Berlin Fashion + Tech and FOMO

I am never leaving Berlin in January again. I am never leaving Berlin in January again. I am never leaving Berlin in January again.

This is my new mantra. This is the second year in a row I thought sunny California would be better than snowy Berlin, until I received dozens of messages about Fashion Week parties and realized that no matter the weather conditions, I’d rather be in Germany than eating gluten-free scones in yoga attire.

Enough with the rant. I’ve been asked a lot recently about what I see happening in the Berlin Startup Scene in 2015. If you read my Q1, Q2, or Q3 funding analysis (FYI – a 2014 Funding Recap will be published February 3rd) you know that when it comes to the Berlin Startup Scene, Ecommerce is king. According to the Verband der deutschen Internetwirtschaft (Association of the German Internet Industry), 53% of German GDP generated in 2017 will be e-commerce related, compared to 37% in 2012. This, combined with the fact that Berlin is still cheap enough to house designers and artists, makes me think that this year we will see the wearable market explode. We also finally have someone pulling the scene together. Lisa Lang, founder of ElektroCouture, is doing a smash up job pulling makers, designers, and techies together. If you are looking to partner with technology brands and fashion designers or bring your vision to life, she is the woman to contact.

Fashion Week is in full swing. As I’m writing this Berlin It Girl (and fellow Californian) Carrie Wick is at the Tommy Hilfiger opening for Fashion Week where, apparently, they are handing out beautiful custom perfume oil. The Decoded Fashion Meetup just wrapped up. If you missed it, keep an eye on their site, as they have several meetups a year in Berlin, London, and New York.

Anna Rose Videopath

Also this week, the Hundert released their fourth issue. They brought together 100 of the most significant fashion labels and dressed up 100 Berlin Founders. The results are gorgeous. Here is a list of Berlin Fashion startups and the photo of my favorite founder featured, Anna Rose from Videopath. Check out the 99 other founders and a list of all the fashion startups in Berlin by  downloading the entire issue here.

In 2015, I’d like to write more about fashion and tech, specifically well-designed wearables. If you are working on a project in this space please contact me at

FOMO is a very real thing.

Berlin Startup Exits: How Equity Will Fuel The Ecosystem

The topic du jour of the Berlin startup scene has changed from 2013’s “Is Berlin all hype?” to 2014’s “When is Berlin’s big exit?”

From Peter Thiel’s talk at Hy Berlin, to Bloomberg predicting four possible Berlin IPO’s in 2014 (two of which happened), exit expectations are everywhere. It is no longer if, but when. Along with the anticipation, a consensus is growing that exit events are a necessary step for Berlin to prove itself as a legitimate ecosystem.

Why do big exits matter? There are several reasons. First, international investors will pay more attention. The lure of high returns will get American VC’s on planes, and just maybe AirBerlin will bring back the non-stop Tegel to SFO flight (fingers crossed for all of us).

The other critical reason? Equity. While this does not receive nearly as much attention as the presumed inflow of new American investment, the truth is that – assuming that employees have equity – exits flood money into the ecosystem.

In that scenario, IPO’s can mean dozens, if not hundreds of new millionaires eager to invest in both new startups and real estate. According to Bloomberg, Facebook’s IPO created 850 new millionaires, many of whom “decided to invest their wealth in emerging technology companies such as Instagram Inc., Spotify Ltd. and Flipboard Inc.”  Twitter’s initial public offering created some 1,600 millionaires, or two-thirds of the company.

Did the same happen when Zalando and Rocket Internet went public? Not that we’ve seen yet. I sat down with Kevin Dykes, an American who built his latest company, RetentionGrid, in Berlin. Kevin explained that, in the US, it is an expected practice for a company to have a stock option program from day one, available to everyone. In key markets like San Francisco, New York or Austin, options are a must-have for recruiting purposes. Upon exit, those options create a new generation of angels that start their own companies or use that money to invest. And why not?  As Kevin says, “This shit is hard and skin in the game is important.”

American exits mean loyal employees and more money feeding the ecosystem. Sounds great, right? So why hasn’t it taken off in Berlin?  Kevin speculates that, culturally, equity just isn’t as desired in Germany. “It hasn’t been a requirement of any hiring conversation so far.” He views this as a limiting factor in Berlin, where most of the angels you meet were founders, not former employees.

This was seconded recently by Dominik S. Richter Founder & Global CEO of HelloFresh. After raising a $50 million round, he told Venture Village, “Here, high performing employees often do not appreciate and value stock and stock options correctly, thus making it hard for early stage startups to win over great talent from more established industries or players who can pay better salaries. I think this due to the fact that not a lot of wealth has been created through stock in Berlin so far, i.e. lack of role models, but I hope this will change if we have a couple of good exits in Berlin.”  The situation now looks like the chicken and the egg – Berlin needs exits to demonstrate how much Berlin stands to gain from exits.

Equity in Berlin also has challenging tax regulations that have not yet been tested (surprise, surprise). Instead of a traditional option pool like you would find in the US, Germany uses a virtual equity model which has implications for payout and reinvestment.

In Berlin, Equity Is Virtual

I met with serious experts Rainer Weichhaus and Konstantin Maretis of RoeverBroennerSusat, one of Germany’s leading independent audit and tax consultancy firms. And let me say that, as someone who has dealt with my fair share of questionable lawyers and tax accountants in Germany, these guys know their shit.

Konstantin explained that the typical American option pool program is not usually offered in Germany due to differing legal regulations. In Germany, most startups work with virtual stock programs, rather than direct equity. Employees are granted virtual shares of the company, at a fixed price at a certain point in time. Upon exit, the shareholder sells their shares and the employee is treated as if he would have sold real shares.

Rainer explained that this is quite an easy way to handle participation because, while employees are, in a way, shareholders, they do not receive shareholders rights. For instance, they will never sit in shareholders meetings. They become actual shareholders only when an exit occurs.

Both Rainer and Konstantin say that they see most German startups implementing similar programs, especially for early employees, such as the first twenty-five to join the company. “At the end of the day you only have one cake and you can only share it once.”

There are also tax considerations: American stock options are subject to wage tax immediately. In Germany, the tax is only levied if there is a payment. There are different tax rates for wages and for shareholder positions. The list goes on.

The American Equity Model

In the beginning, equity is more art than a science.

Fred Wilson writes: “Once you have assembled a core team that is operating the business, you need to move from art to science in terms of granting employee equity. And most importantly you need to move away from points of equity to the dollar value of equity… The key thing is to communicate the equity grant in dollar values, not in percentage of the company… Talking about grants in dollar values emphasizes that equity aligns interests around increasing the value of the company and makes it tangible to the employees.”

Typically, between 10-15% is distributed to employees in the seed round. Once you hit Series A,  20%-25% of the company is allotted for employees. This may seem like a lot, but it encourages even more in good will. What does the breakdown look like? Tony Karrer included this option shuffle breakdown on his blog:

The American Equity Model Option Shuffle Breakdown How Common is Equity in Berlin?

While my friends at RoeverBroennerSusat saw the startups they worked with offering equity in Berlin more often than not, I thought that I would verify independently. I spoke with dozens of founders, employees, recruiters and lawyers, many of whom provided information as long as it was off the record.

I met with Jeremy Del-Guidici, CEO at VonChurch Berlin GmbH, a leading recruiting firm that specializes in helping digitally focused companies evolve. The company was originally started in San Francisco in 2008 and arrived in Berlin last year. Jeremy deals with startups of all sizes and agrees that startup equity models in Berlin are dramatically different than those in the States or the UK.

Out of all VonChurch’s Berlin startup clients, Jeremy estimates that less than 5% offer equity across the board to early employees, and less than 10% offer equity when hiring senior positions. With virtual stock, the number is closer to 0.1%.

None of the founders I interviewed, who had raised a seed round, had implemented a virtual equity model, though many were interested or actively working with tax advisors to set one up. Across the board, founders expressed confusion on what percentages to offer.

I spoke to three startups which had raised over one million euros. One was in the process of implementing traditional stock options. Though they are based in Berlin, they are a limited UK company, and their American and UK investors had required it. The second company was a Gmbh that used the virtual equity model, but as an incentive for senior hires rather that first employees.  “Our first employees were an intern, a junior developer and then a intermediate frontend developer. So, it wouldn’t make sense to give them stock options. Besides we had enough financial resources to motivate them by their salary and didn’t need the “extra” motivation through stock options.” The third company is a thriving B2C company. They give options to most of their employees, not just first employees. The initial pool was 5%, but they’ve topped that up with every funding round since.

While German startups are starting to think about equity, there is no standard model yet, and company policies vary widely.

The Times They Are A’ Changing

Everyone agreed that, as time goes on, equity will become the norm here in Berlin. Jeremy of VonChurch predicts that the market will naturally push in that direction. If recruiters are calling with offers for the same salary plus equity, you will be more willing to talk to your current employer about options.

The influx of international workers and American and UK investment will speed things up. More startups will have to compete with companies abroad for quality talent, and that means offering stock. US investors expect, and oftentimes require, early employee stock options. Several of the companies I spoke to were implementing programs at the encouragement of their investors.

It’s also the right thing to do. 6Wunderkinder CEO Christian Reber writes about this in his popular blog. He recommends giving away 10-20 percent for employees. “Be generous with shares to your employees, they are your capital and most important resource. But never give away shares without clear vesting rules. When it comes to equity, be fair. Everyone should invest the same energy and the same amount of time.”

Berlin’s big exits are coming. They could make a few people very rich, or jump start the next generation of hot companies. More millionaires with startup experience are one key to continuing the growth in Berlin.

This article was originally published on Hack&Craft News.

Berlin Startup Girl’s Gift Guide for Women in Tech


Kalie Moore Gift Guide for Women in Tech

It is officially the holiday season, and I had to come up with some items to ask for at the family gift exchange. After putting together my list, I realized that almost everything was pretty damn girly and techie, so I thought I’d share my wishlist here, and maybe help out some fellow women in tech.

For the lady geek in your life who cares about style as much as technology:

ElektroCouture Artdeco Necklace

Art Deco NecklaceElektroCouture is a collaboration of artists, designers and technologists working together to create electronic jewelry and fashion pieces. The group was founded by Berliner and fellow Geekette Lisa Lang. Last month, over coffee, she told me about all of their amazing projects, and I fell in love with her Artdeco necklace. Not only is the design gorgeous, but the necklace lights up (in a non-rave-y way) making it the perfect statement piece. There are several different versions. The first is the gorgeous laser cut necklace with batteries and LED lights (approx 129 euro). The second version will light up based on your body heat (approx 249 euro). Though they will not be out in time for Xmas, you’ll be able to preorder from the ElektroCouture website.


I’m well aware that Ringly has been covered by every tech publication and women’s fashion blog, but I want it. Crafted with an 18K matte gold 3 micron plated setting, and precious and semi-precious stones, Ringly alerts you when you get an email/call/tweet from someone who matters. I’m not sure who that person would be in my life, but the pink sapphire ring looks exactly like a piece I declined to buy five years ago, on a trip to India, that I still think about. Ringly is the best example out there of a company focusing on style just as much as tech.

Tory Burch for FitBit (the Bracelet, not the ugly necklace)

tory burchI have a FitBit. Or, at least, I did. It was an impulse purchase when buying a new laptop last year. I wanted to prove (to whom I’m not sure) that I walked more in Europe than in the US. Duh – I have a car in California, and in Berlin my metro stop was closed for the last year. Anyway, once I confirmed that I walked an average of five miles per day in Germany, I put it in a drawer, never to be seen again. Now that I’m considering another marathon, busting out the FitBit makes sense, and part of me thinks that if it were more attractive, I’d be more inclined to charge it. Enter the Tory Burch for FitBit’s gold band. Worth a shot.



Ricky bag from Ralph LaurenRicky Bag

At $5,000 this bag definitely goes on the wish list.  The New York Times recently reported that Ralph Lauren has introduced an improved “Ricky bag with light” for the holiday season. The new version of the bag is  equipped with a USB charger and four discreet LED lights that come on when you open the bag. While the bag is a work of art – each one  is handmade in Italy out of calf skin and takes 12 hours to create – I’m more excited about having a light and a charger in a big purse.

For the health nut or anyone who lives in Berlin:


VessylVessyl: A Smart Cup That Counts Liquid Calories

I’m a typical Californian health nut. Although I eat a healthy, mostly veg diet, and workout 5 to 7 times a week, I always lose 5 lbs when I visit California and gain it immediately when back in Europe. Why? Wine. In a city with no last call, it is easy to rack up five or six drinks in a night. In San Francisco, where bars start shutting down at 1:30am, there is only so much damage you can do.

Enter Vessyl, a smart cup that doesn’t allow for complacency. Vessyl is a cup designed to automatically assess what’s been poured into it and track what you’re drinking in real-time. Put any type of liquid into the cup, whether it be soda or juice or coffee, and the Vessyl’s advanced sensing technology breaks down the fluid to a molecular level in order to identify the beverage. It can even differentiate brands like Pepsi versus Coke, plus, it gives caloric make up including total grams of sugar, fat, protein, sodium and caffeine.

6SensorLabs Gluten Testing Device (available in 2015)

California seems more hip to food allergies then elsewhere. While Berlin isn’t as bad as parts of Eastern Europe where chicken bits floating in a vegetable broth still counts as vegetarian, I have been told that items are gluten free when they aren’t. 6SensorLabs is creating a device (available in 2015) that uses chemistry-based technology to determine when a food sample contains the protein gluten.

You place a tiny morsel of food into a pocket-sized sensor, wait a few minutes or less, and the device will inform you whether it the verdict is g-free or not.

For the transient techie with a lover or two abroad:  The Luxurious Remote-Controlled Bullet Vibrator

Lyla 2In our supposed hookup culture, remote control vibrators seem to be all the rage. As someone who bores of Skype sex and long distant relationships in general, I’ve never felt the need. Then my favorite Swedish sex toy shop, Lelo, created the LYLA  2,  the premium bullet-style vibe with a wireless remote featuring revolutionary SenseMotion™ (movement-activated controls). If past Lelo gifts have taught me anything, this is definitely worth a shot.


Berlin Startup Girl on Wikimedia Deutschland: Berlin Coworking Spaces

In November, I sat down with Mark Fonseca Rendeiro from Wikimedia Deutschland to talk about my favorite Berlin Coworking spaces –  including the Rainmaking Loft, Agora Collective, and Factory Berlin – and the changing freelance culture and challenges of raising money of Germany versus the US.


Five Tips to Get the Most Out of Networking in the Berlin Startup Scene

Startup Guide BerlinIn August Sissel Hansen created The Berlin Startup Guide, an ebook and web platform for getting started in Berlin. The Berlin Startup Guide is filled with advices, how to do’s, case studies, tips and a fresh/real perspective of how to start-up in Berlin. The book includes portraits of start-ups, stories of founders, experts, project managers, creators all both national & international people who have started a business in the city. They interviewed over 50 people, including myself, focusing on understanding their personal journey to Berlin. Below is my chapter on networking in the Berlin Startup Scene. You can buy the entire book for $6.99 through iTunes or in twenty retail stores in Berlin.

Five Tips to Get the Most Out of Networking in the Berlin Startup Scene

I’ve received dozens of emails, through my blog, from people who are interested in moving to Berlin and want advice. Most of them want to find jobs before they move here, or plan to come network for a week. This biggest piece I have to offer is to just show up. Unless you are an absolutely amazing developer, most startups here won’t have the budget to fly you out for an interview. You need to be on the ground and it will take more than a week. Is it risky? A bit.

I showed up in Berlin in March 2013 with a backpack and a general idea of what I wanted to do. Within three months I had three Berlin startups paying me to handle their marketing and communications and was working with the best accelerator in Europe, Startupbootcamp. How did this happen? Networking. Was it easy? No. Even if you are the most outgoing former cheerleader in the world, networking in Germany can be painful. Not known for being the most open of cultures, networking in Germany requires you to take charge, and not get your ego hurt it your efforts aren’t reciprocated. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been blatantly ignored.

When it comes to networking, just show up, to events, and to the speakers room at conferences, to VIP areas. Doors won’t open for you, you need to kick them down, but the more informed and strategic you are about networking, the more results you will see.

Network More Than You Want To

Go to every. single. event. Trust me, this will get old fast, and incredibly boring, but if you do this for a month, you will meet 60% of the people in the scene. The other 40% are harder to meet – 20% are running successful startups and you will only see them at events like TechCrunch Disrupt or Tech Open Air – and the other 20% are VC’s and angels that you will meet through accelerators, or mutual friends further down the road. So just how do you get started? Here are my top six tips to making the most out of networking in the Berlin startup scene.

Create a Comprehensive Calendar Focused on Your Target Market

In Berlin there are dozens of events going on each week, if not each day. There are huge and expensive tech conference, intimate meetups, and exclusive founder-only mixers. So what to attend? For a curated list of events, by the Berlin Startup Guide. And, for a list of all the best tech conferences in Europe, Mike Butcher from TechCrunch just released this comprehensive guide.

I know it is a lot, and most of you reading this are busy building a startup! The key is to select quality over quantity. Make a list of your goals. Do you need to network to raise funding? If so, only go where the business angels and VC’s go, like hy! Berlin or the Noah conferences. Do you want to build relationships with tech journalists? Hang out near the press room at major conferences like TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. Maybe you want to meet other founders who could use your service? Attend the exclusive Spätschicht events or conferences with a big draw like Tech Open Air. Figure out your networking goals before you plan your calendar in order to save both time and money.

Create a Must-Meet List Prior to Each Event

Do your research! For most events you will have access to who is attending whether it is from a Facebook group, an Eventbrite page, or one of the popular conference apps like Bizzabo. Comb through that list and figure out the top ten people you want to talk to you and why. Research those people and their companies. If you can walk into a busy conference and single out an investor and congratulate him or her on their latest achievement, they will be more likely to remember who you are.

Target that List on Social Media

Once you have your top ten must-meet list, your work should start prior to the event. Follow those people on Twitter. Retweet interesting posts and be helpful. Lots of out of towners will inquire about where to go or what to eat in Berlin; respond to them. This way they will most likely already have some idea of who you are before you approach them. It is also totally appropriate to reach out via social media and say something along the lines of, “I see you are also attending XX conference. I’d love to talk to you about XY. Can we grab a coffee together during the first break?” Utilize social media to warm up your leads.

Don’t Leave Until You Meet Your Goal

Networking can be challenging even for the most out-going, but you need to make sure you are getting ROI for each event that you attend. Make the goal to not leave the event until you talk to every single person on your list. This doesn’t mean launching into a funding or sales pitch; in fact, save that for later. It just means that you made a personal one-on-one connection with every person you intended to meet, that way when you follow up they will remember you, hopefully fondly.

Follow Up

Follow each person you had a conversation with on Twitter and tweet how lovely it was to meet them, or if they were a speaker, how amazing their speech was. Connect with them on LinkedIn and send them a follow up email, this time with your ask, or just a note about how you would like to meet again.

Networking, especially in the overly saturated conference scene can be challenging, but if you go in with clear goals and the idea that you are warming up leads, rather than doing a cold sale, your event ROI will go through the roof.

Use Technology To Your Advantage

Maybe you are moving to Berlin and aren’t exactly sure what you want out of the city or who you should meet. Weave pairs you with other professionals based on your location. You see their photo and LinkedIn profile, and just like with Tinder, just swipe left to pass, or right to initiate a chat or express interest in meeting up. This can be a great way to meet people at companies you might be interested in applying to, or just to bounce ideas off of other people in your field. Also, depending on your relationship status, Tinder is a great way to meet like minded Berliners. 70% of my Tinder matches are in the startup scene, including founders, investors, and mentors. While my goal of online dating was not networking it oddly ended up that way.

Other Tips for Starting Up in Berlin

Moving to Berlin and thinking about founding a company? There are dozens of accelerators, and some offer EIR programs. You get to work with talented people and meet mentors and investors. My time as an EIR at Startupbootcamp was the best professional experience I’ve had.

Most Berlin events use a Facebook group, an Eventbrite page, or one of the popular conference apps like Bizzabo. I love using Bizzabo to comb through that list and figure out the top ten people I want to talk to you and why,enabling me to connect with them prior to the event. Research those people and their companies. If you can walk into a busy conference and single out an investor and congratulate him or her on their latest achievement, they will be more likely to remember who you are.