How to find a startup job in Leipzig
14th Nov 2016
Last Updated: 5th March 2019
16 min read
It’s no secret, startup jobs have been a little bit of their own craze in the last 5 years or so. There’s very good reason for this too, looking back in the early phases of the 00’s we had tech companies such as Apple make a comeback and create and empire, and we’ve also had newer players to the game such as Google and Facebook who secured their places in internet royalty early on. From these stories, and the continued advancement of the internet, came a sprawl of successful tech startups such as Uber, Airbnb, Dropbox, and Pinterest. Silicon Valley quickly took the crown as the startup hub of the universe, and sky-rocketed a culture of aspiring entrepreneurs worldwide. If a problem exists somewhere in the world, you can assume with 90% certainty, that a startup exists that is trying to resolve that problem, or at the very least make it an easier problem to deal with.
What makes startup jobs in Leipzig so attractive anyways?
There is a number of reasons why one may be attracted to this world. Perhaps you yourself are an entrepreneur, you’ve seen what the world can offer first hand and you’re making a shift. Or on the other hand, perhaps you come from years of experience in the corporate world? Whatever your reasons may be, these are some of the most common reasons we hear people want to work in, or enjoy working, the startup world:
- It’s flexible and fluid. Most startups embrace this ideology of ”If it’s a good idea let’s run with it. If it works, great, if it doesn’t let’s learn from our mistakes. This fires up a lot of people who are looking to break away from the corporate approval structure. Since I’ve shifted over the tech world, this has been my number one asset for wanting to continue working in this field. To this date, it still drives me every so slightly crazy when I may be working with in a consultant capacity with a company who still IS in the old corporate mindset, and it takes 2 kilograms of paperwork, five separate conversations over Skype, in-person, and then on FaceTime, and over six months to finally come to a decision to change the color of the button on the homepage from blue to dark blue. I mean come on now, seriously? Some companies need to get over the archaic governance policies they’ve been following, and simply adapt a more fluid structure. Startup style!
- It’s generally more fun. Startups foster a fun work place. If you tour the offices of Google, you won’t find death by fluorescent lighting bathing a never ending sea of office cubicles, instead, you’ll see daycares for children, ping pong tables, foosball tables, stocked kitchens, and round the clock cafes and cafeterias on site. The cause for this? Well, Google believes that employees actually want to be at work because they believe they’re serving a great cause, they’ll work more effectively. And it’s true, some of the brightest and best thought out ideas that have ever stemmed from companies have been developed while playing a game of ping pong, or a video game break. Startups and tech companies have learned that the mental pause can prevent feelings of burn out, and keep creativity going. You’ll see this emulated in a lot of startups across the world, beautifully designed, inspiring, and fun office environments.
- You’ll learn more. When you take a startup job in Leipzig, or anywhere in the world for that matter, it is very likely you’re going to only be performing your duties in the role you were hired for. Meaning, if you’re hired as a Ruby developer, you’ll probably also learn a little bit about business planning, financing, and marketing as well. This is especially true for earlier-stage startups, the newer you are, the more hats you can expect to wear. Oddly enough, a lot of people tend to see this as a benefit. I mean, where else can you work for a company for 3-5 years, and get intensive experience in 4 different C-level areas? The payoff for this type of real world experience is something that a book simply cannot teach you. You’re going to get beat up, thrown into a corner, and want to cry, but at the end of the day, you know what they say, ”What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. And this will hold ever so true with your career experience.
Why you should specifically consider a startup job in Leipzig
Leipzig puts you in a good spot (literally) both geographically and technologically. The city is in the German state of Saxony, and is roughly 200km south of Berlin, 120km west of Dresden, and about 260km from Prague. What does this mean for you? A good mix of work and pleasure. The German capital city is one of the biggest startup hubs in modern-day Europe, but it is massive in both terms of the city and also its startup scene. This can have advantages and disadvantages, but in Leipzig you tend to only get the advantages. It’s very easy to take a day trip out to Berlin to make business meetings, networking events, and so forth, but you won’t drown in the startup world in Leipzig, we’re still pretty small and comfortable, and there’s really still a community feeling here in our startup world. Everyone still pretty much knows each other, and it is very easy to get things done. However, when you need the support from the capital, or just another major city such as Dresden, or even need to quickly expand across German borders, you can accomplish all of this in one single day. In your free-time, should you happen to find any of this ;-) , you’ll have those same opportunities to go exploring to everything Leipzig has in its immediate vicinity.
One of the beautiful buildings to be found in Leipzig
Within Leipzig itself, you’ll find a myriad of lakes and rivers to take part in water-sports, forests for hiking, picnicking, and exercise, and a vibrant restaurant/cafe/nightlife scene to boot. Small city feel with a lot of heart, and some great people. Oh, and once you try a Leipziger Lercher you definitely won’t want to be leaving our city anytime soon.
Furthermore, Leipzig houses its own international airport, as well as the biggest train station in Europe (by floor size). So getting into, out of, and back to Leipzig is easy. You’ll have Europe at your fingertips from here.
Ok, so now you’re sold on Leipzig, but how does one find a startup job here?
Do we have you sold on Leipzig? Good. But trust me, opportunities are not just going to fall into your lap, but they are here if you’re ready to put some effort into finding them. As a side note, this guide is really focused on people from outside of Germany, looking for jobs in Leipzig. That being said, the tips in here can really apply to anyone.
Build a network
Ah the classic adage, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Well in the modern startup world, it actually is rather important what you know, it still helps to make some contacts in the city. Naturally, this isn’t something you want to go into blindly, rather you want to find the people who have connections to the startup world in Leipzig as a whole. Below are some resources for where you should look, and who you should talk to.
- Facebook Groups. People in the startup world generally know how to leverage social media at least on a very basic level. These groups are generally pretty active with people bouncing ideas off of each other, networking, or just generally trying to help people out. Leipzig has its very own “Startupszene Leipzig Facebook Group” which, at the time of writing this article, currently boasts 2196 members. Keeping tabs in here to see what local startups are into can give you some great insights, and more importantly, a direct contact to the person posting news updates. Most of the posting in here is in German, but it is fairly international as well. Don’t be scared off if your German isn’t so great, feel free to post in here in English, chances are you’ll be understood. A good side-note is to also sign up for the “Berlin Startups Facebook Group” just due to its sheer size. As of this article, it’s at 26,718 members, and chances are someone in here may be able to help out in Leipzig as well.
- Basislager Coworking Space is exactly what it sounds like, a coworking space based right in the heart of Leipzig. They house a good amount of startups, business entrepreneurs, and freelancers in Leipzig. Furthermore, they also have a bunch of events throughout the year in Leipzig that you can attend to expand your network. I’d recommend checking out their events calendarand seeing what is coming up. Some of their most well known events are their monthly FuckUp Nights, where you can learn about someone else’s mistakes so that you hopefully you can avoid making them yourself, and they also partake in the Leipzig Startup Safary which brings investors, VC’s, jobseekers, corporations, entrepreneurs, press, and service providers together for a day-long event that takes place throughout the city of Leipzig. Overall, a very strong place to make some connections if a job in Leipzig is your goal.
- Digital Yuppies are actually a group of digital technology enthusiasts who organize small networking & conference events, based out of Rome. They’re well connected with some big names in the startup & tech fields, and lately they’ve expanded their operations to Leipzig, you can find information about this in their Digital Yuppies Germany Facebook Group, and the good news is that, being that these guys are from Italy their events are conducted entirely in English. A good benefit for those of you still looking to improve your German language skills.
- The SpinLab Jobs Page of course, what blog post would be complete without a shameless plug? But in seriousness, our network and available jobs are always expanding. Currently we’ve graduated 18 different startups from all different kinds of fields through our accelerator program, and many of them are rapidly scaling and could use talent. I would definitely recommend booking marking this page as we update it frequently, and opportunities are available in both German and English.
- Social Impact Lab Leipzig is actually an incubator here not too far from us at the SpinLab. They’re focused on companies that are in their earlier stages, that directly contribute to well, social impact! Keep an eye on their community page to get in touch with company founders from all around the world.
- The Leipzig Glocal will be one of your saving graces if you’re German is not so great. Their sole purpose in life is to offer an inside guide to Leipzig, ALL IN ENGLISH! If you need an English-speaking doctor, entertainment options, or even a job in Leipzig for international people, you can find it on their site! Furthermore, they update their events page quite regularly, so you can definitely find your way to some good old fashioned networking here.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Learn some German
I hate to break it to you non-German speaking friends, but it will greatly enhance your job-finding capabilities in Germany if you can grasp some basic German. Not just for working in the future job you want to find, but also for dealing with the process involved with relocating to Germany. You don’t necessarily need business-level German to land a job here (I am an example of this), but dealing with the logistics will be that much easier if you can navigate German bureaucracy on your own. You won’t always have a German speaker with you, so knowing some ins and outs will help. Here are my top three resources for learning German fast.
Yes, you’ll need to at least learn a little bit of German to prosper here
- Smarter German is a Berlin-based company headed by Michael Schmitz, a seasoned German teacher. If you speak 0 German, I would recommend starting here. I would not bother with anything else you find online, get the foundation of your German speaking from him. He uses a wide range of mnemonics, songs, and other creative methods to get confusing German grammar topics to stick in your head, forever. I absolutely cannot recommend his product highly enough, it is worth every cent he charges for it. Plus it is all self-study, so you don’t have to factor in a commute or a boring classroom lecture, you can do it all on your own at your pace. Here’s a sample of one of their super catchy ways of learning some German grammar concepts, I dare you to find a more sure fire way to memorize the dative prepositions!
- iTalki is a website completely dedicating to finding someone to speak to. The prices range depending on what you’re looking for, but I’ve been able to have hour long conversations with native-German speakers on here for as low as $4, which is a complete steal. The prices go up as you look for certified, more experienced teachers, but from the beginning phases that isn’t really necessary. A cheap tandem partner via the site is great, because you can make mistakes and not feel worried about feeling bad that the tandem partner has to correct your mistakes. Your basically paying them to do so, a lot of people feel very shy in the early phases about being corrected by their friends and coworkers, so they default to speaking in English. With iTalki, you get a safe place to make all the mistakes you want. Like Smarter German, this is all online based, so you can schedule the sessions when you want and also do them online. Super convenient!
- Meetup.com is another great resource to find language exchanges AND network, how can you go wrong!? Simply go to the site and create a profile, and search “German” in your area. Chances are there is a language meetup, where you can practice your skills and meet people in person. A great way to kill two birds with one stone.
Have desired skills that startups in Germany need
If you want a startup job, there’s a chance you may be graduating from university soon and will be searching for your first real job, or you’re in the market for a career change, either way you’ll want to make sure you’re beefed up on skills that are consistently in demand in the startup world. Startups in Leipzig are generally in need of help with:
- Marketing Mindsets Ok, so I am a bit biased here being that I am the marketer at the SpinLab, but just as crucial as coding, founders typically need someone to get their product in front of their audience smartly. Emphasis on smartly. If you recall from another article, why startups struggle with online marketing, you’ll remember that founders have a bad habit of wanting to throw lots of money at the problem early on in the game. A good marketer will develop a scalable marketing plan for you, that grows with the product and makes use of your budget as best as possible. Best to implement this sooner than later.
- Finance and Business Gurus it goes without saying, that money management is a skill on its own. This can get especially dangerous if you’re a new startup not used to things like business taxation, regional financial laws and grants, and other financial bureaucratic objects of concern. Hire someone who knows what they’re doing in this realm, this way you’ll make sure you’re making the most of the money you’ve got, and you’re not missing out on any money you could be getting. Something as simple what city to officially register your business in, could be an overlooked and costing mistake.
Keep your programming skills fresh to advance in the startup world
Be open minded and flexible
A startup job in Leipzig can be a truly rewarding experience, but as already mentioned in this article, Leipzig is still a growing and thriving scene in the startup world. You cannot expect to show up in this city with an exact idea of what you want to do for a startup, and then land exactly that job. If you do, great, if not, then don’t sweat it. As we’ve seen in other startup hubs such as Silicon Valley, London, Boston, Berlin, and Hong Kong, these worlds grow fast and what you’re doing today very well may not be how you’re operating in 6 months, just keep that in mind. You may be an experienced corporate financial analyst with 15 years of experience in Europe’s biggest firms suddenly thrown into a mix full of young graduate school graduates building their idea for the first time, but that experience counts despite the cultural shift. Same goes the other way around, sometimes it takes new eyes to the industry to break some old habits and get you guys to the next level. Just remember, joining this world is a lifestyle, and a passionate one at that, so keep your eyes and mind open, dive in, and get ready for the ride of your life.
Bonus things to consider
There’s already a lot of great information out there regarding these topics, so I am not going to attempt to reinvent the wheel here, but know that if you’re coming from a non-EU country trying to relocate to Germany you’ll have to deal with visa issues. Simply doing a search for “working visa in Germany” should bring you a slew of good articles written by various people who have made the switch themselves. A good reference I also like to refer people to regarding visa issues is make-it-in-germany.com, as they’re officially sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, as well as the Federal Agency of Work in Germany. You can be sure the information here will be valid and up to date as it comes from official sites. Sometimes the information you find on a blogger’s article, while good, can also be outdated. Furthermore, lostinleipzig.com is a great resource, all in English, about Leipzig going over things like transportation, neighborhoods, how to find a furnished apartment, insurance, entertainment, and much more. It will definitely come in handy if you’re planning a relocation here, and don’t have your German skills where you want them to be yet.