WHAT MAKES BERLIN FEEL LIKE HOME FOR YOU?
I grew up in small town America. I was the only black person for much of my education and that can make it hard to feel a sense of home. What’s very special for me about Berlin is the diversity. I don’t stand out. I have this tribe around me from different places and perspectives.
WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR IN BERLIN?
One thing that is exciting about being in Berlin is that it truly is a startup capital in Europe. On one hand there are a lot of investors, funds, angel investors anchored here. And, if you’re a founder that wants to build a diverse team, with different experiences, you can do it here, too.
HOW ELSE CAN YOU FULFILL YOUR PURPOSE IN BERLIN?
Outside of being a mum and running a startup I also am a co-organizer of Tech in Color, a platform for female founders who have faced obstacles due to their race or ethnicity. It is now supported by a few amazing organizations including Google Startup and London & Partners.
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THOSE CONSIDERING BERLIN?
I would say to anyone who’s watching this and thinking about moving to Berlin, just do it. I know it sounds crazy because moving countries means a lot of goodbyes and bureaucracy. But if there’s a city that’s worth it, it’s Berlin, because you will find your group, you will find your tribe.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE BERLIN FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
I moved to Berlin for my first business. I always thought I would be happy with a job. Then I started working and realized I wanted my own business. I started researching where to go. I ended up reading about Berlin a lot and I really liked what I read.
DID YOU GET HELP MOVING?
When I decided to come to Berlin, Berlin Partner was a great help. They were instrumental in helping me negotiate the bureaucracy. It took me a total of 18 months to get my visa. Berlin Partner stepped in around 12 months into the process and helped accelerate it quite dramatically.
WHAT SETS BERLIN APART?
There's no place more diverse than Berlin in terms of the interaction it enables. This diversity from artists and musicians, to super techy people is a beautiful mix to see. When you have a liberal environment and a diverse group of people, a lot of interesting things develop.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO BERLIN?
Berlin allows anyone to be who they truly want to be. That is why it’s a city people are attracted to. That’s what attracted me. The moment you have a place which allows people this freedom, you're able to offer more opportunities; you get interesting people moving to the city.
WHAT'S IT LIKE WORKING IN BERLIN?
I’m a founding member of the European Network Architecture for Health. The headquarters are here in Berlin and it’s difficult to persuade the others to meet anywhere else. They love it here because of the architecture and because everyone speaks English in Berlin, it’s easy to get around the city.
HAS BERLIN HELPED YOU ALONG THE WAY?
The city of Berlin has been very supportive over the years. Initially when I was a student, I was given emergency assistance with my rent, later I needed help looking for a new job, and most recently as an entrepreneur I have been granted six months support for my startup.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF BERLINERS?
Berliners are very open, relaxed and laid back. It has been very helpful. Also, I've never seen a similar attitude to academia anywhere else in Germany. I think this attitude makes it more acceptable for newcomers to interrupt or to be spontaneous. People here are very approachable, and happy to help.
WHAT'S THE STANDARD OF LIVING LIKE?
The quality of living in Germany in general is excellent. And in Berlin I think it’s even better. This is a city where I don't need a car. I can move everywhere and there are a lot of parks, which is very important now that my family is growing.
IS MOVING TO BERLIN COMPLICATED?
The German Chamber of Commerce and Berlin Partner were extremely helpful with my move to Berlin. I think the whole transition took less than three weeks. It’s a miracle if you think about the bureaucratic process in any other country. German bureaucracy is very smooth; don’t believe the stereotype.
HOW DOES BERLIN COMPARE WITH OTHER CITIES?
Berlin has more flair than other German cities. I lived in Munich for a year, and it was only after eight months that I realized that it is a beautiful city. It is not immediately welcoming. But Berlin is a welcoming city. It’s just its nature I believe.
DO YOU SEE BERLIN AS A CITY OF FREEDOM AND EQUALITY?
In Berlin, I see friendship. I see brotherhood or sisterhood. I don't feel excluded; I feel equal. Berlin is a free city. And freedom is something that you do not realize that you need. Unless you lose it. If you are free, you will not realize that you are free.
IS IT EASY FOR YOU TO WORK HERE?
Berlin is one of the very few cities in the world where you can find almost anything you need. For instance, I can find a Turkish literary agent here and also French publishers. You don't have that kind of luxury anywhere else. It is like a 365-day publishing trade fair.
WHAT'S FREELANCING LIKE IN BERLIN?
As a freelance developer in Berlin, I’ve worked with some great clients. One of my favorites was a startup called Heycar. They had a lot of resources and were growing fast, which was perfect. We were working in Hackescher Markt, which was a vibrant, fun and exciting place to work.
WHAT KIND OF TEAMS DO YOU WORK WITH?
The office language is usually English. I’ve worked with diverse teams, with people from Ireland, Brazil, Turkey and Romania. That creates a strong spirit of camaraderie and community, which I really enjoy. For me, a good team is as important as working with the latest technologies.
IS IT HARD TO FIND WORK?
It’s not as easy to find freelance contracts as it is to find full time employment. Many companies prefer to hire full time employees. However, if you prefer having time between jobs for other interests or go travelling, it can work out nicely.
WHAT DO YOU DO BETWEEN JOBS?
When I’m between contracts I like to do a lot of art. The break gives me the perfect opportunity to explore that more deeply. I wouldn’t call this a job; it’s another important part of my life.