5 Days in Berlin – Lessons About Startups Ecosystem

I’ve been studying in Germany for 6 months. It was quite challenging, because my language was very poor, but after a few months of speaking German it was easy to communicate. During my Erasmus I had a chance to travel to different cities like Munich, Hamburg or Berlin. Yes, Berlin – it’s a different city than the others. The mindset, the mixture of people, culture and businesses. I love this place and I visit it whenever I have a chance.

At the beginning of January 2015 we decided with Piotr that it’s time to conquer the German market and the best place to start is multicultural Berlin. So I started looking for potential meetups and selected partners. I searched through Xing.de and I found a few interesting people to talk to. I also invited exGooglers living in Berlin. We decided to participate in a great event – Startup Safari. If you are not familiar with the concept of this event check out their website and you will understand, why it’s worth joining. Our schedule was full!

Monday, January 26th – Australia Day in Berlin

We arrived and tried to buy some sim cards with Internet to have Google Maps and other useful apps in our pocket. The funny thing is if you are a foreigner you can buy 500 MB Internet on the SIM card only in T-Mobile. In other carriers you have to be registered in Germany as a citizen.

At night we had a great party in our hostel, because it was Australia Day and every Australian person in Berlin was celebrating. AWESOME! We met a lot of crazy people and talked about the culturetravels and visits in Poland. There were 2 guys from Denmark, who once visited Sopot and they said it was hard (they participated in a Polish wedding). The night was great and we felt like true Berliners!

Lesson #1: before going to Germany check your Internet options!

Tuesday, January 27th – People like to talk about cooperation

We woke up quite early and we jumped into the U-Bahn. We met Esat from recruitment agency, who told us about his work. We exchanged ideas. At some point we realised that he wasn’t able to help us with projects, because he was looking for people who can move to Berlin and work for some huge corporation. That’s not what we do. We help people build online products as a team, not separate players.

Around 11.00 AM we decided to move forward and visit betahaus, one of the most famous coworking spaces for startups in Berlin.  There we’ve met Katka who told us about Elance and oDesk. She is a very nice and helpful person. We were also invited to PITCH our projects in front of startups scene in Berlin and we know, we will use this opportunity in the nearest future. We had a chance to talk to a few freelancers about IT projects in Berlin and startup scene in this region. We had lunch and we had a chance to eat rabbit there. It was delicious! BTW, in the Berlin Wall period there were thousands of rabbits in the city – you can read the full story here.

The rest of the day we were writing posts for our blog, so stay tuned, we’ve prepared a lot of interesting stuff for you!

Lesson #2: before scheduling any meetings create business personas – people who might be interesting for you as a business partner. Even if you will realise at a certain point, that you won’t be doing business with the person (different needs) you can always get some valuable insight from the market.

Wednesday, January 28th 2015

The day arrived. Startup Safari began! First we had a great breakfast at Rainmaking Loft. We started networking. Maciej Laskus, the organiser was leading everyone. It was a great breakfast, interesting people to talk to and a day full of meetings. I was using Bizzabo all the time as a networking app. It was fine, but I think Conventica would serve better 😉

First meeting was at Delivery Hero. Their CTO explained, why they buy companies instead of building markets from scratch, how fast they scale and how they want to build a one platform for all the markets. At a certain point the system for ordering pizzas will be the same everywhere, only brands remain locally. Very inspiring speech with a great discussion + pizza of course 🙂

Our next meeting was a visit in the office of DCMN, a great german Media House. The CEO and CTO told us how they started the company plus explained how it is possible for them to negotiate prices with publishers even 90% down. We had a chance to catch up with the CEO and we discovered that we can implement predictive analyses in their Ad System (the solution of our friend – Jacob from PinYourClient).

The third company that opened doors for us was Lovoo – dating app in Germany. The Marketer and Tech Guys told us the story of their success – how they’ve reached the audience of 22 mln people and how they’ve monetized them. We have learned a lot about growth hacking strategies plus we had a chance to be in a really great office. Piotr has earned lovely glasses:

Last meeting that day was great. We were invited by Lars, the Founder of NeedsApp. Sitting on 14th floor of UFO Center we were talking about Silicon Valley, Startups and Content Marketing. We have exchanged ideas and we found the way to cooperate in the future.

In the evening we visited Gestalten Pavillon, where we could spend a nice time with Finnish Designers, talking about their culture and the influence on design in Europe.

Lesson #3: learn a lot from people better from you. Make notes, ask question. Imitate their activities and there is a chance for similar results. Moreover meet new people and always be ready to help.

Thursday, January 29th – Breakfast, networking and the party

Betahaus again – we had a chance to participate in a breakfast with young entrepreneurs. 3 great presentation of startupers: ZartisGroopDoo and Rockstart Sales Course . Before pitches we had a chance to introduce ourselves. It was very helpful and we could easily find people to talk to, like Hugo from Ekipa.co who told us about his new online marketplace for hiring web developers and programmers. We also got in touch with Emilia from one interactive agency and we discovered that we might help each other in business.

In the afternoon we went to Jonas, the owner of one of German mobile agencies. It was an interesting experience. He told us that without German-speaking representatives it will be hard to make business in Berlin. We discussed communication issues and quality of some projects. A lot of useful insight from a local insider.

In the evening we finally arrived to the closing party of Startup Safari in DCMN Office. A fridge with Becks, some snacks and a room full of people from around the world, who were open for to all kinds of discussions. There was also a small dog running around and you could take selfie in a selfie box (below you see the elevator pic). We had a lot of fun!

Lesson #4: have 15-seconds pitch in your brain. If you don’t get someone’s attention in seconds, there will be no second chance. Be prepared when you meet some potential partner and be open to new opportunities. When party come, try to be offline. Talk about your passions etc., leave startups for a while.

Friday, January 30th – Goodbye Berliners!

The morning was tough, but we decided to visit Rainmaking Loft one more time for Kick – Off Session. We talked to Matti from Appsourcing about the challenges on the German market and cooperation between Germany and Poland.

Our last Startup Safary session before our journey back to Gdynia was discussion at Point Nine VC. They told us about investments, successful startups and their challenges. Last year they had a chance to talk with 3000 startups, but invested only in 14! Overall we got knowledge about how VC’s work, what’s important for them. It’s a great thing to know how to help our clients – startups which want to raise the money.

And that was an end. Tired, but happy about new connections and friendships we jumped to the train to go back to Gdynia (it took 6 hours).

Lesson #5: eat breakfast after the party. It helps a lot 🙂 Smile to people and don’t forget to get in touch after each meeting.

5 days conclusions

  • Berlin is a great place to make partnerships. It’s different from other cities in Germany
  • The more you walk, the more you talk and it pays off
  • You need to have a unique offer. There are many software houses looking for partners. Don’t position yourself as the “another one”. Use something different (I will write separate blog post about it based on our experience)
  • Startup Safary is a great chance to enter growing startups and learn from executors, people who did a great job, grow fast and scale their businesses
  • You need to be in Berlin for more than one week. You need to feel the spirit, energy and people. Accidentally you can find business partner, love or friends from every place in the world
  • Schedule your meetings up front – try Meetup or Eventrbrite to see if there’s something interesting happening around. And always ask locals, they are the best source of knowledge!

What’s my advice to people who want to experience the whole world in one place? Go to BERLIN and conquer the city!

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