A community of successful and flourishing technology-based start-up companies has developed in Berlin, a city that has long attracted artists and musicians.
With cheap living costs, ample space and a helpful business community, Berlin is getting a name as the next Silicon Valley.
The audio platform SoundCloud was developed seven years ago by Swedish musicians Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss and has grown into a multi-million-dollar business with 250 million users worldwide.
Mr Ljung says the company began as a platform for musicians to share music.
"As creators [of] music and audio and being passionate about the web, we were looking for tools we could use and they didn't exist at the time," he said.
Now, more than 12 hours of audio is uploaded to the platform every minute.
SoundCloud raised a reported $60 million in its latest funding round with actor Ashton Kutcher now a major investor.
Instead of Silicon Valley or London, the founders chose Berlin as the place to start their company.
"It really felt like this place was an intersection of art and technology and everybody was doing things their own way," Mr Ljung said.
"We felt that somehow resonated with the culture and vibe we wanted SoundCloud to have."
It is a sentiment shared by Florian Meissner, the founder of photo-sharing application EyeEm.
"You have basically this blend of creative types from the tech scene, painters, artists and musicians - they all blend," he said.
Mr Meissner was working as a photographer in New York when his equipment was stolen and he started taking photos on his smartphone.
He saw the need for a photo-sharing marketplace where advertisers could connect with photographers and buy the rights to photos.
"Since [operating for] a year we've had amazing momentum - half a million people joining every month," Mr Meissner said.
EyeEm now has 15 million users and recently raised $6 million in venture capital.
Alternative epicentre of technology
Mr Meissner says Berlin is a cheap place to start a business.
"If one space gets too expensive and gentrified, we just find space to connect with like-minded people somewhere else in the city," he said.
Venture capitalist Pawel Chudzinski runs one of the first tech start-up portfolios, now worth 40 million euros.
He says international investment and interest is growing.
"I think financing has been behind the curve," he said.
"There is so much activity right now that the ecosystem can support more investors than [are] currently here, so I expect more funds to come over to Berlin because the entrepreneurial activity is so strong."
A recent McKinsey report found as tech start-ups grow, Berlin could gain an extra 100,000 jobs by 2020.
Berlin start-up community self-sufficient: entrepreneur
Those in the industry say the Berlin start-up scene has developed with no government support.
"It all happens organically in Berlin.
[There's been] no government program that Berlin should become a start-up city," Mr Chudzinski said.
Entrepreneur Simon Schaefer hopes to help foster the start-up community with his new office space The Factory.
Early and late-stage start-ups will work in the building with the aim of collaborating and encouraging investment.Â Â
The office space is housed in an old brewery where the wall divided East and West Berlin, with SoundCloud moving in as one of the first tenants.
"In our investment activities we've realised a lot of need for exchange [with other start-ups] specifically in the early stage," Mr Schaefer said.
"It's great to have a role model to look up to and know where you're going."
Entrepreneurs readily giving back
Mr Schaefer says established companies are keen to help and keep momentum building in Berlin.
"One of the key motivations you'll find in start-up entrepreneurs is that they're readily giving back," he said.
"They don't go to the Cayman Islands and buy a yacht - they would rather invest in other start-ups around them."
The aim is not to copy Silicon Valley but help Berlin find its own unique identity.
"We need to encourage investment from larger corporations in Germany to take part in sustaining this ecosystem," Mr Schaefer said.
"It's not the best thing for companies to leave Europe as soon as it [success] happens."
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