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Berlin’s New Techno Beat

CNBC Business, 1 July, 2011

With its cheap rents and hot nightlife, the German capital is a magnet for young techies. But can it create global businesses, asks Siobhán Dowling

It wasn’t hard for Juha Lindell to decide to move to the German capital last October. After all, “Berlin is the coolest city in Europe, if not the whole world,” he says. Yet that wasn’t the only thing that drew the 29-year-old Finn to the city. A tall blond in a T-shirt and sneakers, he may look like something of a hipster, but his intention wasn’t just to hang out in clubs, play in a band or make art in a loft. Instead, he is one of the thousands of young IT professionals who have thronged to the city to become part of its thriving start-up scene.

Lindell was recruited by Wooga, Europe’s leading social games company, to work as a product manager and says he jumped at the opportunity “to join a company with big ambitions”. But it’s far from unique in that respect. The city is fast becoming a major centre for gaming, e-commerce and other hi-tech firms, leading some to dub it the new Silicon Valley. In many ways, Wooga epitomises the dynamic edge and ambition that is making the city an IT hub. Two years after it was founded, it is poised to become a global player in its field, with the fourth-highest number of monthly active users on Facebook.

The fact that it enjoys this position is in many ways thanks to a series of factors that are helping to make Berlin such a paradise for start-ups: a cosmopolitan array of young, multilingual skilled workers, swathes of cheap, attractive, post-industrial office space, supportive public agencies, a good infrastructure and growing interest from foreign venture capital. Christoph Lang of Berlin Partner, the city’s business promotion agency, says that one or two tech companies are being formed every week. “It is developing into one of the most important locations for IT companies not just in Germany but in Europe.” Continue reading

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