Berlin is the Place to be for Startups, According to Challenge Cup Participants

“It’s vibrant, super-interesting, diverse, fun, sometimes over-rated, but in general, really great!” That’s how KIWI.KI co-founder Christian Bogatu describes the startup scene in Berlin, where 20 companies pitched their ideas and innovations at 1776’s Challenge Cup event.

KIWI.KI pitched under the Smart Cities category (winner: einFach). Other categories included Health (winner: OPTretina), Energy (winner: PlugSurfing), and Education (winner: WriteReader). The Challenge Cup is a global tournament to identify and celebrate the most promising startups tackling the biggest challenges in the four categories just mentioned. Regional winners will travel to Washington, D.C. for the final tournament next May.

KIWI.KI is working to make cities smarter by providing secure, hands-free access to apartment buildings that works similarly to a keyless remote system for a car. Customers enjoy safe, simple convenience, while KIWI.KI partners – like Deutsche Post and ALBA – enjoy increased efficiencies.

And, according to Bogatu, Berlin is the ideal place for startups like KIWI.KI to thrive. Speaking to the advantages and disadvantages of launching a company in Berlin, Bogatu says, “Berlin as a city attracts great talents. Also, there are a lot of like-minded people, and you can always get advice from experienced people. I don’t see any disadvantages.”

However, Berlin-based startup, and Challenge Cup participant Adam Woolway is aware of the disadvantages his company faces in its hometown. “You hear all the time that German investors are cautious and this can harm a start-up, but I think it is changing,” he says.

Woolway is the co-founder and CEO of PlugSurfing, the Challenge Cup Berlin winner in the Energy category. PlugSurfing is a solution to finding electric car charging points and barrier-free payment for EV charging. The PlugSurfing app and website help consumers find these locations with real-time APS directly from charging point providers, as well as static crowdsourced data from the charging point community.

Woolway says his company enjoys Berlin’s “central location, low costs, cheap beer, good people, and encouraging atmosphere.”

He’s also excited about the way Berlin has changed in recent years, making it even more attractive to companies:

“It’s started to boom. There are now way more meet-ups, accelerators and incubators. If I wanted to, I could do no work at all and spend all day, every day, networking at startup events. I think my team might kill me, though!”

KIKI.KI’s Bogatu has noticed another shift in his city in recent years: the rise of hardware startups.

“Berlin is a great city for focusing on hardware because of all the great German and international engineers in the city,” he says. “Movements like will totally pick up and bring more relevance to the vibrant hardware scene.”

PlugSurfing’s Woolway has some additional thoughts on what it will take to keep Berlin’s momentum going. “Berlin needs a big success, its own Facebook, to keep the buzz alive,” he says. “There are so many great teams here that I both expect, and hope to see, this soon.”

Learn more about the startups that participated in The Challenge Cup Berlin here, and keep up with more Challenge Cup events here.

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Written by:
Meg Rayford is a communications consultant based in Northern Virginia. She previously spent two years as the Director of Public Relations for a nonprofit startup, where she learned a lot about providing clean water for impoverished countries, even within the confines of a bootstrapped startup. She is the editor of Tech Cocktail, and she develops media strategies for companies in Washington, DC and Virginia. You can read her most recent work in the marketing chapter of the upcoming book, "Social Innovation and Impact in Nonprofit Leadership," which will be published in Spring 2014 by Springer Publishing. Follow her @megkrayford.
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