Visiting Pirate Summit in Cologne, Germany, with 3 startups
The journey started by organising Pirates On Shore in 3 cities in Türkiye with Stage-Co Platform. The goal was to select the best local startup in Izmir, Istanbul and Ankara. We had the crazy idea to perform this is 3 days in that order. The founder, Till Ohrmann, of Pirate Summit was coming over too but at the end he could only visit Istanbul for a couple of hours. Bit of a bummer but nothing that could stop us. Thanks to the local supporters, 9 Eylül and Depark in Izmir, Kolektif House in Istanbul and Cyberpark in Ankara, we had great venues and participants. We asked local juries in each city like Ali Karabey, 212 ltd, Enis Hulli and Kutay Yarali from FirstSeed, Timucin Bilgor, BUBA, and Sevay İpek Aydin from Depark and many others. Great people who actively helped us in many ways. The startup scene is young in Türkiye so we need a lot of hands to find them and convince them to come. Although it should not be a problem, but the fact the pitches were in English was for some of them a burden. We had 3 great winners, Appanalytics, Boro-Energy and Do-Major performing an excellent pitch that convinced the jury-members. This was in May of this year, the real challenge was in September, going to the Pirate Summit and pitch in front of an international jury.
As Stage-Co Platform we try to bring together startups, mentors and investors. A great way to confront your startup is to go out of Türkiye and confront the international scene. This can be painful or a joy but there is only 1 way to find out and that is packing your stuff and get on that plane. Pirate Summit is the perfect place to explore the confrontation. It was the 5th edition of a summit that is solely focused on startups. This means very simply pitches, pitches and pitches during 2 days. An international crowd is present and most of all interested. In figures this means over 1000 participants and almost 90 startups from all over the world. No one can better describe this summit but Stavros Messinis, founder of the Cube in Athens and host on stage: “When I think of the Pirate Summit, I think of the most impactful event on the European startup calendar. No similar event exists! It’s an event where barriers are broken down, normal rules no longer apply, everyone is an equal. All sailors are on the same mission, sailing their startup ship into Cologne for a yearly parlé, discussions, a place to meet, talk and learn. It’s a festival to the mischievous lifestyle of disruptive startup founders.” It was steve blank, recognised for developing the Customer Development methodology, who claimed that an artist is the closest to an entrepreneur and I would add that being a pirate is very close to the attitude of an entrepreneur besides their main activity, robbing.
I was very sorry Do-Major could not join us due to budget reasons. A plane ticket plus stay is a considerable budget for a startup. Although. So we invited the n° 2 in Ankara, Superama, but the co-founder had a surgery the day we had to leave. Too bad, so I was happy to convince Enigma.bio. Mete Öztürk is the young co-founder and it was a real pleasure to have him on the trip, from the summit to the shared AirBNB. He grew up in Holland when he was young and moved with his family back to Türkiye. A perfect, hybrid result with the passion of the Mediterranean Sea and the eagerness of execution of the cold North. This brings me to a learning that in Türkiye we still have to many marketplace startups and not enough inventors with a passion to change the world, and not be big in Türkiye. In that way it was great that Appanalytics and Boro-Energy also had www in mind and not just .tr!
Off course there were also speakers to inspire you and panel conversations to give you deeper insights. It was remarkable that the honesty of startups, which shared their views and experiences, was appreciated but also seen as normal in the context of sharing to learn. You can only love young people who are less into ego and more into engaging. Exceptions excluded. A speaker to remember was Mate Rimac, founder of Rimac Automobili at 19 years old but already active before that. It is the kind of story that touches you as it was honest and genuine. First you are overwhelmed by the fact that he, at a very young age, leads a factory with 120 coworkers that produces entirely internally a sports electric car with amazing specs. Secondly you understand that this amazing car with a very high price tag, is not his main income. He sells his knowledge of being able to make the best electrical engines to the automotive industry. He couldn’t name the brands for obvious reasons but all the big ones are represented reading between the lines. Hard not to think of VW, who can use a push towards real low emissions. Rimac also provides the software so I assume it might be trustworthier. The panels were always crowded, as well on scene as in the room. Although “room” is nicely put as the whole Summit takes place in an old repair/manufacturing site that looks rather abandoned and where artists created some unique pieces form the leftovers, mainly iron stuff. Impressive and authentic.
Off course the pitches are the main focus, as investors are widely present. The quality of the pitches were very high with mostly startups that make sense. They solved a real problem in a unique way. Almost 90 pitches is a lot and it is better to start opening a bottle of beer, freely available, at the end of the day. Our startups couldn’t make it to the final 10. Made us a bit sad of course but it was not a moment to listen to Arabesque songs, as all startups already went through a tough selection, so they were all winners. Honesty must have his place here. I don’t even remember anymore who won although I applauded with enthusiasm.
The last day ended with Burning Man. A tradition and a blink of the eye to the real stuff in the States. Very nice, all these boys and girls scouts around the campfire of course. To close meant you smell like a bbq but who cares as the return is eminent. We made new friends and felt blessed. The startup scene is economically a very little bucket seen the ocean around, but we are changing the world. At least we aim and want that. Less ambition is not welcome among startups.
You also know that the question upon return is a classic one. What did it bring to you? Personally I could reconnect with my network and extend. More important is what the startups got back from it. For each individual it is different of course. Mete was very inspired, he pivoted the ideas and felt more ready for the next confrontation in Denmark for a health summit. Appanalytics could continue to build on the successes that it had previous and Boro-Energy… They were by far almost over-active. They joined the Startup Bus on which they got very excited for another startup idea, almost forgetting the primary reason why they came. Learning does not come without a price. I can only conclude with 1 remark. If we want to compete with startups and build a strong ecosystem in Türkiye we definitely need to think more www and less .tr. More confrontations, more learnings, more professionalism is needed. We have the talent, now we need to focus on the deliverables and the go-to-market. Great to be part of it. See you next year, aaaarh!