Meeting the Top Dogs from German Politics and IT: An Entrepreneur’s View of the IT-Gipfel

By Silicon Allee |

The annual IT-Gipfel – or IT Summit – is organised by Germany’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, and is the country’s leading event for top political and industry players to discuss challenges and opportunities in the IT sector. This year’s event, which had the slogan ‘Young IT meets industry’, saw several hundred startups invited along.

Among the entrepreneurs who attended was Jörg Land of Tinnitracks, a company which has come up with an effective way to treat tinnitus through music. Tinnitracks was one of the winners of the first batch of the Idea Challenge, and Jörg had the chance to mingle with a veritable who’s who of politics and industry at the IT-Gipfel in Hamburg on October 20 and 21. He wrote down some thoughts about his experience for Silicon Allee.

[divider]The event started at the Emporio building on Monday with a networking event for around 150 people, including young and established startups. A fantastic view over sunny Hamburg provided the backdrop, and for me as a representative of the German startup scene, the day was a good opportunity to talk about what startups need in order to get our innovations off the ground and our companies up and running.

It was also an event where successful collaborations of startups and industry leaders were presented, like the collaboration Tinnitracks has with Sennheiser. The event was a great chance to network with other startups, executives from large corporations and other initiatives, like EIT ICT Labs (organisers of the Idea Challenge) and the IKT Innovativ competition.

But my time at the event was cut short by a full in-tray – running a young startup is a full-time job, after all. Nonetheless, I wanted to make the most of the IT-Gipfel so later I made my way to the networking dinner at the Edelfettwerk. The party was already in full swing, and the big names were out in force. On one side was Karl-Heinz Streibich, CEO of Software AG, on the other was Brigitte Zypries, Parliamentary State Secretary for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, and in between them was Thomas de Maizière, Germany’s Minister of the Interior. Quite a line up!

The next day started with a TV interview at the Hamburg1 Frühcafe about my expectations for the day, which would include an appearance by Angela Merkel. I dressed up, of course – the IT-Gipfel is a formal event where the big players discuss major topics like industry 4.0 and net neutrality, and is a decent indicator of the directions politics and industry leaders are heading.

Again, I was impressed by the number of German ministers – I counted five of them plus the Chancellor – and top executives from leading German IT companies. The Mayor of Hamburg, Olaf Scholz, was also at the city’s chamber of commerce for the summit.

Security was tight – even more so when Merkel showed up – and it was a crazy and busy day, with everyone rushing around to try and set up photo opportunities and meetings with potential partners.
The initial impression of my first IT-Gipfel was, frankly, better than I expected. It was fascinating to see all the top dogs of politics and the IT industry in the room, promising to do more for startups. I hope that they will follow up on what they said and that they weren’t just paying lip service.

This event may not be a typical startup event, and it did sometimes make me feel like a bit of an onlooker – but that’s OK, because startups do not yet play a major role in Germany’s IT industry, and the fact that conditions need to be improved for young entrepreneurs is an oft-repeated mantra.

One of the trends that can be improved upon, however, is the collaborations between startups and corporate companies, something which was a theme at the IT-Gipfel. It has certainly been a success for us at Tinnitracks, through our partnership with Sennheiser.

Ultimately, it was nice to play with the top dogs, and it is also great that events like the IT-Gipfel raise awareness for the needs of startups like Tinnitracks. We generated some great media coverage through the event on RTL, SAT1 and NDR. Would I attend again? Absolutely, especially given that the 2015 edition of the IT-Gipfel will be held in Berlin – another good spot to establish the event’s startup-friendly credentials.

The first final of the second batch of the Idea Challenge takes place next week, when the winners of the Smart Energy will be chosen in Berlin.