Germany meets Israel was the theme for the IFA Next Big Thing discussion, showcasing the pros and cons of two of the most hyped startup cities in the world. The topics of the day focused on what draws entrepreneurs to Berlin and Tel Aviv, what the “next big thing” will be and the problems facing startups in Germany.
The discussion panel featured investors and founders from Israel and Germany, including the likes of Amen founder Felix Petersen, tape.tv founder Conrad Fritzsch, Earlybird partner Ciarán O’Leary and Israeli founder of youAPPi, Moshe Vankin, along with a key note speech from Israeli entrepreneur Dov Moran, founder of Comigo and inventor of the USB stick.
Ciarán O’Leary discussed the appeal of Berlin, saying “when you’re walking through this city you feel there is this energy, it’s like we’ve reached critical mass and there is a build up of raw talent, you can just tell that something big is going to happen”.
The similarities between Tel Aviv and Berlin were a big discussion point, including the fact that the fast-paced cities have a similar spirit and lifestyle, hubs for creativity and a celebration of innovation. Or as Yariv Erel, founder of justAD, simply put it, Tel Aviv is the same as Berlin, but with a beach!
That said, Digital Pioneers COO Nico Lumma, disagreed with a lot of the fawning over Berlin, making himself a few enemies on the panel by claiming that “Hamburg is half the size but doubly as productive as Berlin.”
The panel complained about the challenges facing German startups, including the difficulties penetrating European markets due to their vastly different cultures. Another problem pointed out was the “backwards mindset” of a lot of Germans, who consider being an entrepreneur as a status-less career and still lust after the money and stability offered by jobs at big corporations. American investment manager for High-Tech Gruenderfonds, Curtis MacDonald, pointed out the difference between the mentality in the US and Germany, saying here the most common response to someone being an entrepreneur is “oh, so that means you’re unemployed?”
Difficulties gaining funding were addressed but sadly not solved in the two hour panel, the general consensus is that the government should stay out of startups and the only way startups should build capital is by proving their worth with hard work and great ideas. While the EU “Blue Card” working visa was pointed out as a step in the right direction, there was unanimous agreement the conditions of the card need to be relaxed.
And what innovations does the panel think will be big in the future? Big data, security, mobile content and payments, social services and networks and applying the things we’ve learnt from Web 2.0 to the real world. Felix Petersen believes we don’t need to own things anymore as our lives are being transferred online – consider how archaic CDs now are!
And in closing, Felix Petersen offered friend Conrad Friztsch some sage advice on recruiting desperately needed skilled staff members, suggesting he “look at the Rocket Internet or Team Europe staff and poach them from there!”
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