Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Whirlwind Tour of the Berlin Startup Scene


I just spent a few days in Berlin. I occasionally get nostalgic for Berlin - I lived here in Reinickendorf as a kid from 1988-1990, and remember that it felt like something important was happening when the wall came down during my time there.

I asked my friend Douwe Osinga, co-founder of travel startup Triposo, if I could stay with him for a few days and he said yes.

I reached out to some folks for intros in Berlin and had breakfast with Marguerite Imbert, editor of Berlin-based blog VentureVillage. I expected that 2, maybe 3 meetings in Berlin would materialize.

Not so: In the last 72 hours, I've visited Triposo, Amen, ResearchGate, DailyDeal, Moped, ItsPlatonic, rules.io, EyeEm, PhoneDeck, Piabo PR, Earlybird, and Startup Bootcamp for a total of 12 stops. Turns out people here like visitors from the Valley.

Three takeaways:
  1. Berlin has excellent quality of life: Great public transit, excellent infrastructure, beautiful and affordable apartments and office spaces.
  2. Good engineering talent is easier to find and less expensive than in the Valley. No H1-B hassles either here for getting smart people from Eastern Europe.
  3. Series As are hard to get.While there is now an abundance of seed capital sources in Berlin, you'll have to look to London or the Valley for your Series A and beyond. More and more Valley firms are willing to invest in Berlin though.
I was impressed with the quality of the founders and their thinking here. Lots of smart people doing interesting things - far from the clone factory that BusinessWeek likened Berlin to when they wrote about the Samwer brothers a few months ago.