Following months of anticipation, Berlin’s startup complex The Factory has officially opened its offices in an old brewery at Bernauer Strasse.
In attendance of Google’s Eric Schmidt and Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit, the launch ceremony attracted hundreds of guests with highlights like Google Glass and augmented reality exhibitions.
Startups at the former death strip
With over 10,000 square metres of floor space for over 500 employees, the offices already host tech startups like SoundCloud, Mozilla and Twitter.
Once construction is complete, the campus will have its own health club, sauna, lounges and deli restaurant.
Located close to the Berlin wall, undetonated World War II grenades were recently discovered in the courtyard.
The Factory, which has no apparent relation to Andy Warhol’s Factory in New York, states its mission „is to create advantages for startups by providing space and support for them to start or grow their businesses.“
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Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Wowereit told visitors that The Factory was a sign of Berlin’s startup success: „Thanks to the Factory, Berlin is becoming more important not just for national startups, but also international startups.“
In a speech later that day, Eric Schmidt echoed the mayor’s enthusiam for Berlin’s startup scene, telling a private audience that Germany has the potential to become a „startup nation“.
A corporate version of a Berlin nightclub
With increasingly lavish offices, Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook have long been blending the boundaries of workplace and home. The Factory appears to be a Berlin take on contemporary tech company office.
The location’s DIY look and feel, complete with wooden outdoor furnishings and swings, is an attempt to combine the atmosphere of outdoor clubs like Bar25 and Kater Holzig with Berlin’s startup scene.
SoundCloud’s office in the The Factory, which was out-of-bounds to non-employees during the launch party, is reported to have a recording studio, a turntable and a recording area.
The hype factory
In spite of all the excitement, Berlin’s newest startup campus is ultimately a little more than a cleverly marketed real-estate investment. Hyped as an icon of Berlin’s tech scene, The Factory is just another derelict building turned trendy workplace.
Many Berliners have grown suspicious of grand opening ceremonies for newly refurbished spaces. The city has recently witnessed several controversial real-estate developments in the inner city, such as the Tacheles artists‘ residence (soon to become a hotel) and a block of luxury flats at the Spree (which replaced part of the Berlin wall).
Like the Backfabrik (baking factory) in Mitte, which also hosts dozens of local startups, it might be argued that The Factory is yet another new office space to accomodate Berlin’s rapidly expanding startup scene.