Producing something special: TOA’s unique look and feel takes a whole year of planning


  • A perfect combination: TOA’s innovative and playful festival space, and its beautiful  Funkhaus venue.
  • “It would be easier for us if TOA was in a big, featureless hall – but in fact, we love the challenge, as it’s so much better for the visitors!”
  • How do you combine a cutting-edge tech conference with the feel of a boutique music festival? TOA’s Production Team explain…

 

Making TOA’s festival into something special is a year-round task for Stefan Hengst and his Production Team colleagues Frank Spitzfaden and Felix Becker. 

In the TOA office, Stefan and his close-knit team are usually making or taking phone calls whilst shuffling documents covered in signatures, because they have the job of making everything at TOA happen. (And if you want to see it for yourself – tickets are going up in price on the 1st June.)

And there’s a lot to organise. Here’s a glimpse of TOA in numbers:

  • 67,000 square metres of space
  • 7 stages, and multiple workshop and networking rooms
  • 6000 visitors at the main event
  • 400 volunteers
  • 200 production crew
  • 15,000 cans of Red Bull
  • 3000 litres of beer
  • 1 UFO (It’s hidden in the Funkhaus garden – see if you can find it)

And it’s not just about logistics – the Production Team’s job is a balance of aesthetics and functionality: TOA’s Funkhaus venue needs to look great, feel fun, and just… work. No easy task when you’re expecting six thousand people to pack out the venue – all seeking knowledge or entertainment or food or music or art or drink or transport or a hidden UFO or…

 

L-R: Felix Becker, Stefan Hengst and Frank Spitzfaden of the TOA Production Team

 

But for Stefan, it’s the historic venue and TOA’s unique approach that makes it all so exciting. “The Funkhaus is amazing – it’s been there since the 1950s and it still has some of the best-sounding recording studios in the world. The Funkhaus has always stood for cutting-edge creativity and technical innovation, so it’s a perfect place for TOA.”

With innovation and creativity at TOA’s heart, it’s then the Production Team’s job to match the festival’s ambitions with visitors’ expectations. Our visitors love how TOA is a cutting-edge tech conference with the feel of a boutique music festival – and Stefan says a lot of that love is down to the choice of the venue.

“The whole Funkhaus site is an official monument, and it’s a huge, unusual and beautiful space. This means our job actually is actually harder to do – in some ways it would be easier for us if TOA was in a big, featureless hall – but in fact, we love the challenge, as it’s so much better for the visitors.

“They can explore the hallways and rooms and discover a series of wonderful spaces in which to watch TOA’s talks. It means that strolling around TOA in 2017 will be a playful, enjoyable experience.”  

 

 

The lighting in TOA’s main hall (and Serkan Piantino)

 

The visual design of the whole festival is something we’re really proud of. It’s fresh, thoughtful and fun. Frank explains how they do it:

“Inside the Funkhaus, we can play with the classic Bauhaus design and combine the high-tech of the past and the present: like how we augment the beautiful organ pipes in the main hall with modern neon designs. Even the business spaces are treated the same way: modern, exciting and alive. It’s not like anywhere else.”

And outside, the Funkhaus is simply a wonderful place to spend two days of your time: it’s right next to the river, with lawns, trees, and interesting areas to relax in.

Felix enjoys the new challenges that TOA brings each year: “Our venue keeps changing as TOA keeps growing. This year, we’ve taken over the huge industrial hall for the TOA Haus of Tech. It’s a huge, fascinating space, with classic industrial design and that gritty Berlin feel that our guests love.”

The Production Team have made sure that this whole experience lasts from the beginning to the end of your visit to TOA: you can catch our boat from the centre of the city, arrive feeling in a peaceful frame of mind, and enjoy the experience from even before you arrive.

TOA visitors taking the boat to the Funkhaus

 

So while Stefan, Frank and Felix might be a bit too busy to fully appreciate TOA as it’s taking place (at the festival, you can identify them by their sturdy boots, thousand-yard stares, and constantly-chirruping lapel radios), their buzz comes from putting the whole thing together and watching people enjoy it.

And then as soon as it’s over, they need to start all over again. As Stefan days: “Building TOA is an all-year-long event for us – as soon as we finish in the Funkhaus, we immediately start again planning for the following year!’”

Come to TOA in July and see the incredible space they create at the Funkhaus for yourself – it’s unlike any other tech festival you’ve ever been to! (Tickets are selling fast and the price goes up on June 1st…)


Self-driving cars are the future. But what about the billion human-driven vehicles today?

Opening up Berlin: Open Circle curates unforgettable experiences for TOA’s guests

Self-driving cars are the future. But what about the billion human-driven vehicles today?


  • Frustrated by how little time cars actually spend on the road, Paulin Dementhon founded Drivy, which aims to make carsharing as common as hailing a taxi.
  • “Having one car is expensive and boring, but having 50,000 cars parked everywhere is cool and convenient”
  • How we get from A to B is set to change in big ways.  So who is poised to benefit the most?

 

There’s a lot of talk about how self-driving cars are going to change the world. And, with some estimates pointing to 10 million of them on the road by 2020, that change will happen fast..

Paulin Demonthon, Drivy

But there are a billion vehicles already on our roads. How do we change the present, while acknowledging the future?

What about the younger generations, who either don’t want to own a car outright or may not be able to afford any vehicle—let alone a self-driving one—in the next few years?

The solution, says Paulin Dementhon, who spoke at TOA 2016, is carsharing on a mass scale. While human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable, recognising our ability to make use of unused resources—and acting on it—pushes us forward.

Dementhon’s Drivy, which has raised more than $43 million to develop its P2P carsharing platform, wants everyone to walk down the street and see parked cars as the kind of opportunity that can change the world: not in 2020, but today, in 2017.

If you’d like to hear more from bleeding-edge thinkers, makers, and doers like Paulin, drive yourself to TOA. Ticket prices increase on June 1 – so grab a ticket and see the future today

 


Drivy allows P2P carsharing: how do you pitch is as an idea to someone who doesn’t yet understand it?

Paulin Dementhon, Drivy: Drivy is the platform to rent a car next door with your smartphone. Cars spend 93 per cent of their time parked. That’s a big waste on a very valuable asset and has a negative impact on cities. On-demand cars can replace private car trips in large cities and make cities greener.

Do you see different age demographics adopting the technology at different rates?

It seems like a younger generation who had grown up with P2P sharing would use it more readily—or is this not the case? How do you sell the Drivy idea to people who have grown up with “ownership”?

Paulin Dementhon, Drivy: The top use case is to rent a car to go on a weekend trip and escape the city. Drivy is used by young urban actives who are time poor and asset lite, and don’t want the hassle associated with owning a car. Our customers think having one car is expensive and boring, but having 50,000 cars parked everywhere is cool and convenient.

Drivy is a platform, so it is all about supply and demand. People who own a car and rent it out are the key for Drivy’s success. The owners earn money and offset costs with Drivy. At the same time they help to make use of existing resources.

One of the dreams of the sharing economy is that there will be close to zero “slack time”—that is, where cars are rarely sitting empty and unused.

Does this naturally mean that car manufacturing will decrease, as fewer cars are needed? What other knock-on effects might a future society face when sharing becomes very widespread?

Paulin Dementhon, Drivy: Drivy’s vision is to offer a car at every corner whenever you need it with one click. The conclusion would be that people would shift from ownership to usage. When cars are used as efficiently as possible, this will affect the number of cars in the cities.

There will be less cars and a lot more space you can use for the city of tomorrow. Instead of parking spaces, there can be parks and playgrounds!

In the near future, self-driving cars and rideables (electric scooters and skateboards etc) look set to make a huge impact, especially in cities.

When there are lots of different “levels” of transport available do you see use cases being divided between vehicle type? (i.e. cycles/rideables for short trips, P2P sharing for medium trips, ownership for long trips)

Paulin Dementhon, Drivy: There will be a great change in how we get from A to B in the coming years. People have already stopped viewing the car as the best way to get everywhere. Instead, people use what is best for the given situation. Scooters are great for short distances within the city, while public transport brings you to every place in the city.

Private carsharing lets you escape the city for weekend trips or holidays. Self-driving cars will change the way we understand mobility. There will be one platform where you just order your autonomous car with one tap.

When self-driving cars become normal, will that change the Drivy premise? Or simply augment it?

Will I be able to “order” someone’s car to drive to my door and pick me up? Will everyone’s car become, essentially, a taxi?

Paulin Dementhon, Drivy: With autonomous cars there will no longer be the question of owning a car: you’ll just use one when you need one. Platforms like Drivy have two key success factors.

We know how to create and balance supply and demand. And they really trust us. In the future, the platform that wins the race will be the one that’s able to send the right car at the right moment with the perfect user experience, and also has a strong brand.

 

TOA’s speakers are exclusively Founder and C-level change-makers, just like Paulin – so you’ll be learning the latest thinking from the very best. Join us at TOA in July!

 


Opening up Berlin: Open Circle curates unforgettable experiences for TOA’s guests

Is Crossmodalism the Dadaism of the 21st century?

Opening up Berlin: Open Circle curates unforgettable experiences for TOA’s guests


  • Open Circle is TOA’s exclusive programme of events, dinners, parties and cultural visits for speakers, investors, select media, and top supporters
  • “Last year’s Open Circle formed a strong community that still communicates regularly today, as well as creating new projects and even a company!”
  • TOA’s inviting select entrepreneurs or thought-leaders to take part in Open Circle in July – apply here!

Connect, grow and inspire.

That’s TOA’s ethos and is at the core of what we create for our attendees: whether they’re a ticket-holder at our main event at the Funkhaus, a curious visitor to a TOA Satellite event – or if they’re one of TOA’s Founder-level speakers.

Zoé Gadsden is in charge of TOA’s Open Circle event series, which is aimed squarely at TOA’s speakers, investors, key media and our top supporters – because they are TOA attendees too!

Zoé Gadsden, Head of Open Circle

So what is Open Circle? Piloted in 2016, it’s four days of programming concurrent to the festival, including dinners, exclusive parties, private Q&As with keynote speakers, and special matchmaking sessions.

It helps bed our visitors into Berlin – and also provides them with a great opportunity to meet each other.

Zoé explains how Open Circle came from listening to our community and wanting to add value to the TOA experience.

“Most conferences have some form of speaker dinner or drinks event – and for the first few years, TOA did too. But the feedback from speakers was that they wanted more: to get to know Berlin and each other on a more profound level.

“They wanted recommendations: where to start in Berlin’s art scene, which restaurants to try, and who to meet. We figured that we could extend TOA’s ethos in a holistic way and curate the ultimate “TOA Berlin experience.” 

So Zoé helped build a whole programme of events to make this happen.

She explained how it works:

“Speakers are eager to come to Berlin both for TOA and the city itself, and one consequence is that we draw a diverse and international group of speakers – 70% are from outside of Germany. TOA is Berlin to its core – so we provide a framework for them to explore it in all its depth.”

In 2016 these exclusive events – each designed to fulfil that “connect, grow and inspire” credo – included drinks at the home of Eric Wahlforss, co-founder of Soundcloud, a Q&A with Yancey Strickler, co-founder of Kickstarter, and a private Laurel Halo concert at Red Bull Studios.

The speakers certainly seemed to enjoy it. For Ryan Evans, co-founder and CEO of Inboard Technology, who spoke about the future of urban transport at TOA in 2016, Open Circle was one of the highlights of his trip.

He said, “I loved being part of Open Circle… TOA picked out and organised the best of the best in a well-curated fashion.”

Open Circle guests in acclaimed Berlin artist Jonas Burgert’s private atelier, 2016

 

In 2017, Zoé says that Open Circle will build on last year’s success – and that even bigger plans are afoot.

“We’re making exciting changes, and opening it up to people beyond TOA’s speakers, investors, key media and top supporters. For the first time, we’re inviting select innovators and thought-leaders to compliment the mix of Open Circle attendees. (You can apply for an invite to take part right here!)

“2017’s Open Circle will be full of enriching, one-off experiences: whether they’re mindfulness yoga sessions, little conveniences like a concierge service, or taking guests to satellite events they’ll love.”

“It’s also going to be highly-tailored: not every event will be for everyone. Last year, for example, the Female Founders dinner was an inspiring event where amazing women exchanged learnings and stories – and it led to the formation of a strong community that still communicates regularly today, as well as creating new projects and even a company!”

And the future of Open Circle?

Zoé’s adamant that if you can’t come to Open Circle, it’ll find its way to you: “We‘re aiming beyond an event series that only runs concurrent to TOA. We want it to become a international series of high-value, unique, stand-alone events, and take the one-of-a-kind Berlin atmosphere all over the world!”


Partnering with the future: TOA’s Haus of Tech is built to make business happen

Satellites of love: putting Berlin’s community at the heart of TOA

Is Crossmodalism the Dadaism of the 21st century?


  • Inspired by the cultural movements of the past, Crossmodalism aims to bring previously unfamiliar people and fields together
  • “Art, science and technology have only been relatively recently separated by the force of extreme specialism”
  • Could Crossmodalism be this century’s avant-garde response to global warming and rising inequality?

Dadaism flourished in the immediate aftermath of World War I—and, through art, literature and political engagement, challenged the kinds of violence, nationalism and inequality that had begun to take hold in the early 20th century.

The link between creativity and science has changed over time. For thousands of years, studying art and calligraphy alongside science was a legitimate practice. People recognised that, more often than not, those versed broadly in the concepts of art, science and technology went on to change the world.

The 21st century has brought its benefits, but it has also made us more isolated. Timezones and language barriers have become less important, yet inequality is rising, global warming still threatens the future of our planet, and many traditionally-intertwined disciplines have ceased learning from each other.

Crossmodalism could just be the answer to these problems. But what is it? TOA.life asked Chris Lloyd, Daniel Ospina and Nadjib Achaibou—the people helping this movement thrive—to tell us how it could answer some of the issues facing our generation.

If you’d like to hear more from bleeding-edge thinkers, makers, and doers like these Crossmodalists, you’ll love the Tech Open Air festival in Berlin, which is only 60 days away . Tickets are selling fast…

 


Chris Lloyd, Crossmodalist


TOA.life: How do you describe Crossmodalism to someone for the first time, and what are the advantages of a Crossmodalist approach?

Crossmodalists: Crossmodalism is a tool to realise whatever desires you have – be they artistic, scientific, technology-based, or design-focused.

In the 21st century, people are more and more educated in programmes of specialty – the kinds of programmes that make people extremely knowledgeable about a certain subject, but don’t help people channel their skills outside of that specific domain. Fifty years ago, in classical music, a musician would learn things like composition, choral singing, performance and accompaniment. Nowadays, you focus solely on just one of those things – at an extremely high standard, but without connecting elements that for hundreds of years were inseparable.

Crossmodalism started off as an idea to create a 21st century cultural movement inspired by those of the past, like Dadaism, Surrealism and Futurism. We wanted to take the concepts of art, science and technology—fields which have only been relatively recently separated by the force of extreme specialism—and bring them together to create new things.

 

Nadjib Achaibou, Crossmodalist

TOA.life: Can you explain an example of a Crossmodalist project you have worked on that best demonstrates the approach?

Crossmodalists: Crossmodalist projects has seen a piano performance on a lake, whilst swimmers explored scented origami lilies. It has seen a line of cutlery designed by applying neuroscience research to eating behaviours. And it has taken a team to the Amazon to record smells and sounds for a multisensory VR production—amongst so many other projects.

Without doubt, the most incredible experience so far has been the First International Crossmodalist Symposium. In July last year, thirty Crossmodalists from around the world were invited to a 13th century monastery in Tuscany.

Over two days, every single person had to bring an element of their work or passion to the group. These included a neuroscience lecture, a morning yoga lesson, an investment banking workshop, a sensory wine experience and a classical piano concert at dawn.

 

TOA.life: Technology has enabled not only huge advances in individual specialisms, but has made collaboration much simpler and in some cases, plausible for the first time.

Could the Crossmodalist approach have worked 25 years ago?

Crossmodalists: Crossmodalism is a contemporary framing of practices that have been ongoing for thousands of years. In the Tang Dynasty, one could study ‘The Four Arts of the Chinese Scholar’ – including art, calligraphy, strategy, and science. In Ancient Greece, the four arts of the Quadrivium (as described by Plato) included arithmetic, geometry, music, and astrology, something that inspired the university system of the Liberal Arts in the Middle Ages.

Fast forward 1,000 years to the Wagnerian and Kandinsky concepts of Gesamtkunstwerk, with artists again realising the power of multidisciplinarity in creation.

Communication and transport technologies have accelerated our day to day and have made geography less important. But they have also further encapsulated us in our own bubbles. Although Crossmodalism benefits from these advances, it is also made more relevant as a necessary response to isolation.

 

Daniel Ospina, Crossmodalist

TOA.life: Cross-modalism is about a disparate group of people being greater than the sum of their parts.

How hard is it to make projects “work” when you have so many different creative outlooks and approaches?

Crossmodalists: It is a huge uphill battle, and a hugely rewarding one!

Crossmodalism began as a project driven by passion, and remains so to this day. What makes Crossmodalism different is that collaborations are not lead by a clear and short-term objective, but are driven primarily by curiosity. Furthermore, once you understand that imbibing foreign concepts into your process provides an invaluable pool of resources and ideas, it is hard not to challenge your own ego. It’s about constantly reminding ourselves of the bigger picture.

 


TOA.life: How could Crossmodalism spread as an idea? Who could benefit from a cross-modalist approach and how would it affect them and their work?

Crossmodalists: Crossmodalism has grown organically over the past 18 months, through a palpable excitement of those who come across it. The main introduction for people has been a series of gatherings in London.

This quickly became a series of presentations from people within the community, with an emphasis on filling a room with the most interesting people you would never have the chance to otherwise meet. A typical conversation would include a typography specialist, a professional cook, a classical violinist, a BDSM artist, and a startup CEO.

 

 

If 2016 was about creating the community surrounding the movement, 2017 is about facilitating the work of the community. We are being approached by a hugely diverse group of festivals and fairs where we are given a space to create a Crossmodalist experience.  

But Crossmodalism can be applied to any sort of organisation that is trying to create something. Unfortunately, in most workplaces, people are conditioned to be rigid, short-termist, and narrow-minded. How can any company or group create something that is differentiated and has a personality in such an environment? By reaching other institutions and organisations, we can further increase our impact.


TOA.life: What is your hope for the future of this approach? What could cross-modalism achieve in five years time?

Crossmodalists: Like any evolving organism, Crossmodalism would be stifled by the desires of its founders if it were not allowed to develop alongside the movement of the community. From a conversation at a cafe on Wigmore Street, to an international movement of practitioners and the opening of global chapters, Crossmodalism has always taken the road as a constant exploration.

In saying so, there are some recurring themes for exploration throughout the vast majority of the movement. One of these is to expand our knowledge and working practice into the education spheres. Already, talks and lectures on Crossmodalism have occurred at places like London’s Royal Academy of Music, Oxford’s Said Business School, and Crossmodalists are working on a Masters course at the University of Westminster.

If education is the answer to some of the issues facing our generation, like the rise of automation, global warming, increasing inequality, and political instability then we believe Crossmodalism, and its emphasis on a wholesome knowledge base, has a huge role to play.


This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.


Read more from TOA.life:

Too many cooks: lessons in out-there design thinking (and useful drinking)

Partnering with the future: TOA’s Haus of Tech is built to make business happen

Partnering with the future: TOA’s Haus of Tech is built to make business happen


  • TOA provides businesses with innovative, interdisciplinary opportunities to connect, explore and pioneer new projects.
  • “We give Partners and visitors so much more: there are multiple ways to interact – and that’s how really interesting collaborations happen!”
  • Make unique connections with massive corporates and innovative startups alike –  join us in Berlin in July!

TOA approaches the organisation of our flagship festival event holistically. We all work together to make the TOA experience one that excites and enlightens visitors, whether we’re booking the thought-leader speakers or installing the cool outdoor decor.

The Partnerships team is no exception. TOA loves business and the liberating effect it has on innovation and learning when combined with art, technology and creativity.

So the Partnerships team are TOA curators in the same way as the Content team and Satellites team are – they build experiences that nourish and fuel visitors’ imaginations. And they’ve created a brand new experience for TOA 2017: the Haus of Tech.

It’s a space created to deliberately nurture fundamental and novel two-way relationships between businesses and visitors. We caught up with Gary Abela, TOA’s Head of Partnerships, and TOA Partnerships Manager Lindsey Lawrence – and they explained how the Haus Of Tech is just as uniquely “TOA” as it is a uniquely “Berlin”…


The Haus of Tech is where TOA’s unique shoulder-rubbing magic happens for business.

Gary can describe his aims very simply: “The Haus of Tech has a focus on opportunities for connection, so more business can happen right here at TOA. We’ve built a space that has mini-business-ecosystems within it, which are then organised into carefully-curated verticals.”

Gary continues: “For instance – we have corporates that are leading the discussion in their particular space, and we help connect them to the startup community. This vertical arrangement is really important: if you’re interested in mobility, for instance, you can easily seek everyone out – and once you’re there, opportunities for collaboration are hard-wired into the space”

Lindsey Lawrence, TOA Partnerships Manager

Lindsey is as excited as much by the scope of the Haus as she is by the size of it: “It’s a really comprehensive, but manageable space: 3000 square metres. The Haus verticals are split into Energy/Clean Tech, Life Sciences/Social Impact, Data Infrastructure, Fintech, AR/VR Entertainment, and Mobility.

“These are 2017’s most exciting business areas, and we’re really enjoying creating an environment where their innovative ideas can collide, and industries can work together and be inspired by one another. It’s totally in line with TOA’s interdisciplinary ethos, and everyone in the Haus will discover opportunities they never expected!”

 

“At TOA, the traditional trade-show booth is just an anchor – we give Partners and visitors so much more. There are multiple ways to interact, depending on the Partner’s narrative and the visitor’s interest – and that’s how really interesting collaborations happen!”

 

And this is where TOA’s Partnerships team work differently to those at other festivals. Their job is not just to bring partners on board and behind a stand, but to create the dedicated matchmaking moments, micro-events, and showcase opportunities to bring collaboration to life.

Gary explains a bit more: “It’s about bringing in true partners, and working closely with them to build their experience. Each vertical has “tracks” on the Innovation Stage – scheduled times when a business’ product or service can connect to other startups and attendees in a useful, targeted way.

“We really want this interaction to mean that there is something useful happening right there, on the ground, at TOA.”

So by working incredibly closely with TOA’s partners – whether they’re huge multinationals like Axel Springer or Amazon Web Services, or successful young businesses like Casper and Grover – the team creates richly collaborative opportunities right under their noses, at TOA.


And with it being in Berlin, there’s something a bit different and special going on.

Lindsey thinks the connection to Berlin’s ecosystem is essential to the Haus of Tech: “TOA has close, deep ties to the Berlin startup world – we want the festival to represent the ecosystem and how it’s developed over time.

“We also want to connect them with forward-thinking corporate partners. Berlin’s startup scene has grown so rapidly and is attracting huge international attention – so it’s important that other big partners from outside Berlin are here too, so they can evolve together.”

As always at TOA, it’s about more than just being there – it’s what you can do with the opportunity. Gary has the final word on what this means for TOA’s Partners:

“At TOA, the traditional trade-show booth is just an anchor – we give Partners and visitors so much more. There are multiple ways to interact, depending on the Partner’s narrative and the visitor’s interest – and that’s how really interesting collaborations happen!”

You can’t afford to miss out – join us in Berlin in July!


TOA’s Satellite unique events mean that there is the perfect event for everyone, everywhere in Berlin during TOA

At TOA, we book speakers who believe that their ideas will change the world: TOA’s hard-working knowledge-junkies – AKA the Content Team – explain why the book the speakers they do.

Satellites of love: putting Berlin’s community at the heart of TOA


  • TOA’s Satellite unique events mean that there is the perfect event for everyone, everywhere in Berlin during TOA
  • “We’re bringing people together from different walks of life, and they’re making interesting things and sticking together. That’s cool – and that’s exactly what TOA is about!”
  • TOA is the inspirational heart of a city pulsing with hundreds of exciting events – join us in Berlin in July!

 

Last week, we chatted to the TOA Content Team – the people who find the speakers that make TOA’s main event so incredible. This week, we meet the team who coordinate TOA’s huge, incredibly varied Satellites programme – and find out exactly why these events should be in your orbit…

TOA’s always been about community – it was Europe’s first crowd-funded festival after all –  so connecting with the many, not the few, is central to what makes TOA, TOA. Our Satellite events mean that everyone can get their fingers dirty and join in – and our Satellites Team are your trusted guides, curating fascinating experiences all over Berlin! Oh yeah – and almost all of them are free, and open to anyone.

It turns out that working on the TOA Satellites Team is a brain-expanding experience. The process of digging out hundreds of fascinating events, and then helping them blossom into life, means that Laura, Reem and Roberto have quickly become experts in the myriad learning opportunities on offer in Berlin.

 

Their job is to arrange a few amazing days of dizzying variety. Here’s the briefest of glimpses of what awaits in mid-July: maybe the hair-raising thrills of a “High Voltage Plasma Installation” appeals to you, or you can explore how Pokemon Go has turbo-charged our journey to an Augmented Reality future, or perhaps you simply want to better understand the groundbreaking benefits of Blockchain Smart Contracts.

Whatever your technological niche, kink, or wrinkle, there will be nearly 200 events to scratch that itch – and it’s all happening between Tuesday 11th and Friday 14th July.


Head of Satellites, Laura Cuttiford, sums up the fundamental strength of these events:

“TOA Satellite events are all about bringing the incredibly diverse Berlin community together. They’re open to anyone and everyone who’d like to be a part of a tech (and art, and music, and science…!) takeover of Berlin.

“We’re working with an incredible selection of different communities, from women in tech, tech in Africa, to integrating refugees into the community through tech. Even if you think you’re not a ‘tech person” there is something for you – that’s the coolest part of these Satellite events.”

 

TOA Satellite Team members Roberto and Reem

TOA’s Satellite events don’t just showcase existing ideas.

On one hand, it’s a chance for startups, researchers, and artists to fling open their doors so that the wider world can step inside and learn what goes on inside.

But the Satellites also provide a unique opportunity to help bring brand new ideas to life by putting together new groups of people and stirring the creative stew. And this is where the Satellite Team’s job gets really interesting…

Laura explains how, by carefully curating the events and by linking one group to another, the deeper and more meaningful idea behind the Satellite programme emerges:

“By connecting the dots across the different Satellites, communities begin to form and intersect through creativity, innovation and discovery. The outcome is truly phenomenal!“

As a result, new communities arise out of TOA’s satellites – groups that live and breathe after the July festival finishes.

For Reem, this is an unexpected and happy outcome.

“As we’ve been organising this year’s events, I’ve spoken to people who are creating cool satellite events in collaboration with people they met at previous TOA satellite events! So we’re bringing people  together from different walks of life and disciplines, and they’re making interesting things and sticking together. That’s cool – and that’s exactly what TOA is about!”

Roberto’s idea of a perfect Satellite event is something that creates excitement and unity:

“I’d like to see an interactive gathering that brings together creativity, innovation and discovery, that’s accessible to all. Not everyone can attend the main TOA event at the Funkhaus, for all sorts of reasons – but satellites allow everyone to jump in and be involved with something extraordinary and unique.”


Ultimately, Satellite events are the physical embodiment of TOA’s interdisciplinary, community-focussed ethos.

And Reem wants to help organise a series of unexpected events to spread this ethos to every corner of Berlin:

“I really love building a new overlap between two disparate and seemingly unconnected communities, so I want to see Satellite partners explore their wildest ideas when hosting a Satellite. Whatever they’re thinking of, I try to help them think of the biggest, most exciting version of their event!”

There will be 200+ unique Satellite Events all across Berlin, so whether you’re heading to the main TOA Festival or simply interested in a few of the most intriguing and far-flung events, we’d love to see you there.

Check out the ever-growing line-up and sign up to events here – and if you want to host a Satellite Event yourself, a very enthusiastic team awaits your email

Launching hardware? Find your ideal users, then work with them – until you blow their minds!


  • Roman Sick, COO of SXSW-prize winning audio tech company Holoplot, explains their journey from plucky innovators to globally-renowned front-runners.
  • “Imagine a music festival where the audience at the front has the same quality and volume as people 100 meters away – but the neighbours don’t hear anything.”
  • Roman’s advice for building a successful hardware business? Find your perfect initial customer, and work with them relentlessly – until it’s right.

The Hardware Pitch is one of TOA’s yearly highlights: a chance for startups to showcase their cutting-edge products. The last pitch, in July 2016, and  judged by tech luminaries Cindy Gallop, Bastian Bergmann, and Dave Mathews, was the most impressive line-up we’ve ever had.

Roman Sick, Holoplot | Photo: Dan Taylor

Amongst the finalists were the Potsdam-based company Holoplot, who built an audio hardware device that has to be heard to be believed.

It’s unusual for an experience that everyone is used to – in this case, hearing recorded sound – to be reinvented, but Holoplot managed to do exactly that.

You may have experienced it in TOA’s Startup Alley last year: walking through the space that Holoplot’s technology projects sound into is a remarkable feeling.

Voices or sounds suddenly appear in specific, focussed areas, and feel much more involving than ever before.

It turns out that, in making Holoplot finalists in 2016, TOA was ahead of the curve – because the ingenious hardware was recently named winner of the 2017 SXSW Interactive Innovation Award for Audio and Music Innovation.

TOA.life waited for the dust to settle a bit, and chatted to Roman Sick, COO of Holoplot, about the journey he has taken, Holoplot’s success in Austin, and the future of clubbing where you don’t have to shout at the bar…


TOA.life: Roman – Congratulations on the SXSW prize – it’s great to see Holoplot gain wider recognition on the other side of the Atlantic! What has the reaction been to your technology when you showed it at TOA and at SXSW?

Roman Sick, Holoplot: Thanks! The reactions to our technology are usually very positive as it’s a product where people can really experience a difference. It’s fun to test the product to see people enjoy it! The reactions at TOA were great and we got some valuable contacts in the aftermath.

SXSW was of course a bit different scale in general. After winning the Music & Audio Interactive Innovation award, we got a lot of press coverage – and also very interesting contacts on the customer and investor side. While TOA gave us a more local and national recognition, SXSW was our first international showcase.

At TOA we had the chance to participate in the hardware pitch and be part of the Investor Speed Dating, which provided us with direct valuable contacts and a stage to get more attention

TOA.life: You say you met useful and exciting people at TOA and at SXSW – how important is this kind of environment, and how did it help advance Holoplot’s journey?

RS: I think it’s a great (and mostly cheap) opportunity for young companies to reach out to a large audience of potential investors, customers, employees and other exciting companies.

TOA was actually our first-ever public showcase in the context of the tech & startup community, so it can definitely be described as a first step in the direction of SXSW! After TOA, we started to accelerate our public appearance a little bit, to help our process of fundraising and building a stronger network in Berlin.

At TOA we had the chance to participate in the hardware pitch and be part of the Investor Speed Dating, which provided us with direct valuable contacts and a stage to get more attention. As a result from that we got in contact with Deutsche Bahn, which are now an important partner for us. This had a very big impact on us!

We were following the same strategy at SXSW: we didn’t just want to be there as a guest and visit the event, but rather maximise our appearance. Besides being part of the German delegation, which gave us the opportunity to show the product for several days at the German Haus, we also participated in several on-stage pitches, as well as panel discussions and the award trade show.

TOA.life: What are future applications of this kind of remarkable sound technology? It seems like it could work in a number of applications: in public places, at music events and festivals, and to augment VR and AR experiences.

RS: Fundamentally, we solve the problem of controlling sound and bringing better audio quality to the listener. Our current applications range from public buildings with acoustically difficult architectures, to conferences, product demonstrations, trade shows and many more. Music, like clubs and festivals, are of course a relevant segment, but are not yet in our current focus of this first product.

To provide a fully immersive experience to the audience, the visually and the acoustic experience need to go hand in hand.

On top of that we offer the possibility to work much more freely and creative with sound, and hence enable professionals to provide new experiences, that haven’t been possible in the past. Our product is very interesting too for immersive audio – which is something not only the entertainment and music industry is interested in, but that new technologies like AR and VR basically rely on.

To provide a fully immersive experience to the audience, the visually and the acoustic experience need to go hand in hand. For now, most of the experiences rely on headphones, which have limitations in realistic experiences and are generally creating a single person event.

Our technology offers the potential to create a similar experience to headphones but without the isolation of the ears, which makes it more realistic, and a multi-person event.

Judges Dave Mathews and Cindy Gallop at TOA’s Hardware Pitch, 2016

TOA.life: How will technology like this affect they way we consume audio? Could Holoplot, for instance, change the way that people physically experience gig-going and clubbing?

RS: Absolutely. Our consumption of audio has been trained to a certain sound reproduction standard, which does not only not represent the way how the content sounds originally but also suffers from poor transmission.

Imagine a festival where the audience directly in front of the stage has the same quality and volume as people 100 meters away – but the neighbours don’t hear anything.

We provide a technology that not only allows a much more realistic experience, but also transmits a lot more of the good sound to the audience.

Imagine a festival where the audience directly in front of the stage has the same quality and volume as people 100 meters away – but the neighbours don’t hear anything. A club that has no sweet spot in the middle of the dancefloor but great sound everywhere – except at the bar, where people can now talk normally. A DJ can play a live set in a whole new dimension, by moving sound sources freely around the room, and bring them even closer to the audience.

It definitely has the potential to chance a lot of our music and entertainment experiences – and we are very excited about the direction this will be going.

TOA.life: What are your main learnings that you have discovered on your journey with Holoplot? What would you have loved to know a few years ago? What has been your best lesson?

RS: Get a good product vision early, feedback it with potential customers, and don’t get too distracted by other short-term temptations. Our technology has potential in many segments, but identifying the most beneficial, realistic and long-term interesting ones is not always easy.

We often had the case that some potential high-roller customers came along and requested special product development features, but we needed to learn that there is no golden ticket solution for every customer. Rather, find your perfect initial customer group, even if it’s small, get them excited and work together with them until you have something they are willing to pay for.

It’s something most people know, but putting it actually into practice is sometimes challenging, as the world isn’t black & white, but mostly grey.


At TOA, we book speakers who believe that their ideas will change the world: TOA’s hard-working knowledge-junkies – AKA the Content Team – explain why the book the speakers they do.

Scavenging energy from hidden urban spaces: hyper-local power for communities without connections: Charlotte Slingsby explains how to “scavenge” wind energy from scrappy airflow in turbulent inner cities.

At TOA, we book speakers who believe that their ideas will change the world


  • TOA’s Content Team explain exactly why the mix of speakers at TOA is unlike any other – and why you’ll leave TOA more inspired than a standard tech conference
  • “We book speakers who believe that their ideas will change the world. And we work really hard to find them.”
  • Tickets are selling fast – so why not make 2017 the year you dive into a tech festival like no other?

In this, the first of our weekly peeks behind TOA’s curtain, we’re paying a visit to TOA’s Content Team – the people who book the speakers, panels and initiate the discussions that make TOA so amazing.

There’s one piece of feedback we receive time and time again from our attendees, speakers and partners alike: “TOA’s just so different to other tech conferences!” It’s a happy truism which we’re unashamedly proud of, and work incredibly hard to maintain – from the unique open-air festival vibe to the stories the speakers tell.

TOA’s speakers are more than simply interesting – they tell unique stories, from people who make the decisions that shape our lives.

The ethos of the Content Team, comprising Rosie Horgan, Danielle Lemieux and Stefano Sacchi, is shaped by TOA’s experienced Head of Content Nadine Riede, and is focussed on one thing: fighting mediocrity!

For the Content Team, TOA’s speakers need to be more than simply interesting.

TOA speakers need to tell unique stories, and they need to be from people who make the decisions that shape our lives.

“When you leave TOA, I guarantee that the speaker who inspired you the most will be the one you least expected!”

Rosie Horgan, who’s been kicking ass and booking names in our Content Team, explains how they dig into the human side of tech to find something special:

Rosie Horgan, of TOA’s Content Team

“We want people to come to TOA and talk, person-to-person. We don’t want speakers to simply talk about their product: we want them to enthuse about their passions, the journey that brought them there, and how that made their unique project happen.

“TOA’s non-hierarchical in some important ways: we want to facilitate the exchange of powerful knowledge between everyone in attendance.

“And that’s something that is found in stories from the founder of a small, hyper-innovative startup, just as much as it is in the world’s biggest tech companies.

“So we book both – and when you leave TOA, I guarantee that the speaker who inspired you the most will be the one you least expected!”


TOA isn’t a stop on a victory-lap speaking tour.

It’s where CEOs and founders come to share deep-rooted beliefs, get asked tough questions, and to share the rarest of things: what makes them tick.

So TOA’s speakers are only the type of people who dream big and make things happen. You’ll hear it from the horse’s mouth – or to be more accurate, the Founders, CEOs and other C-level movers and shakers of the hottest startups, research institutes and creatives.

Danielle Lemieux sees her role in the Content Team in a kind of journalistic sense, sniffing out the real story that attendees want to hear:

“For me, the most important thing is finding founders who have a story. Unicorn companies are great – and we have a few lined up already! -– but I’m on the hunt for people who are looking for more than money and Silicon Valley stardom.

“We book speakers who believe that their ideas will change the world. And we work really hard to find them – because these are the stories that our audience will take with them and use to fuel their own adventures at the cutting edge.”

Rosie agrees: “We think of speakers as thought-leaders and humans rather than “CEO of XYZ.” We work closely with them all to draw out each amazing story – and they all have one. The idea is that TOA’s visitors will absorb the thinking of the people who actually make a difference.”

“We personally curate each topic and make sure it gives as much value to our audience as possible. You’ll hear things that have never crossed your mind!”

For Stefano it’s this personal touch – coupled with a slightly obsessive devotion to unearthing cool new stuff to learn along the way – is the key to what makes a TOA talk special:

“What’s important to me is inspiration, an eye-opening story, and knowledge – lots of knowledge! We personally curate each of TOA’s content topics, and make sure it gives as much value to our audience as possible.

“If you come to TOA, you’ll hear things that have never crossed your mind and you’ll be inspired to go and dominate the world!”

OK, so maybe Stefano is exaggerating a tiny bit.

You might not become supreme leader of the planet (yet) – but the Content Team aim to make sure that you feel a bit like that. It’s important that everyone leaves TOA brimming with confidence to start making their dreams a reality, whatever their discipline.

At TOA, you won’t find the same speakers trotting out the same presentations – and it’s our Content Team who work incredibly hard to find exactly the right speakers that will blow minds, and then invigorate them!

TOA’s hard-working Content Team has already booked a series of revolutionaries to speak: Damian Bradfield, President & CMO WeTransfer, who has fundamentally changed how we share things; Hector Ouilet, who, as Head of Design at Google Search, has transformed how we find information; and Nicole Shanahan, who, as Founder/CEO of ClearAccessIP is changing how data affects the law.

You’ll not want to miss it – join us in Berlin in July!


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Lab-grown “clean meat” — is a delicious, cruelty-free food future just a few years away?


  • Uma Valeti, CEO and co-founder of Memphis Meats, recently made waves when he announced that they’d created the world’s first cultured chicken.
  • “We expect our process to require up to 90% less water, land and greenhouse gas emissions than conventionally-produced meat.”
  • The big question: if you choose not to eat meat, would you eat Uma’s slaughter-free “clean meat?”

Thinner phones and faster processors are useful, but for a really impressive sign of our fast-paced times, the truly exciting technological developments are being made in areas beyond new shiny gadgets. Take food-tech, for instance. We’re all interested in what we eat — which makes the premise of lab-grown meat utterly intriguing.

Cultured meat seemed like science fiction until recently (it’s worth noting that some sci-fi movies thought we’d be eating rat before eating lab-grown meat) and yet the leaps being made by companies like Memphis Meats are rapid, and far-reaching.

Memphis Meat’s recent announcement of cultured chicken was greeted with excitement possibly because it fulfils many people’s dream of “real” meat from a cruelty-free — and guilt-free — source.

Uma speaking at the TOA World Tour event in Austin, Texas at SXSW

Uma spoke at our TOA World Tour event at SXSW in Austin,Texas — and as you’d expect with a subject this groundbreaking and tantalisingly close, his talk only scratched the surface.

So TOA.life asked Uma to explain what the tipping point for adoption of cultured meat will be — and what excites him the most about the potential of what he terms “clean meat.”

And while you’re chewing this over, if you’d like to hear more from bleeding-edge thinkers, makers, and doers like Uma, you’ll love the Tech Open Air festival in Berlin — tickets are selling fast…


TOA.life: Uma, it feels like cultured meat has transitioned really quickly from being wishful thinking to something that will be on menus soon. What accounts for these rapid leaps forward?

Uma Valeti, Memphis Meats: We’ve had a number of technological breakthroughs that have allowed us to expand our research aims.

Our platform is an integrated set of technologies and processes that allows us to produce many types of meat, and to fine tune the taste, texture and nutrition profile of the meat. It will also help us to scale up production and reduce costs. We think the platform is a huge competitive advantage.

The global market for meat is almost a trillion dollars.

TOA.life: People are clearly enthusiastic about the prospect of cultured meat — just look at the reaction to your announcement of lab-grown chicken. What excites people most about cultured meat? Is it the environmental impact? The lack of cruelty?

UV: Different people get excited by different aspects of our mission. We expect our meat to be significantly better for the environment (we expect our process to require up to 90% less water, land and greenhouse gas emissions than conventionally-produced meat), the animals and human health.

Aside from the mission, some are also excited by the tremendous economic opportunity this company represents (the global market for meat is almost a trillion dollars).

TOA.life: Now that “clean meat” is getting closer to supermarket shelves, market forces become a real issue. What does cultured meat need to do before it replaces existing meat supplies?

UV: Our goal is to produce meat that tastes great and is affordable. If we can do that, we are confident we will be successful as a company, and have a massive impact on the world.

TOA.life: And what about the role this meat can play in parts of the world where money and resources are tighter?

UV: A part of our mission is to increase access to delicious, healthy and affordable meat. We do hope to provide a better meat source to the entire world, and that could go a long way to feeding a hungry world population.

TOA.life: Finally — do you expect that in twenty years, cultured meat will be our go-to, standard choice? Will we look back on slaughtered meat and wonder how we could morally accept it?

UV: We want to give consumers a choice between clean meat and conventionally-produced meat. Given a choice, we think people will choose clean meat, because we are working to make it better tasting, more affordable, better for the body, and better for the planet.


This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it to other people who’d be interested.


“Millennials & Post-Millennials don’t hate advertising — they hate experiences that slow them down”: Shahar Erez of marketing tech company Kenshoo, explains how advertising will become contextual & more effective…

Scavenging energy from hidden urban spaces: hyper-local power for communities without connections: Charlotte Slingsby explains how to “scavenge” wind energy from scrappy airflow in turbulent inner cities.

Scavenging energy from hidden urban spaces: hyper-local power for communities without connections


  • Charlotte Slingsby, founder of Moya Power, believes that we can “scavenge” wind energy from scrappy airflow in turbulent inner cities.
  • “There would be massive benefits if people start generating their own independent energy… there are people that have never had access to it.”
  • In a future where we grab every last little bit of wind power, could cities themselves change shape to emphasise energy generation?

Director John Lassiter’s movie “Toy Story” revolutionised an art form with the liberal use of new technology. He puts the relationship between art and technology very succinctly: “Art challenges technology, and technology inspires art.”

All creative projects tread the line between art and technology, and often the challenge is to make something that fulfils the two disciplines’ broad objectives of beauty and usefulness. Charlotte Slingsby, graduate of London’s Royal College of Art, knows how difficult and rewarding taking this path can be.

She, and the company she founded, Moya Power, has created a revolutionary material with a revolutionary purpose: to “scavenge” the gusty wind energy in cities that can’t be harnessed by traditional turbines.

It has potential beyond simple energy generation, allowing for hyper-local, small-scale energy generation in communities that may not have connections to the traditional grid.

Charlotte will be speaking at TOA 2017, and in advance of her talk, she spoke to TOA.life about the future of energy generation and how communities will be able to share what they can scavenge…


TOA.life: Moya’s technology allows for small amounts of electricity to be generated and stored over a large area and a large period of time. This is quite different to most energy generation, which is centralised and then distributed — how does Moya work?

Charlotte Slingsby, Moya Power: The motive for the research behind Moya Power is to find a solution to harnessing energy from within the city boundaries. It’s an untraditional source of energy, which therefore requires an untraditional approach to harvest it.

Wind energy is challenging to harvest within the city due to the density of infrastructure. As wind comes into the city, it hits the buildings, slows it down, and makes it turbulent.

Moya aims to capture these bits of scattered wind energy across the surface of infrastructure through a device that is readily adaptable to different surfaces, and is low-cost when mass-manufactured.

Moya’s device is a flexible sheet which supports thousands of free-standing filaments, embedded with a piezoelectric film, which converts strain energy [energy stored by an object being deformed] directly into electricity.

As each filament is moved by the wind back and forth it generates an Alternating Current: these tiny bits of energy are then rectified, accumulated and stored into useful energy.

Good city planning and infrastructure will be needed to support a dynamic flow of energy that can be generated and pushed into a distributed grid.

TOA.life: In the medium-term, wind, wave, and solar generation is increasingly viable as a major energy source. One consequence of a future where we all generate small amounts of energy, is that we start sharing the benefits of communal generation.

What sort of infrastructure do communities need to build to make this inter-connected future happen?

CS: Good city planning and infrastructure will be needed to support a dynamic flow of energy that can be generated and pushed into a distributed grid.

Homes and businesses are built on top of each other, and they often don’t own infrastructure that is exposed to enough solar and wind energy to make traditional approaches viable. Moya can be used as a dynamic building material and mounted on surfaces where both environmental and man-made wind is available, for the direct generation of power.

It can be mounted upside-down, lining the underside of bridges or the inside of tunnels, without putting strain on the structure or foundations. These applications give value to otherwise unused spaces.

There would be massive benefits if people start generating their own independent sources of energy. We hope that Moya’s untraditional approach could let people exploit whatever kind of surface area they own to scavenge the energy that it is exposed to, and be part of this inevitable communal generation.

TOA.life: In a future where we scavenge energy, could the actual design of buildings, cities and infrastructure change to adapt to energy collection? What would a city like this look like?

CS: We view the city as the first viable place to focus research and development, as we urgently need to find solutions for sustaining the energy needs of our cities without solely relying on fossil fuels. Yet what about the people across the world that have never had access to energy?

I come from South Africa, where power cuts have become everyday reality and you are exposed to extreme poverty. “Moya”, which means “wind” in Xhosa (one of South Africa’s eleven official languages), is my way of keeping it connected to its initial motives.

It would be a dream to see architects incorporate Moya Power sheets as part of their designs and use it as a building textile.

My aim would be to provide a new material to harvest energy that can be afforded by those who need it most, taking advantage of whatever land or space you may own; be it an overpopulated city centre, a shack in a township, or the vast expanse of the desert.

There is an emerging trend of dynamic facades that can be seen across the world — there is both budget and desire to see more than just stagnant concrete jungles, and let movement be part of the architectural design. It would be a dream to see architects incorporate Moya Power sheets as part of their designs and use it as a building textile.


This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it to other people who’d be interested.


 “Millennials and Post-Millennials do not hate advertising — but they do hate experiences that slow them down.” – Shahar Erez, SVP, Chief Product Officer of marketing tech company Kenshoo, explains how advertising will soon become contextual, more appropriate — and more effective.
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