Startups Go International as Survey Probes ‘Cool’ Berlin

By David Knight |

Half of all startups in Berlin have an international team, according to a new survey – which also found that only 14 percent use English as an office language. The poll by the VBKI business institute and the HTW Berlin (Berlin University of Applied Science) asked 357 people in the startup sphere about a range of topics to try and uncover what has made the city’s tech scene boom in recent years.

Some of the answers were not so surprising – most founders are male and work in pairs and nearly half of startups earn less than €100,000 a year, while many find Berlin attractive because it is easy to move to and cheap. But most respondents also highlighted the unmeasurable ‘coolness’ of the city as a factor.

Professor Holger Lütters from the HTW interpreted the results of the survey for the Berliner Morgenpost, and he said that overall, working in a Berlin startup was a very attractive proposition: “Even without a guarantee for success the chance to collect experience can’t be better.”

The issue of recruitment was a key factor for many respondents, with two thirds of startups predicting growth in the near future and are actively hiring – a fact which caused Prof. Lütters to proclaim: “The war for talent has begun.”

Yet strangely, only 14 percent named English as their official office language; a number that doesn’t seem to match up to personal experience.

Elsewhere, more than 50 percent of startups were organised as a GmbH (a limited liability company) with a fifth having no legal entity at all. The highest concentration of startups can be found in Mitte, according to the poll, with the adjacent Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood in second place.

Another odd-sounding result was that nearly half of respondents, 49.6 percent, said they were working together with Berlin’s universities; a sign, perhaps, that those already working with the institutions were more likely to answer their questions.

As for what founders and other startup workers want from politicians – more support and less bureaucracy. Not exactly groundbreaking, but it was interesting that nearly half of respondents didn’t have an opinion about which political party supports the startup scene the best. Of those that did reply, the business-friendly FDP was unsurprisingly the most popular with 18 percent, while the Pirates had 5.5 percent, trailing behind the CDU, the SPD and the Greens.

There was one question which might get to the heart of what makes Berlin entrepreneurs tick – what was the most important goal for your company? Some 47 percent said growth compared to 36 percent saying innovation and 17 percent image. Business success and creativity can still sometimes be awkward bedfellows.