I have been fortunate to hang in some special environments for fostering and enabling innovation and the entrepreneurial process. While I’ve wrapped up (31) Days of Berlin, (n) Days of Disruption, will continue to be all about capturing thoughts, experiences, connections, impressions, epiphanies and/or learnings along the way.
Well it’s been a quick & absolutely enjoyable 31 days in Berlin. I found the city to be incredibly fascinating, welcoming and comfortable. It is one of those places that I could easily see living in one day and I’m definitely looking forward to my next trip back.
If I could leave you with anything further, it would be this video courtesy of the Berlin Tourism Board that I came upon. It REALLY captures the spirit, energy and activities of the city. If I could made a video about Berlin it would have be close to this. Take a look and give it at least a minute.
As another more tourist view of the city, here’s a pretty cool hyperlapse (essentially timelapse with huge movements) photographic creation of the city of Berlin.
As I’ve been harping with a number of startups on the importance of data around their businesses, I figured before it all gets lost & forgotten I’d take a look at my calendar, devices and online analytics and recap some of the more data driven aspects from this trip:
- 22 – Museums
- 5 – Concerts/performances
- 2 – Major sporting events
- Countless – Tourist sites
- 18 – Events/conferences/meetups
- 17 – Mentoring sessions
- 1 – Speaking Event
- 220 (extrapolation) – Rides on trams, U/S-Bahn, buses
- 7,976 – Air miles
- 2 – Ferry/boat rides
Walking (thanks to Fitbit)
- 491,997 – Steps (15,870/day)
- 233 – Miles (7.52/day)
- 657 – Floors climbed (21.2 day)
- 417 – Pictures (keepers)
- 58 – Video clips
- 65 – Blog posts
- 380 – Unique Visitors
- 733 – Total Visits
- 1,381 – Pageviews
Thanks to all that visited this site. I launched it from a cold start for family & friends and to have a digital record/diary of the trip. I appreciate all those that discovered it and took a look.
Once a week the Startupbootcamp Berlin teams get together for a group breakfast. Beyond just sharing a meal, it’s an opportunity to keep everyone in the loop on program related activities and for each of the teams to update the others on what they’ve done over the week.
I like the format and flow a lot. Reporting updates just help with transparency and raising the bar around making progress against objectives. More importantly from a group dynamics standpoint, it really ensures that everyone is in the loop on what the others are doing. Coupled with close proximity of workspace, it’s all part of a greater group support system that better positions the teams to lean on and help each other. The added benefit is the longer-term relationships that you see developing across teams that will last much longer than the program itself.
The Startupbootcamp team of Alex Farcet, Wilken Bruns & Sophie Hechinger has been awesome to watch. The amount of coaching, advice, introductions, counsel and expertise they offer to teams is pretty amazing and I’ve learned a number of things in the process. As I mentioned earlier they’ve offered me a workspace close to the teams. While I’ve been in-and-out over the last three weeks, I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to interact with them and see their development over this period.
The early excitement around the start of the program has been replaced with a more heads-down & focused approach as the program kicks into the next stage. The teams have benefited from a ton of input & feedback from mentors and the marketplace over the first five weeks – some supportive of their ideas & business models, others less so. For the most part, it’s remarkable how the teams have been navigating everything so well. As they say, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, and this has led to a sharpening (or even overhaul) of their original vision, product-market fit, and go-to-market strategy.
As an aside, the mentor network involved with the teams has been exceptional. Berlin is coming out to support & engage the teams as are entrepreneurs & investors from across the rest of Europe. The teams are getting access to an incredible array of people. Many are spending half or a full day with the teams.
BTW, here’s a look at the first five weeks of the program using Weavly’s mashup tool.
We’re just under 50 days until the Startupbootcamp’s Demo Day on November 27th. The event is the week before LeWeb, which will be in Paris. For U.S. investors, this offers a great combo to come to Europe and take them both in over a week period. Independent of LeWeb, if you have an interest in getting closer to the Berlin ecosystem, Demo Day offers a great cornerstone around which you experience it firsthand. If you’re an investors, you can request an invitation here.
Personally, I’ve just had to say my good-byes to the teams tonight. Here’s one last pic plus a little funky Loopcam. I’m looking forward to watching their progress and wish them all the best as they continue to work through the challenges of creating successful & sustainable businesses.
Most people know that MIT has their $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. Did you know that Humboldt University has a 100K € competition of their own?
That was one of a number of surprises when getting together today with Volker Hofmann. He’s the team leader of SPIN-OFF, which supports entrepreneurs and scientists at the university looking to successfully turn their visions into businesses. It’s part of Humboldt-Innovation GmbH, which is the knowledge and technology transfer company of the university.
They have incubation space right in Mitte (center of Berlin) as well as other locations in the city for teams to focus on their startup. I met with several of them. It was good to see that they were a mix of “hard technology” (which is usually the case with technology offices) and consumer facing (often times, bright students with big ideas). SPIN-OFF is also starting to build a track record as well, with several “grads” of the initiative now employing at least 15 people and having gone on to raise additional funding.
Without a lot of data points, I came over to Berlin with the perception that U.S. colleges were well ahead in commercialization efforts being driven by-and-through university focused initiatives. I’m leaving thinking that the gap isn’t quite as wide as I first imagined.
I’ve covered a number of my impressions & experiences from my visit to date, but here are some additional loose-end observations worth noting & sharing (pictures are embedded as links if I have any):
- Autumn colors – ok, but excited to catch the next couple of weeks in New England
- Bears – symbol of Berlin and all over town (sure gummi bears, but also these fellows as well)
- Bread – outstanding, even the packaged bread at a grocery store (Pumpernickel-like equivalent is incredible and carried this pic around so I knew what to buy again)
- Coffee – delicious
- Coins – they just keep on piling up and refuse to carry 10+ coins in my pocket
- Crime – not tied into local media, but seems to be low to non-existent and never felt unsafe
- Graffiti – everywhere and adds so much to the city
- Jack Wolfskin - haven’t heard of them in the U.S.? Surprised if you don’t soon as they’re a retailer of very popular and sharp looking outdoor apparel
- Smoking – very common/popular across the city and everywhere except indoors seems to be fair game (pic of folks outside Hofbrau Haus)
- Streaming Media – can’t access Pandora, Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime straight up through the Internet (need a VPN), although Spotify and SoundCloud still function (both European companies)
- Toilets – get used to paying for them in public or holding it (or go to a museum)
- Video Stores – still alive and popular here in Germany (see above on Streaming Media)
- Wi-Fi – cafes usually have some type of access, but open networks are rare and upload speeds can be tediously slow.
Berlin’s inner-city transportation system has worked very well and I use it multiple times every day. Granted there have been times when it seems like I’m continually “just missing” a tram or subway, but it has beat other alternatives (by far).
After arriving at the airport, I was able to get a one month pass for 77 € to ride all the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses that I wanted to across most of Berlin. This seemed like a great deal to me. When I checked, Boston offers a $70/month subway+ bus pass and NYC offers an unlimited NYC MetroCard (subway & bus) for $104/month. Berlin (like NYC) is a 24X7 city and the transportation system supports that.
Funny thing is, I’ve never really had to show my pass. There are no turnstiles here and everyone is just on the good old honor system (unlike Boston or NYC or any system in the U.S.). Also, outside of a couple exceptions on the weekends, I have never had to wait more than 10 minutes for any service.
The Berlin network is really four systems that are linked together:
- U-Bahn – the underground railway or subway
- S-Bahn – rapid transit train system, mostly above ground, that is integrated with the U-Bahn
- Trams – above ground trams/street cars most of which are in the former East Berlin
- Buses – cover most of the rest of the city
I’m only occasionally on a bus, although they have double-decker ones that offer a great way to see the city. Most of the time is via the other three systems.
It also makes you realize the importance of mass transit in supporting entrepreneurial ecosystems of the future, particularly those that are also geared to attract to young talent that want to live in the city and may not have (or want) a car.
When the first startup ecosystems starting sprouting 25 years ago in Silicon Valley and Route 128 (Boston), they were suburban-oriented models – you drove your car to the office park. If you didn’t have a car, I’m guessing you caught a ride with someone else or you lived really close to work.
Although Caltrain now runs through the middle of peninsula (servicing those working in downtown San Fran, Mountain View or Palo Alto) and you could ride the commuter train out from Boston to the suburbs, for the most part the schedules only support this well during rush hour. Plus, outside of San Fran, god forbid if you need to connect to any type of supporting transportation network once you arrive.
As the urbanization of entrepreneurship continues to happen, look for cities that have a strong public transportation system to have an inherent advantage, particularly for attracting younger people. It will be interesting to watch how this continues to play out in Silicon Valley & San Francisco where the “old” and “new” models are in close proximity. Some may already consider it the case, but my money is on San Fran to become the center of gravity for new companies.
I keep eyeing this place that is kitty-corner from my apartment block. It sells a lot of used military gear and clothing with some other like stuff sprinkled in. Have been debating arriving in Boston wearing a pair of those camo pants with a Che Guevara or red star t-shirt, all the while sporting the remnants of my Berlin haircut. Still have a couple days to pull the trigger…
Seriously though, I am going to see if I can get some of those
multi-pocket cargo pants when I get back to the U.S. I’d like to carry everything on me and be hands-free (and backpack free) when I can. From all city traveling over the last month, it’s a great way to move around. It’s also time to upgrade the backpack. Thinking the Deuter ACT Trail 32 (or 28) and ready to sacrifice interior compartments for the better support structure of a trail pack.
For “Museum Pass Day #2” I decided to start at the epicenter of museums in Berlin – Museum Island. This is the name of the northern half of an island in the Spree river right in Mitte (central/downtown) that is home to five major museums. Definitely more crowds and lines here, but that is to be expected.
Pergamonmuseum – My third trip here. It houses an antiquity collection, the Middle East museum, and the museum of Islamic art. Most notable are its original-sized, reconstructed monumental buildings of the Pergamon Altar, Market Gate of Miletus and Ishtar Gate from Babylon. One pretty amazing place. Photos: Building, Pergamon Altar, Market Gate of Miletus, Ishtar Gate
Bode-Museum – I’ve missed this on past trips. It’s a beautifully restored building and is most famous for its extensive Early Middle Ages through 18th century sculpture collection (there are paintings as well). I was on a tight schedule as I had a 12:30pm visitation slot at the Neues Museum so could only spend 45 minutes here (which is perfect for sculptures and me). Photos: Building, Lobby, Sculpture arrangement
Neues Museum – I’ve been here several times before. The museum showcases classical history and known for its Egyptian collection, including the famous bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti (unfortunately, that’s the one thing you’re not allowed to take a picture of; here’s one from the internet). There was a special German-Russian exhibit going on that highlighted the relationship between the two countries over the centuries which was pretty interesting. The building was pretty extensively damaged during WWII and certain parts they’ve left partially renovated to work that into the general “archaeological ambience.” Photos: Main Stairwell, Papyrus Exhibit (Nefertiti’s bust is actually in far in background)
Alte Nationalgalerie – Right now, I’d put this at the top of my list. A spectacular building with a beautiful mix of Impressionist, Neoclassical, Romantic and early Modernist paintings. Photos: Building, Renoir, One of the Side Galleries, Looking out at Berliner Dome
Ephraim-Palais Stadtmuseum – I figured I’d get off of Museum Island and try something new. This beautiful building hosts special temporary exhibitions on Berlin’s artistic, cultural and political history. I really didn’t know any of the people being highlighted and it just didn’t connect with me. Photo: Building
Nikolaikirche – Berlin’s oldest surviving building focuses on the architecture of the building and some sculptures and crypt related art. I was running on fumes at this point in the day and only hit it as it was right near the Ephraim-Palais, so it was a pretty short visit (not that there was a ton to see in the first place). Photo: Interior
The rain is finally starting to kick-in and my time here is Berlin is winding down. It was finally time to seriously hit some of the incredible museums that the city has. So I grabbed a Museum Pass. With most museums each costing 5-10 € to get in, the 19 € you pay for the 3-day pass with unlimited entry to many of the top museums really can’t be beat.
Here are the five that I hit today and all of them were first time visits:
Neue Nationalgalerie – 20th century art with emphasis on expressionist, new objectivity and post-war. Some of that is pretty unique/moving given what this area experienced and how it gets reflected in the work. A great start to the day. Photos: Building, The Shepherd (divided between East and West), Lamentation, Yellow Danger
Gemäldegalerie – European Old Masters from the 13th-18th centuries. These are always good and this is one of the most significant collections in the world. The collection is very extensive though and it wears you down after a while (especially when you’re on a schedule). Photos: Hallway (connecting the galleries), Day of Judgment, Die Regentinnen und Regenten Oudemannen, The Winter, Realm of the Gods
Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Museum of Technology) – Pretty much the Henry Ford Museum/Greenfield Village meets the Smithsonian for Germany. Focus is on transportation plus some other technologies. Easily the most extensive displays I have ever seen on ships, aircraft, trains – pretty incredible. After not seeing anyone under 13 years old at the first two museums, this was very popular with young families. Photos: Gallery of Ship Models, Aircraft
Museum für Fotografie (Museum of Photography) – This was exclusively around the works of Helmut Newton, one of the leading fashion and portrait photographers of the last century. He really specialized in provocative female nudes though. No pictures besides the building (you’ll have to visit to see the rest for yourself).
Hamburger Bahnof – Set in a converted railway station, it had the most spectacular individual gallery of the day with a lot of Andy Warhol’s works. Beyond that though, the rest of the space seemed to be really underutilized. Photos: Building, Old Train Platform, My Favorite Gallery, Mao
FIFA (the video game) has had a big presence in our home. I’ve never played it (more into COD/Zombies, when I game), but it seems to be frequently in the background when the boys and their friends are around (or just when our youngest and last child at home, Austin, is looking for a little break).
I think it is pretty interesting that with this late teen generation growing up right now in the U.S., there is more knowledge & interest about global “football” (soccer in the U.S.) than there ever has been. You ask about players, teams, standings etc., and they are up to date and in the know. IMO, more so than baseball, which is still considered “America’s Sport.”
There has been talk of “football” being a truly global sport for years, but for the most part this has not been the case in the U.S. Maybe it’s a Boston bubble thing, but I actually think that the mindset is changing and a lot of that actually is attributed to FIFA (the video game).
So when it came to me coming to Berlin, one of the top things for Austin was whether I’d be able to take in a football game (Fußball in Germany). I grabbed a ticket to catch the best team in area – Hertha BSC – and ended up right in the middle of the field about 24 rows up (shielded mostly from the early rain, but not entirely).
Hertha plays at Olympic Stadium in Berlin, site of the 1936 Olympics (remember Jesse Owens?) and the 2006 FIFA World cup Finals (for an appreciation, here’s a great pic – not mine). Hertha struggled last season and were relegated to Division 2 of the Bundesliga (the professional football association of Germany) going into this season.
Hertha BSC won 3-0 tonight over 4th place TSV München 1860.With a passionate fan base and currently in 2nd place in Division 2, it would be great to see Hertha make the jump up to Division 1 next year.
If you didn’t know the language and just saw “Wunsch Teller” on a menu, my guess is that most people would take a pass on it. Luckily, I had a German dictionary on me and learned the translation: “Wish Plate.” That was intriguing enough to try once.
Well, I just went to the little Turkish restaurant on Kottbusser Damm in Kreuzberg for the third & final time. You may recognize some of the items on the plate (if anyone can name them all I’d be totally impressed). All you need to remember is that it’s delicious and don’t let the name throw you.
I should have taken some photos of the restaurant. With those along with the picture of the dish, maybe we could breathe some life into the “once famous, now looks-to-be-defunct” Goalie Spoon site started by Kait & Mollie.
A big thanks to David Noël, VP of Community, for hosting me at SoundCloud today. They are one of the highest profile startups in Berlin and continually talked about across the entrepreneurial community. It was a nice opportunity to get a better appreciation of the company and how they’re thinking about things.
With over 20 million users, SoundCloud has built the world’s largest community of sound creators by allowing you to create, record and share your sounds with anyone, anywhere. Musicians, podcasters, news organizations, field recorders, journalists, radio stations and record labels alike use the service as a publishing tool and distribution platform for their works.
The founders are originally from Stockholm and moved to Berlin five years ago. Per my earlier post on building companies globally from the onset, SoundCloud now has employees from 31 countries on the team with offices also in San Francisco, London and Sofia. In addition, they have raised capital from some of the top VCs around the world (Index Ventures, Union Square Ventures, Kleiner Perkins).
Given their growth, they are currently spread across three offices in Berlin. I mentioned The Factory in several earlier posts, the new complex that will become one of the epicenters for startups in Berlin. This will be SoundCloud’s new home once construction is complete.
SoundCloud is a great example that you can build a big, global business from Berlin. If you’re a US developer looking for a change of pace and/or want to experience the excitement of Berlin firsthand with one of its top venture-back startups, you should definitely check out their openings here.
Today is the Day of German Unity, the national day of Germany and a public holiday. Before the founding of the German Empire in 1871, the country was just a group of different kingdoms and principalities, with the Kingdom of Prussia being the largest. The date of October 3rd was selected to celebrate this “unity” after the reunification of East & West Germany in 1990.
So, despite “old world” connotations, the country of Germany is actually technically nearly a century younger than the United States.
The city has been pretty quiet to date given that most everything is shutdown. I visited the Märkisches Museum, which is a history museum on the city of Berlin, before heading over to experience some of the festivities happening at the Brandenburg Gate (pic & pic).
After that it was over to betahaus for a strategy discussion with Weavly, one of the Startupbootcamp teams. Also participating was Max Kossatz, co-founder of archify.com (a past Startupbootcamp Copenhagen participant and Balderton capital backed). Max was kind enough to offer some co-working space with his team.
Check out Weavly when you have a minute at weavly.com. They enable you to make video remixes easily and quickly. Weavly just launched into open beta yesterday and currently work with YouTube (videos) & SoundCloud (audio/sounds).
In the spirit, of the Day of German Unity and Weavly, the above quick video (using content from the 1960’s thru late 1980’s) is the first remix built using Weavly by Sophie Hechinger, marketing & communications intern with Startupbootcamp and originally from Stuttgart.