LFP243 – The Berlin Tech Scene: A Deep Dive w/Ivan Maryasin CEO Monite

In this Xmas special we zoom out from Fintech to Tech as a whole in one of Europe’s coolest capitals – Berlin. Ivan is a great person to guide us through the scene having spent many years in the Ur-tech hub of San Francisco/Silicon Valley. This also means that he understands both the outsiders perspective on Berlin tech as well as now an experienced and well informed insider.

Ivan honestly lays out both the highs and the lows of being in Tech in Berlin – the good news and the challenges and the somewhat insane (see below) – that he has encountered with his embedded financial infrastructure startup Monite.

A particularly insane quirk of German law is the need to get documents notarised. Ok well so no big deal eh? Well not as such however if you for example do a raise then the notary takes a percentage of the value raised for (a) reading the whole document out to you in German (even if you do not speak German!) and (b) notarising that “yeh he signed it”.

Topics discussed include:

  • historical contexts of Germany, a very young country, and Berlin
  • San Francisco pre- and post- covid years
  • Berlin is Berlin and international as well as German
  • is there still a felt sense of former west and east Berlin? What are the differences?
  • district-centric view of Berlin
  • where startups tend to be based
  • Ivan’s career in SF and journey to Berlin
  • being in SF during boom times
  • the leading continental tech centres Ivan considered
  • pre-conceptions/understandings of Berlin from America vs the reality
  • what gets taken for granted in SF and what the vibe is
  • different vibes of innovation – SF being in more radical innovation
  • the more positive developments from Berlin – “finally having a life”
  • the major tech sectors in Berlin and particular strength
  • tech scene in Berlin starts in the 90s
  • German regulation – did they get it right?
  • are their actually subsector “scenes” or is entrepreneurial activity centrifugally spread around
  • German tradition of entrepreneurialism
  • what binds tech firms together in Berlin
  • Berlin is roughly 1/3 the population of London
  • comparing via looking at the number/distributions of WeWorks
  • the city/state/country’s importance or otherwise in creating a tech scene versus it being entrepreneur-led
  • Germany does a lot of good things for entrepreneurs but also a lot of total passion killers
  • immigration restrictions for talent lower than the US
  • what makes it hard to do business in Germany
  • super-easy to get fined when forming a company
  • the outrageous notarisation fees (as above) and impact on fund-raising
  • the difficulties and paperwork involved in a US investor investing in a German startup – the costs can be higher than the raise :-O
  • challenges of legalities and difficulties there
  • Case Study  of trivial business expenses – state checking down to €3 or 4…!
  • due to the challenges a lot of startups are forming legal entities outside Germany
  • what Germany gets right
  • “some aspects of doing business are just absolutely crazy or unimaginable for 2023”
  • many things are still mailed not emailed – “insane” levels of posted mail
  • well-designed for some activities but not for entrepreneurialism
  • the investment scene in Berlin – angles/desires and presence of VCs..
  • why German startups never tend to wide-scale success
  • the response of successful businesses as a result
  • what Ivan would look for now if he were starting again
  • global fundraising to overcome local challenges
  • what Monite does and where it is going
  • what embedded workflows are and how they fit in
  • innovating SME finance

And much much more 🙂

Share and enjoy!