Germany’s capital city is no Paris or London, says serial entrepreneur Chris Plantener. As far as he’s concerned, it’s better.
“Berlin has become the place in Europe to start a business,” says Plantener, the founder of Kontist. “London is a nice city, but it’s damn expensive. Same with Paris. They’re old school. If companies have the choice to go where it’s cheap, cool, and can attract the best talent, it’s Berlin.”
Where’s Plantener basing his latest venture, a mobile banking platform for small businesses? At WeWork Hackescher Markt, the collaborative workspace company’s newest location in Berlin. It’s along a gently curved street in one of the city’s most bustling neighborhoods, home to hundreds of newly minted businesses. More established entities like Uber, Twitter, and SoundCloud have also set up shop in the Hackescher Markt area.
Opening its doors on November 1, WeWork Hackescher Markt also happens to be the company’s 100th location. It’s a fitting place for WeWork to celebrate this milestone, since the elegant building calls to mind the company’s roots by carefully blending traditional architecture with contemporary interiors.
Plantener says many of his company’s potential clients—freelancers, consultants, and small businesses—are flocking to Hackescher Markt. That’s why he and his nine-member team are taking space at WeWork.
“Freelancers from abroad find it difficult to get a bank account because of the high bureaucracy,” Plantener explains. “We not only help people open an account, but help them do taxes automatically. A lot of our customers are people who are taking an office or desk at WeWork. We want to be close to our customer base and live the same life they do. That’s why we chose this WeWork.”
Plantener, who is launching his eighth company, has a ton of experience with collaborative workspaces, trying out four of them in the last year alone. But in terms of location, he believes WeWork Hackescher Markt will give him the best opportunities.
“Hackescher Markt is a posh area,” Plantener says. “It’s an area where the VCs are sitting. It’s the coziest part of town, with little boutiques and houses. It’s super vibrant and easy to meet with other people.”
The neighborhood has a completely different vibe than WeWork Sony Center, the city’s first WeWork location. Located in a gleaming glass-and-steel structure, Sony Center is in an area that’s all about business. Hackescher Markt has a more laid-back feel. It’s set amid small businesses—don’t miss the shops and eateries of nearby Hackesche Höfe, a series of courtyards dating from 1906—as well as residential enclaves.
Doreen Huber, founder of the online catering company Lemoncat, says international expansion is in her company’s future. But she wants to start local.
“We cater for WeWork spaces and organize community lunches,” Huber says. “WeWork Hackescher Markt makes the most sense for us if we want to go to a place like London because we can have teams test out catering in those WeWork spaces, too.”
Lemoncat uses WeWork Hackescher Markt’s glass-enclosed space to brainstorm. In these interactive sessions, no computers are allowed.
“We don’t bring our laptops,” Huber says. “We only take pieces of papers, so we don’t get distracted by emails. It’s an escape from our normal office and a place where we can be creative.”
Huber says the neighborhood is also a big plus, especially being close to buses and train stations on the city’s U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines.
“The neighborhood is amazing,” Huber says. “For me, it’s just a little walk to the office. You have a million options for food, and the train stations are close by.”
Other businesses are using WeWork Hackescher Markt to expand their teams. Henri Huselstein, business developer at the French food delivery company La Belle Assiette, is the sole member of his team working in Berlin. Originally from Cologne, Germany, Huselstein is a recent graduate working autonomously at the newest Berlin WeWork.
“It’s important for a French international company to be able to open in Germany because they’re able to speak to many people and get to know different companies,” Huselstein says. “And everyone shares the same mindset, which I find enriching.”
If you’re a startup looking to open or expand in Berlin, be ready to collaborate and work alongside entrepreneurs both seasoned and young who are ready to take risks, he says.
“It’s a young and vibrant city where you find people who are willing to try new things,” Huselstein says. “You’re going to be out of the market as soon as you close yourself off to people if you can’t adapt.”