Jon Sykes, 33
So where are you from?
Where are you working and what do you do?
I’m based in the original Berlin coworking space – betahaus. It’s the ideal first stop for anyone looking to establish themselves in Berlin, with a very international community of people exploring a wide variety of opportunities.
I am founder and partner of Us Berlin, a creative agency specialising in brand and web design. We are based in betahaus and also curate the cafe where we exhibit works from our design network. I am also founder of Racemappr, a platform for the discovery of race events. Our goal is to make finding running, triathlon, cycling etc. events easier – and are building community functions around these.
Why did you choose to move to Berlin?
I was looking for fresh opportunities and heard it was a great place to start your own project. Plus having visited for weekend breaks, already loved it. I moved from London where I worked in large agency environments. Whilst I loved the pace and challenge, London lost its appeal as I wanted to take greater control of my direction and time.
Why is Berlin the perfect location for your business/project?
One of the obvious ones is price. Disposable income is much higher here and you really can live cheaply whilst not feel like you are struggling. Low rents allow you to decide where to invest. The pace of life and also the environment where everyone is working to build something is also encouraging as you learn from each others experiences and advice.
What changes do you expect in your industry, if any, due to Brexit?
It’s still such a great unknown so we aren’t speculating. The biggest impact would be my opportunity to remain / register here permanently. Most of our work is Germany based but we have clients in the UK so it will be interesting to see if there are increased challenges / whether it remains worthwhile to attract UK clients. With regards to Racemappr, our focus is global so we already expect to address the differences between each market. Hopefully the barriers aren’t too difficult when taking our product to the community.
How would you compare Berlin to where you’re from?
Berlin is a bit different to everywhere. It feels very local despite being such a large and capital city. From London the main difference is pace of life. There just isn’t the expectation or pressure here that there is there. Some people need it, and it certainly was a lifestyle there, but I’ve never looked back. You feel like you can have a real balance to work and play. Naturally you can tip too far in both directions but the opportunity is there.
What was it you found challenging about settling in, if anything?
I haven’t found it that hard at all, but that does also come quite easily. The toughest element was finding work because without a working level of German, finding a role to suit my level of experience was difficult and limited. Although thankfully that was a stop-gap to start my own things anyway.
And how did you overcome these challenges? Anyone or anything in particular helped?
Berlin is an easy place to meet people and there are lots of people in the same situation – looking for work, friends, flats etc. The best way is to embrace groups and meetups and just socialise. Everything still happens by word of mouth.
What do you love about Berlin?
It’s given me the opportunity to create. Through people, places, lifestyle, cost everything has come together that seems to fit how I want it to be.
What advice would you give to other freshly arrived expats?
Bureaucracy can be a hassle here and finding a job isn’t so easy so do give yourselves time and a plan. But if you do get here and are still looking then don’t sit behind a laptop. Go out and meet people. Start working in a cafe and things will happen.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I would be a bad founder if I didn’t re-plug Racemappr. So if you are into challenges like running, triathlon or cycling then visit our beta site beta.racemappr.com.
Interested in Berlin? First tips about working and living: