While most tech and digital conferences might take place in spring and fall, I’m sure that you and I both love when they are organized in the summer. A great example is Changer Festival that took place in late July in the beautiful Croatian city of Šibenik, combining street art, food, music and – most importantly to our topic – a great tech event that took place in the evening over 3 days with topics from freelancing to the future of smart cities.
The beautiful Croatian city of Šibenik (Photo: Solaris archive)
My mate Luka Sučić and I took over the moderation of 4 large panels with some of the brightest minds of the regional tech community, including companies such as electric car maker Rimac Automobili, fast growing transportation booking platform Vollo and vacation rental property manager Rentlio.
Why Summer Tech Events Are Better Than a Great Mojito
As in Changer’s case, the events can take place in an open, more relaxed setting. Taking place at Ivan Pavao II square in the very heart of Šibenik, the location was far more interesting than your average bland conference space;
Summer is the truly sunny part of the year, which is important because studies have shown that nicer weather increases our life satisfaction. More sun – happier attendees.
Another benefit of these events taking place in the summer is that attendees definitely take more time to enjoy their surrounding, including various attractions and restaurants, cafes etc.
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The time before our panel we spent prepping at Vino&ino, the best wine bar in Šibenik, owned by former creative director Vedran Gulin. Vedran got smart and after an epic digital marketing career turned to creating one of the best places to sit and relax in his hometown.
There are a number of reasons why organizers don’t like organizing conferences in the summer:
Summer as the tourist season means that coastal cities have less capacity and higher prices of accommodations, increasing expenses for both organizers and attendees. According to data provided by travel search engine Hipmunk, accommodations in the summer are 50% more expensive;
Attendees go on holiday in the summer so less of them are ready to go to a conference or professional event.
Changer’s Panels About The Digital Economy
The two talks I moderated lasted for 90 minutes each (we made it work, argh!):
Freelancing – Dalmatia style was interesting because two of my attendees gave a truly Dalmatian perspective on making it as a digital freelancer. UX designer Marina Matijača explained how she balanced working for a digital agency and freelance work, while noted designer Filip Peraić (author of the acclaimed art series James Harden Illustrated) made it clear that you should put the work that you would like to do in your portfolio. On the other hand, TopTal technical sourcer Ines Avdic explained how a platform like TopTal helped freelancers take the hassle out of finding new work.
The center of Šibenik in the evening (Photo by Iva Soldo)
Future City was a more broad panel about the true future of smart cities and how can a city like Šibenik take advantage of the 4th industrial revolution. Aco Momčilović (Rimac Automobili), Marko Jukić (Vollo), Ante Matijača (Profico) and Marko Mišulić (Rentlio) had a lot to share about how important digitalization is for cities, especially when using data to manage them better.
MOP organizer and programme director for the conference part of Changer festival, Fran Mubrin, commented:
As a moderator Ivan recognizes opportunities in every topic and uses his experience to get the most interesting information from the panelists, making the topics interesting and useful to everyone in the audience.
I’m looking to next year’s Changer festival while wondering if we could have at least part of the panels in English. Who knows, maybe some of the tourists that stopped and wondered what we were talking about were digital nomads!
For anyone following the growing European startup scene these past few years, it’s been obvious that Eastern Europe has been a special surprise when it comes to specific kinds of startups. The creators of some of the world’s most popular online games such as Nordeus and Wargaming, as well as the creator of the world’s fastest electric car – call it home – or ‘doma’!
What to expect next? – You might ask…
The panel we had at Eastern Europe’s largest startup conference, How to Web in Bucharest, does have a few answers. I had the pleasure of moderating a panel of not just startup experts, but experienced players in the regional ecosystem:
Rumen Iliev, Partner at the LaunchHub Ventures seed stage venture firm that invested over 9 million Euros in over 62 startups as part of its first fund founded in 2012;
Ondrej Bartos, Co-Founder and Partner of Credo Ventures, a VC fund specialized in Central European startups. Since 2009, he also stars in the investment TV show Den D on Czech TV;
Dan Lupu, Partner At the Earlybird Venture Capital fund that has invested in regional champions such as Socialbakers;
Lloyd Waldo, Community Manager at Prague-based Startup Yard, who has maintained and expanded their relationships with investors, mentors and partners.
Watch the video to learn what you can expect from Eastern European startups – and comment what you truly expect to see…
A friend asked me recently why I love working on Netokracija. Financial security and writing about interesting startups aside, it’s the true impact you can have by helping others through writing and networking with the digital community.
Sljedeće jutro zvao ga je Ivan Brezak Brkan s portala Netokracija. Brkan ga je pitao je li istina da gasi portal i u čemu je zapravo problem. Marko mu se požalio na za njega katastrofalnu posjećenost od 50.000 klikova, na što ga je Brkan pitao je li zainteresiran za prodaju, jer on zna ljude koji bi bili zainteresirani za kupnju portala za mlade koji ima toliku posjećenost. Marko kaže da mu tada nije bilo jasno na što Brkan misli. Mislio je da portal nema nikakvu vrijednost i uopće mu ta mogućnost nije padala na pamet. Brkan ga je uspio uvjeriti da bi gašenje bila greška i dogovorio mu sastanak u Algebri, još jednim ključnim partnerom portala danas.
If you don’t know Croatian, let me translate:
Netokracija’s Ivan Brezak Brkan called me the next morning and asked had I really decided to shut down the site, as well as what the problem was. Marko told him that just 50.000 clicks were catastrophic, after which Ivan asked him is he interested in selling, since he knows people that would buy a website like Srednja.hr, aimed at students. Marko says that he wasn’t sure what Ivan ment at the time. He thought that Srednja.hr wasn’t worth anything and the idea of selling never occured to him. Brkan persuaded Marko that shutting down was a mistake and got him a meeting with Algebra, a key partner of Srednja.hr to this day.
Believe in Someone More Than They Do In Themselves
I’ll be honest: While I saw great potential in Marko and Srednja.hr because of how dedicated he was as well as knowing the media business, that call didn’t seem that crucial.
But to Marko, at his moment of entrepreneurial self-doubt it was.
It shows that a single positive action on part of any of us can greatly help if it happens at the right time. My call told Marko:
Someone who has experience in his industry believes in his project (enough to actively contact him);
They don’t just believe for the sake of being nice, but are willing to actively help (by connecting him with a business partner).
Marko thought twice and created what Srednja.hr has become – a leading vertical media business for its audience of Croatian students.
But even if he didn’t, let’s be honest: Every entrepreneur has doubts in their project at one time or another. Forbes has coined it ‘The Valley of Doubt’ that entrepreneurs need to escape from.
How To Reach Out
While doubting your project for not meeting yours or others expectations might be normal, entrepreneurs shouldn’t be left alone. As Marko’s example shows, if you see a situation where you doubt the doubter – contact them:
Don’t wait for them to ask. Instead, proactively contact them via email, messenger or just call them up. They might not be expecting it, but they need a kick in the butt!
Listen to the reasons that are driving their self-doubt so you undestand where they are coming from;
Create a situation that shows them the other option! While Marko could have contemplated if other companies would be interesting in working with him, connecting them with Algebra made that option real. No longer was Marko thinking of it as mere theory: It was a real option.
Do the one thing I didn’t do: Follow up in a few days or a week.
Your counsel might be the one thing standing between an untimely ended ‘side project’ and a potentially successful startup.
When Tele2 and Google decided to announce they were rolling out carrier billing for the Google Play store in Croatia, the two successful brands decided that insights would work better than a standard press conference. Which is why I was so humbled when Tele2 asked me to create a talk about the best premium apps in the Google Play store for their announcement.
Remember You’re Talking To Journalists
Contrary to what you might have learnt from Apple announcements, journalists don’t clap at press conferences because it’s not considered professional. You could have the best gadget in the world, but the journalist’s job is to stay objective, even if they are the world’s biggest technology lover.
A tough audience.
How To Include Education in Your Press Conference
If you want to the educational part of your announcement work like it did for Tele2 and Google:
Understand your audience and their challenges: The challenge for most journalists is how to cover stories better and more effectively. Most of the apps and use cases were examples of writing or productivity apps that could make my fellow journalist’s lives easier. if you ever wondered why so many journalists cover Apple, a big part if definitely that they write on Macs, making the company a personal interest;
Help them write a better story: While most of the journalists in the audience covered technology, some of them were more interested in business or fashion. Parts of the presentation included raw data on the usage of premium apps, as well as examples of premium apps in a specific category, to give them material to think about when writing their stories;
Have a presented that’s part of your audience: While I might be the last person to say that Tele2 was right in choosing the speaker, having a journalists talk to his colleagues about the challenges they all fact just gives you as a company more credibility.
Include In-jokes for colleagues: To lighten the mood for the more experienced members of the audience who might be skeptical of the format, have the speaker include a few sarcastic jokes about himself and the industry. Again, having a speaker that is a member of the audience is key!
Before founding the technology blog Netokracija, it was Bug magazine where I started my technology journalism career; writing about the best blog platforms in Croatia as well as why social networks would take over the world (wide web). Yes, it was that long ago, when MySpace wasn’t dead and Kevin Rose’s Digg was the darling of the tech world.
But why is all this important? Two reasons.
First of all, now you can understand why I was excited to judge the 3rd Idea Knockout startup competition in a row. As Bug’s executive editor and my friend Dragan Petric puts it: ‘Ivan is the one that asks the hard questions, which is why we have him in the judging panel! :)’
The second reason has to do with the competition, which sends the winner to CES in Las Vegas, one of the largest technology events in the world. As with journalism, you have to get breaks and support from your peers to succeed as a startup – and going to CES can be one of those breaks.
In the end, it was the STEM educational startup STEMI that came out on top, gathering the most points among all the teams.