Berlin Is In A Startup League All Its Own, Says Spacebase Co-Founder Jan Hoffmann-Keining

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We spoke to Spacebase's co-founder & CMO, Jan Hoffmann-Keining, about Berlin's evolving startup scene. Find out how the city's community shapes its companies & what challenges it still faces:

How would you describe Spacebase in 50 words or less?

Spacebase is an online booking platform for unique meeting rooms and workshop spaces all over the world. We want to save people from attending the same monotonous meeting day after day and bring creativity, innovation, and imagination back as we change the way we meet.

What is your role at Spacebase and how did you get involved?

I’m Jan Hoffmann-Keining and I’m the CMO and co-founder of Spacebase.

Berlin Is In A Startup League All Its Own, Says Spacebase Co-Founder Jan Hoffmann-Keining

Infarm is a venue listed with Spacebase’s platform in Berlin. It’s an indoor urban farm with space that you can work from.

What led you to launch the platform? How did you discover the need for it?

My co-founder Julian Jost and I had been working at the same consulting firm for a few years and had been friends since university. We were going through so many monotonous, completely identical meetings that we were starting to lose our minds.

I did a calculation and realized that I was spending around 200 days a year working on the road and always did business from a hotel meeting room. I had switched to staying in AirBnB flats, which drew me to the realization that the same service could apply to meeting rooms. Meetings don’t have to be so boring and mundane, they have the potential to be unique and inspiring as well as more affordable.

You started out in Berlin, how would you describe the local startup scene and how did it shape Spacebase?

The startup scene in Berlin is unlike that of most other startup cities. Berlin has a reputation for being an extremely diverse capital, where the people who live here are active in shaping the community. It’s a hub for artists, techies, and creators – all of whom combine to make up the perfect balance of left-brained and right-brained people with a sprinkle of “do-ers” in the mix as well.

In addition, Berlin isn’t subject to the same cutthroat competitiveness that other startup cities are. You can’t tell anyone about your project in Silicon Valley. Berlin has a history of people coming together to collaborate, especially after the many times that the city has been ravaged and then brought back to life. There isn’t the same fear that your neighbor or your friend might steal your idea in the startup scene. We have tons of partnerships with Berlin-based startups and there’s an understanding that everyone is open to helping each other here.

What is your favorite way that Berlin has shaped your startup?

Berlin has so many fun things to do and it makes our company culture really unique. We’ve had team-bonding activities where we’ve rented a boat and gone out on a lake (which there are plenty of in the city), we’ve taken tours and tastings at Berlin breweries and we’ve even gone to a crazy bar where all the furniture was nailed to the ceiling. Being a young company situated in the famous party city of Berlin makes for a really fun, really comfortable company culture.

The city is also rumored to take over London‘s spot as Europe’s startup hotspot. How do you feel about that?

London was Europe’s startup hotspot? I didn’t know…(just kidding)!

I love London and we have some amazing spaces from there listed on our site. I never felt that we were in competition with them, but I am glad to hear that Berlin could finally be recognized for the startup community that we’ve been building. I don’t care much at all about rankings, but there is the promise that startups here will have an easier time getting recognized and securing enough funds to scale up.

In 2016 the Startup Europe Heatmap asked 700 founders where they would found their business if they had the chance to start again. Berlin came in first – why do you think that is?

People are just now starting to realize the package that Berlin offers to startups. The cost of living is relatively low for a modern capital, which makes it easy to find an office and get your idea rolling into something more concrete.

The German government has also been very receptive to the budding startup ecosystem here and has made it easier for startups. The biggest and clearest reason to me though is the city itself. Berlin is such an awesome city. There is so much to do here and there’s a wide culture of tolerance and acceptance. Whatever you’re into, there’s going to be a niche here for you.

Would your personally found a startup in Berlin again?

Yes, absolutely. The overhead costs are low, the talent is diverse and it’s a great place to live. I can’t imagine starting Spacebase anywhere else. The city is home to so much creativity that it was the perfect place to launch Spacebase. We found hundreds of unique meeting and event spaces very quickly. It was also easy to get customer feedback, as Germans are very direct. If someone didn’t like the way we were doing something or they wished we had another feature, they would tell us.

What challenges does the city face?

Berlin has had a hard time competing with other cities in terms of securing investors and venture capital. I think that the city’s startup identity is relatively new, so investors weren’t as aware of all the awesome opportunities lying in wait here. But a lot is being said and written about Berlin’s startup ecosystem and how quickly it is rising, and you know what they say: “If you build it, they will come.”

If there is one thing you can wish for improving the European startup ecosystem, what would it be?

I wish we would all stop comparing our cities to Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is a very distinct place with such a particular identity and history that no other place could ever come close to replicating the success and reputation that they have. I hate when people compare Berlin to Silicon Valley. I know that it is meant to be a nice comparison, but Berlin is in a league all its own. We have our own identity and our own culture that is shaping our startup ecosystem in ways that can’t be replicated anywhere else. I would much rather be recognized for what makes us special than what makes us like Silicon Valley.




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