Berlin Learning to Dance to Google’s Tune

By David Knight |

For the official opening of a major multinational corporation’s new office on Berlin’s swanky Unter den Linden boulevard, it was certainly a little different. But then being a little different is Modus operandi for Google, which is also celebrating its 14th birthday.

And so it was that more than 400 people crammed into the typically colourful office on Wednesday night for a traditional Berlin knees-up – with the place turned into a club for the night thanks to the Cookies team, and beats courtesy of DJ Pult.

Yet the fact that Google’s new high-profile presence along the street that defines German political and economic power was not lost. The welcoming speeches included contributions from Hans-Joachim Otto, parliamentary secretary of state at the German Ministry of Economics and Technology, and Nicolas Zimmer, state secretary for economics, technology and research in the Berlin Senate.

They were quick to praise Google and the potential impact it could have on up and coming technology companies in Berlin. According to the BZ, Otto said: “Google is also an inspiration for other companies. Creative people can develop new business models around the many Google services.”

The 1,200 square-meter office, home to 25 employees, also played host to what was dubbed the first ever political Google+ hangout featuring German politicians, split into ruling coalition and opposition groups and placed in different conference rooms. That these rooms are named after famous Berlin clubs, like Weekend and Berghain, and that the whole affair was moderated remotely from the Napa Valley by Google’s VP of global business operations, German Philipp Schindler, all added to the bizarreness of it all.

Interestingly, the nature of the office itself – Google kitsch, you might call it – was the theme most German news outlets chose to focus on the next day, including Welt Online, the Berliner Morgenpost and the aforementioned BZ. The slightly snooty headlines – ‘Wir Kinder vom Spielplatz Google’, referencing a famous book, was one of the best – were evidence, if it were needed, that Google can still appear as a young, raucous upstart in the traditional German corporate world.

The team in the new Berlin office has done its best to keep that up; enthusiastically engaging with the startup scene, particularly through the Gründer Garage project. But Spiegel served a reminder that this is a major international business force we are talking about, and a presence on Unter den Linden means a rising voice with which to lobby the powers that be in Berlin over, amongst other things, Internet regulation.

And so it was that when the speeches and hangouts finished, a motley crowd of suited middle aged men, well dressed ladies and the usual spectrum of casually-dressed Google workers got down to the real business of drinking fancy cocktails and dancing into the night.

In that respect at least, Google already has its finger firmly on Berlin’s pulse.

Crowds at the Google party