BERLIN — SoundCloud is one of Europe’s best known startups but the music streaming business wouldn’t be where it is today if it wasn’t for London, according to the company’s cofounder, Eric Wahlforss.
SoundCloud was founded in Berlin in 2007 but the company, which had global ambitions from the start, was quick to expand, opening an office in London’s Soho in 2008.
“We raised a seed round here [in Berlin] but very quickly, however, we started going to London on a regular basis,” said Wahlforss at a UK trade mission event held Berlin on Monday.
“London was always the more established and the more professional hub,” added Wahlforss. “It was where the capital was and still is to a large extent. And so that was incredibly important to us early on in the history of the company.”
Wahlforss added: “I go there [London] regularly and it’s a crucial place for us to be as a global platform.”
SoundCloud has raised over has raised $US298 million (£238 million) from a range of venture capital investors, including around $US70 million (£59 million) from Twitter and an unknown amount (likely to be in the tens of millions) from investors in London, such as Index Ventures. More than 150 million pieces of content have been uploaded to its platform, including music from some of the world’s biggest artists.
SoundCloud employs around 400 people in total. The majority of those are based at its headquarters in Berlin but the company also has around 100 staff in London and a sizable team in New York City.
While London is key to the company, Berlin is still where Wahlforss spends most of his time.
“It has this kind of punk vs tech, vs up and coming, sort of slightly left feel,” said Wahlforss, who is also SoundCloud’s chief product officer.
“Since the first time I came to Berlin 20 years ago now, in 1997, Berlin has come such a long way. It’s now a global city. London has always been global and is probably the most global hub in Europe, but Berlin has become that global place as well.
“If I look back 10 years ago, Berlin was a nascent [startup] ecosystem. It didn’t have all of the infrastructure in place, but it had certainly some of the raw ingredients. I think London helped to bootstrap Berlin into the thriving ecosystem that it is today. And today I think it’s the fastest growing ecosystem.”
One of the reasons that Berlin’s startup ecosystem is growing fast is an increase in the amount of capital that’s available to startups, according to Wahlforss.
Europe needs to come together to compete with ‘innovation super powers’
Wahlforss went on to stress that European startup hubs should work together if they want to compete with the likes of Silicon Valley, while hinting that Brexit is a step in the wrong direction.
“Europe is really competing against the other innovation super powers in the world,” he said. “Anything we can do to come together and double down on the strengths we have, then we should do that.”
He added: “I appreciate it’s very hard given the natural fragmentation that’s happening in Europe. But we should do that.”
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