Deep-Diving in Berlin’s Startup Scene with Soft Landing

European Startup Leaders Convene to Build Bridges in Berlin:

I’m going to share a pretty cool little secret with startup fans — it’s called ‘Soft Landing’ and its a new initiative funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program and its on a mission to give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in other startup ecosystems.

Let’s begin with a voyage around the Soft Landing Berlin program, then I’ll show you how to join the next Berlin cohort or apply for a deep-dive happening in other high-demand hubs including Paris, Vilnius, Zoetermeer (NL), India and the United States.

Soft Landing Berlin’s Purpose:

  • Connect with other key leaders in Berlin
  • Understand and experience the Berlin ecosystem
  • Learn the process required to scale a business in Berlin and introduce participants to available resources

Willkommen in Berlin:

The first ever Soft Landing delegation has convened in Berlin to better understand the ecosystem and make strong local connections. This inaugural group comprised of about 20 influential ecosystem leaders from France, Spain, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Lithuania and Israel.

Inaugural Soft Landing delegation — Berlin, March 2018

Delegates were hosted by the German Technology Entrepreneurship Center (GTEC). For those that are unfamiliar, GTEC is a startup campus operating in Berlin (and Frankfurt) on a mission to inspire people, guide entrepreneurs and grow sustainable companies. The leadership team at GTEC has decades of business development experience in Berlin which they aim to share not only with their own community but also with Soft Landing participants.

The Berlin Program:

The strategic itinerary comprised of three full days of company visits, workshops, sharing sessions and networking events all operated from GTEC’s Berlin campus located near Postdamer Platz in the heart of Mitte. Here’s a closer look a some of the Landing’s highlights.

Social time at Soft Landing on the GTEC Campus in Berlin, 26 March 2018 — Source: Twitter

Participants were taken on journey through the history of tech and startups in the city now known as ‘Silicon Allee’ by Berlin Partner for Business and Technology, an organization helps grow business in Berlin. They also shared insights for how to secure public funding for startup projects. For example, did you know there is even public support via venture capital through Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB)?

Berlin Partner presentation for Soft Landing, 26 March 2018 — Source: Twitter

Information about coworking spaces was shared by WeWork Germany along with a tour of their new Potsdamer Platz location plus a talk on social innovation in Berlin was led by specialist community Impact Hub Berlin.

Impact Hub Berlin at Soft Landing, 27 March 2018 — Source: Twitter

Networking events included an outting to a trendy riverboat restaurant in Berlin’s Spree River mixing with prominent figures from the ecosystem. The night was co-hosted by GTEC and Denton’s — the largest law firm in the world by number of lawyers and offices. Denton’s is active in over 50 countries and has a long history of doing business in the Berlin market.

Influencer networking at Van Loon Restaurant on the Spree River, 26 March 2018 — Source: GTEC

Participants also got to ride in style while being chauffeured by Emily, Germany’s first autonomous driving bus. Operated by Deutsche Bahn but designed by French owned and Berlin based startup EasyMile, the bus is a driverless electric vehicle that can reach speeds of up to 45 KPH.

Meeting Emily, Germany’s first autonomous driving bus, 28 March 2018 — Source: GTEC

Other local experts joined daily sessions to share experiences and tips. I was asked to present on ‘Media Matters’ to the group. In my talk we focused on how to get business press coverage in Germany and what needs to be done before any media campaign is launched.

Talking ‘Media Matters’ at Soft Landing Berlin — 27 March 2018

As a former Bloomberg News journalist during the financial crisis, one of my first calls each morning was to our reporter sitting on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Before joining Bloomberg, I spent the first few minutes of my day at a network newsroom in the UK on a European Broadcasting Union (EBU) conference call with all of the public broadcasters from around Europe talking about the day’s news agenda and what story elements would be available from each broadcaster to EBU partner members. And before that, I was with CNN International, so I have a long history of news production in Germany and indeed across the rest of Europe.

Main points for getting startup press coverage in Germany:

Understand the differences between journalism and marketing.

Journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. It is also the product of these activities.
- American Press Institute
Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating, and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”
- Chartered Institute of Marketing (UK)

The journalist’s job is to document events that they have witnessed and ensure reports are honest, balanced and fair. Meanwhile marketing is a business management activity that often involves persuading a consumer to take an action.

Can you see that the two are not the same and that a journalist will never view ‘news’ as ‘marketing’? Journalism is a neutral description of events. So if you want to get a story into the German business press, you’ll need to think like a journalist and share your story.

You can also open the conversation long before you will want coverage by offering yourself as an expert resource. This means if a journalist is writing a story on your industry or about your competitor, you might get called to provide analysis or balance to their story with expert insight.


  • Start making your ‘target list’ of key journalists and news organizations now don’t wait until you need to call someone for coverage
  • Journalists are interested only in newsworthy items, not thinly disguised advertisements
  • Press will only help publicize your good points, it can’t compensate for a bad product or service and it won’t give you what you have not got
  • Pay attention to SEO best practices when you create your press campaign materials
  • Press campaigns work best when used as part of a strategy integrating activities

And finally, keep in mind that there are laws and regulations for press that must be followed across the whole of the European Union and Germany is not exempt from them. If you want to get news published in the German media, your story will need to make it on its merits.

Why Should You Care about Soft Landing?:

The project’s aim is to increase know-how on scaling to high profile ecosystems in order to facilitate growth for European startups. If you’re a startup or ecosystem leader, Soft Landing gives you the opportunity to visit another and dive in like a local — learning how a new ecosystem works as you scale your business.

They’ll also fund you to participate. For ecosystem builders, visits within the EU are eligible for €700 in receipt reimbursements meanwhile excursions outside the EU are eligible for a refund of up to €1,200. Startups benefit from free participation in a full week-long program.

Join the Next Landing:

Soft Landing Berlin has been the first of dozens of sessions planned to take place over the next two years for ecosystem leaders and startups in six locations: Berlin, Paris, Vilnius, Zoetermeer (NL), India and the United States.

The compressed ecosystem leaders program is stretched over a full week for startups. However, in most cases, startups have the additional option to extend their stay for up to one month. holds more information about the programs as well as a link to F6S, the world’s largest platform for founders, where all participant applications are processed.

You can read more about Berlin’s startup scene in my Medium article “Berlin’s Got Talent: 5 Startups to Watch in 2018”.

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