Berlin has all of the ingredients of a dynamic entrepreneurial city and is fast using those ingredients to generate some really interesting startups. Given our love of startup culture and passion for travel, Berlin was the perfect mix of locals and expats all working on creating something new.
Berlin is already being discussed as the new startup capital of Europe (previous title holder: London) and is quickly making a name for itself worldwide.
Berlin’s rise is due to a mix of factors, including: the cheap cost of living compared to the rest of europe, the young and dynamic population working hard on new ventures, the proximity to great pools of talent in Eastern Europe, and a tradition of subversive culture similar to San Francisco in the 60’s.
Given our previously stated mission to start our own business while traveling, we just had to investigate everything Berlin had to offer these two sexy traveling entrepreneurs:
Here is what we found…
Berlin has coworking spaces figured out. With one seemingly on every corner and more popping up every year, Berliner startups can have their ideal work environment of choice.
Just so that we’re all on the same page: a coworking space is where people working on different ventures can all gather to work and socialize. The socialize aspect is key and is what differentiates it from the executive suite - its stodgy father of remote working.
Our favorite coworking space while in Berlin was Betahaus, as they offered a 5 Euro breakfast (all are invited) every Thursday that revolved around 2 members presenting what they were working on. Anyone who pays for the breakfast ticket is also allowed to work all day in their space for free…
Don’t think we didn’t take advantage of that deal!
Many of the coworking spaces also have coffee shops at ground level that anyone can work in for the cost of a cup of coffee. If you want just a taste of Berlin’s entrepreneurial spirit, work here for a few hours and feed off of the great vibe of everyone around you.
For more proof that Berlin has truly caught fire as the future of entrepreneurship in Europe, you can look to Mozilla. The web browser maker has agreed to anchor a new coworking space called “Factory” in the Mitte neighborhood of Berlin.
While we were in Berlin, Mozilla threw a party near our apartment celebrating some creative fan-made videos. We decided to stop by to check it out and people were definitely excited to have Mozilla taking a larger role within the Berlin community.
(Mr. Firefox wanted the ladies to himself… classic box out move!)
Prices at most Berlin coworking spaces range from 10-15 Euros per day with better deals given to monthly renters. You can rent a permanent table for more money or just sit down in any open seat in the facility.
Some of our favorite coworking spaces that we discovered during our month in Berlin include:
- Betahaus on Prinzessinnenstraße 19-20
- Nest on 52 Görlitzer Strauße
- Sankt Oberholz on Rosenthaler Straße 72a
- Tante Renate on Waldemarstraße 37a
Startup Pitch Events
Another key ingredient that makes a city a haven for startups is how active the community is. A bit of a chicken or egg problem as communities need startups and vice versa… but Berlin is well passed this stage. Every other week there is an elevator pitch session at one of the coworking spaces or being held by one of the Berlin startup incubators.
What happens at these elevator pitch sessions?
Entrepreneurs come and present their business or even just their idea. The audience is filled with interested spectators, many of whom are programmers that might want to join an interesting startup or even angel investors looking for that next big idea.
We went to a session held by the local startup incubator, You Is Now. This pitch session was focused on the idea of MVP or minimum viable product. This is an entrepreneurial philosophy of creating a product with the least amount of features that can still be sold. The idea being that this lets the entrepreneur test their assumptions faster and operate with a leaner business model.
Most questions the audience had were geared towards how the entrepreneurs had tested their MVP, with results varying from prayer and hope (not the best) to actual feedback and resulting iteration on an idea (excellent).
Some great elevator pitch sessions to check out include the ones held by:
Berlin’s Somewhat Bad Startup Reputation
Berlin has a bit of a bad reputation in the startup community related to its annoying habit of blatantly ripping off US business models and rebranding the same concept in Europe. This practice has been best exhibited by the Samwer brothers who have a gift for finding the next great US business model and quickly creating a clone (my fellow nerds should now get the reference above).
While extremely annoying to the US startups, it has been extremely lucrative for the brothers who often end up selling their clones to the US companies on which they were based.
Despite this reputation, other Berlin entrepreneurs are starting to chafe under the idea that they are just copycats. Some have even have go so far as to sign on to the “anti-copycat manifest.”
From we saw in our month in Berlin, the city’s startup scene is well beyond it’s copycat roots and is truly innovating in interesting ways. If you’re interested in Entrepreneurship and happen to be in Berlin, definitely explore what the startup community has to offer.
Some interesting and original Berlin startups:
- 6WunderKinder - Focuses on personal productivity apps.
- Crowdpark – Developer of social forecasting and social betting games in Europe.
- Gidsy – An online marketplace where people can offer their personally organized tours (I really love this idea).
- Readmill – Let’s you share what you’re reading and highlights from your kindle with friends.
Your Turn: What cities outside of the US do you think could compete with Berlin for most entrepreneurial city? Is there a city that you love working in more than any other?
**Update: This article was changed to reflect that “Factory” will be opening in the Mitte neighborhood, not Kreuzberg. Thanks to David for catching the error!