From the top 13 October 2016

EliteSingles CEO on running a successful international business from the heart of Berlin

Figures have reported that a new startup is founded every 20 minutes in Berlin

Jeronimo Folgueria, CEO of international dating company EliteSingles, discusses the Berlin startup scene and his modern approach to propelling business success.

Starting a business in, or relocating a company to, a European city isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. It certainly offers the potential to completely transform and revolutionise a business in ways you might not have previously imagined.

In the early 2000s after the millennium, Berlin was beginning to emerge as a seriously savvy center for commerce. It is now highly regarded within the global technology community as a creative hub and is certainly a lively city of unparalleled standards in Europe. According to German advisory agency, Gruenden, a new startup is founded every 20 minutes in Berlin, and research from McKinsey shows that the startup scene is going to produce 100,000 jobs by 2020 in the city.

In just under three years since EliteSingles launched, it now has 65,000 global sign ups per week, making it one of the fastest growing digital platforms in serious dating.

We don’t continually seek funding and EliteSingles runs at high profit with €60m total revenue in 2015, which we expect to grow by 20 per cent in 2016.  This is a direct result of the EliteSingles business model, which has very much been formed by the inherent atmosphere and culture of the Berlin startup scene.

Berlin is, and has been for a long time, a very welcoming, liberal and tolerant city – often dubbed as Europe’s LGBT capital, it is rich in culture and offers a buzzing social scene. The female employment rate in Germany is way above the EU average, putting the country at the forefront of supporting women in business, with 54 per cent of women working according to German statistics office, Destatis.

Operating an attractive core proposition from within a diverse city will naturally attract an abundance of quality employees and talent. Companies doing so will see an inherent benefit from the cultural mix of nationalities, skills and expertise available.

During my recent years in business and with EliteSingles, I have worked with global brands and have a strong background in managing international teams and multi-language products in this time. I have worked with many teams and the best workforce by far is made from different nationalities – a cultural mix can provide so much learning and enrichment in the office, and creates a new dimension within a team in any industry.

This, coupled with knowledge, multi-lingualism and insight into local markets can nurture an international vision for a business from the heart of a European city. One of the main benefits to employers in Berlin in particular, is that the city that is home to over 3.5 million people, and 621,075 of those living here are of foreign nationality – an abundance of skill and opportunity.

Employers should consider a foreign city for an office hub that has cultural variety as it is ultimately going to help grow a business – particularly in its early stages when attempting to create a presence in a new market. It is extremely beneficial to have staff who understand the local working culture and society for its customers there.

There is no requirement to be based in every city that your product or service is in to be a successful international company and to conquer that market. With local time zones taken into account, there is no hurdle to being 1,000 miles away.

This solid understanding of local markets – which will come through company hires – is essential, but a realistic vision will also help a business realise its clear market strategy. Many startups over-anticipate their business models with high hopes and dreams of mastering America in the youthful stages, when in reality this is very expensive and requires huge investment.

Berlin-based businesses will be in a financially viable position to do this sooner – as the city is renowned for its cheaper rent and low cost living, making it affordable for both the company and its employees to easily form a future here.

The huge saving in overheads throughout Berlin has empowered many startups here to be able to invest these savings and money elsewhere. By investing in product development and market research, it will enable you to understand your customers and niche audience completely. Companies doing so will then be able to see the benefits immediately with a refined and complete customer offering which is profitable and growing.

This financial leverage as a result of office location or relocation opens possibilities to creating a more attractive proposition for potential employees. When in Berlin for example, it is important to adopt a very high stance on supporting women in business in line with German culture.

A comfortable financial position is likely to enable a business to offer flexible working to match Berlin’s work/life balance culture as well as high salaries to motivate, attract and reward team members. Many startups are notoriously renowned for being financially constrained with a “budget approach”, so employee benefits that can be offered to a team for reward and incentive are likely to contribute towards a happier and more productive workforce.

Despite the UK business scene, from the outside at least, appearing nervous and slightly shaken in the wake of Brexit, its impact on startups or fledgling businesses is yet very unknown. This certainly hasn’t impacted the mature, dynamic German startup scene – it is more alive and growing than ever.

My advice for any companies looking to relocate or launch elsewhere, is to seriously consider Berlin as a home for their business. It really has been the cornerstone to our company’s success and any preconceptions about the city will immediately vanish when visiting.

The world is becoming increasingly connected through both digital technology and transport, so choosing a solid central HQ location in each market is no longer imperative to a company’s success – more often than not, the obvious choice for something is not the right one!

Find out which seven European cities are looking to lure entrepreneurs away from London.

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