Encouraged by all the interest—and the money—many Berliners have gotten startup fever. The Berlin Chamber of Commerce reports that 1,300 Internet startups have been founded in the city since 2008, 500 of them last year alone.
Germany’s capital is home to the Chaos Computer Club, one of the world’s biggest hacker groups. (Kim Dotcom was a member until he got banned for stealing other people’s ideas, according to Associated Press reports.) In recent years these hackers, along with tech-savvy expats and engineers from Berlin’s universities and clone companies, have combined their know-how with the softer skills of designers, artists, and musicians who have long flocked to Berlin. “Berlin’s attitude is very punk, and that’s really important for startups, because they’re basically saying, ‘OK, I’m going to do things my own way,’ ” says Ljung, who was a sound designer before founding SoundCloud, and is still an active electronic musician. Says O’Leary: “All Berlin knows is change and disruption, and there’s nobody defining what the city should be or what an entrepreneur should be.”