It all started with a mind-blowing presentation of the future of cars and mobility with AeroMobil 3.0 a Czech masterpiece of engineering able to fly you and your brave passenger at over 200km/h for 700km without traffic lights nor pedestrian crossings. In case you are going to be one of the few lucky owners, just remember to keep an eye on the fuel level. Always. But why a flying car? Apparently there are many reasons to buy one from escaping traffic to impressing your next girlfriend on the first date.
Future cars were just a small teaser of the avalanche of innovation showcased at the fourth edition of Pioneers Festival, probably one of the greatest future tech festivals in the world. The programme of speakers and events was astounding and so was the location, the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, namely the very place where the most important pages of European history were written and where now the future of technology was being discussed and pushed forward.
Once inside Pioneers I was pleased to discover that, this year more than ever, startups were the absolute protagonists of the festival. Both floors of the palace where packed with startup stands showcasing their latest innovations and the vast majority of talks, pitches or workshops were also startup related. During Pioneers’ 90sec pitches, where every startups there had the chance to pitch in front of top tiers investors, it was great to see that most of them tackled important worldwide challenges ranging from financial inclusion, to 21st century learning, IoT for health and tech in agriculture.
Likewise the top 8 finalists (there were over a thousand applications) of the Pioneers Challenge were also tackling very ambitious and fascinating challenges. They took their chances in an intense pitch competition where the prizes were partner meetings with Y Combinator, Techstars and Lemnos Labs plus a $50K seed investment from SpeedInvest. For example, Robo a Lego style kit to introduce youngsters to robotic programming aimed to make kids familiar with technology by playing with it through their imagination. The Challenge winner Oradian, a SaaS for financial inclusion in developing countries, gives everyone who wants to set up a small business the simples and most inexpensive tool to track, measure and manage their finances.
While walking from a pitch to another or waiting in line for an espresso it wasn’t uncommon to strike a conversation with passionate and knowledgeable CEOs trying to disrupt their industry. I was lucky enough to cross paths with Johan Lorenzen CEO of Holvi, a banking service 2.0 based in Finland, who gave me a snapshot on the future of banking. Apparently we will soon be able to have, at the tap of a button, the equivalent of a personal accountant and financial advisor on demand, literally as if they were living inside our smartphones. Flabbergasting!
What still matters to say is that Pioneers is really the place to be for anyone who believes startups have an important role in shaping the years to come. This annual festival does a great job in catalysing, for two days under one roof, the most talented young entrepreneurs from all over the world as well as in bringing to the surface the huge energy moving the startup ecosystem nowadays. An energy that is already there, but we need to move into the right markets and channels in order not to waste it.
I think we can all draw an important lesson from Pioneers, instead of spending more time, money and energy to create even more startups or incubators or accelerators, let’s instead value and shed light to the many great ones we already have. Cheers to Pioneers!
PS. During the final ceremony Tim Röhrich, Managing Director of the festival, announced that their core mission to support worthy startups will be even stronger next year. A partnership with a new 50M Euro fund for European startups will create even more opportunities for the startups taking part to Pioneers next year, check @pioneers on Twitter for more info. Next year's edition will still be in the spectacular Hofburg Palace but anticipated to May 28-29th. If you want to experience and be part of something great, keep those dates free.
Contributor: Paolo Bertolero & Carlo De Micheli