Guest blog by Andrew Cherrie, who works at Berlin startup MEDIGO:
For the last few years Berlin has carried Europe’s startup flag with pride, and recently climbed into the top 10 in 2015’s Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking. Graduates of Berlin’s startup playground include Soundcloud, EyeEm, and Delivery Hero, whilst investors such as Accel Partners (Facebook, Spotify, Dropbox) have cited Berlin as one of the world’s most important hubs of innovation and enterprise.
Lured in by the prospects of this growing ecosystem (and the city’s renowned ‘laid-back’ approach to everyday life), many University graduates from all over the world choose to make Berlin their home after completing their studies. Whether seeking riches or just looking for a good time, the German capital holds an enigmatic attraction for young people across the globe.
Have you thought about making the leap to Berlin after your studies, or maybe you’re interested in working at a Berlin startup as part of a course placement? Here are some insider tips to help you decide if the Berlin startup life is right for you:
People work hard
One of the most-commonly peddled misconceptions about startup life is that people spend all day bouncing between the ping-pong table and the Xbox on space hoppers. Not true. A strong work ethic is one of the main attributes that a startup looks for when hiring, whilst founders, co-founders, and managers will often work long into the night if necessary. Dedication and pride in what you are building go a long way in a startup.
People have fun
Okay, so startup employees work hard. But they also socialise and hold company events far more often than in a traditional working environment. It is customary to share a beer in the office with your colleagues at 6pm on-the-dot every Friday, whilst some companies even organise film nights, cooking lessons and salsa classes. To put it in traditional terms, a strong team bond is essential to the strong work ethic, smooth flow of ideas, and interdepartmental cooperation, which are critical for a successful startup. But there is plenty of fun to be had outside of work: parks, lakes, clubs, bars, music, art galleries, graffiti…and a city big enough to have many of the best places a secret waiting to be discovered.
People come from EVERYWHERE
If you enjoy working in a diverse team with a mix of cultural and linguistic backgrounds, then Berlin is the place to be. Many startups launch their products and services on a global scale, and the composition of team members often reflects this. And with cultural fit and personality often regarded as more important than grades and school rankings, it’s not just the privately-educated and privileged who thrive at Berlin startups.
People like food
Lunch is the social glue of startups in Berlin, ending endless awkward silences and forming the basis of 80% of non-work-related conversations. There’s no grabbing a Tesco meal deal and eating it at your desk. Lunch is a serious business and requires a deep analysis of all available options before heading out of the office. This obsession with food is most likely driven by the fact that Berlin has quality, affordable lunch spots on every street corner – and not a Greggs in sight.
People like dogs
Although the idea of having pets in the office is unthinkable in the UK, in Berlin it is almost obligatory to have a hound crawling underneath tables and greeting visitors at the door. Attitudes towards dogs are very different in general, with leads rarely necessary and cafes, restaurants, bars and most shops allowing our furry friends inside.
One Berlin startup is even rumoured to have an office turtle…
People make mistakes
One advantage of joining a developing company with a young workforce is the freedom to make mistakes, learn, and improve. Startups rarely look for the finished article when hiring (though some relevant experience is required) and instead seek raw talent that can grow alongside the company. The prospects of professional development are high in Berlin startups; many people build on their experiences to form their own startups. The ability to take risks and make mistakes, within reason, only contribute to your future career development. Berlin is a city that has made mistakes and learned how to improve, the culture of growth and constant development is bottled in the Club Mate and pours out with the tap water.
People believe in what they do
The whole concept of a startup is based around the idea of problem solving. An entrepreneur sees a problem and begins developing a product that can solve it. This means that instead of working ‘for the sake of it’ or for something you don’t care much for, startups offer a chance to feel as though you are contributing to something worthwhile. Of course, this might not always be the case (because the world is crying out for ANOTHER food delivery app), but many startups are founded with the aim of making the world a better place. If you’re interested in this kind of work, we’re always on the lookout for fresh talent to join our team.