In a new series Innovation Cultures takes an on-the-ground look at tech scenes around the world that hope in some way to emulate the successes of Silicon Valley. First up is Berlin, where Stephen Evans asks whether the cutting-edge, low-rent city is finally attracting serious investment.
When new businesses based on the computer chip began to cluster in Santa Clara Valley, it did not take long for someone to come up with the name Silicon Valley. That set a pattern, and soon there was Silicon Glenin Scotland, Kenya’s Silicon Savannah, Silicon Gulf in the Philippines,Silicon Taiga in Siberia – even the somewhat less romantic-sounding Silicon Roundabout in London.
Now there is Silicon Allee in Berlin (Allee, meaning alley or avenue in German, is part of many street names in the city), which to some observers evokes the atmosphere of the early days in Northern California. That was certainly the vibe at Tech Open Air Berlin, a gathering held earlier this month in a ramshackle complex of wooden and stone buildings in Kreuzberg, a trendy part of the city. There was soft acoustic music and falafel, and a lot of beautiful people exuding a studied coolness.
“You’re going to see a lot of amazing stuff coming out of Berlin,” says Tikhon Bernstam, who came over from Silicon Valley to attend the event. “This sort of culture that you see here, the hippy music, we had exactly the same thing in San Francisco a few years ago. I’ve been impressed by the quality of the companies I’ve been seeing here.” Bernstam’s cloud data service he co-founded, Parse, was recently bought by Facebook for $85 million.
Of course, Berlin is many leagues behind Silicon Valley. From Adobe through to Yahoo, via Apple, Intel, Google and Oracle, the Valley, as its occupants call it, has a combined wealth which most countries would envy.
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