TechBBQ has evolved from a small gathering in 2013 to the largest and most ‘hyggelig’ tech event in Scandinavia. What do you attribute this growth and success to?
The growth of TechBBQ should be seen in the context of the whole field of entrepreneurship, innovation, and startup ecosystem growing rapidly in Denmark. As this field and the local and regional community players, universities, accelerators, private companies, and governmental bodies around us grow, TechBBQ grows with it.
So, it’s very much a sign of health for our society that we are all becoming much more up-to-speed, professional, international, and conscious about the actual value of assisting our startup founders in the best ways possible, from soft funding and angel investments to bootcamps, mentor and accelerator programs to digital and physical pitch events, startup competitions and networking conferences such as ourselves. All to become successful companies and establish themselves as the new Lego, Novo Nordisk, Coloplast, Vestas, Ørsted, Maersk, Danfoss or Grundfos – employing thousands of workers while building tomorrow’s labor market.
How do you maintain the cozy and vibrant atmosphere that sets TechBBQ apart from other tech events, while accommodating an increasing number of attendees each year?
The TechBBQ staff and Denmark as a nation are very down-to-earth people, and the way we do business together in the Nordics is also very informal, so it’s very important to us as a group that the venue space that we are using for our annual Summit reflects these values and that we become a hub of attraction, where positive mindset, collaboration, and vibrant energy thrive and where the environment is safe and cozy for everyone to be a part of.
The “hygge” aspect of the Danish DNA is added to our conference mix to internalize the quality of coziness and feeling of contentment. Luckily, many of our attendees bring the same values as they are based in Denmark and the Nordics, so even though we are growing in size year by year, and nearly 50 percent of our attendees are international, we are still true to our core DNA and values, such as trust, inclusiveness, transparency, compassion, overcoming egos, promoting openness and equality. We strive to maintain the unique feeling that TechBBQ has become known for even when we move to a bigger venue in the future.
This year marks the 11th edition of TechBBQ. Are there any new features or highlights that participants can look forward to at this year’s event?
We can’t reveal the opening yet, and it’s not yet 100 percent confirmed, but we strive for a special one in 2023. Also, we will have the Nordic LP Forum, which should be very unique because of the focus and vision behind it. We are also bringing back our Diverse Representation project from 2022, named TechBBQueer, which seeks to strengthen our efforts for diversity and inclusion in the startup ecosystem.
We also have Themed Tracks: To make it easier for attendees to navigate the program, we’re introducing themed tracks to cater to specific interests, like FinTech, GreenTech, Life Science, and more. You can follow a track or mix-match session to customize your experience. We also host at least 4 Startup Pitch Competitions in collaboration with our partners. Finally, the familiar flaming feeling of barbeque. Of course, it wouldn’t be a real TechBBQ if we didn’t serve our signature barbeque in our outside garden area for the 11th year running.
In addition to the annual summit, TechBBQ is involved in various projects aimed at elevating the Nordic and Baltic ecosystems. Can you share more about the impact and outcomes of these initiatives, such as Startup Capital, TalkBBQ, and the Founder Wellbeing Project?
We always try to have multiple side projects next to our annual TechBBQ Summit that engages with and supports our target audience: startup founders. The bottom line of all of our initiatives is to help boost our startup founders with relevant knowledge, networking with peers, and access to risk-willing capital and soft funding. ‘Startup Capital’ is an online event that connects pre-seed, seed-stage, and Series A startups across the Nordics and Baltics with global investors through virtual facilitated matchmaking.
We also have been on the tour with our ‘TalkBBQ’ concept, a mini version of our main Summit, spread out to five smaller cities in Denmark to connect with local entrepreneurs, investors, and ecosystem players. Another project, our ‘Founder Wellbeing’, which has now been concluded, aimed to discuss the mental health aspect of being a founder because many founders risk burnout due to the overwhelming workload.
TechBBQ’s vision is for the Nordic startup ecosystem to be a catalyst for innovation, venture, and technology. What do you think makes the Nordic ecosystem unique, and how does TechBBQ contribute to its growth and development?
The Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland) are broadly recognized worldwide as the most thriving and wealthiest countries with the happiest inhabitants. Our Nordic region is home to some of the fastest-growing startups and companies in the world, including Spotify, Klarna, Lunar, Pleo, and Too Good To Go, to name a few, as well as key venture capital firms that include Northzone, Creandum, Nordics.vc, Norrsken VC, and EQT Ventures. On top of this, many experts attribute the startup growth in our region due to our Nordic models and robust welfare systems, high levels of education, incubation hubs & and accelerators, and innovative business understanding and practices. The Nordic model, in Denmark especially, prioritizes social welfare programs and progressive taxation, which has led to a high standard of living for citizens and a relatively equal distribution of wealth.
This approach has also encouraged entrepreneurship, internationalization, and innovation, with many successful startups and tech companies emerging from the region in recent years. However, this model has also faced criticism for being unsustainable in the long term. Long recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, the Nordic area has consistently grown in the last few decades. To face and overcome this difficulty, many Nordic startups are concentrating on building closer relationships with established businesses and utilizing their networks to access new markets and customers. The closeness and similarities of the Nordic countries allow for much easier networking and partnerships, which can quickly become an essential part of helping a business scale.
Collaboration seems to be at the heart of TechBBQ’s mission. How do you foster a sense of community and encourage meaningful connections among participants during the event?
We do our very best to enable everyone to get in touch with nearly anyone they would like to meet and shake hands with. While at the event, we foster a sense of community through our networking app, ‘Brella’, and push toward potential collaborations across genders, races, nationalities, industries, interests, etc.
TechBBQ Sapporo brought the event concept to a Japanese audience. Can you share more about this partnership with JETRO and Sapporo City, and the impact it had on both the Nordic and Japanese ecosystems?
We would encourage anyone interested in the ‘TechBBQ Sapporo’ event that we successfully hosted in partnership with JETRO and Sapporo City in January 2023 to read our blog post here, written by Kay Michelsen, our Head of Program, and Martina Popadakova, our PR & Program Lead, at TechBBQ.
The Impact Series focuses on promoting green and impact entrepreneurship. How do you see the role of TechBBQ in driving sustainable innovation and supporting startups in this space?
Whenever we get the chance, we want to help our Greentech (Sustainability and Impact) startups in Denmark to shine and succeed. We are very much a part of the movement that wants the green transition to move faster. Each year our stage content has a dedicated track to touch on this topic and some past projects like the ‘Impact Series’ which we did in collaboration with Danske Bank and The Danish Business Authority.
Finally, what advice would you give to startups and entrepreneurs attending TechBBQ for the first time? How can they make the most of their experience at the event?
The best advice we can give to any startup founders and entrepreneurs is to make sure to network as much as possible with anyone you find relevant for your business growth. Meet new people you haven’t met before, whether that is your future investor, supplier, partner, or co-founder. Make sure to shake hands and exchange business cards, and see if you can collaborate or help each other somehow.
It doesn’t need to be the big sales pitch each time; it could just be a quick connection on LinkedIn and ‘we’ll set up a proper meeting post-Summit’. Also, check out the program and plan what you shouldn’t miss on the content side: Bring home fresh new learnings from experienced key-note speakers and exciting fireside chats from the carefully curated on-stage content.