A Day In Berlin

Man is Berlin cooking. I mean the tech startup community, not the temperature. The Gotham Gal and I flew to Berlin yesterday and it was -2 celsius when we landed and it did not get a lot warmer. But I managed to do three events and met at least fifty entrepreneurs, maybe a lot more, in less than 24 hours.

The highlight of the day was an event we did yesterday evening in partnership with the Tech Open Air folks. My partner Brad was in Berlin for two days of meetings with one of our Berlin based portfolio companies and we did a joint appearance at a cool event space.

Brad and I don’t do a lot of joint appearances but we’ve always had a way of finishing each other’s thoughts. Spending eighteen months together raising a venture fund in 2003 and 2004 will teach you how to do that and you don’t forget.

I’m hopping on a plane in a couple mins and don’t have much more time for this blog post. But I would like to thank everyone who made our day in Berlin so great and to say to all the Berlin based entrepreneurs that I met that you are all very impressive. Makes me want to come back more often. Which we will do for sure.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Dave Pinsen

    Is Albert the only German speaker at USV? Do most Berlin entrepreneuers speak English?

    1. Robert

      I think most of the Tech Entrepreneurs do. The internet is not much fun without speaking English. People from other sectors in Germany and older generations have a harder time speaking English.

      1. jason wright

        i though English was German with an accent.

        1. Twain Twain

          Haha, that’s hilarious!

      2. Twain Twain

        Internet users in China would disagree with you.Here’s “the Twitter of China” site: http://overseas.weibo.comThere's a lot of fun speaking and writing in Chinese too.

        1. Robert

          I’m sure it would be good to speak Chinese, but over 50% of content on major websites is in English. http://en.wikipedia.org/wik

          1. Twain Twain

            In that same Wikipedia article is this: “The number of non-English pages is rapidly expanding. The use of English online increased by around 281% from 2001 to 2011, a lower rate of growth than that of Spanish (743%), Chinese (1,277%), Russian (1,826%) or Arabic (2,501%) over the same period.”Fun on the Internet isn’t monopolized by any one language.And that’s a great thing.

          2. Robert

            Agree 🙂

    2. fredwilson

      Yes and yes

      1. ShanaC

        but does he drink vienesse coffee..mmmmmmm

  2. jason wright

    i enjoyed the intermittent intimacy of techberlin dot com. times change.

  3. jason wright

    is there a video of this event?

    1. fredwilson

      I think there will be

      1. jason wright

        Saturday special. looking forward to it.

  4. AlexBangash

    Berlin was exiting in 2013, so I can only imagine now with Soundcloud, OneFootbal, Researchgate, Wooga. VC is truly global: Berlin, London, Stockholm, Sao Paulo, Bangalore, and Shanghai.I am amazed when I go entrepreneur events, I see the weak VCs talking exclusively to other VCs and reporters and strong VC’s talking mostly to Founders.

    1. pointsnfigures

      interesting observation. why do you think that is so?

      1. JamesHRH

        Its easier because its visiting not working.

      2. Twain Twain

        Some investors prefer to pitch rather than be pitched at?When they’re meeting with other VCs and the media they’re doing the pitching; perhaps trying to persuade another investor to join in their next round or selling the story of an existing investment to the media.When they’re meeting founders it’s either:(1.) They’re actively seeking investments.(2.) They want to benchmark an existing investment against what’s emerging in the marketplace.(3.) Pure simple curiosity about other people.The strength or weakness of investors is more about:(1.) Whether and how they “eat the dog food” and actually use the technology they’ve invested in.(2.) Stick by the team through the hardships and guide them towards successful exits.(3.) Communicate the values of the team’s vision in their actions as investors too.

    2. fredwilson

      Such a great observation.

      1. LE

        If you see my comment above I questioned exactly what he used to determine a “weak” vc.

        1. jason wright

          the herd

          1. LE

            Could also be the strong VC’s see a bunch of (what they think right or wrong) are “weak” entrepreneurs not worth their time. Like the pretty girl sizes up men or men size up women. Sure maybe the person is a diamond in the rough and maybe the Yankees should let everyone try out because you never know.Doesn’t have to be the truth either but that’s their gut snap judgement. Seat of the pants.After all Fred mentioned that he met 50 people in 24 hours. Quite likely he won’t end up investing in any of those people at all. I think there was a post one day on how many meetings Fred takes that end up resulting in an investment. It was viewable only by a scanning electron microscope. It was that small.That said personally I tend to be a “leave no stone unturned” type when it comes to potential deals. But anyone in business sizes up opportunities and decides if it is worth their time or not to engage. It’s known as “qualifying” your leads. I get referrals from people and I’ve notice some are definitely “dead wood”. Others are solid.Remember also that engaging with people also means they will likely follow up and then you will spend time on that as well. Lines in the sand have to be drawn. (I can argue either side of this obviously).

          2. jason wright

            then the huddle?

    3. JamesHRH


    4. LE

      I see the weak VCs talking exclusively to other VCs and reporters and strong VC’s talking mostly to Founders.So what metric are you using to determine that they are “weak” VC’s exactly?Are you assuming that they are “weak” because they are talking to other VC’s?Or perhaps you have never heard of them?Many more people know of Fred than Brad or Andy or Albert or John.And at one point nobody knew who Fred was either. Perhaps such a person “unknown nobody” who is new to the game justs want to learn from someone else. [1] There is nothing wrong with that and it’s actually a smart move.[1] I know of at least one person who hangs out at AVC.com and is looking to raise a VC fund as a similar example.

      1. AlexBangash

        Weak VC = Deal Chaser, me too investor, herd investorStrong VC = First / Early Investor in Multiple Unicorns, early in themesStrong VC is not equal well known VCMany Strong VCs are well knownBut all well known VCs are not Strong VCsThe best performing fund of 2009 Vintage (20X +) will likely be a fund manager is that very well regarded but completely under the radar. Does not blog or tweet. The VC spends all his time with existing and potential founders.I interpret VC behaviors this way:VC talking to VCs exclusively implies fishing to find consensus “hot” dealsVC talking excessively to reporters implies self or company promotionTalking to founders implies building conviction in non-obvious, non-consensus startups or themes.

  5. pointsnfigures

    Guy I know Chaney Ojinnaka moved from LA to Berlin and loves their startup community. It is interesting about Berlin. In the 20’s it was an innovative city, then came the war, and the break up. Now that reunification has happened with a generation growing up to experience it, it’s back as cultural center again. That’s cool.

    1. jason wright

      think real estate

  6. JJ Donovan

    Mind if I as what mobile device / application allowed you to write this so quickly? JJD – Lookin’ to write more between planes as well.

    1. fredwilson

      MacBook Air 11″

      1. JJ Donovan

        You are my hero! Thank you for sharing. JJD – Heavy lifting…

      2. JamesHRH

        Welcome to the Dark Side.Written from my MacBook Air 13″

      3. ShanaC

        i have one, but sometimes it feels a bit tiny

        1. jason wright

          there’s a gold edition coming

  7. someone

    an amazing city. I moved there in late November 1989, lived 50 meters from the Wall.

  8. Paul Sanwald

    As an engineer and musician I always think of Berlin as a hotbed for musical software, as ableton, soundcloud, and native instruments are all there.it’s a great town to play in, too. when I was touring with dem brooklyn bums we played at a club called “Wild At Heart” which was really awesome. it looks like it’s still there, which makes me happy to see.

  9. William Mougayar

    Being “feet on the ground” with the entrepreneurs and the local markets is great. You gain a lot of points with the entrepreneurs, and you meet surprising ones. There’s no substitute for feeling the pulse of an ecosystem.Same applies to startup CEOs. Those who remain in their headquarters & operate by remote control & 2nd hand reports would be totally missing out from the real insights they need to know about.

    1. Twain Twain

      This is SO true and it applies to corporate CEOs and CxOs too. There can be an echo chamber of “yes” people if they stay in “Ivory Tower” mode at the top that then produces stagnation and the same-old-same-old groupthink of ideas.That’s why, increasingly, corporates are foregoing the traditional approach of “Bring in the management consultants” to jumpstart the innovations in their organizations.Instead they head for the grassroots of startups and they encourage their internal staff (sometimes very senior staff) to be hands-on at hackathons.I think that’s a brilliant choice.

  10. FlavioGomes

    Didnt Germany invent engineering ? 😉

  11. ShanaC

    Why don’t you two appear together more often?

    1. fredwilson

      Divide and conquer

      1. ShanaC

        thats a good reason

  12. kirklove

    That Celsius thing might catch on in a few other countries.

    1. fredwilson

      Ha! But sadly not the US

    2. BillMcNeely

      Personally prefer the meters thing as well:)

    3. jason wright

      the Swedes are debating it

    4. Andrew Kennedy

      this got me laughing. totally un-expected. +1

  13. Russell

    Assuming you’re planning to swing through London – any events planned?

    1. fredwilson

      Not this trip

  14. Dan Conway

    1000 miles away….always wonder how Moscow feels about Berlin becoming so vibrant.

  15. aneela

    I cordially invite you for a day in Minneapolis to check out our bustling startup scene. If you can handle -2 C, then you can handle our wonderful temps 🙂

  16. kenberger

    I will be living in Berlin all of next summer, and elsewhere in Europe rest of the year, so it’s great to hear this affirmation.

  17. LE

    But I managed to do three events and met at least fifty entrepreneurs, maybe a lot more, in less than 24 hours.50. And that’s just 1 day.Therefore part of the job for any entrepreneur seeking funding (from Fred or anyone else but especially Fred) is how do you personally stand out as being memorable and remarkable as a person,[1] assuming what you are doing falls on the dartboard but isn’t an exact bulls-eye? How creative are you in terms of standing out and being remembered?If you were 7 feet tall or 3 feet tall Fred would probably remember you. If you looked like Angelina Jolie Fred would remember you. If you wore a clown shirt Fred would remember you. If you were a giant robot dinosaur Fred would remember you.It’s not just about building a better mousetrap.[1] Although I never read Seth Godin’s book I believe this is the “Purple Cow” in action.http://www.fastcompany.com/

    1. fredwilson

      i wrote an email on the plane to my partners today describing the three that stood out the next day after sleeping on it

  18. Shola Abidoye

    Richard Koch in his book “The 80/20 Principle” recommends two questions when making important decisions. 1) Ask “Is it unconventional?” 2) Ask “Does it offer more for less?” I asked myself this question when deciding between moving to Berlin vs. your traditional startup hubs in the USA – and I’m so happy I’ve decided to go with the former! There’s so much opportunities for people (esp. we ‘mericans) who aren’t afraid to get on a plane!

    1. Yinka!

      How do you handle that winter though? Love me some Berlin and I’ve been a few times, but only 1X in winter, for very good reason!

      1. Shola Abidoye

        Well I went to grad school in Sweden so I guess I’m a glutton for punishment, lol. In all seriousness I’m more of a cool whether person. Plus it makes snuggling more fun 😉