Opening Doors for Small Creators

Source: Jasmin Koivisto

Berlin is known for its creative environment. A group of motivated international students wanted to take part in it and give Berlin something more and unique: and so, Berlin TechON was created.

Berlin TechON is an innovation festival which targets early-stage start-ups. It was held for the first time on the 6th and 7th of April. The festival’s programme consists of different types of speakers, panel discussions, workshops and a pitch competition.

“We were new in Berlin. We had no prior connections here. We also came from so many different backgrounds. Needless to say, none of us knew how Berlin works, so this was a massive opportunity for us to figure out what works and what doesn’t work”, says Tariq Khaleeq, one of the two project managers.

The organizing team consists of around 50 students. They study the same programme but they are divided between two campuses: one in Berlin and one in Grenoble, France. Even though, TechON got started as an assignment, the organizers take it very seriously.

“Our stakeholders are treating it as an assignment but, for us, it’s much more than just that”, explains Aleks Leks, the second project manager.

The team had zero budget which meant that the event had to be built from the ground up with sponsors and partnerships. At the beginning of the project, the organizers were hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

“There was this expectation of failure which projected us forward, a lot”, Khaleeq explains.

Berlin TechON’s main goal is to help out start-ups which are taking their first steps into the business world. The festival offers a chance to even express an idea in front of a live audience.

“Let’s say you’re a start-up and you have an idea. Well, you don’t have money, you don’t have a business, you don’t even know how to work. Then you go to an event like this and you pitch your idea. After that you get tickets to go to other events with big sponsors and people who are ready to invest in good ideas”, Leks describes, “It creates like a domino effect: you get open doors, even more doors and even more doors.”

Project managers Tariq Khaleeq (from left) and Aleks Leks, and marketing analyst Ankit Gupta Source: Jasmin Koivisto

Helping out newbies

Berlin isn’t new to this game. It already has start-up festivals and events, such as Tech Open Air and Startup Safari which have been held for a few years now. So how does TechON stand out from these events?

“The events, right now, are more targeted towards people who have an idea and have a bit of money already but for the early-stage start-ups… I don’t think there’s really enough platforms that are offering something as attainable and affordable as we are”, Aleks says.

“We are offering a platform where speakers can come forward from different industries. They talk about the start-up ecosystem. People would get an education on what’s an incubator, how to raise money, how to talk to a VC (venture capitalist), how to go from an initial stage to a growth stage. This is a very interesting place for anyone to meet potential investors or people who could help on the journey”, Khaleeq adds.

These innovating events which help start-ups with networking are very welcomed in Berlin since the start-up scene is booming. According to EY, venture capital investments in Berlin hit a record level of around 1.5 billion euros in the first half of 2017. Other than Berlin being the capital of Germany, it’s also the start-up capital of Germany. 44 percent of all investment deals took place in Berlin.

There’s power in a group

One of the reasons Berlin has earned its label as a creative city is its numerous options for co-working spaces. From Factory to WeWork and from Mindspace to Betahaus, co-working spaces offer a creative environment for entrepreneurs and freelancers. They bring genius minds together to create even more brilliant and unique ideas. Berlin TechON’s one way to add to this creative environment is by offering three months of free co-working space through Rent24 to the winner of their pitch battle competition. This helps out new start-ups which otherwise wouldn’t have the money to get their own office.

Also, a way to pump up the creativity in Berlin is to give an opportunity to all kinds of start-ups, not only to the ones that are focused on tech.

“A lot of people think that start-ups are just oriented on tech which is a false assumption. There are a lot of start-ups which are not tech-oriented and they have completely disrupted the ecosystem. One of the speakers is a Book a Street Artist and they have developed a platform where, if you’re a street performer, you can use their platform to book clients. This is not replicated anywhere else”, Khaleeq mentions.