Tech Conferences: Fabulous, but Why So Few Women?
I've been to many, MANY tech conferences this year - all over Europe, and all to promote our budding start up, Memonic. Most have been fun, and pretty good for networking. Some were bombastic, even glamorous - like Le Web Paris, from which we have just returned.
But one - was AWESOME. It was the smallest.
On October 27th, Patrice Neff (our "Genius in Chief") and I enjoyed attending CEO DAY at a well-heated convention center in Bern - Switzerland's picturesque and bear-friendly capital. Organized by the overwhelmingly charismatic Jean-Pierre Vuilleumier, this was a conference that did the unimaginable: foster actual networking.
Patrice Neff, Brainiac, gets ready to woo the crowd at CEO Day
Jean Pierre Vuilleumier, taking a rare break during the event
Through two workshops we attended, we made several friends - like Dominic Senn of basisnote.com (check out what they do - they match people up based on SCENT. SO cool), Matthias Meyer of intueri, Christian Hirsig of Atizo, and Sophie Everett, Founder of jobtourist.net (another idea I DIE for). We also bumped into old friends, like Andreas Schweizer of Zurich Kantonalbank, Kathrin Ruegg of EUResearch, and Gregory Gerhardt of Amazee. We're all in this Swiss Start-Up game together, and it was wonderful to witness such camaraderie.
The conference had more to offer, in the form of workshops. We checked out "Winning in Sales" and "Team Building" session - both of which we found incredibly insightful and practical. Next up was a fantastic "speed dating" round, where we got 20 minutes with the members and founders of other exciting start ups, like Pascal Mathis of GetYourGuide.com, and Alex Ilic of Dacuda. It was great to exchange thoughts on a personal level with successful up and comers like these.
Just as exciting was the prospect for Start Ups to not just mingle with each other, but to also match up with possible investors. For us, this consisted of a visit we paid to the US Business Lounge hosted by the conference. At the lounge, we met Hon Luu, Partner at Point Bonita, and Jerry Schaufeld, a Business Angel and Professor of Practice in Entrepreneurship at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachussets. Their ear to Memonic's cause, their advice, and their overall insight into the business angel arena were invaluable to us. Hon even offered, when we are ready to go to the US, to help with connections. Hon - we are going to take you up on that!
If I could make only one critique, it would not be for this event, but rather for the industry. Gentlemen, where are the women?? Sure, I met Sophie and Kathrin - but ladies - as particular to these tech conferences, are few and far between. In my own life, I have started to urge women into this field. It is exciting, entrepreneurial, and fun. But men: it should be on your agenda to hire more women. At Memonic, women now make up almost 30% - and we fully intend to keep up the diversity. We call our friends to do the same.
A view of the conference: Sea of Men