Moody stop motion videos cut from laughing millennial faces to a glimpse ‘behind the scenes’, then to a flash of passing city traffic, followed by an intense guy in jeans captivating an audience from the big stage. The great and the good of the tech world come together to learn, to close deals, to hang out and to sow the seeds of new ideas, new business ventures and new partnerships.
But where? Because while Slush would like to welcome you to the north, Web Summit is making sure (for this year at least) that the tech world comes together in Dublin. With time and money at a premium, many entrepreneurs need to look beyond the strikingly similar web pages to choose between the events.
Trying to figure out whether to head to Dublin for the craic or to wrap up for a Nordic November weekend at Slush? Read this before buying your ticket.
If your only aim is to hang out in the vicinity of tech royalty – and you don’t mind paying rockstar rates for the privilege – then you’re good to simply stick a proverbial pin in it. But back in the real world, decisiveness is crucial.
Both Slush and Web Summit are great for their own reasons. But they are different, despite the carbon copy websites.
Examine what you want out of the conference experience, set some solid goals and have a plan. Otherwise, your jaunt (even if you do get to have a pint with Bono) is simply pissing your precious cash against the wall.
Go where the money is
Raising funds might not be your ultimate aim for attending a conference, but making connections should be right up there on your wish list. Check out who is attending among the speakers, VCs, investors, competitors and press and whom you may want to hook up with. Do your homework for Web Summit here, and checkout the Slush hall of fame here. Many people choose just one event to attend, so if your main target is only on one guest list, then that’s where you should go (obviously).
Broadly, Slush focuses on Europe and Asia, while Web Summit has a more global lineup. If your business or backers are in Eurasia, then Slush might be your best bet. Otherwise, Web Summit might suit.
Don’t believe what they say. Size does matter.
Web Summit is huge (10 stages, 21 ‘Summits’). This might work in your favour if you’re planning on attending in a relatively large group, as you can split up and attend different meetings and side events. For some of 2014’s attendees (writing on Quora), the size of the event meant that making meaningful connections was tricky because meetings had to be booked with anyone who was in-demand. The venue size also presents a practical challenge for some, meaning you have to have a planned target list and be prepared to put in some mileage to make the most out of your time there.
Slush is more manageable in size, with 15,000 attendees versus Web Summit’s 30,000. There are 4 stages, an expected 750 investors from 140 VC firms, plus media representing 400 outlets. If the people you are looking to connect with are at Slush, you might have better odds of actually tracking them down.
On the pitch
If you’re an early stage startup looking to join a pitching competition, both Slush and Web Summit have something on offer. The Slush 100 competition runs across both days of the event (11–12 November), with the winner receiving a substantial equity investment. Last year, Enbrite.ly won 500,000 EUR investment during the competition, which later rose to 750,000 EUR as a result of the increased exposure.
Web Summit’s ‘Pitch’ competition sees 200 startups fight it out over 3 days (3–5 November). Last year, the winner received 10,000 EUR towards the business and a meeting with sponsors Coca-Cola in Atlanta. If equity is what you’re looking for, then Slush might be your better bet.
Consider the cost/benefit
The final (but important) differentiator would be costs, which are considerably different for the two events.
For an alpha stage startup to exhibit at Slush and purchase 4 tickets is currently around 2,800 EUR (but was cheaper with the early bird offers listed above). At Web Summit, the exhibitor passes are now sold out (but were previously available for 11,000–20,000 EUR) — proving there are plenty willing to invest big bucks to get in front of the crowd here. Slush is still taking exhibitors (as of 12 October), but the pressure will increase as startups hop down from the fence and figure out their November plans. For Web Summit, you can apply for the 2016 ALPHA program (applications for 2015 are now closed), and if you’re selected you could get in for 1,950 EUR. The ALPHA program at Web Summit offers you an exhibition stand, 4 tickets, the opportunity to access Investor Office Hours, Mentor Hours, Startup University, Startup Workshops, Startup Roundtables, and some extras.
If you’re there for the events, then check out the details before committing. Web Summit promises 21 Summits, from sport to design to fashion to finance. There are a promised 1000 speakers, and although it was commented last year that you need to filter out some mediocre content to find the gems, there is enough going on to appeal to most. The challenge might be getting round everything without some sort of time-twisting wormhole.
Slush has events laid out over 2 days and 4 stages, with the first day focusing on Northern Europe and the second day widening focus to include Asia and North Africa. Throw in ‘fireside’ discussions and the obligatory pre-, after- and wrap-up parties, and you’ve got yourself a jam-packed couple of days.
If you’re confident in your product and ready to connect with investors, either conference – as an attendee or exhibitor – could be money well spent. But with distinctly different offerings and high ticket prices, having a plan and a real reason for going will make sure you get the most from the experience. And if you find do yourself drinking with Bono, make sure he’s buying.
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