Berlin, the new creative oasis in Europe

Reichstag Building in Berlin. Source: Aina Errando.

The capital on the shores of the Spree has become a true magnet for creatives and it is considered to be young, ambitious and international so everything is still possible. In just a few years, it has shown social, cultural and economic breakthroughs: a city which has something to offer to everyone, a place where culture, creative industries and technology are brought together.

According to experts, Berlin is way behind Munich or Hamburg in terms of economy. Nevertheless, the city is currently a hotspot for the creative scene and it is home to highly ranked universities, research institutes and museums. It inspires young talents and it is considered to be the Silicon Valley of Europe.

“I chose to come to Berlin primarily because I heard it’s like the Silicon Valley of Europe, and I have never been to Silicon Valley (yet). The start-up ecosystem here in Berlin is very developed compared to other European countries”, Gillord Pisas states. Gillord is one of the entrepreneurs working at Betahaus, a co-working place for entrepreneurs in Berlin. “For entrepreneurs, like myself, Betahaus offers the ability to quickly get to know other professional individuals in whatever industry you need help with”, he remarks.

The UNESCO certification in 2006 as “City of Design” was a turning point in recognizing the creative potential in the city. Moreover, the Senate Department of Economics supports design activities with Projekt Zukunft which builds platforms for the creative economy and supports innovative projects. Apart from that, the Senate Department for Urban Development and Housing has developed “Berlin 2030”, a strategy which focuses on preserving spaces for creative workers and developing creative enterprises. According to it, the city “will inspire creatives from around the world, offering networks and spaces in which they can develop so as to forge a common identity”.

As the capital of the largest and most powerful country in the European Union, new jobs are being created, the unemployment rate is falling and the economy is recording a stable trend to growth. The city’s population is increasing every year —a development indicative of Berlin’s appeal and the opportunities it has to offer—. In addition, withthe uncertainty of Brexit in London, investors will be more reluctant to invest in the UK and this fact can contribute to Berlin’s development.

Unemployment rate in Berlin. Source: Statista.

Artists have been attracted to the German capital by cheap rents, studio space and its open-minded spirit which provides the ideal environment for it. Indeed, The New York Times proclaimed Berlin as “the New York City in the 1980s” because “rents are cheap, graffiti is everywhere and the air crackles with a creativity that comes from only a city in transition”.

Almost three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is a hub for tech innovation and with vibrant cultural life where people can still afford to live in (unlike big metropolis such as New York or London where the cost of living is unattainable). 

GENTRIFICATION IN THE CITY

Berlin is attractive; however, the city is trying to regulate an implicit process which takes place in big cities which are constantly developing: gentrification.

According to the German Institute for Economic Research, rising rents led to an intense debate about the need to regulate rent controls in housing markets. For that reason,the federal government introduced the “rental brake” in June 2015: the rent set out in a contract with a new tenant cannot exceed the local average by more than 10%. With this, the government is trying to slow down the increase of rents.

Source: Berlin tenants’ association.

FACTORY BERLIN: An open platform

Factory Berlin is a campus for start-ups and mature tech companies (like SoundCloud or Google) where co-working, mentorship programmes and different events take place. It is a global network initiated in 2012 by founders Simon Schaefer and Udo Schloemer with the aim of creating a collaborative environment where knowledge is shared and a place to work is provided.

The Factory building. Source: Aina Errando.

Stefano Cortelevante, an entrepreneur and marketing strategist currently working at Factory Berlin, defines himself as a digital nomad. “My creative world is The Factory, because it is like an octopus”, he argues. About his working experience here he says that it is like two worlds. “I’ve never met the people above because I am allowed to work on the ground or first floor but people are really friendly. We all have the same DNA”.

The building has communal areas such as restaurants, coffee shops and fitness centre to increase community interaction. In fact, they want to open more Factories around Europe with the same deep DNA. In the 19th century, it was the Oswald Berliner Brewery but now that same space brings start-ups together with big high-tech companies.When once in West Germany the GDR soldiers were guarding the gates, now entrepreneurs gather to exchange ideas.

“It is a sharing economy: you are inside, you give. You need to match with its values”, Stefano explains. Moreover, Deutsche bank have invested a lot of money together with other companies. They don’t receive any public funds.

However, there’s a resistance against The Factory because “it does not really match the open-mindness of Berlin and the neighbourhood”, Cortelevante admits. Berliners are afraid of the rise in the cost of living, “co-working spaces are making money and life is expensive”, he adds. With a second Factory and the new Google Campus opening soon, they are afraid that the big conglomerates take over.

Work as we know is clearly changing,talent competition is on and entrepreneurship has become global, but Berlin is leading the way in attracting inspired (and inspiring) creatives.  Consequently, the entrepreneurs in Berlin are very international and this leads to wonderful ideas, different ambitions and ways of thinking.

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