The vibrant neighborhood of Friedrichshain is all of Berlin in miniature. Music pulses out of world-famous nightclubs and from the city’s largest concert arena. Art galleries and dive bars draw crowds to tree-lined cobblestone streets. On Friday afternoons, locals and tourists throng to the Markthalle IX indoor market to visit the food stalls and drink locally brewed beer. Along the south edge of the neighborhood, the Spree River flows under the towers and arches of the picturesque Oberbaum Bridge—and past the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall.
Berlin has already launched its share of tech companies into the stratosphere.
The transit station at the intersection of Frankfurter Allee and Warschauer Strasse marks the center of the neighborhood. In the commercial district a block south, technology startups are working to channel Friedrichshain’s energy into Berlin’s next digital sensation. According to StartUP Berlin, this neighborhood of less than four square miles contains more than three dozen startups and 5 of the city’s 20 co-working spaces. Entrepreneurs and innovators are likely drawn to the central location, easy access to transit, affordable rents, and bohemian sensibilities.
Berlin has already launched its share of tech companies into the stratosphere. The best known is SoundCloud, founded in 2008 as a platform for musicians and podcasters to share and monetize their work by connecting directly with listeners. SoundCloud raised almost US$300 million in eight rounds of funding and claimed more than 175 million monthly listeners in 200 countries. (As befalls many startups, SoundCloud has struggled to sustain itself. In July 2017, the company abruptly laid off 40% of its staff amid reports that it had only enough cash on hand to stay afloat until the end of the quarter. Investors rescued it in August, injecting additional funds and installing a new executive team).
A more recent success is Dubsmash, an app that lets people create and share short videos of themselves lip-syncing to their favorite songs. Released in late 2014, the app went viral, becoming the top seller in Apple’s App Store in 29 European countries. To date, Dubsmash has raised $15.43 million in venture funding.
The next generation of Berlin startups has moved in. The 2016 Berlin Venture Capital Report indicates that startups in Berlin captured 69% of venture capital investments in Germany, totaling more than €2 billion. Planio, which offers online project management software, and elefunds, which provides a platform for charity fundraisers, have set up shop in Friedrichshain.
There’s no shortage of support for the local startup scene. StartUP Berlin has been connecting entrepreneurs to each other, as well as to investors, contractors, and job seekerssince 2013. In 2017, Startupbootcamp launched a digital health accelerator in Berlin to join its existing smart transportation and energy program there.
This year has already brought two major startup-focused events: the third annual Berlin International Entrepreneurship Forum, hosted by StartUP Connect Berlin in March; and the first CUBE Tech Fair, designed to connect startups with major industry leaders, in May. This September, Startupnight is expected to attract more than 5,000 attendees, including potential corporate partners, investors, and customers.
Although Friedrichshain isn’t the only part of Berlin with startup activity, it does offer one amenity that no other neighborhood can match: the Computerspielemuseum Berlin. Tucked into the ground floor of a Cold War-era apartment block on Karl-Marx-Allee, it is the world’s first museum of computer games. Its archive contains 14,000 games dating back to the 1960s, and many of the 300 games on display are playable. What self-respecting digital entrepreneurs could resist spending a lunch break there, dreaming of attaining the same iconic status for their company as Pong or Pac-Man? D!
Where to eat:
Pauly Saal modern German and Austrian
Morsh prix fixe French
Rutz innovative German
Where to stay:
Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.