2023 edition: Dispatches’ list of the best startup and tech events across Europe and the Middle East

(Editor’s note: This post on the best startup and tech events – part of our Tech Tuesdays series – will be updated through 2023 as we get new announcements. We cover the startup and tech scenes because Dispatches is dedicated to the highly skilled internationals who power economies across Europe.)

Everyone is coming back to the world of innovation after the summer break, so, we’re pleased to tell you can look forward to heavy schedule of startup and tech events through the rest of 2023.

Not that you need to try to attend them all.

It’s easy to make fun of some of the more pompous and pointless events. But we go to multiple tech events each year, and some are amazing, with levels of sophistication missing in a lot of innovation centers, even in the United States. And yeah, some are meh. It’s up to you to figure out which are relevant to where you’re team is in the development process and which are excuses to squeeze money out of startups that don’t have much.

What we’re not including this year are the invitation-only events with movie stars and non-tech celebrities, which are usually too expensive and too exclusive. More and more, these tech events are just big parties, but we’ve included a few where you can meet potential investors and people in your industry and learn from them.

Most of these are the first events since the COVID pandemic, so expect crowds. And all are significantly more expensive since our most recent list in 2020.

We started this list as a way to keep track ourselves of what’s going and to smarten up about the European scene. But it quickly attracted a significant audience across Europe. So we’ll do better at keeping it as up-to-date as possible.

We promise.

Feel free to send us your events at: terry@dispatcheseurope. And thanks to all of you who have sent/suggested events.

Bits & Pretzels Founders Festival, 24 thru 26 September in Munich

Bits & Pretzels is the first big gathering after the summer break. It’s also the celebrity tech festival, with a whole lot of people who have absolutely nothing to do with tech (Barack Obama, Arnold Schwarzenegger) appearing in past years, as well as a fair number of people you really should know including seriously flush VCs.

No Arnold or Barack for 2023, but Simon Schmincke, a GP at venture capital firm Creandum is on the list along with UiPath co-founder Daniel Dines and Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb co-founder. Oh, and the final day segues into Oktoberfest.

This is a crazy expensive event and you have to apply to attend, which you can do here.

AI & Big Data Expo, 26 & 27 September in Amsterdam

What’s hotter than artificial intelligence. We dunno … let’s ask ChatGPT:


How do you even know if this wasn’t written by some chatbot? Okay, it wasn’t, but that’s the shape of things to come in our world these days.

AI is evolving every minute of every day. Humans, not so much. So, this is your chance to catch up with new capabilities and applications. A projected 6,000 attendees from across Europe are expected including CTO’s, heads of innovation and technology, IT directors, telecom providers, developers, startups and VCs etc.

Speakers this year include:

• Sanchit Juneja, the machine learning/data scientist human at

• Haider Alleg from Swiss VC Allegory Capital.

• A “senior representative” from analytics company Elsevier.

This is mostly a Dutch event, but like all Dutch events, it will be in English.

You can get tickets here, and it appears you can apply as a sentient being for free tickets.

World Summit AI, 11 & 12 October in Amsterdam

Modestly billing itself as “the only AI summit in the world that matters,” World Summit AI joins an increasingly crowded field of AI events. That said, no one – not techies, not executive, not investors and not government officials – can get enough.

WSAI  promises “the brightest AI brains” as speakers and this year the topics will include ChatGPT, generative AI, AI at the Edge and cyber security. (This is a partnership between CES Unveiled Amsterdam and World Summit AI.)

But for such a proud event, there aren’t any speakers from IBM, Microsoft or Google, though David Andre, the chief science officer at Apple’s secret Moonshot Factory is on the speakers list. There are also alot of researchers, mostly from top American universities including MIT, as well as from NASA. So, this makes our list.

Tickets start at 419 euros and you can get yours here.

North Star 2023, 15 thru 18 October in Dubai

North Star bills itself as “the world’s largest event for startups and investors.” And it is in Dubai, the Texas of the Middle East, where everything is bigger. The idea is for the United Arab Emirates to use some of that oil money to invest in the tech of the future … the future when the oil runs out.

This is actually a cluster of events that include blockchain and fintech.

North Star promises an, ah, eclectic lineup of speakers ranging from Tim Berners Lee (you know who he is, right?) to Eric Yuan from Zoom to OG Arabian Prince, a founding member of notorious ’80s gangster rap legends NWA, whose hits include “Fuck the Police.”

Ya’ know … I dunno’.

Tickets to North Star are free and you can register here. But you have to pay to attend the parallel events such as Gitex.

Slush, 30 November & 1 December in Helsinki

Slush bills itself as the “largest gathering of VCs in the world,” and in 2023, that’s a good thing. Unless you’ve got an AI startup, the global investment climate has gotten as cold as a Helsinki blizzard compared to the crazy days of 2021.

Slush is a good event for struggling startups to go get pumped back up.

This version of Slush has a stellar lineup of VCs and entrepreneurs including:

• Pieter van der Does, founder of super-successful Dutch fintech Adyen.

• Alfred Lin, a partner at Sequoia Capital, the Sand Hill Road VC with $85 billion in assets under management.

• Tony Xu, CEO and co-founder of Doordash.

• Peter Fenton and Sarah Tavel from Benchmark, one of the legendary VCs that funded Uber, WeWork and Snap.

• Danny Rimer and Sofia Dolfe from Index Ventures.

and a bunch more VCs including from Accel and Creandum.

Okay, sit down for this next part.

Slush is in a very expensive city, and it give you access to some of the biggest names in risk capital. But compared to, say, Web Summit, it’s a bargain.

Tickets start at 395 euros for startups and you can get yours here.

Web Summit, 13 thru 16 November in Lisbon

This is the event that literally put Lisbon’s startup ecosystem on the map when it moved from Dublin back in 2016. Since then, Web Summit has gotten bigger and bigger and bigger, with 70,000 people projected to attend this fall. Some would say too large, but that’s your call.

This is must-attend for policymakers and celebrities. This year, it’s Margrethe Vestager, chief of competition from the European Commission. (That the EU would have a chief of competition boggles the American mind.)

Other high-profile speakers including:

• Garry Tan from Y Combinator.

• Dario Amodel, founder of AI startup Anthropic and a veteran of OpenAI.

• Former British politician Nick Clegg, now a big wig with Meta.

• Brad Smith, president of Microsoft.

• Vishal Sharma, VP of Alexa AI.

• Will Gaybrick from Stripe.

• A gaggle of media people from the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC and others.

Amy Poehler will also appear in a starring role. We’re not making this up, but it’s that kind of event. The kind of event that will cost you about a thousand euros to attend, and you can get your tickets here.


You can see more of Dispatches startup and tech coverage here.

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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