Why Berlin? Interview with Emily Casey, Femna

Berlin has been having a moment in recent years. Said to be the fastest-growing startup ecosystem in the world that receives the most venture capital investment of any city in Europe, it’s become a popular hub of creativity – stemming from its fascinating past, its music roots, and its affordable lifestyle. Throw Brexit into the mix and Berlin doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, as a great city to start a business in.

We recently had the chance to talk to an Aussie who made the move to Berlin, Emily Casey of Femna, on taking the leap from Melbourne to Berlin two years ago.

Emily is the co-founder of Femna, a Berlin-based start up that creates natural products for women to help them through each stage of their hormonal life – PMS, menstruation, fertility, pregnancy and menopause. She’s also a qualified yoga teacher and combined her love for
beer and yoga to start BierYoga in 2015, leads the team
of TEDxKreuzberg, and founded The Lonely CEO Club – a dinner club for CEOs and founders.

Here’s what she had to say:

What made you decide to move your business to Berlin? 

I was already based in Berlin when I founded Femna, just over 12 months ago. I met my business partner Maxie here in Berlin at Impact Hub. It’s difficult for me to judge what Europe can offer that Australia can’t to be honest – I’ve never started a business in Australia 🙂 But judging from the market stats for our business – Europe is definitely a bigger market for natural health, and there’s an association with “Made in Germany” that gives us a kind of stamp of quality that consumers appreciate.

How important has your Australian network been to get started over here?

Well, when I arrived in Berlin I knew no one – the only person I knew here was my Berliner friend Julia. It’s only really been through the Aussie.EU network that I recently got to know any Australians in Berlin!

Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia? 

Yes, we raised a small pre-seed round for Femna in June this year and we’re currently raising a round of funding now. I’ve never tried to raise money anywhere else, so I can’t compare!

I’ve found that the Berlin startup community is very supportive, everyone seems to always be open to sharing contacts and making introductions. I think we did quite well, compared to some stories I’ve heard from other businesses. Of course we spent a lot of time getting our business plan and pitch ready, and took many meetings with investors, but it didn’t take long to find the right investors for us. Let’s see how we go with this next round!

What is it like to do business in Berlin?

I think there’s two sides to doing business in Berlin – there’s the day-to- day interactions with our customers, community, suppliers and partners, and then there’s the bureaucratic ‘back end’ stuff which is extremely time and paper intensive. The red tape is long and confusing, even for Germans, so I’m very lucky my business partner is German and she takes the lead on handling that stuff.

In general, Berliners are very open and a little crazy which is great for us – we can try new things any time and there will always be people around to support us, give us feedback, tell us how to improve. We have a very incredible community of people around us, including all our suppliers and retail partners. Sometimes, particularly in more conservative cities, Germans can be more reserved and formal, which is also fine – they are very organised and precise which is great!

Do you, or have you, hired local talent? 

We are all based here in Berlin – we don’t want to have any team working remotely for now, while we’re still in the early stages of really building our base and core business.

What do you love about living in Berlin? 

I really love the sense of freedom I feel there is in Berlin – you can be and do whatever you want, and no one will judge you or tell you to be something else. People will celebrate your successes with you, and be there for you in your ‘failures’ or down times.

Top 3 tips:

  1. Don’t make too many hard and fast plans – go with the flow, things will change quicker than you expect, embrace it
  2. Join a co-working space- I joined Impact Hub as a volunteer when I couldn’t afford a membership so even if you don’t have money, do whatever you can to get involved with local spaces and communities
  3. Be yourself – Australians have a very positive reputation in Europe, for being easy going, friendly, fun but also good workers!

Thank you to Emily Casey for this interview. You can contact her at Femna.

Jock Gordon: Binding the Aussies of the EU together

Moving overseas in itself is not an easy feat. Add starting a new business – with a completely new set of governances (in a different language) and it’s borderline diabolical. Looking to make that transition easier across Europe is Berlin-based entrepreneur Jock Gordon, who is taking measures to create a unified collection of Aussies across the continent via Aussie.EU

Gordon landed in Berlin after a stint in Florida and selling his startup MenuPad, an iPad-based menu system for restaurants, and immediately noticed absence of a support structure for Australian-run businesses. The online network aims to bring the Australian community in Europe together, by facilitating introductions and collaboration.

At the rate it’s growing and with the increase of Australian individuals and organisations flocking to Europe, it’s clear that a platform like Aussie.EU is more necessary than ever.

Where do you call home?  

I’ve been living between Australia and Berlin for two years. I have spent a lot of time in America and also Australia with my previous businesses. It was time to explore and live in Europe. Berlin was the next obvious place!

How did you start Aussie.EU?  

After selling my company, MenuPad, I travelled a lot, building up a network all around the world. I had a lot of foreign connections and not many Australian ones. One of the things I noticed when I was going back and forth between Australia and Berlin was that there wasn’t much of a unified community of Australians in Germany or across Europe. I joke that Aussie.EU is connecting the Aussies that don’t just want to hang around with other Aussies at the pub. In essence, I wanted to connect the internationally minded Australians that are looking to connect with like-minded people. There’s a lot of groups in London, but nothing in Europe that was pulling all the Aussies that are scattered round together.

I started Aussie.EU last August. After I started to get its name out there, we got a little bit of press, and now we have over 400 members. The members range from big company executives right through to startups or freelancers. As the groundswell increases, I think there will be more of a need for an organisation like this – even in the last six months there’s been many startups moving here from Australia. When I first came here and was beginning to explore Berlin, I didn’t know any fellow Aussies. I didn’t have a network to ask some basic questions – how to get a visa, how to sort out my taxes, etc. That’s why I just wanted to connect the Aussies here in one group, and it’s growing naturally, like a community movement.  As hubs like Berlin, Paris and Lisbon get bigger and bigger, this will become more important.

Where do you hope to see it grow? 

The future of the organisaiton is actually to help Australian startups to launch in to Europe. Not just to Germany, but to other innovation capitals as well. In the future, we’re looking to implement scholarships to bring people out of Australia into Europe and help connect Australians to investors and corporates in Europe – to open up the cross-cultural dialogue in all businesses, not just startups. Our mission is to make it easier on Australians looking to launch in to bigger markets like Germany, France, Italy or anywhere else.

What does Aussie.EU currently look like? 

At the moment it’s all online, however we do throw specific events from time to time. It’s really just a connection organisation; we really want to connect Aussies who are coming in to Europe with the people they need to be connected with. We’ve already had some interesting results with companies and entrepreneurs who have dipped their toe in the water of Europe. The system is very different to Australia; you need to be prepared to adapt when you move here. Aussie.EU helps make those connections easier.

What are they key differences? 

The paperwork! The tax system here is very different, the legal system is very different. It’s not simple, yet at the same time, it’s all black and white. This isn’t something you just want to “wing”, and have the attitude of she’ll be right mate! Aussie.EU is already helping Australians who are starting out break through these barriers – to connect startups with accountants or lawyers who understand Australian law and the right structures that need to be put in place to get something going. There are also a lot of opportunities for support from the local German Governments to open up shop in Germany, it’s very supportive.

Is it difficult to get a working visa in Germany? 

No, it’s actually quite simple. If you’re under 30, there’s a working holiday visa available which is very easy to apply for. If you’re a freelancer, there’s a separate visa for that too, you just need to show you have some money in your bank account and you’re not going to be a burden on Germany!

Is it “easy” to start a business in Berlin? 

Generally speaking, yes. The cost of living in Berlin is really reasonable and the time zone also makes it very easy to do business across Australia.

Another pro of doing business in Berlin – if you live in an expat area of Berlin, you don’t need to speak German. I think a lot of Australians moving to Germany are a little fearful of the impact the language barrier will have on doing business here. There is a huge number of expats here in the startup community, and I think after Brexit, it’s only going to grow. Entrepreneurs love it because of the cost of living is quite low which means they can get a very good team at an affordable rate, there is a vast amount of talent available in the city, and it’s a city of like minds. There is a huge amount of entrepreneurialism in the city. They say Berlin is poor but sexy, and it’s only going to continue to get sexier.

Berlin isn’t the only city in Europe, if you have a high tech manufacturing business for example there is also a lot of support from cities like Munich, and a large investment community there. Portugal is investing heavily into the startup ecosystem, but that’s still many years behind Berlin. Though will likely become a major hub in the future.

Have you noticed an increase on Aussies moving to Berlin over the past few years? 

Yes, I’ve noticed a lot more people are starting to dip their toes in the water to see what the fuss is about, and I think it’s only going to grow, especially for freelancers.

What makes Berlin so unique? 

I think it’s the mix of people. You can run an international business in Berlin with people from all over the world, from all walks of life, who speak all the major languages.

Berlin is so laid back, Australians fit right in. The lifestyle is great here, especially in summer. Sure, the winters are long, but it’s counterbalanced with the summer.

Another reason I moved here is because everything is so close. The locality of Berlin makes it quite easy to do business – we’re also on a good time zone to get to Australia as opposed to the US, which is a little bit harder. Berlin is like one big West Village of New York.

Interview by Molly O’Brien, Marketing & Communications Specialist, Advance 

Article originally posted on Advance.org 08 June 2017

Looking for a new London? Find it in Berlin

It is a place that has long housed our artists and musicians and more recently, our baristas, but as Britain hobbles towards Brexit, young Australian professionals are also looking east.

Berlin, with its comparatively low cost of living, easy access to communal office space and thriving cultural scene, has replaced London as the dominant entrepreneurial hub of Europe.

A 2015 report from start-up research firm Compass valued the local start-up industry at up to $40 billion and found 49 per cent of its workforce was foreign. Now, the Australian government is tapping into its potential, keen to turn around a trade relationship that has historically favoured the German side of the alliance.

In one of Berlin’s bar-saturated districts the federal government has launched a new portal for Australians to enter the German economy. Here, between blocks of graffiti-plastered units where Nick Cave once scribbled The Mercy Seat with the Bad Seeds, today’s chino-wearing 20-somethings are drawing mind-maps of what they hope is the next Airbnb.

Betahaus, the home of Australia’s latest entrepreneurial hub, rises up next to a community garden built out of wooden pallets in Kreuzberg in Berlin’s west. From November, groups of Australian entrepreneurs will work here alongside companies that range from those that operate on a single-desk to ones as large as Microsoft.

Launched by Australia’s freshly minted ambassador to Germany, Lynette Wood, the hub, known as a Landing Pad, is one of the key elements in the plan to turn around what she has described as an “underdone trade relationship”.

“I think particularly with the questions around Brexit, Germany has been seen as sure bet,” she tells Fairfax Media in Berlin. “It has had a culture that is just right for the innovation and out-of-the box thinking that you need for a start-up. Cost is much lower; starting out with a new idea, the last thing you want is high rents and a high-cost living.”

It is a culture that has helped launch start-ups such as Berlin-based Kiron into a fully fledged multinational operation. The company, which responded to the European refugee crisis through innovation, now runs online university courses for refugees in camps around Europe and the world, including courses in English for 300 Afghanis in Indonesia.

Founder Markus Kressler says both the city and companies have profited from its development as an entrepreneurial hub. “It is a mutual relationship, the entrepreneurial conditions and the infrastructure is really good from an economic but also from the societal, cultural and international perspective,” he says.

Inside Betahaus, Germans, Poles and Americans take calls in English inside a phone-booth that looks like it has been ripped out of 1980s East Germany. It’s BYO smartphone, but it offers a skerrick of privacy in the recycled-wood office space that is headquarters for more than 40 companies.

Many are looking to attract the attention of one of the big fish, the Microsofts of the world, who have sent in teams to work with bare bones operations in the hope of fostering some of their own innovation.

“This is Berlin, it’s raw and alternative,” says Michael Bingel, who will co-ordinate the Landing Pad in Berlin. “Corporates learn that they can’t innovate by themselves, they need to look outside and this is why they need incubators with start-ups to engage with what they are doing; they get them and give them a little bit of money, to try early to bind them to their ecosystem.”

Jock Gordon, an Australian entrepreneur who sold MenuPad, an iPad-based menu system for restaurants three years ago, emigrated to Berlin when he spotted the opportunity in the market. He’s now running the growing Aussie.EU community in Berlin, a group that connects the Australian entrepreneurial community with Germans to understand things like differences in German tax law.

“There are Australians all over the place,” he says. “They are more into the business than going to the pub, and they are quickly scaling up because the talent [developers] are so cheap. You can build up a multinational team that speaks multiple languages at a fraction of the cost. Quickly executing and getting businesses off the ground, that is something I don’t see in Sydney as much.

“We’ve had everything from CEOs of large listed companies to new start-ups that want help entering the European market.”

Federal Trade Minister Steve Ciobo says the Berlin Landing Pad, the fifth the Australian government has established after San Francisco, Shanghai, Singapore and Tel Aviv as part of an $11 million investment, presented a great opportunity for Australian interests in Europe. “The government has a very strong focus on driving Australian innovation,” he says. “Around four in every five jobs are built around a service economy; these landing pads are one strand designed to boost Australia’s success abroad.”

Article originally posted on Sydney Morning Herald, 26 November 2016.

Aussie.EU bringing together ‘Aussie Mafia’ in Europe

Moving to Silicon Valley may be the ultimate goal for many Australian startups, but for others the history, culture, and growing startup communities of Europe are beckoning.

While the cost of living is largely far cheaper than that of Silicon Valley – and a number of Australian cities – a major problem facing startups heading over is that they are, for the most part, the ones breaking new ground; there is no established ‘Aussie mafia’ there to greet them and help them out with finding a place to stay, coworking spaces to set up in, getting through paperwork, and pointing out the best spots for coffee like there is in San Francisco.

Looking to bring the growing number of Australians in Europe together and make it easier for the next ones coming over is entrepreneur Jock Gordon, who is setting up an Aussie mafia of sorts called Aussie.EU from his base in Berlin. By bringing the community together and facilitating collaboration, Gordon’s vision is to help spur the creation of new ventures and success stories.

Gordon ended up in Berlin after selling his startup MenuPad, an iPad-based menu system for restaurants, to its US distribution partners three years ago. He sold up, went on a holiday, and landed in Berlin during the first week of summer.

“Everyone was so happy, then in winter I realised why. I saw Berlin is a great city, there’s a lot of brainpower here, there’s a real mix of expats from all around the world, you can get away with just speaking English, and the city’s got so much buzz to it, so I thought that it was the perfect place to start my next startup,” he said.

“I noticed that there were Aussies all around the place and some of them were very successful but they weren’t brought together in one place, so the idea for Aussie.EU came along as a place Aussies across Europe can come together, and Australian entrepreneurs, employees, and service providers can come together, to make it easy for people moving to different parts of Europe can have everything ready to go in one place.”

Officially launched in June, Gordon said he is currently looking to build up the Aussie.EU community in order to see what it is people want and need.

“Our strategy will start to evolve once we start to see who joins. We’ve had everything from CEOs of large listed companies to new startups that want help entering the European market,” he said.

As well as bringing Australians in Europe together, through Aussie.EU Gordon wants to connect these members to local experts who can help them out. He is working to partner with tax lawyers specialising in both German and Australian laws, for example, to make it easier for Australians to set up overseas.

“If you remove all the obstacles to make it really easy for them to make the jump overseas then there’s no excuses. If you have all the right lawyers in place, all the right accountants, and you’ve got that camaraderie there, it’s very easy to just say, okay, I’ll make the move. It put something that would be out of your comfort zone into your comfort zone,” Gordon said.

The number of Australian startups in Europe is sure to grow over the coming months and years with the launch of the Australian Government’s Berlin landing pad; the potential of the city was then immediately recognised by Startup Catalyst, which in June took a group of Australian entrepreneurs to London and Berlin to explore the opportunities for startups in both cities.

Announcing the landing pad in April, former Minister for Trade and Investment Steven Ciobo said placing it in Berlin will help Australian businesses develop stronger ties with Europe’s largest economy.

Home to European behemoth Rocket Internet and an estimated 3,000 active tech startups, Berlin was last year ranked ninth in the Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking released by Compass, jumping up from 15th place. The report also found Berlin is the fastest-growing ecosystem in Europe, growing quicker than London and Tel Aviv.

Valued between US$24.7-$30.2 billion, the Compass report also found that Berlin is the most gender equal and second most diverse ecosystem in Europe, with 49 percent of employees foreign and 27 percent women.

Like Gordon, Mon Wulff, CEO of Startup Muster, also has a particularly solid understanding of what makes Berlin tick. Having studied at the German International School in Sydney and then at university in Germany, Wulff said Berlin is “one of the most welcoming places you will ever go.”

“It’s more about community than it is about consumerism, and people accept you for who you are and who you want to be. We talk about the things you need to make a proper ecosystem, and the openness of Berliners and their willingness to accept anyone and everyone for exactly who they are allows for a serendipitous connections,” she said.

“It’s also a massive migration hub, so you’ve got people that are transiting from all around Europe, as well as from Australia, so it’s this melting pot of cultures and there is a necessity there as well to be innovative. They’re in the middle of what’s going on in Europe at the moment and Berlin realises they have to be Berliners about it and get shit done and make it work.”

Other countries around Europe are also opening their borders to foreign entrepreneurs. France, for example, launched the French Ticket program on which Advance Queensland’s HotDesQ initiative is based.

Queensland-founded startup Corilla experienced life as a startup in France while taking part in the NUMA Sprint accelerator program in Paris, the first international startup to take part in the program.

Cofounder David Ryan told Startup Daily earlier this year the team was “blown away” by France and the opportunities there, while also highlighting the fact that being based in Europe for a few months helped Corilla understand a significant portion of its users that it may not have gotten to know as well if it had stayed in Australia and kept its focus on the US market.

“I think you’re ignoring a massive part of the market if you’re not thinking of places of Europe and asking, what are the cultural differences here? Even little things, like how do we do our accounting here, how do we interface with the customers, what are their needs that differ from the American market?” Ryan said.

Aussie.EU is currently looking for strategic partners to help build up its range of services for the community.

Article originally posted on Startup Daily, 9 August 2016.

 

A new business network is here to help Aussie entrepreneurs

Aussie.EU has officially launched in Berlin, Germany, to bring together Australian entrepreneurs, services providers and investor communities focusing on the European market.

Aussie.EU is the brainchild of Adelaide born entrepreneur Jock Gordon who spent time travelling between Europe and Australia after selling MenuPad, the world’s first iPad restaurant ordering system, in the USA.

“There are some exciting Australian entrepreneurs and talent spread throughout Europe,” Jock, who is a 2014 Anthill 30under30 winner, said.

In April 2016 the Australian Government announced a Landing Pad in Berlin, under the National Innovation and Science agenda, to help Aussie companies accelerate growth by launching in Europe.

What mission is Aussie.EU undertaking?

“Aussie.EU will bring together an entire Australian entrepreneurial community in one place and will link into existing chambers of commerce across Europe,” explained Jock.

Shortly after launch, Aussie.EU had attracted over 100 members and had interest for collaboration throughout the continent.

Startup Catalyst, based in Queensland, is running trade missions globally to facilitate awareness and has just completed a 12-day trade mission in London and Berlin.

The aim of said mission was to connect entrepreneurs and investors from Queensland with the local ecosystem and build relationships.

Aaron Birkby highlighted that Australians need to be more globally aware and look at international markets.

It’s time to spread your wings

“One of the biggest challenges for Australian start-ups in entering a new business ecosystem is making the jump into a new market,” Jock said.

“The Aussie.EU network will connect an Australian business with the right people in a local market to help them get off the ground quickly.

“We’ll look at putting start-ups and experienced entrepreneurs with networks in Europe together with the relevant service providers to help fast track a company’s launch in Europe. This also helps build camaraderie in a new market,” he continued.

Jock further pointed out that whether companies want to base their business in Berlin, Amsterdam, London or Stockholm, a united Australian entrepreneurial community will help make it easier for start-ups that are in Australia to be able to easily plug in to existing Australians in the entrepreneur space spread across Europe.

“They will have mates and a common ground that they wouldn’t necessarily have when entering a new culture.”

Jock said he has met a lot of Australians in Europe.

“One of the common things about Aussies overseas in Europe is they tend to hang with the foreigners more than each other. This is a chance for a common group of entrepreneurial Australians to help each other move forward to a common goal of building successful businesses overseas. As a wise man once said ‘A single stick breaks easily but a bundle of sticks is strong’.”

The Aussie.EU founder insists that an Australian company could easily be able to link in with the start-up scene in Berlin, Stockholm, London, and now with the network in Krakow or Amsterdam.

“It’s only going to continue to expand as we continue to grow the user base and strengthen Australian businesses. There is a lot of interest from investors and strategic alliance partners to help the network grow.”

Article originally posted on Anthill Magazine, 21 July 2016.

Connecting Aussies to EU entrepreneur communities

Aussie.EU (www.aussie.eu) has officially launched in Berlin, Germany, to bring together Australian entrepreneurs, services providers and investor communities focusing on the European market. Aussie.EU is the brainchild of Adelaide born entrepreneur Jock Gordon who spent time travelling between Europe and Australia after selling MenuPad, the world’s first iPad restaurant ordering system, in the USA.

“There are pockets of Australians spread across Europe,” Jock said. “Aussie.EU will bring together an entire Australian entrepreneurial community in one place and will link into existing chambers of commerce across Europe.”

In April 2016 the Australian Government announced a Landing Pad in Berlin, under the National Innovation and Science agenda, to help Aussie companies accelerate growth by launching in Europe. Aaron Birkby from Startup Catalyst, based in Queensland, said: “Australians need to be more globally aware and look at international markets.”

Startup Catalyst is running trade missions globally to facilitate this awareness and has just completed a 12-day trade mission in London and Berlin, with the aim to connect entrepreneurs and investors from Queensland with the local ecosystem and build relationships.

“One of the biggest challenges for Australian startups in entering a new business ecosystem is making the jump into a new market,” Jock said. “The Aussie.EU network will connect an Australian business with the right people in a local market to help them get off the ground quickly. We’ll look at putting startups and experienced entrepreneurs with networks in Europe together with the relevant service providers to help fast track a company’s launch in Europe. This also helps build camaraderie in a new market.

“Whether companies want to base their business in Berlin, Amsterdam, London or Stockholm a united Australian entrepreneurial community will help make it easier for startups that are in Australia to be able to easily plug in to existing Australians in the entrepreneur space spread across Europe,” he said.

“They will have mates and a common ground that they wouldn’t necessarily have when entering a new culture.”

Jock said he has met a lot of Australians in Europe.

“One of the common things about Aussies overseas in Europe is they tend to hang with the foreigners more than each other, this is a chance for a common group of entrepreneurial Australians to help each other move forward to a common goal of building successful businesses overseas. As a wise man once said ‘A single stick breaks easily but a bundle of sticks is strong’. “

Shortly after launch, Aussie.EU had attracted over 100 members and had interest for collaboration throughout the continent.

“There are some exciting Australian entrepreneurs and talent spread throughout Europe,” Jock said. “An Australian company could easily be able to link in with the startup scene in Berlin, Stockholm, London, and now with the network in Krakow or Amsterdam. It’s only going to continue to expand as we continue to grow the user base and strengthen Australian businesses. There is a lot of interest from investors and strategic alliance partners to help the network grow.”

Originally posted on Newsmaker, 14 July 2016.