Hamburg’s Startup Community: Growing But Challenged

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Though Hamburg's startup community is growing steadily it still has a few obstacles to face. Here's what makes the Hanseatic City unique!

Moin, Moin!

When and by whom Hamburg was built is still unclear. The official version reports that Emperor Charlemagne himself ordered the Castle of Hamm (Hammaburg) built in the 9th century, but more recent discoveries suggest that the area had been a Viking settlement for centuries before that.

What is beyond doubt is that Hamburg is the second biggest city in Germany, has an ever increasing touristic industry, and a flourishing economy. According to a recent study Hamburg ranks 6th in the top 10 of “New World Cities”. The criteria of the ranking are based on parameters such as productivity, level of internationalization, return of investment, and appeal.

But there is no need to scroll through a whole study to get an idea of the bubbly startup environment of the Hanseatic City. A little over one year ago Hamburg Startups launched its monitor, offering not only a comprehensive database of local startups (founders can subscribe for free directly on the website) but also up to date infographics.

The State Of Art

Currently 420 companies are part of the monitor and it’s been estimated that up to 300 startups were founded in Hamburg since 2008. Commerce/E-Commerce, Services and Media are the top three activities. Sadly but unsurprisingly, women make up for only 12% of the founders, which is still a better performance than Silicon Valley’s 10%, as Hamburg Startups’ Columnist John Heaven pointed out earlier this year.

Hamburg’s startup culture is on board with international trends: young founders offer laid back working environments and benefits for their employees such as free meals or snacks, public transport, gym, generally, fair pay for fair work and German lessons. German lessons? Yes. It’s not unusual for startups to offer positions that don’t require the employees to speak a single word the local, for many an inaccessible language. In fact, many companies hire foreigners specifically for their intentional localization and marketing teams, and people with foreign origins make up for a whopping 30% of the city’s inhabitants.

The Challenges

However, learning German is worth the effort. Not only does it make social and everyday interactions much easier, but it also helps to positively impress locals. Make no mistake: Hamburgers love to practice their English (and their Spanish, and their Italian) and they often make it difficult for foreigners to speak German, but the also love their own culture and language, both of which are worth getting to know.

The international and dynamic environment, along with the extremely lively nightlife and the hyperactive and diverse art scene, attracts all kinds of amazing, creative, and highly skilled people to Hamburg. On one hand this makes the city a fertile ground for innovation and growth, not to mention a wonderful place to live in, but on the other hand creates a lot of competition both for entrepreneurs and job seekers. There are plenty of opportunities in Hamburg, and there is room to create new ones, but it’s important to remember that you’ll have to work hard.



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Photo Credit: Nico Scagliarini