By Kirstie McDermott
European cities are vying with each other to win the coveted title of best and biggest tech hub.
Such a glittering prize drives investment, funding and job creations. Europe has a bubbling tech ecosystem from east to west, and north to south, with plenty of innovation to be found.
But there are a few cities that ultimately stand out, and Berlin remains one of Europe’s top tech jewels.
According to a report from Oxford Economics, the German capital comes third after Paris and London.
The report’s authors note that while cities are keen to tag themselves as tech cities, “the term is fluid and ambiguous”. To ascertain which ones should meet the “tech city” criteria, economists measured the size and growth, in terms of employment, of the tech sector in Europe’s 100 major cities.
CRM company HubSpot says Berlin is the “fastest growing tech hub in Europe” and 59 per cent of workers here would start their own company. Additionally, the company points to €436 million as the average amount of funding available to early-stage start-ups.
Strong innovation culture
Innovation is driven by access to funding, and according to the State of European Tech Report 2021, Berlin has seen investment levels increase by 150 per cent year on year.
Education and access to talent are also fuelling its innovation pipeline.
Germany has put in place an Excellence Initiative for its third-level institutions which aims to promote cutting-edge research and to create outstanding conditions for students.
The Freie Universität of Berlin and the Humboldt-Universität are two institutions in the city that are under this umbrella. They are free to attend, attractive to German students and produce a pipeline of talent for the tech industry and beyond.
Innovation and start-up culture is supported here at government level with a wide range of programmes and supports, too.
There is a €10 billion Future Fund, ERP Start-up Loans and ERP Capital for Start-ups programmes and Business Start-ups in Science programme (EXIST), among several others.
All of these factors add up to an ecosystem where Berlin sees around 40,000 business registrations annually as well as more than 500 start-up companies.
Thirty five per cent of fintech start-ups in the country are based here, and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies are the most common business model at 27 per cent, according to data from the Berlin Business Location Centre.
For those who don’t fancy going down the founder route and who would like to move to the city with a job already in the bag, there is plenty of choice here too.
KPMG is hiring a (Senior) Manager IT Consulting - Public Sector at the moment. The right candidate will contribute their IT expertise in the support of clients and will design system architectures both in the classic environments and cloud-oriented systems.
If you’d like to work in the fashion tech space, Zalando is hiring a Senior Applied Scientist. This role will work on marketing causal inference and analysing the impact of commercial levers on business performance, providing Zalando with insights and suggestions for efficient commercial steering.
Or, what about a job at popular language app Duolingo? It is hiring a Senior Product Manager in Berlin. You will drive strategy and the long-term roadmap, identify high-leverage opportunities to increase learner delight, through performance, animations, notifications, in-app callouts, and other levers.
Those seeking a marketing role in the city should check out this Director of Marketing gig at ProtonMail. You will play an instrumental role in redefining the company’s brand identity and strategy. You’ll be the brand’s advocate, planning and executing global campaigns with the goal of growing brand awareness and share of voice.
Great place to live
Of course, there’s another big reason why all these factors have centred on Berlin.
Even before reunification in 1990, the city had been attracting artists and musicians for decades, drawn to its famous counterculture.
Berlin remains a desirable destination for those in the know, despite many years of gentrification and hipsterification.
It is extremely attractive for foreign workers who come here thanks to high wages, and a relatively affordable cost of living.
Flat shares are the norm among many younger Berliners, but it’s also possible to rent on your own too, at a higher cost. While rent isn’t as cheap as it once was, it is still lower than in some other European locations, and eating out, socialising and grocery shopping will typically cost less too.
High earners will pay higher taxes and having health insurance is mandatory, but workers may find these costs are offset by access to Berlin’s wide boulevards, bountiful parks and outdoor areas, excellent public transport and services, and generally favourable weather.
Berlin’s central location within Europe also makes it easy to travel to and from, and language tends not to be a barrier either: 56 per cent of Germans speak English.
Additionally, this is a culture that values work-life balance: The usual weekly working hours of all employed persons in 2019 in Germany amounted to 34.8 hours in 2019.