Entrepreneur

Wanted in Berlin: Young American tech execs amenable to skinny-dipping

Above: Berlin in the evening

Tech recruiter Brent Hurtig remembers well the American junior Apple executive he placed at a growing startup in Berlin.

“He showed up to a company party and BBQ on the river and he was wearing swimming trunks. The rest of the people swimming – let’s put it this way, they weren’t wearing swimming trunks!”

Hurtig laughs.

“He realized he had a lot to learn by being an American in Germany.”

Nude swimming. Socks and sandals in public. Cheaper than London. Great nightlife. And a thriving tech startup scene. Berlin is the place. And a growing number of tech recruiters, like Hurtig’s firm Parker Remick, want to help you move there.

“The Germans are looking for leaders working for large-scale U.S. tech firms, typically companies that have 10 million or more users,” Hurtig says. “They want tech leaders who have experience in scaling, with products like mobile, apps, and websites.”

Over the last year, Hurtig has placed eight American executives at firms in Berlin and is busy trolling the Valley for more. Convincing Yanks to take jobs in the city standing at the crossroads of Western and Eastern Europe has been, ultimately, an easy sell.

“There’s a broad collection of people heading to Berlin. Not by the boatload, but it’s a discernable trend,” he says.

Berlin is Germany’s newish capital, moving there from Bonn after reunification with Eastern Germany in 1990. The Berlin government has wasted little time -tax breaks for example- attracting startups from throughout the rest of the country and, because of its hipness and affordability, from the rest of Western Europe.

A recent study by Berlin’s Senate Department for Economics, Technology and Research showed that Berlin’s big IT operators and startups pulled in over $10 billion last year. Currently, there are over 500 startups situated in the city.

Hurtig’s search firm, which specializes in software-centric clients, is not the only company looking to snare talent from the Valley. EarlyBird Venture Capital, also headquartered  in bustling Berlin, is hiring talented and connected American venture capitalists.

Brent Hurtig

Above: Brent Hurtig

Image Credit: Courtesy Brent Hurtig

But be beware. Hurtig says the Germans, being Germans, are extremely particular about the American talent they’re seeking.

“They’re looking for Silicon Valley DNA. Ebay. PayPal. Amazon. Someone who gets the U.S. style with product and tech development,” Hurtig says.

“Someone who’s worked at that scale. They have a perception that a person with higher standards is going to be the right choice for them.”

What the German’s don’t want, he says, is the stereotypical American who has an answer for everything.

“You need to lead more by example than dictum. Strong, pushy stereotypical American tech leaders need not apply,” Hurtig says.

And Berlin is young. Fifty percent of its 3.5 million inhabitants are under 45.

Some of Europe’s biggest IT outfits are now headquartered in Berlin. And they’re hiring. Soundcloud, gamer Wooga, and Zalando, Europe’s biggest ecommerce group, call Berlin home. So do VC firms and incubators like Rocket Internet, which bills itself as the largest incubator in the world, and Team Europe.

The desire for American expertise contrasts with the sheer volume of talent available in Berlin, Hurtig says.

“The Germans are doing amazing things. They don’t even need the talent to be honest.”

Berlin is truly multicultural. And for many Americans growing up within diverse populations, Berlin is comfortable.

So, who, really, are the German IT companies looking for?

Hurtig laughed. And then joked.

“Young, unattached geeks wearing black.”

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Apple designs and markets consumer electronics, computer software, and personal computers. The company's best-known hardware products include the Macintosh line of computers, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. Apple software includes t... read more »

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36 comments
Mario Paladini
Mario Paladini

Berlin is indeed the best place to start www.GLOBALS.co 8)


Nick Dodson
Nick Dodson

And I am supposedly only 25% German...

Zach Simon-Alexander
Zach Simon-Alexander

Perfect description. I was there at 16 to visit my sister and I fell in love with it. Hope to get back to that energy in the near future.

David Walter
David Walter

Socks and sandals in public, what more could you want! ?!

Dan Hossom
Dan Hossom

Dan Bender: d'oh, have I squandered the moment?! :D Ah well, Brasil ain't far behind either, eh?

SimoneBeg
SimoneBeg

@ShreekantPawar you mean Berlin ^_^ and yes moving right after i have the pio card seems suddenly a lot more appealing ;)

Frederic Tape
Frederic Tape

Totally true, just came back from Berlin after attending re:publica conference and you could feel this sense of freedom, drive, ambition, youthfulness, possibilities that inhabit Berliners. Truly felt at home.

Ian Mason
Ian Mason

Oh its the thing that must have fallen out of James May's luggage

Tobias Rau
Tobias Rau

Keep in Mind that Berlin, like most European cities, is build on some few thousand years of blood sheding! So everything is a bit deeper. And as rude as we Berliners may are as honest we are. We don`t swim at the surface but rather deep dive through our lives. And just for fun a funny video from one of my favorite Berlin "rappers", Sir Serch. ;) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kcXTrPPzl8

Ef El
Ef El

sorry, but nobody wants you here in Berlin. its just companies, that try to move to US or go global and need more international funding for that. but the few Americans that are here are already enough. no need to come. stay hooooome. thanks!

Elena Duff
Elena Duff

bullsh**t Have fun having a miserable time and being treated like crap

David Wells
David Wells

Parker English Christopher Dillen Phelps

Marin Perez
Marin Perez

 I wrote about the Berlin startup scene a few years ago and it's interesting to watch how it's evolving: http://spark.qualcomm.com/salon/start-up-spotlight-berlin-where-punk-meets-tech


I would have liked this story to, you know, speak to more than one person. Especially when that person has a vested interest in having people move there. From what I recall, here are some brief pros and cons of relocating

Pro: 


Great city, especially if you’re young. 

Cheap and easy to find a place to live 

Multicultural - Easy flight to many other countries

Exec-level concern: Lower overall wages, no insane bidding wars


Cons: 


Winters can be tough, especially if you’re coming from Silicon Valley

Culture shock - Not just skinny dipping, as setting up a bank account and getting a SIM will take you through many German processes 

Exec-level concern: Tough to fire people, talent level still not as high as Valley

Infrastructure (VCs, etc) not mature

The copycat culture of tech is still around, although many have fallen by the way side


Anyone else out there have more to add? 

Juan Manuel Serruya
Juan Manuel Serruya

If you're coming to Berlin, please do not act like entitled jerks like most engineers in the valley do.

Thanks

Alvin Mullins
Alvin Mullins

@Ef El  Great, we don't need Germans in our country either...that's stupid. The more cross cultural involvement the better things get. The few Germans, I know that are in tech here in the states are here because they are making more money and they end up with a better CV when they move back home. Of course most don't go back.

Ef El
Ef El

@david errington @Juan Manuel Serruya  that would be wonderful, if nobody would be coming. 1 problems less. now we just have to limit the inflow of all those annoying spanish people, then everything is back to normal! yes!