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

Summer is here and, yeah, tech and startup events will take a refreshing pause after July. 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.

Tech Open Air, 19 thru 22 June, Berlin

Tech is transformative if you’re an optimist, disruptive if you’re a pessimist … or on the wrong end of change.

Tech Open Air is about “future-proofing” both your career and your business. TOA is also one of the biggies, drawing 20,000-plus over the course of the four days and 150 speakers.

“Names” this year include Klarna co-founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski, Stefan Thomas from cryptocurrency Ripple and Frank Thelen from Freigeist Capital.

Like most mega-startup/tech events, TOA is divided up into conferences such as the Haus of Tech and workshops. You can see the full list here.

Tickets start at 399 euros and you can get them here.

Globalink NEXT, 25 & 26 June in Amsterdam

Globalink NEXT is for anyone wondering what comes next in marketing. It’s marketed as a “multilingual content and technology forum.” But the common language here will be Prolog, the logic programming language for AI and bots.

This is NOT one of those “come and be inspired by some movie star or Valley CEO” events. This is kind of an all-business, all the time thang with case studies, keynotes and multi-industry panels trying to figure out how next-gen tech is going to disrupt their industries and what to do about it.

Featured speakers include:

Thomas Husson from market-research giant Forrester; Carlos Marquez Arroyo, Heineken e-commerce manager; HP Globalization Manager Gregg Okunami and Rachel Malcolm, Hugo Boss’ team leader for publishing, customer experience and corporate development.

The Globalink NEXT website doesn’t include ticket prices, just a registration button.

This event is put on by TransPerfect, an NYC-based translation company with big multinational clients. We looked it up, and most of their events are free for “Invited guests,” which we translate as “potential clients.”

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 with 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

CERN Hackathon, 2 July in Eindhoven, Netherlands

How many times in life do you get to use CERN research as the foundation on which to build your own fast-growing, high-tech company? (Hint: The answer is, “Once. Don’t screw it up.”)

HighTechXL is bringing together the world’s most advanced research center and Eindhoven’s ecosyste as part of a jus- announced a new collaboration with Geneva-based CERN to recruit or form startup teams capable of turning CERN technology into companies.

HighTechXL – Eindhoven’s high-tech accelerator – will kick off this new technology-transfer collaboration with a CERN hackathon.

Here’s the deal: High-tech industry experts can leave this event as founding members of their own high-tech company. Or, as we’re phrasing it on social media, “CERN Hackathon: Swiss research + Dutch tech talent = #startupsspeedoflight.” Catchy, huh?

Take this singular opportunity and join HighTechXL 2 July for the CERN hackathon. And don’t forget … you have to apply by 25 June for your place in history.

After the teams are identified, the formal accelerator program begins in September and finishes in December before Christmas.

You can register here.

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 Apple building where his team was working on Macintosh. Nothing like antagonizing colleagues to build morale.

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 a 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.

ADDC, 4 thru 6 July in Barcelona

Ahh, yet another conference where you might actually learn something. The App Design and Development Conference is for designers and developers, those unsung heroes of the Digital Age. (We know … we just met with a big web video developer who can’t find enough talent.)

ADDC brings everyone together in Barcelona – worse places to be in the summer – to share ideas and discuss future trends.

Speakers include:

Eli Ganim, engineering manager for Facebook; Jolanda Verhoef, lead Android developer for Cool Blue; Ty Smith, tech lead manager at Uber; and Sara Cambridge, UX researcher at Google.

Workshops include:

• Workshop for developers: Introduction to React Native and GraphQL for App Development

• Facebook Lite: Building for Emerging Markets

• App Design for Women, by Women

You can see the full schedule here.

And this being Barcelona, there’s a boat conference.

Tickets are 499 euros, and there don’t seem to be a lot left. But you can try to get them here. And make a note for next year.

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.

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 is 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.

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.

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.

UPDATE; B&P has a Diversity Challenge going on. They’re offering 200 tickets to people with great diversity stories.  Here’s the link for details.

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!

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.



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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