Three ways large tech conferences could be a gamechanger for your startup

… And how to make the most of them!

October is upon us and with the end of the year approaching quickly, as a startup founder now is the time to kick your goals! Summer may be over but that doesn’t mean the good vibes are; in the next few months some of the largest Tech conferences for Startups will take place including SaaStock in Dublin, Unleash in Amsterdam, Web Summit in Lisbon, Slush in Helsinki, MWC in Barcelona; the list is endless!

With tickets and exhibition spots usually sold at steep prices, you’ll probably think twice – and read our other post first – as a startup founder before forking out the money of your scrappy startup budget to attend one of these events. And if you do, odds are you’ll lose focus in the sea of people, presentations and activities. So how can you use these conferences to turbocharge your startup journey and how do you prepare to make the most of them?

Connect at Tech Conferences

With a mixed audience consisting of startups, investors, blue chip companies, tech pioneers and media outlets these large conferences have got you covered, no matter where you are in your startup journey. Looking to learn about best startup practices and figure out how to get your idea off the ground? Head over to the exhibition area and learn from the hottest startups on the planet and how they turned their idea into a reality.

Are you an established startup looking to pilot or partner with leading brands and get feedback on your product? With many blue-chip companies attending these events in search of the latest trends and technologies this is the place to make your move. And once you’ve sealed the deal, don’t forget to get the word out! With an abundance of journalists, bloggers and media seeking for their next startup hero story, large tech conferences are the place to share your story with the world.

Oh, and in case you want to connect with investors to secure your next round of funding; big names like Sequoia, High Tech Gründer Fond (Germany), BPI France, SOS Ventures, Accel Partners and Andreessen Horowitz are returning visitors at several of these events and always on the lookout for the next unicorn, just sayin’.

Our advice? Create a list and reach out to people and companies that could be gamechangers for your business BEFORE the conference, and schedule your meetings to take place during the event. These events are huge, so you’ll want to avoid time wasting and having to find the right people whilst the conference is in full swing. Also, make sure you have your Gaddie pitch practised and ready to go; it’s by far one of the most effective ways to get people interested in your idea.

Discover

However, don’t over-plan and make sure to leave ample time to discover and be inspired! Jet lag tools used by astronauts, educational curricula based on neuroscience and AI, and a social platform integrating AR/VR to enhance brand experiences and consumer engagement; the future is here, and it’s right at these conferences! Like Stephen Hawking said “We stand on the threshold of a brave new world. It is an exciting, if precarious, place to be. And you are the pioneers”. As a startup founder, prepare to discover mind-blowing technologies, get the inside scoop on global trends in innovation and walk away with a ton of inspiration for your own business.

Needless to say; come with an open mind and bring your business cards (for the cool cats a fully charged phone will do) to make the most of random interactions and capture amazing tools and technologies that are relevant to your startup.

Learn

And last but not least, Tech conferences for Startups are the ultimate spot to learn anything about tech (duh!) and innovation. A quick glance over the programming of a few of these events teaches us that this year’s events and speaker line-ups are bigger and better than ever.

Are you looking to disrupt the HR industry and shape the Future of Work with your tech solution? Head over to Unleash to hear from experts in HR, including Margareth Greenleaf from Roche, Carolanne Minashi from UBS and Dominik Hahn from Allianz. Want to learn more about sales and connecting to your customers? Hear from David Gerhardt, VP Marketing of Drift or Martin Afshari-Mehr, Director of Salesforce at SaaStock, a conference focused on SaaS businesses. Operating in the travel business?

Join Web Summit to hear from Gilian Tans, CEO of Booking.com, on how artificial intelligence and machine learning is improving their service and transforming the industry. Looking to learn from the best in venture capital?

At Slush, you can learn from Arlan Hamilton, a remarkable entrepreneur who built a venture capital fund from the ground up, while homeless. Or maybe you would like to hear Cyan Banister, Partner at Founders Fund, who’ll speak at Web Summit. She has made dozens of angel investments over the years, including in Space X, Uber, Niantic, and DeepMind Technologies, which was acquired by Google for more than $500 million. And whilst you’re at it, don’t miss the opportunity to hear from some more unconventional speakers, including one of the greatest soccer players of all time, Ronaldinho, and Buddhist Monk, Author and Humanitarian Matthieu Ricard.

Again, make sure to plan ahead to learn from brilliant minds in your industry but also don’t forget to check out speakers working in completely different fields; they might just share some unexpected gems of wisdom that change your perspective and outlook.

All in all, plenty of reasons to check out our startup events overview , do your research and take your pick… You never know where it might take your startup rocketship!

Check-out also our detailed posts on Commercial Growth:

By Liz Derks

Which events are right for startups?

As a young Entrepreneur, you know that getting out of the office is key to building a relevant network. You know that a the right events for Startups can propel your business where it can thrive and achieve its business goals more efficiently. However, we are always amazed at how much time Entrepreneurs waste attending the wrong events. Are you also tired of not getting what you expect from events?

Why attend an Event in the first place?

Motivation and goals to participate in an event can be diverse but mostly fall into one or several of these categories.

  • Scouting for new ideas, market intelligence and competition
  • Reputation marketing to build credibility as opinion leader & employer in your field
  • Raising funds for your venture and increasing your visibility to Investors
  • Accelerate Customer acquisition and connect with relevant decision makers
  • Influence key policies and decisions within your industry
  • Have fun, combining team building with business related discovery

As with any business decision, in a resources constraint environment, it is foremost important to ensure you have clear goals regarding event participation.

What types of events can you attend?

Of course there are many different types of events available to startups depending on time, resources and costs of participation.

  • Networking & Apero & Meetups
  • Pitching competitions
  • Startup event e.g. Pioneers Festival
  • Hackathon: 1/ 2 or 3 days of rapid prototyping (coding) for project sponsors
  • Tech show: horizontal events covering multiple markets, typically focused on selected technology solutions e.g. Mobile World Congress, CES Las Vegas
  • Trade show: Vertical events covering multiple technologies but focused on targeted market segments e.g. HannoverMesse
  • Accelerator: 2-3-month programs e.g. Kickstart Accelerator, IKEA Rainmaker
  • Incubator: 6-12-18-month program often with co-working spaces

You can check some selected upcoming events for startups here.

Some things to watch-out when picking Events

Whether with customers, investors or partners, it is great to try out some various events formats. However, below are some pitfalls you should be aware of to select the right events for Startups.

  • Being in the spotlight: as Founder, you put yourself in front of your business; you use the venture as a vehicle for you to get visibility and positive reinforcement; this syndrome is likely to appear in pure-play startup events, remote from market challenges
  • Comfort zone: some Entrepreneurs tend to select those events where they know they have an edge; remember that for a deep tech start-up, pitching and winning at tech events might feel great but does not solve key business questions
  • The Booth: getting a booth at an event can be a curse for a startup; A booth is great for established companies to gather partners or customers efficiently. Generally understaffed, startups are better off walking the floor and talking to people
  • If it is Free… you are the Product: many events are popping up financed mainly through corporate sponsors; they are scouting for innovation & ideas but not always with a clear purchasing mandate
  • Vision vs. Market: as you engage on the growth path for your business, you will encounter many challenges along the way. As you do this, be prepared to call “bullshit” on pitch focusing only on “vision”, “paradigm shift”, “disruption”. As your talks shift away from talking about markets, customer and sales so are your chances of building a sustainable business.
  • Selling vs. Discovering: as you start facing commercial challenges, watch out for being stuck in “discovery” event mode; early on you should shape your ideas and technology into a product + pricing proposal you can bring to potential customers
  • Escaping reality: as the business challenges increase, attending Events can become a place of comfort away from the tough reality of the business

Making the most out of your event

  • Selection: take a bit more time to challenge the need to join specific events; look for qualitative assessments and peer recommendation to meet your objectives
  • Priorities: stay focused on key business questions you are trying to answer? Key challenges? Resist the temptation of going to events just because it is free or you “won” a pitching slot! (Remember: if it is free…)
  • Liquidity: most likely you are better off not renting a booth and walking the show; as needed, booking a demo room nearby a larger event can be a great alternative to renting out expensive space on event premises
  • Time: you might leverage the event platform to connect with speakers or participants but decide not to attend in person; this might prove a great compromise to not participating to the event at all
  • Impact: prepare extensively before attending time-intensive events and particularly when you have a targeted audience in mind e.g. Investors or customers; review their specific strategy, focus and priorities so you can be razor sharp in your message
  • Value: a thorough and timely post-event follow-up is critical to getting real value from an event and send a clear execution-focused signal
  • Focus: Events should only be a means to an end; make sure you do a candid post-event lessons learned to inform your business decisions and challenge further event participation.

To execute the right events for Startups, given the lack of transparency, information and reviews, identifying and leveraging the most out of the right events can be a challenge for most Entrepreneurs. The need for exposure to peers, customer, partners or investors should force a sound judgment on to the few events, which a Startup must attend.

To simplify this task for you, sparksense.co provides you with a platform for start-up events here. We would appreciate your suggestions and feedback !