Clue's office in Berlin Kreuzberg

Europe's Silicon Allee

"Berlin has a lot of history, much of which was destroyed in World War II. It’s still undergoing a period of rebuilding", says local resident Ida Tin when asked to describe her neighbourhood. Tin is part of a growing cohort of entrepreneurs currently contributing to the German capital city’s transformation.

She is founder of Clue, an ovulation tracking app, which raised £16m in funding at the end of last year. She moved to Berlin four years ago to launch Clue with her co-founder, Hans Raffauf, a Kreuzberg native.

Ida Tin, founder of Clue
Ida Tin, founder of CLUE (c) Clue

Work and life

Every year, more than 500 tech startups launch in Berlin. The tech businesses are drawn to the city for its low cost of living – useful when working on the typical shoestring salaries offered at young tech companies.

"It’s really easy to convince people to move to Berlin", says Bas Grasmayer, product director at classical music streaming platform Idagio. ‘If you’re into high culture and underground stuff, that’s here.’

portrait Bas Grasmayer, product director Idagio
Bas Grasmayer, product director at classical music streaming platform Idagio (c) Idagio

Grasmayer has lived and worked in various European cities – including Amsterdam and Moscow – and says Berlin’s relaxed way of life is what appeals. ‘There’s lots of green everywhere,’ he says. ‘If you want to relax in a park, you’re never more than five minutes away from a decent one.’

More appealing than the 24-hour working culture of Silicon Valley and London’s endless hustle and bustle, the culture of ‘Der Feierabend’ (the end of work) reigns supreme in Berlin, seeing equal importance placed on work and free time.

Idagio’s app on Smartphone
The IDAGIO App (c) Idagio

The city for startups

These favourable conditions have led to the formation of some hugely successful technology businesses; laundry app Zip Jet and food-tech startups Hello Fresh and Delivery Hero all chose to make Berlin their home.

Founded in 2011, Delivery Hero’s public offering raised almost £900m when it launched on the stock exchange in June.

It demonstrates a healthy appetite among investors for German tech businesses – and a good amount of cash appears to be available for those based in the capital. Last year, more than £90m was invested in Berlin startups.

"The tech scene is relatively young, but growing very fast,’ says Tin. ‘It’s a great base for a tech business because it’s cheap, especially in the first few years when teams have less runway."

Building a network

In this spirit, it’s no surprise the world’s first ‘DIY’ crowdfunded tech festival started in Berlin.

Launched in 2012, Tech Open Air welcomes more than 10,000 visitors every July. Clue’s Tin say it’s the perfect place to connect with young entrepreneurs working in the tech space. "Berlin’s tech scene mirrors Berlin as a city", says Tin. ‘It’s a scrappy but innovative place to be.

StartupNight Berlin

There’s also Startup Night, held this year on 8 September, which is one of Europe’s largest startup networking events, bringing investors, corporates and entrepreneurs together.

Start Alliance

For entrepreneurs coming from abroad, Start Alliance is a programme that provides support for startups to expand their products or services within a city. Tech companies from all Start Alliance partner cities are eligible to apply, with the next batches of international startups on the programme.

Partner cities of Start Alliance are: 

  • Berlin
  • Beijing
  • Dubai
  • London
  • New York
  • Paris
  • Shanghai
  • Tel Aviv
  • VIenna
  • Warsaw

More information

Start Alliance: Scouting TRip with DBmindbox to Tel Aviv
Start Alliance: Tel Aviv Scouting Trip with DBmindbox (c) Berlin Partner

This is part of a sector-by-sector series on startups in Berlin published by London based Courier magazine in association with Berlin Partner.

update: August 2018

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