Pioneers Festival 2014

Bridges vol. 41, October 2014 / Startup Corner

By Robin Tim Weis

“Where the present meets the past” is a platitude often used to market cities, conferences, and colloquia. Sadly, many of these fail to meet expectations and fall short of any significant fusion of past accomplishments with present innovations. Austria’s 2014 Pioneers Festival, however, shows promise of exemplifying the intended meaning of the phrase.

Hosted at the 500-year-old Hofburg Imperial Palace (which used to house the Austrian monarchs), the Pioneers Festival has emerged as one of fastest growing platforms in Europe for science, innovative future technologies, and entrepreneurship. 

Protonet, a German startup, could be a poster child for the Pioneers platform, which morphs the present with the past. The German-based startup broke the world crowd funding record, raking in more than $1 million in 89 minutes via an online crowd-funding platform. Protonet was featured at the Pioneers Festival back in 2013, eliciting interest due to its “NSA-Proof” servers, which essentially provide basic server capabilities along with the advantages of local hardware: scalability, high storage capacity, and control.

2014 will mark the fourth anniversary of the festival that Forbes magazine has deemed the “smarter SXSW.” Moreover, Tech Crunch sees it as a significant event to be attended by European startups looking to propel their business and ideas. The Tech Crunch assessment is consistent with the fact that more than $75 million has been invested in Pioneers startups since 2010. 

To build on its success, the Pioneers Festival has decided to continue its Pioneers Startup Program, which has matched startups such as Bellabeat with renowned incubators like California’s Bay Area-based Y Combinator.

This year the Austrian entrepreneurs not only teamed up again with Y Combinator, but have added techstars and Lemnos Labs, both San Francisco-based incubators. The three incubators will go on to provide valuable coaching and advice to its winners. Moreover, speedinvest, an early stage seed fund based in Vienna, will be providing $50,000 to the winner of the Pioneers Challenge, the in-house pitch challenge of the Pioneers Festival.

Overall, the Pioneers Festival is set to continue its successful trajectory as it sets the stage for the future, all under the watchful monarchical eyes of Austrian Empress Maria Theresa.

For more information on the Pioneers Festival.

Robin Tim Weis serves as a project manager for OSTA in Washington, DC. Previously, he served as a policy analyst at the International Narcotics Control Board in the United Nations. As a former Europe correspondent for and foreign commercial assistant for the US Embassy in Brussels, he has been a strong proponent of bolstering transatlantic relations.