With the shadow of No Deal looming large over the immediate future of Britain, what does the future hold for the young and ambitious? For many, it means it’s time to say goodbye to Blighty.
In March 2019 a report from the independent research institute New Financial named 239 companies that identified Brexit as a reason for moving portions of their businesses to the EU. This is after the Financial Times reported that some tech recruiters in Britain saw a 40% drop in applicants from inside the EU. On top of that, just over half of CIOs are worried that they won’t be able to recruit staff with the right technical skills after the UK leaves the European Union.
How’s that for a gloomy forecast?
On the other hand, Berlin’s startup scene is thriving. Low costs and a vibrant cultural scene have long since been attracting youthful British residents, but in the wake of Brexit, many now see the German capital as a creative and affordable alternative to London’s sky-high rental costs, relentless bustle and increasingly hostile environment.
Olga Steidl, founder of TBD Newton and a regular speak up at Berlin startup events, suggests that Berlin’s growing reputation is based on a diverse talent pool, increased risk-taking, and an increase in Corporate Innovation Labs. A rise in the amount of VC money from the EU, US and Asia is also a factor, with Berlin being a strategic option for entry into the East from the West and vice versa. Moreover, German VC exits are on par with (and soon to overtake) UK ones, and that’s with fewer funding rounds.
The startup scene here is growing at a pace that outstrips other regions such as the UK, Sweden and France. When all this opportunity exists in a city that already draws hundreds of thousands of Brits a year, it’s easy to see why more and more coders are thinking of moving here.
My advice? Do it.
1. There are jobs for developers here
For tech professionals, Berlin is a great option simply based on the fact that there are jobs here. Bigger companies such as Soundcloud, Zalando and Get Your Guide, are being quickly joined by rising success stories like Blinkist, Number 26, GoEuro and many more. These companies are consistently on the search for new talent. Companies such as Honeypot.io allow developers to sign up to their platform and have employers apply to them. The trend for IT professionals looks set to continue, too: by 2020, it’s projected that 100,000 new IT jobs will have been created in Germany’s capital city.
Berlin is frequently the base for companies expanding to the European market, too. Dubsmash and Kayak are two noticeable examples.
2. There’s a great community for developers
Once you’re here, you’ll find an enormous network of young professionals to meet, learn from and befriend. Regular meet-ups happen all over the city, bringing together people from a variety of backgrounds and careers, with a broad range of interests.
As JobSpotting points out, while London “focuses chiefly on classic tech startups, job seekers in Berlin can choose from jobs in the fields of fashion, music, food, cars or real estate, to name but a few.” Which is to say, the talent pool is incredibly diverse, which is a source for constant inspiration.
3. Cost of living is low
Besides the startup scene itself, the low cost of living is one of the main draws. London is expensive and Berlin, on the other hand, is still surprisingly cheap.
A 1 bedroom flat in a popular area will set you back around €800. Those not opposed to a flatshare could find rooms for as little as €450. Rent may be rising, but in comparison to other major capitals Berlin is a steal. There are even new laws in place that work to keep it affordable, which means retaining the city’s creative atmosphere and diverse charms.
Best of all, you’ll find these affordable living arrangements in some of the most desirable areas of the city. Prenzlauerberg and Mitte are on the more expensive end of the scale (though still much cheaper than London), but a decent place in Kreuzberg, Neukölln, Moabit or Shöneberg remains laughably cheap when you consider the cost of rent in a comparable area of London. And it’s not just rent. You can grab a decent lunch for as little as €5, and the popularity of supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi means you can do your groceries on the cheap, too.
These low costs can translate to relatively low wages, and this can be one of the downsides of Berlin. But Christian Hernandez succinctly points out, Berlin is “…a fun yet affordable place to live if you’re a young dev. Would you rather pay an arm and a leg in London or use the extra cash in Berlin to go to one of their famous dance parties?”.
4. The social/cultural side of Berlin is second-to-none
London may beat Berlin for the amount of cultural offerings there are, but where Berlin shines is in the accessibility of these events. Berlin’s size is a gift: big enough to offer incredible variety, small enough to be 30 minutes away from almost anything you want to do.
This also means that, unlike London, you can be spontaneous. If you fancy going to your friends for dinner after work in a different neighbourhood, you don’t have to have planned it 3 weeks in advance in order to work out the logistics – you just go.
Berlin also takes its nightlife extremely seriously. A multitude of world-class bars, restaurants and clubs open late – or sometimes, simply haven’t closed in 30 years. Electronic music lovers particularly will find their home here, with many of the world’s best DJs spinning every weekend in Berlin’s borders at clubs such as Berghain and Sisyphos.
Add onto that the 24 hour public transport that runs from Friday to Sunday and you have a city that truly understands night owls.
5. Berlin is diverse (and loving it)
16.5% of Berlin’s population is foreign, with 186 different nationalities residing within the city’s borders. Within the startup scene this is multiplied. 49% of the startup workforce is foreign, meaning the chances of you working with people from all over the world is huge.
In comparison, the Brexit vote was largely stoked by fears of immigration. Many EU nationals are considering moving away from the UK (if they haven’t already), and it will become increasingly difficult for tech’s brightest minds to move there. This is not incidental. As Victor Basta points out, “Intel was founded by an immigrant. Microsoft is run by one. Apple was started by the son of one. nVidia’s CEO is one.” These days, are those with similar dreams more likely to think about moving to Germany, or increasingly isolated Britain?
6. Because it’s Berlin
Berlin’s charms are many, and I know many people that have visited the place and almost instantly made the decision to move here. The verve and vivacity that permeates the city is palpable; felt on each street, inside each bar, and in each of the city’s passionate residents.
The wealth of galleries, museums, pop-up exhibitions, restaurants, cafes and markets make it an impossible city to exhaust. Having lived here over 3 years, I can still be “wowed” by something almost daily. And it’s not just me fluttering my eyelids at the city: Monocle magazine recently named Berlin the second most livable city in the world – beaten only by the megalopolis of Tokyo.
Berlin is a creative, anarchic and open city that bucks the isolationist trend that has gripped countries such as the UK and the US. It undoubtedly hasn’t fulfilled its potential as a tech capital yet, but that only makes the case for moving here stronger: this is a story that is still being told.
Berlin’s future looks bright – why not be part of it?