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If collaboration is currency, Oberholz is a bank Written by Paul Nelligan on 21. February 2012

Kicking the can towards inevitable doom

If we watch the major news networks these days, we’re led to believe that the world is in a catastrophic state. Banks, currencies, and economies either on the verge of collapse or collapsing. Austerity measures across Europe, riots in Greece, and even my beloved Ireland is running into ruin. Bailouts are the order of the day to keep a creaking financial sector from going belly up, and pundits warn us that this is merely kicking the can down the road towards inevitable economic doom.

The view from the ground

This media view is limited. Everywhere I look, from Dublin to Taiwan, people are choosing to ignore this and start something for themselves. This is exactly the right antidote to economic woe. Never has there been a better time to build your own startup. In every social circle people are putting themselves out there, building products and companies. This new economy is firmly centered on the tech sector, and more particularly on web-based innovation. Today’s graduates can no longer assume they’re just going to walk into a job based on their qualifications, and so many of them will earn their stripes, and pursue a career in entrepreneurship.

If collaboration is currency, then Oberholz is a bank.

Because there are so many young startups in Berlin, it’s always easy to find peers who are at a similar level to you, whether you’re a Rocket spinoff, or a bootstrapper. Take a walk into Sankt Oberholz, Betahaus, or any Berlin coworking space any day of the week and you’ll see what I mean. In every quarter you’ll find driven, motivated, talented young people helping each other out with advice, feedback, and a whole lot of latte machiato (foreigners; be careful when ordering a “grosse Latte” here, it might be misunderstood!).

Indeed this collaborative energy is not limited to the tech sector.

The other day I had a very productive meeting this week with a music PR agency, and I’m very happy to now call them collaborators. I’m helping them with their web requirements, and they’re helping me with customer development so we both win! Whenever someone comes to me with a specific requirement, I get product ideas, and I always jump at the chance to help them out.
GALLERY: Last night (Monday), Marguerite did a random sampling of the Oberholz crowd to see who was represented. She found one circus artist, one New Yorker, one philosopher’s stone, many open German text books, more beers than lattes, and many people working in headphones who were glad to take them off for a chat. Do you see yourself? Stay tuned each week to find your face on VV’s new “Mondays @Oberholz series”


Ich will nach Berlin.

Martin Bohringer’s article “Ich Will nicht nach Berlin” correctly points out thatthere are a lot of creative companies outside of Berlin. I couldn’t agree more. I could feasibly build a startup in a village on the west coast of Ireland, but the fact is, Berlin is full of multipliers, and that’s why it’s great to be here. Watching the recent TWIST Berlin video, I was extremely impressed by the range, skill, and dedication of Berlin Startups. I’ve made many connections here and have exchanged ideas with many talented and intelligent people since arriving and I continue to benefit from this. This is the main reason I organised the Berlin Skills Exchange, after which Index Ventures have approached me and are organising a London edition, which I’m definitely going to make the trip over for!

The buck stops at you!

So, despite all this help being available, eventually the buck stops at the individual and their ability to execute. If you follow through with your ideas and manage to build something, you’ll find a whole support network of people who will support you in your efforts in whatever way they can. Smart people know that helping someone who’s starting out can have bigger benefits in the long run.
Because of these observations , I’m no longer concerned about what I read or see in the news. The only news I need now is tech news.