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Starting Over in Berlin

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Following their 3-month METRO Accelerator for Retail Program powered by Techstars in Berlin, three of the 9 startups have decided to relocate to the German capital.

Orlando Remedios, Ahmet Unwer and Pawel Kolacz

What brought you to Berlin? There’s a question I’ve found myself being asked many times, and maybe all I need to say is “startup”, and then it’s case closed. Over 40,000 new companies are founded in Berlin annually, meaning there’s huge scope for new opportunities in Berlin. Although most job openings are tech related, there’s still a wide array of other jobs directing droves of people to the startup centre of Europe. Berlin has a steadily increasing business market, it is the start-up capital of the world after Silicon Valley, which many Berliners are not actually aware of.

Of course, Berlin is endlessly cool and creative with its diverse music and off the wall counterculture. Since the historical wall came down, the explosion of electronic music has risen and invited hordes of tourists to the city, making return visits and perhaps even moving here to work in startups. Countless creatives have pitched up in Berlin over the last few decades, hungry to explore its creative freedom, such as David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Nick Cave and Lou Reed, plus a continuous succession of more grassroots artistic talent. In fact, many natives themselves say Berlin isn’t Germany, and is more like a separate entity.

Fernsehturm, Alexanderplatz, Berlin

It must be said, moving to Germany can seem full of confusion and contradictions, as it’s very hard to find housing, partly due to gentrification. The harsh and hefty 3-month deposit many landlords can be hard to stomach. On the other hand, it’s still reasonably inexpensive to live here, but times are changing, which Greg Rogers, Executive Director at Techstars observed during a recent visit to Berlin, commenting on the number of cranes he could see out the window, and saying Berlin will be a different place in ten years time. What’s more, registration, working out freelance contracts, tax numbers, opening bank accounts, dealing with health insurance, and piles of other complex German paperwork, will ensure your stockpile resembles a phone directory after a few months, putting even the smartest artificial intelligence expert to the test.

It should probably be said that Startup CEOS are arguably far less likely to be coming here to tear up the town and paint the town red, compared to their hedonistic counterparts who often live and work in the party. They’re more likely working all the hours the man in the sky sends, trying to get their businesses off the ground. And let’s face it, startups are used to doing things in the face of adversity, so a move to Berlin should be no exception for three of the startups from the current Metro Accelerator for retail powered by Techstars Accelerator in Berlin.

Orlando Remedios from Portugal has decided to set up shop permanently in Berlin. He’s the Portuguese CEO of Sensefinity, which provides a 360 degree IoT tracking solution for businesses, and said: “We’ll set up an office and move the headquarters from Sintra to Berlin. Berlin will be the headquarter location, and our Marketing and Sales functions will be located here. In Berlin, we have the possibility to interact with a lot of corporates coming from the DACH region and beyond. We’ve met with Danish, French and Swiss companies, so it’s a real good point for connecting with corporates and scaling the business further.

Sensefinity will start with three people, including the CEO, Marketing and Sales specialists, building a local service team for the DACH region, hence their requirement for German speaking people who will also be based in Berlin.

“We were selected to be based in Factory, which is a nice ecosystem by itself. It will also help us in Berlin, because of the implicit connections inside the Factory area itself. We are in the space of IoT which is an advantage because Factory is one of the selected hubs of the German Ministry of Economy for IoT acceleration, so we’re in the right space and in the sweet spot at Factory. The involvement of Metro and Techstars very likely gave additional credibility, and likely put us in a favourable position.”

The Factory, Rheinsberger Strasse, Berlin