On November 6 – 7th, Istanbul will again welcome one of the fastest growing global digital, tech, and telco events, the Webit Congress. Webit can best be described as a mega-event rather than a simple conference given its multiple simultaneous conference format, tradeshow exhibitions, startup competition, workshops, and, highly impressive, 200 speakers. The central focus of Webit is bringing together the entire ecosystem and, particularly, entrepreneurs and enterprises, to share knowledge, know-how and connections between the two.
I caught up with Chairman of Webit Congress, Plamen Russev, to get some background on the history of Webit, how it’s evolved overtime and what they have planned this year, particularly for the startup community.
How has Webit evolved over time?
Webit Congress was launched 6 years ago and initially had more of a focus on Central Europe due to the lack of things digital and tech in that part of the world. Back then even the world ‘entrepreneur’ was used quite rarely in the region. So the initial goals of the Congress were to grow the tech ecosystem (in the Central European market). Through a lot of hard work, we quickly grew the Congress to a global event focusing on all things digital and attracting more than 8,000 people from 100 different countries.
The growth of Webit is actually a very nice success story. Coming initially out of Bulgaria, we had 1,500 people at our first edition which was a nice base to grow the Congress. Interestingly, the initial participants only came from 10 different countries which has, obviously, changed quite a bit overtime. Last year we moved it from Sophia to Istanbul for the first time, which was a great choice particularly due to Istanbul’s location between Europe and Asia. We had 6,500 people from 70 different countries for that edition and now, as I mentioned, we’ll be at 8,000.
How is Webit structured? What makes it unique?
The Congress hosts five major events, including probably the biggest Digital Marketing and Innovation conference in the world, the Metrics and Big Data conference, the Telco Summit, which is a very high-level event of telco CEOs, the Leaders of the Future conference which focuses on entrepreneurship, and the eCommerce conference. The Congress organizes these different events (along with other key parts such as the tradeshow and Startup Challenge) into two zones – the Enterprise Zone and the Entrepreneurs Zone.
Tell me a bit more about the Entrepreneurship focus of Webit. What sets Webit apart from other conferences in this regard?
The very unique thing about the Congress is that it brings together the very different worlds of entrepreneurship and enterprise in the same place. If you discuss what the added-value is for people to attend, this point is a big one. Normally when you go to most entrepreneurial events, most attendees are startups, investors, and some platform owners (ie Facebook). This is great, but having been an entrepreneur myself for 20 years, there was one more important thing that was lacking which was getting exposure in the market. This is the very unique thing that Webit offers startups and developers…a place where you’re meeting nearly 8k potential clients, getting a chance to get in front of the biggest brands and ad spenders, and meeting with industry specific media that can help spread the world about your business. The Congress is the perfect place to meet with all the potential partners you’d like. Of course you can still meet with VCs as well at the Congress, but I truly believe that the most important thing is reaching these partners so you can grow your business with them. And from the industry point of view is that there’s also synergy there for them because industry is always looking for talent (investments, partners, etc).
What about the Startup Challenge. How does it work and what is the value for startups?
Although the Congress had traditionally been an industry focused event and the entrepreneurship part of the Congress began later on, it’s grown now and is equal in terms entrepreneur and industry attendees at the Congress. The Startup Challenge has been a huge success for us, particularly this year as we had 834 candidates from all over the world apply to the Startup Challenge (view semifinalists here). The Startup Challenge is very straightforward. There are no tricks, no catches, no hidden costs. If you win (21 jury selected semifinalists plus 10 audience selected via Facebook), then you receive a stand at Webit Congress, five free tickets to the Congress, and display of your brand during the Congress. The only costs the winners need to pick up are their flights and lodging. So we want to make it clear that, unlike what people may experience with some other events, our goal is not to make money off the winning startups, it’s really for us to promote them and help them grow.
If you’d like to attend Webit you can get 10%-off standard ticket prices with code RBWEB13, exclusively for Rude Baguette readers. In addition, we also have one free ticket to give away to Facebook fans – if you don’t already like our page, like it below and like & share the status in order to enter to win!