The word is out about 4 Years From Now. The startup-focused sister event to the Mobile World Congress finished its second edition this week, making its presence felt by stealing significant attention away from the main attraction across town. To say that the 2015 edition was successful would be an understatement:
4YFN 2015 ROCKED!
Barcinno has collaborated with Mobile World Capital since the early days before the event even had a name. Some of the initial ideas ranged from stackable freight containers to rock concerts aimed at diverting some of the Mobile World Congress shine towards the startup sector that is usually stuffed way out in Hall 8, far from the million dollar budgets of the corporate mainstays of MWC.
While the first edition of 4YFN was a welcome relief from the ridiculously oversized Mobile World Congress, last year’s event still felt more like another congregation of the Spanish startup ecosystem rather than the global affair it was advertised to be. Except for one major difference: the speakers. Last year’s lineup was a miracle for a first-time event: founders from Airbnb, WhatsApp, Arduino and Waze forced the press to pay attention and garnered a few envious glances from the throngs of corporate Mobile World Congress attendees.
But then something really amazing happened. The week before last year’s event, Facebook announced the largest tech acquisition in history – WhatsApp was purchased for $19B and Jan Koum became a global celebrity billionaire overnight. His keynote at the 4YFN event immediately became one of the major storylines of the 2014 Mobile World Congress and all of a sudden, everyone was asking “what the hell is 4YFN?”
By the end of the 2014 MWC, everyone made a mental note: Do NOT miss 4YNF next year!
More than 8.000 professionals entered the historic Fira Montjuic location, former home of the Mobile World Congress, a space which had grown three times larger to accommodate the expected influx of professionals eager to see just what exciting innovation is cooking up in the startup world. Here are 5 lessons we learned from the 2015 4 Years From Now event:
1. Smartphones Draw The Crowds, Startups Attract Decision Makers
The shiny new smartphones and flashy wearables may make for good headlines, but it’s the startups that pulled the key decision makers away from the Mobile World Congress and into the innovation marketplace of 4 Years From Now. The well-dressed (and well-paid) executives from Samsung, Sony, Intel, GE and BMW to name a few wasted little time scouring the Innovation Market at 4 Years From Now for the latest technologies and innovation coming down the pike.
It was no different for the VCs – big name international investors from firms like Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, Balderton and Qualcomm Ventures were quick to spot their targets and plant new seeds for their 2015 deal flow.
2. Content Is King
Good press and publicity can’t do it alone. In order to make an sustained impact and reach a critical mass, you have to have powerful and engaging content.
Globally recognized leaders from organizations like the Cisco, Huffington Post, CocaCola, Microsoft and Paypal among many others added to the appeal of an event uniquely dedicated to mobile startups. However, it was year’s range of top-level workshops that catered to the longtail of niche technical thought leaders. Most of the workshops were packed to standing room only crowds trying to get a leg up in their area of interest.
Going strictly by the numbers, 4YFN 2015 was a force:
- 160+ speakers
- 60 sessions
- 45 workshops
- 160+ hours of advanced content
- 3 startup competitions
- 500+ startup competition participants
- 800+ pre-booked investor meetings
- 3 dynamic afterwork events
- 1,000+ official party attendees
3. Barcelona Startups Are Legit!
Of course we had home field advantage, but BCN startups made sure they were front and center during the one week each year when the whole world is watching Barcelona. Sure, the city of Barcelona and organizations like the Mobile World Capital are pumping millions to brand the city as an innovation capital, but it doesn’t hurt when your startups are taking the initiative and running with it.
Along the main walkway, Imersivo was showcasing their immersive technologies that are disrupting the retail experience, while Gestoos was pushing the envelope of interaction with gestural design. Barcelona accelerators like Conector and Wayra found strength in numbers and built entire sections for their startups and Startupbootcamp BCN gave a sneak peak to their upcoming demo day to a packed room in the FiWare stage to show off what’s brewing in Barcelona’s big data and IoT accelerator
Kompyte, the fast-growing competitor tracking SaaS platform, was one of the busiest booths keeping prospective investors happy with jamon iberico and flowing cava throughout the 3-day event. Meanwhile, ForceManager was showcasing the latest in sales software with a native Android Gear app – the first company to bring your sales CRM to your wrist.
4. Founders & Investors Is Broken
Can we agree to take the “Speed Dating” concept out back and shoot it? The lone blemish on an otherwise perfect week was the disastrous Founders & Investors matchmaking sessions. Lack of planning and poor execution caused a chaotic Monday session leaving disinterested investors confused at irrelevant pitches and frustrated entrepreneurs standing in 2-hour queues when they should have been networking and locating their true targets. Unfortunately, the feedback on Tuesday’s session didn’t get much better.
Rather than force investors and entrepreneurs into awkward and unnatural settings, let’s make it easier for them to meet naturally, you know through conversation, the way humans have always connected with one another? The Innovation Market was a much better forum to foster authentic connections and relationships, but perhaps a power hour networking blitz can be beneficial. Just leave the 3-minute kitchen timer at home.
From Monday’s dinner party at Espai D to the closing blowout party at El Molino, the 4YFN team created an atmosphere where prime ministers, presidents, CEOs and startup legends mixed naturally with the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Congratulations to Aleix, Adria and the entire Mobile World Capital team – 4YFN has officially arrived and we can’t wait for next year! Now, you can sleep. Buen finde!