talent to his company. He said engineers that relocate from the Valley are happy to get away from the hype, scene, and bubble culture overrunning Silicon Valley, even if it means taking a pay cut.
So, let's get a show of hands: Would you take your business to Berlin?