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Is Berlin the Next Silicon Valley?

Marcia Hansen Writer

While California has long been the tech startup center of the world, Berlin is creating some buzz of its own. As tech enthusiasts file in for IFA, Europe’s largest consumer electronics show, the German capital will show the world why investment dollars are pouring in.

Mix smart, ambitious entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas and a liberal pouring of venture capital investment dollars, and the result is a vibrant startup culture.

Berlin, Germany’s burgeoning tech hub, brings that entrepreneurial spirit to a low-cost city with a hip urban scene. As new Berlin startups attract significant venture capital, the city has the potential to challenge Silicon Valley’s reign as the world’s tech innovation capital.

While Silicon Valley may be the unicorn capital of the world, Berlin has experienced rapid investment dollar increases, jumping ahead of other big cities.

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These investments totaled US$2.2 billion in 2014. Surprisingly, that’s $500 million more than London.

One of Berlin’s newest startups, GoButler, a personal assistant service, recently received $8 million in additional funding with Ashton Kutcher among the contributing venture capitalists (VCs). EyeEm, a photo-sharing site for professional photographers, headquartered in Berlin with a new sister office in San Francisco, raised $18 million in new funding in April.

Big tech funding is also flowing into Berlin. IBM has provided cloud investments and an Internet content site with relevant startup content, techberlin.com, an online hub for entrepreneurs and VCs to connect.

As Guido Beermann, Permanent Secretary in Berlin’s Senate Department for Economics, Technology and Research, stated, “Every 20 hours a new Internet company is being found in Berlin.”

Cisco also started openBerlin in 2014, an innovation center to catalyze business development. Google started Factory, a coworking location to nurture startup innovation.

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A Hub for Work-Life Balance

To become the next Silicon Valley, however, it takes more than millions in investment dollars.

Low rental prices are one of the critical factors for startup success and a booming tech innovation hub. For engineers and entrepreneurs, inexpensive housing and office space means they can more easily build startups and incubation communities to accelerate ideas.

In Silicon Valley, on the other hand, rents are skyrocketing.

The next startup city also has to have a certain cool factor. Attracting top talent is a lot harder without a thriving urban scene.

Luckily, Berliners enjoy a high quality of life with more than 600 art galleries, 270 movie theaters, 1,000 production companies, and various nightclubs, restaurants, festivals and events.

Over the next month, Berlin will celebrate the 35th Long Night of the Museums in which all the museums have late hours for visitors.

September also marks the 15th Berlin International Literature Festival, and Lollapalooza Berlin comes to Europe for the first time. Berlin Art week and Music Festival Berlin, which gives orchestras around the city exposure to classical music fans from around the world both happen in September.

All of these cultural events prove that Berlin cultural life proves to be rich and varied, giving employees at startups plenty of lifestyle enjoyment.

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Tech Events Highlight Berlin Innovation

Aside from the many cultural happenings, numerous tech events serve the tech startup community.

The world’s largest tech companies, including Intel, will converge in Berlin on September 4-9 at IFA, Europe’s largest consumer electronics show. Attendance is estimated at more than 240,000. Intel’s Kirk Skaugen will introduce the company’s newest technology.

Another event, Tech Open Air (TOA), took place in July. It was an interdisciplinary conference for Berlin startups with a goal of connecting “changemakers” in tech, art and music.

After experiencing TOA, Impakter author Julia Volyanska wrote, “If you want to work in the European start-up capital of the future — you might want to book yourself a one-way ticket to Germany.”

For entrepreneurs who are sold on the city’s many benefits, Berlin Startup Jobs has openings across various startups.

 

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