“We need new formats for networking stakeholders, industries, innovators: more targeted, interactive, sustainable.” A statement that the german.innovation founders Claudia Schwarz and Sanja Stankovic state for a quite a while. Now the event, trade fair and congress industry has finally arrived at the center of a global storm. The collective search for the “next normal” makes a lot of new things possible; makes a lot more possible than would have been conceivable just a few months ago. As striking as it sounds: the crisis as an opportunity. Especially for ideas that – like the german.innovation network – are geared towards open, interdisciplinary and collaborative work. The best time to start up, then: that’s the way this year 2020, which has turned so much upside down, wants it to be.
“You should talk”
Together Claudia and Sanja combine more than 25 years professional experience in the creative digital and innovation industries and in the network and meeting management. However, they only met in 2018 at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. Claudia, innovation consultant with a focus on cultural and creative industries, is co-founder of the German Music Technology Association (MusicTech Germany) and the consulting agency WickedWork, which specializes in creative technologies. Sanja, not least as founder of Hamburg Startups, is a partner of many years for SXSW and large parts of the German delegation and press spokeswoman of the DS Unternehmensgruppe – the company of “The Lion’s Den” investor Ralf Dümmel. And again and again the hint of common contacts: “You two have to talk to each other. Indeed: they had to.
Two with alot in common and one important difference
Many similarities unite the founders: The passion for networking, the search for new ideas and innovative approaches, the attentive look at developments (and stagnation) in the field of national and international networking. The fact that Claudia and Sanja have long been active in very different industries and regions and have built up networks, almost a lucky circumstance, definitely an additional motor for the work philosophy of german.innovation. Strengthening regional locations without getting lost in particular interests. To make a contribution to turning Germany’s entrepreneurs and creative minds – and thus the location – into drivers of innovation. Creating synergies, enabling sustainable networking and collaborations – all this is just the beginning of an ambitious list of objectives of the company founded in Hamburg in August this year.
The „next normal“ – Seizing opportunities
But let’s stay briefly with the “next normal” of major events mentioned at the beginning. It has never seemed more important to enable (inter)national networking, e.g. within the framework of events and congresses: The forced retreat to digital has undoubtedly left its mark. The general digital fatigue, often lack of visibility in the white noise of platforms and digital-virtual offerings, the difficult transfer of such important chance encounters into the digital … the longing for at least hybrid formats is great.
For german.innovation this is one of the most exciting challenges of networking and innovation consulting: How can international networking be revived and optimized, which formats will be needed in this “next normal”. How to compete with exhibitors from all over the world at global events like the SXSW for the rare commodity of (media) attention. Public institutions and institutions compete here with spectacular appearances by globally active major corporations. Anyone who fails to create a coherent, original and diverse presentation here is in danger of getting lost. In order to give the German startup and creative scene a sympathetic and unmistakable face, more innovative approaches and a rethinking of objectives are required. Visibility and successful business initiation is not necessarily reflected in the number of social media mentions by the broad mass of event visitors. Sometimes less is more.
30 high-quality, curated contacts in a smaller, more exclusive circle may replace one or the other opulent network party. That at least is the approach of german.innovation, which has already received much approval from partners nationwide. For the SXSW 2020 – at that time still a cross-national initiative german.innovation – a much bolder and fresher appearance of the German delegation was planned, including carefully curated and long-term planned participations from Hamburg, Baden-Württemberg, Hesse, Munich and Bavaria. Participation in SXSW Digital 2021 will bring new challenges: a hybrid international satellite concept with interconnection to the global SXSW community and North American partners is currently being planned.
What german.innovation intents
Now the world of innovation fortunately does not only consist of Austin and the year consists of much more than just a few days in March. german.innovation was founded to accompany or initiate formats of all sizes. The focus is always on the goal of establishing and sustainably expanding contacts as well as not leaving the development of networks to chance, but curating and strengthening them in a targeted manner. In order to make this project an international success, Claudia and Sanja co-initiated the foundation of the open pan-European-international network Innovation Bridge Europe (IBE). The core team of IBE consists of german.innovation and partners from the Netherlands. Networks from almost 20 countries have already joined and are developing strategies for knowledge transfer and the expansion of international transdisciplinary cooperation in general: From the Baltic States and Scandinavia to France, Spain, Italy and the UK to partners in North America, New Zealand, Australia, China and Japan.
How events look like at present and in the future depends not least on the development of the pandemic and its accompanying effects. Interpersonal encounters will remain irreplaceable, but digital formats – perhaps initially born out of necessity – also have their advantages, which will remain relevant.
On November 25th in Hamburg, german.innovation will show how hybrid formats can look like with a very special edition of the Ladies Dinner. Celebrity chef Cornelia Poletto will prepare a delicious menu together with a number of successful women, with due distance of course, because the participants are connected via the internet and have the ingredients sent home beforehand, along with a bouquet of flowers and sustainably composed goodie bag. Furthermore, a series of events on the topic of Fintech is planned, whereby additional current cross-innovation interfaces will be focused on at the Hamburg, Berlin and Frankfurt locations.
For whom german.innovation is there for
german.innovation is an explicitly open and cross-sector network. It addresses business associations as well as institutions for the promotion of locations, startups and scaleups, medium-sized businesses, but also creative people and artists. In short: everyone who is interested in collaborative work and the development of innovation potentials. From the private sector, large, established companies are just as welcome as those that are just starting out. Whether large or small, there is a suitable concept and experts network for everyone. The barriers to entry are deliberately kept low. Change does not happen overnight.