Lifestyle & Culture

New for 2020: Dispatches’ list of the best startup and tech events in Europe and beyond

So, your boss/investors just asked if you need to budget for any big startup/tech events in 2020. Your answer should be, “Oh, yeah,” if for no other reason than to get you out of your office/shared workspace and into new networks in new cities with new people.

As we pointed out way back in 2017, as events multiply and corporations catch startup fever, the question is always, “Are these things worth the time and money?” The answer is, “Sometimes. That’s your call.”

If only the innovation they produced matched the ability of event organizers to come up with new ways to get you to fork over 500 euros. And why, exactly, does a ticket to a Digiday event for digital publishers cost 2,400 euros? Or passes to Mobile World Congress start at 1,700 euros?

Still, a lot of the biggest events such as SaaStr in Paris coming up in June have already sold out their early bird offerings.

For 2020, Dispatches will continue to weigh the potential benefits of an event with the costs and omit the unjustifiably expensive events, as well as search for events which can help you build your skills and industry connections. 

Also, we’re pushing beyond our borders to include events in Israel and Dubai that are easily and affordably accessible from Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.

Send us your event at: … and thanks to all you who’ve send us your event info through the years. It goes without saying that this list will be updated weekly.

So, let’s hit the road, Jack ….

Cybertech Israel, 28 thru 30 January in Tel Aviv

This is a hot topic in one of the world’s most advanced innovation centers.

Usually, we list the celebrity speakers … the Bill Gates, the Tim Cooks and the Gary Vaynerchucks. This time, the celebrities are prime ministers including Bebe Netanyahu and Saulius Skvernelis of Lithuania along with retired U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus and the heads of cybersecurity at GM, Cisco and IBM. Yeah, it’s that kind of event about a crucial topic.

Cybertech is projected to attract 18,000 attendees from across the globe and there are multiple conferences within in the conference including cybermed and transportation. (This is part of a global series of cybersecurity conferences.)

Tickets start at $285 for students and military personnel and executives/officials in the various defense industries and governments get in free.

STEP Conference, Dubai Internet City, 11 & 12 February

STEP Conference started out as a small event and has grown during eight years into the biggest startup/tech event in Dubai. And as we all know, in Dubai the streets are lined with bags of gold waiting for promising teams.

Though it’s actually pretty small – 8,000 attendees – by Web Summit standards, Step is actually several conferences including a startup event. The sector categories are  fintech, digital media, AI, transport, e-commerce and more at four conferences: STEP Start, STEP Digital, STEP X, and STEP Money. If you’re an Arabic speaker, this could be a very cool event. So we’re taking Toam Jaber from our Dispatches/Tier1 team.

This event has drawn some interesting mid-echelon speakers from Microsoft and Facebook, so this might be a good one to put in your calendar in place of an event that’s gotten too big for its britches.

Right now, Step has a two-for-one ticket offer … $349 for you and a friend/co-worker. (Full disclosure … we already applied.)

E-Commerce Berlin Expo, 13 February

Got an e-commerce startup? Well, this is where you need to be. E-Commerce Berlin puts the latest trends in a big industry expo where VCs mix with execs from companies such as BMW, Zalando, Adidas and Amazon.

This will be the fifth year for the E-Commerce Berlin Expo, with 180 exhibitors and about 7,000 attendees expected.

They’ve just posted the 2020 speakers list, and it’s impressive:

● Carsten Muerl, Director Product Management / Mastercard

● Andreas Schmidt, Head of API & Product Owner Payments / ZalandoPayments

● Tom Pham / Global Ecommerce Operations Manager / Beiersdorf

● Christian Kahl / User Experience Lead / CyberSolutions

● Gemma Comabella / Managing Director DACH /

● Shefali Bhatnagar/ YouTube Action Lead / Google

● Lisa Dauvermann / Industry Lead eCommerce / Facebook

● Max Melching / Bereichsleiter Online Marketing, Data Intelligence &Retail Media / Douglas

Oh, and there’s one more thing … it’s free to attend for startups. You can register here.

OurCrowd Global Investor Summit, 13 February in Jerusalem

Israel increasingly is the place to be whether you are a tech talent or a tech investor. And this is Israel’s big event, attracting  about 20,000 people from almost every country on Earth.

The speaker list is finally public and includes:

• Dave Mosely of Seagate Technology

• Mitch Garber of Cirque du Soleil

• Jun Sawada from Japanese telecommunications giant NTT

• Guy Kashdan from money transfer startup Rewire

There are also a ton of VCs listed including Proof VC from Reston, Va. and Flint, which is based in Menlo Park in The Valley, but operates in Israel and other countries.

T A lot of OurCrowd is invite only, and here’s the link to get on the list.

TechChill, 20 & 21 February in Riga, Latvia

Ah, to be in Latvia in February … the sun is starting to come up over the horizon, the snow is deep and the air is thick with deals.

TechChill is a Big Names gathering without big names prices, with tickets 99 euros for startups. Because this is a community event put on by a non-profit in the frozen Baltics … in February.

The three 2020 tracks are blockchain, 5G and greentech.

The 2020 speakers list is an interesting mix, to say the least:

• Rotten Tomatoes founder Patrick Lee

• Jules Miller, a partner at IBM’s blockchain accelerator

• Ben Larson, founder of cannabis infusion startup Vertosa (formerly Nanogen Labs)

• Marvin Liao from 500 Startups

• a bunch of people from Inventure, the Nordic technology fund

And don’t forget … there’s the 50 Founders pitching contest worth 10,000 euros.

This year, the TechChill theme is”The Big Shift,” and we assume they’re talking about Latvia emerging as a startup center, escaping the shadow of neighboring Estonia. Or maybe the shift to 5G. Who knows ….

Get your startup pass here.

Polar Bear Pitching, 12 March in Oolu, Finland

When we heard about Polar Bear Pitching, we knew we had to add it to the list. And that there’s no chance in hell we’re ever gonna’ go do this no matter how badly we need to connect with investors.

Here’s the deal – you get on a plane and fly to Oulu, Finland (wherever that is), cut a hole in the ice (yes, there will be ice in Oulu, Finland in March) and pitch while standing in the frozen Baltic Sea. Investors sit around the hole in the frozen Baltic Sea and – bundled up and cozy – watch startups pitch as fast as they can to get out of the water.

The whole story is, this event came out of a tech downturn that affected this tech/university city 600 kilometers due north of Helsinki. (We didn’t even know there was a “north of Helsinki.”) We don’t have space in this post to do it justice, but the Polar Bear Pitching story a really good one about perseverance.

Tickets start at 79 euros for startups, but that does not include the cost of ER crew reviving you after your heart stops from the shock of hitting that water.

Even if you have no interest in going, you must check out the website.

Paris Blockchain Week Summit, 31 March & 1 April

Paris wants you to forget Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, Tallinn, Lisbon, Barcelona and every other digital-innovation capital. To do that, the French have come up with Station F, the French startup visa and lots of big events including Paris Blockchain Week Summit. Tickets start at 175 euros for developers and you can get yours here.

The goal is to make France the first G20 country to create a business-friendly environment for the rapidly growing blockchain/crypto currency ecosystem. 

France actually has a secretary of state for Digital Affairs, and he’ll be there at Station F. Tickets start at 175 euros, and you can get yours here.

Arch Summit 2020, 1 & 2 April in Luxembourg City

Small but seriously wealthy Luxembourg has banking and finance and even steel, but it’s missed out on the digital revolution. Until now.

Arch Summit – brought to you by a joint venture between Vodafone Group and Technoport (Luxembourg’s government-run incubator) – brings startups and corporates together as more multinationals such as Vodafone look to juice operations with fresh blood and new thinking.

Tech tracks include:

• 5G (surprise … since this is all telecom driven)

• IoT

• AI

• blockchain

• and anywhere else a big telecom can play in the revolution to link the planet.

This is more of an industry trade show than a feel-good gathering, so a booth, matchmaking tool and networking come with the 499 euro price of admission.

This is really Vodafone’s party, so their top brass will be there speechifying. But there are real opportunities to take home serious money including 150,000 euros in cash if you win the pitch contest, as well as 6-months of support through Technoport.

You can get your tickets here.

EU Startups – Summit, 28 & 29 May in Barcelona

EU Startups covers the scene across Europe. This is their biggie, and shockingly, they chose Barcelona rather than, say, Turku.

But EU Startups – Summit promises to bring together 1,500 founders, startup enthusiasts, corporates, angel investors, VCs, and media types from across the continent.

They also promise 70 speakers (all TBA), a pitch competition with 75,000 euros in prizes, networking, parties and after-parties. All for relatively bargain ticket pricess starting at 169 euros for startups.

Now, can you find an Airbnb in Barcelona, or will you have to commute from Andorra?

Dublin Tech Summit, April 22 & 23

Along with Berlin, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Frankfurt, Dublin is a city of tomorrow as Brexit transforms the tech and financial landscape of Europe.

The Republic of Ireland has attracted operations of most of the largest tech companies in the world from Amazon to Zalando. So, this 2020 event is themed as “What Does Tomorrow Looks Like.” (For the record, no question mark.)

This is an emerging technology event with 200 speakers that’s projected to attract 10,000 attendees, so this is the big event replacing Web Summit, which left Dublin for Lisbon in 2016.

This year, the marquee speaker is Eric Yuan from a little unicorn called Zoom, which Microsoft tried – and failed – to acquire before it went to an IPO.

Tickets start at 259 euros and you can get yours here.

Startup Olé, 5 thru 7 May in Salamanca, Spain

Yea, baby! This is what we’re talking about. A giant gathering of the international startup tribes and it’s free … free! Okay, thats because it’s sponsored by the EU, and we’re not huge fans of the public sector getting involved in private-sector capitalism. But, hey – free is free.

This isn’t a Tim Cook and Gary Vaynerchuk event. This is a matchmaking, roundtables, workshops and networking event that brings together investors and startup teams.

This is one of several startup events put on by Latam, which organizes events in Spanish/Portugese-speaking countries including Chile and Argentina. But most of the Startup Olé events are in English.

You can get your free ticket here.

Saastr Europa, May 17 & 18 in Paris

This event started in the States, where years ago, Marc Andreessen noted that software is eating the world. This will be the third SaaStr event in Europe, with the first two selling out.

SaaStr is a big draw for top execs, angels and VCs, and previous speakers have been from Twilio, Salesforce Ventures, Stripe and Eventbrite. This is one of the few events where you really could get instant traction for your software startup.

For 2020, Saastr promises more than 60 speakers and a ton of content.

Early bird tickets are sold out eight months out, and now, tickets start at 249 euros for founders and startups. You can get yours here.

Latitude59, 28 & 29 May in Tallinn

Latitude59 refers to Tallinn’s location at 59-degrees north latitude. Fifty-nine point 44, to be exact. Which puts it dangerously close to the Arctic Circle in our book. But, we’ve heard nothing but good things from the teams we know who’ve attended this boutique event.

And that’s the whole idea … smaller is better.

From the Latitude59 website:

Startup conferences are about speeches, pitches and wooing investors. The big ones, they’re the cruise ships of seafaring. Latitude59 is the lovely yacht without the crowds. Only people who really matter. Latitude59 is small by design. We like the cosy festival vibe. 

The speaker lineup hasn’t been announced, but it’s usually heavy with Estonian talent … the people who’ve laid the groundwork for Unicorns such as TransferWise. But the real reason you’re going is to talk with potential investors, and our friends found exactly the people they needed to connect with.

Startup tickets are 89 euros and you can apply here.

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