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Jack McGovan: Five Berlin startups that have impressed me … and the world

Berlin is an exciting city for many different reasons, not the least of all due to its recent history. On a personal level it’s a cultural hotspot, with a bustling nightlife and most importantly – at least in comparison to other European capitals – it’s ridiculously cheap. Moving to the professional side of things, the city has something else to offer: a wide array of exciting Berlin startups and a large pool of highly skilled internationals to pick from. 

Having lived in Berlin for a few years myself, I’ve managed to dip my toe into the startup scene on more than one occasion. By calling upon my wealth of experience, here I have compiled a list of startups who have made a lasting impression, to give you a glimpse of what this side of Berlin has to offer. 

Einhorn – sustainable vegan condoms and period products

In a city known for its liberal views on sex, it’s no wonder that a company focused on producing sustainable condoms decided to make Berlin its home.

What makes their products sustainable? Well, the truth is that it is still a work in progress. Currently, they work with experts in sustainable rubber production, with the goal of producing products which are “around 80-to-90-percent sustainable”; as single use products, there is a limit to how sustainable they can be.

Eindhorn’s two main goals are minimising their carbon footprint and increasing biodiversity on the plantations where their rubber comes from. In addition, they are trying to make the packaging as sustainable as possible. 

However, the main reason why this is such an exciting business is that it is also a social startup. Fifty percent of their profits are used to fund social and sustainable projects, including paying the plantation workers 15-percent more than the minimum wage. Not only this, but they want to give these products character – to remove this medicinal feel attached to them – further pushing the idea of sex positivity. 

Opinary – sharing opinions on online content

When it comes to opinions, we all have one. Saying that, sometimes it’s hard to share it with so much noise and conflicting views around the same issue; this is somewhat exacerbated in the online world, with the kind of access which allows everyone to give their two cents. 

It is this issue which is the focus of Opinary. They have developed a tool which allows users to share their opinions with a simple tap, to see opinion trends as they develop. The way it works is that a relevant interactive poll is placed inside the content – either decided by the publisher or an algorithm – which allows users to share their thoughts on what they just read. 

So far their technology has attracted 84 million monthly users, with big name publishers like Huffpost, Financial Times and Forbes already on board. 

Opinary raised 3 million euros in January 2018.

Ecosia – the search engine which plants trees

Our next entry is somewhat reminiscent of David vs Goliath. As a search engine, Ecosia is going up against the big giant in the industry: Google. The aforementioned giant dominates the market so much that – depending on the source you use – about 90 percent of all search engine searches occur through Google; not to mention how “to google” has become the turn of phrase for searching for something online.

Apart from the fact that they likely pay the relevant amount of tax for their profits, Ecosia has something more to offer than a simple search engine. For every 45 searches on their platform, you finance their planting one tree. At the time of writing, about 74 million trees have been planted through their efforts … and counting. 

Ecosia is getting a lot of pub on Bloomberg and other big news sites.

SitEinander – a babysitting app for mutual childcare

As a bachelor in the prime of his life, having a family isn’t exactly in the forefront of my mind. Regardless, I found the concept of this startup so intriguing, I couldn’t help but include it on my list. 

SitEinander (“einander” meaning “one another” in English) is an app with which families can connect to find mutual babysitting opportunities, thereby eliminating expensive babysitter costs. Not only this, the app also offers the chance for playdates and other family-oriented activities. If anything, SitEinander shows that the tech scene in Berlin is as innovative as it is family friendly. 

Mapify – travel planning, inspiration and documentation

Given that this is Dispatches Europe, whose focus is on living abroad, I can only assume that you’re interested in experiencing other cultures. While the focus here is more on being an expat, Mapify has a lot to offer for those who like to spend some time on the road.

One of the biggest problems I have with travelling is deciding where exactly to go and what to do within the limited timeframe. Mapify connects travellers, and in their own words “aim to be a companion on every step of the journey”, from the planning to post-holiday blues stage. 

Travellers around the globe can share their unique experiences on the app, with associated visual content. Users can see exactly what other travellers get up to, plan their trips accordingly and add the things they like to their itinerary. Once they’ve completed the trip, they can also share their memories in the same way. The overall goal: creating an as authentic and unique experience for travellers as possible. 

Essentially a social media app for travel minded people, Mapify has raised more than a million euros in seed money.

And many more

These startups are just a sample, which mirror the kind of diversity which can be found in Berlin. As a user, they all offer something quite unique, as do the many other startups which exist in the city. More often than not, these startups grow at a fast pace and are always on the lookout for top quality international talent.

Perhaps next time, they’ll be looking for you. 

About the author:

Originally from the United Kingdom, Jack McGovan is a freelance writer currently living in Berlin. Through his professional network he is quite well connected in the startup scene of the city, and is interested in seeing how small scale companies tackle modern issues.

The main focus points of his work are science and sustainability, and he has a background in both. In addition to writing, he is involved in a variety of other science communication projects.

Read more here about Europe’s (and Berlin’s) startup scene.

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