After “How do you make money,” that’s the question I am asked most. Here’s the answer for all the curious people out there!
As you might already know, Labiotech.eu started in France. I was studying bioengineering with Joachim (the first guy I talked to on the first day of the first year!) at Sup’Biotech, and we were frustrated in our efforts to find information about the French biotech industry. So we decided to start a small blog to solve this problem for other students.
It rapidly became the biggest biotech blog in France: we had over 5,000 monthly readers, and we did a cool ‘Tour de France,’ in which we biked through the country to meet 26 CEOs, film interviews with them and publish a documentary.
This was 6 months before we graduated in September 2014, when we were starting to think about jobs. We thought, “Gee, couldn’t this small non-profit project become something much bigger?” So we looked at Europe and saw that the rest of the continent, not just France, had the same limited access to information on biotech. After discussing it with many mentors and advisors, we were convinced that there was an opportunity to explore.
Then we had to find a location to start the business, so we took out a map of Europe and looked at all the major cities. We wanted a dynamic and affordable city with a good startup ecosystem that included biotechs. Not so easy to find… London, Paris, Vienna, Munich and Berlin were our top five choices, but we ended up going with Berlin for 5 reasons:
- As we wanted to expand Europe-wide, it made sense to force ourselves to move out of France. Germany represents the largest life science market in Europe, so it seemed to be the obvious choice.
- Berlin’s biotech ecosystem is growing fast. When the wall was still standing, the city had basically nothing, but it now boasts at least 5 successful biotechs (Glycotope, Mologen, Probiogen, Epigenomics and Noxxon), the biopharma headquarters of Bayer (with over 5000 employees on-site in the city centre), great research (Charité, Max Delbrück Center, and several Max Planck Institutes among others) and top universities (Humboldt, the Technical University and the Free University).
- The German capital is an extremely attractive city for talents: it’s THE place where young people want to be today. We wouldn’t have been able to hire our incredible team if we weren’t here.
- Berlin is now the biggest startup ecosystem in Europe, with a lot of investors, successful startups (Zalando, Rocket, ResearchGate etc.), and experienced entrepreneurs and managers. The German capital has surpassed London and grown at least two or three times bigger than Paris, the third biggest.
- The city has a vibrant culture and a surprisingly high density of creative people. It’s the perfect city to have fun, live well and still be able to thrive in your business with its financial accessibility.
What’s to complain about? Honestly not much. The biggest drawback is the language because yes, in 2017, you still have to create your company and handle administration in the national language of the country – German.
The good thing is, Berlin is a cultural melting pot where people from all around the world communicate in English (but you still have to order your currywurst in German). Business is commonly done in English, and a lot of experts in law or accounting also work in this language. As a native German speaker, I could fill in the gaps.
Overall, moving to Berlin was the best choice we made since having the courage to start the company. It’s been now almost 3 years and frankly, I don’t know any other city I would dream of living in right now, not even Boston or anywhere else in the US. So we might stay here forever!
If you happen to be in Berlin, please feel free to drop by at our nice office 2km north of the TV tower — we have freshly brewed coffee, a lot of Club Mate, cold beers and tons of fun 😉