Startups Like Berlin Because Visa Rules Are Nothing Like the U.S.

Photographer: Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images
The Berliner Dome illuminated as the technicians test the the lights on the eve of the opening of the 2012 "Festival of lights" in the German capital.

Germany’s immigration policy isn’t perfect, but hey, at least it’s not the U.S.

Entrepreneurs in Berlin’s budding tech scene say Germany’s relatively relaxed visa-application process gives them an edge in attracting international talent, such as software engineers who don’t want to go through the strained H-1B route in the U.S.

"In Silicon Valley, it’s getting harder and harder to get international visas,” Marco Boerries, a German entrepreneur, said in an interview in Berlin. “The amount of talent that I need for the problem that we're trying to solve, I have an easier time finding here than in Silicon Valley.”

Boerries's Berlin-based startup, NumberFour, has been secretly developing tools for small businesses for the last few years. The company, funded by $38 million in venture capital, is his fourth business. Boerries has sold his earlier companies to Sun Microsystems and Yahoo!

NumberFour (the name is expected to change) employs people who emigrated from the U.S., South America, China, Hungary and elsewhere, Boerries said. Startup folks appreciate Berlin’s low cost of living and hip vibe, he said.

Christophe Maire, the CEO of e-book startup Txtr and an investor in Berlin-based companies, said international workers help bring new perspectives to the tech companies here and create an environment that's attractive to other immigrants.

"It’s fairly easy to get anyone to come to work here,” Maire said.

The Germans appreciate their visa-application process in comparison with America’s, but in the end, it’s still a slower process than many techies are willing to tolerate.

“You just have to make sure you follow the stupid bureaucracy and be patient,” Boerries said.

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