Berlin: Open Source Capital of Creativity (Bonus article) — The Future

(My article "Berlin: Open Source Capital of Creativity" appears in issue 114 of Linux User and Developer magazine. Alas, space was too limited to fit in everything I wanted to. Hence, this post is a bit of bonus content exclusive to my blog.)

I very briefly mentioned in the main article how Berlin's future looks, but I want to expand a little more on it here. The article already explains the factors involved in the expansion of Berlin's start-up scene. Among other things, the boom is fuelled by relatively low prices and good availability of property.

But things can change. As Berlin grows more successful, it can attract more people to move there with its exciting and increasingly well-paid opportunities. New people and new businesses have to reside somewhere, so as the professional population increases, so too does the competition for property. Rents and prices will rise accordingly. Poorer but attractive districts of the city (like the celebrated Kreuzberg) will become populated by higher-earning professionals. The lower earners living there will find themselves priced out.

It's a process that's already received plenty of attention. "Gentrification" it's usually called. The image is one of trendy young couples descending on Berlin, armed with lattes and iPhones, taking over entire districts. Former residents are swept away by the resultant tide of living costs and their vibrant, bohemian culture with them. The result is an increase in prices and a compromise in Berlin's unique "coolness".

In its residents' eyes, this process is happening to Berlin district by district. It's already occurred in Prenzlauer Berg, it's happening right now to Kreuzberg, and it's only a matter of time before poor Neukölln gets invaded too. If this whole image is true, then you might argue that Berlin will become a victim of its own success. Ultimately, the key advantages that Berlin enjoys -- its unique culture and its relative low cost of living -- will be lost as Berlin's poor but sexy districts are gentrified.

But, when I interviewed Michael Stamm and Carl-Phillip Wackernagel of TSB Berlin, they were sure that Berlin's foreseeable future was assured. The growth may not be able to last forever, but a couple of things make them confident that Berlin will remain a place that nurtures and attracts entrepreneurial talent for the foreseeable future. First of all, Berlin still has many poorer districts. Stamm and Wackernagel opine that while ever such districts exist, there will be cheap places for businesses to reside in. Should Kreuzberg one day succumb to the latte army, Neukölln stands ready. If ever Neukölln becomes overrun, Wedding is there too.

Berlin's future, it seems, looks good.




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