Guest blog

Female Tech Leaders visits the biggest start-up conference in Munich: Bits & Pretzels 2017

Have you ever dreamt about doing networking and workshops in a cozy and informal surrounding - maybe even with a mug of beer? Well Bits & Pretzels might be your dreamland.

Being an active participant of Female Tech Leaders events as well as highly inspired by a start-up community, I was lucky to win the FTL Giveaway for Bits & Pretzels tickets and attend the biggest start-up event of the year – Bits & Pretzels 2017.

On Sunday 25th, at 10:15 wearing my Dirndl (traditional Bavarian dress) I was lost in the crowd heading to Oktoberfest. However already than I felt special: I was prepared for a unique experience and indeed it was.

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Once I entered the nice building of International Messe Munich – I was met by friendly volunteers who showed me the way to the reception desk. There I received the welcome kit: blue badge (with my name and the name and the stage of the start-up I was presenting and a blue bandage. Yes, my adventure starts right here! Right away I went to explore the location.

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Quickly ran through the given options as a business person I understood I should plan and prioritize: and I went to (…have a coffee! A-ha-ha – No, Joke! :D) – I headed directly to the Center Stage where everyone else was rushing to – of course – 10:45: an amazing Opening Ceremony by well-known German celebrity speaker, musician and entertainer Stefan Raab was about to start. This one I cannot miss!

“Wow! 8 in 1 – Bingo!” - were my thoughts: “S-o-o… Where do I even begin?”

Central Hall and Presenters

As a representative of Bavarian Government Ilse greeted the participants and thanked the organizers for their unique contribution to development of start-up ecosystem in Germany. She underlined to be proud to host Bits & Pretzels in Munich.

Anyone who comes here is a winner or on the way to be one.
— Ilse Aigner
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Indeed, Bits & Pretzels was now coming up to an international level. Ilse and other German speaking presenters were supported with live translated English subtitles that were following the speech on the screen. That impressive Innovation was a subject of use, entertainment and excitement not only for all attendees, but also for presenters, who were themselves amazed by how precise and understandable that system worked.

Following Ilse, Stefan Raab has shared his own authentic success. He shared with participants his failures emphasizing that success is not free from mistakes, hard work and try-again’s. He wished young entrepreneurs do not ever give up the idea to become a successful entrepreneur even if their business idea failed once or once again.

Never give up! Even if you fail: it’s your business idea that failed, not you! You are entrepreneur – and that can never fail.
— Stefan Raab

Start-ups Exhibition & Networking

At the lunch break I studied the crowd: all participants were identified into groups and each group had its own color of a badge. My badge was bluemeaning I belonged to newcomer/start-up group. Orange badges were given to the start-ups that already visited the conference last years. Investors had important not-to-be-missed red color. Volunteers and Team had black color. Media and Journalists were seen under purple. Visible and easy identification was a good start for small talks and empowered networking, which is what I usually (and successfully) managed to do during lunch.

Motivated by amazing food and talks I went to discover start-ups presented on the fair. Here the org. team had a good foresight to make the visitor travel path as easy and straight-forward as possible. The start-ups were divided by functional divisions (e.g., Lifestyle and Entertainment, Finance, Supply Chain, etc.). One felt like a little explorer: searching for a goldmine if you are an investor, for a great team to join if you want to be a part of a start-up and have required expertise, to share insights or to ask for a peer advice, if you also run a start-up. The atmosphere was very friendly, anyone felt comfortable since all of us were sharing the same passion and felt as we were writing a story: a story of entrepreneurship establishment. The diversity of presented start-ups was on the high level for any taste or business need: starting from complex supply chain process steps development apps and fintech ideas and ending with fitness trackers and chatting platforms, – each stand was unique, led by inspired young entrepreneurs and represented a definite future success story.

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Representing Female Tech Leaders, I was able to tell about this blossoming organization too. Everyone who I was telling about FTL was inspired by the idea and wished us success and big future, which I gratefully give further: Thank you, Alev Canoglu, for making FTL happen and uniting us all – Female Tech Leaders - under such a great motto!

Start-up Pitch

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Whatis a start-up event without the elevator pitch? Bits & Pretzels came up with special concept for that as well: in one of the exhibition areas, in corner the visitors feel like they suddenly got lost and opened a door to an Alaska House. The atmosphere supports suggested by décor mood but the competition is on: present your start-up idea and win a prize of a financial support to make the wish come true.

I have spent some time watching different presentations and trying to understand the key success factors of the presenters.

Every entrepreneur has three minutes present. Three investors who carefully listen, ask questions and evaluate the idea for the next round. The questions are quite straightforward: “what is your business model?”, “how large is your market is?”, “who are your customers?”, “how are you going to find them?”, “what is your expertise?”

Presenters are trying to be convincing, excited and present as much figures as they could on their stage of development. By the end of competition the best of the presenters - gets a great winner recognition and the funding of his / her idea.

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Academy Stage

Another stage that is worth to visit for those who are interested in the theoretical part of entrepreneurship and are motivated to strengthen their knowledge about “how to do fundraising?” or how to do PR?” or get strategic advices on trends and models from industry leaders. The atmosphere here reminds university and motivates a good learning time.

Finishing my day with insightful talks from such well-known entrepreneurs as Rolf Schrömgens (Trivago), Wener Vogels (Amazon), Rene Rechtman (Disney) and of course Kevin Spacey, who shared with the audience the amazing news of him joining the Bits & Pretzels as a 4th co-founder.

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To sum up I can say I was amazed by the atmosphere, gathered unlimited inspiration and was able to get an extremely unique perspective not only on entrepreneurship, business and networking, but also on my personal ambitions and goals. I would definitely advise all my friends and colleagues to visit Bits & Pretzels next year and as reminded by Werner from Amazon: work on the future now in order to invent and thus predict it the way you better want it to be.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
— Werner Vogels (CTO of Amazon.com)

About the Author

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Mariia Kazantceva is an IT Project Consultant at an international IT Consulting company. In 2015, she received a Master's in Management from the University of Mannheim. Outside of her professional life, Mariia is passionate about promoting diversity and entrepreneurship in business and society and is an active supporter of several related communities.

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