Beyond the massive speculative frenzy around cryptocurrencies, the underlying blockchain technology continues to attract an expanding range of entrepreneurs. This means various regions are now jockeying to become a hub for the growing ecosystem of blockchain startups.
Berlin is one of the cities that believes it’s worthy of the crown, and now it’s getting some help from a joint project launched by two of its more notable blockchain startups. The teams behind Berlin’s Tendermint and Gnosis have joined forces to create Full Node, a blockchain coworking space that will open in March in the city’s Kreuzberg neighborhood.
Gnosis and Tendermint have jointly rented 1000m² of space in the building, which will serve as their new headquarters as well as a co-working space for a combined 100 people. Full Node will offer meeting rooms, open space, and social areas for events and work.
Nadja Beneš, head of brand and content strategy for Gnosis, explained that the idea was initiated by their companies’ respective founders, who saw the number of blockchain entrepreneurs in Berlin growing at a rapid clip.
“The community was really dispersed,” Beneš said. “We had a desire to unite this growing blockchain community.”
Following a year in which Bitcoin soared to insane valuations and initial coin offerings threatened to rewrite the rules of startup funding, a much broader audience is tuning in to subjects like cryptocurrencies and blockchain. And with money flowing into this sector, the number of cities and countries wishing to get in on the action has soared. Malta, Singapore, and Slovenia have made plays to be seen as crypto hubs, while the city of Zug in Switzerland has been dubbed Crypto Valley and Estonia and Belarus have been jockying for position. And that doesn’t even count Europe’s traditional startup hubs, such as London and Paris.
Gnosis, founded by Martin Köppelmann and Stefan George, offers an Ethereum-based system for predicting the value of goods and markets. Originally part of ConsenSys, an Ethereum venture production studio, Gnosis was spun out in early 2017 and raised $ 12.5 in an ICO later that spring.
Meanwhile, Tendermint was originally a project developed by the Interchain Foundation, based in Zug. Tendermint has built a blockchain engine to verify any transactions made on the system are recorded on all machines in the same order. The foundation also raised $ 16.8 billion last year through a token sale to fund the creation of Cosmos, a new project being built by the Tendermint team using its engine to create a system that allows different blockchains to interoperate. The Cosmos project will be based at Full Node.
Cosmos’ head of strategy, Brian Fabian Crain, is host of Epicenter, one of the most popular blockchain podcasts, and is helping to oversee the Full Node project.
The founders of both companies knew each other and as their respective companies became squeezed for space, they set off looking for new digs. At the same time, they realized that the number of folks attending local Blockchain meetups was exploding. The city boasts a growing range of high-profile blockchain startups, including Iota, SatoshiPay, and Bitwala.
“Berlin was a place that attracted digital exiles and tech activists,” said Crain said in an emailed statement about the project. “People who care about anonymity and privacy protection have been moving here for a long time. And it’s a very creative city as well.”
The Full Node team sent out an informal email asking some attendees if they were looking for workspace, and they were overwhelmed by the response. The received almost 100 responses from people asking for space.
After several months of hunting, the companies found space in a three-story brick building owned by Berlin’s Samwer, brothers and cofounders of Rocket Internet.
While the location is starting as a headquarters and coworking space, the longer-term goal is to create interactions between members that facilitate joint projects, experimentation, research, and hopefully the development of new ideas and innovative ways to deploy blockchain technologies. The companies also have an option for a second floor in the building that would double Full Node’s square footage.
Despite the fierce competition to attract blockchain startups, Full Node’s founders are optimistic that the space will make Berlin’s crypto community stronger and even more attractive to entrepreneurs who are searching for the best places to launch a startup and find the talent they need.
“Berlin has the character of being experimental and alternative,” Beneš said. “And I think Full Node is something that perfectly fits the spirit of the city. Berlin is going to become the crypto capital of Europe. And this space will be at the heart of a vibrant blockchain ecosystem.”