Isn’t there enough buzz around the Berlin start up scene? That’s was the obvious question when we unveiled GTEC (German Tech Entrepreneurship Centre) in January. To answer that question, I wanted to give you the background to what my friend Benjamin Rohé, together with ESMT European School of Management and Technology, and more recently me, have been and are working to achieve with GTEC’s launch.
US and European examples, such as MIT and Stanford, or the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship show that bundling resources for entrepreneurs in one place is a good idea. The oft-cited “cross-pollination” between startups, science, corporations and academia has produced impressive results all over the globe. At the same time, the discussion in Germany around how corporations and Mittelstand can avoid being swept away by digital change (which mostly seems to originate elsewhere) has intensified. Be it the struggle of mobile operators with Whatsapp and Google, the fear of German publishers and advertisers of losing control over their market, or the upheavals in public transport around Uber and car sharing – the controversy is everywhere.
But Germany is a federalist country and the solutions that did spring up were disparate and far flung. Fundamentally, that is a good thing – a scattered digital entrepreneurship landscape is way better than no digital entrepreneurship at all – but it also makes it much harder to find solutions and opportunities which rely on said cross-pollination and critical mass.
The place to build and benefit from this critical mass is Berlin, because Berlin is one of two and a half places in the world where founders from everywhere deliberately move to start high-growth businesses or get involved with one. (I’m counting London as a half one, because it is so expensive that startups don’t move there because they want to.) Which is how the GTEC concept was born.
From there, we believed that uniting as many entrepreneurship resources as possible in one place would only be feasible if the resulting organisation was not on the payroll of one particular corporation or investor. And that it had to be “open” to a maximum extent, offering individuals and organisations to plug in their offers with ours, use rooms and facilities, participate in activities, and attend events as they please – and some of it for free. Thirdly, it was important to really have a “campus”, a location with enough space to just hang around and, in summer, sit down and make plans in the garden. Finally, it would only be credible and useful if it involved people who “have been there, done that” – serial founders, investors, industry experts – and who do what they preach. All that is what you’ll find at GTEC.
From this stems our bigger vision. We want GTEC to be a trailblazer in the play for Germany’s and Europe’s economic future. We live at a time when – in the face of the habitual pessimism of the media you forget that sometimes – Europe is still the global powerhouse of sophisticated industries and solutions, of education, social progress and civility. And we believe that Germany has the means – and the necessity – to empower entrepreneurs not only from its own soil, but from everywhere around Europe.
To achieve that, at GTEC we’re developing an ecosystem and one-stop portal to all English-speaking entrepreneurship resources. University and MBA courses on business management which are open to the public, meetups at technology parks to get to know innovative small hardware companies, “lean startup” community events, public-subsidy workshops: so far you had to find each of them at their own respective place on the web. In the near future, no longer.
We’re grateful to our founding partners ESMT, RWE, Henkel, Globumbus, Noerr and Sigmund Kiener Foundation for sharing our vision. None of them said, “you take our money and infrastructure, now execute our agenda”. None of them demanded exclusivity or prerogatives. With that, they have made brave steps on the path to being part of positive digital change in Germany.
Now it’s our turn to deliver on the promise.