'Raw and Direct': The Growth of Berlin into Europe's Start-Up Hub

By Felix Knoke

Part 2: Berlin Can Hold Its Own Against Any World City

A Silicon Allee Breakfast meet-up for Berlin start-up entrepreneurs is held each month at the Sankt Oberholz cafe, one of the hubs of the local tech scene. Zoom
David Knight / Silicon Allee

A Silicon Allee Breakfast meet-up for Berlin start-up entrepreneurs is held each month at the Sankt Oberholz cafe, one of the hubs of the local tech scene.

Still, only time can answer the question of whether Berlin's start-up boom is one of hype or substance. SPIEGEL ONLINE surveyed some of the city's start-up blogs for their takes:

  • Martin Weigert, of the German-language Netzwertig.com blog covering the tech business, believes the Berlin start-up scene is on track to grow in the long term -- even if German bureaucracy and uncertain English among German officials still proves to be a hurdle today. He points to Sweden as a model, where establsihing a business can be as easy as filling out an online form and waiting just a few days for it to be approved.
  • Alexander Hüsing of Deutsche-Start-ups.de says, "there still aren't enough international start-ups like Wooga, Amen or SoundCloud to ensure that Berlin will be taken seriously as a (tech) base over the long term." But he says the hype is justified: "A year ago people from London looked down on Berlin. Now a lot of them want to move here."

  • To Schuyler Deerman, the developer of a productivity app called Moped -- which he describes as a Twitter-like service for "getting stuff done" -- and a creator of the Silcon Allee blog, Berlin is a great place for start-ups. "Berlin doesn't have a future, it has a present." The Alabama native describes the city as "raw and direct" -- a place that can hold its own against any other world city. "Add to that all the fresh young immigrants and you have a recipe for doing great things." But Deerman adds two important caveats: the city-state's complicated tax system and an apparent lack of investors -- "but those are hurdles, not barriers," he says.

Making Life Easier for Start-Ups

Weigert, Hüsing and Deerman all agree that Berlin will remain attractive for new businesses, particularly because the rents are so low and because apartment and office space is still readily available. Newcomers to the industry have an easier time finding their place in Berlin because the city still has no entrenched or rigid structures. It lets entrepreneurs concentrate on what they do best: being creative and seeking out contacts. Start-ups here can also draw from a pool of talented potential workers who might be ready to work for much lower wages than in London, for example.

Berlin, in other words, makes life easy for start-ups and developers and creative people of every stripe. Not London, not Amsterdam, not even Copenhagen can offer the same simple conditions for building up a project over the course of several months or years -- even if it's just a new and interesting life, between your morning latté and your after-hours party.

In the coming days and weeks you can read about the new entrepreneurs in Berlin here at SPIEGEL ONLINE -- what they're doing, and which ideas they hope will change the world.

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