When Pratyush Saxena decided to move away from London in 2013, he chose the small, eastern German city of Jena as the best location to launch his new business, Ideatarmac. It helps companies integrate various aspects of online retail platforms and services. Jena is best known for optics, but for nearly three decades it’s also played a pivotal role in German e-commerce. The Intershop platform, a pioneer of online retail, was established there in 1992 before most people thought shopping on the Web was even possible.
“Jena already had a lot of infrastructure in place, and it’s a university town,” Saxena remembers. “This made the decision much easier for me.”
The presence of a major university and a spectrum of tech companies has helped him find skilled employees. “You could call it a mini Silicon Valley,” Saxena says, noting that the cost of living in eastern Germany is a fraction of what it is in the US tech mecca.
Ideatarmac is now flourishing in Jena with annual growth of up to 40 percent. Reflecting on the early years, the biggest challenge for Saxena was not navigating the complexities of setting up shop in Germany but learning a new language. “Starting a business here is very easy,” he says. “Internationals like me get a lot of help.” With a bit of help from his tax adviser, he also managed to master the language eventually. “He was my biggest German teacher. He couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak German.”