Ich bin ein Berliner! Shining light to the Berlin startup hub

Silicon Valley, New York, Tel Aviv, London, all cities that will most probably be mentioned when speaking about startups and innovation.

I didn’t really know much about the Berlin (and German in general) ecosystem when it comes to startups, until now.

My company was one of 11 chosen startups to participate in a two plus week program in Berlin, called Start Alliance Berlin, by Berlin Partners (an organization that focusses on technology and business in, yes you guessed it, Berlin). The same program exists for New York, Paris, Tel Aviv and many more.

It is not an accelerator, it’s not an incubator and it is not a fund. They simply want to help startups from outside of Germany, to get to know the ecosystem better and learn how business is done in this culture.

Some companies are planning to physically operate from Berlin, others, including our company, have it as one of their main markets. I just have to put it out there, that it is one of the most underestimated markets when it comes to startups, in particular Israeli startups.

Most of Israeli startups, immediately target the U.S, or if they are very brave, the Asian market, but why? Europe, and Germany as well, is just around the corner. It’s literally a 4 hour flight away (let’s not dive into Air Berlin and it’s shannanigans for the time being) which makes the market so much more accessible, in case you’re not planning a relocation in the seed and pre-seed stages.

Start Alliance Berlin is a two week program, where they take you to different hubs of the city, speak to relevant people when it comes to public funding, venture capital, but also how to hire employees in Germany, and even how to obtain the relevant visas (I kind of took a nap in this one, since I have a Dutch passport).

Network, network, network

Of course, with Berlin Partners having a huge network, you have access to this network, but unfortunately we couldn’t utilize it to our best needs, since half of the program most of the Berlin Partner network people were on summer break (tough luck), but even after the program ended, we still have access to their network. This is great for us, since I realized two main things during my trip (just talking business): our pricing strategy was incorrect and that Berlin, even Germany, is going to be our strongest market for the next period of time.

The ecosystem? Well, it’s better than a lot of people described it, but on the other hand much less than other people described it to me, so my conclusion is that it’s a great hub, that is in the growth phase, just as Tel Aviv was a decade ago.

Berlin, the marketplace of startups

Their “Mobileye” or “Waze” comes back to one name: Zalando, the biggest e-commerce website. Yes, e-commerce. German startups are mainly around e-commerce and market places. This is exactly the reason that most funds there speak about “deep technology” when they are looking for new investment opportunities, an opportunity that I think Gooster should try and take advantage of.

Ow, did I mention that 7 out of 11 companies that participated were Israeli? That’s some statistic for you right there.

I’m not going to discuss Berlin as a city, only that it is INSANE and if you’d check my Instagram feed, you’d understand why, so have a peek.

In a nutshell, Berlin is nowhere near the Valley or Tel Aviv, but the coolness of the city and the dope people it attracts, assures me that it won’t take long before it’s right up there with the rest. The WeWorks, the Mindspaces, the Googles and the Facebooks out there know it as well. I’m dying to know what will happen there in 5 years and see whether this piece was utter shit or somewhat spot on.