Author: Svetlana Stotskaya
In the latest edition of ParlayMe Profiles we wanted to profile one of the biggest and most prestigious tech conferences in the Nordics - Tech BBQ.
This year the word "Elevate" reflected the atmosphere of TechBBQ, a technology summit held on September 16-17, 2021, in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The event was conducted in a hybrid format: attendees could come to Øksnehallen or join virtually. This was the first physical startup event in Scandinavia after more than one and a half years, as restrictions were fully lifted in Denmark. The opportunity to listen to panel experts across four different stages and exchange brief jokes with strangers over a cup of coffee was met with excitement and gratitude.
Although TechBBQ is a more locally-centered conference “for entrepreneurs, investors, journalists and tech enthusiasts looking for an intimate, well-designed and educational experience” in the Nordic region, the organizers succeeded in putting together an impressive list of global and local speakers who provided deep insights into their areas of expertise. A thoughtfully crafted program was packed with panel discussions, workshops, and startup pitches, but attendees did not feel overwhelmed by the information flow, as it sometimes happens at conferences.
The summit was supported by a number of organizations, including Novo Nordisk Fonden, Danske Bank, Digital Hub Denmark, Innovation Centre Denmark, and many more.
KEYNOTES AND PANEL DISCUSSIONS
Keynote presentations and panel discussions covered a wide range of topics: from investing in underrepresented founders to advising on talent acquisition.
An entire session was set aside for a debate about returning to the office or continuing remote work. Opinions of the panelists, as well as those of the general audience, varied. However, everyone agreed that the work format in the post-pandemic future would not be the same anymore; more companies are embracing flexible hours, hybrid and remote work.
A large number of panel discussions were devoted to venture capital investments. Listeners were able to get valuable information on how to get startup hiring right, how to choose investors and what questions to ask them, how to conduct the fundraising process remotely, and much more.
When deciding whether to raise a new round or not, for example, founders need to understand that “a good pitch is communication”, according to Susie Meier, Investment Manager at HV Capital. They should be able to explain why they need this money: do they really need the money to run their business, or do they need the money to please the ego.
In his keynote speech about venture capital investments, Chris Sacca, Managing Partner at Lowercarbon Capital, gave a piece of advice, “Don’t focus too much on negative cases.” This is important to remember because VC investments are one of the riskiest types of investments: according to research, around 90% of startups fail. Not being swayed by past not-so-successful bets and continuing the search for outliers is important for the VCs.
In the panel discussion “New VC fund practicalities and operations”, Christian Damsgaard Tost, People Ventures (Denmark), Heidi Lindvall, Pale Blue Dot (Sweden), Kremena Tosheva SNÖ Ventures (Norway), and Claes Mikko Nilsen, NordicNinja VC (Finland) shared their vision into expectations from the future VC funds, how new VC funds might operate, and what their structure might be. While the traditional GP-LP fund structures are not expected to change significantly, twists in industry focus and financial channels might happen.
During two days, the Danish startups from diverse industries, including life sciences, fintech, food tech, etc., pitched their solutions to various problems. Some of the startups were bootstrapped at the very early-stage such as Meili, an all-in-one fleet management platform for mobile robots, while others have already closed some rounds, such as Corti, a digital health startup with a voice-based digital assistant as its core product, that closed Series A round with US$27 million a week prior to the event.
One of the exciting events of the summit was a pitch battle among LifeScience startups. The top eight startups pitched on stage during TechBBQ 2021 for a prize of 10.000€ and a pitch spot at the MEDICA Trade Fair in Düsseldorf in November 2021. The spot was also granted to the runner-up. The jury with experts from Novo Nordisk, Navispace, Copenhagen Academy of Medical Education and Simulation had a hard time choosing winners. Eventually, the winner turned out to be Geras Solutions from Sweden, an artificial intelligence diagnosis support tool that can detect cognitive impairment, including dementia.
The pitch spots at the MEDICA Trade Fair were given to two runners up. One was MedBeat from Sweden, which develops an ECG module for arrhythmia detection to use outside hospitals. The other one was Nordic Brain Tech AS, a spin-off company from The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and St.Olavs Hospital in Norway, which focuses on medical technologies for improved brain health, specializing in neurology and neuropsychology.
In a competition among hardware startups, the winner was Millo Appliances, a food tech company with a smart blender as its core product.
A large number of the Nordic startups highlighted sustainability as one of their mission angles. In addition, sustainability was one of the main themes of the summit. Both small startups and mature companies agreed on the importance of developing new solutions for the benefit of the environment and the community.
While it may look like it was difficult to carve out two working days at the start of the business season, TechBBQ was an incredible opportunity to get updates on cutting edge technologies, exchange opinions on current trends and connect with like-minded people. Participants were inspired by the people who are genuinely passionate about their fields of expertise and who strive to bring the next wave of innovative solutions.
About the Author:
Svetlana Stotskaya a ParlayMe Contributor and marketing consultant with deep expertise in strategic marketing and brand management. She helped launch and scale brands while collaborating with international cross-functional teams and driving business results.