Someone could argue that startup events have inevitably become part of the startup investment cycle. Once you start building your own company you will sooner or later realize the difference between building a startup or say for example an SMB.
Imagine the Startup as a Vehicle for Growth
Startups are companies designed for HIGH GROWTH rates, based on ideas that offer High Growth Potential and executed by founders committed to Scale their businesses Fast. Such a commitment takes its toll in the approach of building and managing a company. And most inevitably to the company’s needs for funding. In order to scale your business model or in most of the cases to turn your MVP into a full fledged product before doing the former, what the founders lack is neither technical skills nor domain expertise, but the financial means to do so.
It’s a Supply and Demand Market
That is why most of the startup people congregate to startup events, not actually in order to tap into the pool of knowledge on stage, but to mingle and network off stage, trying to tap themselves into the pool of available capital there. And this is specifically the reason that partners of VC firms participate to these events too, not only to promote their firms, but also to identify investment opportunities from their side.
Couple of weeks ago (more precisely on 11–12 of June 2015) I traveled to Gdansk in order to participate in one of the major startup events in Poland and as they proclaim: “The BIGGEST in CEE (Central & Eastern Europe) region TECH and New Media festival”.
After last December when my startup was incubated at hub:raum’s WARP3 turbo accelerator in Krakow (Deutsche Telekom’s corporate accelerator), I started having a better understanding of the Central European startup scene and the related opportunities. Somehow between then and now, I’ve traveled back in Poland four times for different reasons, mostly to network with VC capital, find resources and reconnect with friends.
Especially as a startup you should carefully hand-pick the events that are a “must go” from the ones which aren’t. Unless you have deep pockets, that is. In case that Infoshare wasn’t in your list, below are the reasons that I chose to attend it.
Although the international participants are mostly limited to the speakers (which is only natural), the event is great for connecting with VC capital firms that are active in the CEE region. For example partners from firms such as Fiedler Capital, Credo Ventures, Innovation Nest and more, were on stage and more importantly easy to approach off stage. Compared with mega-events like the WebSummit, it’s far more easy to have a quality and meaningful discussion with them, provided that did your homework and you aren’t wasting their time. Some of the international companies that had a presence at the Infoshare include Salesforce, Amazon and Intel, but when it comes to the international guests the things get a lot more interesting.
Among the speakers that you could find (and easily speak with, as I did) were Gary Stewart — Director of Wayra (Telefonica’s corporate accelerator), Robert Hegedues — founder of Fiedler capital, Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio, Gary Whitehill and the list goes on. Everyone is open to meet new people and even offer a helpful opinion.
Closing this chapter I would like to add that traveling through Poland, from Warsaw to Gdansk in my case, is a great experience and a rather not expensive one. This makes infoshare.pl a pretty much Value for Money event, especially if you consider the the networking opportunities that offers you.
First things first, the best way to travel around Poland is by train. So supposedly that you arrive in the city by train, the first thing that you’ll see is Gdansk Glowny a.k.a Gdansk’s main railway station.
If it comes to choosing between the available train connections in order to get there, I would recommend not to travel with the Pendolino. Although it’s service is superior compared to the regular train’s coupe, it takes almost the same time as the regular train, aprox. 3 hours from Warsaw. In case you are traveling from Warsaw it’s easy to book your train tickets straight from one of the automated ticket machines at Warszawa Centralna a.k.a Warsaw’s central railway station. You don’t even need the provisioning to carry enough local currency with you, as you can use your credit or debit card. Neat.
I didn’t really have much time to see the city, which is famous for its beauty and history which make it a tourist attraction of Poland. Of course this results to higher prices compared to Krakow or Warsaw, based on my experience as a traveler though. This is how the historic city centre looks like. It’s really beautiful.
The event took place at the Amber Expo, which is a spacey complex that hosts an International Trade Fair of Amber, Jewellery and Gemstones annually in Gdansk. Although it is located outside the city centre (about an hour and a half on foot or just 20 mins by bus) there was a provisioning from the organisers to schedule transportation from a couple of places in the city, to and from the event. I would say that everything was rather well organized and the people very friendly.
What’s the Catch?
If you are looking for ways to Turbo-Boost your startup you need access to the right people and with the less possible spending. If this is your goal, you can attend this event for free. The basic attendee pass, costed me 0.0$ and I only needed to create an account and register to the event through their website. From that point I had access to all of the stages and subsequently to all of the Speakers, startups & more, which was my goal from the beginning.
Moreover the regular train from Warsaw to Gdansk costs around 15$ one way and although in my opinion Gdansk is more expensive that other Polish cities, there is plenty of cheap accommodation in town if you book early.
The key point here is not to loose your focus and upgrade your pass, in order to gain access to some nice-to-have things, such as networking parties, free food etc. If your goal is finding the right people with the less possible spending for your business, you don’t really need to interact with the sheer amount of attendees from an expo stand, or join the “networking” party.
Okay… we all know that everybody absolutely loves the party and the local delicacies! :)