Travis J. Todd
Sep 26, 2017 · 6 min read

Silicon Allee is getting back to its roots by putting itself on the map, literally.

Berlin’s Central Tech District

I won’t get into our deep history in this post (I did that in my last one). But in my recent conversations I have discovered that Silicon Allee has meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people over the years; We have been a meetup. We have been a media outlet. We have been an event agency. We have been a coworking space. It depends on when you joined us in your journey and what you were looking for, that shaped what aspect of our work most resonated with you. But there has been one simple goal that has driven all our work — bringing Berlin’s international startup community together and connecting it with the rest of the world.

We helped Ayuda get their first office in Berlin, as well as threw a super nerdy code fight event to help them kick off their team recruitment locally.

Whether that meant helping international companies set up an office in Berlin, helping foreign VCs scout local startups, helping local companies get attention worldwide through content or just bringing great people together over drinks to try and jumpstart serendipity, our roots are in this community.

And we are getting back to our roots. To do this we’re embracing something that people have asked about for a long time, but we never considered until we had a real physical home here in Berlin. We’re putting ourselves on the map — literally.

Like all good ideas, this one wasn’t really our own. In fact we actually realized it much later than everyone else, despite it being right in front of us.

Our brand has been used as the defacto name for the Berlin startup ecosystem. But where is it exactly?

What has remained consistent over the years is that the name “Silicon Allee” came to describe a community and a place, without us having a real physical space (or even an office). We were often asked “Where is Silicon Allee?” Now at least we have a building to point people to, but people have always been curiously looking for a specific street.

Schuyler and I came up with the name on Prenzlauer Allee (in Café Hilde) and others have also claimed that Torstrasse is “Silicon Allee.” In the past, we have liked the ambiguity because it meant anyone could feel like their street was Silicon Allee. But that ambiguity came with a bit of a price. As the Berlin tech scene exploded it became hard for our lean team to find a real focus among all the amazing things going on.

Over the last years, with the planning and development of our new campus, our attention was hyper local: we were almost exclusively focused on one building. But, as we are finally open and operations are becoming more streamlined, we want to widen our focus again and get back to supporting our immediate community.

To that end, we have identified what we think is the foremost tech cluster in Berlin and where we will focus our immediate efforts at renewed local activism. Silicon Allee® finally has a concrete location.

Berlin’s central tech district and a sampling of it’s startups, vcs and tastemakers.

The neighborhood we’re proposing represents the historical heart of the city’s international tech community with borders of Chausseestrasse in the West, Invalidenstrasse in the North, Oranienburger Strasse in the South and Prenzlauer Allee in the East. These are not fixed borders. We’re open to expanding or condensing them. We just thought this was a manageable first step and it reflects what has become geographically the heart of the Berlin tech ecosystem.

We also don’t want our friends in other parts of the city to feel ostracised. If you’ve got a great company in Kreuzberg, Neukölln or even Marzahn we will, of course, continue to promote your stories and involve you in our activities.

We’re not 100% sure of the right way to approach this. We’re trusting our friends to help us. We do know that by better uniting and activating our local community we can only achieve bigger and better things together for the whole of Berlin. We especially don’t want to tell others what to do (except maybe politicians) but rather champion what is already organically happening. We only helped create the neighborhood; you did most of the hard work.

Touring members of the Bertelsmann Foundation, German Bundestag, European Parliament and U.S. Congress through our campus. It’s important to give policy-makers perspective so they can understand how their laws affect large and small businesses alike.

We would like to position ourselves as the community activists. And there’s a lot of things we think we can accomplish with this initiative. By giving people a more focused picture of how startups impact a local neighborhood we think we can collect better, more concrete data and do things like:

  • Share resources like offices, talent, and service providers
  • Help newcomers and locals live harmoniously
  • Raise awareness of policy issues facing entrepreneurs of all sizes
  • Just have fun. Together. Tech pub crawl anyone?

This is just the start. I’m sure there are other meaningful activities we will discover along the way.

Our Spacehack hackathon in partnership with Facebook and the European Commission was a chance for us to do good in the community (and have fun!) by bringing our international network together with refugees to create real solutions.

So, what role will our new campus play in all this?

We see our campus serving two roles:

Our campus, an embassy to Berlin’s tech district and a community center for it’s residents.

First we want to be an embassy. We already have people from all over the world, fresh off the plane, showing up at our doorstep and eager to get involved in the Berlin startup scene. With our new apartments and coliving concept (shameless plug: apply for one here!) we will even soon be a place these newcomers call home. We see it as our mission to point them in the right direction, help them get started, beginning with introducing them to our neighbors.

Secondly, we want to be a community center. We want to allow our neighbors to get together to forward our common mission. With that in mind, we also want to announce today that we will offer our event spaces at cost to any of our neighbors — both tech companies and small businesses. If you have an event that brings value to the community, we want to do our best to allow you to create it with as little headache as possible.

Let us know what your visions for the community are and how we can help!

We are eager to hear your visions for a physical tech district in Berlin, and are always open for suggestions. Do check out our relaunched website for more information and featured stories about our friends and neighbors.

I’m really excited to take this next step in giving back to the community that gave us so much. See you around the ‘hood!

Silicon Allee

Curated essays from Berlin’s start-up scene.

Thanks to Schuyler Deerman and Jeremy Bamberg

Travis J. Todd

Written by

Cofounder of Silicon Allee. American. Berliner-ish.

Silicon Allee

Curated essays from Berlin’s start-up scene.

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