Three decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, its space of cultural convergence has manifested from the East and West into a holistic dialogue that promotes inclusion, creativity, and problem solving. Factory Berlin’s Mitte campus is a historical landmark situated on Bernauer Strasse, known for its escape routes from windows in the East to the streets in the West. It was one of the few buildings to touch the Berlin Wall. From the start, Factory Berlin has lived in a space that is destined to balance polarities, bring cultures together, foster exchange, which has accelerated innovation from the wall to the world.
The 5,000 East Germans that escaped into the West were courageous and inventive. Their experience captured through novels, films, and deep tunnels reveals their creative genius: acrobating on high-tension cable wires, homemade hot air balloons, and many crawled through secret tunnels. Coming to the West represented freedom to think, Bruce Springsteen and Levis jeans, and the opportunity to start fresh. The socio-political situation in the West nurtured a creative atmosphere that attracted people from all over the world. As the literal divide eroded, the force has grown stronger. Thirty years later, Berlin finds itself in the midst of a cultural renaissance of tech and innovation, where global talent and international exchange students flock to learn and start the next big thing. According to German advisory firm Gruenden, a new startup is born every 20 minutes.
Sharing a similar mission to create and change, Berlin’s modern appeal is strengthened by its geographic and cultural heritage of East meets West. As a meeting point, it developed its own agile integration into a betweenness centrality. In the Berlin-Brandenburg region alone, there are about 6 million people from more than 180 countries. Originating with French Huguenots in the 17th century, the puzzle of politics, asylums, and immigration have created a melting pot, spurring a diaspora of new intellectuals with heaps of new ideas and ventures to financially back them up. In 2017, the amount of people living in Germany with a different passport reached a record high, with a 23% increase compared to 2014. Most immigrants come from Turkey, Poland, Syria, Italy, and Romania, with about half of the total foreign population coming from other EU countries. For the native-English speaking, Berlin easily boasts the largest British and American populations with jetsetters going back and forth between London and Silicon Valley.
This hyper diversity has been cultivated into an innovative ecosystem, fortified by the plurality. Young entrepreneurs dig deep into the fertile grounds of a startup land that is the embodiment of international talent, openness, and creative code. The sheer diversity is reflected in companies internationally oriented culture: almost 50% of startups are foreign-born, with many of them coming from Poland, new member states, and fleeing Brexit.
With such a flavorful melting pot, the force of multiculturalism has become a determinant of innovative diffusion. In less than three years, funding and investment opportunities in Berlin has increased. So far in 2019, there’s been almost 20% more finance rounds than in 2018 and values are 13% sweeter – try 330M bumped up to 2.8B Euros. Furthermore, 40% of all companies receiving investment were based in Berlin.
The multicultural force of talent has translated into local specialization and excellence, propelling integration and interactions to greater diversification. Berlin’s brand of cultural convergence continues to grow its collective memory into a vast wealth of human capital. The principle of unification has brought Germany and many European nations prosperity.
Whereas the Berlin Wall used to outline the shade of an iron curtain, its boundaries on Bernauer Strasse continue to represent a softening of space. With techies hitting enter to make a new command, updated benchmarks for a digital world are forming and activating a more connected and global transformation. Powerfully, the space and community that represent a continued tradition of knowledge and cultural sharing still gather every day next to the former wall. However, today, the main difference is not a softening of the iron narrative, but rather an inclusive and global dialogue to accelerate great ideas.