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Efficient Technology in Germany

December 2012

By Ariston Anderson, Berlin

Germany: industrial, orderly, everything on time. I’ve found through living in Berlin that when it comes to technology, the stereotypes of German efficiency are rarely exaggerated, especially when it comes to communication and transportation. Germans are innovators in using technology to make life easier, whether spreading existing tools or creating their own.

You’ve probably heard about the startup scene in Berlin, which has been growing steadily over the past three years, attracting tons of companies with giant office spaces and low cost of living. The Factory is a massive real estate project being built where a stretch of the Berlin Wall once stood. This 3,000-square-meter development that will house a campus reserved just for new companies complete with a perfect networking space, art gallery, gym, sauna, basketball court, restaurant and deli. But the boom may be approaching its financial nadir.

While companies are moving into the city, there hasn’t been a huge influx of talent. In most cases, the low company costs also equate to low salaries. Residential Berlin rents are also increasing, and rumors of a forthcoming freelancer’s tax are changing the perception of Berlin as a cost-effective place to call home. Nevertheless, user-friendly, successful startups continue to flourish. The mother of Berlin startups, Soundcloud, or the YouTube of sounds, is finding efficient uses beyond DJ promotion, allowing companies to take meeting notes via audio track and share within the company. Berlin-based 6Wunderkinder creates free, open-source time management tools.

German auto giant BMW has also created its own venture arm, BMW i Ventures, to finance mobile projects that improve how Germans move about their cities. BMW’s innovative DriveNow launched last year, and put the fun back into car-sharing. Members just spot a DriveNow vehicle on the street throughout Cologne, Munich, Berlin or Dusseldorf, unlock it with a chip on their driver’s license, and away they go. Rates are billed per minute. Friends love using the full-size vehicles for anything from a trip to a local lake, or a stock-up at IKEA. Unlike other car-shares, there is no need for reservations.

As one Berliner recently asked me: “How did I ever live without this?” 


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