»Berlin was a rational choice«
Interview with Naren Shaam, founder and CEO of Go Euro
Bangalore-born Naren Shaam was backpacking across Europe in 2010 when he had the idea of creating a centralized booking platform for bus, trains and flights. He quit his job in financial services in New York and moved to Berlin to set up Go Euro, now Europe’s largest transport platform with 10m users per month.
© Factory Berlin
Why did you choose Berlin as your base in Europe?
The European start-up hubs that were the most famous at the time were London, Stockholm and Berlin. Berlin is the most central and has a better cost of labor than London. It was a rational choice. I needed a large engineering base, the ability to attract talent at affordable prices from Eastern Europe and to be able to scale fast. We are 60 per cent engineers now.
What are the main strengths and weaknesses of Berlin as a start-up hub?
For small start-ups who have no real idea of how to build a large company, the ecosystem in Berlin is great, but two things have to happen to grow it. First: access to more senior talent who can scale businesses. I want Berlin to produce the million- or even billion-dollar companies that come out of London or Stockholm. Second: more small exits in the second and third years to allow capital back into the system.
Did you have any preconceptions about Germany before coming here?
The general image of Germany is one of a very organized country with an efficient and productive population. Berlin is a melting pot, known for diversity and freedom, for the music and the art scene and recently for the strong tech environment.
Since moving here, have your views about Germany changed?
I was expecting some obstacles, especially for a non-German speaker, like opening a bank account. Instead, Germany and Berlin welcomed me very well. It is my home now.
How does the working culture differ from New York or London?
I have lived in New York and it is more competitive, fast-paced and with crazier working hours. Both cities are extremely diverse, multicultural and offer access to anything you are looking for. The extra advantage of Berlin compared to London and New York is that there is a higher quality of life here.
What do you like about living and working in Germany?
I very much appreciate the alternative and international vibe of its capital, standing on the backbone of a strong German economy. Given the political wildness that is happening in the world, I also find security in the leader of the country I live in today.
What do you take pride in?
We are extremely diverse, reflecting that the decision-makers in families are women. We have over 200 employees from 40 countries, and 46 per cent are women.
What are your plans for 2017?
I hope we will have most of Europe covered in the next couple of years. Longer term, I hope I can bring to this industry the simplicity of some of the products that Amazon and Google have provided.