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The 2019 Edition (updated): Dispatches’ list of the best startup and tech events across Europe

Dispatches is all about bringing highly skilled internationals together to collaborate on the way to changing the world for the better. (Oh, and it would be nice if we all make a couple of euros.) Which is why we go to as many tech and startup events as possible when we’re not going to EDM concerts and zipping around Europe writing travel posts. (We know … a 24/7 job, but somebody’s gotta do it.)

Europe’s tech ecosystem is growing, and by extension, so are the number of startup and tech events. The center of the digital universe used to be London, which still produces far more innovative new companies than any other city with the possible exception of Tel Aviv. But with Brexit, there are emerging contenders for Europe’s tech crown now from Lisbon to Lviv.

At first, Europe imitated Silicon Valley and its tech meetups and hackathons. Now, we’re going our own way, pushing hard into deep tech such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

As stated back in 2017, the question we always hear – as events multiply and corporations catch startup fever – is, “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.

It’s easy to make fun of some of the more pompous and pointless events. But we’ve been to multiple events since 2016 including the CERN Hackathon in Eindhoven and PortXL in Rotterdam and they were amazing, with levels of sophistication missing in a lot of innovation centers, even in the U.S. Three HighTechXL teams just returned from Hello Tomorrow in Paris pumped more about the potential investors and fellow entrepreneurs they met than the speakers themselves, but rated the event a huge success.

What we’re no longer including are the invitation-only and celebrity-oriented events, which come dangerously close to just being religious services for people worshiping at the Temple of Tech. For 2019, we’re including more events which can help you build your skills and industry connections. And as always, thanks to those sending us their events … and we’ll try to do a better job of keeping this list updated.

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

Industry, 15 thru 17 April in Dublin

Dublin is the Tech Center of the World right now and Brexit will only strengthen its position. This conference is basically for software development managers, and as we know, software is eating the world. During three days, about 400 software geeks from more than 30 countries will hear from “renowned product leaders and share the latest methods, tools, and frameworks that they use to build, launch and scale world-class software products,” according to the website.

Speakers include:

• Arielle Kilroy – Senior Product Manager of Open Innovation at Mozilla

• Brian Norgard –Former CPO at Tinder

• Paul Adams, VP of products at Intercom

Topics are mostly process-oriented including:

• Big product decisions: Gut feeling or test?

• The organizational challenge of enterprise roadmapping

• How to optimize your product and business using analytics

And there are lots of workshop.

These industry things are cheap, but new skills and approaches can be a good thing.  That and the boss is paying.

Tickets start at 695 euros and you can get yours here.

TNW Conference 2019, 9 & 10 May in Amsterdam

This is one of the marquee events in a city everyone loves to visit. TNW 2019 is projected to bring about 20,000 people and thousand of execs from hundreds of companies to Amsterdam to hear speakers talk about The Next Wave in tech. (See how we worked that in?)

There are so many of these things now that like EDM festivals, there are not enough Big Names to go around. NOT the case for TNW.

For 2019, there are a LOT of speakers we’d pay to hear including:

• Corinne Vigreux, co-founder of TomTom

• Gillian Tans, CEO of Booking.com

• Stacie Carr from Zalando

• Cassie Kozyrkov from Google

• Jeroen Tass from Philips

• Guillaume Princen from Stripe

• Angel Diaz, VP of Developer Technology and Open Source at  IBM

Yes, there’s a definite skew toward Dutch companies and founders, but why shouldn’t there be? Very quietly, the Dutch own everything from Fintech (Adyen) to Formula 1 (Max Verstappen) to OTT television (“Bosch” and the best actors in “Peaky Blinders” and “Outlander”).  Better to be part of it than left behind.

Tickets start at a hefty 499 euros, and you can get yours here.

Webit.Festival Europe, 13 thru 15 May in Sofia

Billed as “a gathering of open-minded people who want to change the world,” Webit is part industry show, part tech event and part European Union policy summit. It’s probably the largest EU-blessed tech event (Mariya Gabriel, EU commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society holds forth) and certainly the largest in Eastern Europe. Webit and most of the EU events are the opposite of the private-sector U.S. approach – government officials trying to lay out a centrally planned vision for where Europe should be going.

So far, no worlds have been changed, but you never know, right?

This is an event heavy with general secretaries and plenary chairs and even the prime minister of that digital disrupter Turkey.  But the corporates aren’t stupid … there are also top executives from U.S.companies such as Salesforce and Cisco. Because you never know, right?

You can get early bird tickets here starting at 100 euros.

i-COM Data Startup Challenge, 13 thru 16 May in Malaga, Spain

Cristina just sent us this heads-up about the 7th edition of the i-COM Data Startup Challenge. The event will showcase “top startups from around the world who leverage value from Marketing Data & Measurement as the central selling point of their product or services.” Translated, that means using data collection and analytics to figure out who your customer is, how to reach them and what he/she wants.

Startups eligible for the challenge must:

• have a product is live and in the market, with at least one client.
• be less than 4-years-old
• have annual revenue of less than $2.5 million (or 2.2 million euros translated from ‘murican money.)

Winners get a shot at hooking up with new clients as well as getting advice/direction from industry experts from sponsor companies such as BNP Paribas, Dell and AXA.

Entry categories are:

  • General: Any startup that leverages value from data as a central selling point of its product or service.
  • AI
  • Attribution, or measuring the incremental value of marketing channels, strategies and tactics against business outcomes. “Attribution should directly drive optimisation of marketing to improve business outcomes,” according to the website.
  • Content Marketing,: A strategic and tactical marketing approach focused on creating and distributing information to the buyer that is “valuable, relevant and helpful” for a target audience using a combination of owned media (e.g. blogs, microsites, social media conversations, print and digital publications, etc.), paid media and earned media.
  •  Mobile involving data from mobile devices. (The data does not need to be exclusively mobile and can be cross-channel in nature.)
  • Programmatic that includes media planning & audience targeting innovation. Examples include: the marketing cloud, the RTB protocol, addressable audiences, marketing automation and measurement.
  •  Social Media beyond that which falls within a broad definition of social media and paid advertising in social platforms. “This includes topics of social-driven commerce, user comments or conversations, user-generated content, forums and message boards, crowdsourcing/crowdfunding, social publishing, and social media listening.
  •  Video measuring how viewers are watching video content across devices.

It costs startups 49 euros for each entry, and you can fill out the first form here.

Latitude59, Tallinn, 16 & 17 May

Ah, springtime in the Baltics, so it must be time for Latitude59. Tallinn talent in particular has been the source for so much groundbreaking consumer tech from Skype to Transferwise.

Latitude59 – named for Tallinn’s northern location – likes to advertise itself as a gathering of “only the people who matter” in the world’s first digital society. So no mobs of 30,000 people descending on this small country … only a couple of thousand.  What Latitude59 has a history of is attracting big names.

While organizers haven’t announced the 2019 lineup, past speakers have included Transferwise CEO Kristo Käärmann, Jobbatical founder Karoli Hendricks and lots and lots of people from The Valley.

Topics have included:

• the future of cybersecurity

• governments in the digital age

• the future of sustainable foods

So this is more of a Big Brain event and less of a Big Star event with pitch events, matchmaking and parties.

Tickets start at 69 euros (not 500 euros) and you can get yours here.

Viva Technology, 16 thru 18 May in Paris

Viva Tech is one of The Majors, with 100,000 attendees, thousands of VCs and the biggest names in tech as past speakers including Zuck, Satya Nadella from Microsoft and Ginni Rometty from IBM.

The VT pitch is that you’ll meet the people who can fund your startup, or maybe the talent you lack. But the truth is, unless you have the next Apple or Salesforce, you might get lost in the crowd.

That said, the opportunities are real, with:

• Office Hours, which gives you face time with VCs

• Scaleup Lounge, with one-on-one coaching

• Mentor Lounge, with guidance from people who’ve been where you want to go

•  Startup Battlefield Europe, a pitch competition with a chance to win 25,000 euros and an all-expenses-paid trip to Disrupt in San Francisco.

This is definitely the Big Time for those who are ready and have the cash to pay for transportation well as a place to stay in Paris.

You can get tickets here.

PODIM Conference 2019, 21 & 22 May in Maribor, Slovenia

We just put Slovenia on our new list of the best countries – best educated and least corrupt – for expats in Emerging Europe. So it’s no surprise to us, at least, that the tech world – speakers from Amazon, MIT and financiers from San Fran/The Valley – is starting to gravitate here.

PODIM (we never could figure out what that stands for) is designed for startups from Alps-Adriatic and Western Balkan regions that haven’t yet their series A round and aren’t older than 5 years, according to the website.

When you look at the PODIM Conference speaker lineup, there are a LOT of people coming from outside Slovenia, particularly the U.S. and Switzerland, to this regional innovation conference.

Tickets start at 95 euros for startups, and you can get yours here.

PODIM Conference is sponsored by the Slovene Enterprise Fund and Slovenia’s Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, and organized by Start:Up Slovenia.

A caveat: We were reluctant to recommend this event because it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, two hours by train from Ljublijana and an hour from Graz, Austria.

Sektor 3.0 Festival, 22 & 23 May in Warsaw

Innovating for social impact? Leveraging your startup or NGO with technology? Or perhaps you’re a startup that can help a non-profit with your invention?

Then you need to be at the 9th edition of Sektor 3.0 Festival, scheduled for May 22 & 23, 2019 in Warsaw, Poland. The free two-day event features seminars and lectures, as well as practical workshops hosted by partner companies and institutions throughout Warsaw.

Sektor 3.0 Festival claims the title of the largest innovation and technology conference in the Central and Eastern European region focusing on innovators, startups, non-profits and activists who seek to make positive social change. About 1,000 people come annually from around the world to the nine-year-old festival, with speakers from 15 countries in 2018.

Speakers include experts from Google, MIT, Intel, NASA, CNN, Microsoft, Seoul National University,  European Parliament, The EU Ministry of Digital Affairs and other institutions.

The full program of the 2019 edition will be announced in April 2019. See the Sektor 3.0 website for more information about previous speakers and organizing partners.

Contact frsi@frsi.org.pl if you have questions. (Thanks to Magdalena Jackiewicz for sending us the Sektor 3.0 info.)

The Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2019, 4 & 5 June in Den Haag (The Haag)

The Global Entrepreneurship Summits are a global series sponsored by a non-profit and funded/hosted by various governments. In this case, it’s the United States and The Netherlands bringing everyone together in the lovely Dutch capital of Den Haag. While we’re not generally excited about the public sector bureaucrats getting involved in startups, this looks like an important event.

Also, Steve Bulter from the State Department came to Eindhoven recently and pitched us, so now we’re fans!

Steve told us the 2019 GES unique is the number (400-plus) and variety of investors that have committed: “The focus is on investors. We’re talking real investors with real money!” They include all flavors of investors from early-stage angels to private equity, and include institutional investors, VCs and private equity, he said.

A nifty infographic lays out the five categories of startups GES investors are looking for: Water, connectivity, energy, health and agriculture.

GES 2019 programming includes:

  • Curated matchmaking programs – connect and build meaningful, lasting partnerships with players that suit your business needs
  • Solution labs – collaborate with peers and inspirers to re-invent business and tech in your sector
  • Pitch stages – showcase your solution to top investors and decision makers
  • Interactive sessions – make deals, ensure commitments and give input on regulations
  • Secret sessions – meet mystery guests in small private sessions
  • Skill-building sessions – keep learning and honing your creative and commercial skills
  • In-depth discussions and panel sessions – co-design strategies to influence global policy and business trends
  • Keynotes by thought leaders – get inspired by the greatest minds that pave the way

Okay, you can apply here, and of course, there’s no fee for startups.

Techsylvania, 8 thru 11 June in Cluj-Napoca

Festivals such as Arctic15 are charging startups 359 euros to attend. Seriously? Say you take your core 4-person team. BOOM! You just spent almost 1,600 euros of capital you need to build your company.

By comparison, Techsylvania in Romania’s mighty IT capital of Cluj s that rare event with affordable tickets AND big names, promising 50-ish speakers for 2019. Past speakers have included investor/entrepreneur Yossi Vardi, Andreas Ehn, Employee No.1 and CTO at Spotify, Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth and Di-Ann Eisner, director of growth at Waze and many, many more.

There’s a two-day hackathon. There are 10 curated workshops, info about the latest trends in robotics, programming, blockchain and AI. Oh, and satellite events all over the place.

And all starting at the low, low price of 69 euros per ticket, and you can get yours here.

SaaStr Europa 2019, Paris, 12 & 13 June

Ahhh, June in Paris, when hearts turn to love, romance and B2B software as a service in the City of Lights.

Come on … who doesn’t love Saas, right?  And we’ve decided to pretty much just list every event in Paris because we like going there.

This is the second year for SaasStr, which started in San Francisco, where they put on one of the largest B2B software conferences. The concept is, Saastr wants to take enterprises from $0 to $100 million as quickly as possible, and this event is designed to bring together founders, C-suite types and VCs looking for the new, new thing.

For 2019, SaasStr Europa is projected to bring 2,500 and have twice as much content, according to the website.

Last year, speakers included:

• Jason Lemkin, a VC, entrepreneur and founder of SaaStr

• Guillaume Princen, Stripe’s Head of France & Southern Europe

• Marc Diouane, president of Zuora

and a whole bunch of Tier 2 VCs.

This year’s, one of the speakers could be you, and you can get details here.

Tickets start at $249 (not euros) and you can get them here.

Startup Extreme, 24 through 26 June in Voss, Norway

This piqued our collective imaginations last year … a look at Norway’s startup ecoystem along with crazy outdoor challenges. In Norway.

Norway is kind of unusual in that it has a tiny population of about 5 million and a huge, gigantic sovereign fund because of its petroleum industry. the Norwegians are no fools … they’re pushing to become tech leaders for that day in the not-too-distant future when the oil runs out.

Now, throw in some of the most amazing vistas in the world, and you have the makings of a great event. Startup Extreme mixes low-key hiking, swimming with extreme fun including pulse-quickening whitewater and skydiving with panels and workshops.

So this is part work, part vacation for the right people. Because it ain’t cheap, though there certainly are more expensive startup/tech events that don’t offer rock climbing.

Tickets start at about 2,000 Norweigan Krone, or about 208 euros, and go up to 8,000 Krone, or about 830 euros.

You can get them here, but there’s just one catch … you have to apply, then be invited.

Tech Open Air, 2 thru 5 July in Berlin

This is sort of the Her Damit of tech conferences/festivals … the beautiful people gathered at their own Haus of Tech and forest stage on the water in Berlin talking about tech before they head to Berghain. In other words, Europe’s coolest tech conference, and one that started in 2012 as a crowd-funded, interdisciplinary effort to link the tech world and the arts.

This year, the theme is, “We make you future-proof,” and goodness knows, we’ve always wanted to be future proof.

There are some speakers worth hearing including Transferwise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus and Bruce Linton of Canopy Growth, who’s apparently figured out a way to legally monetize cannabis (dude!)

As far as we can tell, TOA is the only tech conference in July, and this is in Berlin, Europe’s coolest tech gathering. So what the heck? Tickets start at 229 euros, or 899 euros for “thought leaders,” who we imagined would get paid to attend, right? You can get your tickets here.

Later in 2019 after the summer vacation break:

SHIFT, 29 & 30 August in Turku, Finland – Two things jump out at us here. First, who said there are no conferences in August? Second, all anyone wants to talk with us about is artificial intelligence … and this is an AI for industries conference. The 2019 speaker list isn’t public yet, and his is mostly for the theoretical types. Past speakers have mostly been researchers and engineers, with a few entrepreneurs. Startup tickets are 145 euros and you can get yours here.

Intelligent Health AI 2019, 11 & 12 September in Basel – With Philips Healthcare’s R&D a major presence Dispatches’ HQ city of Eindhoven, we see regularly how AI is transforming healthcare. So we’ll be represented well 11 and 12 September in Basel for this one. This year’s Intelligent Health AI once again brings together the global AI and health community in Switzerland to figure out how AI can be used to solve some of the world’s healthcare problems. The premise: AI can revolutionize healthcare in oncology, radiology, surgery, cardiology, genomics and other clinical areas. The event includes clinicians, C-suite executives in pharma, biotech and medtech, policymakers and technologists. Tickets start at 49 euros for docs and other clinicians, and you can get yours here.

IT Arena, 28 thru 30 September in Lviv – IT Arena is a six-year-old tech event with a global outlook and scale in Ukraine’s IT center.  Networking, business matchmaking and a festival spirit are IT Arena trademarks, according to the news release we got from Iryna Zubenko. (Thank you, Iryna.)  Though this is a relatively small conference, it has drawn about 100 top experts from global companies, including Facebook, Tesla, Google, eBay and Samsung. Speakers have included Sachin Rekhi, Founder & CEO at Notejoy, ex-Head of Product at Linkedin, ex-Product Manager at Microsoft, Cassie Kozyrkov, Chief Decision Scientist at Google Cloud, Martin Villig, Co-Founder at Taxify, and others. Tickets start at $150 and you can get them here.

Bits & Pretzels, 29 September to 1 October in Munich – One of Germany’s biggest startup/tech events, B&P draws A-listers such as Sir Richard Branson, Valentine Stalf from N26 and pretty much everyone who’s anyone in the German startup scene. There’s a “Happy Bird” ticket sale going on now, whatever that means. You can sign up here.

World Summit AI, 9 & 10 October in Amsterdam – From London-based InspiredMinds, the same people who put on Intelligent Health AI, World Summit AI will bring the Big Brains together to “tackle head-on the most burning AI issues and set the global AI agenda,” according to a news release. World Summit AI organizers promise “two days of mind-boggling innovation, heated discussions on AI ethics and AI4good,” applied solutions for enterprise, workshops, knowledge-sharing, networking and entertainment.

Tickets are limited and you can get yours here starting at 199 euros for startups.

Digital Freedom Festival, 21 & 22 November in Riga, Latvia – The goal of DFF is to unite the tech world. A surprising number of “names” as Latvia attempts to steal Estonia’s spotlight as the Baltic’s digital innovation capital.

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