Working in Berlins start up scene

Curiosity led me to delve into the world of start-ups in Berlin. I was eager to uncover the reality of working in the famous “Berliner startup scene” that often hides behind the romanticized clichĂ©s.

Recognizing that the success stories don’t always reflect the full picture, I sought to connect with individuals in person to gain insight into their daily lives within these start-ups. I wanted to understand what it takes to thrive and find fulfillment in a small team within the dynamic German capital.

During our conversations, we explored their worries, initial impressions, highs and lows, and the valuable experiences they had gained. Their perspectives and firsthand accounts form the foundation of what I’m about to share with you.

Whether you’re on the lookout for a position within a start-up, considering starting your own venture, or simply intrigued by the experiences of working in a multicultural environment, join me as we lift the curtain and uncover the reality of the Berlin start-up scene.

#1 Why Berlin has become a start-up hub

Berlin is renowned for its vibrant culture, affordable living costs, and thriving art scene. However, in recent years, it has also gained a reputation as a highly sought-after hub for start-ups and young entrepreneurs.

One of the key factors contributing to Berlin’s appeal is its international nature. People from all over the world are drawn to the city, attracted by its affordable living costs, especially in comparison to other start-up hotspots like London, NYC, or Silicon Valley. Even with increasing rents, Berlin remains a more cost-effective option for budding entrepreneurs.

Moreover, Berlin’s pragmatic way of life and the abundance of new opportunities and inspiring encounters attract young and ambitious individuals. The city’s start-up scene is experiencing rapid growth as a result.

It’s no secret that you’re likely to encounter start-up enthusiasts during casual encounters at cozy cafĂ©s in Friedrichshain or bustling bars in Kreuzkölln. These open-minded individuals are passionate about what they do and are constantly seeking new ideas and collaborations within the dynamic and ever-awake city.

Start-ups, by nature, build their businesses on innovative ideas and technologies. While many start-ups struggle due to limited capital, some manage to secure funding and extend their lifespan. Only a select few transform into functioning and, if fortunate, profitable enterprises. It’s worth noting that well-known companies like Google, Uber, Airbnb, and N26 were once start-ups themselves. N26, in particular, has become a leading provider of affordable business accounts for other start-ups in Germany.

The success of start-ups often hinges on unwavering dedication and hard work, regardless of one’s position within the company.

Start up scene in Berlin
Working in a start-up is like being back in school, but with a twist

What exactly attracts young individuals to this job opportunity?

… which often comes with modest pay and a significant level of uncertainty?

This question led me to connect with people from various start-ups in Berlin, seeking to understand their motivations. What makes start-ups in Berlin more appealing to some young people than jobs in large international organizations with established reputations, financial stability, and predictable career paths? Is it a generational shift, or is there truly an atmosphere in start-ups that cannot be traded for a traditional workplace? Perhaps it’s the curiosity of young individuals who want to explore something exciting before settling into a more conventional career, when responsibilities are fewer and taking risks seems more manageable.

So, let’s delve into the insights shared by the start-up professionals I interviewed, many of whom have spent over a year working in different start-ups in Berlin.

#2 Navigating Berlin’s Start-Up Space

The Berlin start-up scene is much more than just fun and networking (although those aspects are undeniably part of it). It’s important to familiarize yourself with some unwritten rules and valuable insights before immersing yourself in the world of start-ups.

Of course, if you’re the adventurous type, you might prefer to jump in headfirst and learn as you go – a true entrepreneurial spirit!

Regardless of your approach, I’m here to share the key takeaways from my interviews with individuals immersed in Berlin’s start-up space. These insights will help you better understand what it takes to thrive and succeed in this vibrant ecosystem. So, let’s dive in and uncover the wisdom gleaned from those who have experienced it firsthand.

Why work in a small company that’s most likely to fail?!

Why would anyone choose to work in a small company that has a high chance of failure? Well, for the creative minds, start-ups in Berlin offer an unparalleled platform for exploring wild ideas, being your own boss, and embracing the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. To thrive in this environment, it’s crucial to stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends and continuously enhance your skill set, regardless of the product or service.

Interacting and Collaborating: A Core Aspect

In start-ups, teamwork is at the heart of the job. With a team of young and energetic individuals, brainstorming sessions, co-working spaces, and late nights at cafĂ©s (with a reliable internet connection) become the norm. It can be intense, but for most, it’s an exhilarating experience filled with self-determination and control over their own lives. Gone are the traditional hierarchical structures of bosses; instead, individuals rely on their own instincts, constantly try new things, and embark on a steep learning curve.

A Melting Pot of Cultures and Connections

One of the remarkable aspects of Berlin’s start-up scene is its multicultural nature. People from diverse backgrounds come together, sharing their experiences, forging friendships, and forming a strong team spirit around a common mission. As a result, you not only gain good friends but also an extensive network of professionals. In this close-knit community, everyone seems to know everyone, presenting you with an array of possibilities for future career opportunities or personal relationships.

The Joy of Lifelong Learning

Working in a start-up is like being back in school, but with a twist. Regardless of your level of expertise, you will discover something new every day. The dynamic and adventurous nature of start-ups caters to those who are naturally curious, flexible, and eager to grow. If you resonate with these qualities, then the start-up world might just be the perfect fit for you.

So, are you ready to embark on this thrilling journey, embracing the challenges and rewards that come with being part of Berlin’s vibrant start-up scene?

Berlin start up scene
In an entry-level position, you may also be responsible for various side tasks

Doubts and downsides of working in start-ups in Berlin:

While the start-up scene in Berlin offers many exciting opportunities, it’s essential to be aware of the doubts and downsides that come with the territory.

The Illusion of Flat Hierarchy

Although start-ups often promote a flat hierarchy, the reality is that some level of hierarchy exists. However, the positive aspect is that people are generally open and supportive, allowing you to ask for help and seek additional explanations when needed.

It’s important to recognize that in an entry-level position, you may also be responsible for various side tasks that supplement your primary role.

High Turnover and Instability

One downside reported by employees is the presence of aspiring founders who may lack work experience and essential skills, resulting in companies with unrealistic goals, poor planning, and inexperienced management. This can lead to a sense of instability and insecurity within the start-up environment. Recent cuts and layoffs in companies like AppLift, Glispa, Houzz, and Booking.com have added to the challenges, with a significant number of individuals searching for new job opportunities in Berlin.

The Price of Success

As a start-up grows and transitions into a proper company, it often retains an outdated organizational structure that may no longer be suitable for the new environment. The introduction of business angels, venture capitalists, or new CEOs can further complicate matters.

This evolution is a natural progression, but it can create complexities and potentially dampen the fresh spirit that initially characterized the start-up. If you thrive in an environment where rapid change and endless possibilities are abundant, you may consider exploring other start-ups to maintain that invigorating atmosphere.

Berlin is known for its vibrant start-up scene, and finding the right environment to work and collaborate is crucial for employees in this dynamic industry. Whether you’re seeking a cozy cafĂ© with great Wi-Fi or a professional co-working space, here are some popular options that provide a conducive atmosphere for productivity and inspiration:

Working Cafes Berlin: 

  • OSLO Kaffeebar, Eichendorffstrasse 13
  • Oberholz, Zehdenicker Strasse 1
  • Betahaus CafĂ©, Rudi-Dutschke-StraĂźe 23
  • CafĂ© Liebling, RaumerstraĂźe 36A
  • HERMANN’S, TorstraĂźe 116-118
  • Digital Eatery, Unter den Linden 17

Bonus tip: Use online maps or apps to search for working-friendly cafés near your location for convenience and variety.

Co-working spaces Berlin:

These co-working spaces offer a professional working environment with amenities such as meeting rooms, networking opportunities, and community events.

Whether you prefer the ambiance of a café or the structure of a co-working space, these venues cater to the needs of start-up employees, providing the ideal setting to work, collaborate, and fuel your creativity.

Berlin Start Up scene
Start-ups often cultivate a fun and energetic work culture

#3 Summing Up – The Appeal of Working in a Berlin Start-up

Through conversations with individuals working in Berlin start-ups, it became evident that the city has a unique way of reciprocating the dedication and passion of those who choose to pursue their careers in this vibrant ecosystem.

Here are some key reasons why working in a start-up in Berlin can be highly rewarding:

  1. Vibrant City: Berlin’s dynamic and lively atmosphere makes it an attractive destination for young professionals. The city’s cultural diversity, vibrant arts scene, and buzzing nightlife contribute to an exciting and inspiring environment.
  2. Growth Opportunities: Start-ups offer ample opportunities for personal and professional growth. In this fast-paced environment, employees are often exposed to a wide range of responsibilities and challenges, allowing them to develop new skills and expand their knowledge.
  3. Creativity and Innovation: Start-ups foster a culture of creativity and innovation, encouraging employees to think outside the box and bring fresh ideas to the table. The freedom to experiment and take risks can lead to groundbreaking solutions and transformative outcomes.
  4. Sense of Impact: Working in a start-up provides a chance to make a tangible impact on the company’s growth and success. With smaller teams and a more collaborative environment, employees have a direct influence on shaping the company’s direction and outcomes.
  5. Networking and Connections: Working in a Berlin start-up provides an excellent opportunity to build a network of contacts. The city’s vibrant start-up ecosystem brings together like-minded individuals, entrepreneurs, investors, and industry professionals. This network can open doors to new opportunities and collaborations.
  6. Embracing Diversity, Creativity and Breaking Boundaries: Start-ups in Berlin often attract individuals from diverse cultural and professional backgrounds. The multicultural environment fosters collaboration, encourages cross-cultural learning, and promotes a global perspective.
    Start-ups encourage creativity and innovation. Working in this environment allows individuals to push their creative boundaries and explore unconventional solutions. It’s an environment that challenges comfort zones and encourages thinking outside the box.
  7. The Fun Factor: Start-ups often cultivate a fun and energetic work culture. While the work can be demanding, there is a sense of excitement and camaraderie among team members. The collaborative and dynamic nature of start-ups fosters a sense of shared purpose and can make work enjoyable.

Startups – means not having to separate your working life from having fun – until that first bakery, café or software company comes into existence. As well as you agree to chill in the sun during a long weekend and having to work until late at night on Monday. Because that is just the way it goes. It’s a lifestyle in “poor, but sexy” Berlin.

Coming with a high turnover and unstable positions – why do people still tend to look for jobs in start-ups?

Because it’s more fun! Party or not, it’s easier to get a job, easier to get promoted, even easier to find other job opportunities if you want to move further. Moreover, it’s always an inspiring international crowd you’ll be working with – the close relationships among the employees may just turn into a long-lasting friendship.

Seems like for people who come to Berlin and feel it’s the place to be, working among like-minded people and being creative is more important than having stable social benefits and a contract that covers your expenses and promotes a solid ground for the future…

So, if you are in, I guess be ready to drink a lot of club-mate and have a lot of fun! : )