While Bits & Pretzels 2016 is coming up soon, we took the time to sit down with the three hosts Andreas “Andi” Bruckschlögl, Dr. Bernd Storm vans Gravesande and Felix Haas.
How many Maß [1 liter glass mugs] are necessary to prompt productive conversations about startup topics?
Andi: “That depends on the participants’ drinking ability. In my opinion, most of them usually need one, trained participants need two. But since we want to play safe, everyone receives a voucher for two Maß beer.”
Why is Oktoberfest time suitable for your event?
Andi: “The last day of the Oktoberfest represents a USP no other city in the world can imitate. By now, there are thousands of startup events throughout the world. We did not want to establish just another run-of-the-mill event. With the last day of the Wiesn we offer something most participants haven’t experienced before. Adding to that, there is no better place to network than in an Oktoberfest tent with sociable music, delicious food and probably the best beer.”
What sparked your conviction that this event is needed?
Bernd: “3 ½ years ago, Andi and I initially brought the Gründer-Weißwurstfrühstück into being. We thought there was – compared to Berlin – no real startup scene in Munich, despite many successful young companies. We wanted to draw attention to them and create a platform where founders, investors and journalists could meet up. On the first event we were barely able to convince 50 founders to take the time and join the Gründer-Weißwurstfrühstück. BP then took place two times as a one-day event with more than 1,400 founders in the Löwenbräukeller. We already received a lot of positive feedback back then. In January 2015 Felix joined us as a third host. Together we decided to develop a bigger, international event format. The Bits & Pretzels founders festival was born: In September 2015 we had more than 3,600 founders over three days, amongst other things during the Oktoberfest – a world premiere – in Munich.”
This is the fourth event. What have you learned throughout the years and why is Bits & Pretzels 2016 better than 2015?
Andi: “We’ve learned a lot. This is mostly due to the fact that we did not have much experience in organizing events of this size at the first Bits & Pretzels in September 2014. It was a one-day event at the Löwenbräukeller with 1,400 participants. The atmosphere was great and the networking in full progress from the first minute. However, this resulted in a lack of interest for the speakers in the beer hall. The second time, we tried to solve this with a better technique. Unfortunately without success. This is why we decided to expand Bits & Pretzels to a three-day event: The first two days take place during the day in the International Congress Center in Munich, which is the best location for speeches from a technical point of view. In the evenings there are parties in different clubs and bars. On the last day, all participants go to the Oktoberfest for extensive networking without speeches. We asked our participants after the event and received a lot of praise. But also things we could improve. This year, it is precisely the division of the speeches and booths into six clusters, a separate pitch stage, our Startup-Academy and the networking app which enables you to contact participants in anticipation and schedule appointments.”
The international conference market is full of prominent events. Where do you see yourselves?
Felix: “We want to host the most amazing founders conference in the world and don’t compare ourselves to others [smiles].”
Are there any special features this year? Which notable speakers can you announce?
Felix: “As already stated, we’ve invested a lot of effort in the curation and in the division into clusters. It’s always really hard to choose the speakers since we sadly have to reject too many great people. This year we are looking forward to a great line-up: Amongst other things, the founders of AirBnB, Kayak, King.com and as an absolute highlight speaker Richard Branson will be present. More than 70 speakers are going to talk about their experiences. For the first time we also have a separate Academy Stage this year, where founders can learn from experts and get specific tips how to found and lead a startup.”
Why should investors come to Munich for this event?
Felix: “Thousands of founders, beer, Oktoberfest – what else is left to say?”
Are there any business ideas which were invented during or significantly promoted by a coaching at your event?
Bernd: “Our event is particularly helpful for and interesting to founders. We are really glad to provide the opportunity for startups to find new investors and even new employees at times. An example for a success story is the Slovenian startup Eurosender which runs a Europe-wide parcel delivery service. Not only did they find their first seed investor at Bits & Pretzels but their further development was also fueled by investors they met at B&P. In the same way, the founders of the Berlin startup Candis, a tool for automated accounting, found an investor and established contacts with more than 200 investors and partners they still profit from today. Those are stories we are really pleased to hear because, as founders, we know ourselves how important it is to be connected in the scene.”
How much room is there for Bits & Pretzels to grow? Could the Oktoberfest possibly turn into a startup-only event?
Bernd: “Despite growing again this year, our greatest focus lies rather on quality than quantity. We’ve invested a lot of time in the quality optimization during the past months. Our future goal is to turn Bits & Pretzels into the most popular and best founders conference in the world. We want it to be the place where the smartest people meet, the most innovative ideas are born, the best teams get together and finally, the most successful startups become even more successful. The Oktoberfest is a unique possibility to connect young entrepreneurs. There is no other place where founders, investors, journalists and people fond of starting new stuff can exchange ideas in such a relaxed atmosphere. We use our Table Captain concept to run the networking in a professional manner and to strategically connect the participants according to their interests. This year again, there are a lot of skilled people as Table Captains who guarantee exciting conversations at their tables. We are really glad to have the Oktoberfest as an amazing opportunity here in Munich!”
Andi, Bernd & Felix
Hosts, Bits & Pretzels
Bits & Pretzels is a 3-day event for founders, startup enthusiasts, investors and business incubators. The festival will take place from September 25 – 27, 2016 in Munich. The best-known entrepreneurs from around the world as well as young aspiring entrepreneurs will meet at the event to mingle with like-minded people.