What They Said: The Best of Eric Schmidt et al at the Factory Opening

By David Knight |

Anyone who was anyone was at the Factory this week as the long-awaited startup hub finally opened its doors officially. The site, adjacent to the former Berlin Wall death strip in Mitte, features an array of facilities, including offices for different stage startups, event space, a public restaurant and even apartments for visiting founders.

Led by the Udo Schloemer and the tenacious Simon Schäfer – you can read our in-depth two-part interview with Simon about the Factory here and here – the project has overcome numerous problems and delays, and now promises to give Berlin’s tech scene a boost in its efforts to reach the next level.

A packed crowd at the Factory. Photo: Silicon Allee/David Knight

A packed crowd at the Factory. Photo: Silicon Allee/David Knight

From the visit of the Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit (not his first time at the Factory), in the morning to see the startup fair in the garden, to Google’s Eric Schmidt and senior German politician Dorothee Bär (state secretary at the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure), Wednesday’s grand opening attracted a huge number of people, with many watching events unfold outside on the big screen.

As well as Schmidt, Schäfer and Bär, there were also speeches from two of the Factory’s big-name clients, SoundCloud co-founder and CEO Alex Ljung and Rowan Barnett of Twitter. Here’s the highlights of what everyone said.

Simon Schäfer:

“We decided to build this place and to bring together very late stage companies – tech giants like Mozilla, late stage startups like SoundCloud – together with very early stage companies that sometimes don’t even consist of two people yet. We are hoping that this will foster success in the long run.”

Alex Ljung:

“SoundCloud is the world’s leading audio platform, and right now you’re getting the first taste of the world’s leading workspace.”

“Berlin is home to SoundCloud. … Berlin is at this intersection of art and technology, just like SoundCloud. Berlin is a lot about doing things differently, a lot like SoundCloud. And Berlin is a lot about creative energy and creative people, which is also really important for SoundCloud.”

“The thing that we have always been missing though is an actual location in Berlin that felt like home. … Finally now I think we have actually arrived home.”

“It’s not just about us sharing within the team, it’s about us being here, being connected to the community.”

Rowan Barnett:

“For decades the city was divided into two, but now you’ve got US companies, you’ve got startups from all around the world working together here creating great things. We’re delighted to be a part of that.”

“Hopefully in this exchange of ideas and knowledge and talking to the startups that are here, we hope that we can inspire some other startups and that we’ll see some more Twitters coming out of Berlin.”

Dorothee Bär:

“We realise that we as a society cannot afford to miss or, even worse, neglect the economic potential that lies within the digitalisation of the world.”

“We would like to promote what we call a founder time, and encourage what you might call the spirit of founding a business or a company. Our goal from the German government is to increase the number of business formations at least up to 15,000 a year, and therefore measures like a simplification of application procedures are urgently needed. We don’t want you to spend more time with filling out forms that thinking about your ideas.”

“Therefore we are thinking about inducting a one stop agency where you can get all the information and help you need and where you can hand in all material necessary for your project.”

“Sitting alongside the former Berlin Wall death strip, the factory is not only a modern building and a symbol for an optimistic future, but an almost breathtaking symbol of what we have and what we might achieve in the days to come. Not only does the mere location symbolise the overcoming of limitations and boundaries, but the fact that you put a completely new building on top of a refurbished old one also stands for the merger of both, of the history and the future.”

“Berlin might not be the best place to build an airport, but it’s a good place to develop a spirit of forward-looking entrepreneurship.”

Eric Schmidt onscreen. Photo: Silicon Allee/David Knight

Eric Schmidt onscreen. Photo: Silicon Allee/David Knight

Eric Schmidt:

“I think of this location as perfect for the renaissance that is about to come. That the transformation of Berlin from an older but cultural centre, through its difficulties – through 50 years – to now a new centre of art and culture and technology that is global, is your profound future, it’s something that you learned a long time ago and something you can do now.”

“From my perspective, you want to frame what you’re doing here as absurd ideas; ideas that are hard to imagine they can hold. But if you set your goal high enough and hard enough, you have a chance of getting there over time.”

“Europe is beginning to get it. … You guys are here. It’s time for you to take a global perspective, to say, I’m not going to do something local or regional, I’m going to do something which convinces the entire world.”

“Education for the future needs to encourage entrepreneurship and technical skills. … The notion of a one stop shop is such a brilliant idea, that I’m now going to announce Germany as doing this and I’m going to shame all the other countries to copy your idea.”

“When I think about it, I’m reasonably convinced now that Germany, congratulations, you’re on your way to becoming a startup nation.”

Check out some pictures of the new SoundCloud offices here.