Vienna Pioneers 2019 – We came, we saw and we loved it!

With the 2 intense days of the Pioneers 2019 now behind itCraft, I would like to share my thoughts on the experience. Did the event meet expectations? Was it worth it? Are we going next year?

If you’re considering partaking next year, here’s a link to my previous article on preparing for the event.

Registration

Knowing ahead about potential queues for registration, we lined up at 8.50 already. We got our lanyards and bands and were good to go.

A really positive surprise was finding a list of our planned meetings (as per Match&Meet app) printed on the back of our IDs. It turned out very helpful throughout the event. After a lovely buffet breakfast and some loose conversations with other participants, we were locked and loaded for the main shebang.

The Match & Meet app

The organizers announced their Match & Meet application as the organizational piece de resistance of the event, attractive to both start-ups and investors. We can fully agree with that as the app allowed us to dive into the event 21 meetings planned well ahead.

The application’s algorithm assigned 30-minute meeting slots based on each party’s agendas. We had 21 accepted meetings set up, and only one didn’t get a slot. The “reschedule” feature was another cool idea, letting you rebook the unassigned meetings if a slot freed up unexpectedly.

The only downside we noticed was the lack of option for manual adjustment of the schedule which proved somewhat problematic, especially with the calendar filled up to the brim. Direct communication via built-in messenger and email seemed to fix this minor issue quite well. “Traditional” channels got us 3 additional meetings.

In addition to providing meeting time, the app showed the table number for it. The formula assumed 1-on-1 meetings, which caused some logistical issues for participants who, like us, came to Pioneers in a 2-person team. But, extra chairs turned out easily obtainable from a few unoccupied tables :).

E-mail notifications are also worth mentioning, as they provided valuable information about any changes to our schedule. Thanks to this, it was possible to react in real time and adapt to changing circumstances, without using the application.

We did not experience any bugs or crashes using the app, but two of my interlocutors mentioned it crashing on Friday morning. We give Match & Meet app top marks. All the more so because all the meetings and discussion panels for which we marked our participation were visible in the personalized agenda.

1: 1 meetings

The meetings were held at the Grand Hall. There were about 70 tables where the 1-on-1 meetings took place. The center-stage clock turned out extremely helpful in keeping track of time without having to look at your watch all the time. This was all the more useful for people brandishing less than respectable (read: cheap) timepieces on their wrists which seemed to get noticed, if not frowned upon by the precision-focused Swiss.

In the end, we managed to have 19 meetings in two days. All of them valuable, but the following three really caught our attention.

First was the meeting with Mark Wallerberger – the Co-Founder of Pocket Sky – who created “…the pocket-sized wearable that indulges with a lift of energy, and brighter mood – and better sleep”. Pocket Sky raised € 20,000 in just 5 hours of their Kickstarter.com campaign. We had the opportunity to see at and test Pocket Sky and can fully confirm the mood lift part 🙂  

The next meeting was with Hermann Gams – one of the founders of Dream Academia. The story we heard made a huge impression and the motto: “Can you imagine a society where everybody is exactly what they love to do?” proved a spot on description of their aim – the dissemination of international cooperation, knowledge sharing and selfless help.

Hermann shared with us a moving and awe-inspiring story of a boy (now a grown man) from a poorer part of Kenia, who was once chosen by his village to go out to the world and educate himself. The whole village chipped in to make this possible. Having achieved the goal, the man is now fulfilling his dreams and repaying his people, by helping the village. The story is best heard from Hermann as neither I nor Bartek could dream of matching the level of positivity and the width of smile he manages when telling it.

Last but not least, we had the opportunity to meet Vladimir and Aaron, who are working on creating a platform that analyses mimics and automates behaviors of effective cryptocurrency traders. Coinpanion.io could prove a great place for people interested in cryptocurrencies.

Exhibitors

The 2019 Pioneers, has seen 100 out of 500 participating start-ups create their own stands. Although we didn’t qualify for one, courtesy of the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development, we managed to get our little corner at the Polish stand.

With our calendar filled to the brim with 1-on-1s, we did not get many opportunities to visit or talk to representatives of start-ups with their own stands.

Listening panels

While we focused on direct conversations and networking, the event offered a variety of presentations and discussions panels. Unfortunately, the tight schedule of meetings prevented us from participating in any of them.

There was also an artistic element to the event. As Vienna is closely associated with Mozart, during the “Closing Show and Winner Announcement” we heard a rendition of a part of  “The magic flute – Queen of the night aria”.

Business outcome

It would be hard to assess the business results only a few days after the event. We are quite hopeful about some of the meetings we had regarding itCraft’s services – a few of our interlocutors seem a good match for us. We hope that in the future we will be able to partner up in the development of mobile or web applications.

What transpired was that proper preparation for the event is the best way to get the most out of it.

Atmosphere and venue

The event had an outstanding vibe. Everyone we met was friendly and easy to chat up. The venue was nothing short of breathtaking – the Hofburg Imperial Palace’s grandeur served the Pioneers well. The interiors of this 500-year-old palace definitely added to the event’s prestige and positively affected our moods. So far, fairs, conferences, and events of this type were associated us with industrial, not very interesting locations, as only those are able to accommodate hundreds and thousands of people.

Previous editions

As this was the first Pioneers we attended we can’t compare to previous editions. The one comment I heard about this was that fewer participants attended compared to previous years. This coincides with the feedback I received in my LinkedIn conversations that people who participated previously, for various reasons did not intend to participate this time.

Organization

In this aspect, we give the organizers top marks. The event staff and volunteers offered their help with pretty much anything, following the slogan on their t-shirts: “Ask me anything!”. Just before the event, we received valuable tips from the organizers on the matters of travel, parking and various facilities provided. When asking for thoughts on the event via LinkedIn, I often heard that it’s crowded, but in 2019 this didn’t pose a problem. The organizers also stood up to the challenge of providing adequate catering.

Outside of Pioneers

Taking a moment to marvel at the charms of Vienna, we chose to sample the Austrian cuisine. We had the opportunity to taste the famous Viennese schnitzel at the Figlmüller restaurant. Not easy to find a free table without reservation, but we got lucky. In one word: yummy!

Summary

The Pioneers is an event that from our perspective is definitely worth attending at least once. The venue, vibe, organization and most of all – the people put the Pioneers on top of the list of start-up events. Thanks to the Match and Meet application, we managed to reach people with business interests similar to ours. The organizers made sure that everything was well prepared, and it would be hard to point any deficiencies. For my part, I give Pioneers my full recommendation. It was definitely worth it!

I would like to thank everyone with whom we had the opportunity to talk during the Pioneers and outside of the event. Thank you for the substantive and extremely interesting conversations, as well as the advice and tips we have received. Thank you and see you next year!

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Michał Bryła, Business Development Manager

Business development manager focused on clients needs and sharing knowledge. A mobile technology enthusiast always on the lookout for new solutions to innovate and help grow clients' businesses.