The fall of the Berlin Wall marked a new era for Germany. In 1989, I was one of thousands of people who came to experience the opening of a city, a country, and a culture. When I entered the former East Germany, I felt like I had walked into a black and white film as it was transforming to vivid color. I was thrilled to be a part of that history. Now, years later, I’m leaving the Bay Area to join the rest of my company’s leadership team in the German capital.
Berlin has arguably been one of the world’s most attractive tech hubs for the last half a decade. In fact, Germany recently topped the list of countries considered the best for entrepreneurs in a report from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Now, with uncertainty looming around Brexit, Berlin’s Silicon Allee is poised for another surge in growth. Companies looking to reestablish a stable foothold in the EU are already considering a migration to the Continent, and Berlin is the obvious choice. It’s a startup incubator, a haven for expats, and a diverse cultural hub, where the quality of life is excellent yet affordable. Here are 5 other reasons to consider putting down roots in Berlin:
1. Berlin’s startup scene can’t seem to stop growing
This is the perfect time to look to Berlin for your next (or first!) tech job. Berlin offers a wealth of opportunities for tech talent, whether you’re a developer, a designer, or anything in between. In the past few years, Silicon Allee has cemented its reputation as one of the world’s leading tech innovation centers — a new startup is founded every 20 minutes, and the industry is set to produce 100,000 new jobs by 2020. If you’re looking to land a job in tech, you’ll be able to get your foot in the door in Berlin.
While rents in other European cities have skyrocketed, Berlin has remained relatively stable. And since office overheads and the cost of living are cheaper, entrepreneurs have more financial wiggle room, so they’re able to incubate riskier, more creative ideas. And while Berlin’s tech ecosystem has been smaller than London’s up until now, that’s almost certain to change as VCs, entrepreneurs and tech workers seek out a more predictable environment to call home.
Berlin startups raised about $2.2 billion in venture capital last year, compared with $1.5 billion in London, and Germany’s tech hub is set to continue to attract investment from American VC firms. Since “half the founders of London’s top tech startups come from outside Britain,” London’s loss is likely to be Berlin’s gain. There’s even a truck driving around spreading the word.
If you’re serious about a move to Berlin, you may want to schedule a short visit to the city to build contacts and meet VCs and founders in person at networking events. But if you can’t make the trip, research the companies you’re interested in and scour job websites regularly (like Netjobs, Linkedin, Berlinstartupjobs, Stackoverflow).
2. Less red tape in the visa process
Once you land a job, you’ll need to tackle the immigration process, which is often one of the most stressful aspects of migrating to a different country. In Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs are finding it more and more difficult to to attract top international talent because of rather strenuous U.S. immigration rules. But Germany’s relatively relaxed visa application process is favorable to startups and job seekers alike. Founders have access to a much wider pool of applicants, while potential employees face fewer obstacles as they pursue their dream jobs in the German capital.
Still, if you’re planning a move to Berlin, you’ll need to carefully research your visa options as they may vary based on your country of citizenship. The process can be slow, but it’s less arduous than that of many Western nations, and your employer should be able to provide legal help to ensure you navigate all bureaucratic twists and turns.
3. It’s a city of expats and global citizens
As a foreigner who’s new to Berlin, you’ll be in good company. The city has seen a large influx of visitors and tourists, but its permanent population is growing by hundreds of thousands of new residents per year. In addition to many Germans moving northeast to the capital, around 17% of Berlin’s residents don’t hold a German passport. As Berlin opened itself up to the world, the city has become much more cosmopolitan.
The international workforce in Berlin helps bring new perspectives to tech companies and creates an environment that’s attractive to other immigrants. You won’t just make new friends, you’ll also gain insights into other cultures and learn from a diverse group of colleagues. And whether you’re a seasoned global traveler or striking out in a new direction for the first time, you’re bound to connect with other expats who love to call Berlin their home.
4. High quality of life without breaking the bank
Living in Berlin will allow you to enjoy your life outside of work, too. For a European capital city, Berlin is remarkably cheap compared to Silicon Valley and its environs. The high quality of life, coupled with a relatively low cost of living, makes it the number 1 city (out of 55) in the world for millennials who are just starting their careers. One bedroom apartments will typically cost you $700 a month, compared with $2,400 in London or $3,000 in the heart of Manhattan. But Berlin is a terrific place to live, no matter your age or career level. Germany tends to score very highly in international quality-of-life rankings — three of its cities placed in the top 10 list — more than any other country.
5. Access to nightlife, history, culture — and even nature
There are plenty of reasons Berlin has been crowned the ‘most fun’ city in the world. There’s something for everybody to enjoy.
The nightlife in Berlin is world-renowned and the city boasts some of the best clubs in the world, housed in some truly unique spaces. (Think abandoned industrial buildings — it’s hip enough to be on par with Brooklyn.) But if you’re not the clubbing type, there are tons of other options for entertainment. Berlin’s population was twice as large during World War II, so many of the buildings have been left abandoned and open to exploration.
Berliners love to get out and soak in the sun and have a ton of wonderful weekend markets (think Farmer’s Market meets Maker’s Fair meets flea market) at places like The Turkish Market in the Kreuzberg neighborhood or Mauerpark (fun with the giant outdoor karaoke) and Kollwitzplatz in the Prenzlauer Berg area.
If you’re the outdoorsy type, you’ll be glad to know that Berlin is also famous for being Europe’s greenest city. It has more bridges than either Amsterdam or Venice, and you can take a canal cruise to see how connected the city is via water. You can swim in most of the major lakes in spring and summer, and it’s easy to get around by bike and explore dozens of beautiful parks.
There’s never been a better time for young tech professionals to experience the German capital. So what are you waiting for? Berlin could be the next chapter in your story.
Nicole DeMeo (@techiecat) is Chief Marketing Officer at Glispa Global Group, where she works as an international business launch, growth, and turnaround expert. She has served as brand ambassador and marketing strategist for industry leaders including Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, and Carly Fiorina, has created go-to-market strategies for over 50 company launches — including four of her own — as well as guided Fortune 500 companies through increased valuations, acquisitions, and IPOs. She has worked with high profile funds like Earlybird Venture Capital and fast-growth companies like Aucitonata, EyeEm, Hitfox Group, Peak Games, and now Glispa Global Group. With a passion for wine, she also co-owns Media Luna Vineyards.