Berlin Startup Girl Featured in The Hundert – Connecting the Dots of the Berlin Startup Ecosystem

Kalie Moore



Awesome news! I was recently featured as one of 100 international entrepreneurs in The Hundert’s Connecting the Dots of the Berlin Startup Ecosystem Issue.

In his famous 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech, founder legend Steve Jobs explained how he could only assess the single “Dots” – the connections between his life and his decisions – in retrospect. Based upon this assertion, ‘the Hundert – Vol.3′ gathers the memories of one hundred founders, investors and “makers” from 48 different countries. [Read more...]

So You Want To Move To Berlin and Work For (or Build Your Own) Startup?


Berlin Startup

So You Want To Move To Berlin and Work For (or Build Your Own) Startup?

I get it. San Francisco is so 2003 – when did 6th and Mission become hip? Buzzfeed is giving you 22 reasons to move here (by the way, they are sooo wrong about no one paying for the Ubahn – you will be caught your first time without a ticket) and, according to the New York Times, half of Brooklyn’s DJs have already immigrated. While some say that Berlin is over, if your goal is to work for a startup, or build your own, this could not be further from the truth. Berghain may have fallen from grace, but the startup scene is just heating up.

With the (far too many) accelerators and ever expanding tech hubs, people spent too much time last year asking: is Berlin just hype? It could have gone either way, but only three months into the new year, Berlin has proved that it has staying power. From Delivery Hero’s whopping $88m funding round this January, to TVSmiles’s 7 million series A, to Outfittery’s 13m round, Berlin is settling into its startup ecosystem skin. This means more opportunity for you entrepreneurial expats to come in and conquer the scene. Want to move to Berlin to work for or build your own startup? Here’s my advice.

[Read more...]

Berlin Startup Girl in the Sunday Times!

Kalie Moore Sunday Times of London

For a PDF of the article click here: It’s Berlin game, tech and match | The Sunday Times

For the record, I was totally misquoted about the language part. I said that you don’t need German to work in the startup scene, but now that I had committed to Berlin, and my visa has been secured, I think it is important to learn the language.  [Read more...]

A hy! Summit Recap – “We Knew it Was a Waste of Time to Talk to German Investors”

And I’m back! After a two month stint in California and a jaunt to Nicaragua, I have returned, and Berlin Startup Girl lives on.

Last night, for my first event in 2014, I headed to Hy Summit.

As many of you know, one of my favorite pastimes is complaining about events in Germany. The organizers typically mean well, but the small details are lacking. Like, who has a tech event and doesn’t offer wifi? Or, an event in November without a coat check? Networking here is awkward enough without having to hold onto your jacket, scarf, gloves, plus an ipad.

So when I walked into Hy Summit yesterday, I had a moment of “Wait, what happened to Berlin in the last three months?” I’d thought of Hy as one step above a Meetup, but they proved me dead wrong. They stepped up their production value, and offered a coat check, wifi, friendly and efficient check-in people, the right amount of seats, and GET THIS headsets for the English speakers so the event could be translated.

It did not feel like a German event until the VC sitting next to me complained that they were not running on time, probably due to the government official who was from Bavaria, which may have correlated to his tardiness or was just an additional anecdote. To my neighbor’s credit, the event did start thirty minutes behind schedule.

Hy Summit kicked off with a surprisingly un-cheesy video about the future of innovation, featuring music by Moderat. It did not however, include any women, as noted by WomenShiftDigital. On that note, the women in the crowd (not counting staff or waitresses) probably accounted for 5% of the audience. Hy did include Anna Alex of Outfittery (which just announced in February a €13m funding round led by US-based VC Highland Capital Partners) in the panel (w)hy Berlin?!.

Next up was the aforementioned Bavarian, Alexander Dobrindt, the current Federal Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, but since my translation headset did not work, I spent the ten minute talk noting the other people who were listening via headsets – I counted less than ten.

Ijad Madisch, the co-founder of ResearchGate, turned out to be the most engaging German presenter I’ve ever seen. Yes, his company is one of the most interesting out there as it is solving a real problem, and Bill Gates is an investor. But Ijad’s story of how he started the company despite being advised not to, and why he did it in Germany, was inspiring. The presentation also featured photos of fingers grafted onto mice, stories of Russians solving mathematical problems, and lots of references to hair loss. Ijad is so unbelievably charming someone needs to make him the poster child of German startups.

The (w)hy! Berlin? panel was made up of Ciaran O’Leary of Earlybird, Anna Alex of Outfittery, and Lucas von Cranach of THE Football App. It kicked off with Hans, the moderator, asking about the good, then the bad, of Berlin. Ciaran’s point really stuck – Berlin is the only city on this side of world that is inspiring, English-speaking, and focused on Entrepreneurship. Talent was mentioned as another plus. When they discussed the bad part of Berlin, Anna shared what was, by far, my favorite quote of the evening: “We knew it was a waste of time to talk to German investors.” Way to call it like it is! There isn’t enough capital here, the Germans are too risk averse, companies sell too early, and raising money is much more challenging than it should be.

Peter Thiel, while clearly a brilliant entrepreneur and investor, is not a natural public speaker. He gave a very high-level, big-picture talk without any actionable insights. He started by discussing forms of progress and moved on to important questions to ask when starting out, which include: What is valuable? What can I do? What are others not doing? The audience was then invited to ask two questions, and the first person picked asked the same question everyone in Berlin asks at these events: What did Peter Thiel think of the Berlin ecosystem? To which he replied that Berlin is missing one extraordinarily big success, which is right on. For the Berlin ecosystem to thrive, investors and entrepreneurs are going to have to take more risks.

The event blew me away. Not only was the organization flawless (Hans, Aydo – well done!) but it showcased a new, more grown-up Berlin. The previous events I’ve attended in Berlin typically fell into one of two categories: (1) Berlin is AMAZING – we are on the path to be the next Silicon Valley! or (2) We aren’t growing fast enough, how can we be the next Silicon Valley?

The Hy Summit showed a more mature side of Berlin, comfortable in our position in the world. In 2013, everyone was talking about hype. So far this year, we’ve seen real progress, especially in terms of funding. Since January, Delivery Hero announced a whopping $88m, Outfittery raised a €13m funding round, TVSMILES closed a $7 million Series-A funding round, and a handful of other companies including Clue, Sensorberg, and Mbrace have raised sizeable seed rounds. The startup system is growing and, while there is plenty that needs to change, especially when it comes to raising funds, for the first time everyone seems realistic about Berlin opportunities.

With that, the networking part of the evening commenced. Because this is Berlin, and not the US, I walked up to Peter Thiel and asked to take a selfie because I am American and have no shame.

So here it is. Ola and I chillin’ with P’ Thizzle (caption provided by Johanna of Frestyl).


Berlin Startup Girl’s Response To Berlin and the Tech startup scene – 10 things to know before making the move


berlin bubble3A few months ago a former Berliner (and briefly co-worker) wrote a piece in The Guardian: Berlin and the tech startup scene – 10 things to know before making the move.

Like Lauren, I have also lived in Berlin for eight months. I’ve been through unfortunately many more that two boyfriends and one flat, but have been offered and kept jobs with five clients. While I can’t comment on the London scene, which Lauren occasionally uses as a comparison, I am a San Franciscan who has spent the last two years working in international startup ecosystems. I’ve been dwelling on this article since its October debut (proof that some Berliners have real jobs) and figured it was time to throw in my two cents.

The Berlin Scene is a Total Bubble

Berlin will be the next Silicon Valley. Berlin is a total bubble. Depending on the weather, or the mood, Berlin is either on the peak of success or headed toward disaster. Look, Berlin is not going to be the next Silicon Valley, but neither is London, or Istanbul, or even New York.  Check out Berlin-based VC, Ciaran O’Leary’s awesome post about the “my tech hub is better than yours” attitude.

Berlin is young. We are ten years behind London, thirty years behind San Francisco, but big things are starting to happen. Issues that once held Berlin back are changing. The German VC’s are too conservative? No prob, the Americans are coming. 6Wunderkinder recently announced $19m in Series B funding round led by US-based firm Sequoia Capital. No talented developers? They will get here, especially when the money does. There are now firms like Expaway (disclosure – I do write for them) whose sole purpose is to bring talented international developers to Berlin.

Tiger Onesies

Lauren, you are right about this one. Awkward. We learn and move on.

Nobody Has A Real Job

True, but who in their right mind wants a 9 to 5 job anymore? In Berlin, this should not be a problem. And if you want something more, you may be able to find it, but it will take a lot more than working eight hours a day. Half of my friends have a “real job” at places like SoundCloud or Nokia and the other half are building their own companies from the ground up.

It is possible to fall down the party hole.

Berlin is mind-blowingly fun. But for every night I’ve had drinking Ratzeputz while bar hopping through Kreuzkolln until dawn, I’ve had 30 more going to bed at a semi-reasonable hour in order to wake up at 5am to write. I don’t think I’m the exception.

Everyone is Inward Looking

“Everyone living in it is very Berlin-centric. They talk about the city, they love it, they live and breathe it and they complain about it. When you live in a city this cool, it is bound to happen.” Think that is bad? Spend a week in the Marina District.

Getting Paid is a Luxury Not a Right

I can only speak from personal experience on this one, as I don’t have regular conversations about salary with my friends. After only really starting a company six months ago, I get paid more than enough to cover my expenses. While it is a fraction of what I made in San Francisco, my beautiful one bedroom apartment is one sixth of the cost of the warehouse I shared in SOMA. As more money pours into the ecosystem, wages, along with the cost of living, will rise.

Fail Culture Rules

Coming from the States, at first all this failure talk felt like overkill. Sure in San Francisco, we have Failcon, and everyone knows it is cool to fail. You get a pat on the back, you learned a lot and your next venture will go so much smoother. The concept of failure as a good thing isn’t a given in other countries, but it should be, even if you have to shove it down their throats.

When I was living in Istanbul doing marketing work for startups, the fear of failure was so strong that most of the entrepreneurs I met weren’t confident enough to build their own projects. If you only have one shot at success, why not pick a model that has already proven successful, like a Groupon spinoff. And we all know how well that worked. Berlin isn’t that much different that Istanbul in that respect, but it is the investors rather than the entrepreneurs that need to learn that one failure doesn’t predict future failure.

In the startup world you need to be fearless, and unless you are an American, that needs to be taught. So if more failure days lead to more innovation, bring them on.

Cafes and Bookstores

Yes, Lauren, most are candle lit with exposed brick. At least you aren’t paying $6 for toast and black coffee.

Nobody Speaks German

Gott sei Dank. Okay, okay, if you plan to live in a country for a certain amount of time you should learn the language, but in Berlin the fact that you don’t need to helps the startup scene. German is helpful, but it isn’t a prerequisite for finding a job or building a company here. Let’s look at Paris. Cool scene, if my French was good enough to converse at a business level you better believe I’d be living in the Marais begging for a job at TheFamily, but it’s not, so I stay in Berlin.

Your Circle of Friends Will Decrease

Sadly, true. Our city is a transient one. Many good friends have left, including several from the latest session of Startupbootcamp (where I worked briefly with Lauren). But these people are doing amazing things in Amsterdam, London, and back in the States. And as international entrepreneurs, we will stay in touch and cross paths again. Count on it.

The Streets Aren’t Paved With Gold

Unless you went to an elite university and are in finance (and Jesus, who wants that anyway?) the streets aren’t paved with gold. Berlin, like every city in the world is what you make of it. But after traveling to 30+ countries, and working in four of them in the last three years, I can say that Berlin has something special.

And my advice for all those looking to Berlin? It is truly the coolest city in the world right now. People will be talking about this time like they talk about Paris in the 20’s or Prague in the early 90’s. If you want to come to be an artist and fuck around, cool, but get here now because prices will go up soon enough. If you want to come and build a company, cool, but be prepared to work just as hard as you would in San Francisco. While the streets aren’t paved with gold, they are full of potential and rich with possibility.

Berlin Startup Girl’s Top Picks for Berlin Social Media Week


Berlin Startup Girl's Guide to Social Media Week

Berlin Startup Girl’s Guide to Social Media Week

As a relatively new Berliner, I’ve come to realize that September means two things: winter and events. With my thin California jackets, and the sheer volume of upcoming events, I’ll try not to be overwhelmed by both.

Next week, I’ll be launching an event calendar on In the meanwhile, here are  my top picks for Social Media Week, Germany’s largest free web conference, with well over 100 events happening Monday to Friday. I happen to be an official blogger, and below is a selection of the awesome events I will be covering. See you there!


101 Marketing and PR Master Class

This is the year of Jess Erickson. Really, every time I see, read, or even hear someone mention her name, I am blown away by her accomplishments. How does she do it? I have no idea, but her PR and marketing savvy sure help. Come hear Jess give a master’s class on how to get featured in the IT publications (New York Times, anyone?) with limited time and resources.

FAIL First Attempt in Learning Online

Venture Village just named Startupbootcamp’s very own Achieved as their Hot Startup Of The Week. Right on, guys!  Are you looking for a new job, or to gain new skills, or just a way to track all those hours of Tedtalks you’ve consumed? Achieved tracks all of your learning and development activities. The talk will highlight key insights into the ongoing learning revolution and recent findings on students’ motivation to learn online. The session will be co-presented by Berlin Geekette, and my fellow Startupbootcamp Entrepreneur in Residence, Ola Kohut.

How to Succeed as a Young Woman in Tech

Rounding out our day of amazing women speakers, Céline Lazorthes, a young, female entrepreneur, will go over how she managed to succeed in the very male-dominated field of Internet and Finance. The first part of her speech will be devoted to finding the right idea for your company. In the second half, Céline will focus on how to convince others that your business model will make it.


Community Manager to Die for: What Does it Take?

Holy scheisse! The Startupbootcamp girls are killing it. Join Sophie Hechinger, our CMO, along with Silvia Foglia of Twago, Severin Matuse of Eyem, Moritz Vieweg of  Uber, and Svenja Goebel of Motor-Talk, in a panel discussion on dealing with situations that cross boundaries, spanning Customer Support, Marketing, Public Relations and Product Management.

How to Overthrow Governments using Social Networks

Social media empowers people and changes the world. We saw it during the Arab Spring, we continue to see it in Istanbul and Syria. Come hear Slim Amamou talk about his own experience during the Tunisian
Revolution and the lessons he learned. He will focus on mechanisms to build trust and ways to apply them across countries, using examples from the movement in Tunisia, and how social media can be utilized to inform a public about their own complex political situation.


Fold-it: How a game is helping cure AIDS

Foldit is a revolutionary new computer game that enables you to contribute to important scientific research. The game starts with a 3-D render of a protein. Players use the cursor to grab, bend, pull, and wiggle the chain of amino acids anywhere along its length, folding and refolding the protein to achieve optimum shape. But this is more than a game: whoever cracks the hidden secrets of protein folding will push science to make huge strides toward new antibiotics, cancer treatments, and biofuels. Creative Director, Seth Cooper, will be leading the chat.


Finanzamt and all the other joys of starting up in Germany

As someone who practically lived in the Finanzamt last month, I know that a lot of time and tears could have been avoided if I had first reached out to Nicole Simon. Need to visit the local tax office soon? Do yourself a favor and attend this session.

This talk will be geared to the following audiences:

  • Startups-to-be or new arrivals in Berlin who want to start a business, but don’t know how
  • Freelancers or online shop retailers
  • People currently running their business that want to learn what they have been missing until now

App Circus

I’m a juror! I’ll be joining Lennart Hennig, Lab Manager at You Is Now Startup Incubator, and Ash Maurya, CEO at Spark59, along with Christoph Raethke of Berlin Startup Academy moderating. AppCircus is the world’s biggest travelling apps showcase. The winner of the competition will head to the world championships at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February. Come watch the top app startups in Berlin compete!


How Great Brands Define Social ROI

As a social media strategist in Germany, a large part of my job has been educating CEO’s on the power of social media. The trickiest part of course is how to prove ROI. This chat will focus on:

  • How to measure soft marketing based values, emotion, connection, loyalty, preference, and advocacy and transform it into monetizing business values
  • How metrics like traffic volume, lead generation, sign-ups, or conversion could be successfully connected to social
  •  How engagement and brand advocacy has an impact on the brand equity funnel as well as “the purchase intent funnel”

The Official Social Media Week Closing Party

After a week of over 100 events, it will be well deserved.

Any MUST ATTEND events I missed? Let me know in the comments section.

Berlin Startup Girl In Paris: Less Hype, More Wine

Berlin Startup Girl in Paris

Berlin Startup Girl in Paris

When I think of Paris, I think of making out with strangers, drinking wine from the bottle in the Place Des Vosges, and macaroons. Startup ecosystem in the same sentence as Paris never crossed my mind.

This changed last month, after I wrote about the Israeli startup scene with a link to the Startup Ecosystem Report. The comments I received were not about Israel, but Paris. People were outraged that Paris was ranked 11th while our beloved Berlin was in 15th place.  How could this be?  I decided to buy a last-minute ticket to Paris to check it out myself.

After spending four days talking to French investors, entrepreneurs and accelerators, Paris began to feel like brash Berlin’s elegant older brother. Berlin tosses you a beer in the Betahaus courtyard; Paris pulls out your chair and orders the most expensive bottle of Côtes du Rhône. The energy is more refined, but it is there, and so is the funding.

Why Would You Build A Company In France?

I kicked off my visit at Rude Baguette’s monthly Founders Event, hosted by the enthusiastic editor and former Californian Liam Boogar. We met again the following day at the Poissonniere Starbucks (yes, Starbucks in Paris) so I could pick his brain about the differences between Paris and the Valley, but never had the opportunity. Liam, seriously popular, had so many meetings back-to-back that the morning turned into informal office hours. American entrepreneurs, Bulgarian investors, and French techies circled in and out, a kind of Starbucks salon.

Several points were becoming clear:  Paris doesn’t spend time on hype. Not one person at the monthly Rude Baguette’s Founder event tried to convince me that Paris is the place to be. Berliners may be dreamers, but Parisians are realists. The French entrepreneurs readily admitted that it is a bitch to build a company in France. Nobody attempted to sugarcoat the bureaucratic obstacles or the dismal tax situation.

At the same time, France has a solid technical infrastructure and some serious talent, with thousands of engineers coming out of top programs. They also have money. ISAI, Jaina Capital, and Kima Ventures – the most active angel investors in the world – will invest in one hundred startups this year. According to a report by venture capital firms DFJ Esprit and Go4Venture Advisers, based on data from about $1.8bn in venture deals over the first half of this year, France secured 22 percent of the total European venture capital, and the DACH countries (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) received about 19 percent. Financially, Paris is hot.


Locally Grown with Incredible Talent

One of my favorite aspects of Berlin is the international diversity. Among my startup marketing clients are founders from Germany, Denmark, Ukraine and Italy, and we all communicate in English.

By comparison, the Parisian scene is overwhelmingly homegrown. About 80% of the entrepreneurs I met were French (almost half of which were hoping to move to the Valley). A remarkable number were bootstrapping and living with their families to get by since the cost of living is 42% higher in Paris than in Berlin.

President Hollande is trying to lure international talent with talks of a new entrepreneur visa for foreigners seeking to set up innovative start-ups in France, as long as they invest a “sufficient amount” of money, but the specifics, including how this program differs from the EU Blue Card is at this point unclear.


France is not known for being friendly to foreigners or businesses, especially where taxes are concerned. A certain French film star (My Father the Hero, anyone?) made international news when he bailed to Russia to avoid taxes.

Things are changing. Slowly. Earlier this year, President François Hollande announced ten pro business measures that would affect France’s startup scene. He introduced a graded scale for tax breaks on capital gains for entrepreneurs who bought start-ups: 65% if the company has been held at least eight years and 50% after two years.  Progress, right? Experts say that Hollande’s plan would mean an effective tax rate of 60%, compared with 15% on long-term capital gains in the US.

After two days with French founders and American angels interested in France, I decided that France is where I will move after I build and sell my startup. The money that I would save on capital gains alone would pay for a chateau in Burgundy.

Then, I met TheFamily.

Paris Lives Up To The Romantic Reputation, Even In The Startup Scene.

Maybe you have heard of Paris’s new accelerator TheFamily? They were recently featured in TechCrunch for raising ‘just under’ one million Euros from Index Ventures.

Alice Zagury, TheFamily’s co-founder and CEO, graciously invited me to their regular Thursday night dinner.  The address was on a chic side street in the Marais, but I would have wandered all night if I had not run into Liam a block away. He escorted me to their unmarked blue door squeezed between trendy boutiques where, despite all inventory marked half off, it is still impossible to find a dress for less than four hundred euros.

I was buzzed into a courtyard and greeted by the svelte and elegant Sandrine, who gave me a tour of the apartment (whose former inhabitant was some kind of movie star) including the Barbie bathroom with pink walls and sparkly pink tiles. I was home.

TheFamily is different from all other accelerators that I have had the pleasure of getting to know. For 1% equity, TheFamily will provide what they call ‘education and unfair advantage’ including access to mentors, special workshops with catchy names like Les Barbares Attaquent! as well as networking opportunities. They are focused not only on money, but also on revamping the French ecosystem by way of government lobbying and collaborating with other incubators. Co-founder, Nicolas Colin (whom I did not meet) is the go-to-guy when it comes to anything policy related. He recently published a report commissioned by the French government on the tax system and the digital economy.

Each week, they organize a family dinner, an intimate affair with a featured guest and mind-blowingly delicious food prepared by co-founder Oussama Ammar. On the night I attended, the guest of honor was Tikhon Bernstam, San Franciscan bro and founder of Scribd and Parse (recently acquired by Facebook for 85 million).

Tikhon’s talk was followed by bottles of wine and more conversation, soon accompanied by Oussama’s roast chicken and a superb ratatouille. Luckily, I was seated next to the chef who, in addition to making the best meal I had in Paris, launched his first company at age twelve, and made me envious with his travel stories, a feat very few people have the power to do these days. In an earlier age of Paris, this group would have been talking revolution, or art, or existentialism. Today, they are growing companies and transforming the startup landscape. While the French government is stumbling around trying to figure out how to encourage startups and innovation, TheFamily is doing it, along with wine pairings.

And they have a castle. Let that one sink in.

Dining room table or ping-pong table?

The startup ecosystem report is suspect, but you already knew that. Any score that includes a Mindsetter Index (“how well the population of founders in a given ecosystem think like great entrepreneur”) cannot really be taken seriously. The fact is: Berlin and Paris are booming tech hubs and entrepreneurs would be lucky to live in either.

They feel different, but whether you are learning about customer development in a castle in Normandy, or on a beanbag in a warehouse near Checkpoint Charlie, the goal is the same: make money, disrupt the market, and change the world.

Berlin Startup Girl on Startüberlin

Yesterday I sat down with Stef and Roldano, the inspiring duo behind Startüberlin. We talked about my travels, my first marketing company: Battered Suitcases Marketing, and I even shared details about the new media company I co-founded that will be officially launched next week. Stay Tuned….




Berlin Startup Girl in the Startup Nation: Venture Capital and Gas Masks

Berlin Startup Girl

Berlin Startup Girl

In a single afternoon, I went from meeting with a Tech Crunch Disrupt finalist to learn how they raised a seven-figure sum from VCs to jotting down the hotline number for ordering gas masks to be delivered to your door, in case chemical weapons from Syria spilled over. Welcome to Israel, the World’s #2 startup ecosystem, which I toured in June with Bizrael, a program to introduce aspiring entrepreneurs to the Israeli high-tech revolution. I wanted to see for myself the reason that tiny Israel, of all places, is by far the closest contender to Silicon Valley. What did they have that Berlin (#15 in the startup ecosystem) lacked?  And with all of the resources offered to immigrant entrepreneurs, should I consider Israel as an option?

What makes Israel the Startup Nation?

Intel microchips, cellphone camera technology, drip irrigation systems, the swallow-able camera pill, and cherry tomatoes (cherry tomatoes, people!) – all of these products were invented in Israel. What else? If you don’t mind apocalyptic undertones, check out this video.

My question was this: Why Israel?  Why is Israel’s most talked about acquisition Google’s purchase of Waze for one billion dollars, while Berlin’s most talked-about deal is GetYourGuide acquiring Gidsy for an undisclosed, presumably much smaller, sum?

99 Problems, but Funding Ain’t One

Startups in Israel have healthy capital through the startup lifecycle. Check out these stats:

  • In 2012, 575 Israeli startups raised money from investors, both local and foreign. Of these, 157 were seed-stage companies.
  • The total dollar amount raised was $1.92B.
  • VC-backed deals (i.e. deals in which at least one VC fund participated) amounted to $1.37B, Of these, Israeli VC funds contributed around $516M.

And Berlin?

  • In 2012, VC investment in Germany was 252 million euros, with 133 million going to Berlin.

There is significantly less investment in Berlin, and also a significant funding gap before and after product market fit. 

Military Minds

Say what you will about the Israeli Defense Force, but holy scheisse, they teach people to code. High tech training, coupled with team formation, gives Israel a strong advantage.  36% of high-tech entrepreneurs in Israel served in one of the IDF technological units, including the founder of Waze.  29% of high-tech workers were also originally trained in these units.

High Tech

Not to get too scientific on y’all, but check out these startup maps of Israel vs. Berlin with a breakdown by industry. By the way, these startups maps were created by a current IDF soldier and all around amazing guy, Ben Lang.

Here is one example of the different startup industries: Life Sciences is not a category in Berlin, and only three startups in the health care category appear on the map. In Israel, there are 49 Bio and Medtech startups listed, which makes sense since Israeli Life Sciences companies raised the most money in 2012 – a total of $497M.

Selling It

I do not believe that better pitches is the secret ingredient that make Israeli a powerhouse, but after watching the Betahaus Global Pitches in Berlin last weekend, I think it is worth mentioning the difference in pitch techniques. Here is the scenario: You pour your heart into your startup, into your pitch, and when you finish a judge asks you:

1. A Stupid Question

2. A Condescending Question

3. A Valid Question You Can’t Answer

In Europe, the presenter will look embarrassed and answer politely, often without providing any additional information. In Israel (please note that the founders were pitching to our group, not to funders) the founders turned the tables. They made the questioner feel ridiculous for asking, or doubting their idea, restated that their startup was one of the best in the world, and that there is NO WAY it will fail.

Cool Stuff Happening in Israel

Our 15-day itinerary was packed. We visited consultants, VCs, industrial parks, universities, and even a pharmaceutical company and a desalination plant. Here are the top startups and organizations that are worth checking out:

  • Jerusalem Tech Park and Glide

While it doesn’t quite have the hype of Factory, Jerusalem Tech Park is pretty incredible – 15 acres of offices and green space that houses hi-tech companies including Glide, a video messenger that allows you to send and receive short video messages that can be seen live or later.

 If you are a Jew looking to build your startup, you must reach out to David Goldberger or Jonni Niemann. Upside Israel provides full business development, cross-marketing and funding combined with relocation services.

Their marketing material doesn’t do them justice, but these guys are worth getting to know. They created an interactive game that is all about collaboration and the new entrepreneur. And they don’t just talk the talk. You’ll be seeing this group in Berlin in no time.

Visiting Israel? Check out this awesome coworking space in the heart of Jerusalem. It is just like Betahaus, but with access to VC.

Yet another global innovation platform connecting startups to investors, but these guys have serious partners and sponsors. Berliners, take note, as they are expanding their presence in Europe.

Israel: The Ultimate Dichotomy and Why I’ll Be Staying In Berlin

Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, is an insane dichotomy of high-tech powerhouse and backwoods ideals.  For instance, a mere ten-minute stroll from state-of-the-art Jerusalem Startup Hub will bring you to Mea Shearim, the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. This is an entire part of the population that actively rejects technology. They have kosher certified cell phones that only allow calls, and block internet, messaging, and video capabilities, because G-D forbid sexting may occur.

Or there is the whole deal with kosher wine. Starting after the grapes are picked, for wine to be kosher, it must be produced, packaged and poured by Sabbath observant Jews. Even if the wine is made by Jews, if a non-Jewish waitress pours your glass at a restaurant the wine is no longer kosher. So how do you get around this? By BOILING the wine. Seriously.

I loved Israel and its intensity. Without a doubt, the country lives up to its Startup Nation reputation. But, after three weeks, I was ready to board my flight back to Berlin, with its lack of international VC capital; where the only piece of protection I should invest in is not a gas mask, but a bike helmet; and where my riesling does not need to be boiled before being served by a shiksa waitress.


UberB2B – Forcing Interaction Since 2013

Yesterday I wrote about how hard networking is in Berlin and that collaboration can be difficult to redefine, but it turns out with the right moderators and environment it is possible.

The organizers of UberB2B, a brand new casual conference for B2B businesses in Berlin, must understand this conference networking conundrum, because they employed tactics that I will refer to as ‘forced interaction’ throughout the day.  And you know what? It worked.

During the first session, a facilitator divided the group into teams of four. Each team was instructed to write down the answers to four questions, write a joke, turn the paper into a paper airplane, and send it flying to the far side of the stage. The first team to land their plane on the stage, with the most correct answers, won free drinks at the after party. Everyone was engaged, attendees let down their guard, and not only was it fun, but team members created instant bonds that lasted throughout the day.

The second session was called, ‘I Collaborate My Way To Success’, and the speakers were Alex Farcet from Startup Bootcamp; Dr. Torsten Oelke from Smart Mobile Factory; Alex Saric from Ariba; and Felix Swoboda of Mobile Event Guide. The lecture was interesting, but what happened after the Q&A period was a novelty. Moderator Dr. Katja Nettesheim made all of the attendees pair up with the closest stranger, explain our business, and come up with three potential ways that we could collaborate.  My partner was the founder of an intriguing health-related startup and he was looking for a PR freelancer.  Bingo. UberB2B paid for itself within an hour.

There were also some misses, like the workshop ‘I Can Flirt At the Office, Without Drama’. The ‘flirt coaches’ were sweet kids, but had clearly never worked in a professional environment.  Their advice was often off-color (Always be yourself! Flirting is harmless!), and I was tempted to share my own flirting in the office story which ends with the resignation of the Chair of the Board of Directors. There was yet more ‘forced interaction’, especially when we partnered up, and one partner was told to speak for a minute straight, about any topic, with no feedback from the other partner.  There is camaraderie in awkwardness.

I came away with two potential clients, a handful of Linkedin connections, and a few individuals I might actually meet for beers, all people who had been my partners throughout the day. Startup conferences usually focus more on industry trends, or how to find investors, but UberB2B with its emphasis on connection, truly makes it a new standout in the Berlin conference scene.