North Americans enjoy a plethora of startups-meet-VC’s type of events. Likewise, Western Europe enjoys its fair share of great startups and investors in the same room, but what about another blossoming hotbed of activity, mainly the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region? Until now, your options were rather limited, with long haul flights and mediocre hotel food on the menu. However, if organizers from StartupWeek have anything to say about it, the traditional East-meets-West city of Vienna, Austria will become the focal hub for CEE region entrepreneurs and Venture Capitalists alike.
This coming October 3rd – 7th, STARTeurope and Initial Factor are hosting the StartupWeek event that will bring over 50 hand selected CEE based startups, 70 speakers, and 100 investors together. With topics ranging from “What investors are looking for,” to “How can European startups be successful on world markets,” the weeklong event holds something for just about every would-be Zuckerberg.
“The most awesome stage”
Last year, Facebook's VP of Design thought the TNW Conference main stage was the best she'd ever been on.
While the keynotes and presentations side of the conference doesn’t kick off until Wednesday the 5th, the 3rd and 4th will play host to the Challenge phase of the event. Conference organizer Andreas Tschas says that they’ve seen hundreds of applications come in, but only 50 of the most promising ventures have been selected to take part in the inaugural StartupWeek.
Selected startups will receive two days of intense training including investor-focused workshops, how to deal with the media sessions, and a host of other startup related advise and tips from industry veterans.
“This is very important to us. At all of our events, we want to develop; not just meet each other, but also do some interactive work together and push the ideas even further,” comments Tschas.
On the second day of the challenge, startups are expected to put these skills to use, and will pitch their startup ideas to a selected jury. This jury will be comprised mainly of private investors, but will also include members from public institutions that are providing seed money and funding. From here, the top 10 teams, as selected by the jury, will have 48 hours to further refine their pitch, as Thursday will see an open pitch-to-the-panel in front of all conference attendees in the main hall of The Federation of Austrian Industry.
So other than fame, what’s in it for the winner? According to Tschas, there will be a number of prizes yet to be announced. Perhaps even more valuable than cash, the winner of the StartupWeek Challenge will receive tickets to, and stay at StartupWeek’s Silicon Valley based house. Over the course of the following three weeks, members from STARTeurope and Initial Factor will connect the winning team with S.V. based investors. I asked Tschas if this wasn’t just another export program, to which he replied, “Oh no, of course they have to come back to Europe, our goal here is to help CEE based companies find and build bridges to some of the hottest markets around the globe.”
Flipping through StartupWeek’s lineup of speakers reads like a “who’s who,” with notable figures including Morten Lund – CEO of Everbread, one of the very first to invest in Skype, Christian Hernandez – Head of International Development, Facebook, and Anil Hansjee – former Head of Corporate Development, Google Inc. Lund is expected to share his sage wisdom in a “Lessons Learned” keynote, while Hernandez will present his thoughts on “The Power of the Graph.”
Red Bull’s, Alexander Koppel – CCO Red Bull Media House will be on hand, presenting Red Bull’s involvement not only in Mobile and Telecom operations, but also where Red Bull wants to go with regards to their involvement in the startup scene. Likewise, the StartupWeek event will feature a “New dimensions of success: localize.socialize.mobilize” discussion panel comprised of Cristian Cussen – VP & Managing Director Europe & Latin America, Ning, Dave Scheine – Director of European Operations, Yelp, Sebastian Heinzel – CEO, Tripwolf, and Clemens Beer – CEO, Tupalo.
Event organizer Jürgen Furian informs me that more speakers are currently being added to the lineup, with emails and calls out to both Ashton Kutcher and serial entrepreneur Richard Branson (pictured right). He also admits that the organization has just confirmed the attendance of a founder and CEO of a startup, “…that’s in super stealth mode right now, so I can’t officially announce it quite yet.”
As StartupWeek will focus on CEE based organizations, two key success stories are planned. Prezi founder Adam Somlai-Fischer will present his case as to how and why a Central and Eastern European company can take on the world in “Adam vs. Goliath – prezi’s take on ppt,”, while Social Bakers CEO and co-founder Jan Rezab will present his, “New insights into the social media eco-system,” keynote.
Over the course of two days an additional 61 speakers are expected to share there insights and experience with startups and those involved with the startup scene. Rounding out each day, the StartupWeek organizers have programmed a Fireside Chat, which will allow participants to view/listen in on an individual’s unique road to success. First on tap is Steve Rogers, whose career highlights not only include Director EMEA at Google, but a healthy stint as General Manager Digital Services at British Telecom, and Head of Production and Development at the BBC.
As mentioned above, hopeful startups will pitch their ideas on Thursday, October 6th, to a live audience and panel of investors. 10 teams will have approximately 7.5 minutes each to convey their ideas and “Pitch the Rich.” Post pitching, jury members will have 4 hours to make their decision, as the awards ceremony will kick off at approximately 7pm CET.
The Follow Through
One of StartupWeek’s founding principles is to not only fire up the CEE region when it comes to startup activity and connections to investors, but to keep this fire going throughout the year.
“We are organizing a number of Startup events across Europe already, and there we said, ‘OK, all these teams have one weekend to develop their idea, but then they have this hole. So the motivation over the weekend is very high, everyone is motivated, but after the weekend, it’s a problem,’ and so we thought we needed to create an event which will keep teams motivated about their idea(s) … and we came up with the StartupWeek,” says organizer Andreas Tschas. “We want to bring the very best startups from Europe together in Vienna, once a year.”
The first round of Early Bird tickets has already passed, but a second round of tickets are now available here.
More information, and a full schedule of events can be found here.