Berlin might be a great place to bootstrap your startup because you can find highly inspired and motivated people with the right attitude, it is cheap and the environment is there to making starting things easy. But it is in the bigger picture still missing an important part to make it a successful startup city: a working and startup-aware service infrastructure. Too often you have to take care of things that don’t matter to the core of your business because usual services are only offered to established companies.
In Germany starting something on your own still is rather rare and something your parents wouldn’t encourage you to do. After all, the question of why isn’t only imminent, the problem of a work-valuing-society still is that failure is because you are a failure. In Berlin we’ve overcome at least many of those traits and encourage you to try and if you fail that is part of the process. With so many artists living this way, this city has become a mekka for cheap working and figuring out while bootstrapping at the lowest costs.
And while many cry the biggest disadvantage being that soo few big number VCs are here to support you, I see a much bigger problem in Europes so called Startup Capital: there is no startup-service infrastructure here. That is why so much money is required so often. Just take the case of a small startup of three, none of them has ever created a company before. Now, German law requires them to establish it as a GmbH (similar to the Limited but definitely not the same) through a notary.
Don’t get me wrong, German notaries aren’t that bad, but if you want someone, who understands tech startup business and even advices you on how you should make your contracts for that, you’ll be getting lost, there is none. Don’t even get me started on him explaining to you or at least some of your founders in English. Good luck with that.
But it isn’t about forming the company. Also running and growing it, you have no supporting service infrastructure to work upon. Lawyers are highly expensive, don’t understand their benefit in helping build the whole infrastructure and knowing it by heart in the long run. Instead they give “well, this might be slightly against the law here”-papers - not understanding, that this non-lawyer founder knows this and would just like to have an “well, you better form it this way and change your business model into this”-kinda answer. The attitude isn’t there.
And this comes down to even the basics. Ever tried to equip an office with internet speaking English? Lucky you, you got someone to sign a lease for a three months old company then. That is hard enough, with office spaces going for the long-lasting company almost all the time. Sure there are some other startups and co-working spaces, which offer easier and simpler solutions, but once you grew over 10 people, you can’t stay there. There is no office-park in which you can start and grow and expand and don’t have to move the office every 3 month.
Hell, there isn’t even any service offering you to set up a company, give you an address and scan you all the mail for a fair price. These services exist for big-shot companies and established businesses who can afford a couple of thousand-euros for a Berlin address with a great view over the city. But as a startup I do not care about having an address at “Unter den Linden”, I just want someone to take that mail from my legally required mailbox and send the scan to me via email, answers the legally and tax required things and all that as a service I can pay them for.
Unless I have an office assistant, who does that for another twenty startups I really can’t afford having to pay an employee to do that for the newest thing. Meaning it is left for the me the founder, to take care about these gritty, nitty details that just cost me time I could spend better otherwise. And that is a problem, you have to spent too much of your time on administrative tasks you can’t outsource into a startup-nurturing service infrastructure here in Berlin. Berlin still doesn’t have that.