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

It’s mid-summer and, yeah, tech and startup events have hit pause this month and August. Well, most will. But then the torrid pace of innovation returns in September.

In 2018, 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. That’s your call.” It’s easy to make fun of some of the more pompous and pointless events. But we were at Startup Delta’s summit in April 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?), 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.

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

Refresh, 7 September in Tallinn

With everyone from policymakers to new grads freaking out over 21st-century skills, or lack of, we should probably include more of this type of practical, as opposed to impractical, event.

The concept of Refresh is, you leave with actual knowledge you can apply the next day on the job. Refresh is a one-day, three-track conference – product, design and front-end – that provides “fresh inspiration for creating better products on the web,” according to the website.

So, this isn’t going to be a navel-gazing exercise. Refresh will be more like smart people having big-brain conversations about JavaScript cross-browser library problems and, “OMG, how the hell did I become a team leader, and what do I do now?” You know … real life.

Seriously, check out the speaker list!

Laurissa Wolfram-Hvass, director of research at MailChimp; Tim Wantland, design lead for Google AI; Madis Lehtmets UX Designer at in Amsterdam and Wilson Alberto, engineering lead at online retailer Farfetch in London.

There are regular tickets left for 259 euros and you can get them here.

EIT Digital Conference, Brussels, 11 September

Thanks to Alexis Poulin, who sent us this one with the note, “Free / over 700 people, 50 startups and investors, academics, founders, policymakers from all over Europe.”

Free! In one of our favorite cities. We’re down with the madness.

EIT Digital, based in Brussels, promotes tech innovation to boost economic growth and improved quality of life in Europe. It does this by mobilising a pan-European ecosystem of over 156 top European corporations, SMEs, start-ups, universities and research institutes, according to its website.

EIT Digital topics include: digital cities, wellbeing, finance, industry and infrastructure.

The digital conference has announced 16 of the 20 total speakers so far and they include:

• Kristine Østensen, Nordic program leader for IBM

• Neil Crockett, chief digital officer at Rolls-Royce

• Andra Sonea, lead solutions architect at Lloyds Banking Group

• Jackson Bond, co-founder of relayr, a Berlin-based IoT software firm

• Frank Baaijens, rector at Technical University of Eindhoven (we had to plug our homie, but TU/e is one of the best engineering schools in the world)

There’s also The Playground, an associated event on 11 and 12 September with a dozen curated, fast-growing startups., 30 deep-tech innovations developed by Europe’s leading industry and research experts as well as:

• The EIT Digital Academy courses addressing the growing demand for new professional and entrepreneurial skills.
• The EIT Digital Accelerator expertise and network, to help you grow your business.
• Top-notch international experts on the technology and innovation fields.

See more details on the website here.

You can register here.

Intelligent Health, 12 & 13 September in Basel

Switzerland and the Netherlands are in a race to own digital healthcare. The questions becomes, “Who can combine AI and advanced diagnostic and clinical equipment the fastest?”

Well, you can see where that stands come September.

Intelligent Health organizers call it “the world’s first large-scale summit dedicated to AI in healthcare.” It’s expected to attract 2,000 attendees and 100 speakers from across the entire AI health ecosystem of pharmaceutical, biotech, medtech, health provision, clinicians, insurance, investment and science, according to the website. This is essentially an industry event for an industry we didn’t even realize existed, aimed at pharma, biotech and MedTech companies, hospitals, insurers and investors.

From their release:

These thinkers and doers will be inspiring the AI health tech revolution through two jam-packed days of health tech goodness, from applied AI case studies, to announcements from the tech giants, to nitty-gritty coding workshops, and of course, passionate debate on ethics and AI4good in health.

Intelligent Health is brought to you by Inspired Minds, the non-profit team behind World Summit AI.

Topics include adapting AI to:

  • R&D, clinical trial research and drug discoveries
  • wellness and preventative care
  • early detection and diagnostics
  • treatment and disease management
  • genomics and precision/personalised medicine
  • assisted livin
  • child health and mental health

You can see the full list of speakers here, most of whom are from academia, drug companies and policy institutes and regulators including WHO and the FDA.

So, yeah, this is a big deal. Tickets start at 199 euros for startups. (Not bad considering this is Switzerland.)

HackConf 2018, 15 & 16 September in Sofia

We’ve never made any secret of our belief that Bulgaria and Romania will be tech leaders sooner rather than later based on their focus on math in education. HackConf is an effort to increase the quantity and quality of developers in the Bulgarian ecosystem.

HackConf is Bulgaria’s premier “by developers, for developers” motivational and knowledge sharing event. Topics include all categories of software development, regardless of technology stack, according to the website. The call for speakers/tech expert lecturers is also open now.

There will be a lot of big tech companies such as SAP there looking for talent, so we’ll put this on our list of best expat-focused recruitment events.

So, how much would you pay for an event like this? How about 20 euros? Does that sound okay? If it does, you can get your ticket here.

HackConf is in English, by the way.

BIOSPAIN 2018, 25 thru 27 September in Madrid

BIOSPAIN claims to be the largest biotech event organized by a national bioindustry association in Europe. And you know it’s important with they use all caps for the name. But this really is an international conference, with many of the 800 companies from outside Spain including from the United States.

As for biotech, this is not exactly a new technology area like fintech or cybersecurity. But it’s a potentially an insanely profitable one now with the introduction of gnome research, robotic microsurgery and nano-technology. In fact, in the first half of 2018, healthcare startups raised $15 billion  … the most raised in the first half of the year in the last decade, according to Forbes.

That BIOSPAIN is more an industry meetup than a wild and crazy tech event should come as no surprise. What’s surprising is that it’s in Madrid, not Zurich or other biotech centers. In fact, there’s even a “why Spain?” explainer on the website with some surprising factoids.

Seminars include:

• Financing your innovation through non-dilutive funding

• Is there a way out of the dementia maze?

• Biotech solutions for the agroalimentary field

Where is Kevin Spacey when you need him?

Registration starts at 200 euros for researchers and you can register here.

IT Arena, 28 to 30 September in Lviv, Urkaine

IT Arena bills itself as Eastern Europe’s largest tech event, and it is relatively big. Not big like Web Summit, but substantial. The event promises  3,000 people, 100 startup and a great mix of speakers from Ukraine, Europe and the United States … many from major innovators including Google Cloud.

This is from the email pitch we got:

This is the biggest IT event in Eastern Europe. The three-day conference, conducted exclusively in English, brings together more than 2,000 entrepreneurs, investors, developers, business analysts, and designers every year. In 2018 conference consists of four streams: Business, Product, Technology and Startup. Also there will be the Startup Competition, where IT Arena gathers the best EU and USA venture funds and accelerators to help startupers boost their product. 

“Startupers.” We’re going to steal that.

There are 90 speakers including:

• Ruhn Theil from Rockstart in Amsterdam

• Ukraine native Dmitriy Zaporozhets from GitLab

• Zakaria Jaiathe, senior software researcher at SAP

• Cassie Kozyrkov, chief decision scientist, Google Cloud

• Robert Johnson, managing director, Techstars

• Bjorn Rabenstein from Soundcloud

Tickets start at amazing $130 because, well, this is in Lviv, Ukraine, not London, UK. You can get yours here, but there aren’t a lot left.


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

STOP THE PRESSES: We just got an email from Bits & Pretzels organizers alerting us to the fact  2016 Formula One World Champion Nico Rosberg will be a keynote speaker.

What does Formula One have to do with tech?  Lots, actually since it’s the most data-driven, advanced tech sport on the planet. The now-retired young gazillionaire is an active investor in the new mobility sector. In April, he joined all-electric racing series Formula E as a shareholder and investor. Rosberg is also an investor in multiple mobility and marketing startups including SpaceX and Lyft.

So, his presence is more than entertainment.

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.

The list of speakers now includes:

• Valentin Stalf, co-founder and CEO of Berlin-based virtual bank N26

• Maximilian Tayenthal, N26 co-founder and CFO

• Alex Hefner, CFO of Trivago

• Joel Spolsky, co-founder and CEO of Stack Overflow

• a ton of other people in FinTech

Artificial Intelligence Conference, 8 thru 11 October in London

Is it just us, or is AI becoming a thing? In a word, yes … the most important tech category at the moment, and a booming industry that didn’t exist in any meaningful way even five years ago. So there are multiple AI events across Europe running pretty much concurrently.

If you’re looking for a serious academic/business conference, this could be it. Coming to London from New York and San Francisco, Artificial Intelligence Conference doesn’t have Formula One drivers or hipsters rappelling off glaciers like some tech events. What it does have are researchers. Lots and lots of researchers from global players such as Google, Microsoft, IBM and Intel along with influencers from the various media and universities.

Topics include:

• Image Classification Models in TensorFlow

• PyTorch: A flexible approach for computer vision models

• Recurrent neural networks for time-series forecasting

So bring your big brain.

We count almost 100 speakers. You can see the full list here.

This is an industry event put on by O’Reilly Media and Intel AI, so the price of access is pretty stiff, starting at 895 pounds. You can get tickets here.

World Summit AI, 10 & 11 October in Amsterdam

World Summit AI’s modest goal is to gather “the entire AI ecosystem, Enterprise, Startups, Investors and Deep Tech from every corner of the globe in Amsterdam for 2 days of knowledge-sharing and networking.”

This summit will address applied solutions for corporates and enterprise to the implications of Artificial Intelligence on society, including ethics and AI4good.

They promise 140 of the brightest AI brains. Last year’s event included speakers from Apple, Facebook, Tencent, Google and Amazon.

This year’s speakers include”

Steve Chen from NASA, Cassie Kozrykov, chief decision scientist (good title!) at Google; Ruslan Salakhutdinov from Apple/Carnigie Mellon; Verity Harding from Google DeepMind; and Ciaran Jetten from Heineken (hey, it’s Amsterdam)

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

This is another event from Inspired Minds in London.

Uprise Festival, 17 & 18 October, Dublin

Dublin may have lost Web Summit to Lisbon, but they still have a very interesting event … and the tagline is, “People First, Then Tech.” Uprise Festival is Europe’s original event for founders, talent and quality connections … says so right there on the website landing page.

This is like a Beatles recording from the late 1960s – multi-track and a little unconventional.

The 13 (count ’em, 13!) tracks include:

• A Challenger Pitch Battle where Investors and the audience give feedback and pick the Startup Pitch Product with the ‘highest potential.’ Not for the delicate snowflakes, we’re thinking.

• A Metropolis event where you Smart Cities types can meet government officials and companies designing, building and (we really, really hate this term because it’s impossible) “future proofing” environments.

• Off the Block for blockchain and crypto-currency advocates.

• Risky Business looking at the intersection of commerce and new fintech.

There are also a really interesting sports track and even a look at how space will figure into logistics.

There are two programs for young talent, the 100Y and the invitation-only 50X where you can interface with TTTs. (Top tech talent.)

Speakers include:

Silje Barkesten, the Smart City person for Olso; Cassie Craddock, Ripple’s business development manager; and Samar Singla from Jugnoo.

(If you have to ask what Ripple and Jugnoo are, this might not be your conference.)

Smart people and cool concepts, all for ah free, if you only want to get into the Marketplace event and are talent looking for a gig. Other wise, tickets start at 243 euros and you can get yours here.

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!

Sime Stockholm, 14 & 15 November

Each year – twice per year- Sime Stockholm puts on Scandinavia’s biggest digital conference and always has big names. For free! But there’s a catch … you have to get invited.

Increasingly, the Nordics are the place to be if for no other reason than Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark are flush with conventional business success, which provides the capital for cranking out new digital companies such as Skype and Spotify.

From the Sime website:

Sime brings together thought leaders, executives from different industries and entrepreneurs to explore new business opportunities together with world-class speakers, workshop leaders and experts. The Sime vibe inspires, challenges and touches every participant regardless if you are one of the 1,800 participants at one of our flagship events or part of a Sime CEO dinner with 20 handpicked global CEOs.

This is a two-day summit. Day One includes IOT, digital marketing and sales. Day Two includes a game summit, a scale-up summit and a proptech summit.

Previous speakers include:

Daniel Ek, Spotify founder

Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder

Niklas Zennström, Skype founder

Caterina Fake, founder of Flickr

You can contact Sime organizers here for more info.

Black Hat Europe 2018, 3 thru 6 December in London

This looks cool. Black Hat conferences are for the infosec set.

From the website:

The Black Hat Briefings were created 20 years ago to provide computer security professionals a place to learn the very latest in information security risks, research, and trends. Presented by the brightest in the industry, the Briefings cover everything from critical information infrastructure to widely used enterprise computer systems to the latest InfoSec research and development and everything in between. The Briefings are vendor-neutral, allowing the presenters to speak candidly about real problems and potential solutions across both the public and private sectors.

This is more of an academic conference, so there’s a call for papers that closes 20 August and most of the website is dedicated to disclosure rules and speaker qualifications for submitting research.

This is for people waaay smarter than we are.

You have to apply to attend, so there’s no stated fee. It appears vendors foot the bill because after all, you’re addressing their pain points. Also, BHE pays speakers an honorarium of up to $1,500. You can apply here.

And be sure to read ALL the information on the website because there are a lot of submission requirements and rules about who can present.

Slush, 4 & 5 Dec. in Helsinki

The sun may have gone down for the winter in Scandinavia, but don’t let it go down on your startup dreams. Take them to Slush in Helsinki, Finland for what is the last big tech/startup event of the year.

Despite the ice and snow bound to be around when you land in the Finnish capital, more than 17,000 attendees, 2,300 startups, 1,100-plus VCs and 600 journalists from more than 130 countries came to Slush last year to drive business, and to experience the phenomenal atmosphere (and not just the northern lights).

This year, 20,000 people are expected for the event that bills itself as “Burning Man meets TED,” demonstrating that Europe is bumping up against The Valley as the dominant tech center.

This is always a NAME event, with Vice President Al Gore, Mood Rowghani from the original Sand Hill Road VC Kleiner Perkins; Trivago founder Rolf Schrömgens; Mark Pincus (Zynga); Illkka Paanenen (Supercell); Nicholas Brusson (BlaBlaCar); Monique Woodard from 500 Startups; and Kat Manalac from Y Combinator attending in the past.

It doesn’t appear the 2018 speaker list has been released, and you can’t buy tickets yet. So we’ll update this as more info becomes available. We are seven months out ….

Last year tickets to Slush 2017 started at €395 for startups. Don’t delay, either: the Conference and Executive passes, Startup and Investor passes all sold out last year.



OurCrowd Global Investor Summit, 7 March 2019 in Jerusalem

Israel – particularly Tel Aviv – is breathing down Europe’s neck. When we talk with European investors and executives, they’re increasingly dazzled by the tech and talent coming of Israel even more than from China. So it makes sense the biggest equity crowdfunding event in the world is here.

So you might want to put OurCrowd Global Investors Summit on your calendar because entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, global corporations and investors from all over the world will gather to define the startup landscape for the year to come, to quote from the website.

This is both a showcase for Israel and an international event.

Here are the numbers from the latest news release:

More than 10,000 people are expected to register from over 80 countries, including 300 startups, 200 VC representatives and 250 Multinational Corporations such as GE, Honda, DuPont, and Samsung, along with entrepreneurs, investors, government officials and members of the press from around the world.

But it’s the diversity of speakers that’s fascinating.  Previous Our Crowd events have included everyone from the COO of Honda R&D to a Hartford, Conn. police sergeant who’s an expert on real-time surveillance, CT cameras and command centers for smart cities.

2019 sessions include:

  • From the main stage, first-person accounts of startup tech changing the world: assisting law enforcement in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, drone search and rescue after the hurricanes in Florida and Texas, helping rehabilitate spinal cord injuries, saving lives from medical errors, and much more
  • “The Innovation Revolution: Case studies from the Ecosystem,” demonstrating how connecting the players can supercharge the growth of startups
    Top 10 Tech Trends for 2018
  • “Demo Theater: No Pitches, Just Wow” – Nonstop demos in a theater environment (popcorn included), demonstrated by the innovators themselves
  • “Killer Robots and Mutant Children: How to Keep Next-Gen Tech from Destroying Us”
  • The OurCrowd Hackathon: Crowdcreating a Startup, where we will crowdsource ideas to commercialize raw technologies

This is a lot different from other tech/stasrtup events in that this is a summit put on by an equity crowdfunding group, OurCrowd, which also operates its own investment arm with almost 25,000 accredited investors from more than 112 countries. OurCrowd has raised over $750 million and invested in 150 portfolio companies and funds, according to its website.

This is a big deal, and of course, you have to apply to come, which you can do on the website.

Hello Tomorrow Paris, 14 & 15 March

With Trump, Brexit and the missteps of social media giants such as Facebook, it’s difficult to believe sometimes the world is getting better, but it is. The goal of Hello Tomorrow Paris, which bills itself as a global summit, is to bring together the brightest entrepreneurs and change-makers to “build our future.”

This is mostly a future-trends event, with speakers from universities, NASA and organizations such as the Longevity Fund, which seeks ways to make humans live long and prosper. But there are also events for startups including a Toolbox Stage where you can learn skills such as corporate board building, what to look for in a shareholder agreement and how to identify A Players.

Tickets start at 90 euros for startups and you can get yours here.

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