Amidst iLEAD Overseas Study Mission (OSM) tour to Berlin in July, I had the chance to attend Tech Open Air 2015, or more intimately known as #TOA15. Having interned in a start-up for 6 months prior to the trip, I took quite an interest in exploring a more diverse start-up culture outside Singapore, and Berlin did not disappoint. #TOA15 was a unique event, and clearly an eye-opener for tech scene in Europe. Unlike many conferences in Singapore, #TOA15 adopted a more relaxed mood, with cozy indoor and outdoor spaces, as well as live musics and beers. Of course, the fact that it was held in Alte Teppichfabrik made the event way cooler than most of its counterparts.
Wristbands, not lanyards, were distributed at the entrance for identification purposes, and I felt like I was in a music festival instead of a tech conference. Indeed, the organisers did a good job to make the event less formal and more fun. Meals were served throughout the day, and we had mountains of croissants for breakfast on the second day.
Various talks and panels were held throughout the two days, with awesome speakers like Noel Sharkey, whose panel and keynote about robots were highly interesting, Christian Hardenberg, CTO of Rocket Internet, Andreas Gahlert, CEO of Cobi who shared insights on his bike, as well as many other speakers. Ending the two-day conference was a Hardware Pitch, where six start-ups took the stage to pitch their ideas and stood a chance to €4000 cash, as well as an electric scooter. More importantly, those start-ups were given an opportunity to pitch their ideas to potential investors! Really an impressive end to the exciting conference.
Eventually, Phree, the smart pen that writes on any surface, snatched the prize that day. I was glad they won because I was rooting for them. Vai Kai, the future toy start-up, won the ‘most backers’ award for they received the loudest cheers from the audience. Other start-ups include ZMorph, Mikme, Kien and Holy Trinity.
The main event ended with a SLUSH after party at Neueheimatt, which was dressed as a bar/club that night. We had a few drinks, before going back to prepare for the last day of #TOA15.
#TOA15 Satellite Events, organised by various companies, were held around Berlin on the third day. As curious student tourists, my friends and I took this opportunity to explore Berlin start-ups, and sourced for free meals along the way. Our journey was fruitful. Early in the morning, we went for breakfast and networking session, hosted by Remerge. Generous spread, which we rarely see in Singapore.
Our next stop was titled ‘Edible Jetpack‘ hosted by AKQA. It was the most memorable one that day because we were introduced to IBM Chef Watson, and tasted dishes created by it. After food tasting, we combined various dishes to make our own burger, and built a prototype of a dish that can go viral in Germany using both Google Analytics and IBM Chef Watson. My group decided on pork broth ramen, topped with kale chips and soft-boiled eggs, because apparently ramen was the trending dish in Germany.
#TOA15 is by far the most interesting and memorable Tech Conference I had been to (although I had not been to a lot). The mixture of arts and tech is prominent, and showcase how Berlin (or Europe) culture is like. I had fun and learned a great deal, and can’t wait to go for another tech conference in another part of the world. Read my trip to Neuschwanstein Castle here.