Did you catch my previous post about the need for cities and countries to nurture their own “Creative Economies?” Indulge me as I continue to romp through Europe’s digital hot-spots: London (check); Stockholm (check), Belfast (yes Belfast) and don’t get me started on Cardiff, the capital of Wales as it develops in new and very interesting ways (watch this space..). But there is another city that we have to add to the list. Berlin.
Throughout time Berlin has plonked itself physically and metaphorically right on the cross-roads of Europe. If they were handing out prizes for rejuvenation then Berlin wins hands down (my tip for the future? Watch Detroit). Some hail Berlin as the Prussian answer—or European answer—to Silicon Valley and no surprize it’s been drolly called Silicon Allee. The cities burgeoning digital start-up scene is located in the middle of what was once downtown communist East Berlin very close to where Cognizant hosted its first Central European Community Event last year. According to reports, every 20 hours a new “digital” company gets established here. Berlin is undoubtedly attracting top talent with its solid salaries set against a cost of living that is 40% cheaper than London. No wonder talent flock to the city even as rents rise and the locals grumble. The only cloud on the horizon is that the city (and Germany from what I can gather) doesn’t have the recognized facilitators who make things happen: the investors, connectors and the nurturers necessary to create the digital sparks that can really set things on fire.
The hallmarks of a creative economy are its volatility, its intensely competitive nature and its tendency toward high failure rates. And these hallmarks go against the risk adverse nature of the German economy. This problem could well threaten Berlin’s long term ambitions to be the digital hub for Europe and stop its own creative economy from really scaling. A lack of venture capital means Berlin (so far) has failed to produce names that can compete with the output of the mighty US or its local London counterpart in Europe. And the engines of growth in any economy come down to an ability to drive consumption (and German birth rates are dropping alarmingly) and an ability to lead with exports—and one of those exports must be strength in ideas. That is why Creative Economies are so important.
Berlin is a fascinating place if like me, you like your history, music, culture, beer and technology. It’s not so good if you are a foodie (I really don’t get why we Brits STILL get hammered about our food!). I recommend any reader to visit this museum (creatively) located down an old wartime nuclear bunker to really get a handle on this great place.