The Nordic Embassies is an inoffensively modern glass and chrome building tucked in a respectable West Berlin street near Tiergarten. It’s a million miles away from the sweaty dancefloors and smoky bars of Neukölln, and equally removed from the caffeine-soaked startup hub of Mitte.
But it’s here that some of the leading lights of the Stockholm and Berlin startup scene came to mingle yesterday to talk of the affinities and synergies between the two capitals and approaches to their respective startup scenes.
With so many Swedish entrepreneurs flocking to Berlin, we asked what attracts them to the city in the video below… More details after the jump…
Video shot and produced by Elaine Jung
The event, part of the Innovative Sweden event organised by Business Sweden (formerly the Swedish Trade and Investment Council) continued the trend for international startup hubs to enter into a dialogue with Berlin to try to identify its special “startup sauce”.
After a morning panel on “Idea to Successful Product” attended by Jens Begemann of Wooga and Hans Eriksson of Bambuser, the afternoon gathered a panel to discuss “What is Going On?” and “How to Stay Ahead” including Eriksson again, Per Meurling of Itembase, Niklas Mascher of Tunaspot, Erik Heinelt of Bundesverband Deutscher Startups (BVDS), Fundedbyme‘s Johan Jörgensen, Mischa Wetzel of IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft mbH, Investment Director Dr Stephan Beyer of Ventegis Capital and our very own CEO Mark Hoffmann of Vertical Media.
“The ground that the flower grows on”
“Sweden has a great mobile infrastructure – broadband and mobile industries do well there and it can be a really good test market for your product”, kicked off Itembase’s Per Meurling. “But in Berlin we found it much easier for us to get talent. Junior talent at least. The issue is that there are no Apples or Googles for us to get more senior talent from, although they can’t steal any from us either…”
Niklas Mascher drew on the cultural significances of Berlin as a place for creatives: “Berlin is a place of open spaces, where people quickly learned the value of doing their own thing. Due to its history, freedom is well respected: the government is not in the way and the levels of tolerance, plus the famous nightlife, means that it attracts a creative set.”
Dr Beyer commented on the difficulties of securing large funding in the city however: “We’ve seen a massive change in the ecosystem over the last three years, but while incubators and seed rounds are abundant, we’re still missing the big exits needed to make us a global startup hub.”
“We need a European Google”
Both Hofmann and Eriksson agreed that more was needed to make a cross-border and indeed, Europe-wide business more achievable in order to compete with US companies and produce “the next Google or Apple” on this side of the Atlantic. Meurling and Mascher pointed out the “uneven playing field” of Europe thanks to different cultures and mentalities in each market, as well as radically different taxation laws and environments for SMES.
One member of the audience summed up Berlin’s charms as “Talent, Tech and Tolerance”, while Jörgensen commented on the perfect counterbalance between the cities: “While Berlin loves to party, we Swedes love to work – that’s what we do all winter. It’s a good mix…”