Since its humble beginning as a small event for techies organisation years ago, TechBBQ has grown immensely. As it continues to expand, its core values remain untouched – of doing things the Nordic way within the startup community.
Back in 2013, over 250 tech entrepreneurs gathered around a grill at the Copenhagen Stock Exchange. This was the first TechBBQ, an informal venue for entrepreneurs to share their experiences. At the time, tech startups weren’t seen as viable career paths, so TechBBQ was viewed as a coveted space to discuss challenges and opportunities with like-minded peers.
Pia Ella Elmegaard – who was 1 of the 5 hosts behind the first TechBBQ – recalls: “The initiative was by the community and for the community. The goal was to boost self-esteem among tech entrepreneurs and encourage new founders to dream just as big by showcasing successful startups from the ecosystem.”
Throughout the 6 years that followed, some tech entrepreneurs have become rock stars and well-established companies are increasingly interested in these up-and-coming disruptors. Yet, the philosophy behind TechBBQ remains the same. They continue to support and strengthen the startup ecosystem by building communities and fostering growth – setting egos aside and overcoming barriers together through openness, trust, and inclusion.
From grassroots wannabes to rock stars
Each year since its inception, TechBBQ has doubled its number of attendees. In 2015, the event moved to the Copenhagen Opera House, where it attracted 1100 attendees. During its second appearance in Øksnehallen (this past year), more than 6000 people attended. Although the event continues to grow, it’s been crucial for the team behind it to maintain its intimate, Nordic, and founder-friendly vibe.
Elmegaard, who is now a board member of the non-profit organisation, explained: “We have ongoing discussions about how big we want TechBBQ to become. This year we actually capped the number of tickets to focus on quality instead of quantity. It’s most important to us that visitors actually get to meet each other and develop connections during the event.”
Some things have changed, however. The event is no longer limited to core startups. TechBBQ welcomes students, representatives from corporations, investors, and those with a general interest in tech. But that doesn’t mean TechBBQ has lost its focus on startups; it means that the startup scene has evolved tremendously over the past decade.
In Elmegaard’s words: “The tech startup scene is merging into something new that’s about more than just startups and corporations. Today, it’s all about building the right solutions. It’s more interesting to talk about the trends and technologies than labelling the ones doing it, and how to get there fastest and in the most sustainable way. Often, attendees are more interested in finding the right talent and the right partners. The mission has always been to showcase the best parts of the Danish tech scene and what makes it unique. We’re not the next Silicon Valley – and we shouldn’t be. Instead, we proudly showcase the unique startups in the ecosystem and their special way of doing business.”
Exposing both sides of the coin
The connection to the Nordic tradition of trust, transparency, inclusion, and equality continues to play a guiding role at TechBBQ. The summit shows the newest tech and innovations while fostering an atmosphere of trust, such that sharing experiences and insights – even the hard ones – comes second nature.
As Elmegaard sees it: “One of the virtues we’re holding onto is to share honest and transparent stories and showcase the shades of grey. Things are never as black and white as the media make them out to be. We show best practices in building a company, but also the other side of the coin: what hard work means to your mental and physical health, your relationships, and your family. Also, that virtue has only become more important as startups and entrepreneurs are becoming rock stars in the industry.”
Speakers don’t just talk about the newest trends; they share their failures, discuss parental leave opportunities and mental health, and inspire hard-working startup founders to integrate the Nordic values of work-life balance.
A community-driven non-profit
True to its humble beginnings, TechBBQ remains a non-profit organisation. Community volunteers still play a key role in the event’s success; last year 9,920 volunteer hours were put into the project. Thanks to their hard work and passion for the startup ecosystem, the non-profit has evolved from a small Danish BBQ event to one of Europe’s leading tech summits.
According to Elmegaard: “It’s still about showcasing our startups and helping them to succeed out in the world. No one can buy their way to the stage, and we don’t pay our speakers to talk. They do it because they want to support the community event and pay it forward.”
TechBBQ is a Danish non-profit, grassroots association that was established in 2012 to support and strengthen the Danish Startup Ecosystem. TechBBQ runs all year with a fantastic team of dedicated and passionate people, who strive to foster the meaningful growth of early-stage innovation within the technology sector.
18.-19. September Øksnehallerne Copenhagen
TechBBQ 2018, by the numbers:
6,641 people attended TechBBQ’s 2-day summit.
Compared to 2017, there was a 65% increase in attendees.
84% of the participants either “agree” or “strongly agree” that it is of utmost importance to have large-scale startup events like TechBBQ to stimulate entrepreneurship and innovation in Denmark
91 nationalities were represented at TechBBQ 2018
465 venture capitalists and 266 angel investors attended TechBBQ 2018
2,637 startups participated in TechBBQ 2018
90% of small- and medium-sized enterprises, corporations, and investors gained a better understanding of the Danish startup scene