Photo credit: Heisenberg Media, Luca Sartoni,

published 4 Nov 2013 in Austria, Ireland 6 minutes to read

Experiencing Pioneers Festival and Web Summit

It was fun while it lasted, but now the show is over. The Pioneers Festival and Web Summit came to a close on 31 October after two days of keynotes, panels, pitches, networking and then some more networking. We went to both Vienna and Dublin, and here are our impressions!

Pioneers Festival Pioneers Web Summit Dublin Ireland Vienna Austria startups investors

It was fun while it lasted, but now the show is over. The Pioneers Festival and Web Summit came to a close on 31 October after two days of keynotes, panels, pitches, networking and then some more networking. We went to both Vienna and Dublin, and here are our impressions - and some numbers!

Number of participants

Pioneers: 2.500+
Web Summit: nearly 10.000

Among those,

  • startups and entrepreneurs

Pioneers: 50% of all participants
Web Summit: 58% of all participants

  • investors

Pioneers: 13% of all participants (including accelerators and incubators)
Web Summit: 7% of all participants

  • speakers

Pioneers: 60
Web Summit: 300+

For the names of all keynote speakers and panelists go here for the Festival and here for Web Summit. Neither of the events shied away from big names, although if you look twice, you’d notice that the competition was close - Phil Libin from Evernote and Dave McClure from 500startups, for example, made sure to attend both events.

  • nationalities

Pioneers: 55
Web Summit: 97

Opportunities to exhibit, pitch and the like


  • The Pioneers Investors Day took place on 29 October, and aimed to connect startups with their potential future investors
  • The Pioneers Challenge brought about 50 startups to stage to present their ideas in front of a jury. The winner: BabyWatch from Croatia – we congratulate!
  • The 90’’ Pitch competition invited close to 30 startups to pitch to the audience
  • The Pioneers Showroom gave startups the chance to demonstrate their products and talk to participants from behind their booths
  • The first Mini Seedcamp Vienna was an opportunity for another 10 startups to pitch
  • The Community Award went to the startup that collected the most Facebook support over the course of October - congratulations, team Movym!

Web Summit:

  • The PITCH Program gave 150 startups the chance to present their products on two stages - one for seed companies, and one for early-stage startups
  • The Alpha Startup Program allowed selected startups to have their own booth and exhibit their products
  • The START Program was invitation-only, and aimed to connect 150 leading startups with investors and the media
  • Accelerate was also invitation-only for a total of 30 accelerators and incubators, where participants could share experiences over roundtables, talk about best practices, and network
  • Spark of Genius, in turn, was targeted at Irish startups only. 30 of them got a chance to battle it out for the title of Ireland’s best startup

Overall, both events made sure that participants stayed involved and got the most out of them. Yet, while Pioneers’ programmes seemed to target mainly startups, Web Summit organised closed events for accelerators and incubators, too.

The venue

There’s one word for it: The Hofburg. Well, two. If you want to do a festival, do it in Vienna’s Imperial Palace. The scene was grand – red carpets, chandeliers, statues, winding hallways. It accommodated three main stages, out of which the Arena was the biggest spot of attention - with good acoustics, very good visual production and camera work.

Web Summit:
The Royal Dublin Society was a beautiful old building, very nicely (and modernly) adapted to host 10.000 people. The Summit had six stages, with a constant programme going on. It was surely the place to be, although it was a tad too loud – on a constant basis. And speaking of the size of the event, last year Web Summit reported generating 24 million euros to the local economy.

The organisation

Participants could schedule meetings weeks in advance and discuss their agenda before they even met. It sure made networking more efficient. The Pioneers App was also ready to roll, although it seemed like most relied on text messages, phone calls and emails for communication.

Web Summit:
The Summit had the My Summit App, which provided a full list of attendees, startups, speakers, the agenda. People also used it to schedule meetings and send messages.

  • The internet

It seemed both events experienced an overload on their first day, hence a slower WLAN connection. The second day, though, seemed to go much more smoothly. The Summit crew even sent out an “We apologise for the inconvenience” email at the beginning of Day 2. Kudos for the good service!

Striking a balance


  • By day
    Definitely a nice balance of keynotes, pitches, panels, and perhaps even more importantly – networking opportunities. As there were three (therefore not too many) main stages, it was possible to attend more than one parallel sessions and still get the gist of them.  
  • By night
    Parties! There were two different social events at the end of Day 1, and a quite packed Halloween party on 31 October. Lots of people, lots of scary costumes.

Web Summit:

  • By day
    The Summit also made sure there was a good mix of speeches, presentations, pitches and the like, as well as quite a few opportunities to mix and mingle in a more social rather than professional way. There were at least 30 social side events during the day.
  • By night
    The Web Summit would probably not be the same without its Night Summit. More than 30 acts from the Irish music scene, together with bars and restaurants specifically reserved for Web Summit participants. At times it even felt the Night Summit was striving to become a festival itself.


Participants, who targeted specific investors found the opportunity to talk and exchange contacts quite handy. Also, the mingling in the hallways allowed for unplanned interactions.

Web Summit:
The Summit participants seemed determined to make the most out of the two-day event, which is why many made sure to talk to either potential investors or industry partners.

The things participants enjoyed the most…


  • networking!
  • the chance to meet so many different (international) people
  • the food – especially the curry on Wednesday. Go feinkoch!

Web Summit:

  • networking with other startups: which allowed them to see what the competition is doing and what is the state-of-the-art technology at the moment
  • networking with investors: there was the creme-de-la-creme of investors, KPCB, Andreessen Horowitz, google ventures...

The most used adjectives…

…hold true for both events: “awesome”, “enthusiastic”, “exciting”, “inspirational” and by the end, predominantly “exhausting”.

So it’s time to ask...

… which one did you go to? Or perhaps the more relevant question would be, which one would you like to go to next year? At the end of the day, there’s probably no right or wrong, instead it comes down to what is it that you, personally, are looking to get out of.

From what we saw, compared and contrasted, Web Summit was bigger and somewhat more international than Pioneers. At times it almost felt like they were shooting to be the festival rather than vice versa - especially based on the social events planned after and around the Summit. That is not to say Pioneers didn’t rise to the occasion. With two night events at the end of Day 1 (and indeed a lot of participants hopped from one to the other to make the most of them) and a full-house Halloween party, the good vibes were on.

As for the business connections involved, Web Summit appeared to offer better opportunities to mix and match with investors, while Pioneers allowed for mingling with (and the discovery of) new startups, as during the two-day festival, the emphasis seemed to be on pitching events.

Make sure to set your priorities for next year! The call is on you.