Radish Berlin: Office Hours
Berlin is a city teeming with startup-friendly co-working spaces, and betahuas is one of the oldest, largest, and most vibrant. For those of you just tuning in to our Berlin adventure, betahaus is also our temporary base of operations as we explore opportunities to extend our brand and business in the German capital. For its bustling community of entrepreneurs, designers, and coders, betahaus offers daily events and workshops that connect people with projects like ours to facilitators, mentors, and helping hands. This is especially useful for Radish as we navigate a new and sometimes bewildering business culture. So we’ve taken advantage of Office Hours, a series of one-on-one workshops that betahaus facilitates to match startup leaders with experienced business professionals.
Within an hour of learning about the Office Hours program, I booked my first session with Jakob Ballestrem, a young startup consultant who has worked in the music industry helping international bands in Berlin book gigs and bank Euros. Jakob calls his workshop “Startup Secretary 101,” a perfect fit for where we’re at on the learning curve. While our number one priority is to build contacts and book local clients, we have to get the administrative and banking infrastructure in place to get paid when we do. Jakob gave me some tips on how to get a Gewerbeschein, the certificate of registration that every Berlin entrepreneur needs in order to register their business, start invoicing clients, and, of course, pay taxes. To get a Gewerbeschein, you have to go to the Bezirksamt, or district office. Once you get the Gewerbeschein, you head over to your local Finanzamt (tax office) to apply for a tax ID number. (In my last post, I described our trip to the Bürgeramt, or citizen’s registration office … so many amts!) “If everything is clear and there are no questions, it might take up to 8 weeks,” Jakob told me. “If you need it earlier, you have to be nice and seem to be desperate … I once managed to get it within 2 weeks!” This reinforced my impression that savvy Germans find sly ways to nudge a bureaucracy that’s widely acknowledged as being a bit sluggish. In our brief experience so far in Berlin, we’ve also learned that being nice definitely opens doors. A great fit for the Radish way!
My next Office Hours session, called “Crank Up Your Traction,” was with Keith Baumwald, a digital marketer who consults agencies, corporations, and startups across the U.S., Australia, Japan, and Europe. Keith had some tips about where and how to network in Berlin. He recommended that we join the Startup Berlin Slack Group and check out events at other Berlin co-working spaces, especially Impact Hub, which is geared specifically towards organizations that promote social change. On top of advising us to attend meetups organized by Berlin’s many startup groups and incubators, Keith reinforced an idea that we’re already pursuing: organize our own meetups! We’ve got plenty of experience doing that from our Designing Change series, so we’re brainstorming ideas for conversations we can initiate to highlight our interests and expertise and connect us with like-minded doers.
Aside from betahaus Office Hours program, we’re busy synchronizing our actual office hours. How do you work two jobs on two separate continents in one day? The answer, for better and sometimes for worse, is to make your days extra long. If we don’t have a meeting or event scheduled, we usually get to betahaus by 9:30am and focus on planning, research, and networking for our Berlin project. Being six hours ahead of Brooklyn time also lets us catch up on our U.S. based projects. There’s extra breathing room to plan and strategize that we don’t normally have in the daily churn of meetings and deadlines at our Brooklyn office. We join our Brooklyn team via video conference for our weekly jour fixe meeting on Mondays at 3:30pm, Berlin time. The late afternoon has become our second morning, as we remotely ramp up for the Brooklyn workday and the emails start trickling in. By 6pm, we’re in the thick of another busy day at Radish Brooklyn, and the trickle becomes a torrent. It wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t take a break between 8-9pm to sample Berlin’s inexhaustible supply of terrific, inexpensive beer and scarf down a currywurst. But it’s not unusual for us to hop on a call or two with the Brooklyn team after dinner time.
Juggling these office hours can be exhausting, but Berlin’s slower rhythm still manages to permeate our days. And thanks to networking opportunities at betahaus and beyond, the rhythm of meeting new people and building relationships makes the long hours gratifying.