Have Startup, Will Travel: Why Participating In Overseas Industry Events Is Worth It

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Today's startups greatly benefit from the entrepreneurial culture of Silicon Valley and its counterparts around the globe. Networking and securing funds has never been easier. Millions of dollars are spent in the search for the next big thing and everyone gets to join in.

You don’t even have to leave your bedroom – social media makes it really easy to get in touch with the right people. While online activity can certainly help you grow your business, the best way to do it remains the same – you have to attend industry events.

Conferences like Web Summit, Slush and TechCrunch Disrupt are all amazing opportunities to find new business partners, exchange ideas and overall have a good time. That’s why more and more people make a point of taking part in as many conferences as possible.

But here’s the thing. While local residents have few good reasons to skip such events, entrepreneurs from other states or countries may find attending them harder to justify. I strongly believe in international networking and started a non-commercial and non-governmental #smartbrain program to promote Eastern European talents and startups abroad. I spoke to a number of seasoned conference attendees to see if it’s worth it.

#1 Learn

First of all, IT conferences offer tremendous educational value. You’re being exposed to new ways of thinking, conducting business and being productive. Moreover, attending a conference with talented, experienced speakers gives you a chance to learn from others’ mistakes.

Veera Lehmonen, the CEO and Co-Founder of Cuckooworkout, says that international events are great sources of inspiration. It is important to learn from others and create an international network around you.

Peter Lejko, the CFO & Co-Founder of Songoro, highlights the value of being exposed to others’ ideas. Hearing about other startups can help you adjust your own product strategy.

#2 Connect

Conferences are, first and foremost, gatherings of like-minded individuals. People from all over the world get together because they share something. This presents an opportunity to open yourself up and truly connect.

So-called “hallway conversations” are often the most important component of industry events. They provide a tremendous ROI, despite being notably absent from the official agenda. So go ahead and just talk to people.

Povilas Motiejunas, the COO of FindGet Jobs shared his best advice on networking at events: “Make it personal. This approach will open a treasure trove of suggestions and invitations.”

Another thing you can do is turn your competitors into valuable allies. Approach them and try to form a mutually beneficial relationship. Most people will be happy to exchange ideas once they get to know you.

If you don’t feel confident in your ability to speak English, don’t let it deter you from attending international events. Oscar Gonzalez Rodriguez, the CMO & Sales Director at Muutech weighs in: “Don’t be afraid to speak English. Most attendees aren’t native speakers anyway”.

You’ll find that taking a break from ‘the daily grind’ and leaving your bubble makes you more receptive to new people and ideas. Who knows if the conference you’ve been thinking of attending will help you land the next big contract.

#3 Make It Last

Perhaps, this is obvious but a conference ticket is essentially an investment in your own future and that of your company. Here are some tips from Dmitry Kudrenko, the CEO of Stripo.email, to make sure you get a good return.

  1. Plan ahead: Schedule your conference visits at least a year in advance
  2. Prepare: Create a strategy for each event and announce your participation in social media
  3. Be active during the event: Shake hands, give out business cards and leaflets
  4. Follow up: Share your experience on social media, keep in touch with your new friends

Caroline Hjelm, the CMO of VOI Technology, highlighted the importance of attending as much of the event as possible: “It definitely makes sense to cover both networking and side events. If you want to arrange proper meetings with other businesses, investors and journalists — do it in advance”.

“And don’t forget to wear the most comfortable pair of shoes you’ve got!”, adds the founder of BitCurb Petya Gaytanska.




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