Berlin

Can Berlin be a real startup hub without a real airport?

Berlin is making great strides towards becoming a serious home for startups and entrepreneurs in Europe. But while it’s getting support from businesses and even government, the biggest fly in the ointment could be the delayed, embarrassing shambles that is Brandenburg airport.

Rocket misfires as Petitebox closes, gets born again

Germany’s Rocket Internet may have not made its big U.S. push yet, but one of its early plays — parenting subscription service Petitebox — has failed amid logistical problems. Will it make up for that by resurrecting the service under a new name?

Photocircle gives tourists a new way to help the needy

There are plenty of sell-your-picture platforms out there already that give people the chance to become semi-professional photographers. But German startup Photocircle has a twist: it’s encouraging those taking pictures to support social projects in the photogenic places they visit.

Kinderfee’s online babysitting service scores funding

The Berlin startup hopes that a ‘big six figure’ funding round can help it provide a European take on the ‘Airbnb for childcare’ model. But will its emphasis on trust and personal screening mean success — or simply create scaling problems?

Clone factory Rocket finally comes clean

The Samwer Brothers have stopped being furtive about the extent of their many clones, with a new site that lists their full portfolio as part of a wider rebrand. But what can we learn from this dramatic shift? Is Rocket Internet looking to America?

Can Harry Potter teach English? Papagei thinks so

Papagei.tv wants to use movies and other video entertainment to help people learn new languages — and it’s doing well out of the gate, with at least €10m to extend its immersive language-training courses and a role as the official language trainer for Germany’s Olympic team.

Startups rise from ashes of Nokia’s burning platform

A new startup is hoping to breathe new life into the MeeGo project let loose by Nokia — just one of a rising number of companies breaking out as the Finnish mobile giant stumbles. That’s what happens when you let 40,000 people go inside two years.

Musicplayr: cross-platform harmony for web music

It’s easy to embed a wide variety of music players on your website, but hard to get them singing from the same hymnsheet. Musicplayr’s trying to fix that with a newly-revamped player it calls ‘eye-candy for the ears’

The Samwers are trimming their portfolio: Here’s why

Germany’s notorious clone merchants have sold their stake in furniture operation Fashion For Home, but that still leaves them with good alternatives in the space. Whether they can produce strong players in less traditional e-commerce markets is another question.

6Wunderkinder: Berlin needs less hype, more focus

Productivity startup 6Wunderkinder made a big noise on the Berlin scene when it launched, but it’s been quiet for a few months. Now CEO Christian Reber explains why other German startups should follow suit and focus on their product — and why he’s worried about Windows 8.

Facebook should be worried about Wooga’s HTML5 exit

The reasons cited by games factory Wooga when it pulled out of developing mobile browser-based games for Facebook’s platform are not going to be fixed anytime soon – and that fact should be cause for concern in the social network’s quest to conquer mobile.

Gidsy CEO says a refresh is coming soon

Gidsy CEO Edial Dekker says the experience marketplace is working on a relaunch that will make the service more social and take it to new places — but he warns that whatever happens, he doesn’t want to suffer from Europe’s ‘ego problem.’

Revealed: Why 6wunderkinder’s backers really sold up

Why did one early investor in apparently thriving Berlin startup 6wunderkinder sell up? We’ve solved the mystery: it looks like the German public-private HTGF venture capital firm hit the limits of what it was allowed to do and decided to cash out.

Twitter just threw a lifeline to the content industry

Twitter’s deal with SoundCloud to embed audio in tweets isn’t just a deal that gives the Berlin music startup a ton of exposure: it’s a signal that while Twitter may carry a threat for media companies, it could be a serious alternative to Facebook.

Readmill boosts independent e-books with new features

Berlin startup Readmill’s iPad-based social reading app has got plenty of attention. Now it’s getting a significant update that will make it simpler and easier to use for everyone — including making it more useful for independent publishers to hook themselves in to.

StudiVZ’s answer to Facebook? Change names, go niche

The company behind German Facebook clone StudiVZ has changed its name to Poolworks and decided to focus on its social network for school-age kids, IDPool. It seems there’s simply no point competing with Mark Zuckerberg’s juggernaut any more.

Samwers kill their Fab clone after just six months

Just months after Germany’s notorious Samwer brothers courted controversy by cloning design sales site Fab.com, they are about to close their copycat site, Bamarang, down — folding it into its more successful stablemate, WestWing.

Deutsche Telekom CEO admits big telcos are ‘arrogant’

You might think Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann, the man at the very top of T-Mobile, enjoyed life in a big corporation. On the contrary, he says: big companies are slow and need partners who can be nimble on their behalf… just as long as they’re not too disruptive.

Outrage as credit agency plans to mine Facebook data

One of the world’s leading credit agencies is courting controversy with an experimental program that will use data from Facebook and other social networks to inform its ratings decisions. And the biggest surprise? It’s happening in privacy-mad Germany.

E-book upstart Txtr signs majors for U.S. push

German e-reading service txtr hopes to take on Amazon and Apple by becoming the biggest provider of third party reading apps — and a deal with four major American publishers and a New York office could be the latest steps in that journey.

SoundCloud is targeting mobile, tablet… and TV?

Eric Wahlforss, the co-founder of sound-sharing platform SoundCloud tells GigaOM where the company is going — including a new mobile-friendly version and the potential for TV integration — and explains what it’s like being an impromptu ambassador for the Berlin startup scene.

Clippy’s dead, but KeyRocket resurrects the good bits

What use are hundreds of shortcuts if you don’t know them? Berlin’s Veodin has come up with a free tool called KeyRocket, which trains users in the way of the shortcut with more relevance and less irritation than Microsoft’s hated old Office assistant.

Will ‘crazy’ tax leave Berlin unable to compete?

Berlin’s attempt to become one of the world’s premier cities for startup culture is taking a serious blow, with a new airport months behind schedule and a ‘crazy’ compulsory pension contributions scheme that has nascent companies warning that it could prove too much.

Rocket caught copying Fab code in Nigerian push

The fact that Germany’s Rocket Internet is launching another clone should come as a surprise to no-one. But even with their copycat reputation, cutting and pasting code for their new Nigerian online store seems more than little bit lazy.

LinkedIn vet turns VC to link Berlin and the Valley

Konstantin Guericke, a co-founder of LinkedIn, has become a Silicon Valley-based venture partner for the Berlin firm Earlybird, giving its investments a direct link to Californian capital and business networks. Is this a turning point for German startups?

Forget London v Berlin: Euro startups must join forces

It’s fun pitching cities like Berlin against the Valley, but it’s an artifical contest that makes little sense these days. Two investors believe it’s time to ditch the territorial debate and start building European startups that cross borders.

This week in European events

With the summer approaching, Europe is a busy place with lots of events to enjoy. Here’s our pick of three this week that you may find interesting or useful.

Let’s make a deal: ExploreB2B social network goes global

Ever find LinkedIn too noisy to be useful? Siblings Jonathan and Susanna Gebauer say their ExploreB2B — launching in English for the first time — offers a service tailored to establishing category experts, solving problems and making new business leads.

Amen gets major feature boost and new investors

Hot Berlin startup Amen has got plenty of hype for building a simple app that lets you say if things are good or bad. But fresh money and major new additions — including deep integration with Facebook and iTunes — could make it a whole lot more useful.

BonusBox hopes to beat Amazon on loyalty data

The company, which has just closed a seven-figure funding round and is aiming for expansion into the U.S., aggregates various e-tailers’ loyalty schemes into a Facebook app that also takes account of customers’ profile data

Tweek.tv’s social TV guide comes to the iPad

Tweek’s ‘next-generation TV guide’ unites different islands of online film and TV content with curation provided by Facebook’s social graph. Now it’s launching an iPad app for European users to try and convince more people to pick it up.

Tape.tv, a Pandora for video, targets British launch

Berlin’s Tape.tv has teamed up with Spotify to help fill the void left by the old, music-oriented MTV. But underneath the hood, its approach could be another interesting example of how onerous music rights in Germany have sparked a different kind of music startup.

Would you give 20% equity for three days at an incubator?

Germany’s IdeaCamp, a short mentoring program for budding entrepreneurs, is causing concern among Berlin’s startup community. Why? Because it asks attendees to give up a fifth of any business developed as a result of its three-day workshops.

Facebook hasn’t fixed Friend Finder, says German group

Facebook has been slapped down again by the German authorities over privacy problems with its Friend Finder feature — but while reports suggest the social network has fixed the problem, the consumer group that launched the complaint says it is still not happy.

Ezeep offers new portal to printing in the cloud

We lift the lid on stealth startup Ezeep, which wants to reinvent printing for the mobile generation by using a cloud portal that gives businesses a simple and secure way to let guests carry out one of life’s mundane but necessary tasks

A glimpse inside Rocket’s copy shop, courtesy of HelloFresh

Germany’s Rocket Internet — an incubator notorious for its habit of copying other businesses — rarely opens its doors. But we got a rare peek inside one of its new projects, the kitchen service HelloFresh. So what is it like working for the Samwer brothers?

Monoqi see, Monoqi do: Another European Fab launches

Monoqi, the European competitor to design flash sales site Fab.com, launches this week. What makes it different? CEO Simon Fabich says it’s a “curated design platform” that sports a less commercial taste than its American rival.

How ResearchGate plans to turn science upside down

The tools that have revolutionized the way we live are only just starting to have an impact on scientific research. Now ResearchGate — the “Facebook of science” — is hoping to speed up the change, with a new round of investment from Founders Fund to make it work.

Wahwah.fm offers a social take on pirate radio

Berlin is famous for its thriving music scene — and now local startup wahwah.fm is taking on the idea of pirate radio with a social, mobile app that lets you broadcast to your friends.

SoundCloud gets $50 million in new funding

SoundCloud, a web audio startup, has raised $50 million in new funding from investors led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. GGV Capital also participated. Previous investors in the company include Union Square Ventures, Index Ventures and Doughty Hanson Technology Ventures.

Why Berlin is poised to be Europe’s new tech hub

Berlin is the most un-German of German cities. It is relatively new in its latest & post-unification incarnation. It is cheap and it has no major industry – for now. But that could soon change. My impression from a visit to what could become Europe’s biggest tech-hub.

SoundCloud CEO Alex Ljung on why Berlin is hot

I visited Berlin in December 2011 to better understand the German capital’s blossoming startup scene. In these two videos SoundCloud co-founder and CEO Alex Ljung shared his impressions of Berlin and its sudden rise as a startup hub, along with his company’s plans.

Tweek.tv wants to be your social TV guide

Tweek.tv wants to become your social TV guide and recommend interesting movies, TV shows and web content based on the things your friends have liked on Facebook. The German startup is emerging from stealth mode today and also announcing a first round of funding.

Graffiti movie published online to evade legal threats

Berlin’s transit authority didn’t like a documentary that shows dozens of its subway trains being repurposed as moving canvases by graffiti artists. The movie’s filmmakers responded to a cease-and-desist letter by publishing the entire movie online, freely available to anyone.

For Amazon Web Services, Berlin is calling

Berlin is fast becoming the destination of choice for entrepreneurs, thanks to the emergence of hot startups such as SoundCloud, Amen, EyeEm, Phonedeck, Txtr and Wunderlist. And thanks to this burgeoning startup scene, Amazon Web Services is looking to establish its operations in Berlin.