My German Career

‘Landing a start-up job is about contacts’

'Landing a start-up job is about contacts'
Founder of Startupbootcamp Alex Farcet explains how he made it in Berlin. Photo: Submitted
In this week's My German Career, founder of Berlin's Startupbootcamp Alex Farcet explains why he moved to the German capital from Denmark and how to succeed in the city's start-up scene.

Where are you located and what do you do?

My family and I live in Prenzlauer Berg and my office space is near Checkpoint Charlie. I co-founded Startupbootcamp in Copenhagen in 2010 and we now have seven programs in five countries.  

Startupbootcamp is a tech start-up accelerator. We select ten start-ups from 400 applicants and work with them for 90 days through a mentorship program which concludes with an investor demo day.  

Each team gets €15,000 in micro-funding, six months of free office space and access to over 100 mentors most of whom are serial entrepreneurs.  Out of the 10 start-ups we select, eight or more are usually international, i.e. they relocate from all over the world to join the program.

What brought you to Germany and how long have you been here?

We moved middle of last year from Copenhagen to launch Startupbootcamp here. Berlin had become such of hub of entrepreneurship in Europe that we simply had to have a program here.

When it comes to start-ups there's a real talent migration happening right now. The city is international, young, creative and inexpensive which are all ingredients of a great start-up ecosystem and it seems every other person I meet moved here within the last 12 months and is working on some kind of start-up. 

How did you land your job and do you have tips for anyone seeking similar work?

I didn't have to land any job since I launched the company but I did have to raise money to run the program which was more challenging than I initially anticipated.  

The Berlin start-up ecosystem is booming but there is still not nearly as much venture capital as in London which is the real capital of venture in Europe.  

As for landing a job at a start-up, that's even more relationship-based than a regular corporate job. The best tip is simply to get out of the house and join one of the myriad events going on each week, from hackathons to Start-up Weekend, and show what you can do.

Is it important for you to be able to speak German in your position?

Not at all. Our program is entirely in English (we have over 15 nationalities at a time) and the start-up language is English by default. I'm fortunate that my Danish wife is fluent in German which has certainly helped with institutions and government issues but in general I've found that starting with a polite apology and a smile opens up people and I've not had too many run-ins with grumpy Berliners.

What are the best and worst parts about working in Germany?

We moved to Berlin for a very specific reason, the strength of the start-up ecosystem which would support a new Startupbootcamp program.  

Berlinhappens to be in Germany but, from a professional perspective, it's incredibly international and it sometimes feels like everyone who doesn't fit in the rest of Germany, moves here. In general I love the creativity, youth and energy of the city. From an infrastructure point of view it has a way to go to catch up to other European capitals but it will get there.

Do you plan on staying?

Not forever, since our children are clamouring to move back to Copenhagen to catch up with their friends. If it was up to me we would certainly stay a long time since it is such an amazing city both at and away from work, I love it here.

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READ MORE: Ten points in defence of Berlin's start-up scene

Jobs in Germany

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