A Startup’s View Of Berlin

Raphael Steil, co-founder of Getquin, is pictured with Pisco, the chief happiness officer (Photo © Getquin)

Silicon Luxembourg gets the lowdown on life in a Berlin-based startup from Raphael Steil, the Luxembourgish co-founder of Berlin-based fintech Getquin.

Before I meet Getquin co-founder Raphael Steil at his Hakescher Markt office in central Berlin, chief happiness officer Pisco eyes me up then rolls over ready for a belly rub. 

The small Münsterländer, who responds to commands in Luxembourgish, is great for calming stressed team members. At the same time, anyone allergic to dogs won’t get hired and, with a critical shortage of tech talent, globally, this could be an issue for a nascent startup. However, as the firm enters its third year, it seems to be finding the talent, largely thanks to Berlin’s impressive pull. 

Tech talent central

Berlin has the highest concentration of tech talent in the EU, with an estimated 150,000 tech people working in the German capital. And with an attractive stock option scheme, competitive salaries and relatively low housing costs compared to some capitals (think London or Paris), Berlin has the right ingredients to attract the talent. 

Steil and his co-founder banked on this abundant supply when they launched their portfolio tracker and investor community in March 2020. “We have a tech product and 80% of my company works on the tech side. Trying to find that much talent in a smaller city, it’s possible but not easy,” Steil recalls. The covid-19 pandemic removed some of the labour market’s geographic dependency. Nevertheless, Steil sees value in being at the office, offering hybrid working and one a month a year in which staff can work outside of Germany.

Photo by cottonbro studio

Other staff sweeteners include subsidised public transport, bike-sharing subscriptions and a 240-square-metre office slap bang in the city centre (as opposed to the suburbs where many tech hubs are located).

“Our office is central, people can come easily by bike, underground or train,” Steil said, adding: “Our aim was to lower the barriers, have a welcoming office and then if people want to come they will because it’s convenient.”

The power of the network

Getquin found the space through its network and at two-thirds of the going real estate price. One should never underestimate the importance of the Berlin network. Fuelled by the staff of unicorns and tech giants who go on to create their own startups and continue to work together, some media refer to it as the “N26 mafia”. But it also includes scores of accelerators and incubators and a critical mass of fintech experience that few cities can rival.

“If I looked at the amount of people that I was able to meet in four years and how they helped me already, no city would have given me this. If I would still have to choose the city I would come to Berlin 100%.”

Photo by Jos van Ouwerkerk: https://www.pexels.com/photo/selective-focus-photography-of-traffic-light-1616781/

The second motivation for choosing Berlin was its proximity to VCs. According to Crunchbase, there are approximately 123 VCs in Berlin. The pandemic has led to VCs increasingly conducting remote meetings. Nevertheless, Getquin has raised €16m to date, benefiting from early-stage investments from the APX accelerator (backed by Axel Springer and Porsche) and investments from Portage Ventures (which backed Clark and Wealthsimple), and Horizons Ventures (the fund behind N26 and wefox).

Currently, Getquin has more than 250,000 active users, with an 80-20 male-female split. The majority are German speaking, however, it is growing organically in English-speaking markets. Steil credits this to the fact that there are no other platforms doing precisely what they do: offering a single platform for customers to track their investments and a peer learning social media element. Getquin has a revenue model through in-app advertising as well as a fee-paying advanced version of its app.

This article is part of a series on expanding into Berlin. Read more:

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