By Con O’Donnell
Con O’Donnell, business development head at RiseUp, the organiser of the RiseUp Summit, taking place in Cairo in December, helps you choose a start-up event that will provide a value above the value of your time and the money you will spend to attend.
You are a start-up in MENA. You hear about all of these start-up events popping up all over the world. You are not sure whether it is worth taking the time to go, or whether it is worth the ticket price.
Let us start with what events should offer, then we will look at how you can extract the maximum value.
Events are like magnets. And the better the event, the better magnet it is for great speakers and attendees, trainers, coaches, entrepreneurs, tech wizards, and investors. The best events have a mix of the above.
At RiseUp we have our own Summit, and we understand the value of great events for start-ups. As a team we have travelled to 30 countries and attended every major start-up event in MENA, Europe, and the US.
The first thing to do is find the best event. If you are looking at Europe then there are three that are amazing. Pioneers Festival (Vienna), Slush (Helsinki), and Tech Open Air (Berlin).
If you are going further afield the best the US has is the incredible SXSW (Austin, TX).
You need to know why you are going to an event. At RiseUp Summit, for example, we have categorised start-up needs into a number of basics, which we make available for the entrepreneurs who come to our Summit. You might not be looking for all of them, so you should zero down on what it is you need most.
Great events have multiple ways of disseminating knowledge, from talks and demos to workshops and training sessions. And the better the event, the better the caliber of attendee, and the more you are likely to learn.
You want new customers and good events to give you a platform to talk about your product. Whether it is at a booth, on a stage, or at a networking dinner you should be talking about your product incessantly and looking for new customers.
Start-ups always need funding, and events have multiple ways of showcasing start-ups to investors. At RiseUp we have pitch competitions, one-on-one meetings, a start-up trade fair, and a catalog of participating start-ups.
Start-ups need talent even more than they need funding and events can be great places to meet your next great hire. And don’t think you can’t hire from Europe. You can! You just have to have a good pitch about the year-long sunshine, the beaches, the amazing experience of .
Good events attract a lot of media. As a start-up getting media exposure can catapult you into the big league, helping you gain customers and the attention of investors. It is important to get your story in the right media.
No matter how good the event the only way to get value is to do extensive preparation. This means researching speakers, topics, and side-events to see what would bring the most value for you.
And when you get there you have to be prepared to network. A lot of the value is in the people you meet, especially in specialised talks and sessions that you think are relevant to you. You should also contact people you think would be of benefit to you in advance of arriving. This guarantees that you can extract value.
We have found that the amount of work you need to do in preparation for a summit or conference can be daunting, especially if you are cold-calling organisations and individuals before you go.
In order to help start-ups maximise the value from an event they are attending we created a new product called RiseUp Explore. We select start-ups, do a needs-assessment with them to understand what it is they are looking for, and then curate the event for them, setting up meetings, visits, and recommending the most relevant sessions to attend.
Using our extensive network of partners we are able to extract a much greater value for start-ups than they would be able to get if they went alone.
We also send someone from our team to help them with the logistics while they are at the event. In July we took eight Egyptian start-ups to Tech Open Air (TOA) in Berlin. TOA is a huge tech event which features hundreds of satellite events. Navigating the event and the satellites is a tough challenge for anyone arriving from the region. What we were able to do was create an experience at TOA that matched the needs of the start-ups that went.
Apart from helping start-ups get what they needed out of TOA the trip also had a surprise unintended consequence. The eight start-ups learned an immense amount from one-another. As Amir Allam, CEO of Elmenus.com, said in a recent post: “We got exposed to a lot of mind-opening sessions at the conference, some with cool start-ups and met awesome people from around the world. The best thing for me, however, was being engaged with the other seven selected Egyptian entrepreneurs and witnessing their passion and very inspiring stories each of them has to tell”.
So it is definitely a high value proposition if you choose the right event, and you do your homework. But the best experience of all is having someone design the experience for you and go in a group of like-minded entrepreneurs. The amount of shared-experiences and connections is exponentially enhanced.