I’m sitting here at my desk in San Francisco’s Soma district thinking how I’ve just traversed Europe through London, Berlin and Glasgow seeking to absorb, explore and learn about startups and technology innovation overseas.
In the last few months I’ve been doing a lot of traveling since joining as developer evangelist for SendGrid. I’ve been to Startup Weekend events, hackathons and conferences all over the US in cities like Atlanta, Las Vegas, Virginia, Omaha and Philadelphia. It’s been an amazing journey to meet and talk with developers and entrepreneurs who are striving to gain traction.
In mid-June, I set out to complete a trip that would have me to attend, meet, sponsor and judge startups from all over the world.
Here’s part one of my recap of the London and Berlin conferences plus the networking and meetups in London. The next part will cover the networking and meetups in Berlin and Scotland.
LeWeb – London, England
My first stop was the LeWeb conference held June 19th and 20th in the central London known as Westminster. The conference is focused on the latest innovations on the web and while it’s been held in Paris for nearly ten years, due to demand (and the Olympics?), it was held for the first time in England. The stage welcomed well known tech pundits like Robert Scoble and Mike Arrington plus CEO’s from hot tech startups like Klout, Pinterest and Instagram. There were celebrities like Jamie Oliver, known for his passionate TED presentation on the state of food in schools and data scientist Dr. DJ Patil. There were also new companies on the grid like Hailo, Summly and Pebble Technology. Eric Migicovsky is the founder and lead designer of Pebble, the Kickstart project that raised over $10 million dollars to build a smartwatch that interacts with your iPhone / Android with support for third party app development.
The most entertaining sessions included verbal battles like Alexia Tsotsis of TechCrunch tearing into Joe Fernandez of Klout for their ranking and algorithms. The expo hall had booths representing SoftLayer (A SendGrid hosting partner), Buddy Media (recently acquired by Salesforce, Automattic (parent company of WordPress), HP, Evernote and several others. There were approximately 1,500 attendees and a LeWeb mobile app for networking was available to view the schedule and connect with attendees. In the startup contest Hojoki, which offers an aggregated feed of your cloud service notifications, came in 2nd.
You can catch the conference sessions that via YouTube’s recently introduced live streaming service LeWeb On YouTube
MLOVE – Berlin, Germany
My next stop was to Germany to check out MLOVE, a mobile tech conference. My friend Beverly Jackson (@bevjack), Director of social media for the Grammys, told me I had to get involved with this conference for the amazing content and people involved. In case you’re wondering who that guy is in the bunny ears, it’s Harald Neidhardt, founder of the MLOVE conference. For the last three years, it’s been held in the center of the country, MLOVE has also expanded it’s reach this year and had a spring session in Monterey, California which I attended and they’re planning for a fall session in Kamakura, Japan. It’s been described as “TED for Mobile” and draws attendees from all over the world. One thing that sets this conference apart is that the location in German is held at a beautiful, historic castle known as Castle Beesenstedt.
I must also mention that the food was amazing! Most of the dishes were created from locally sourced ingredients and prepared on site. Check out this plate of skewered chicken, pesto feta cheese with tomatoes, grilled mushrooms and a dill cucumber salad. It was absolutely fantastic!
This crowed was very international. While a majority of attendees were from Germany, several came from Japan, Belgium, Canada and of course the US. The conference is kept fairly small to ensure attendees have the opportunity to network with each other during hands-on workshops.
The speakers present a healthy mix of mobile focused topics in twenty minute sessions cover things like mobile commerce, education, advertising, culture, music and more. Singularity and music were hot topics this year in Berlin. In the Open Space workshop, I participated in the group discussions focused on how to condense the massive amounts of information we’re bombarded with on a daily basis into a curated, relevant and timely delivery solution. MLOVE also had a mobile networking app for the conference called Bizzabo and I really liked the interface and simplicity of the app.
Startup Weekend London
The event was held at Campus by Google and organized by Deborah Deborah Rippol and Eric Brotto. They were did an outstanding job and kept things on schedule, answered any and all questions by attendees and made sure everyone could do what they came there for: to build awesome!
It was well worth it as the event unfolded seeing the teams hard at work building and creating new apps and companies. This was again an international group of developers, designers and business people from all over including France, Poland, Denmark, Spain and Italy.
One team I met, ISIT game, hailed from Poland and had traveled to Startup Weekend London together as a group to participate in the hackathon. Nina the CEO, Jakob the front end developer and Marcin the back end developer worked throughout the weekend to build a mobile guessing game with photos and tiles, similar to Draw Something. They ended up coming in second place and had an amazing stage presence. Turns out Nina used to be an attorney now turned startup founder.
There was a surprise at the Startup Weekend London. I was going on the judging panel! I joined Philipp Moehring (@pmoe) from Seedcamp, Paul Miller (@rellimluap) of Bethnal Green Ventures and Roxanne Varza of Shopcade and cofounder of @girlsintech_uk @gitparis & @failcon paris.
Meetups and Networking Events
In between the conferences, I went to a variety of events to connect with local developers, startups and entrepreneurs.
London Pub Summit
This was an event Baratunde, one of the speakers at LeWeb, told me about. It was a part of a tour through over 20 cities through the summer with a web summit in Dublin, Ireland this fall. (photo credit Web Summit)
I stumbled (haha, joke) onto this meetup while was hanging out with a friend in the Camden area of London. I met a lot of enthusiastic Reddit users and found out there’s an active social group in London for tech geeks called LSC (London Social Club).
I stopped in to visit this new program, Wayra, which is backed by the global telecom Telefonica. On the day I went to visit, the 16 teams had just moved in that week and the paint was still drying in the newly built-out space. There was a presentation for 50+ executives from mobile supplier groups like Motorola and Blackberry so they could learn about the initiative, the startups and Wyra’s efforts to build an environment to drive innovation. Pretty amazing to see so many well dressed professionals sitting where developers usually hang out.
After the presentation, they were encouraged to go around and talk with the teams to find out about their apps and possible hardware needs. I met the Night Zookeeper team that day who were also at Startup Weekend London.
Visit to White Bear Yard
Met with Chris the evangelist of GoSquared and James CEO and co-founder and treated the team to ice cream while we discussed the future of web analytics, the need for dashboards and of course, transactional email.
Summary And Next Adventures
Now that I’m back, I’m looking forward to going to local events and networking with customers and partners.
On my upcoming schedule I have events like the Developer Advocates Meetup event tonight where we’ll practice our API pitches to developers and a stealth event tomorrow night. Then it’s back on the road next week to DEF CON to attend, BlogHer to speak and then I’m taking a Ruby and Rails training in Atlanta.
For the next few blog posts I’ll be following up with my experience in Berlin and Lodon on both a professional and personal level. Overall this trip was an amazing experience and I’m excited to finally travel overseas plus keep it geek and learn so much about the technology and startup scene in other countries. It certainly gives you perspective.
One takeaway is that there is a worldwide developer shortage. It’s not just a problem in the US. I met a new friend in London who is a business analyst and it turns out her entire development team is from somewhere else. Her head of tech is French, their senior developer is from Lithuania, their front end developer is from Latvia and their web dev/support guy is Russian.
Learning this and hearing about the struggle companies are going through to find good developers has inspired the SXSW panel submission I’m working on and I hope you’ll vote for it once I announce it. Very exciting list of confirmed panelist for my topic! Also, don’t forget the SXSW due date to submit your Interactive topic is Friday July 20th, 2012 – Submit your SXSW session!