Last week at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, I had a engaging chat with the folks from Berlin Partners from (where else?) Berlin, Germany. This contingent of entrepreneurs and businessmen had set up a booth in the expo hall right next to their colleagues at the Germany Trade & Invest group where they could talk to attendees and media about the benefits of exploring their city as a hub of technology. No, their goal, as they told me, was not to have companies pick up shop and move entirely to Berlin, but rather to possibly use the city as an extension of their business – in the event they wish to spread their reach across to Europe. As it turned out, Berlin Partners was really passionate about making an impact at Web 2.0 Expo – they came out in full force with more than two dozen representatives from Berlin’s top web companies, including some that have won a prestigious Webby Award. According to Alexander Kölpin, Berlin Partner’s head of Business Unit, Media, ICT & Creative Industries, this is “evidence of the ever-growing strength of the web industry in Berlin.”
Berlin is probably known as being one of Europe’s creative centers. Just like Barcelona is known for being a mobile hub since it is the location for the GSMA conference, Berlin is looking to control more of the technology business. When I asked why Berlin, the response was that the city was fairly young, about 20-30 years old – which really started after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In fact, I was told that the culture in Berlin was more liberal in terms of entrepreneurship and according to Berlin Partners, on average, one new Internet company emerges each week in Berlin…better than all other cities in Germany. From 2005-2007, Berlin had 64 startups compared to 55 in Munich, 49 in Hamburg or even 33 in Cologne.
Companies that currently are located in Berlin include established ones such as MySpace, ebay, Nokia and Google. But we cannot ignore the fact that there are startups that were created in this German city that may have reached across the Pacific to our shores, including Picodo, Aka-Aki, MyPhotobook, StudiVZ, SoundCloud and dozens more.
I asked what the entrepreneur economy is like and they told me that the government is friendly to entrepreneurs, but unlike the United States government where President Obama has taken an affinity to technology development in the country and a movement to create a Startup Visa to allow startups to come to our country, the German government has not taken similar action. But there are definitely opportunities for entrepreneurs with a whole new set of investors and a lower cost of living in Berlin. In fact, Knight Frank ranked the city 13th in its 2009 World Cities Survey because of its “successful world-class economy and excellent quality of life with a high-quality public realm.”
Some other quick facts about Berlin:
- Approximately 5000 IT companies with 50,000 employees and an annual turnover of 11.3 billion euro
- 20 of the 30 largest eBusiness firms have headquarters or offices in the city
- Largest pool of IT and telecommunications professionals in Germany
- Ideal test market for new applications and services, gateway to Western Europe
- Low business tax rates, highest EU funding
- Exciting mixture of urban lifestyle, green countryside, history, and culture