Impact Hub Berlin

In late March I visited Impact Hub Berlin, back then still hidden away in a corner of the Kreuzberg neighborhood. The entry takes you through a cafe which was packed with people. I walked up to the third floor to find their main work space rented out for an event (one of their income sources). I called Leon who was hiding out somewhere in the building to get some work done. Measured by the noise level of social innovation in the cafe-slash-alternative co-working area, I couldn’t blame him. We squeezed in on a sofa and jumped right into an exciting conversation. I had met Leon on a couple of occasions before. Even though Berlin to Hamburg is less than two hours by train, I had no idea what he and his team were up to at the newly founded Impact Hub and I couldn’t wait to get his inside-view of the social innovation space in Berlin, Germany’s start-up epicenter. Side note: If you agree to meet me over lunch, be prepared for a rapid one. I am good at asking questions in between bites, how good are you at answering?

It was difficult finding investors for something that had previously failed, but we did it! Click To Tweet

In early 2013, Nele, Anna, Martin and Leon found each other; with different backgrounds but a shared passion for enabling social entrepreneurship. I was surprised to learn that Berlin used to have an Impact Hub that couldn’t sustain itself and closed down in the late 2000’s. “It was difficult finding investors for something that had previously failed, something in which other investors had lost their money. None of them came on board and we had to cast our web wider. At some point we were tired of waiting, balancing the pros and cons. We put out the word that we would set up an Impact Hub in Berlin, and went for a walk. When we came back four hours later, my inbox was full. People wanted to get involved, they wanted an Impact Hub. So we got to work.”

Impact Hub Berlin

Inside Impact Hub Berlin’s new space F246

 

Two years later Impact Hub is moving from Kreuzberg into the heart of Berlin, expanding their space by the factor six in a large space in Friedrichstrasse. “We learned a lot in these first two years. Most of all, we came to understand that you need to practice what you preach. In our case that’s user-centered design, fast prototyping, design thinking. That’s why the new space is designed after the needs of our members.” If you’re interested in some of the lessons Leon & team learned from starting up an Impact Hub, check out “Failing Forward“.

Over 11.000 Hub members and makers connect online to exchange experiences across countries. Click To Tweet

I ask Leon what makes a good support program (one of my favorites): “A strong and effective program needs to be comprehensive. To me, that means covering living costs, grant network access, and bringing in great mentors. Often, programs only focus on one or two of these factors instead of seeing the whole picture. Oh, and a program should make sure that everyone involved has a stake in the startup’s success.” Leon also lets me in on some more information about the Impact Hub network (25 Hubs in Europe alone!). Over 11.000 Hub members and makers connect on an online platform to exchange experiences across countries. Learning on the platform happens in communities of practice that host up to 100 people. On top of that, hub-makers meet once a year to learn from each other and discuss challenges and ways forward. Hmmm… Can I borrow someone’s Hub hat for once and sneak in? I dread picturing the vast knowledge and expertise these hub-makers exchange behind closed doors! Knock knock, let me in!

Impact Hub Berlin offers its members a co-working space, structured peer-to-peer learning, a number of events and workshops, opportunities for networking among founders, as well as personal tailored consulting. Their programs cover innovation workshops and bootcamps, an intrapreneurship program and a one-year Impact Hub Fellowship. Until these launch, here’s an example to see what they are up to:

Impact Hub Berlin 2

Focused Area

One of the support programs Impact Hub Berlin offers is the Impact Academy Climate, which is an ideation program for a Climate KIC – a startup competition for innovative startup ideas to fight climate change. The Impact Academy Climate takes place at 26 universities around Germany and focuses on ideation and business model development delivered in two workshops. Participating startups can apply to the final pitch night at Impact Hub Berlin and the two best ideas move on into the Climate-Kic Greenhouse program –  the first of three phases of Europe`s biggest climate innovation accelerator. It supports them through coaching and input-sessions on topics such as market testing business modeling, the three finalists receive a one-year membership at Impact Hub Berlin.

I can’t wait to see what other programs will kick off at Impact Hub Berlin over the next year. When I visited, it was still somewhat early days. Since our interview in March, they have moved to their new location and held a number of events. Let’s see which programs spring from that dwell of innovation!

 

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