Cedric Maloux: “It’s about exchange!” Be part of the unconference at the Winners´ night!

Published 21st September

29th of November companies, startups, innovators and investors are invited to the Winners´ night – the final event of the Startup Award “Connect Visions to Solutions”. Organizer is the DTIHK. Before the award ceremony the participants and guests are invited to take part in a very unique experience, a so called unconference. This offers everybody the opportunity to launch his own topic and discuss it at eye level with all the other players. It´s all about innovation! The expert in the field of startups and presenter of the unconference, Cedric Maloux (StartupYard), explains how it works and what the added value is.

Cedric, for someone who is in the startup community not at home, an unconference is an incomprehensible concept. Where does it come from?

The "unconference” concept is a bit of a grassroots movement that first appeared in the 1980s, and was part of the move toward open workspaces, particularly in creative industries like technology, and advertising, among others. As people, in various industries, particularly in the IT, spent more and more time in direct contact with each other, the need for formal conferences that were dominated by speakers´ input, rather than discussion, has decreased over time.

Ok, but where is the added value of this event format in comparison to a traditional conference?

The value of a traditional conference is less and less in the fact that one can gain new information from one or two important sources. One doesn’t need to even go to many conferences in the technology sector anymore; big events are broadcasted live to the world as well as available for later viewing. So the value in conferences has more and more been flowing in the opposite direction: Very often you hear that the real value of a conference is not on the center stage but in the corridor where real conversations happen. In an Unconference, the whole concept is geared towards these "corridor conversations". 

So what does an unconference look like – empty stage and overfilled corridors?

☺ There are no strict rules, but in general they involve all participants getting together, and proposing topics they would like to discuss. The group may then segregate itself into smaller groups, and pursue those topics, allowing “thought leaders” to arise within the groups naturally, and letting those who are seeking input on the topic also have more of a say in what gets discussed, by asking more questions.

You would say, it´s more effective?

I would not say that an unconference is more effective than a traditional conference. It`s about context and goals. If a traditional conference is mostly about propounding a pre-defined set of ideas or highlighting a set of thought leaders, and getting people on the same page, then that can be effective. An unconference is more about gauging the pulse and thoughts of the larger group, and discovering new ideas that one didn’t necessarily expect to hear about.

Can you give us an example?

At an unconference, it often happens that someone who was not inclined to speak or not used to speaking on a topic will suddenly be identified as someone that the rest of the group very much wants to learn from. And because of the inclusive structure, they have a free space in which to share their learnings and experience. The content of what people say in an unconference speaks much louder than the people themselves.

Can you define the added value for the members of our Chamber, or our partners, industry leaders in their fields?

An unconference is about more than passively consuming input- it’s about exchange. So not only can a company’s representatives hear new ideas, but they can also contribute to the conversation and help shape the way that others are thinking. This is good for their company’s brand among the conference attendees, and it’s good for an individual’s self-confidence and relationships with peers in the industry and the startup community. I can tell you that I have had many more interesting follow-up conversations based on unconferences than based on traditional conferences. At traditional conferences, everyone has “an agenda,” but at an unconference, we create and share an agenda, and become “conspirators,” in new ideas and new proposals. At an unconference, you can be creatively heretical, and come up with ideas that might not be taken seriously if they came from a lone speaker on a stage. Therefore my tip: Come and make a new, inspiring experience!

Cedric Maloux has been running internet startups for the past 20 years. Now he manages Central Europe’s leading seed accelerator for technology startups - StartupYard. StartupYard has accelerated 44 companies since 2011, of which 5 have already been acquired, and 18 have raised further funding. Currently they are recruiting startups in the Data Economy for their second 2016 round, which will begin in November 2016.