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Making agreements during meeting

The biggest start-up conferences – check what you can’t miss out on in 2019

If you’re planning expansion into foreign markets, it’s worth establishing international relations and partnerships as soon as possible. Conferences are a way to find out the most, in a very short but intensive time, about markets that interest you, to get to know entrepreneurs, investors and business partners from all over the world, and to take one’s first steps in the international arena. See what conferences will be worth presenting yourself and your firm at in 2019.

From this article you will find out:

  • what support programs can assist you in foreign expansion;
  • about the most important start-up conferences in 2019;
  • how to prepare for a conference trip.

Support in promotion abroad 

A trip to a foreign conference, especially if you want to present your product or service at a stand or prepare promotional materials, can be quite an investment. In order not to overstretch your firm’s budget, you can benefit from the support program GO TO BRAND intended for entrepreneurs who would like to develop their business abroad. As part of the program, you can obtain financing for as much as 85% of expenses whose value does not exceed 1 million PLN. 

The above-mentioned financing includes expenses related to:

  • rental and construction of stands at international trade fairs;
  • developing advertising materials: gadgets, printed materials (folders, brochures, business cards);
  • preparing and conducting promotional activities in traditional, electronic, digital media;
  • preparing or translating websites;
  • production and broadcasting of adverts and informational-promotional films.

Recruitment to the program begins on 25 February of this year  

If your marketing strategy and manner of building relations with foreign partners has a more individual character, you can take advantage of the program Polish Technological Bridges and apply for a grant in the amount of 200,000 PLN. You will also gain access to expert knowledge concerning the specific features of a given market and relations developed in a given country at one of 70 Foreign Commercial Offices of the Polish Agency for Investment and Trade (PAIH).

If you’re planning to establish business relations on foreign markets in the near future, check out what conferences it’s worth being at this year:


CES (Consumer Electronics Show)
8-11 January 2019, Las Vegas, United States
The largest fair of electronics and new technologies in the world, held for over 50 years, each year in January. Last year over 170,000 people took part, with 4400 firms presenting technological novelties and over 1000 start-ups from all over the world. 


21-22 February 2019, Riga, Latvia
In the previous edition of this conference, over 2000 entrepreneurs and start-up initiators took part, having the opportunity to hear over 100 presentations. This year the main topics are FinTech, Deep Tech, SaaS, and the Internet of Things. The event will be accompanied by more than 20 parties and events that facilitate making business relations. Techchill is also a space for conversation with mentors and investors from the whole world.

Mobile World Congress
25-28 February 2019, Barcelona, Spain
This is a combination of the largest exhibition of mobile devices with conferences led by creators of the equipment and software as well as mobile service providers. Each year over 100,000 people participate. Nearly every flagship mobile device is presented during this conference. Mobile World Congress also involves numerous accompanying events which facilitate the establishment of business relations.

Startup Grind Global Conference
12-13 February 2019, Palo Alto, United States
This two-day event is intended for the start-up community. This year there will be more than 8000 participants. Over 850 start-ups from 42 countries will demonstrate their product, and the speakers on six stages will include the co-creator of LinkedIn, co-founder of AirBnB and a partner of one of the best known VC funds in the world – Andreessen Horowitz. 


8-17 March 2019, Austin, United States
One of the biggest conferences dedicated to new technologies, music, film and interactive arts. This year as many as 25 thematic sections are planned (from sport to food through media, marketing and design up to blockchain and virtual reality). It’s 10 intensive days filled with thousands of speeches, concerts and films as well as hundreds of discussion panels. Elon Musk, Lady Gaga, Barack and Michelle Obama have all appeared on the SXSW stage.

Wolves Summit
19-20 March 2019, Warsaw, Poland
Wolves Summit is one of the most important events in this part of Europe allowing the development of international networking. In this year’s edition, over 2500 people will participate, including 300 investors, 550 start-ups and 450 corporate representatives. A key element of the conference are the 1 on 1 meetings arranged before the event (with the aid of a special application). During the previous 8 editions, 21,967 of these were held. For the next event, over 4500 are planned.

Startup Olé
26-28 March 2019, Salamanca, Spain
The fifth edition of one of the largest European conferences. Over 30,000 participants from 102 countries, more than 500 speakers, 250 corporations and investors from all over the world, representatives of the world of science, accelerators and media. Besides presentations, during the conference there will be an exhibition of start-ups, workshops, as well as investor and mentoring sessions in the form of a Round Table.


21-22 May, Krakow, Poland
This two-day event welcomes over 6000 participants and 250 speakers from all over the world. During this year’s edition of the conference, there will be interesting accompanying events, such as Impact Link, i.e. a series of meetings between business, investors, start-ups, scientists and representatives of administration, and the Round Table – meetings of small groups of experts with the purpose of finding solutions beneficial for all stakeholders, as well as Startup4Export – a pitching session promoting the best start-ups in Europe. In last year’s edition, the Impact speakers included Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, chairmen of the biggest Polish banks, Kathleen Kennedy of MIT and Nikolay Storonsky – founder and CEO of Revolut. 

20-23 May, Toronto, Canada
Collision is an event for over 25,000 participants from the world of new technologies. Founders of start-ups, CEOs, investors and the executive boards of corporations will take part. During this conference, entrepreneurs, apart from participation in presentations and panels with 14 thematic sections, have the opportunity to take part in mentoring sessions, workshops and office hours with investors. The event will also be accompanied by a start-up duel, in which the best present themselves before a panel made up of investors, representatives of leading media and global partners, and will have the opportunity to appear on the main stage of the conference. 

8-9 May 2019, Gdańsk, Poland
infoShare involves over 150 presentations and discussion panels related to the latest technologies, media and support for small companies. It is also an exhibition space with 200 start-ups for 8000 participants of this largest international conference in this part of Europe. InfoShare is also a place for meetings with mentors and investors. The event is also accompanied by workshops and networking parties, speed dating with investors and a pitching contest, in which the best start-up wins 20,000 euro. 

9-10 May 2019, Vienna, Austria
This event involves the participation of over 2500 people from the world of start-ups, corporations and VC funds. Thanks to the application made available by organisers, each participant can check accessibility and arrange a 1 on 1 meeting with people that interest them and take advantage of recommendations on whom it’s worth meeting. During Pioneers’19, more than 100 start-ups will have the opportunity to present themselves. The best 50 will also get a chance to develop their pitch with mentors and to present it before 400 international investors and media. The best 8 start-ups will have the chance to appear on the main stage on the last day of the conference.

The Next Web
9-10 May 2019, Amsterdam, Holland
This is one of the largest technological events in Europe, connecting a community of 19,000 global start-ups. Speakers at previous editions included the creators of Slack, Headspace, Vimeo, Reddit, Behance and Wired. Apart from speeches, participation in TNW also provides a large dose of networking during accompanying events and the opportunity to meet 1 on 1 with investors (last year over 700 investors took part, holding ca. 3800 meetings with start-ups).


Arctic 15
5-6 June 2019, Helsinki, Finland
An event focussed on establishing partnerships and business relations as well as high-quality networking. The most important part of the event are the previously arranged 20-minute, 1 on 1 meetings between start-ups and investors, speakers and representatives of media and corporations. During last year’s edition, over 5000 of these were held.


Bits and Pretzel
29 September - 1 October 2019, Munich, Germany
This is a three-day festival for entrepreneurs, investors and participants of the start-up ecosystem. In 2018, 5000 people took part, including over 100 speakers. The event is held during Oktoberfest, which also offers an untypical form of networking. Each participant who so wishes can join a thematic table moderated by a captain – usually a representative of a VC fund or corporation. After an hour one changes tables.


2-4 October, Madrid, Spain
A global platform linking start-ups with the best corporations and VC funds from Southern Europe and Latin America. For 100 start-ups who take part in a contest accompanying the event, there’s also the opportunity to meet 1 on 1 with funds, take part in a mentoring program and the chance of investing 1,000,000 dollars in Silicon Valley.


Web Summit
4-7 November, Lisbon, Portugal 
One of the largest conferences dedicated to new technologies. Besides stage presentations, there is an exhibition space with thousands of start-ups and hundreds of accompanying events. Last year, over 70,000 participants gathered in Lisbon: start-ups, entrepreneurs, investors, journalists and over 18 million viewers on Facebook. On the stage, apart from world-class entrepreneurs, presentations have been made by Al Gore, Bono and Stephen Hawking, among others. 

21-22 November 2019, Helsinki, Finland
This conference is connected to a festival for over 20,000 participants from the world of new technologies. The event is created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs who are looking for investors, clients, mentoring or media exposure. In last year’s edition, ca. 3000 start-ups from 87 countries took part, holding over 10,000 meetings with investors.

How to prepare for conference participation  

Good conferences offer many attractions and bring in crowds of people. If you already know which of them to choose, before going prepare for it so that you will make the best use of your time there:

  • carefully look over the list of speeches and check which of them will allow you to gain new knowledge and valuable information;
  • contact the local Foreign Trade Office in order to obtain information on the local market (analyses, reports, guidebooks) and entities supporting start-ups;
  • check the list of participants and speakers (more and more often events have dedicated applications or sections on the webpage that facilitate networking) and see if any of them could help you in your business. If so, try to arrange a meeting or lunch even before you leave;
  • if the conference takes place in a place that you don’t know, look for acquaintances that can present you to local entrepreneurs or partners;
  • don’t forget a power bank and business cards – so that you can always exchange contact details with a newly met person.

The range of conferences for start-ups is very wide. Each firm considering foreign expansion will surely find one that will give it a chance to establish business relations with investors and potential partners, as well as to get to know other entrepreneurs and begin building one’s international network.

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