Why music tech startups choose Berlin
The booming startup culture that Berlin has been nurturing since the mid-2000s has developed into one of the most relevant pillars of the capital’s economy over the past decade. While food, fashion, fintech, travel and IoT companies make up the largest share of the city’s economic evolution, a new player has matured into the mainstay of the local startup scene: MusicTech.
Berlin’s liberal way of life is probably one of the reasons why talents from all over the world settle in the German capital. But it is the city’s creative and vigorous spirit that helps over 1,450 companies and startups to create innovation. For years, behemoths like SoundCloud, Native Instruments and Ableton have been the biggest names in the music tech industry; yet in their shadow, new, innovative startups have sprouted.
We talked to three innovative Berlin-based music tech companies and asked why they chose Berlin as their business location.
“Berlin is the European hub for talented people!”
The Berlin-based startup Holoplot builds hardware and software products that push the boundaries of conventional audio and loudspeaker technology. Their products allow for flexible sound design by controlling the sound propagation by software, which addresses the challenges of conventional loudspeaker technology. Founded in 2011, their office is located within the Tempelhof neighbourhood just south of the historic airport. The company is looking to become the global leader for professional audio systems within the next decade and believes that Berlin is the right place to support their bold vision of turning the sound industry on its head.
“Berlin is an attractive location for people to live thanks to its cultural offerings, (still) moderate housing prices and vibrant start-up ecosystem. These are strong arguments for finding talent at affordable conditions. It is further well located in Europe and easy to get to.” – Roman Sick, CEO Holoplot
He loves being in Berlin and appreciates the creative music scene as a strong benefit for Holoplot. He identifies the capital as the “European hub for talented people” that helps to further innovate and develop their technology into commercial products.
A prominent standing in the European tech landscape
Berlin’s attraction for talents is also greatly valued by music and audio tech startup Mimi Hearing Technologies. The company develops sound personalisation solutions to bring science-based sound personalisation integration to any consumer electronic device, everywhere people listen. In fact, they had built up an international team with a long-standing science and audio industry background so quickly, that they outgrew their first office in Berlin-Mitte. But the startup was able to find a new location in the eastern district of Friedrichshain. What could have been a potentially business-threatening endeavour in other European cities – ofiice rent in London or Paris can sometimes be three times the rate of Berlin – moving into a more spacious place was less of an issue here.
Mimi also successfully partners with consumer electronics giants like beyerdynamic and Loewe Technologies – an accomplishment that can to some extent be attributed to Berlin’s development into the centre of gravity within Europe’s tech business and startup ecosystem.
“Berlin is growing into Europe’s hotspot for a widespread tech scene with a great combination of disruptive innovations,” says Marketing Manager Andreas Berglind.
“People are open-minded and always happy to help!”
Various Berlin-based initiatives help smoothen market entrance and assist in answering all the questions that come with relocating a business to Berlin or establishing a startup in the city. Among these associations is the Bundesverband Musiktechnologie Deutschland e.V., or simply MusicTech Germany. As a main contact point for all matters of music and technology, they serve as a networking and logistics hub for the industry.
One of the founding members of the initiative is the Prenzlauer Berg-based company Soundbrenner. Combining wearables and smart software, they introduced the Soundbrenner Core, a 4-in-1 smartwatch, designed specifically for musicians, including a vibrating metronome, a magnetic contact tuner as well as a decibel meter. They have shipped over 80,000 wearables, and more than 500,000 musicians are using their mobile application monthly. They operate out of Berlin, with an office in Hong Kong managing their hardware supply chain.
The reasons for focusing on Berlin as their main office? “Its great music culture and edgy charisma are almost unparalleled, and musicians as well as developers from all over the world gravitate to the German capital because of it. All our employees feel welcome and appreciate German healthcare, great public transport and a relatively low cost of living when compared to other European metropolises,” Julian Vogels, CTO and Co-founder of Soundbrenner, says. When asked about a story that best describes Berlin’s edgy and open-minded character he adds:
“We sometimes cook paella in a huge pan for our employees right in the garden of the apartment building our office is located in. Instead of complaining about the noise and smell, our neighbours came out to join us. People are open-minded and supportive here, and they are genuinely interested in innovative companies and products.”
This social atmosphere is also noticed by Holoplot’s CEO Roman Sick. He feels that “networking in general is very easy in Berlin. You can get in contact with everyone you like through a couple of connections. People are open-minded and always happy to help (…)”.
Room for improvement
While naming some advantages for Berlin as a startup location, Roman Sick also points to some of the challenges that businesses and talents face when starting a business or career in Berlin. “The challenge in Berlin is competition for certain types of engineers and sufficient housing options for young families moving here,” he explains.
Julian Vogels, CTO and Co-founder of Soundbrenner, also identifies some areas in which Berlin has work to do and needs to advance itself, considering there are no signs for the startup craze to slow down anytime soon:
“There is some potential for improvement, and many opportunities for the city administration to renew themselves and become more efficient. While there are great city services like the Business Immigration Service of Berlin Partner, dealing with the local district administration can be challenging to our international employees from outside the European Union.”
As other supporting organisations that were essential in getting off the ground, he further names Startup Weekend, hardware.co, betahaus and the Fab Lab Berlin. New music tech Berliners are also invited to check out Soundbrenner’s Musical Instrument Maker Meetup Berlin, “(…) a growing community of makers and tinkerers with over 160 members already”.
Header image: Soundbrenner