Silicon Allee Comes Home

Silicon Allee is joining Factory to build a 7,000 sq. meter shared office and living space in Berlin Mitte, giving its community a home.

Checking out the new digs.

The Silicon Allee story started in 2011 when Schuyler Deerman and I came back to Berlin after six months of “self-incubation” (I guess you could call it) in the Valley. We wanted to instill a bit of the American startup mentality into the nascent Berlin tech scene – to establish a group of founders willing to be open about their ideas, discuss strategies and share their networks without an agenda (“What? You mean we’re just supposed to talk to people?”).

We gathered our contacts and brought everyone together over breakfast. “The real hustlers get up early,” we said. We called the meetup “Silicon Allee” as a bit of an ironic joke: two Americans dubbing Torstraße the new Silicon Valley with a German twist (pretty funny, we thought). Little did we know people would take us very seriously. German television station, ZDF, showed up to film the first meetup.

The photo we used to promote our first meetup in 2011

The community that spawned from that initial meetup has grown and evolved now for nearly five years. We started, along with David Knight, one of the first English language news publications about Berlin tech, capturing the attention of international entrepreneurs, investors and press. We’ve stayed lean (none of the founders take a salary from the company) and authentic (we hope!). And we’re now a key first touchpoint for new entrepreneurs, businesses and investors looking to experience the “Berlin startup scene.”

Our little brand that started as a pun has now become synonymous with Berlin startups. It’s been used by the likes of The New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and even the US Ambassador to Germany. But we’ve always found it funny that we regularly get emails from people asking to visit Silicon Allee, as if it is an actual, physical place. And that got us thinking…

St. Oberholz has been a great halfway house for Silicon Allee since our second meetup (thanks, Ansgar!) but we’ve never had a real home, per se.

Until now.

We’re announcing today that we are partnering with Factory to build a home for our community.

But, before I give you the details, some full disclosure is in order…

Moving day. Here we are moving from our first offices in Factory Berlin to our second.

We’ve had a long relationship with Simon Schäfer and Factory. Before Simon founded Factory he was our first angel investor, and when he brought the idea of Factory Berlin to us, we jumped at the opportunity and were literally the first team to move in. Silicon Allee joined three now defunct startups — Toast, Views and Mentor — as the first companies to move into what was then, and remained for our time there, a construction site (we shared a tiny former stable house on the campus, now occupied by Merisier, and then a converted apartment which we rented to Taptalk when we moved out). Despite the slow growth of the main building, there was an obvious power that came from being aligned with the Factory idea and network.

In February 2015, Factory announced they would grow beyond Berlin, and I joined Simon’s international team full time to help in this expansion. Since I’d been there from the beginning, I had a pretty good idea about the Factory mission, strategy and general modus operandi. I also knew what worked from a community perspective, having fostered Silicon Allee for over four years. I was excited to help the concept grow beyond Berlin.

The most attractive thing about the way Factory cultivates its community — in contrast to other incubators, accelerators or coworking spaces — is its laissez-faire approach. Factory is an operating system rather than a program itself. Factory is an interface. It’s working best when you don’t notice it’s there. Factory curates the best entrepreneurs and companies, puts them in a great building and then gets out of the way.

Our first “Block Party” in 2011 was so much fun we made it an annual event (Hey, Felix!). Photo by Johannes Lehner

As an entrepreneur, I love this. The last thing I want to be told is what I “have” to do, but instead surround myself with great entrepreneurs at various stages of development and learn from them. This is the same philosophy we’ve had at Silicon Allee since the beginning: don’t let the programming get in the way of the people. Instead, get great people together and let serendipity happen.

So, as we started planning the expansion of Factory we began thinking about these strategies — how it’s much better to grow a community organically with quality people than to force your methodology on a group. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just go into each new city, find a thriving community of quality entrepreneurs without a home and give them one? This was our light bulb moment. Why can’t we? In fact, we have one of those thriving communities right here in Berlin already: Silicon Allee!

Last year’s block party. Current plans are to have this year’s in our new building. Photo by Ana Catalá

After that revelation, things happened very quickly. We now have a six-story, 7,000 square meter building (with the possibility to grow it even larger) right smack in the center of Mitte, including startup offices, coworking desks, apartments, a rooftop terrace and event space.

Some of the space is already rented out to two international tech companies and a really cool, local, home-grown company. We’re of course saving some space for small teams and have a couple secret things planned.

The Silicon Allee campus will allow us to be in touch with our community on a daily basis, pay the operations of our lean staff and give us the opportunity to host events in our very own space. We’re not releasing any more public details about the building yet. We learned after three years of waiting for Factory Berlin to be built that you shouldn’t jump the gun on marketing a construction site, but we can ensure you’ll all be invited to our housewarming party!

For now, details will be on siliconallee.com. Stay tuned and we promise we’ll have you over to ours very soon.


Travis Todd is CEO and co-Founder of Silicon Allee and leading internationalization at Factory.