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Berlin: entrepreneur hot spot

Sunday 5th June 2011
The Berlin tower effect. courtesy: Gail Purvis

Berlin's reputation as a European top spot for nightlife and hip galleries is attracting young high-tech entrepreneurs. abundant computer-skilled graduates from the four major Berlin universities, and the presence of Microsoft and Google, make Berlin fertile ground for high-tech startups.

"Berlin is an attractive city for research that draws many young, creative, smart people who give the impulse for high-tech startups," said Professor Knut Blind, chair of Innovation Economics at Berlin's Technical University.

As an example Matthew Bostock, 22, from Coventry, England is cited as one of the players in Berlin's boom. Graduated from a British university in late 2010 with a degree in music production and engineering, he realized he had few prospects at home.

"Creative and artistic orientated jobs in the UK are very few and far between,"he said and moved to Berlin 2 months ago to join software startup 6Wunderkinder (still hiring and currently working on Wunderkit!)

Entrepreneurs say that Berlin, with some of the cheapest rents and lowest employment costs in Europe, offers ideal conditions for startingups. City officials says 60 startups emerged in the capital last year, and a quarter of the Swiss-based European Tech Tour's top 25 tech startups from German-speaking countries are based in Berlin.

"Companies that want to be international need the right people, the right investors. That's quite challenging right now in Berlin because it's not as international as other cities in the world, but it is changing here," said Christian Reber, founder of 6Wunderkinder.

Some of the biggest names, including audio platform SoundCloud that moved from Sweden to Berlin in 2007 and now has 3.5m users, or ResearchGate , Berlin-based networking site for academics, that just saw its users pass the 1m mark, are helping to attract attention.

For Franz Duge, 25, a native Berliner who founded chocolate maker chocri (design your own online) in 2008, no other locations ever were considered for his company, which offers customers a chance to concoct their own chocolates from 80 different ingredients.

" We have the advantage of being able to build up a relatively large production in the background and we can centralize orders to speed up production," he says of his company whose production has doubled in just more than two years to 4,000 chocolate bars per day, expanding shipping from Germany and neighboring countries to as far afield as the United States and Canada.

Berlin is still burdened by the cost of having to meld the city following 1990 reunification and still has one of the nation's highest jobless rates, roughly 13% unemployed, but that's no deterrent throngs to the young

"I became aware that Berlin was sort of a hub for creative and artistic opportunity and I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to come work here," said Bostock.

High time Glasgow and Edinburgh got it together in an east synergises west Scottish entrepreneurs' hub.

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