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Berlin, Germany. Tons of startups, low costs for renting.

I had an unexpected two week stay in Berlin due to the volcano stopping air traffic. I fell in love with the place. A physically beautiful city steeped in high culture, but due to the communist experience, half the city has cheap rents. There's a long tradition of hacker culture here as well, spilling over into the artist and anarchist/radical politics scenes as well. Transit is ridiculously good.

It was very surprising how cheap everything was. Also, Doner Kebab (Turkish/German fusion street food) is a reason to stay all in itself.

I can't speak to the availability of startup capital though, if that's important to you.

> Also, Doner Kebab (Turkish/German fusion street food) is a reason to stay all in itself.

If this is a major concern, it can also be found in Vienna :)

I was perplexed as to why berlin kept coming up. Last time I was there everything was expensive.

However, the last time I was there the soviet union was still in existence.

I'm glad to hear that reunification has resulted in cheap rents, even if it is only on the eastern side of the city.

I think think that means Berlin might be close to ideal.

+1 Berlin is getting a lot of traction and has become the prime location for internet/software/media-based startups in mainland Europe. It's got everything you would expect for starting your company: low cost of living (cheap rent, cheap food, cheap transportation), good transportation infrastructure, vivid startup scene (with larger events happening almost every month and many successful startups), international culture, and an active capital scene (most VCs travel here in no time and there are plenty of resources available to get your startup off the ground with governmental support/loans/funds).

Seconding Berlin. Even though it's in Germany, the lingua franca in the startup community there is English. Quite a few London-based VCs swing through Berlin regularly. Off the top of my head, Soundcloud is a Berlin-based company with a London-based VC backer. (Disclosure: this one's always the top of my head because my friend Sitar sourced this deal for her employer, Doughty Hanson.)

Just curious -- why is Berlin rent cheap? Seems like capital cities (or large cities in general), in wealthy Western countries, are generally really steep.

Because normally the financial, cultural, and governmental centres of a country are in the same city. In Germany that's not the case as the financial capital is in Frankfurt which means in Berlin you don't have the high-end of the market driven by bankers, executives and professionals like you do in other capitals.

Throw in high-unemployment, a city which is huge physically compared to it's population (it's bigger than london with a third of the population), lots of low-income self-employed artists, writers, etc.

All of these factors combine to make it a cheap city. I'm currently staying in a 4 star hotel in a nice fairly central area for £35/night. You'd pay more than that for a smaller studio flat in london.

Berlin has a lot of unrented office space. Sometimes in bad shape, but a weekend of painting and you have a nice office. Berlin is cheaper than other german cities because of many reasons. One is the high unemployment rate compared to other german cities.

Berlin population was 4,338,756 in May 1939 and now it's 3.4M. Another reason is it's a subsidized new capital, lots of incentive for real estate investments in hope that the business/employments take off.

You have to take into account that in the earlier days more people lived in an appartment then nowadays.

And you can't compare WW2 Numbers with today. A lot has happend since than.

Sure you can. Berlin had no chance to really grow all through the Cold War, even worse, part of it was walled off and frontline at the same time. That’s why Berlin’s population plummeted even when Germany’s population grew.

It’s not easy to rebound from that (after 45 years), even when you become capital, pretty much all of Germany’s successful post-war industry established itself in western West Germany. And not just industry, Post and Telekom are both still in Bonn and will probably be forever.

Berlin is also in the middle of a huge sparsely populated area. If there are no companies in Berlin that have jobs to offer not many people are going to move there.

(By the way, looking at lists with the biggest German cities is a bit misleading. Sure, Berlin handily comes out top, but look at this map: [+]. That’s not a zillion different cities like those silly natives with their tradition would want to make you believe, that’s just one city with five million people in it.)

[+] http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Datei:Ruhr_area-ma...

Similarly, London is a mass of connected towns with suburbs in between, and perhaps two "cities" of Westminster and the City itself.

There is a lot of space, not so many people, and an efficient transport network means that people don't need to live all in the same area, which would drive up rents.

Depending which part of the city you want to live, it is far from being cheap. But there are a lot of places where it quite affordable, but I am not sure if this suits everybody (travelling distance, "neighborhood").

I am partly living in Berlin for 4-5 years now and now moving there with my startup completely.

Probably because it's position during the Cold War. It was not a good place for "Old Money" and big industries and financial institutions of West German were located in safer places.

berlin is the exception because it has had one side of the city living in poverty until the fall of the berlin wall

And besides of the low cost the atmosphere in the city is great. A lot of art and music people from whole europe move to berlin now to feel the vibe of the city. Visit berlin for a week and you will love it :)

Nearly everyone is able to speak english.

Small disclaimer: I am living in cologne, germany

Berlin is certainly the big surprise for me here. I am very happy to find out it is inexpensive and it has so many other qualities to recommend it. I was completely unaware.

It's going to be high on the list.

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