You can judge the significance of an event (or unconference in this case) by the ripples that it produces across the startup ecosystem. The ripples from Angel Island have permeated time and distance and are still felt all the way at TechChill. It’s not just the ones invited (yes, you have to be invited to attend) that are privy to them. Just ask someone who was there, and they’ll have something positively jealousy-inducing to share, and those ideas will immediately spillover to your life. In our case, the messenger is our CEO Kristine, and here are some of her takeaways from her time in Amsterdam, where she had the chance to catch up with many of TechChill’s international friends and supporters. Huge thanks go out to Ton Van ‘t Noordende, Nick Stevens, Olia Gladkova, Simona Nickman and the rest of Angel Island team who made Kristine feel so kindly welcomed.
“Look for a white rabbit” those were the directions given to guide the invitees to the right location, and the place was Heaven Reimagined – a carefully curated pre-event that brought together seventy “original thinkers from all over the world.” It called everyone to wear as much black as possible and bring “nothing more than an open mind.” Secrecy for excitement definitely delivered.
“It took place at an old church-turned-into-incubator for wild and creative ideas to grow and spread”, adds Kristine, ”It’s these events that create a collective adventure for everyone involved that open people up and serve as the perfect set up for having real conversations”
You can’t discuss Heaven Reimagined without noticing that women made up 50% or more attendees, compared to many other industry tech events – the difference was striking. As a fellow (un)conference organizer Kristine inquired Ton, “How come it’s such a good balance?” To which he laughed and answered, “It’s just how it’s going to be from now on!.” Cheers to that.
The next morning, the experience at Angel Island didn’t begin with the arrival to the “venue”, it begins with the journey where nine tall ships transport all the 500 attendees to the military island, where the event is to take place. But you don’t just hop on one and go. Every boat has around 40-50 previously specified, exact, diversified and highly curated mix of individuals. Kristine was welcomed by Kriszti, Patrick, and Boris to The Next Web ship – where the excellent conversations ensued.
The event is held on a military fort – a ‘safe haven’ of sorts – where everyone can attend different sessions and connect in other surprising ways. To make it all more fantastical – how about introducing a general dress code in the spirit of military x circus? Kristine is on board.
One of the highlights was the chance to participate in an inclusion and diversity panel discussion called “Female Powerhouse” together with Azam Shaghaghi and moderated by Maria Wlosinska. The premise for it was that when it comes to starting a business, there remains a notable disparity between the sexes. In 2017 just 17 percent of companies had a female founder, a number that hasn´t changed in five years. Harvard Business School has also identified that male entrepreneurs are 60% more likely to get funding than females – even when the content of the pitch is the same.
On account on these topics, the discussions were had around gender bias, including fundraising, hiring, speaker diversity in tech events as well as perceptions of the entrepreneurial attitude and the current approaches to solving this issue. “We passionately discussed the moral behind pushing quotas on speaker diversity, event audiences, hiring, and other occasions and how that might affect the opportunity to choose the best people for the job, as well as “women only” events that support and inspire many women, while sometimes also creating an even bigger gap between genders,” – Kristine observes.
“There is no silver bullet for this size of the issue – we are now dealing with the results of how the tech industry has been operating for the last 20 years, but what we can do is change it for the better for the future to come.
There are many signs, in my opinion, that it’s simply impossible to continue the same way as it was before – the demand for diversity of tech-savvy professionals is just too high! Just by the amount of support and help, I (as a female in tech scene) have received from the veterans of the startup scene I can be sure that the world is changing for better.”
No event would be complete without a fabulous afterparty – and we could tell you all about it (To give you a hint, Tom and Gary’s Decentralized Dance Party was there) but you’ll have to ask Kristine about it because, in the spirit of Angel Island, some secrecy needs to remain.
Working with the startup ecosystem, even when it is country based, does not equal working in isolation. We’re all part of a complex network of interconnected ecosystems all striving for the same goals. That’s why you can’t underestimate the power of these social gatherings – they’re not just an excuse to have a good time (although it is a lovely consequence). By interacting with the community at large we foster the spark of new connections and the spillover of new ideas that benefit everyone. That’s community building at its best.