GovTech.Pioneers: The Challenges of Planning Europe’s First GovTech Event

By August 20, 2018February 2nd, 2024No Comments

GovTech is a term that hadn’t been used a lot until recently, especially in Europe. This played a role in some of the challenges we had when we went out with our idea and pitched it to others, including key partners in our country and the region. We defined GovTech as startup-driven innovation for and within the public sector.

Since governments play a role in every industry – as regulators, suppliers, clients and more besides – we saw public sector innovation as a mother industry to innovation everywhere. Governments had already played a massive role in fields such as mobility, but now we had to define a specific sector centred around technology’s role in government itself.

Within that came challenge #1 – we had to nail the exact content areas! In a field where we could have taken numerous directions, we had to keep our focus. We needed to slim down the choices to three lead topics. Those were chosen through consultation with partners in government and beyond, as well as using Piobay, our online dealflow management service, to assess hundreds of startup solutions in the various fields relating to GovTech. In the end we settled on Citizen Collaboration, Public Safety & Security and Blockchain as the most relevant key themes.

Having defined our lead topics, it was time to move on to challenge #2 – how could we entice partners with a model which had never been tested in Europe before? We knew that we were staging the continent’s very first full-day conference on the issue of startup solutions for the public sector, but often people struggled to see how this ‘event innovation’ was beneficial for everyday life and business.

But thanks to dedicated internal champions and the persistence of people who believed in the GovTech.Pioneers vision to make the public sector more effective, efficient and therefore improving daily life for every citizen, we managed to get the first key partners on board. As is so often the case with partnerships, these were those closest to our headquarters: Austrian ministries, public organizations and the City of Vienna. After months of discussions, we had our initial funding. And from this moment on, we knew we couldn’t fail anymore.

During several intense months of preparation, we got enough positive feedback from potential speakers and participating startups – the latter were excited to finally have the chance to pitch their solutions in front of specialist GovTech decision-makers, rather than at a catch-all event. We had our first draft agenda ready within a month.

But what we still lacked was attendees. Although we were acquainted with the famous ‘hockey stick’ (exponential growth in ticket sales during the last weeks before the event) we weren’t sure we were reaching the right people. Tech conferences are tech conferences, startup conferences ditto, but public sector events are different…very different! Our project required new sales channels and other means of engaging attendees: we undertook countless one-to-one calls and meetings all over Europe to convince people that GovTech.Pioneers was something they couldn’t miss.

Our attendance KPI? That was challenge #3 – to get 300 people at the event. A very tough ask first time out, but after a lot of effort and hours on the road, we managed to surpass our goal. In the end we had more than 400 people from over 40 countries, which turned the venue into a melting pot of ideas on how to advance governments via tech solutions.

Our next post will focus on the learnings we had from running the actual event itself – it’s fair to say we encountered a few surprises on the day!

For the full story of GovTech.Pioneers, click here.