The East German Charm of Berlin’s New Startup Venue

By David Knight |

Looking up at the hulking concrete lurking ominously above a street crowded with tourists and buses, it’s hard at first glance to justify the use of the word ‘charm’ to describe this particular building. But whether you want to call it Hipster Chic or just a slightly odd nostalgia for bygone, grayer days, the building which housed the Hungarian Cultural Institute in the former East Berlin does possess a certain something.

And if the people behind the latest incarnation of the site on Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse have their way, that something will attract a wide variety of startup folk. What was once known as the CHB (Collegium Hungaricum Berlin) has become .HBC – the HomeBase Club with a dot to signify the digital world. It is set to launch on October 2, and the Berlin Startup Academy (BSA) will make the venue its base of operations.

The 1,400-square meter sire includes a cinema/conference hall, bar, gallery and restaurant (which opens today) as well as office space, just a stone’s throw from Alexanderplatz. Simon Chappuzeau, the man behind the original HomeBase venue near Potsdamer Platz, is hoping to attract various social and business events in the tech scene, as well as providing office space for startups with a community or members club to follow within the next year.

Christoph Räthke is the founder of the BSA. He told Silicon Allee: “The place has this charm of an East German high rise with fake wood panelling, looking as if it was still 1977, and (Simon’s) concept is to create much more than a co-working space – a focal point for startups; a gathering point where people can drop in to have a beer, right in the heart of town.”

It’s the latest attempt to establish a more centralized focus for Berlin’s startups, following in the footsteps of The Factory and joining established venues like Sankt Oberholz and betahaus, and even bringing in a little flavor of Soho House with the planned members club. But, says Christoph, .HBC will add to rather than detract from the current spectrum.

“I need enough space to host BSA sessions and related events, which may have around 40 people when you include mentors and guests. And if this also takes place at a location that is a gathering point for people who are in town anyways, all the better – that creates serendipity, which is very necessary in building your company; just bumping into the right people.

“Simon has an ambitious concept – he wants to give it a bit of a club feel, but less exclusive than Soho House and more functional than Oberholz, which is a nice place to meet for a coffee, but not ideal as an event location.”

Hopefully, .HBC can add something a little different to the startup scene in Berlin – the old club was a great place for a night out and included a well-regarded restaurant. Watch out for what should be a crazy launch party…