In a recent Townhall Call by Because Berlin, Dr. Rainer Seider (Head of Unit, International Cooperation Berlin Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises and Initiator of AsiaBerlin) spoke about the diversity in the city of Berlin and its synergies with AsiaBerlin’s focus on internationalization of startups.
The Townhall Call gathered political, economic, and social stakeholders to discuss this topic on a deeper level. The session was moderated by Karen Kargar, CEO and Founder of Rising, the talent attraction specialists running the Because Berlin project. Rainer joined the panel in good company of Tuba Bozkurt, Antidiscrimination Delegate Alliance 90/The Greens; Dharrshy Shanthakumar, Stakeholder Relations Manager, London & Partners and Mark Ivan Serunjogi, Senior Employer Brand Partner, sennder.
We summarize Rainer´s responses for a short interview with edited excerpts.
Tell us about your role at the Berlin Senate and with the AsiaBerlin Project?
I am working for the Berlin Government, responsible for the European Internal Market, Development Cooperation, and External Economic Policy, supporting the internationalization of SMEs and startups. This gives me the chance to build up contacts with people all over the world and international people in Berlin.
With our startup project AsiaBerlin, we are building bridges from Berlin to Asia to connect startup hubs. We also collaborate with many Asians in Berlin, as natural bridge builders with their countries of origin. They add a strong value to our cooperation.
Working with AsiaBerlin, I witness a fast-growing diversity in the city and the startup ecosystem. It was quite eye-opening during the AsiaBerlin Summit 2020 last September when nobody could fly in from Asia for the event and we still had so many Asian Berliners attending in person and offline as well – that you did not notice a big difference from former years.
What inspired you to be in the role you are in ? What do you find interesting about startups?
I have been constantly working on an international level, already as a student. Today I am focusing very much on startup cooperation as startups have a strong interest in internationalization.
What inspires me the most is the positive spirit of cooperation of young talents in startups. Across the world, they have a similar mindset. Most of them speak English, with a common set of notions and ideas, with high curiosity, and an interest in creating impact.
As finding solutions for problems is the main task for startups, and most of the problems to solve in Southeast and South Asia are very basic – like food, housing, pollution, waste, or climate – startups are working to improve the living conditions in their countries. They focus on social and environmental impact, which are aims of Berlin´s development cooperation policy, too.
Why is it important for you to talk about the international and diverse environment of Berlin?
Berlin makes for the city and society much richer than it was before. Berlin was rather provincial when I moved here 30 years ago. Since then it has changed dramatically. After the fall of the wall, Berlin was in a kind of depression, a vacuum. A vacuum with a strong force to be filled. The artists came first and designers at the end of the 90s. Berlin was fresh, with lots of spaces, and affordable. With the creative people came the clubs then the startups – now the corporates with their most innovative branches.
Berlin is now quite attractive for international talents – and very international, with an English-speaking startup ecosystem. The question is today: How can local communities and ex-pats profit better from each other?
In 2001, Berlin claimed to be “poor but sexy”, but now you can make money here – and it is still sexy.
I would like to add another quote of Klaus Wowereit from 2001 when he presented himself as the candidate for Governing Mayor: “I am gay and that is absolutely fine!” Wowereit was elected, stayed Mayor for 13 years, and a very important icon for the new diverse, creative, and open image of the city.
In 2002, Richard Florida introduced the “gay index” for diversity and inclusion in a city as especially relevant for international talent acquisition and economic prosperity.
I know researches and surveys about ethnic and gender diversity in startup ecosystems but I don´t know a study about the relevance of sexual orientation and identification. I think the situation for queer people is much better in Berlin than in many other countries of the world including Asia. Offering queer talents a new home is perfectly in line with the idea of Because Berlin.
Can you give one concrete example of your work / a success story that you would like to share with the audience (including initiatives outside of your job)?
Firstly, AsiaBerlin shows a perfect win-win situation for the Berlin economy and Asians living here as they add a specific value to our international cooperation. However, this is also true for all migrants in Berlin who are maintaining business contacts with partners in their country of origin.
The second example is my team at the Senate, which is also getting more and more diverse with their Hungarian, Vietnamese, Turkish, Polish, and Bosnian, West and East German backgrounds.
We know there is still a lot of work to be done, but with so many people from around the world moving to cities like London and Berlin to work and run businesses, what would be your message to them about the future?
Berlin is not a perfect city, it is not finished, not yet completed. Berlin is therefore still open to many new ideas. We can offer every new Berliner to build the future, together with us.
You can reach Rainer on Linkedin.
Know more about Because Berlin: https://www.because.berlin/about
You can watch the full video of the Town Hall Call here with the other panelists as well:
AsiaBerlin Resources on Diversity:
Do not miss the AsiaBerlin Summit 2021 ( 4 to 10 October) with even deeper insights in diversity topics ….