Eyes on Berlin: TechCrunch’s Disrupt Conference, 26th – 29th October 2013
It’s no understatement that Berlin’s startup scene has gleaned increasing media interest from business, tech and consumer press in the last couple of months. Home to some 2,500 tech companies and employing 30,000 people, Berlin now counts among its startup scene many well-known ones. Most prominent example is the Swedish home-grown music sharing site SoundCloud, which despite 180 million users each month, has yet to translate its audio platform into a profitable business. Located in a compound known as the Factory – Berlin’s equivalent to London’s Silicon Roundabout/Tech City – , the company shares an office space with 12 other startup/startup culture businesses, including among them Mozilla Corp, 6Wunderkinder, Versus IO and Toast. Investment for the Factory is coming from Google, which pledged one million Euros to the hub through a ‘Google for Entrepreneurs scheme’.
In a bid to raise Berlin’s tech profile, the German government stepped up its efforts to promote Berlin’s tech entrepreneurs. In March, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke at an event featuring the CEO of Berlin-based social network gaming developer company Wooga. In other efforts, former Economics Minister Philipp Roesler visited Silicon Valley twice this year, in part to convince German entrepreneurs to return to Germany. The capital now also boasts the existence of a Federal Association of German Startups to promote the interests of Germany’s tech entrepreneurs. Considering that Berlin’s last technology IPO by multimedia software maker Magix AG dates back to 2006, encouraging investor trust indeed appears as crucial as having a convincing business proposition. Some of the struggles by Berlin’s startup businesses have recently been vividly described by expat employee Lauren Ingram in her Guardian blog post ’10 things to know before making the move’.
With AOL affiliated TechCrunch hosting its first ever TechCrunch Disrupt Europe conference in Berlin this week, much of the tech and consumer press attention this week focused on startup innovation and Berlin as a vibrant capital for the fledging startup scene in Europe. Indeed, interest was such that also nationals such as the Guardian and BBC had a presence in Berlin. The BBC sent its technology reporter Dave Lee to TechCrunch, whilst the Guardian recorded its weekly technology podcast from the Berlin conference.
Alongside panel discussions and a hackathon, startups from over 80 countries presented their ideas to investors, with a chosen 15 businesses competing on a pitch battlefield for a €40,000 startup grant. Aptly, the winner was London and Berlin-based startup Lock8, which won the prize for designing a smart bike lock system, built to detect theft through a sensor system. The BBC ran a video interview with the winner, which featured on the BBC’s technology website.
All in all, this was a good week for startup innovation in Europe.