Despite being fairly well travelled across Europe's startup scenes, and having been to Germany on several occasions, I had somehow never quite made it to Berlin, so this week I changed that.
In the 36 hours I've been here so far, I've packed my time meeting and talking with startups, entrepreneurs and organisations, to help me get a better understanding of what's happening.
We're told that first impressions are important, so I thought I would give my immediate and unfiltered thoughts on Berlin's startup scene from the interactions and discussions I've had so far.
I'm sure that my opinion will change as I spend more time here, both on this trip and in the future, but for know here's my 'gut take' on Berlin's startup scene:
Rocket Internet's influence is huge and undeniable
It's hard to have a conversation with anyone without Rocket entering it at some point, in fact I even started timing how long it would be before someone mentioned them when I've been talking with people, such was their presence on my conversations. And whether this reference was on positive or negative terms really depended on the person, as opinion seems to be split into two clear camps of liking them or not liking them. However, even those who are not their biggest fans seem to possess an underlying respect for their achievements.
And despite the split on opinion in terms of their business practices, most seem to agree that they have had a positive impact on the scene both in terms of employment, inspiration and support.
No desire to compete with London
There doesn't seem to be much of a desire to be the 'number one ecosystem' in Europe, or to compete with London, the city they are so often compared to. Now I'm certainly not saying that this is a bad thing, just amusing that there appears to be no interest in how they stack up to London, when everyone else is so focused on doing so.
The scene is either small or well connected
I can't quite figure this one out yet, but everyone seems to know each other. Now, I'm not sure whether this is down to the size of the scene or whether it's just really joined-up, but I've witnessed a multitude of people bumping into each other at the meet-ups I've attended, and when someone is mentioned in conversation everyone always seems to know them, reminding me more of smaller ecosystems like in the Nordics rather than London. (See, there I go comparing them)
There's something on every night
If you're an entrepreneur or in a startup in Berlin then you are certainly not going to get bored, on all of the nights that I am here they are multiple events on each of the nights, and high-quality ones too, not just time fillers. Case in point, both Techstars and Point Nine Capital are throwing events tonight. (If you're coming to Point Nine's then come and say hello).
There are accessible entry points for 'outsiders'
Due to the pure number of events and initiatives, there are plenty of opportunities for those interested in starting a company or joining a startup to get exposure to the scene and mix with Berlin's entrepreneurs. Participants at events are diverse too, ranging from students, to people with an idea, to Rocket-backed companies who are raising Series B's. Accessible entry points are something that I'm very passionate about, and believe are vital to the maturity of an ecosystem, Berlin certainly seems to have this right.
Its conditions are perfect for entrepreneurs and startup folk
The city of Berlin itself has two extremely important attributes that startup folk are always looking for: it's cheap and it's creative. Taking this into account, Berlin has to be an extremely strong consideration for anyone considering starting up, and I'm certain that the scene will definitely have grown in size over the next year or so as more and more people take advantage of these conditions.
One thing is for sure, I've been very impressed by both the city and ecosystem and I will definitely be back to spend time in both, and I look forward to seeing if/how my initial impressions will change.
What do you think of my thoughts? Do you agree with me or do you feel that my gut is wrong? Let me know in the comments, but be gentle with me, I hosted a tech.eu drinks meet-up here last night...
Featured image credit: Mapics / Shutterstock