me Convention: What happens when you put 24 startup cities in one place?

The very first me Convention, organised by Mercedes-Benz and SXSW in Frankfurt has just wrapped up and Startup Dublin’s Sarah Leahy was there to represent Dublin on the global stage… 

A 100,000 kilometre virtual tour of startup cities across Europe, Asia and the Middle East- that’s how Sam Michel, Founder of Chinwag and moderator of the Startup Cities Program, described the two day event at the me convention that saw 24 startup cities showcasing the best of their ecosystems. I was there to represent Dublin.

We learnt some eye opening facts about tech ecosystems across the globe. 

Presentations were made by representatives of different cities from across the globe, including, Linz, Ghent, Tel Aviv, Copenhagen, Espoo, Paris, Athens, Budapest, Jakarta, Milan, Tokyo, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Shenzhen, Lisbon, Seoul, Stockholm, Zurich, Istanbul, Beirut, Manchester, Frankfurt, Madrid, and Dublin.

Each city’s representative delivered a presentation with a great deal of style and a good dose of humour, which is vital when there are 2 days of pitches to sit through!

What did I learn? Well…

Tel Aviv has a population of 438,000, and the city houses 1,190 startups, while the Danes are the best non native English speakers in the world and  Zurich is the most livable city in the world.

Indonesia has 282 million mobile phone users, 742 languages and dialects and 1340 ethnic groups.

Korea is home to Samsung, Hyundai, Posco, LG and Doosan. Shenzhen, a small fishing town 35 years ago is now the home of over 11 million people and is the world capital for hardware, boasting some absolutely eye watering figures.

Foxconn employs 1.3 million people in China and had revenues of 136 Billion USD is 2016. And did you know that Huawei spends more on R&D than Apple does?

France has the best tech visa scheme for international startups relocating there and with Paris gearing up for the 2024 Olympics, it’s a hub of activity and opportunity.

Manchester has a very sizeable games industry and media and creative are key sectors there with its huge grassroots tech community.

The learnings really were endless and it was wonderful to meet community managers from 23 other startup cities. These people know their ecosystems inside out.

Sebastian Schäfer, CEO of TechQuartier, hosted drinks as a wrap for the startup cities program in TQHQ. It was good to catch up with other key ecosystem players that you meet from time to time on the conference circuit – people like Maren Lesche who helped us navigate our way around the Berlin tech ecosystem at TOA last year and Martin Bryant who gave the Irish Startup Wake at SXSW an amazing write up in The Next Web last year.

Almost every city uses the weather as a draw factor for living there – Athens, Jakarta, Budapest, Istanbul – and the images are spectacular, with  300+ days of sunshine. Thankfully, Dublin has incredible data that speaks for itself so I wasn’t reliant upon our climate to get people’s attention!!

So what did I talk about?

I gave some definitive data about the startup ecosystem in Dublin, I showed a video about the Liberties area in Dublin 8, I explained why people choose to move to Dublin, gave some case studies, spoke about some of our female led companies and upcoming conferences. Zero G put these awesome slides together for me.

What questions was I asked over the course of the weekend? Lots! People wanted to know:

  • What’s Dublin doing to attract startups post Brexit?
  • Where do we get our data from?
  • How come we have so much young talent?
  • Why are so many Tech HQs in Dublin?
  • What’s the best thing about Dublin?

The Startup Cities Program was just one part of a super interesting, jam packed 36 hour convention. There were some incredible speakers peppered throughout the 3 days, including Buzz Aldrin, astronaut, who claims we must ‘explore or expire!’ regarding the human colonisation of Mars, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, who had some advice for men: “Gentlemen, don’t buy flowers, do laundry”, Neil Harbisson, a real living cyborg who listens to colours and claims we can save the world by changing ourselves.

ASAP Rocky, Amber Valletta, Beth Ditto, Hans Ulrich Obrist and many others also participated. There was no lack of fun things to do at night with a bunch of Urban Hot Spots hosting a range of terrific events from dinners, drinks, art installations, R&B, hip hop, electro music, a Robert Johnson DJ set and plenty of other quirky events. The night convention was even busier than the day!

I made some great contacts in 24 startup cities in the world and beyond. Ecosystems range from very small to enormous, each brings unique facts and learnings to the table. There is so much to be learned from getting people in the same room for a couple of days, exchanging ideas and talking.

A big shoutout to Mirko Whitfield & Sam Michel for organising such a wonderful, inspiring event as part of the me convention. A really big shout out to SXSW and to Mercedes Benz for a truly wonderful, innovative weekend.

Next stop: SaaStock!

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