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14 Must-Attend Startup Conferences in the US, Europe and Asia for 2017 and 2018

With the level of digital connection we are accustomed to in 2017, it has become incredibly easy to connect with other entrepreneurs and stay up to date on the latest developments in tech. But, there is something really special that happens when you step out and actually connect with industry experts and entrepreneurs in real face-to-face interactions. When you bring a lot of creative people into a giant hall, there is a special kind of energy in the air, an energy that fosters deeper connections, and a kind of collaborative creativity, that is impossible to find in the virtual networking space.

If you’re a budding entrepreneur, you might feel overwhelmed by the crazy amount of conferences out there. It doesn’t take much to start a conference, and not all of them are worth the financial investment and time investment to attend. However, some conferences are just  THAT GOOD that you shouldn’t miss them under any circumstances. If you’re currently growing your business and want to get exposure, you’ve come to the right place!

We’ve collected a list of 14 amazing conferences, that will get you lots of exposure and that are coming up soon. All of the conferences on the list take place between late in 2017 and the summer of 2018. Make sure to sign up for tickets in time!


#1 Summit in Los Angeles / November 3rd-6th, 2017

Summit in LA is an invite-only conference for 3500 attendees, frequented by conscious leaders in technology, startups, arts and culture. If you’re not part of their network yet, get your online profiles up to date, apply on their site and keep your fingers crossed. It’s well worth going.

#2 Web Summit in Lisbon – November 6th-9th, 2017

Web Summit is the largest technology conference in the world! If you’re looking to reach a broad audience, go to Web Summit. This conference presents incredible networking opportunities, due to its sheer scale. The list of speakers at Web Summit includes political heavyweights like Al Gore, the president of Microsoft, the CEO of Reddit and many others.

#3 Slush in Finland – November 30th – December 1st, 2017

Slush is an interesting conference, in an unusual setting. It has often been described as “Burning Man meets TED.” Run by a committee of students, their setup changes yearly. It takes place in extreme weather conditions (Finland in the winter) and is extremely popular with the Silicon Valley crowd as an amazing getaway + networking event. Sign up early and pack your warmest clothing for an unforgettable experience at Slush!

#4 TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin / December 4th-5th , 2017

TechCrunch Disrupt is an authority in debuting startups, introducing new technologies and introducing new topics into the worldwide startup ecosystem. It features a Startup Battlefield competition, a 24-hour Hackathon, Startup Alley, Hardware Alley, and After Parties. As an added bonus, this year’s Disrupt is taking place in Berlin, one of the biggest, thriving startup cities in Europe.

#5 Startup Grind Global in Redwood City, Feb 12-14 2018

Startup Grind Global is a great meeting place for startups and Silicon Valley. Held in Redwood city, Startup Grind Global has featured speakers from Lyft, Google, YC, Instagram… With 5000 founders and investors, more than 40 keynote and fireside sessions, and over 50 exhibiting startups, this is Startup Grind’s largest event ever.

#6 SXSW / South by Southwest, March 9-March 18 2018

The South by Southwest festival, usually abbreviated to SXSW combines, or shall I say, converges technology, arts and humanity during a 10-day long 72000+ people event. It provides an opportunity for professionals at every level to participate, learn and network.  SXSW is a unified conference that provides 24 tracks, plus an Eco Cities Summit and has features past speakers like Barack Obama, and many others.

#7 Launch Festival in San Francisco, April (dates TBD)

Launch is an incredible festival in the heart of tech-country (San Francisco). It was founded by renowned angel investor Jason Calacanis and celebrates innovation and product launches. During the conference, 50 startups reveal their concepts and “launch” right at the event. They all compete for 100000$ in price money. Aside from the startup competition, Launch has featured past headliners like Mark Cuban, or Paul Graham.

#8 Collision New Orleans April 30th-May 3rd, 2018

From the organisers of Web Summit, Collision prides itself on its status as the “world’s fastest growing tech conference.” It attracts a high profile crowd and takes place right before JazzFest in New Orleans. Lots of Collision attendees stay for JazzFest, which might explain, in part, why it’s such a popular conference. Collision has about 20 000 attendees of which over 3000 are CEOs.

#9 StarUp in Bangalore, India May 6th to 7th, 2018

StarUp is India’s biggest and best startup summit. It’s held place in Bangalore, which is often described as the “Silicon Valley” of India. It’s a relatively small conference (2000+ attendees) which is growing rapidly every year and brings together the Indian, Asian, Israeli and European startup ecosystem. If you are interested in the Indian startup ecosystem, StarUp is THE conference to attend.

#10 Future of Fintech in New York, June 19th – 21st, 2018 

The Future of Fintech conference is an exclusive gathering of the world’s largest financial institutions, best fintech startups and most active venture investors. Topics covered range from the blockchain, to emerging markets, regtech, algorithmic hedge funds and trends to watch over in the next year. Even if you are not specifically in Fintech, Fintech is nearly everywhere around us, and at this conference, you will be able to see a lot of current trends and developments in the industry that might have a major impact on the future of your startup, no matter what field you are in.

# 11 World Domination Summit in Portland, June 26nd to July 2nd, 2018

World Domination Summit in Portland explores one central question: “How do we live a remarkable life, in a conventional world?” Consider attending this 10000 person conference if you’re looking for a sense of disruption and possibilities. World Domination Summit is a great conference to attend if you are looking for inspiration and want to meet like-minded people who want to build the future.

#12 RISE in Hong Kong, July 8th – 11th, 2018

Rightfully dubbed “the new hot ticket on the tech conference scene” by Forbes, RISE is yet another growing conference produced by the Web Summit team. It is packed with tech startups from Asia, and all other markets, features VC heavyweights and speakers from the world’s biggest brands. RISE has become very successful, because it launched in a market that had a deep-seated need for a conference of this type. Connect with Hong Kong and the rest of the world at Rise.

#13 Startup+Fest in Montreal, July 11th-14th, 2018

The Mission of StartupFest is, “to inspire the global startup community through the unforgettable + unconventional.” It’s a global gathering dedicated to the growth of startups and brings together founders, innovators and entrepreneurs. It features speakers from Reddit, Paypal, Shopify and many more, and over 500K in prize money. It also has many premium high value premium “fests” that require separate registration. The list includes an Angel Fest, Hacker Fest, Scaleup Fest, Accelerator Fest and more.

#14 Tech Open Air Berlin, 11th-14th July, 2018

Tech Open Air, usually abbreviated to TOA Berlin is a leading interdisciplinary tech festival, held annually in Berlin. Their mission is to “connect, grow and inspire the human spirit through in interdisciplinary knowledge exchange and collaboration.” TOA is a super popular festival with founders, VCs and CEOs around Europe and the US. It has been called “Berlin’s answer to SXSW” by Venture Village and got its’ start in 2012 through crowdfunding. TOA is cool, edgy and should not be missed by any aspiring or successful startup founder.

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The Difference Between Social Impact Investing and Socially Responsible Investing

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
George Bernard Shaw

Impact investing is a hot topic right now. A few years ago, while I was researching investor behaviour in impact investing at the Free University of Berlin, few people in the startup scene around me seemed to have a solid grasp of, or interest in, impact investments. These days everywhere I go – regardless of whether it’s Silicon Valley, Berlin, Nepal or beyond – people seem to be talking about it. A multitude of impact venture funds, social impact accelerators and certification programs like the B-Corp program have sprung up onto the stage of our global investment markets. Some VCs have started incorporating statements about adhering to dual- and triple-bottom line principles into their mission statements. In short, it’s looking good for impact investing. It seems to be rapidly gaining in popularity.

Unfortunately, when topics get hyped, that hype generally creates a bit of confusion, and that confusion can lead to ineffective communication around the topic. With this article, I aim to clear up some of the fuzziness I’ve been seeing in regards to how impact investing is defined, and clearly define what distinguishes it as a concept from socially responsible investments (SRIs).

Just in case you don’t know what sort of confusion I am speaking of, let’s take a quick look at market size estimates. According to an extensive investor survey by the GIIN, the Global Impact Investment Network, assets under management in impact investing have grown annually by 18% between 2011 and 2015. By GIIN metrics, the amount of assets currently allocated to impact investments is generally estimated to be in the billions with a market size floor of around 115 billion. This number accounts for a tiny fraction of the 156+ trillion global financial markets. However, other people actually estimate the market size for impact investments to be much higher, with estimates ranging into the range of several hundred billions, or even trillions! This current discrepancy between estimates makes zero sense and can only be explained by the fact that there appear to be different standards regarding what sorts of investments should be counted as impact investments. Devon Thorpe, author of the impact focused blog Your Mark on The World, clearly hit the nail on the head with his explanation of why the gap between market size estimates has widened to such an extent: “The market has grown, but not that much. What is happening is that more and more people are arguing that the investing they do should be counted as part of the impact investing pool.”
In this context, it clearly doesn’t help that even Forbes author Anne Field seems to think of impact investing and socially responsible investing as sort-of-the-same-thing, lumping both categories together in a recent article covering the growth of the impact investment market. She refers to the market size of SRI at 8.72 trillion, even though the headline of her article clearly refers to impact investing.

Let’s set this straight. Impact Investing is not the same as Socially Responsible Investing.

Here is a common definition of impact investing, by the GIIN network:

impact investments

Investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.”
(emphasis mine)

The history of “impact investing” is a pretty short one. The term itself, impact investing was coined only 10 years ago, at a 2007 meeting which took place at the Bellagio center in Italy and was organised by the Rockefeller Foundation. The purpose of this meeting was “to explore with leaders in finance, philanthropy and development the need for, and ways and means of, building a worldwide industry for investing for social and environmental impact.” As a concept, impact investing has also been closely tied to a focus on a “dual bottom line” or “triple bottom line” . There is a “duality of goals” for each investment made with an impact approach. Financial returns are only one side of the investment goals. If impact investment don’t meet their social impact goals, they are generally not deemed as successes. This distinguishes impact investing from “regular” or “mainstream” investing, where the main goal of the investment is to generate financial returns. Impact investment approaches are also not limited to one particular industry. It is generally understood as an investment approach across asset classes.

Let’s contrast this with a definition of Socially Responsible Investing, by netimpact.org:

“Socially Responsible investing (SRI), also known as values-based or ethical investing, refers to the practice of integrating social and environmental factors within investment analysis to avoid investing in companies that have negative impacts on the environment and/or society.”
(emphasis mine)
A main feature of socially responsible investing is screening against negative externalities. “Negative screening” has been around a lot longer than impact investing, starting with the Pioneer Mutual Fund in 1928. It is generally defined as “the conscious decision not to invest in companies that are inconsistent with the personal values of the investor.”  The roots of SRI can be traced back centuries, or even to ancient times. William Donovan’s “A Short History of Socially Responsible Investing” makes for a pretty interesting read.

Can you spot the difference between the two concepts? While SRI approaches are generally supposed to AVOID causing negative social impact, impact investments have the explicit goal to advance positive social impact. Impact investing distinguishes itself from other investment approaches through the intentionality of creating social change. What also sets impact investing apart from SRI is the introduction standards and methods for the assessment of impact goals. According to the 2015 GIIN investor survey, around 99% of impact investors actively measure the outcome of their investments.

SRI seems to often be used as an overarching term for all types of social investment approaches, but only a tiny fraction of SRI investments could actually be classified as impact investment.  Comparing SRI to impact investing is like comparing apples to oranges. Screening out bad stuff, doesn’t equal building good stuff!

In our conversation around impact investing, we should be mindful of the terminology we use. Language is the foundation of communication, which is the foundation of system-wide change.