Over the last few years, the LIFT conference which takes places every winter in Geneva, has been rapidly rising in stature as one of the don’t miss tech conferences in Europe. LIFT, which will take place 6 – 8 of February, has been featured on Techcrunch’s Best Startup Events, attracts well over 1k people from 30 countries each year, and has managed to create an environment where big business, academia, entrepreneurs, artists and government seem to seamlessly interact. But perhaps the main thing that sets LIFT apart from the rest of the conference pack is its ability to translate discussion and ideas into concrete, post-conference action, particularly around entrepreneurship.
I caught up with LIFT’s impassioned CEO Sylvie Reinhard to ask her to get a bit more background about LIFT as well as what surprises they have in store for LIFT 2013:
Tell me about LIFT. Where have you come from and where are you going?
LIFT’s focus has always been on exploring the business and social implications of digital technology. We particularly wanted to create an event where discussions and debates could freely happen around these implications. But, we also wanted to make sure that LIFT was known as the ‘doer conference’. So, not just talk, but also action. We’re very proud of the fact that a lot of startups, for example, formed at LIFT. I’ve met several people who’ve said they’ve met their cofounders at LIFT. We also have had great projects that have come out of LIFT such as Ville Vivante which focused capturing digital traces of Geneva and was exposed this year at Futur en Seine in Paris. We have lots of great things coming out of LIFT, but we definitely want to help develop and launch even more.
Another thing that is important to LIFT is our global reach. We have a highly diverse group of attendees from all over the world. Also, our original goal with LIFT was to have at least one conference on every continent. We’ve expanded into Asia and elsewhere in Europe with our events South Korea and France, and we’re looking at expanding into Brazil and China. We’ve also expanded the activities of LIFT beyond the conference as we now do leadership of innovation workshops, startup sourcing for established companies (more on that later), coaching, and innovation consulting.
I understand that LIFT’s quite involved with the entrepreneurial ecosystem. What are some of the things you’re doing?
At the LIFT conference, there are several things that we offer. First, we do Venture Night (startup competition) which at the moment focuses on Swiss startups, but we’re planning on broadening it next year to focus on European startups. One thing that we did last year that we plan on doing again this year is Google founder dating where startups get the opportunity to network with Google business development people from all over the world (e.g. India, Japan, etc). In addition, we will be running a Big open data city challenge which is basically a hack-a-thon involving data from San Francisco, Zurich, and Geneva transportation systems. We’ll of course give lots of prizes, but the biggest one will be some seed money for the best app. Finally, we’re also doing the Proctor & Gamble Startup Challenge whereby five startups are selected to pitch to P&G for the opportunity to collaborate with them on business development opportunities (Note: Deadline to enter the challenge is January 18th, more details here)
Outside of the LIFT conference, we do quite a bit around trying to bring together (established) businesses and startups. One important area is in startup sourcing where help business find startups that are developing particular innovations/technologies that they’re interested in. We do this quite a bit in Switzerland but are looking to expand this across Europe.
What are some of the things you’re most excited about that will happen at this year’s LIFT?
There’s many great things. One I’m really looking forward to is a workshop around robot rights, which will be led by one of leading researchers in this area from MIT named Kate Darling. This is going to be really interesting because it will be an interactive workshop…with robots! We’re also going to have a speaker that will be running the world’s first algorithmically generated talk. Toby Barnes who’s running it is a really great performer, so I’m really curious and excited to see how that one will turn out!
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The LIFT team has generously offered one free ticket which we, of course, are passing along to you. To enter for a chance to win, just Tweet this article andthis status from our Facebook Page (which you should also be a fan of). Winners will be announced tomorrow afternoon on our @RudeBaguette twitter account.
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