Today marks one week since the start of Startup Week and it seems appropriate to come out with a wrap up of the conference’s content and the overall impressions.
I had really high expectations from this event.
1000 attendees in five days is enough to build those kinds of expectations in anyone let alone other event organizers like myself, who know how challenging the logistics that come with those kinds of numbers can be.
Those expectations have been met in some aspects, not as much in other. But one thing seems to be beyond doubt – Startup Week is gearing up to be one of the defining events in the European startup scene and the crew behind it as one of it’s driving forces.
There was a plethora of keynotes, presentations, panels and workshops last week in Vienna. Some were mind-blowing, others a bit underwhelming but all in all a compelling body of programme was prepared for the participants of #sw11 and this in itself is a great achievement and a valid reason for attending.
If you were a startup you had a few very good reasons to attend. The startup competition was very well organized, the judges (mentors) smart and experienced, hardcore but helpful, just as they should be. A significant presence of investors of all kinds is always a good thing for a startup seeking funding and many teams that I talked to took the opportunity and met with potential partners.
A number of keynotes and presentations reserved a spot in the ‘mind-blowing’ category.
Oliver Holle and Erik Bovee of Speedinvest held fantastic informational presentations. I’ve heard a fair share of VC presentations but these guys really killed it, you could really learn a lot and enjoy it too due to their great presentation style. A must for early stage startups, I hope to hear them at some point in the future, ideally when they come to Belgrade. (More on these guys here.)
One of the best motivational keynotes I’ve listened to in person was given by Pascal Finette on Wednesday, when he compared startups to running and shared his lessons with the entrepreneurs in the audience – see more about this presentation here.
TechCrunch day was awesome, not in a small part due to Mike Butcher being on the stage most of the time. Mike is a really awesome guy but on stage – he’s a superstar, whether he’s holding a presentation himself (thou shall not pitch at the urinals), moderating a panel, having a fireside chat or presenting an awards ceremony.
A great piece of motivation and inspiration on Thursday was Facebook’s Christian Hernandez’s highlighting of Serbia’s Nordeus as his favourite European success story (an illustration of how close Nordeus and FB are), which I think all in this region can take as a signal that you can indeed make it big on a global scale no matter where you come from. (More on TC day at #sw11 here.)
To top things of, on Friday we had a chance to hear Doug Richard’s amazing story about his biggest mistake, read all about it here. Can’t wait to hear this guy again.
Despite these really great talks the programme is the one thing that offers the most in terms of potential for making Startup Week better in the future.
Most blocks were longer than optimal IMO, the panels in general could be better moderated and set-up on stage, there was no option for questions from the audience even when there was time for that, more effort could be put into working with speakers to get the most out of their talks…
Being a ‘conference whore’ I can go on and go into detail with this and other critiques but I’ll leave that for the organizers so as not to make this post more TL;DR than it already is.
Was the best thing for me at Startup Week.
A big part of my impression of this event is a sort of who’s who in the CEE startup scene which was a significant upgrade to the traditional circuit of conferences I attend. I had the chance of meeting and talking with amazing people from Germany, Austria, The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia… You name it, they were there.
One of my regrets were not realizing this in time and making a plan to meet as many cool people from as many different European countries, which is forming into the main motivator for me to come back next year.
All in all
The whole thing was a great experience at what is poised to become one the central European startup events, with this year’s edition just a sign of things to come it seems.
The knowledge, inspiration and connections are sure to bring value both in the short and long term. Already looking forward to next year’s edition, the planning for which is already underway if I understand correctly.
Here’s a list of posts about Startup Week on this blog:
VCs are stupid. Not.
Wednesday: Strange is Good
Thursday: TechCrunch Day
Friday: Ready, Aim, Fire – The Story of Doug Richard’s Biggest Mistake
Panel: lessons from bulding a successful startup in CEE (coming soon)