Wow, what can we say? First of all, thank you to all participants, startups, investors, geeks, speakers and sponsors of ADVANCE11. You made this a f***ing great conference (as Morten would put it). And you are the reason why we hosted ADVANCE and would love to do it again.
Almost 500 participants from 15 countries met at Trinity Church and Cologne Academy of Media Arts on September 19 & 20, 2011 to network, gain insights into founder secrets and to find out about the latest trends in financing and tech.
It is hard to extract the highlights of ADVANCE as there were so many. Of course there was Morten Lund with his keynote “Today is not tomorrow” (he admitted that the title has no deeper meaning), sharing his personal experiences as startup founder as well as investor. Then the brilliant and funny talks hosted by Mike Butcher, editor-in-chief of TechCrunch Europe. On day one Mike was grilling investors in a kind of reverse pitch, pledging for more transparency from European VCs to publish their financial performance and transaction sizes. The following day Mike and his panelists declared Europe’s stigma as a copycat continent as over. Our friends at the European Pirate Summit literally burned the “copycat guy” that same evening.
A special highlight for our team was the video message by Neelie Kroes, who made it very clear that Europe needs events like ADVANCE. She presented the latest EU activities that will help building an “innovation ecosystem” and emphasized the importance of feedback from within the founders’ community.
Many participants were stunned by Stefan Wrobel’s keynote on the “Next big thing”. Prof. Wrobel from Fraunhofer Institute presented seven key tech trends that will shape the web business in the future.
The feedback on our “FounderLeaks” sessions was overwhelming, too: Experienced entrepreneurs like Morten Lund, Lars Hinrichs or Verena Delius gave personal advice to the participants during these intimate fireside chats. The sessions proved a strong demand for support and mentoring in early-stage startups. “FounderLeaks” met these needs 100 % and we are thinking about transforming it into an ongoing, detached format that we might host throughout the year (Feedback welcome!).
Another important ingredient of the conference were the pitching sessions, both open and closed. 13 pre-selected startups pitched for the ADVANCE Award in front of an investor jury. In the end, it was the Cologne-based startup Parstream (big data analytics) who made first place, followed by mobile bits (multi-platform gaming engine from Hamburg) and French startup darling onefeat (social game based on real-life actions). A special prize was contributed by US seed accelerator blackbox, who invited Dutch startup Springest („The booking.com for personal & professional development“) to stay at their “Playboy mansion for geeks” in Silicon Valley for one week. In two open pitching sessions, more than 20 startups seized the chance to gain visibility and find new partners and peers. There were some complaints about the closed pitching format, which we are taking very seriously to make these sessions even more valuable for everybody next time.
So far, our lessons learned from ADVANCE are these:
- “Germany is fucking amazing” (Morten Lund)
- Founders don’t need to be afraid of failure and should start talking about it more openly. No one in the Valley will finance you, if you haven’t failed before (Mike Butcher)
- There is still a big gap between USA and Europe in terms of venture capital investments. Especially German investors need to become ready to take more risks.
- In terms of creativity and disruptive innovation potential, Europe has no reason to hide behind the US. If European VCs and business angels don’t recognize this potential, someone else will.
- There are several dozen of upcoming incubator/ accelerator programs that respond to the needs of digital media startups – beyond cash!
- You can often tell something about a man (investor) by the kinds of shoes he wears and how big the size is. (Mike Butcher)
The whole conference has been captured in text and video footage, which is now available on our website:
There has been extensive media coverage on ADVANCE that we are currently gathering for you. One article, which we are particularly proud of, has been published by WIRED: “Six steps to creating the perfect tech conference, ADVANCE style” (http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2011-09/26/advance).
Disclaimer: The author got one thing wrong: ADVANCE has not been the first conference we ever hosted (that much is true: it was our first web & startup conference). And it will not have been the last one.
Your ADVANCE Team
- BAND – Business Angels Netzwerk Deutschland
- European Pirate Summit
- European SME Week
- European Union
- Hanse Ventures
- H-FARM Ventures
- High-Tech Gründerfonds
- Gründerwettbewerb – IKT Innovativ
- Ministry of Federal Affairs, Europe and the Media of North Rhine-Westphalia
- Ministry for Economic Affairs, Energy, Building, Housing and Transport
- NUK Neues Unternehmertum Rheinland e.V.
- sandbox network
- The Startup Kids