Smaller Ecosystems, Jealousy

I’m a big believer you can build great companies and a tech community (nearly) everywhere. In fact it’s not a belief thing – there’s plenty of hard evidence for that across Europe – from Finland to Spain there are very valuable global companies popping up everywhere. Same in the US where New York, Boston, LA, Boulder, etc are becoming increasingly important hubs in addition to the Valley mothership.

Of course there will always be larger and smaller hubs. Lets use Germany as an example. In Germany its fair to say Berlin is by far the largest. In some folks that seems to bring out an absurd kind of ecosystem jealousy, that usually articulates itself by people saying things like: “Oh in Berlin its all just fluff and no ‘real’ business or technology, people drinking brewed hipster coffee all day. If you want to see ‘real’ technology with revenues then you should go to / invest in [insert other Germany city].”

Problem is you’re making a right fool of yourself and the ecosystem you are talking for, because:

  • you clearly have not experienced the joys of high quality brewed coffees

  • you’re ignoring some pretty obvious facts: if you look at revenues (Zalando alone….) or user networks (Soundcloud alone…) Berlin has by far the most ‘real’ substance of any German hub (and not that it matters per se to be the biggest)

  • if that’s all you got (talking bad about other tech hubs) you probably ain’t got much at all and it’s very poor signaling

The last point being the most important one. If you’re a smaller hub bad mouthing a larger hub it is not likely to do much for you. Instead I’d try and focus and articulate on what you specifically can do better, what’s your DNA that should attract a certain type of company. Munich e.g. cleary has the most medium and large-scale companies and if you want to be close to them, it’s the place to be. If you need to be cozying up with media agencies and companies Düsseldorf or Cologne could be a really good choice. Or maybe you and your employees just like it in Hamburg.

Fine, doesn’t matter. You can build a great company there and we’d like to hear about it for sure. Just do us all a favour and keep with the good karma.

Fun fact: 7/10 investments we did over the last 12 months were in Berlin based companies. So we clearly believe a lot of valuable companies will continue to be created here. However our largest portfolio company (B2X with several hundred million in revenues) is based in Munich. They wear suits, don’t drink hand brewed coffees and they have no clue what TechCrunch is. And we’re cool with that. Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes and can be found everywhere. Gotta have love for hipsters and guys in suits. Tolerance goes a long way.

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