Startup history was written in the Berlin baking factory. From the outside, the historic industrial building hardly reveals that there are tech companies such as the game company Wooga sitting here and each employing hundreds of employees.
Among the most famous tenants of the brick building StudiVZ belonged. At the end of 2011, around 300 employees were still working for the social network in Saarbrücker Straße. At this time, the startup had already struggled with a significant decline in visitor numbers, was sold several times in the following years, had to shrink healthy and then went bankrupt in 2017. In the baking factory today reminds nothing more of the prominent tenant.
Also the once large coupon startup Dailydeal sat in the baking factory. It grew fast, was sold to Google, bought back by the founders, and then resold. Today, the company is owned by MenschDanke GmbH and is located several kilometers away in Berlin Alt-Moabit. The Dailydeal founders Fabian and Ferry Heilemann have been trying their luck with Sky & Sand as investors, also with an office in the baking factory. In 2015, the brothers painted their portfolio together. But the Heilemanns have remained faithful to the building: together with Erik Muttersbach and Michael Wax, they founded a digital freight forwarding business for air and sea freight in 2016 together with Freighthub.
A similarly eventful story has come from games startup Wooga
Like StudiVZ and Dailydeal, Wooga has grown up in the baking factory. At the beginning, founder Jens Begemann started playing games for social networks, later for smartphones. The strategy changes were accompanied by redundancies. Today 200 people work for the Berliners, at weddings it was about 300.
Current tenants in the baking factory include app analyst Adjust, factoring startup Decimo, cooking box provider Hellofresh, and Lovoo’s dating app makers, all of whom are well-known names in the scene. On the website of the building owner also cooking magic is conducted. The food startup, which last belonged to Lidl, was set in early March but. The 33 employees are to be distributed in the group, it was said a month ago by Lidl.
The bakery – a former large-scale bakery that today offers space for start-ups on approximately 26,000 square meters – is more than just a building. Rather, it’s a reflection of the scene, of startups that quickly grew big and then disappeared again, with perseverance, new and old trends, and constant change.
Like an orchestra
Many of these things are appreciated by the owner of the baking factory, Hagen Bartels. “We find boring normal business,” he says. The startups, who have to introduce themselves to Bartels before letting, come from the fields of advertising, marketing and the Internet. A long-established company like the AOK, for example, would not let into its building.
Is there more risks?
That there are more risks for young companies, such as possible payment bottlenecks or spontaneously changing space requirements, are no problem. “Safety is not important to us,” says Bartels. On a deposit the owner waived anyway. So far, he seems to have been lucky – or the right feel for the tenant selection. He remained at the expense of only one company.
He sees the various tenants as a kind of orchestra. Help each other, sometimes startups would also depend financially on each other. And when a startup dismisses employees and uses less office space, it makes room for other companies in the building.
Rising rents are not stopping at the bakery
But that is not a problem for most, Bartels says. The best talents would not get the startups with offices in Tempelhof or Moabit, he says. This was not as attractive for applicants as Berlin’s city center. Start-ups who set up in less-favored areas would have to pay a “desert allowance” to their employees, that is, a salary premium to compensate for the bad situation. Then you could spend more on the rent, says Bartels.
Also published on Medium.