Bitspiration Festival 2015 for the first time in Warsaw
Started in Krakow, this year the Bitspiration Festival of technology and music moved to Warsaw for the first time. Over two days, experts from around the world advised attendees in such diverse topics as finding your first financing, utilizing virtual reality, kickstarting your hardware start-up, choosing an accelerator and managing music in a digital era. Two major awards were also presented during the conference: the Aulery Awards and the MIT Technology Review Polish Innovator of the Year
Vice-President of Warsaw Michał Olszewski during Bitspiration
The first thing you probably noticed entering the fourth floor of the Palace of Culture and Science, or the home of the Bitspiration Festival for two days, was the Ping-Pong table and its rather enthusiastic participants. Luckily, the back and forth of the game is an apt metaphor for the two-day conference, which had participants bouncing back and forth between several tracks of interesting, practical and often insightful talks by speakers from all over the globe.
What we learned at the Bitspiration 2015 conference
It all began with some very sensible advice from Keith Teare, who is perhaps best known for co-founding TechCrunch. In his introductory lecture, he gave other entrepreneurs advice on how to convince investors to trust in you and your project, and gave an example of the perfect elevator pitch. He based all this on his new startup that he introduced at the talk: Chat Center, an online chat application for companies.
Continuing the theme of giving useful information was lawyer Augie Rakow, who told current and aspiring founders “how not to f*ck yourself” when negotiating your first financing (maintain control of who gets chosen to your board), Marvin Liao of accelerator 500Startups, who appropriately enough told listeners how to properly submit their ideas to 500 or any accelerator (main takeaway: apply only when your application or business has traction and some earnings, rather than when it’s just an idea), and Krzysztof Kowalczyk of HardGamma Ventures, who told startups to think BIG (Big, International, Growing) from day one.
Marvin Liao during his lecture
After lunch (which featured a mid-day concert by Warsaw garage band The Saturday Tea, thus putting the “festival” in Bitspiration Festival), we got back down to business with a diverse panel that talked about diversity in tech, appropriately followed by Karolina Cikowska and Zuzanna Kobrzynski presenting the results of their first Girls Code Fun workshops and some of the nine-year-old graduates, who presented their projects on stage.
Other highlights of the first day include Beth Kolko’s presentation of the “startup slog”, during which she encouraged founders to cultivate the perseverance to get through the hard stages all startups inevitably go through, and our very own Michał Bańka of PARP, who gave a short presentation on the history of the institution and its support of Polish innovation.
The first day of Bitspiration ended with a massive afterparty also at the Palace of Culture, and those who survived and managed to get up early enough had the chance to listen to Ela Madej and Seth Bannon introduce the concept of WFIO or the “we’re f*cked, it’s over” moment many startups face, and how to deal with it and the general stress of being a founder (their advice? Meditation, vacation and massages). This advice will undoubtedly come in handy in the future for all the startups that arise as a result of this year’s Bitspiration.
The Aulery Awards – for the first time at Bitspiration
Since 2009, the Aulery Awards have been awarded to innovative start-ups and technology companies from Poland and Central and Eastern Europe. This year, out of 22 finalists, three start-ups and one investor took home the top prize: Growbots, Ifinity, Semstorm and Bartek Gola of SpeedUp Group, and the winners were presented on the Bitspiration stage on the first day of the conference. If previous years are any indication, these startups are definitely ones to watch in the future.
Artur Kurasinski announces the Aulery winners
MIT rewards Polish innovation
On June 23rd, the grand finale of the fourth Bitspiration Festival featured the MIT Gala, organized by the MIT Technology Review together with Innovators Under 35 Europe. It was the first time Innovators Under 35 recognized Polish talents, and the top finalists named were Ola Orchowska, Kamila Staryga, Olga Malinkiewicz, Katarzyna Nawrotek, Maciej Machulak, Marcin Piatkowski, Marcin Treder, Michal Mikulski, Przemyslaw Kornatowski and Tomasz Wolkowicz. Of the top 10, it was Michal Mikulski from Gliwice who received the Social Innovator special mention for the Luna EMG, his physical therapy assistance robot, while Olga Malinkiewicz of Saule Technologies walked away with the grand prize and was named the MIT Technology Review Polish Innovator of the Year.
Below you can watch a presentation of all 10 finalists of the MIT Polish Innovators Under 35 awards and the winners, Olga Malinkiewicz and Michał Mikulski, giving their statements immediately after receiving the prize. The video also shows a brief overview of the Bitspiration Festival, which was held in the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw.
With all of the awards announced, the afterparty behind us and the Ping-Pong table put away, it was time to head back to whatever corners of Poland or California (or elsewhere) the speakers and attendees came from – until next year’s edition, that is.
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