iBRIDGE Barcelona Report

 

Executive Summary

iBridge Barcelona was held on 8-10 December 2016 as a global meet-up of high tech entrepreneurs of Iranian descent. Seasoned entrepreneurs around the globe from the US, Iran, Europe, and the Middle East, participated in the conference.

The event was an unparalleled opportunity for entrepreneurs, VCs, and executives from around the world to jointly explore global advances in high tech entrepreneurship. The conference was characterized by a community that shaped and welcomed diversity, fostered open exchanges between participants, and encouraged curiosity, learning and free sharing of experiences while forging new contacts and friendships. iBRIDGE Barcelona was a sequel to iBRIDGE Berlin held at the CityCube convention center in June 2015, and iBRIDGE Berkeley held at the University of California, Berkeley in September 2014.

This global gathering, which convened at Fira de Barcelona, included 40 sessions with 86 speakers, and more than 650 registered participants from 40 countries around the world. Of these, 250 participants were from Europe, 120 from the US, and 200 from Iran. 

In line with its philanthropic mission, the organizing team included more than 100 volunteers as the backbone, and more than 40 members of steering teams, advisors, and board members. These represented 21 countries in total by themselves – a truly international collaboration for an international event. The event was financed by a global crowdfunding campaign which to date has raised more than $170,000. The combination of community contributions and volunteer work allowed low registration fees to enable increased participation of young entrepreneurs.

The overall rating of the event based on a post-event survey (26% response rate) was superb. More than 90% of participants were happy with the provided program and content, and more than 85% will recommend the conference in the future to others.

The event included rich keynote speeches, workshops, and panel discussions by leaders from the tech sector, venture capitalists, angel investors, and academics, covering recent advances in high-tech including biotech, IoT and smart cities, big-data, blockchain, environment, and more. The PitchFest program by young entrepreneurs, and the startup exhibits were among the highlights of the conference.

iBRIDGE Barcelona had its own unique challenges that iBRIDGE Berkeley and iBRIDGE Berlin did not face. The event was held just before the end-of-year holidays and coincided with schools still in session, making it difficult for many to participate. Moreover, participants had come under pressure due to some negative publicity for iBRIDGES by certain social media groups in Iran. As a result, attendance was lower than earlier years. Despite this, surveys revealed that the quality of the talks and PitchFest were significantly improved relative to previous years.

iBRIDGE Barcelona Strategy

iBRIDGE Barcelona focused on the following principles to improve its programs compared to past years:

  • Theme: A global meet-up of high tech entrepreneurs of Iranian descent
    • The new theme this year gave us greater degrees of freedom to broaden the topics covered in the conference.
    • Bringing entrepreneurs of Iranian descent together also resulted in more cross-pollination of ideas, and formation of richer and more diverse  connections.
    • The conference’s broader and more global focus this year reduced the dependency on participation from specific geographic regions.
  • Focus on Pitchfest as the central program
    • Based on the feedback from iBRIDGE Berlin and aligned with the goal of educating and empowering the new generation of the entrepreneurs, Pitchfest program became a primary focus and many improvements to it were implemented.
    • Along the same line, the RapidFire program was added to provide further spotlight for new entrepreneurs.
  • Quality vs. Quantity:
    • The number of parallel breakout sessions was reduced from 15 in Berlin to 4 in Barcelona.
    • As a result attendees found it much easier to  determine which sessions to go to.
    • Reduction in the number of sessions allowed organizers to focus more on content and quality.
    • The organizers had a greater degree of freedom to group the breakout sessions in a manner that minimized potential conflicts for the attendees. In other words, we put ourselves in the shoes of the attendees and tried to make sure that they would not miss out on a topic because of the concurrency of the breakout sessions.
  • Open Speaker Applications:
    • In iBRIDGE Berkeley and Berlin all the speakers for both main hall and breakout sessions were invited by the speakers committee. In iBRIDGE Barcelona for the first time we opened up speaker slots to the entire community and provided an open online application for interested speakers. 
  • Networking:
    • We made an effort to increase opportunities for participants to engage in networking activities. This was based on feedback we had received from the Berlin event. Going forward, we believe that one of the key benefits to attendees is to meet other entrepreneurs, domain experts, VCs and other key members of the startup ecosystem.
  • Focus on inviting more VCs:
    • There was a substantial effort to invite more VCs. Again, this was based on the belief that the opportunity to interact with this group of professionals provides a real value-add for the participants. The VCs were invited not only to speak on various panels, but they were also heavily involved in the PitchFest sessions.
  • Crowdfunding
    • To cover conference expenses in iBRIDGE Berkeley and Berlin we were dependent on large contributions. For iBRIDGE Barcelona we opened up support opportunities to the whole community via a crowdfunding campaign.
    • This resulted to a much larger community participation. Up to now more than 100 supporters  have contributed anywhere from $10 to  $20,000 each.

iBRIDGE Berlin Pitch Fest WInners

Registration

iBRIDGE Barcelona had registrants from more than 40 countries including 20+ media partners, 300+ entrepreneurs, 200+ startup founders, 50+ major corporate executives and 50+ VCs and angel investors.

PitchFest

PitchFest has been the highlight of iBRIDGES conferences and this year we leveraged the valuable experience of the PitchFest in iBRIDGE Berlin. Each PitchFest application was diligently screened by five qualified judges with diverse backgrounds over the course of more than two weeks. Results were compiled and went through a final review process by the PitchFest organizing committee to ensure that the selection process was fair to all participants.

In total 85 teams applied for this year’s PitchFest event, representing some 180 individuals. As a result of application process being open to all countries we saw a sharp increase in participating countries to 21 this year. Out of the 85 teams 32 teams were invited to participate in Pitchfest and out of those 20 teams confirmed and managed to actually participate. From the 20 teams that pitched, two teams pitched via skype which worked out very nicely and one of the remote teams even won and became a finalist.

The sectors that were covered in PitchFest were: Health, Education, Big Data, Business Social Network, Food, Logistics, Fashion, Art, Software Development

A new addition to the PitchFest program in iBRIDGE Barcelona was Pitch Practice. This was an opportunity for the pitching teams to have a dry run, a “mock pitch” and to get feedback from experts prior to their official pitch to the panel of judges the next day. 18 out of 20 teams made use of this opportunity and incorporated the feedback received, and changed their presentations accordingly. This practice session not only helped the teams to have better presentations, but also gave them more confidence in pitching during the actual competition.

Jury members for the official pitching sessions were carefully curated and consisted of active angel investors and venture capital partners and senior executive experts. This provided the teams the opportunity to get direct access to investors and a real chance of receiving funding.

PitchFest this year was very well attended and received significant attention and visibility. It was very successful in achieving its objective which was to provide mentorship to our young entrepreneurs to become better in attracting capital, and increasing their chances of success.

In 2016 iBRIDGES delivered on its promise to the six Berlin PitchFest winners and brought them to the US in July of 2016 for a two-week course on hi-tech entrepreneurship and investment at the Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley. Based on very positive survey results from the participants the Berkeley program provided them with a unique and transformational experience. iBRIDGES intends to do the same for PitchFest winners of iBRIGDE Barcelona in 2017.

RapidFire

The Rapid Fire program consisted of  fast-paced elevator pitches in 90 seconds. Each presenter had six slides; covering each took no more than 15 seconds. There were eight presenters selected to present at the Rapid Fire session which was very well received by the audience. RapidFire was introduced this year in iBRIDGE Barcelona and received a very positive reaction and feedback from the audience. It will become part of iBRIDGES conferences going forward.

Showcases

As part of “Showcase Your Startup” program we had a wide variety of participants from high-tech start-ups launching a new product, to companies which conducted market research, or were just looking to grow their market share. All of these participants met and networked with investors, professionals, developers, and enthusiastic entrepreneurs. All applications for this program were reviewed and 38 startups and nonprofit organizations were selected based on relevancy to the theme of the conference, business model, and product.

Networking

iBRIDGE Barcelona used the Attendify mobile app (available for iOS and Android at http://barcelona.ibridges.org) as the main platform for networking. The app was available for participants who decided to join and share their information.  It had more than 600 downloads, with 52,000+ online sessions and 596 userprofiles.

Talks

The list of speakers at iBRIDGE Berkeley and Berlin was selected by the speakers committee through formal invitation.  For the first time in Barcelona, we opened up speaker slots to the entire community and provided an open online application for interested speakers.

The speakers committee narrowed the potential list of speakers from those names recommended by the iBRIDGE community, at large, and online applicants. The topics of the talks were chosen from the results of the iBRIDGE Berlin survey.   Below is the list of the talks which took place in the main hall and the breakout sessions at iBRIDGE Barcelona.

iBRIDGE Berlin Pitch Fest WInners

Crowdfunding/Fundraising

iBRIDGES created its own platform for crowdfunding on www.ibridges.org/contribute and opened it to the community on September 19. iBRIDGES to-date has raised $173,617.00 through 95 contributors. The contribution amounts have ranged from $10 to $20,000.

The essence of the crowdfunding campaign is to promote engagement of the community - at any level, large or small - from different sectors.

In addition to crowdfunding, members of the community organized events at their hometowns to promote iBRIDGES and make other community members aware of iBRIDGES. The events took place in Northern CA. Southern California, Washington DC, London and Toronto.

Social Media

iBRIDGE Barcelona had over 2700+ engagements on Facebook, 210+ on Instagram, 6000+ on Linkedin, and 1900 + on Twitter.

Based on #ibridge2016 #ibridges2016 #ibridges hashtags, on Twitter and Instagram we had over 8,600,000 impressions and reached over 2 million users (hashtag/keyword tracker is not available via Facebook, as they stopped providing post-level data through their API in May 2015).

PR

We had 17 journalists in total attending the event which was more than expected given the time of year and the location. We achieved coverage in numerous European/US/Iranian and Asian media. There are still stories on iBRIDGE Barcelona coming through. We therefore expect to send out the final media coverage document at a later date at which point we can better assess the audience figures that we reached this year.

We had a couple of “tricky” members of the press but this happens every year and we were not concerned about them. From a media perspective we considered the event to be a success.

Finances

Due to the increase in the efficiency and further volunteer work of the community, the cost of iBRIDGE Barcelona was significantly reduced relative to Berlin. At the time of this report (Feb 4th, 2017) we are $26K short to cover the event expenses. With the help of iBRIDGES community this deficit will be covered soon.

iBRIDGE Barcelona Financial Statement as of April 15, 2017
Items Income Expenses
Remaining Funds from iBRIDGE Berlin $6,974.60
Total Fund Raised via Berkeley $185,556.34
Online Fundraising $1,822.00
Online Ticket Sales $56,204.55
On-Site Ticket Sales $306.67
Refund from Printing & Furniture shop $254.33
Conference Costs including Venue, Food, Operational Cost $242,918.59
UC Berkeley Fundraising and Host Management Costs $21,617.32
Fund Shortage as of April  15th, 2017 -$13,417.42
Total $251,118.49 $251,118.49

 

 

iBRIDGE Berlin Pitch Fest WInners
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