The Best (and, erm, Wurst) of Europe’s Tech Scene: Berlin Enjoys Fruitful Europas

By David Knight |

Berlin did pretty well at the Europas awards last night, as the event returned to its London home after a sojourn to the German capital last year. EyeEm, SoundCloud, Babbel, FoodPanda/Hellofood, Startupbootcamp (we’re claiming that one) and ZenMate all walked away with gongs at a slightly shortened ceremony which featured the comedy stylings of Paul T. Eyres – who didn’t exactly go down a treat with the baying crowd – and a surprise appearance from Eurovision winner and bearded wonder Conchita Wurst (or lookalike?), who did.

The event’s format had been worked on since last year for the better, with less cramming in of awards and more content; the day at the Old Billingsgate Market being dedicated to the Unconference Gathering before the ceremony got underway. It’s a venue with some inspiring views, with Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast looking on and The Shard towering down from across the water. Even City Hall seemed slightly less ugly in the June sunlight.

Flo Meissner and Felix Petersen during a breakout session at the Europas. Photo: Silicon Allee/David Knight

Flo Meissner and Felix Petersen during a breakout session at the Europas. Photo: Silicon Allee/David Knight

Following the Unconference trend, the day event was kept fairly intimate, with panel discussions broken up with sessions at the breakout stages, where attendees could get up close and personal with speakers.

Highlights on stage included a session where we had the chance to see how a group of kids – or at least, 17- to 19-year-olds – use today’s technology, and how they see the developments of tomorrow. The five youngsters, perhaps unsurprisingly, illustrated a range of different online cultures.

One interesting questions was whether they still use Facebook – some are still on it a lot, some hardly use it at all. And some are at least more careful about what they share on Facebook now that their parents have accounts.

Instagram, Tumblr, WhatsApp, Viber, all the usual suspects were used to some extent or another by the group of three girls and two boys, while Snapchat provoked an interesting reaction from one girl: “It seems to have ruined all my friends’ lives – they take screenshots [of Snapchat messages] and bring them out later during arguments and put them all over the Internet.”

The guys, meanwhile, disagreed over the relative merits of the Tinder dating app – it was better to know someone first before you start talking to them, said one – while some said they would be willing to make their own apps, others wouldn’t.*

So what did we learn? Teenagers like taking photos and talking to each other incessantly. And they’re not all the same. But a worthy exercise none the less.

On stage at the Europas. Photo: Silicon Allee/David Knight

On stage at the Europas. Photo: Silicon Allee/David Knight

There was also a slightly different take on the term sheet battles which we seen in recent years, with a group of founders, investors and journalists playing different roles of what compere (and main event organiser) Mike Butcher, TechCrunch’s ‘editor at large’, promised would be a typical startup journey.

Perhaps not that many startups will ever be worth $50 billion, or will see one of the co-founders forced out for funding coups in Zimbabwe, but – slightly dubious attempts at accents aside – it was a good way to introduce how certain processes work in the world of startups.

The main event, though, was the awards ceremony, which certainly attracted an interesting crowd. Of the aforementioned Berlin companies:

SoundCloud won best entertainment or media startup

FoodPanda/Hellofood won best e-commerce startup

Babel won best education startup

Startupbootcamp won best startup accelerator or incubator

EyeEm won best social mobile startup

ZenMate won best security of privacy startup

London-based Swiftkey, meanwhile, walked away with both the coolest technology innovation prize and the overall Europas grand prix award.

There was also kudos due to Petcube, which we have written about before. It does what it says on the tin – a cube you leave at home which keeps your pets entertained and even allows you to interact with them remotely – and the Petcube team won the best hardware startup award despite the ongoing upheaval in their home country of Ukraine.

Afterwards, with the booze still flowing freely, the party really got underway – surely the best time for deals to be done…

*One of the girls wants to be a writer and is hoping to rely on content creation to make money – now there’s an area where we could use some youthful innovation…