In my most recent trip to Berlin, Germany, I set out to understand the city’s startup culture. In nearly every list of the startup capitals of the world, Berlin, also known as Silicon Allee, sat somewhere near the top. What about the city had earned it the reputation? Was it anything like the fabled Silicon Valley?
I don’t like how we equate “startup” and “silicon." While we’re all familiar with the difficulty in defining such a vague idea (go ahead and search “startup definition" and you’ll see what I mean), we also can agree that the word “startup” draws images of hip technology aficionados sipping lattes in glass offices while drawing black dry erase arrows on whiteboards. They’re all wearing hoodies too. In this way, sure, silicon = startup. But in practice, a startup is simply, “a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed,” as stated by Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker. Is this industry specific? Not in the least. And Berlin is a perfect
example of this slight paradigm shift.