Editorial: Founders STAND UP! The anti-copycat revolution starts now

By Silicon Allee |

With our Editor-in-Chief on holiday we know we’ve been a bit sparse recently on the news front here in the Allee. Forgive us. To keep you entertained and talking until our next big story, we’re re-publishing an editorial from our dear friends Jess Erickson and Matthew Bostock at 6Wunderkinder as we think it’s a poignant topic of discussion. You can read the full text and list of innovative Berlin startups on their blog.


Berlin founders, this is your time. Did you know the very first computer was invented in this city? We should be proud of that! So, why the hell was Berlin known as the copycat capital of Europe? Think for a second. How many great technology startups have we invented in the last 40 years? Not many.

People recognize us European founders as great executers, but also for not being very creative at all. All the creativity seems to be in the US right now, with companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Zynga, AirBnB, Dropbox and so on.

All we’ve been able to do is copy these companies and their ideas. We’ve had everything from clones of Facebook and Groupon to clones of Twitter and Airbnb. There were simple reasons for this. Entrepreneurs could simply clone an idea right from the other side of the globe and they didn’t have to go through any leaps or bounds as it had already been tried and tested elsewhere.

But this false belief was not sustainable. For some, this method did indeed make them a lot of money. Copycats were receiving investment but as time grew on many investors were less inclined to throw money at the majority of regurgitated ideas. The underlying problem still existed – the “tech scene” in Berlin had become stagnant, and many of the copycats were to blame. So that’s the history, now it’s time for change.

A new horizon, this is the era for innovation.

Before now, the whole thing was a vicious cycle. Entrepreneurs began to recreate US products, European investors funded these copycat companies and made a return, and this further influenced new entrepreneurs to do the same. The two sides were pointing the finger at each other, and in the end both parties were to blame. Investors couldn’t fund startups anymore as… well… there wasn’t any. It was just the same of the same. The tech scene here was being strangled, both in terms of money and creativity. Well, the arguement isn’t important anymore. We’re now in an era of immense innovation and, in the words of Dylan, the times they are a-changin’. Germany, and in particular Berlin Mitte, is growing organically once again – in a crazy, outside the box kinda way. Fresh ideas are now finally bringing fresh money.

“You used to bump into startups that were doing the typical German thing of building a clone. Now the whole city is one crazy startup — chaotic, unstructured and with a counter-culture vibe.” – Alex Ljung, CEO of Soundcloud

The US has always been original as it’s created some of the most influential people and companies. If you’d like some spontaneous inspiration, no doubt sitting on a bench outside the Apple campus would result in one of the best conversations of your life – with a stranger nonetheless. I can imagine the bus ride to the valley is incredibly inspirational too. Heck, Google Reader was supposedly a product of this bus ride. People there have huge companies with big ideas, like Google and Facebook, to look up to. It’s littered with likeminded people and for a long time, Berlin hasn’t had this. Luckily people in Berlin are beginning to realize the importance of community. Two American entrepreneurs, Schuyler Deerman and Travis Todd, have started making changes – with movements such as Silicon Allee. Slowly, individuals are building an inspirational setting for us all, and guess what? We’ve now got the startups to boot.