Berlin’s digital startup scene may be young compared to London but it’s growing up fast. In 2015, Berlin had the fastest growing startup ecosystem in the world. A new startup is founded every 20 minutes in Berlin, according to statistics from Gruenden.
App entrepreneurs are attracted to Berlin’s relatively low cost of living and uninhibited access to the EU. Converted warehouses like The Factory have become integral spaces in which young entrepreneurs and companies (including SoundCloud and Uber) can work and socialise. Berlin is cheaper than many European cities which makes it an attractive base for cash-strapped app founders.
Ironically, Rocket Internet a core company in Berlin’s startup scene is not doing so well. Rocket Internet (which holds dozens of startups in food delivery, fashion and lifestyle) has lost half its value since going public in 2014. It recently revealed a first-half loss of €617 million, largely due to big write-downs in its fashion business.
On the upside, investor interest remains healthy. Last year, Berlin’s startups secured €2.4 billion in venture capital, according to Ernst and Young. App startups with strong long-term vision are attracting the most backing – fintech startup N26 is a good example. But it’s not the only one. Here’s our list of Berlin-based app startups set for big growth beyond 2016.
HelloFresh is a Berlin-based food delivery startup that provides weekly meal kits for people to cook fresh, well-proportioned meals at home. Since launching in 2012, HelloFresh has established an international brand and partnered with British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to contribute recipe ideas. In 2015, the startup announced two rounds of funding, the first led by previous investors Rocket Internet and Insight Venture Partners. Then it reached unicorn status, following a €75 million investment from Scottish firm Baillie Gifford.
- Founded: 2012
- Led by: co-founder and CEO Dominik Richter
N26 is a young startup that’s challenging traditional banking by reinventing the current account. Their mobile banking app lets users pay and withdraw money anywhere in the world, see transactions in real-time, and even make payments by voice command (using iPhone’s Siri). In 2016, the Berlin-based startup received its full German banking licence and raised a $40 million series Series B round led by Horizons Ventures.
- Founded: 2013
- Led by: co-founder and CEO Valentin Stalf
Female-reproductive health app Clue has grown to over 2.5 million active users worldwide since launching in 2013. The app uses science and data to give women actionable insights about their reproductive health. Last year, Clue raised $7 million from backers including Mosaic Ventures, Union Square Ventures, and Groupe Arnault. The Berlin-based startup also introduced a new feature that allows users to share information about their cycles with others – “the most requested feature since launching”, according to Clue.
- Founded: 2013
- Led By: CEO Ida Tin
EyeEm is an app that helps amateur photographers gain exposure for their work and sell their photos online. The Berlin-based startup uses artificial intelligence to determine a user’s best images and automatically tag them to make photos easier to find. Since its beginnings in 2010, EyeEm has grown to a community of 18 million photographers in 150 countries. Fresh funding arrived in 2015, from a $18 million Series B round led by Valar Ventures. EyeEm is now focusing on technology developments.
- Founded: 2010
- Led by: co-founder and CEO Flo Meissner
Helpling is a leading global marketplace for on-demand home cleaning services. Users can book a vetted and insured cleaner in just a couple of clicks using the Helpling smartphone app or website. After debuting in Berlin, in 2014, the service has expanded to over 200 cities across Europe, Asia and the Americas. In 2015, Helpling brought its funding total to €56.5 million, with new investment from Lakestar and Rocket Internet, and acquired Hassle.com to expand its reach.
- Founded: 2014
- Founders: Philipp Huffmann and Benedikt Franke
Babbel is a leading app for language learning. Courses are created specifically for each language and the app uses tools such as speech recognition to help learners with pronunciation. Babbel has a subscription-based business model and it’s been profitable since 2011. The German startup raised $22 million, last year, in a Series C funding round led by Scottish Equity Partners. Since then, it has been chasing growth across the US.
- Founded: 2007
- Led by: co-founder and CEO Markus Witte
Dubsmash is a popular video-messaging app that lets users lip-sync to their favourite soundbites. Since launching in 2014, the app has received over 100 million downloads and reached number 1 in the App Store and Play Store in over 70 countries. Last year, Dubsmash raised $5.5 million in a Series A round led by Index Ventures and the app has gone through a transformation. Users can now share videos directly within Dubsmash and the app features Community Moments (collections of user-generated videos based on themes).
- Founded: 2014
- Led by: co-founder and CEO Jonas Drueppel
Avuba is a mobile-first banking account for European smartphone users. The app and digital MasterCard allows users to make easy money transfers and withdrawals (without fees) and track their spending. Born out of Berlin, Avuba received new funding (undisclosed amount), in 2015 from angel investors Jan-Maarten Mulder and Neon Adventures. Avuba also signed a partnership deal with Raphaels Bank to launch an alternative payment account for consumers in Europe.
- Founded: 2013
- Led by: CEO Jonas Piela and CTO Oliver Lukesch
Berlin’s app startup scene is now firmly on the map. And who knows what will happen when the process of Brexit gets underway. The uncertainty may give Berlin’s startup ecosystem a boost and inspire entrepreneurs to choose Berlin over London, the city’s chief rival.
You can read more about app startup hubs in our other articles.