Berlin’s startup scene is all grown up – and its cheap rents and plentiful co-working spaces are still attracting a diverse mix of entrepreneurs.
A few years ago, new entrepreneurs would come to Berlin for the lifestyle, says startup consultant Christoph Sollich, aka the Pitch Doctor. “Now you see an influx of experienced founders on their second and third idea.” Cheaper than Munich, Hamburg, London and Paris, it’s a magnet for southern and eastern European companies starting up their businesses from the city’s plentiful co-working spaces, while its nightlife remains among Europe’s best. If you’ve got the right idea, the city’s many corporate-sponsored accelerators, including Bayer’s healthtech-focused campus, will snap you up quickly, too.
This community photography website was founded in 2011 and has spent the past seven years building up a database of more than 20 million professional and budding photographers, all of whom are able to sell their work to businesses looking to license stock images, with suggestions for which images to use made by computer-vision technology. It’s closing in on 100 million images on its online portfolio, and continues to grow, thanks to £67 million in funding to fuel its expansion. EyeEm has also found a lucrative sideline in licensing its AI tech to smartphone manufacturers: LG is the latest to use EyeEm’s platform.
Berlin’s digital bank disrupted the staid German banking industry, and now it’s coming for the UK and US. Co-founded by Maximilian Tayenthal and Valentin Stalf, N26 already provides banking services for nearly a million customers in 17 European countries outside of Germany – not bad for a bank started in 2015. Peter Thiel and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing are among the investors to pump £158 million into the firm. Its premise is simple: consumers nowadays don’t want to queue for services at a bank branch that a couple of taps on a mobile phone can provide. Expect it to shake up Britain’s banking sector when it arrives on these shores later in 2018.
The phrase “the world is your oyster” has rarely been more apt than when browsing GetYourGuide, the world’s largest online tourism and tour attractions booking site. Since launching in 2009, the company has been building up its corpus of activities in destinations for tourists to book, buoyed by €170 million in investment. It now offers more than 34,000 experiences around the world, from deep-sea diving to climbing the Eiffel Tower, on its site. In that time the company has expanded, too: it’s nearing 400 staff, and is backed by Kees Koolen, the former chairman and CEO of Booking.com.
It took a while for online used-car marketplace AUTO1 Group to get noticed, but when it did it start to make waves. The company, which sold 224 cars in 2012, its first year of operations, closed a £315 million funding round in 2017, valuing it at $2.8 billion. Five years quietly building its business outside of the limelight has made Christian Bertermann and Hakan Koç’s company a safe bet for success. With a 3,000-strong workforce in more than 30 countries – and a stock of more than 40,000 cars to sell – it’s continuing to grow at a prodigious rate.
Insurance is a deeply unsexy world with little innovation in it – which makes it ripe for disruption. Coya, founded by startup veterans Andrew Shaw, Peter Hagen and Sebastian Villarroel, aims to shake up the insurance world by remaking it for the modern day. Working directly with consumers and harnessing the power of AI to provide scalable, customisable cover, it – like fellow Berliner N26 – aims to fully digitise a world that has long held out against change. Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures was interested enough in the concept to invest in a $10 million seed funding round before even seeing a product, which is expected later this year when the firm receives approval from the German financial regulator.
New social networks come and go in the blink of an eye, but in Germany at least, Jodel has managed to retain a foothold since it was founded in 2014 by Alessio Avellan Borgmeyer. The discussion network combines elements of Reddit and Twitter to provide hyperlocal conversations, tips and tricks. It’s like the app-based version of your local pub: full of random conversations, some of which contain interesting things – and others which are simply funny to overhear. With the help of €6 million in funding, Jodel has managed to inch out of Germany, where it has more than a million users, many of them on university campuses, and into the US to fill the gap create by the loss of Yik Yak in 2017.
This industrial internet-of-things (IoT) firm was inspired by Cisco’s Blue Box, which in the 80s helped computers with different protocols to communicate. Relayr tries to do the same thing with cloud-connected IoT protocols – allowing industrial devices to interact with each other. The goal is to help companies navigate the increasingly complex transition into the connected world, ensuring their old machines can work alongside the latest bits of kit. The company, founded by Harald Zapp, Jackson Bond, Michael Bommer and Paul Hopton, has completed three series funding rounds, with the resultant £50 million allowing it to expand to employ 200 people at its Berlin headquarters and offices in seven other cities.
After selling his previous company, internet-radio startup Aupeo, to Panasonic in 2013, Holger G Weiss set his sights on the future mobility sector. He co-founded German Autolabs in 2016, which has developed a digital assistant for your car. Combining technologies such as AI, gesture control and voice-command technology, its driving assistant, named Chris, aims to bridge the gap between fully automated vehicles and the current state of transport. In November 2017, Chris won an innovation award from US analysts Frost & Sullivan, while Germany’s Ministry of Transport has invested €2 million in the company alongside private financiers to help further develop the digital co-driver.
Housing-sector startups are ten a penny these days, but often focus on the buying and selling of homes, rather than the logistics of moving. Movinga, which has outposts across Germany and France, and has helped more than 30,000 people move, closed a new funding round of up to €22 million in October 2017. Investors are buying into the startup’s attempts to disrupt the market by automating parts of the process and pooling house moves together to save on costs. The money, say founders Bastian Knutzen and Chris Maslowski, will help expand the firm into more countries and into other services, including setting up broadband and utility contracts once its customers have moved in.