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New for 2018: Dispatches’ list of Europe’s best startup and tech events (updated)

Only 20 weeks into the year, 2018 is turning out to be far busier than last year. Especially May, for some reason.

There are even more conferences; more summits and more meetups scheduled almost every week across Europe from Portugal to Ukraine, with some organizers now running multiple simultaneous events.

As we posted last year, the question we hear increasingly as events multiply like rabbits and startup fever plateaus with investors is, “Are these things worth the time and money?” The answer is, “Sometimes.”

It’s easy to make fun of some of the more pompous and pointless events. But we were part of HighTechXL’s Impact Summit last year and it was amazing because we saw a level of sophistication missing in a lot of innovation centers, even in the U.S.

What we’re not including this year are the invitation-only events such as DLD, which we find too celebrity-oriented (Really … Kevin Spacey at tech conferences? Why, exactly?), too expensive and too exclusive.

We started this list almost 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 try to do better at keeping it as up-to-date as possible.

We promise.

And feel free to send us your events at: terry@dispatcheseurope.

Places Virtual Reality Festival, 19 thru 22 April, Gelsenkirchen, German

Places 2018 is Germany’s first VR festival. It features mostly industry figures, academics and researchers. But it has VR workshops and hackathons.

The workshops include topics such as VR for dementia therapy and using VR to help refugees assimilate by letting them view simulated German life. Cool stuff, which is why we’re adding it to the list.

You can see the full schedule here.

VR has lost a bit of its allure to fintech and AI because it’s so difficult to monetize. But a festival put on by a group called the Insane Urban Cowbows that includes a Space Pirate Trainer tournament … how bad could that be?

The website doesn’t mention tickets, so we’re assuming this is free.

NKF Summit Vol. 3, 20 April, Düsseldorf

(Editor’s note: It looks like this event is in both German and English.)

This might be the deal for corporations looking to startups for new ideas and new ways of working. Which is a thing, now.

From the NKF Summit mission statement:

The NKF Summit is a startup crash course for corporates. With this digitization conference, NKF Media offers a platform for the exchange between startups and established companies. In terms of content, it’s all about the burning question of how old-established companies of different sizes make the most of digitization with the help of startups.

Coca-Cola, Axel Springer and Aud. as well as the German CEOs of Airbnb, Casper, Outfittery and Uber, have all participated during the first two iterations.

And this is cool: Fifty startups have the chance to attend for free. They get:

• two free tickets
• one expo stand
• two speednetworking sessions

Startups can apply here.

Tickets for corporates start at about 600 euros.

Rotterdam Capital Days, 24 thru 26 April

We just got this from out LinkedIn network, so it’s a bit close to the dates. But this is worth attending if only because it’s in Rotterdam.

Rotterdam Capital Days start with  Capital Tour XXL, which will have 100 startups will hopping on bikes (this is the Netherlands) to meet relevant investors at various locations across Rotterdam. Then there are funding events for female founders and ethnic founders; events to help startups with finance, grants, HR and patents and even a pitch event for investors rather than startups.

Some events are free, and you just have to RSVP.

Other events are NOT free including the Capital Tour XXL. Tickets start at 90 euros and you can get them here.

CUBE Tech Fair, 15 & 16 May, Berlin

Big corporations are reaching out to startups more and more for a variety of reasons. Mostly because huge bureaucracies can’t innovate quickly. And if you’re not fast in 2018, you’re roadkill.

Under the auspices of the German Ministry of Economics and Energy, CUBE Tech Fair throws together startups, corporate types and investors for two days to talk about everything from drones to anti-aging insights.

Last year, Steve Wozniak was the marquee.

There are a lot of speakers for 2018 including Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands. (Don’t ask.) But there’s also Taiwan’s Digital Minister Audrey Tang, who’ve we’ve met. Taiwan is recruiting startups like crazy. Entrepreneur Mohammed Johmani from the UAE will also be speaking. Then there are so many categories and events on the website that we gave up trying to make sense of it all about 30 minutes in. But you might find something you like.

Tickets start at 248.65, which is sort of an odd amount. Really? Two hundred forty-eight euros and sixty-five euro cents? Maybe that’s a German thing ….

You can register here.

The Next Web, 24 & 25 May, Amsterdam

This is one of Europe’s mega conferences, drawing 15,000 people for 2017. A big deal even in Amsterdam … this year, even more so.

For 2018, a jury selected by Chivas Venture – funded by the Scotch brand (part of the giant Paris-based Pernod Richard) – will award a total of $800,000 to social startup. Another $200,000 will go to runners-up. You can see the details of the Chivas requirements here for next year. And social startups, of course, are the startups that solve problems such as access to clean water or micro-loans through private, self-funding initiatives. (TOMS Shoes would be a good example.)

Okay, about the rest of TNW – what’s left to say? A giant conference addressing the topics of the moment. No surprise, this year, AI, Machine Learning, and blockchain are among the 18 tracks.

You can see them all here.

The speakers are typically Tier 2, so you won’t see The Big Names.

This year is no exception, but still a solid lineup.

• Cassie Kozyrkov, Google’s chief data scientist

• Anjali Sud, CEO of Vimeo

• Chase Jarvis, CEO of CreativeLive

• Mike Curtis, Airbnb’s VP of engineering

• A bunch of people from Reddit

Notably missing this year are Dutch entrepreneurs just as Booking.com and Adyen are breaking out globally. Guess they’re busy.

Tickets start at 199 euros, and you can get them here.

Maastricht Entrepreneurship Week, 15 thru 18 May in Maastricht, Netherlands

Since we arrived in the Netherlands in 2016, we’ve seen the trend toward incorporating startup magic into almost every institution increasing exponentially, from schools to global corporations. Simply put, in a very brief time, there’s been a huge change in the Dutch mindset.

Here’s another example from Maastricht, a vibrant university city in the very south of the country. Maastricht University’s Center for Entrepreneurism is organizing this week-long event bringing together students, professors, startup veterans and investors.

From the website:

MEWeek encourages you to take your chances and jump into your startup journey. If you’re a student, this can mean getting inspired by stories from our speakers, or even experiencing with your first business plan. If you’re a young employee, we aim to show you what it takes to jump across from having a job and into becoming your own boss. Steve Jobs said it best – We are here to make a dent in the Universe. Join our program to get inspired and understand what it takes to become an entrepreneur!

We were impressed by the list of workshops and the people leading them. For example, Moodi Mahmoudi. Mahmoudi founded Callborne, a management tool used by Vodaphone, BNP Paribas and other big companies.

Before that, he was a VP at Optimal, a private-equity backed SAP solutions provider, where he was part of the management team who raised $100 million and, ultimately, acquisition by NTT Data Corporation.

That guy’s for real.

There’s one tiny glitch: Tickets aren’t available yet, and this is only two months out. And the videos haven’t been updated. Sheesh. Let’s hope the event is better organized.

But you can get on the email list here.

Latitude59, 24 & 25 May in Tallinn, Estonia

Latitude59 bills itself as “the flagship startup/tech event of the world’s first digital society.”

The event is integrated into Estonia’s national marketing effort for its startup/e-Residency matrix.

The boutique event attracts around 2,000 people, mostly from the Baltics and Nordics, as well as investors from across the globe. More a serious event, less a party. But as we’ve written many, many times before, a lot of great technology starts with Estonian talent.

Tickets start at 69 euros for students. Yes, 69 euros. Not 690 or 6,900.

You can get them here.

Latitude59, by the way, refers to Tallinn’s north latitude. So, ah, take a sweater.

Pioneers ’18, 24 & 25 May, Vienna

This event is unique just because it’s in Vienna, which has an embryonic tech and startup scene. And it’s in a palace, and who doesn’t want to go to a startup event in a royal palace? Which seems sort of a sacrilege.

Finally, the point as far as we can tell is to bring U.S. investors to Europe, and as a startup focused on the global mobility of talent, we’re all for that.

This is freakin’ expensive for corporates and investors, but free for selected early-stage startups.

You have only a few days to apply!

Startup Battlefield Europe, 24 & 25 May in Paris

TechCruch and VivaTech are teaming up for a Startup Battlefield Europe event this spring in Paris. This event is for early stage, pre-launch startups. This is your chance to win 25,000 euros in NO-EQUITY, cold hard cash and consideration for the BIG event … Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2018.

To get there, you have to pitch in front of a live audience.

Applications are now open through 15 March, so don’t delay.

Startup Battlefield has had more than 700 contestants since it started in 2007, startups that have raised more than $8 billion in funding and racked up more than 100 exits. Not bad.

You can apply here.

3rd Annual International Entrepreneurship School, 26 & 27 May in Berlin

And now for something completely different.

Here’s a chance for young entrepreneurs 18-to-35-years-old to hang out with like-minded people and learn the fundamentals. The International Entrepreneurship School promises a lot including training from professionals, instruction on how to develop an action plan for starting up and facetime with CEOs and executives from German accelerators.

All for … get ready … 50 euros. That’s right. Fifty. Euros. Throw in 50 more and you get a bunk at a hostel. OR you could go to one of those events and pay hundreds for the privilege of listening to Eric Reis yammer on about LEAN startup.

This is open to kids from Europe, Russia and the CIS.

You can get your ticket here. And not only are you required to apply in English, English will be the AIES language.

Arctic15, 30 & 31 May in Helsinki

We’ve been picking and choosing between the million tech and startup events for 2018 and then we hit on this one.

The intro video for Arctic15 says it all:

Don’t go to startup events for the pistachio-dusted icecream, the free pens, the days off, the miniature Aberdeen Angus burgers, the after-parties, meals at 2-star Michelin restaurants, the inspirational talks or the Unicorns.

Go for the meetings.

Arctic15 bills itself as “the most efficient place for meetings between startups, investors, corporates, media and partners.”

This is a matchmaking event, more about the nuts and bolts of startups raising money and building networks. Or as they say on the website, about deal making and deal quality. Amen.

About that name: Arctic15 gets its name from its signature pitching competition. The top 15 early-stage startups from the Nordics and Baltics compete for a 50,000 euro syndication deal from the Finnish Business Angels Network.

Also, the name says “Arctic,” but Arctic15 includes 450-plus startups, 300-plus investors, 150-plus corporates and media from 60 countries.

Speakers this year including Gary Vaynerchuk, who we run hot and cold on. But there are a lot of big investors represented including eBay’s M&A guy Justin Hwa and Jenny Feilding from TechStars.

Tickets start at 349 euros and you can get them here.

NOAH18 Berlin, 6 & 7 Berlin

The NOAH18 Berlin mission is concise … and ambitious: “To bring together future-shaping executives and investors active across segments driven by digital revolution.”

If there’s one thing that keeps Europe from ruling the digital world, it’s lack of early-stage capital. That’s changing a bit as Europe generates more Unicorns, and the Samwer brothers in Berlin, Xavier Niel in Paris and other billionaires throw money at their respective startup scenes.

To that end, NOAH18 Berlin brings together “old champions” and “new challengers” to work together. It promises 20 unicorn CEOs representing UBER, HelloFresh, Zalando, BlaBlaCar, Delivery Hero and others. Vertical targeted for disruption include the usual suspects: Finance, fashion, IoT, food, digital gaming and healthcare.

This year’s speakers aren’t listed. But in 2017, the Berlin event (one of three NOAHs along with Tel Aviv and London) attracted Europe’s Name entrepreneurs including Peter van der Does, Adyen; Nicholas Brusson, Blablahcar; Oliver Samwer from Zalando/Rocket Internet, Valentin Stalf from N26 and José Neves from Farfetch.

Tickets start at 450 euros, and you can get them here.

ProductCamp, 7 thru 9 June, Gdynia, Poland

We just got this from Karolina Łuć in Gdynia:

We’re organizing (likely the biggest, hopefully the coolest 😉 product conference in CEE. ProductCamp will be held 7-9 June 2018 in Gdynia, Poland. There are three days (workshops day + conference day + barcamp day) packed with over 70 practical sessions on topics as varied as: voice, product strategy, leadership, IoT, dev process, AI, research, VR, bots, SaaS, mobile. We’re expecting over 700 participants: product & interaction designers, researchers, product owners, product analysts & UX leaders.Confirmed speakers include: Peter Morville (founding father of information architecture), Josh Clark (famous mobile UX designer), Steve Portigal (guru of user research) + other amazing presenters from Dropbox, Minecraft, Frog, Ustwo, Lloyds banking.

Eric Reiss will also be there. (We know … he’s not Eric Reis, but it slowed us down.) The Dropbox execs got our attention and there are a lot of interesting speakers. The slogan also is cool: “The highest ratio of Product & UX heroes per square meter.”

You can see the full speaker lineup here.

Gdynia is on the coast just north of Gdańsk, so getting there should be easy. And there’s a tequila after-party event on the beach. So, yeah, this looks cool!

Tickets start at 1,299 PLN, or about 300 euros and you can get them here.

Startup Extreme, 12 thru 14 June in various locations, Norway

First, it was music and startups. Now, it’s extreme sports and startups. But the money is in Norway, so let’s check out their approach.

Startup Extreme is meant to build the Norwegian startup ecosystem. And who even knew Norway has an ecosystem? They have oil, Nobel Prizes, Askil Holm and a sovereign wealth fund the size of several Middle Eastern sultanates’ combined GDPs.

Startup Extreme starts with a Day 1 conference in Bergen. Then, everyone packs up and heads for the fjords.

Day 2 is Demo Day followed by extreme stuff.

Outdoor opportunities include:
Wind Tunnel Rappeling (what?)
Rafting and River Stand Up Paddle Board
Sea Kayaking and Tandem Whitewater Kayaking
Hiking
Mountain Biking
Tandem Paragliding
Tandem Skydiving

If you’re still alive, there’s speed dating and networking. The final day is mostly a networking bootcamp.

You can’t buy a ticket … you have to be invited to buy a ticket.

Tickets just went on sale, but Startup Extreme appears to be sold out. You can get on the waiting list here. 

Nordic Media Insights, 12 & 13 June, 2018 in Stockholm

As we state in the Digiday blurb above, no business segment has been disrupted more dramatically by the Internet than media and advertising. Conventional media misplayed digital from the beginning.

First, media execs gave away content, mistaking the Internet for a novelty rather than the most efficient information-delivery platform in history. Then, they lost classified advertising to Craig’s List. Now, Facebook and Google have combined a 60-share of digital advertising.

How do we get out of this hole? Nordic Media Insights might have the answers.

NMI is an annual media conference for executives, managers and professionals in the Nordic (Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland) and European Media Industry. But last year’s speakers including several American media executives including Joseph Kahn, managing editor of the New York Times, and Melissa Bell, co-founder of Vox.com.

So far, there are 40 announced speakers, and you can see their bios on the website.

CONFIRMED SPEAKERS 2018: 1) Max Amordeluso, Lead Evangelist for Amazon Alexa in Europe2) Ricki Rebecka Petrini, Head of Content Marketing, Mediekompaniet 3) Rickard Lawson, Country Manager & International Publisher Relations Manager, Strossle Norway 4) Lina Brounéus, COO Content, Viaplay and Viasat 5) Fredric Karén, Publisher, Svenska Dagbladet 6) Lotta Tjulin Thörnqvist, Creative Sales Manager, Schibsted Brand Studio 7) Stig Olav Kasin, Chief Content Officer, The Future Group 8) Astrid Schmeltzer Dybkjær, Business Developer, Information 9) Johan Lindgren, Head of Analysis, Aller Media 10) Sören Karlsson, CEO United Robots 11) Rishad Tobaccowala, Chief Growth Officer of Publicis Groupe 12) Jens Finnäs, Founder and CEO Journalism Robotics Stockholm and operator of Newsworthy news service 13) Anna Arvidsson, Head of Bonnier News Brand Studio 14) Thomas Sundgren, Head of Platforms, Mittmedia 15) Maya Garkusha, founder, Programmatic Consulting Nordic 16) Alec Sokolow, film writer (Toy Story, Skylanders, etc) 17) Steffen Damborg, Expert Advisor, WAN-IFRA Global Advisory 18) Magnus Anshelm, CEO of MMS

The 2018 Nordic Media Insights tracks will address the biggest issues:

• Robotics and Artificial Intelligence
• Great Branded Content & Native Advertising
• New & Adjacent Business Opportunities
• Increasing Consumer Revenues
• Digital & Interactive Storytelling
• What’s Next for Programmatic Advertising?
• Meet the Hottest Nordic Media Startups

You can get early bird tickets here starting at 7,500 Swedish krona (750 euros). Tickets are discounted until 1 January, when they go to 9,500 krona.

 Sónar+D, 13 thru 16 June in Barcelona

To paraphrase Snoop Dogg, “What is dis animal?”

Sónar+D is billed as an international conference for digital creativity and innovation. Is it a tech event? A creative-class gathering? A music conflab?

Yes.

The 2018 event is four days of everything … tech, live performances, DJs, food, design and dance. Sónar+D attracts the world’s techies, creative types, engineers, financiers and deal makers.

From the website:

Since 2013, this antidisciplinary meeting gathers in Barcelona leading artists, creative technologists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, thinkers, scientists, entrepreneurs, makers and hackers to participate in a carefully commissioned program with the aim at inspiration and networking.

Or as one artist puts it, “The world comes to Barcelona to mix and learn and interact.” There are serious conferences and talks. Then, there are parties and non-stop music. It’s a tech conference without the greed, and with the best in creativity. A LOT of influential people from different industries show up each year. Snoop would get it ….

All access tickets for all four days are 270 euros and you can get them here.

Webit.Festival, 26 & 27 June in Sofia, Bulgaria

This is more a gathering of government officials, EU policymakers and corporate executives than it is a typical startup/tech event. But Webit.Festival is projected to draw 7,000 people from 100 countries, all people who can influence Europe’s futurre digital course. But at the heart of Webit.Festival is Bulgaria’s chance to shine during its presidency of the European Union. And promote itself as an emerging innovation center.

Which it is.

Make no mistake … this is a big deal. True, Elon and Zuck won’t be here. But Mariya Gabriel, the European Commission’s commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society will be one of the 70-plus speakers, along some big corporate names including Andrew Tsao, managing director of Silicon Valley Bank and Maurice Lévy, the head of Publicis Group.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, the 200 “most promising” startups are scheduled to be honored. And this is all part of EU Digital and Innovation Week, the flagship event of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union

Tickets start at 190 euros, and you can get them here.

AI Expo Europe, 27 & 28 June, Amsterdam

Forget apps. Forget fintech. Forget all the other digital categories. They don’t matter anymore. Just remember that AI is going to rule the world. (You heard it here first.)

If that sounds like something you’d like to get in on, get registered for AI Expo.

Topics include:

Business Intelligence, Deep Learning, Machine Learning, AI Algorithms, Data & Analytics, Virtual Assistants & Chatbots as well discussion of the deployment of AI across different verticals.

Speakers will be from companies already deeply invested in AI including Amazon, ING Bank and defense giant BAE industries.

Tickets start at 199 euros and go up to 1100 euros for the all-access pass. You can get them here.

By the way, this is one of three events running simultaneously.

The other two are:

• IOT Tech Expo Europe

• Blockchain Expo Europe

PIRATE Summit, 3 thru 5 July, Köln (Cologne)

We have mixed feelings about PIRATE Summit. Billed as “Europe’s craziest startup conference,” it’s kind of a cutesy concept that dates back to Steve Jobs flying a pirate flag from the building where his team was working on Macintosh.

But we decided to include it again this year because organizers are, to quote the website, “going back to the roots.” The roots being the idea that if you attract lot of innovative startups, investors will come.

First, the event moves to July this year from September in 2017 … a good move because it’s one of the few July events and not lost among the hundreds scheduled for the fall. Also, people are on vacation, so investors and corporate types might be more likely to attend.

Second, organizers admitted they were initially terrible at the basics, such as registration and catering. (Which is pretty funny, since the idea  of pirates and brigands running a big event with thousands of people does not engender confidence.)

Third, and most importantly, they changed the criteria for getting into this invitation-only event.

Here’s the mix they’re looking for:

50 percent startup founders
20 percent active investors
15 percent corporate executives
10 percent movers and shakers
5 percent sponsors/partners

You can see the full post on Medium about PIRATE Summit changes.

Tickets start at 199 euros for startups, and you can apply here.

Bits & Pretzels, 30 Sept. thru 2 Oct. in Munich

We first listed Bits & Pretzels last year. This year, it looks like it will be even bigger. This is a limited application-only event for founders (5,000 people) and investors and you have to apply early so we’re telling you that up front.

You can sign up for the newsletter here that will tell you how to get tickets.

Now that you’ve done that and gotten the welcome email from hosts Andy, Felix and Bernd, here’s what to expect: One of the biggest startup/tech events.

Past guests have included the Samwers (Zalando/Rocket Internet), Rolf Schrömgens, CEO of Trivago, Sir Richard Branson, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, Fred Mazzella, BlaBlaCar, a former CIA director and Dutch actress Carice van Houten from “Game of Thrones.” (Those last two … we have no idea.)

Here’s the Bits & Pretzels concept from the website:

The most successful founders from all around the world, as well as young aspiring entrepreneurs, will meet at the event for inspiration, learning, and matchmaking. On the last day, all attendees and speakers come together in one tent with one goal: liquid networking.

Liquid networking with Carice van Houten at Oktoberfest. Now we’re talking.

Web Summit, 5 thru 8 Nov. in Lisbon

This is the Big One Lisbon stole from Dublin, and it’s changed Portugal’s digital fortunes.

Web Summit bills itself as “the largest tech summit in the world.” More a right of passage for digital types than a utilitarian “meet the right people” event. Because who are you going to meet in a crowd of 70,000? Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? You never know.

The function, if you will, of Web Summit is to bring together the most influential people in the world from The Valley, finance, government and the arts. And it has – everyone from digital visionary/supervillain Peter Thiel to internet inventor Al Gore to the late Stephen Hawking.

We’re way out on this, and no speakers are listed on the website. But if you’re going to go, you need to start planning now. And if you act now, you can get TWO-FOR-One tickets at the low, low price of 850 euros!

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