Every year there’s a plethora of conferences, summits and festivals targeting tech startups, established tech companies and investors. It can be difficult to navigate the competing itinerary across Europe so we’ve put together a list of the best events for maximum impact:
TechChill (February- Riga, Latvia)
Proving that good things happen in small packages in the heart of winter, TechChill offers startups an intimate opportunity to network with fellow startups, entrepreneurs, investors, and journalists. There’s plenty of side events and it’s a great chance to visit a part of the world you might otherwise never see.
4YFN (February to March- Barcelona, Spain)
4YFN is an initiative by Mobile World Capital Barcelona to facilitate a meeting point for the global technology startups. It’s the sister event to the simultaneously held behemoth, Mobile World Congress with tickets and stall prices significantly more affordable. You can expect to rub shoulders with investors, press and analysts looking for the latest successes with the opportunity to attend workshops on topics such as the legal info you need to know post- seed funding and even speed date a slew of journalists.
MWC (February to March-Barcelona, Spain)
Mobile World Congress is one of the world’s biggest tech conferences (perhaps only CES is bigger). It extends far beyond mobile tech to encompass IoT, AI, hardware and every kind of connected device you could think of, across a massive venue of stalls, stages, and gardens. Wear comfortable shoes, you’ll be walking forever, but you never know who you might meet on the travelator.
CeBIT Global Conferences (March – Hannover, Germany)
Once the world’s largest computer trade expo, CeBIT has progressed from its traditional roots into themes such as IoT, R&D and start-up innovation. You can expect to see plenty of panels, keynote speakers, and workshops as well as booths from over 3000 exhibit.
Wolves Summit (March – Warsaw, Poland)
Wolves Summit is a conference for startups, investors, corporations and entrepreneurs from all around the world. This year will be the fifth edition of the event, which is one of the biggest startup events in Central and Eastern Europe. Wolves Summit aims to build a bridge between promising startups, tech companies, investors and corporations.
Resonate (April – Belgrade, Serbia)
Resonate is a platform for networking, knowledge sharing, and education. It brings together artists, designers, and educators to participate in a forward-looking debate on the position of technology in art and culture. The annual festival lasts for four days and provides an overview of current situation in the fields of music, visual arts, and digital culture. Guest artists, lecturers, and other participants are chosen to represent the cutting edge of the contemporary creative industry in the world.
EU-Startups Conference (April – Berlin, Germany)
The EU-Startups Conference is the annual flagship event of EU-Startups.com. It connects some of the best European startups with investors, corporates and the media. Aside of exciting speakers, the EU-Startups Conference also hosts a big pitch competition with 15 pre-selected early-stage startups from all across Europe.
Arctic15 (May – Helsinki, Finland)
The underlying premise of Artic15 is to help startups close deals with investors. Over the years, they’ve consistently had one of the top investor to startup ratios of any startup conference in the world. With an expected 300 investors and 450 startups, this will also be the case in 2017. Startups encompass a diverse field including health and fintech, IoT, and foodtech.
infoShare (May- Gdánsk, Poland)
infoShare isone of Central and Eastern Europe’s biggest tech conferences and provides startups from the region with an opportunity to network with potential investors, future customers and the media. More than 100 VCs and angel investors will be attending along with 120+ speakers from companies like Google, Slack and Netflix, and investment firms such as Inventure, Karma VC and Credo Ventures.
The Next Web Conference (May – Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
The Next Web conference is perhaps one of the most over-hyped tech events, with good reason. It’s a two-day conference bracketed in a week-long festival that includes 7 stages, exhibitors and non-stop opportunities for engaging with the tech leaders, VC’s and entrepreneurs of around the world.
Latitude59 (May – Tallinn, Estonia)
Everyone interested in tech should visit Estonia to see how the country has transformed itself into a tech leader since the fall of communism. Latitude is a great excuse, with the tech conference encompassing a great array of future tech topics including smart cities, blockchain and digital health.
Nordic Startup Awards Grand Finale (May 31, Reykjavik, Iceland)
The Nordic Startup Awards is basically a series of national startup competitions across the Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden that culminates in a finale that is judged by a curated jury of seasoned entrepreneurs, business people, and investors. Categories of awards include the best startup, investor, CTO and investment company – and you can self-nominate for the awards in your country.
Pioneers Festival (June– Vienna, Austria)
Pioneers is something of a niche festival with only 2500 participants along with a hit list of executives, investors, and journalists, many of whom are visiting from North America. If you are wanting to expose your startup to American minds without visiting San Fran or New York, this is a good opportunity, especially for hardware startups.
The Europas (June – London, UK)
The Europas are an award show for Europe’s hottest tech startups. While it concentrates on the newest companies on the scene, it also brings together the mid and late stage technology startups, as well as leading investors and media in the EMEA region. The event celebrates the most forward thinking, progressive and innovative tech companies across over some 20+ categories.
Bitspiration (June – Krakow, Poland)
Bitspiration demonstrates amply that a small no-frills conference largely run by volunteers can be highly successful with an enthusiastic attending community of startups, tech enthusiasts, and creatives with investors, corporations and experts. You can expect to get easy access to press and investors, and international experts- there’s no velvet rope here.
Tech Open Air (July – Berlin, Germany)
TOA is a weird kind of conference that encompasses tech, art and science but somehow works. Last year’s conference was held in an old DDR radio station accessible by ferry. You can expect a community of top-tier entrepreneurs, artists and scientists visiting Berlin for three days of keynotes, pitches, live music and art installations in a bustling atmosphere.
Bits and Pretzels (September- Munich, Germany)
A startup conference to coincide with Oktoberfest? Yes, please! Bits & Pretzels is a 3-day founders festival that connects 5000 startup enthusiasts with speakers as diverse as Richard Branson and Kevin Spacey. Organisers make a concerted effort to build relationships between founders, investors and the media and you might find yourself drinking beer and wearing lederhosen as you pitch your latest idea.
European Pirate Summit (September- Cologne, Germany)
If you’re the kind of person that likes to be focused on success this might be the event for you. It’s Europe’s largest invitation-only conference for early-stage startups, investors, and corporate executives. But it’s not just sitting watching another person with their powerpoint presentation, ever seen someone pitch whilst walking the plank?
DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival (September- Tel Aviv, Israel)
DLD is a week-long festival that includes not only a smart cities conference (great for IoT startups) but also a makers’ zone, pitching comp, CEO’s available for questions and loads of opportunities for networking.
SaaStock (September-Dublin, Ireland)
SaaStock is a gathering of global SaaS companies (Founders, Executives & Investors) in Europe, enabling the community to learn from the SaaS trail-blazers and from one another. SaaStock 2017 will be the biggest conference in Europe for global SaaS companies of all stages to meet and network. If you want to build your sales pipeline, build B2B Saas empires and meet with SaaS investors, then SaaStock is the place to be.
Social Media Week London (September 13-16, London, United Kingdom)
Social Media Week London is one of the premiere digital media conferences in the region. The event brings together some of the industry’s leading brands and individuals at the intersection of entertainment, media, marketing, and technology.
South Summit (October – Madrid, Spain)
South Summit is probably Spain’s leading event around innovation, with more than 12.500 attendees from more than 100 nationalities. Each year it connects the most innovative entrepreneurs with the most important investors from around the world. It also hosts a big startup competition.
Slush (November – Helsinki, Finland)
Slush is a conference “built for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs”. In the last five years, it’s grown into one of the biggest events for startups in the Nordics. It’s not only an opportunity for networking at a time of year when most people are winding down, but it also includes one-on-one meetings with journalists and investors, stalls, and a massive pitching competition.
Web Summit (November- Lisbon, Portugal)
Web Summit is infamous for its size and scope with over 50,000 attendees, and over 15,000 companies. The largest tech and business convention in Europe. Web Summit 2016 is kicking off in Lisbon today. There are 53,000 attendees, 15,000 companies, and over 166 countries represented. It doesn’t end at night either, there’s also a night summit held in bars around the city where the real business deals happen.
TechCrunch Disrupt Europe (December – Berlin, Germany)
TechCrunch’s Disrupt event in Europe gathers a slew of top entrepreneurs, investors, and hackers to discuss industry trends, introduce new technologies and offer emerging startups the chance to launch their product or service. The program includes on-stage interviews, the Startup Battlefield competition, a 24-hour Hackathon, Startup Alley, Hardware Alley, and After Parties.
General conference tips for startups
It’s easy to spend most of the summer flitting around Europe on budget airlines to attend a multitude of startup conferences in a haze of lanyard-wearing, cheap booze and being talked at for hours in a bubble of self-congratulating peers when you really should be working on your platform or hardware back home. To make your attendance effective you need to look at the events scheduled over a calendar and carefully consider how each specific conference meets your needs and where it fits into your company timeline. For example, it can be helpful to ask:
- Why are we attending and what do we hope to achieve?
- Who do I specifically want to meet and can I arrange an introduction or meeting before hand?
- Do we want a stall/booth? Why? How much will it cost to stock and staff it and what would signal a ROI?
- Can I explain our startup to people I don’t know in two sentences or less?
- Can I network with strangers without getting drunk?
- Is our website and press kit up to date if I hand people our contact details?