On the 26th – 27th October 2017, the fourth edition of the Hello Tomorrow will take place in Paris – and this is a special event for WUNDERDING as it all began with Hello Tomorrow.
After we had spent half a year with the programming and building of the website, I traveled to Paris in June 2015, in order to meet the first startups and what I experienced there, was unique. It was a fascinating mix out of startup-competition, science conference, future exhibition and international meetup of the smartest people from all parts of the world and it was the foundation for many of the first WUNDERDING stories for startups such as Compadre, Turbulent, Wavvestream and Biocarbon Engineering (winner 2015).
Afterwards, I made a film for 3sat about the competition and one of the startups, PNAT from Italy.
In October, Sarah and I will return to Paris and we’re excited to see what’s awaiting us there in 2017. Prior to that, we spoke with Guillaume Vandenesch, Managing Director at Hello Tomorrow.
(Hello Tomorrow Team 2016, Guillaume Vandenesch, Front row, third from left)
WUNDERDING: 2017 is the fourth edition of Hello Tomorrow. How has Hello Tomorrow evolved since the beginning?
GUILLAUME: In a good way! More seriously, I think the spirit remained exactly the same since we started this: identifying, connecting and promoting amazing science-entrepreneurs that want to change the world with science & technology, but we’ve grown much bigger since the start in 2011. Back then, the founders Xavier & Arnaud were organizing small conferences in French universities to promote science-entrepreneurs and encourage young engineering & PhDs students to pursue their startup dreams. But this was even before we were actually called Hello Tomorrow. The actual name at the time was “Science Innovation & Entrepreneurship” which is way too long on not nearly as catchy as Hello Tomorrow. I think the turning point was seeing how many startups were created by people who met at this conferences. By gathering interdisciplinary profiles, scientists working in different fields but also business students, we had created an alchemy that worked. That’s when we launched the Hello Tomorrow. The idea was to duplicate that on an european then global scale. So we launched the Hello Tomorrow Challenge, contacted all the tech transfer offices of universities across Europe and told them our vision “We believe that your scientists can change the world, help us talk about them”. And it clicked. At that time people were already bored of seeing always the same startups promoted in the media or at big events: e-commerce platforms, dating apps, delivery solutions, etc and felt like something big was happening in biotechnology, robotics, AI that we needed to talk about. That’s how we brought 1,500 people to the event the first year. And at the time it was only two non-paid interns working in a basement to organize this. Since then, we’ve grown a lot bigger and we’re not 10 people working full-time on the project either on our global challenge, the Global Summit but also all our events around the world.
WUNDERDING: Startups are always facing challenges. What is your challenge in 2017?
GUILLAUME: The Global Summit remains the big visible part of “our iceberg” and even this event has grown a lot. We’re now bringing 500 of the most promising projects we identify to the event. Each year is a bit different from one another because we try different formats. This year for instance, we want to completely change how startups pitches are done. You know, these formats are always the same. The same 5 slides, the same fake or exaggerated backstories. I can’t tell you what the format will be but I can promise you it will be fun! Our biggest challenge as we grow is to be able to innovate and grow without changing what makes the event truly amazing; the optimism, enthusiasm and vital energy that transpires from every participant and speaker at the event. At least that’s what everybody told us.
WUNDERDING: Hello Tomorrow attracts startups from all over the world and they all meet in Paris. This is one reason for the extraordinary atmosphere and spirit at Hello Tomorrow. How do you do this?
GUILLAUME: It’s hard for us to explain where this atmosphere is and it’s hard to understand if you’ve never lived it but as scientists, we try to analyze this way too much and might have pinpointed a few interesting factors. First the event is organized by people who believe in the mission of Hello Tomorrow and even all the partners that we work with, from the Global Partner BNP Paribas to the firm that we’ve hired for 4 years to handle all the technical aspects of the event believes in this mission. And we are a team of very young people with little experience in event organization. it’s not like we’ve been there 50 years and have organized 100 events. We started this knowing nothing and learned by doing it without any preconceived ideas of what events should look like. Secondly we’re a non-profit that was created by science-entrepreneurs to help other science-entrepreneurs and I think that resonates a lot with all the founders out there that feel that they don’t really have their place at other startup event because it’s not been designed for them. Not saying that we’re doing it the perfect way but at least we try to do our best. I think this is why we’re able to able 150 US startups every year to come to Europe. And we’ve had the chance to hire an incredible person, Jeannette Boulanger which we recruited on twitter 4 years ago. When she started as an intern she knew nothing about event organization and she’s grown into our event director, overseeing every little detail of the event. She has a fantastically weird brain that comes up with new ideas every day and she puts a lot of passion in everything she does. Now she’s handling the job of maybe 4 or 5 people at a regular event, and she’s definitely the one giving the spirit of the event. For all of those reasons above, the people that request invites to attend Hello Tomorrow are truly amazing. Therefore we always end up with a great multicultural and diverse crowd of people who want to share ideas with one another. Finally, the speaker that we invite also share the same vision. Nobody is paid to speak at Hello Tomorrow, so when you come there it’s because you share the vision and you want to be a part of this.
WUNDERDING: What impact has Hello Tomorrow on the worldwide startup community from your perspective?
GUILLAUME: We’ve had a hard time trying to quantify the impact that Hello Tomorrow has had. There are different KPIs that we look at like how many startups are still operational, how many of them have raised funds and how much and the numbers actually look really good. But then there are so many different ways that startups can benefit from the event, it’s hard to gather all of this into one single measure. For instance, some startups develop partnerships with other companies at the Summit, some receive investments from them, some make deals with other startups, other hire PhDs that they met at the Summit, some startups even collaborate with one another like this startup Lilium who won the Grand Prize in 2016 and bought 3 huge 3D printers to build their VOTLs from another winner Re:3D. Some don’t get all of that, but have told us they were greatly impacted by the event and met people that helped them redesign their business model and target other markets…and all of this is just from this 2 days event and one year of work of course.
WUNDERDING: You told us about that you started events around the world. Please tell us more about these projects.
GUILLAUME: This year we went to Brazil, Korea, Turkey, Pakistan, Peru to organize events that would be the starting point of creating local science-entrepreneurship communities. For instance, I went to our Brazil event a few months ago on the future of Agriculture. 120 startups applied to the Challenge and came from everywhere in Brazil and even from very isolated regions for this reunion in Sao Paulo.
It was amazing to see that we were able to gather this crowd, thanks to our great team on the ground there. And this is just a start. Things have been booming in Turkey in the energy sector thanks to our ambassador Timur’s whose organized one of the biggest event surrounding the future of Energy in Istanbul, bringing together all the key stakeholders and fostering stronger collaborations between, universities, startups, corporates and even public organization.
All in all, like I said before, events are just the tip of the iceberg and creating those powerful connections shouldn’t be a one time thing every year. However we shouldn’t diminish either the power of bringing together very smart people that share a passion and want to succeed under the same roof for a few days. This can lead to incredible things!!!!!