It was back in 2013 that British newspaper The Guardian first called Berlin the “Bitcoin Capital of Europe”. Since then, fin-tech has continued to expand in the city.
Today, you can buy a place to live, book the trip of a lifetime, as well as eat and drink in plenty of trendy bars. You can even pay for further education using cryptocurrency.
The European School of Management and Technology (EMST) first started taking payments for their courses in December 2016 in various cryptocurrencies. They currently accept Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin, and Dash. Their CFO, Georg Garlichs, explained to The Local that as an institution, the EMST is hoping to remain up-to-date with financial innovation. They even intend to run a number of courses for students who want to learn more about the whole space. He went on to explain the premise behind cryptocurrency:
“Similar to an SMS, the digital currency enables worldwide money transfers within a few minutes without involving a bank. ESMT is an innovative and future-oriented business school.”
Bitcoin payments have been popular in Berlin for some time now. Leuchtstoff Kaffeebar is one such business that will accept cyptocurrency for their goods and services. For owners like Niels Göttsch, digital currencies represent fascinating innovation. The coffee shop owner told The Local:
“There’s no political decisions in there. The algorithm is transparent to everybody.”
Being outside of state control is also an appealing quality of Bitcoin and other cryptos. In addition, Göttsch loves the international nature of transactions, as well the lack of “random fees” charged by banks. However, when pressed about how many cryptocurrency payments his business takes, he responded:
“It was more in 2012. Now with the high fees it’s not that common anymore.”
As well as plenty of opportunity to spend Bitcoin in Berlin, the tech startup scene there is thriving too. Rhian Lewis, a British software engineer and founder of the digital currency tracking website, countmycrypto.com is herself considering moving to the city on a full time basis. She currently works between the UK and Berlin. The developer explained the allure of Germany’s capital for a cryptocurrency enthusiast like herself:
“I’d never even visited [Berlin] before but I knew there was a lively tech community. I’d been involved in Bitcoin and alts [alternative cryptocurrencies] for about a year, and was part of an online community of crypto women. I mentioned on one of our Google hangouts that I would be working there and it turned out that one of the women on the call – Anna Kurth – was just about to start her own meet-up group for women in Bitcoin [in Berlin].”
For Lewis, Berlin is a hub of creative thinkers – both in a philosophical sense and a technical one. She recalls talking long into the night about innovation with various developers, anarchists, libertarians, entrepreneurs, and cypherpunks. She admits that buying a beer with Bitcoin isn’t practical anymore but believes in the startups that are calling Berlin home today. For her, it’s these companies that will take crypto into the next phase of its evolution. Finally, she compared both the Berlin scene, with that of London:
“Although I’d been to plenty of London meet-ups, most were quite business-focused. Level 39 at Canary Wharf was a frequent meet-up venue, and many of the people at the social events were either preoccupied with their startups or else figuring out how blockchain could work in the context of their banking jobs. In contrast, the grass-roots approach of Berlin’s crypto-enthusiasts was a breath of fresh air.”