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TechBBQ: The Nordic impact tech conference that’s a treat for the senses

(Editor’s note: We’ve focused on Eindhoven, Lisbon and Zagreb during the past year. Now, we’re expanding our horizons with this trip to TechBBQ in Copenhagen. This is part of our Tech Tuesdays series. Dispatches covers tech across Europe because so many of our highly skilled internationals are entrepreneurs and engineers.)

TechBBQ was … how do we put this? This two-day Copenhagen impact investor event on 13 and 14 September was a feast for all the senses. There were fireside chats, keynote presentations, panel discussions, matchmaking sessions, startups buzzing at booths and thousands and thousands of people learning, chatting and connecting with the goal of strengthening the Nordic ecosystem.

This year’s theme was “Entangled,” an acknowledgement of impact each of us makes with our endeavors ripples across the planet, opening new realms of opportunity; technologically, socio-politically, environmentally and in business building.

TechBBQ was held at the Lokomotivvaerkstedet, the old train workshop once used for maintenance of Danish steam locomotives. Organizers managed to keep the industrial look and feel of the original building but there were modern amenities throughout. 

All photos by Cheryl Boyd for Dispatches Europe

At 10,000 meters square, the space is cavernous, so acoustics are tricky. But TechBBQ organizers very cleverly addressed the challenge by placing noise-cancelling headphones at each chair in small stages throughout the complex. 

What was interesting was the speakers’ mics on stage delivered sound directly to your ears. Pitchers at the Extreme Tech Challenge Life Sciences Startup Competition didn’t have to shout over the main stage speakers, nor did they even have to project to deliver their message to the upper reaches of an auditorium. Their pitches were at conversational level, and we found ourselves – strangely – absorbing the information more thoroughly than if we didn’t have the headphones. 

It was like a silent disco for conferences. And we loved it.

Day One topics included:

• AI’s Best Kept Secret – the future of making business decisions

The Goldilocks Effect – achieving disruption without destruction

• Democratization of Finance – how risk capital isn’t just limited to Wall Street and Sand Hill Road

• Sextech – Makelovenotporn founder Cindy Gallop the intersection of tech and sex

• AI in Biotech – AI’s role in the future of medicine and biotech research

Day Two talks included:

• Quantum Computing

• The Future of Work

• Using Biotech to Beat Aging

We were there specifically to cover Extreme Tech Challenge’s Life Sciences Startup Competition.

Danish startup ASAI from the Bioinnovation Institute in Copenhagen had the winning Life Sciences pitch, winning 75,000 Danish krone, or about 10,000 euros. ASAI’s machine learning-augmented diagnostic platform uses a novel approach to bio-sensing to provide a holistic view of the molecular fingerprint of a bio-sample.

There were clusters of high energy and activity in every square meter of the venue. All the biggest names in tech were there: Google, Microsoft, SAP. The atmosphere was Christmas, carnival and conference all rolled up into one. 

We caught snippets of conversations with the same keywords floating through the air: “impact,” “startup,” “investment,” “deal flow.”

Our favorite quote came from Steffen Yndal with HATO Medical Technologies. When asked how he thought it was going just two hours after the official start of TechBBQ, he said, “It’s going great! We’ve already had a lot of interest. Wouldn’t it be great if we got funding?”

It would be great indeed.

Despite the thousands and thousands in attendance, it felt like a neighborhood barbecue: informal, exciting, more fun than your typical corporate conference.

Everyone just wanted to talk and hang out, eat some food and learn. And startups just wanted to get funding.

It was the perfect vibe and perfect venue for the Extreme Tech Challenge Life Sciences Startup Competition finals.

We’ll be back. 

About TechBBQ

TechBBQ started out in 2013 literally as a barbecue with a group of friends who connected tech with hygge – the Nordic concept of enjoying the good things in life with friends in a cozy environment. It’s since grown into one of the largest tech gatherings in the Nordics, along with Slush in Helsinki and sTARTUp Day in Tartu, Estonia.

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