From Berlin into space
10 reasons why Berlin will be the center for NewSpace in Germany
Guest article by Daniel Seidel
It all started in Berlin. In May 2016 Sven Przywarra and I, both Co-Founders of LiveEO and Organizers of NewSpaceVision, met at the InnoSpace conference with the same goal in mind:
I want to, and I will build a Space Startup!
With this mission in mind we wanted to build an environment for entrepreneurs, techies, students, officials, VCs, and everyone who is interested in the space industry. In the following two years we have grown the Meetup series NewSpaceVision, which Sven started in 2016, into a big conference with more than 250 attendees from all over Europe and have built a media presence with podcasts, tweets, articles, and a newsletter. With LiveEO, we started our own venture and over the past few years a lot of young entrepreneurs came to our Meetups or other events to discuss how to start a space startup. In this period of time, thanks to our network of NewSpaceVision and LiveEO, we had a lot of discussions with all kinds of space industry stakeholders in Berlin, Germany, Europe, and the World.
Over the past few years we conducted our own small market research project by talking to officials, managers, employees, and students from organizations such as DLR and ESA, the German Government, as well as big corporations such as Airbus and OHB. Over a few glasses of red wine at the award ceremony of the Copernicus Masters in Tallinn we had a longer group chat with Robbie Schingler (Founder of Planet) and Pekka Laurila (Founder of Iceye). With frequent contact with C-suite executives from successful SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and startups such as Astrofein, PTScientists, Berlin Space Technologies, Space Structures, ValiSpace, and organizations such as the big attractor for Bavaria AZO from Oberpfaffenhofen, you can get a good overview of the status of the German NewSpace scene.
However, if you want to understand the role and the status of Germany’s NewSpace industry, you have to take a deeper dive into the US. Thanks to Sebastian Straube from Interstellar Ventures, we got in touch with SpaceX and had several meetings with John Tucker to discuss the NewSpace industry with its different players and the diversity of different regions, nations, and continents. John is the former NewSpace strategist and senior mission integrator of SpaceX and also founder of NewSpaceHub. With NewSpaceHub, he has built the largest database for Space startups out there. His newsletter is a perfect way to start the day. We always try to share our first-person experience in the space industry with you and everyone who is interested in the most exciting industry.
And in Berlin we are also able to have a deep connection to one of the most vital startup environments of the world. We met successful founders from various industries and also investors with no connection to the space industry. Based on all of our experiences over the last few years, we are very convinced that Berlin is the best place for NewSpace startups that want to build revolutionary products and who don’t just want to be an external subdivision of Airbus or OHB. Of course, we have to mention that Bavaria may be the leading space region in Germany. But NewSpace is mainly driven by miniaturization and the impact of the computer industry in both hardware and software. This is a huge opportunity for Berlin!
The following are ten reasons why Berlin will be the new capital for NewSpace in Germany. It also shows that Berlin’s role in the space industry is already bigger than its public recognition and that Berlin may have a leading position in the near future by joining forces with our NewSpaceVision community and with the help of organizations such as Berlin Partner.
Our ten reasons
1. Berlin is the leading small satellite city in Germany
One of the biggest outcomes of the New Space Age are small satellites. The Technical University of Berlin, thanks to Professor Briess, enabled the leading small sat environment in Germany. There are a lot of spinoffs in Berlin, such as German Orbital Systems, Magson, and Berlin Space Technologies. Did you know that Astrofein and BST are the only German companies aside the majors (OHB and Airbus) who are able to build an entire satellite bus? And can you imagine Planet (labs) without the Rapideye satellites which were developed more than a decade ago in Berlin? However, you can also find larger satellite expertise, for example, with Sonaca Space and Space Structures.
2. Berlin has the only private Moon mission in Europe!
When Google launched the LunarX prize in 2009, visionary engineers all over the globe started to work on a private Moon mission. In Europe it’s possible that only people from the city of Berlin, known for its craziness, continue to have such an ambitious vision. Today, the PTScientists from Berlin-Marzahn are the only surviving private Moon mission in Europe. They have been growing very fast in the past months and with strong partners such as AUDI, Vodafone, and Red Bull they may also be the first private mission to ever land on the Moon.
3. Berlin has a mature ecosystem for startups and is the leading VC city!
Berlin is most certainly the leading startup ecosystem in Germany and maybe in all of Europe. Counting the startups per capita, Berlin dominates in Germany. Startups in Berlin benefit from a strong network, the highest density of accelerators and startup hubs, and a lot of world leading conferences and events. If you want to compete with the NewSpace companies from Silicon Valley, Berlin has the advantage of far lower costs.
NewSpace is financially driven by venture capital. The US is far ahead in this domain and this is probably the reason why the biggest satellite constellation today is operated by Planet and not Rapideye. However, if you look at Germany, by far the most of VC money is invested in Berlin. This could lead to the pole position for the Berlin space industry in the coming decades.
4. No other city in Germany attracts more international talent than Berlin!
For big visionary missions you have a big advantage if you can draw upon a global talent pool. In Berlin it is normal to meet a bartender who only serves in English. The city is growing incredibly fast and people from all over the world are moving to Berlin. In 2017, more than 47 percent of employees in Berlin-based startups were not Germans, followed by Munich with 44 percent. For international talent Berlin is location number one and for space technology we need international expertise.
5. Berlin, together with Brandenburg, is a leading research environment for space hardware and applications
When it comes to geoscience, there is no other place to be. At the GFZ in Potsdam, the development of cutting-edge hardware missions such as GRACE, CHAMP, or GOCE is taking place together with ESA, DLR, and NASA. Some of the most advanced scientific space instruments for geo-research were developed and operated at the GFZ, where more than 1,200 people work. Climate change is the leading global challenge of humankind in the 21st century and the research at GFZ will help to confront this challenge.
6. Berlin brings space down to earth!
Berlin is the headquarters for leading EO and Navigation software companies and hence, the best environment for business applications in Earth Observation and Navigation. With the headquarters of Here and TomTom, leading navigation technology and applications come out of Berlin.
Airbus has a big SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) department in Potsdam and is developing applications for the cutting-edge satellite TerraSAR. In addition, “Europe’s Google,” the leading software company SAP, has a dependency and a research hub (HPI) in the region of Berlin.
And with LiveEO, Sven and I will build Europe’s leading satellite data analytics company in the coming years from the heart of Berlin. It is a visionary and an ambitious goal, but not just a theoretical dream, considering that we already have very big customers and are raising one of the largest rounds of seed funding of Germany’s space industry right now to reach it, until the end of 2018. Our strong personal connection to Europe’s leading data providers Planet and Airbus is helping us to reach our ambitious goals and together with those companies, we are building cutting-edge applications for infrastructure grids, the backbones of our modern society. Our LiveEO office is only a few minutes’ walk to Planet’s European headquarters. That’s a close connection to one of the hottest New Space companies.
7. Berlin is the city where creativity meets technology!
New ideas and visions also need an exchange with creative thinkers and artists, if you want to build an entirely new community out of it. In Berlin, you can just ask your favorite musician who sold over a million of copies to say something nice for your conference and they’ll agree to it. Space is for everyone and with the help of artists, you can have a big outreach to get more people excited about space. Berlin = creativity!
8. Planet’s European headquarters are in Berlin
Planet operates the largest fleet of satellites with mission control next to Berlin’s Ku’damm, located directly in the city center. Over the past few years, Planet had an aggressive Europe strategy and signed big contracts with ESA, Airbus, and others. They act as a driver for the ecosystem and are accelerating startups. Guess who was our first commercial sponsor beside the Master for Space Engineering Berlin? Exactly, it was Planet! We asked a lot of big institutions to sponsor NewSpaceVision, but Planet just did it because thanks to their US culture, they know how important a strong community is to build up a healthy ecosystem.
9. Customers for NewSpace companies are in Berlin!
A lot of big corporations have their headquarters or at least a big office in Berlin. The close connection to the German government and big trade fairs such as ILA happen in Berlin. Most of the potential large customers are setting up innovation hubs in Berlin and they are popping up everywhere. This is the chance for entrepreneurs to sell their products more easily in non-space industries. If you are a pure grantrepreneur, another city might be better for you.
10. Berlin has started joining forces now!
Bavaria has the big advantage that the local space industry enjoys strong support from the Bavarian government. With the AZO, they have a great organization which is connecting the industry. Bremen has the big advantage of hosting the unique German prime OHB which brings the industry together. In Berlin, every small company was operating somewhat in isolation. However, thanks to the initiative of Juliane Haupt from Berlin Partner, companies from the region are starting to join forces now. She started with quarterly meetings of all stakeholders in the Berlin region and is now facilitating contacts to other regional clusters, such as photonics and IT. With NewSpaceVision, we have also created a huge community and are Europe’s biggest NewSpace Meetup series, with close to 1,000 members (to date).
This article represents my (Daniel Seidel) personal opinion. Sven, Albrecht, and I would be happy to discuss the points with anyone who may be interested. If you work at an exciting company or if you have an exciting job in the space industry and want to discuss or present space topics in a podcast, feel free to contact us via: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to find out more about our exciting journey with LiveEO, also feel free to contact us via: email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on the New Space Vision Blog.