BERLIN — Fast-growing Berlin language startup Babbel employs around 450 employees from 39 countries.
Among Babbel’s workforce are 32 Brits who are somewhat concerned about their future in Germany as a result of Brexit, according to Babbel CEO Markus Witte.
Leaving the EU could make it harder for Brits to work in countries like Germany and France. It could also make it harder for UK companies to hire people outside the UK.
Speaking to Business Insider at Babbel’s office in Mitte, central Berlin, Witte said “at first they were very scared” before going on to add that they’re slightly less concerned now that they know it will take a while for the impacts of Brexit to be realised.
“We still don’t know what will actually happen,” said Witte. “I think the UK has traditionally been a very, very open country to the world and I don’t see the island locking itself in.”
He added: “Even from a locked in Britain, they [British tech workers] will be able to relocate. It’s not going to be North Korea.”
When asked if Babbel would consider opening up a separate UK office to accommodate workers that couldn’t easily move to Berlin, Witte said: “No, no we wouldn’t. Especially not in London given London rent is just hilarious. This is probably the best location in Berlin you can get. Compared to a mediocre London office, it is dirt cheap.”
He added: “I wouldn’t open an office [in London] just for the talent. We’re not at that size yet. As a Google you do that. We’re not there yet. And probably will not be there in 2-3 years. Let’s see. Any company under 10,000 employees doesn’t need to do that.”
German politicians want London startups to move to Berlin
Politicians in Germany are keen for Berlin to try and capitalise on the uncertain climate that Brexit has created.
Last July, a campaign led by Germany’s Freie Demokraten (FDP), or the Free Democratic Party involved driving a van with a billboard through the heart of London’s Tech City neighbourhood. The van’s colourful billboard read: “Dear start-ups, Keep calm and move to Berlin.” At the time, the FDP party said it expected “quite a number” of London startups to move to Berlin.
Christin Lindner, leader of the FDP party, told Business Insider: “Those who would like to enjoy the advantages of the EU are invited to come to Berlin and make the city even greater together with us. With the combination of liberal policy and smart minds from London, Berlin could be the next European startup hub.”
Last August, Berlin’s Senator for Economics, Technology and Research Cornelia Yzer sent hundreds of letters to British firms and travelled to London Fintech Week to lobby startup founders. She warned them that remaining in Britain after the country leaves the European Union will damage their businesses, and she promised that Berlin will provide resources that will help them relocate.
“Britain’s vote to leave the European Union will severely affect your operations in the United Kingdom,” the letter read. “Probably you will already check the feasibility to move your company right in the heart of the European Union.”
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