Exclusive interview for SPINOFF with Mr. Christian Weis, the inventor of StartupCon, the biggest German Startup hotspot
The StartupCon is German largest start-up conference, a highly concentrated mecca for start-ups and innovators. It is an ultimate hotspot for the contact and dialogue with investors, decision-makers from the industry and opinion-makers from the press and media. StartupCon is one of the leading conferences and fairs in Germany focusing on all aspects of entrepreneurship and recent economical startup trends. Professionals as well as new talents gather there. Nearly 800 pitches, 300 investors and 200 speakers elaborate their ideas and about 50 content-rich workshops take place. More than 500 startups present their ideas, technology and innovations to a broad audience of investors and other interested parties.
S.O.C.: Christian, thank you very much for dedicating your time. We would like to start with an overview of your company. Could you please elaborate on its creation and the team?
Mr. Weis: In 2006 we started as a digital publisher for local business news, but soon we entered a second field of business. We realized that there was a big demand of connecting startups, investors and midsize businesses with each other. Hence, we invented the StartupCon. This was four years ago. Today the StartupCon is one of the largest startup conference in Germany and takes place for the fourth time this year. The aim is to encourage direct contact and dialogue between the different groups within the startup ecosystem. We also welcome representatives from the press as well as politicians because obviously, the startup scene does not just consist of founders and investors alone. With this setup, we have created numerous reasons for attending the conference.
S.O.C.: Could you please say what are the main reasons for visiting your event?
Mr. Weis: It’s obvious that founders like to take the unique chance of getting to know investors. At the same time the conference is also very appealing to existing companies. They learn a lot from young entrepreneurs, for example, how lean work processes or new technologies can be implemented in existing setups. Startups are known to be very agile – an attribute many established companies are aiming for. It's no secret that many companies try to initiate their digital transformation by looking at and learning from startups. However, the conference is not only about learning – it’s also about money. Investors can find interesting investments, mid-size businesses might find ideas or startups of interest and founders get a great opportunity for a financial boost.
S.O.C.: Mr. Weis, what is special about StartupCon?
Mr. Weis: We provide a unique opportunity for founders: they can apply for 1-on-1 pitches with investors and companies. It’s a huge benefit for both parties, because we ensure relevant appointments at the day of the conference. I think many people have been to events where they were struggling to find the right person for a "good" conversation, losing a lot of precious time. We decided to use the location in the best possible way and provide fourty separate areas for 1-on-1 pitches. That's how we want to make the conference a great success for all attendees. Less entertainment, full focus on business – I think that's what makes the event so special – and so relevant. What I also would like to highlight is that we’re really proud of the wide range of startups we are able to mobilize for the event. It’s not only about Tech and IT, but also about physical industries, such as mobility of the future. The StartupCon is not only an event for developers; it is also an event for pioneers of every branch and everybody who would like to get inspired, wants to realize his ideas and dreams soon.
S.O.C.: What kind of problems do you solve with your conference?
Mr. Weis: We provide the best possible support for startups. During the day, they have the possibility to visit one of our many workshops, in order to learn how to pitch, to push self-marketing or to manage the financial aspects of being self-employed. The program is published in advance so everyone can plan their day prior to the event. A startup might have a big pitch at 2 PM and is in need of some last-minute tips – they can visit one of our workshops in advance and use the information learned during their pitch. Being a startup founder means being dynamic, and that's the kind of mindset we want to create for our conference. But we of course also want to solve the biggest problem many founders are dealing with: we want to help them finding investors. That’s why we invented an interesting event that provides advantages for all players (founders, investors and companies) – a win-win-win-situation.
S.O.C.: From your experience which advises and warnings you might give spinoff founders in the sphere of your activity? What mistakes, in some cases even fatal, should they avoid?
Mr. Weis: The most important advice I can give is that founders have to be truly passionate about their idea and business. They have to be careful not to lose their entire energy in details, but to use it for getting things done. Products or services should not be "over-engineered", because it’s important to collect valuable feedback first. Entrepreneurs need to leave their comfort zone – and say goodbye to the idea of a 9-to-5 job. They need to live their idea, otherwise they will never be successful. Besides that, networking is crucial. Founders have to identify and contact role models, the ones that have already done the same. Get in touch with them, talk to them, learn from their experience and benefit from their network. If startups learn to cooperate better, the entire industry will get a push.
S.O.C.: Money is a critical issue for the rising companies. Spinoff founders take into consideration all the expenses. One of the expected questions from them is whether they might receive a discount from your company and under which terms?
Mr. Weis: We know that money is a critical issue for founders and that’s why we offer different ticket prices. A day ticket for founders only costs 79 euros, which I think is, compared to other events, very fair – considering that you can attend all workshops. We would also like to offer a 30% extra discount for all readers of this interview. Just visit our website to buy your ticket. By giving a discount we want to motivate as many founders as possible to join us for the event. We want to show that building a startup is a real option and does not need to be an unfulfilled dream. We believe in smart people that want to change the world with their innovative ideas. Feedback such as ‘without you, I would have never made it’ is the best compliment we can get.
Dear Mr. Weis, we would like to express our gratitude for the time you have dedicated to this interview. We really support our spinoffs the best way possible via existing partnerships and investors network which is rapidly growing. We are happy to have your high professional team of StartupCon among them and thank you for future support of our spinoffs.