How Berlin Can Become Europe’s Undisputed No. 1 Tech Hub

Panoramic view of Berlin at sunset.
Panoramic view of Berlin at sunset.

Berlin is having a moment. In 2015, the city I live in was the fastest-growing startup ecosystem in the world and received the most venture capital investment of any city in Europe. Startups headquartered in Berlin, like Delivery Hero and SoundCloud, have become global giants, and many startups across the Atlantic run their European operations from here.

Seemingly overnight, we have become Europe’s next great tech hub. As a startup founder, I love the scene that has sprouted up here. It channels the city’s creative energy — which has contributed to vibrant art, film and TV, gaming and publishing industries — into solving problems through technology.

We are fortunate to enjoy a relatively low cost of living compared to other tech hubs like Silicon Valley and London. Living costs are 43 percent higher in London than Berlin, for instance. Berlin’s cost of living is very conducive to the early-stage startup salary (or lack thereof), and it helps that office space can be acquired for a reasonable price.

Before Berlin can stake its claim as Europe’s undisputed No. 1 tech hub, however, I believe there are several things that could be improved. Here are three in particular:

Forming a startup must become a streamlined process, not a complex bureaucratic exercise. As previously mentioned, Berlin is the world’s fastest-growing startup city. To put that in perspective, one startup is founded every 20 minutes in Berlin.

When my co-founders and I were incorporating BuddyGuard, however, I was mystified by how time-consuming and bureaucratic the process was. It took us roughly nine months from our first appointment with a notary until we finally got our VAT number from the tax authorities. During that time span, we had to navigate lots of appointments and a mind-numbing amount of paperwork, the majority of which needed to be signed in the presence of a notary. The laws are simply suffocating during this initial phase, and the exhausting effort to get our company up and running could have been better spent developing our product.

We need to follow London’s example, where a company can be registered online. If we hope to be the de facto European city for technological innovation and continue enticing entrepreneurs to establish companies here, legislators need to drastically simplify this process and eliminate bureaucracy from the equation.

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SOURCE: TechCrunch, Wouter Verhoog