Niko Stahl (MBA ’19) and Michael Reichard (MBA ’19) report on 48 hours in Europe’s startup capital.
This past December, a group of 20+ RC and EC members of the HBS Tech Club experienced how “Software is eating the world” not only applies to tech changing industries but also to tech entrepreneurship transforming local economies. When it comes to burgeoning tech hubs, few are as dynamic, multi-faceted, and capital-rich as Berlin, Germany. Change and transformation are no stranger to this city, with events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall dotting its not so distant history. The opportunity to leverage its local talent and infrastructure has consistently attracted international talent and venture capital in recent years, driving Berlin to become continental Europe’s largest recipient of startup capital.
The trek’s agenda was a crash course on opportunities in Berlin’s tech scene. With 10 company visits in two days, we were grateful to be welcomed by executives at Berlin flagships such as Rocket Internet, Zalando, Cherry Ventures, Holtzbrinck Ventures, and Axel Springer, as well as rising high-growth startups (N26, GoEuro, ViaVan). Company visits were capped with a cocktail hour with Berlin-based entrepreneurs at Holtzbrinck’s offices, a dinner with HBS alumni and faculty at Soho House, and a final day of cultural programming including a modern art collection in a former bunker, mulled wine at a traditional Christmas market, and some of Berlin’s finest techno.
This being the second annual Berlin Tech Trek, we are excited to see how these auspicious beginnings can serve as the foundation for strengthening connections between HBS and the Berlin tech community. Working in Berlin is still a road less travelled (at least in comparison with the Bay Area or NYC) but one that has clear merits. Low cost of living, a wealth of cultural diversity, and the opportunity to shape something new have created a magnetic pull for the classes of 2019 and 2020, and several students (including some non-German-speaking students) have already taken up opportunities with some of the companies we visited. We’re excited to see how they’ll contribute to the vibrant tech community that is Berlin.
Niko Stahl (MBA ’19) is a techie hailing from Vienna, Austria. Prior to Harvard Business School, he was a product manager at Spotify and a software developer at Amazon. At HBS, he co-led the Berlin Tech Trek and was co-president of the HBS rowing club.
Michael Reichard (MBA ’19) was born in Germany and strongly believes in the long-term potential of the European startup landscape, which continues to offer significant opportunities for both entrepreneurs and investors. Prior to Harvard Business School, he was a Senior Associate at J.P. Morgan, covering the tech & e-commerce space. At HBS, he co-led the Berlin Tech Trek and was a member of the HBS Senate.