Weaknesses to Strengths: Bundesliga & Berlin

In this year’s Champions League semi-final 2 out of 4 teams are from Germany (Bayern and Dortmund). The German teams (incl. Schalke) also dominated the group stages, each finishing at the top of their respective group.

This is remarkable as in theory the German league, Bundesliga, has no chance financially against the other leagues such as the English Premier League and the Spanish La Liga. This is mainly due to i) an entirely different TV rights (and international marketing) system, ii) clubs are required to be predominantly owned by the fans and can’t attract ultra wealthy investor-owners iii) there are very strict financial rules and (indirect transfer of) tax payer’s money is a no-no.

Yet, the Bundesliga could be well on its way to becoming Europe’s leading league for a long period of time.

The Bundesliga is a showcase of how to turn your weaknesses into your greatest strengths:

  • Don’t have great TV income or wealthy investors: build up other, more sustainable revenue streams (merchandising, long-term corporate partnerships, etc.)

  • Can’t afford to pay huge transfer fees: build up a youth system that produces its own world-class talent

  • Don’t have a lot of ‘stars’: implement better team tactics

  • Etc

The list could go on.

It’s of course also a great analogy for startups vs. big companies and fledging startup ecosystems (ask Israel…) vs. more established ones. In fact if you look at Berlin, I wonder if its weaknesses are also its greatest strengths:

  • Don’t have a world class engineering school in town: lets go get talent from around the world

  • Don’t have great local funding infrastructure: lets get into plane and get international funds active here

  • Confronted with a fragmented European market: lets go english and launch in US immediately too

  • Etc

Again the list could go on.

Berlin has a big chip on its shoulder, it’s far from perfect as tech ecosystem.  And for now that’s a good thing.

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