Tech Open Air is Back Bigger and Better for 2014 – with a MINI Hardware Challenge

By David Knight |

One of the best words to describe Berlin is probably ‘juxtaposition’ – it’s a juxtaposition between old and new; rich and poor; fun and serious. It can be pretty hard to juggle the two sides of the city when you’re organising an event, but one which has managed to achieve that so far in its two-year existence is Tech Open Air.

For me, the perfect example of that mix of two worlds which TOA does so well was the satellite event at the posh Journalist Club on the 19th floor of Axel Springer House during the first (successfully crowdfunded) TOA in 2012: Drinking Bloody Marys and eating currywurst at 10 in the morning on a Friday, watching entrepreneurs giving literal elevator pitches – they had as long as it took the paternoster list to perform a loop down to the ground floor and back to persuade senior Springer executives of their idea.

But just like Berlin is growing and changing, so TOA too is set to evolve in 2014, when it will take place on July 16 and 17. For a start, the central event on the first day – known as the Unconference – is moving up the river from its previous home at Katerholzig to the Alte Teppichfabrik, the converted former Protzen&Sohn carpet factory.

There will still, however, be a mix of talks, debates and workshops, with an emphasis on knowledge exchange, mutual inspiration and, of course, networking.

One of the main focuses of this year’s event will be hardware, and to that end the event’s new corporate sponsor MINI will bring over some big-name mentors from the US and will host a hardware pitch contest. The main prize will be a workshop with MINI designers and engineers at betahaus Berlin.

Elsewhere, confirmed speakers so far include Moviepilot founder Tobias Bauckhage, TOA returnee Danae Ringelmann, CEO of Indiegogo, and Prince Fahad al Saud, one of the first Facebook employees and now a consultant for the Saudi Arabian government.

As in previous years, the second day is down to the community, with around 75 satellite events set to take place across the city made up of hackathons, concerts, lectures, workshops and exhibitions. Alongside Axel Springer, previous hosts have included the Max Planck Science Gallery and Bertelsmann Stiftung, as well as DaWanda, Index Ventures, Elance, Factory, EyeEm and MLOVE. Additionally, there will be partner locations providing space including Sankt Oberholz, hub:raum and Agora.

With 2,500 people expected to attend, TOA founder Niko Woischnik believes the 2014 edition will be bigger and better than before: “We’re really excited about the demand for this year’s edition from all ends, as we continue to demonstrate growth year over year. We’re also happy to confirm so many fascinating and meaningful speakers, partners and satellite event hosts across all disciplines.”