Europe’s 2nd largest city is all about entrepreneurship:
Berlin is Europe’s second largest city and the European Union’s second largest startup hub. Today the largest startup hub inside the single market is London but that will change if the UK completes the Brexit process on March 29th.
As British politicians argue amongst themselves and with the European Union over just what they want a post Brexit UK to look like, one message is clear: British Prime Minister Theresa May says she will take the UK out of the single market.
What we know is that Prime Minister May wants the UK to leave the European Union on Friday the 29th of March 2019 at 23:00. She also asked for a two-year transition period to phase-out of the EU last year, but Brussels has told her she can only have until December 31st, 2020.
However, the transition period is conditional on the UK and EU having an agreed Brexit deal in place before the deadline. So far the EU has agreed on the deal proposed by the British Prime Minister but politicians in Westminster have not. After delaying Parliament’s vote from late last year, the UK Government has confirmed MPs will now vote on the Prime Minister’s deal January 15, 2019. If MPs reject it and nothing else is in place by March 29th, then there is no deal - Brexit is full and final on March 29th. For the many British expats living abroad, this is causing them great anxiety.
Since the Brexit vote in June 2016, German authorities say there’s been an increase in arrivals of British citizens — and some of them have brought their businesses along with them too. According to British Embassy figures, Germany is home to a total of over 100,000 British expats with about 20,000 now calling the German capital home.
Sure if Brexit happens, London will still be an important business center, but it isn’t going to include single market access unless something drastic changes between now and March 29th. For some businesses this doesn’t matter. Others might have a hard time being based outside the single market.
So what’s happening in Berlin? The city’s got talent and you’re about to hear even more about its thriving startup scene. It spans a broad range of sectors.
Here are five superstars to watch in 2019:
1. Entrepreneur First: or “EF” is a company-building accelerator that turns strangers into startup co-founders. And it pays participants for their time in the accelerator. Launched in London in 2011, EF later expanded to Singapore. Next came Berlin. EF began it’s hunt for hackers in Silicon Allee exactly one year ago.
Entrepreneur First’s Berlin Lead and a graduate of EF’s first cohort in London, Zefi Hennessy Holland says the type of founder Berlin attracts is different from London. He believes that in London big tech startup founders often hold Oxford or Cambridge (Oxbridge) degrees and that this ambition is very ‘establishment’. But in Berlin, you find almost the opposite. Founders tend to be anti-establishment rebels not afraid of going off the beaten path.
EF believes they are the best place in the world to find a co-founder and build a seed-funded startup from scratch. It was founded in 2011 by Matt Clifford and Alice Bentinck. McKinsey & Company provided seed funding, and KPMG, Microsoft and Sky were early corporate sponsors.
In 2017, Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and Partner at Greylock, led a $12.4 million (USD) investment that included the co-founders of Google’s Deep Mind into Entrepreneur First. As part of the investment Reid also joined the board. With regards to Berlin, Reid says “Berlin is a capital of entrepreneurship” and he explains EF is in Berlin to generate even more.
EF figures from the time of its Berlin launch showed they’d built 80 companies which have gone on to raise over $100 million (USD) in venture funding since its first cohort in 2012. But watch this space as impact figures from Berlin get updated into the mix.
EF says it ran a successful first Berlin cohort last spring and now it’s recruiting for another batch of disruptive startups. In 2019, keep an eye on EF’s development (they expanded to Paris after Berlin and have more cities outlooked!) but also watch EF Berlin’s individual startups as they mature. Interesting things will come from EF Berlin.
If you’d like to read more about how to join Entrepreneur First, I wrote about their Berlin launch in my Medium post EF Will Pay You To Launch A Startup.
2. Contentful: While there has been an explosion of connected devices that people use to interact with apps and the internet including phones, computers and even cars, Contentful aims to become the go-to platform to manage how all the information from brands is delivered via a set of APIs.
Contentful is a cloud-based content management platform. It’s different because it can provide some of the same functions as popular brands like WordPress and Medium but it’s aimed at a different user.
Additionally funding was secured about a year ago to fuel international expansion. Upon signing Series C funding for $28 million (USD), CEO and co-founder Sascha Konietzke described his platform to TechCrunch as:
“a ‘headless’ CMS, not unlike Stripe’s relationship to payments: there is no front end for ingesting and formatting content, or design end for producing the final look of that content for the reader. Instead, there are a set of APIs that developers of the media product in question can use to control both of those aspects more flexibly.”
The VC that led Contentful’s Series C round is Cambridge, Massachusetts based General Catalyst. They’re known for making some very smart investments on other quiet but powerful backend aggregators and services providers including Stripe and Kayak that offer essential B2B2C tools.
At the time of Series C investment, Contentful reported that it had 130,000 developers using its platform with ‘thousands’ of paying customers and many more customers signed-up to its freemium plan. Customers use the platform to distribute branded content and they include a diverse mix from Uber, Samsung and Spotify to even WeWork.
And finally, this isn’t the first time I’ve written about the potential of Contentful either — you can read more in my Medium Watch These Emerging Trends From Berlin Startups. So watch Contentful in 2019. They’ve been on an amazing growth path so far without having the benefit of a well known brand name but this year, it looks like that’s all about to change.
3.Signavio: Germany is world-famous for its business to business (B2B) technology so of course this list wouldn’t be complete without highlighting a pure B2B startup.
Founded by four students in Postdam, Signavio has been busy established itself as the leading provider of cloud-based process modeling and management systems. Check-out these figures: in 2017 the company reported 90% growth. By 2018 when it closed Series B funding for €15.5m the company said it had more than 1,000 global customers for its business process management software.
It’s latest funding round was led by Boston Headquartered Summit Partners which has been backing technology game changers for 35 years.
Signavio’s founders say the company was launched to serve as a signpost for workflows, processes, and decisions. Their aim is to help companies that are facing the challenge of constant change or reinvention because of market forces, whether it’s because of new technology, updating regulations, or even reorientating institutional knowledge.
4. Tourlane: is a fast-growing booking platform for multi-day tours, offering amazing experiences to over 30 countries worldwide. The company aims to combine the first-hand experience of a travel agency with the simplicity of an online product.
Founded in 2016, Tourlane recently closed a $24m (USD) Series B funding round led by Silicon Valley investor Sequoia Capital. The round also included previous investors Germany’s Holtzbrinck Ventures which has been with the startup since its seed round. Industry icons including Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk, Trivago founder Malte Siewert, GetYourGuide founder Johannes Reck and the founder of Qunar, Fritz Demopoulos, have also invested.
Tourlane works by perfectly syncing with different logistics service providers including flights, accommodations, transfer and other related activities in the destination countries. As a result, tourists can explore the destination without any hassle of multiple bookings from different service providers at different levels.
Tourlane has seen an increase of 800% year-over-year in its revenue. At the time of Series B funding, the startup had more than 120 employees in Germany. The additional money is planned to grow the startup by expanding into multi-day tour bookings. It will also be used to expand Tourlane’s team by 100 more professionals including engineers and travel consultants.
5. COMATCH: This hot Berlin startup is disrupting the traditional consulting industry and independent professionals seem to love it. COMATCH is an online marketplace for management consultants and industry experts.
Founded by two former McKinsey consultants in 2014, the COMATCH platform connects companies of all sizes with independent business consultants and industry experts registered in their network for project-based work.
It works through a combination algorithms and personal checks. The site then matches the most suitable consultant with a set project’s requirements.
To maintain a high quality consultant pool, access to the platform is not available for everyone. After the registration, a quality assessment based on a person’s CV and personal interview takes place. COMATCH says that in the end, only 50% are accepted.
COMATCH’s clients range from startups and small business to large enterprises including Zalando, Clariant, and Tom Tailor as well as consultancies. The startup’s figures for the beginning of 2019 show 6,000 consultants have registered on their site with 41,000 project days having previously been sold.
And finally, the startup took Series B funding in the spring of 2018 to fuel international expansion. In total COMATCH has taken €12 million investment. German online magazine Gründerszene ranked the startup among the top 10 fastest growing startups in Germany 2017. And at the end of 2018, Forbes ranked COMATCH as one of the 100 most innovative firms in Germany.
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