There are a lot of startup events and conferences in China and Asia these days (and some burnout from them). Generally, these conferences are a distraction rather than helpful contribution for many entrepreneurs. Yet the question remains: What can startup conferences do for a startup community?
About two weeks ago, a big chunk of Asia’s startup community gathered in Hong Kong for RISE, Web Summit’s first attempt to bring their magic to Asia.
RISE definitely stood out amongst many events I’ve attended, and it can teach us much about how a startup conference, if done right, can help multiply our individual community efforts and how it can periodically bring together the disparate parts of a startup ecosystem into one common effort.
On a statistical level, RISE was a pretty big deal with over 140 speakers, 300 investors and 250 media representatives. Over 500 startups exhibiting and pitching added another level of energy. Combine that with nearly 5000 attendees from 72 countries at the lovely Hong Kong Convention Centre and you start to get to the numerical impact that the folks at Web Summit brought to Hong Kong’s startup scene.
Instead of going to dozens of cities, I was able to connect with hundreds of startup supporters from all around the region in one place. Personally I ran into buddies from Thailand, Singapore, mainland China, Taiwan and Korea, and I made new companions for even wider circle, including Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Likely everyone else my schedule before and during the event was pretty packed.
As a startup community builder and coordinator in Greater China, I am often wondering how best to provide opportunities for knowledge sharing and networking, how to keep the energy and momentum going and how to coordinate individual efforts into a collective platform. Some of the ways I often cite are regular meetups, startup accelerators / incubators like Techstars, YC, 500 Startups, etc. and community innovation events like Startup Weekends and Hackathons.
But after attending RISE and other bigger startup conferences, it is clear that startup conferences and summits are also an important ingredient in a startup scene. An event like RISE in Hong Kong shows a level of maturity the startup scene locally in China and regionally in East Asia.
So, what does a startup summit mean for a startup community? These summits 1. get everyone together, 2. highlight the trends, celebrate some of the amazingness, and 3. provide huge networking opportunities.