Limited seats available. If you are going to any tech-related event in Europe this spring, chances are you are going to hear this phrase over and over. Take the soon to open Arctic15, live from the 26th to the 27th of this month in Helsinki. The organizers have made a conscious choice of limiting the number of attendees to just 1,200 people.
“We’ve been doing this for five years now, this will be the fourth edition, as we skipped 2013 – Dmtri Sarle of ArcticStartup which is managing the event, tells me – and this time we’re going to do things very differently from the past: most events are pushed to become bigger, because the bigger you are, the more money you make. We want to create a place where people can network and meet anybody they want. What that means is an interesting balance.”
That is not to despise huge conferences, like the CES or the Web Summit in Europe. They are fundamental, as they are probably the only place where you can meet everybody (and they have great parties, too). But they are, in fact, huge: it’s not easy to get around without having a well-defined schedule and you might have to sacrifice serendipity for planning.
Smaller conferences offer less in terms of content, but can be better for networking.
“We realized that we wanted to deliver value, first and foremost. That’s why we are capping our sales physically into 1,200 people. We’re not going to have more than that, because we feel there’s only this many people we can meet in one day,” Arle says.
“Last year, we had, I think 1,794 meetings with only 830 people, which I think it’s quite a lot. This year we want to basically double that amount. This is the main thing, we want people to meet.”
Another event which adopts a similar approach is the Pioneers Festival in Vienna, which will open just as the event in Helsinki closes. The event, taking place in the Imperial Palace of Hofburg, is limited to 2,500 participants. It started in 2012 and it succeeded in making a name for itself focusing not so much on money or big names, but on identifying – in line with the Pioneers’ trademarks – some key trends of technology in the future.
This year the program includes a talk about the Hyperloop, Elon Musk’s revolutionary (if it works) means of transportation, in which pressurized capsules ride on an air cushion reaching speed as high as 1,220 km/h.
Artificial limbs, with the youngest speaker on stage so far, Easton La Chapelle, which is only 19, and has funded his first company, Unlimited Tomorrow – which is developing a new concept of an exoskeleton to help paraplegics walk again – when he was only 17; virtual reality, bitcoin, will some of the other key themes presented on stage.
Finally, not far from Vienna, in the other half of what once was the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in Budapest, a new conference, called Brain Bar is scheduled to take place from the 4th to the 6th of June.
In the intentions, it will have its own peculiar angle on the technology world, exploring the technological and philosophical boundaries between man and machine.
Thinkers, philosophers and activists like Evgeny Morozov, Sugata Mitra, Pia Mancini and ,amy others will try to address some of the most pressing issues that spring from the ever increasing impact of tech in our lives (disclosure: I will moderate one of the panels).
For instance: should we embrace creative disruption in the economy or mitigate its impacts? What are the implications for our companies and schools, our governments and democracies? What kind of role should robots play in our society?
These are fascinating questions, some of which have been also at the center of the recent FutureFest in London.
The more we struggle to keep pace with the speed of technological change, the more asking ourselves if we’re going in the right direction and if we’re happy with how we are shaping our future, becomes instrumental. There’s too much at stake, to just follow the trend.
“We’ve been doing this for five years now, this will be […]