And one successful investment round later…
(by TOA Founder Niko Woischnik)
Today is a huge day for team TOA. I am thrilled to announce that we’ve acquired some phenomenal investors from this round of funding. Many of these folks played big roles in putting their cities on the global tech & startup map. With their knowledge in building companies possessing global relevance, and I am beyond confident that they will help us achieve what we originally envisioned 4.5 years ago!
In the spirit of TOA, our investors come from multiple disciplines. Communities such as The Collective or The Family join music entrepreneurs (i.e. the founders of SoundCloud and Native Instruments), German industry (Viessmann) as well as luminaries from the tech startup world: Berlin’s “godfather of tech” Christophe Maire, the founders of 6Wunderkinder, Project A, Delivery Hero, Auto1 Group, HelloFresh, OneFootball, Idealo and Zalando. Aside from these some great entrepreneurs and private VCs helped complete this round.
Wisdom of the Crowd
From the very beginning we wanted TOA to become a truly collaborative effort by the community. We crowdsourced our first and second logo, and held open town hall forums that spurred public debates about what a new event for Berlin’s tech scene should look like. It was a difficult process at times but ultimately helped us clearly define how TOA would reflect the interest of the community.
After weeks of town hall meetups and following 101 business school teachings we started by defining our mission, which we still adhere to to this day:
To connect, grow and inspire the human spirit
through interdisciplinary knowledge exchange & collaboration.
In essence our raison d’être comes down to two things:
- Inter-everything and multi-anything is where the magic lies!
At TOA we are most fascinated by the intersection of technology AND culture.
We see technology as the common denominator that drives innovation in every angle of society. It is the enabler for knowledge exchange and collaboration.
By connecting technologists with different disciplines (art, science, music, health, education…) we want to help the disrupted better anticipate the future and technologists better understand the world they change.
2. Be a platform
Rather than moulding people and ideas into one format, we seek to provide a platform for you to build upon. Today this manifests itself in the satellite events which are organised by you, the community.
In the spirit of our mission and due to the fact that we had no money to our names, we became Europe’s first crowdfunded festival. People like Ijad Madisch (ResearchGate), Fabian Heilemann (now EarlyBird), Ciarán O’Leary (now BlueYard) and the infamous Daddy Hemingway were the poster boys of our crowdfunding video.
24 hours before the deadline the campaign had only achieved 55% and it looked like TOA would never see the light of day (only 100% achievement would give us payout). I was in the US and devastated. With Germany still asleep on our last day of crowdfunding, my mom, trying to cheer me up, took me to a diner in the countryside for an early breakfast. I didn’t leave the place until it closed 10+ hours later. It was a hustle day like no other I ever had, and I ended up somehow achieving the remaining €15K+ via skype chats that day. As with everything, chance played a big role. The reason Christian Laase of Plista became our biggest contributor that day was because TOA was meant to take place at Kater Holzig, where he had just proposed to his girlfriend days before.
This has been a long post so let me just let some numbers do the talking and share two screens that show how TOA has developed between 2012–2015.
Here, there, everywhere
After Kater Holzig and Teppichfabrik, TOA has found a new home yet again. With 7,500+ attendees and 175+ satellite events, it will be our biggest TOA yet. I can not wait to welcome Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Barenboim, Yancey Strickler, Mathias Döpfner and the rest of this year’s great speakers!
TOA will expand to other markets. Our first announced edition abroad is LA and we are currently evaluating a few other locations in emerging markets. Other than connecting different disciplines we want to take it one step further and help connect ecosystems with one another. While some retirees may want to drive us apart (#Brexit), we seek to build a platform that brings us together!
Not to be limited to horizontal diversification we will also grow vertically. While TOA is an open platform for all stakeholders, many of our speakers & investors have asked for ways for them to connect with one another in a more intimate setting, which is where the idea behind Open Circle came from, so I am happy to announce that we are building a small and exclusive community for the most accomplished “movers & shakers” (for the lack of a better expression) of our generation. We are piloting Open Circle (OC) during TOA16 but plan to have OC events independent of TOA festivals and in various locations around the world.
Who knows what else the future will hold. We do not consider TOA an “events” company. At this stage of our development, events are simply a great medium for knowledge exchange and collaboration.
For now, let me get nostalgic and hark back to the first text we wrote about TOA ever, still as relevant today as it was back then:
“Let’s … focus less about the “whats” and the “hows” of our daily lives. Let’s not tell each other again and again what our products can do, how many users we have or how much money we raised. Let’s reflect on what keeps our inner flames burning and us spending days and nights riding the emotional rollercoaster of being an entrepreneur or artist? What is that we truly aspire to change?
In short: Why do we do what we do?”
A huge thanks to everyone who has supported us along the way. I actually started writing a list of names/companies but it got out of hand because we were blessed with so many helping hands. We only came this far thanks to the energy of our speakers, artists, satellite event organisers, supporters, volunteers, team members, and of course our attendees. It really means the world to us that people from across different disciplines have invested so much time to pass on their knowledge and passion to others.
The ride so far has not always been easy (quite the understatement), but every moment of it was fulfilling our purpose.
To the future!
Niko & Team TOA16
(Pictured: Team #TOA16)
Originally published at blog.toa.berlin on June 29, 2016.