I was asked to write an article about my experience building up Matchmaking at Bits & Pretzels – which I did gladly.
Thanks for reading and sharing in advance!
If you expect kind of "5 quick steps for overnight success" – keep on searching.
This article is indeed about Matchmaking and Bits & Pretzels, but also about giving you a multidimensional case study. It's a case study on how to break new ground, how innovative projects come into being, it's a case study on empowering happiness. I hope it inspires you to try out new things yourself, to do the right thing every step of the way and when time comes, to enjoy the fruit of your labor.
HOW TO ENABLE OUTSTANDING NETWORKING AT EVENTS
HOW MATCHMAKING MAKES NETWORKING AT BITS & PRETZELS REMARKABLE
HOW MATCHMAKING CAME INTO BEING
It all started as an experiment in 2017 and developed to a huge success in 2018. Imagine, ... but first, more facts:
Bits & Pretzels is an application-only, three-day festival that connects 5.000 founders, investors, startup enthusiasts, and other decision-makers of the startup ecosystem. The festival takes place in a unique setting around the Oktoberfest in Munich. Next event date: September 29th – October 1st, 2019.
Successful founders from all around the world, as well as young aspiring entrepreneurs, meet at the event for inspiration, learning, and networking. Among the speakers are remarkable people from politics, sports and art for example, who have strong connection to entrepreneurship. Of course there are also founders and managers from e.g. AirBnB, Uber, Velocopter, MyMüsli, Runtastic, Stack Overflow, Zalando as well as well-known corporations. My personal favorite by now is sir Richard Branson.
On the last day, all attendees, speakers and table captains come together in one tent at Oktoberfest.
Matchmaking at Bits & Pretzels – we enable startups, investors, corporates, and other entrepreneurship enthusiasts to meet, match, and build meaningful connections. For that account we provide:
a 140 square meters sized Matchmaking Area, which you can visit at anytime to network and benefit from our offering
you can actually talk to us Matchmakers face-to-face – real people – who help you make the best out of the event, with tips tailored for your current situation
a diverse Matchmaking crew of 45 highly skilled and motivated matchmakers – among them: young or experienced founders, intrapreneurs, corporates and service providers; age range: 20 to 50; people who know and are well-known in Munich’s startup ecosystem; people from abroad e. g. Silicon Valley; 70% females; we speak 10+ languages
online “Find & Offer” platform, where anyone can place or find relevant requests, e.g. investment, job offers, biz. partnerships etc.
8 Speed Dating Sessions with 900 people, 15 meetups on relevant topics with 350 people
in total, more than 1.500 people matched
13.000 contacts enabled
5.000 cups of coffee
2. HOW TO ENABLE OUTSTANDING NETWORKING AT EVENTS
as an individual / business you should have something to offer and of course know what you look for, at least you know it when you see it
attitude: ready to get out of your comfort zone in order to make the above happen
right people – other attendees are same but different – meaning that when you meet someone you are different enough (background, resources, goals, location etc.) but nevertheless like-minded (e.g. interested in hardware, wanting to check fast if you are a good match, open for partnerships)
plenty of people – obviously the number ot attendees helps when it comes to meeting new people
framework – such as tech (app, WiFi etc.), location, place to mingle, agenda incl. speakers, moderators / hosts, food & beverages, party
good vibes – this one can be created by all the above and it can be even topped thanks to some additional aspects – check out next paragraph
(stay tuned for more articles on networking for startups, corporates and service providers)
3. HOW MATCHMAKING MAKES NETWORKING AT BITS & PRETZELS REMARKABLE – 9 factors
Each of the following 9 factors lays the foundation for Matchmaking at Bits & Pretzels. Leveraging them all 9 at the same time makes it an unique experience and a huge success.
there's no Bits & Pretzels without them – the three founders are Bits's face, brain and booster
they know what entrepreneurs, investors and executives need, because of their own experience as such
they have very different personalities with diverse strengths and weaknesses and make real an unbeatable team
each of them first built his own business and reputation, then they joined powers and shouted out "world, come join us at #Bits" ... and the world did, still does
they know exactly what they want und at the same time keep an open mind and love improvising – the big picture counts
B. Event participants
5.000 international and multi-cultural people with diverse professional backgrounds
startups, investors, corporates, service providers, media, students, speakers
high percentage of females
"first-timers" who bringing fresh ideas, questions and trends; "regulars" who enable kind of a "class reunion" atmosphere
C. Oktoberfest motto – the opposite of "digital, tech, online, agile, internet" is indeed Oktoberfest. It is a symbol of long-standing traditions; Bavaria; beer and food; music + leisure park = play, forget work. In my opinion that kind of contrast makes the event one of a kind, unmistakable with others; Non-Germans get even more curious and willing to join
D. Munich's entrepreneurship eco system – while e. g. Berlin is cool and hip, Munich unites important well-known and hidden champions from a broad range on industries. That helps founders e.g. to work part-time while starting up, to partner up with the big ones, to get fast R&D, get B2B and B2C customers, benefit from corporate accelerators, contests etc.
OK. Now let't come back to the factors "framework" and "good vibes" from above.
What transforms "many people", "right people" and "framework" into meaningful connections for people and businesses? A max tailored-made framework and ... good vibes. In our case those come from:
E. Matchmaking Team – crew of 45 highly skilled and motivated volunteers
diversity: young or experienced founders, intrapreneurs, corporates and service providers; age range: 20 to 50; incl. people from abroad e. g. Silicon Valley; 70% females; 10+ languages; extroverts and introverts
connected: they know and are well-known in Munich’s startup ecosystem
one common goal – enabling networking
individual goals correlating with the common goal
passionate about people, business and the greater good
code of conduct
where preparation meets opportunity, magic happens
having the official role as matchmakers plus feeling proud of being a matchmaker provides confidence and clarity in communication, leads to results for all parties involved due to good vibes & efficient networking
F. Matchmaking Area & Program – a physical place, where you can go at any time and be welcomed by friendly, professional networking-hosts. Here we offer fixed formats plus spontaneous networking conversations. Thus for example you spend an hour speed dating, meet 20 different people/companies and in the next hour you go in deeper conversations with three of them. Or you attend a meetup and hear what's on the mind of startups, students, executives, investors – all united by common interests e.g. robotics. At the end of the day you go home with valuable connections & business opportunities.
G. Galina as Head of Matchmaking – My name is Galina Bankova. I am 37, born and raised in Bulgaria, living in Munich since 2004, entrepreneur, coach and speaker, who loves what she does – enabling people to find and do work that they love and jump out of bed in the morning, excited about the new day. I consider the following to be what makes me successful as Head of Matchmaking:
10+ years experience in personal development, events, team dynamics, startup ecosystem, networking
passion for startups and other environments, where meaningful things happen, fast, fuss-free
as a Bulgarian who was raised with communist values and beliefs, I can't help but socialize and create opportunities for socializing to happen
passion and talent for seeing people's potential and tapping it
always aiming at Win-Win-Wins
being founder, MD and thought leader at Do Work You Love
H. Do Work You Love Network – here you meet people who are passionate about what they do. Some look for new jobs or start their own business; others represent cool employers looking for new colleagues - offering jobs; third segment: products and services which enable others to do their work in a better, faster, cheaper, easier way. Do Work You Love is the perfect place to find people with matchmaking qualities and attitude – personal and professional. That's what I did. I hand-picked 30 people in 2017 and 50 people in 2018 who I identified as "matchmaking material".
I. Coffee & beer – Folk knows and says "let's meet up for a beer / over a cup coffee". Don't joke with the folk. Drink beer, drink coffee ... and mingle. Beer we've got (Oktoberfest). That's why we also have the best coffee in town as part of the Matchmaking concept, provided by Münchner Kaffeerösterei.
4. HOW MATCHMAKING CAME INTO BEING?
Each of the following 5 factors (plus some more) enabled the start of Matchmaking at Bits & Pretzels. I describe them here, because this article is not only about Matchmaking and Bits & Pretzels. It's also about giving you a case study on how to break new ground, how innovative projects come into being. I hope it inspires you to try out new things yourself, to do the right thing every step of the way and when time comes, to enjoy the fruit of your labor.
A. The three Founders – they constantly "get out of the building" – e.g. during #Bits they are present and visible all of the time, they talk to people. Before and after event they ... yet talk to people, ask for feedback and take the feedback seriously.
Furthermore in December 2015 I met Andy in person. Both of us were speaking at 12min.me and got to know each other on stage. That helped later on.
B. Demand – #Bits team changed the concept a lot during its first 3 years (2014 - 2016). New venue, new program, went from 100 to 3000 participants, later on to 5.000 ... People spoke and the organizers listened. It was time to change more than numbers, it was time to change the way how people interacted with each other.
C. Galina – I attended #Bits2015 and was first disappointed. Nevertheless I gave it a second chance, in 2016. It was much better, but still with room for improvement. Because I already knew Andy and saw huge potential in the event, I invested time and energy in giving detailed feedback. My intention was to help, if possible, for #Bits to be improved and lots of people to benefit from that.
D. Kira – ah ... Kira! She basically made Matchmaking happen :-) Working as a conference manager side by side with fabulous Christian, she was with #Bits from 2015 till 2017. After me submitting the feedback in 2016 and mailing her, Kira subscribed to my Do Work You Love Newsletter. A month later, she attended one of our events. Here we connected and arranged to meet up later. Time passed, but we eventually met for a coffee – in spring 2017 ... two event managers among themselves. No agenda, just chatting. When I meet people who are worth supporting I always ask "What are you up to these days? How can I help?" That's how we started diving deep into ideas on how to innovate events, communication and networking ... especially at #Bits. Next time we met for a coffee, Kira asked "Hey Galina, how about you coming on board and help us set up Matchmaking at #Bits?" I said yes. She then managed to get the founders and the rest of the team on board and made them feel excited about something that didn't exist yet, something they couldn't even imagine (no tech behind it, no measurable KPIs, concept was based on people – whom you can't control). On top, it was supposed to be managed by someone they barely knew – me. I still wonder how it all worked out. Kira and her way of connecting the dots was the magic sauce, I believe. I perceive her role and impact back then as kind of being a translator between different stakeholders and their languages, resources and goals; she cashed in the trust everyone had in her and stayed on track, for months. Until everything fell into place ... and Matchmaking at #Bits was born :)
E. Matchmaking Team – the first few people to join were matchmakers by heart without labeling it as match making – such a thing didn't really exist as a term / activity / job. They had the passion, the skills and were looking for something, somewhere, somehow – to be and do stuff, that feels good. Meaningful stuff. There was no such a place out there before Matchmaking @ Bits & Pretzels – so they didn't really know what they were looking for. But those awesome people were hungry for it. Once on the team, having the whole framework, the training plus their official role, they continued to grow, to thrive and to make a difference. They became the glue, the leaders and the booster for all the other team mates who joined later. This way the powerful matchmaking culture was successfully set up and ready to be spread outwards.
5. KEY TAKEAWAYS:
A. Success Stories – Testimonials by event attendees
students: "Thanks for the opportunity to meet investors and executives at eye level. Without Matchmaking I wouldn't have dared to approach them because I assume they wouldn't be interested in talking to me, before I have something huge to offer."
startups: "Speed dating with investors, advisors and potential partners helped us a lot. It's crazy that some sessions had more investors than startups – that's huge for us."
corporates: "We wanted to build real connections to startups and understand how they think, what they need and how we can partner up. Thanks to Matchmaking it became true."
service providers: "Finally there's a slot where we meet people who are interested in our services. We talk and identify synergies without feeling like us being the bad guys for selling service."
B. Juicy talks and VIP speakers attract people to the event, but once they are here attendees want human-to-human interaction and real connections, even at digital events
C. Bits & Pretzels provides the right framework for outstanding Matchmaking, see arguments above
D. Matchmaking success factors in a nutshell: setting up a framework consisting of People + Tech + Process
E. What you wish to kindle in others must burn within yourself first – if you want your "guests" to be passionate and good in networking, you go first
F. Matchmaking as a concept could be successfully replicated, but only with the right attitude, framework and people!
G. Doing the Right Thing is always the right thing
... and my personal number #1:
H: Win-Win-Win-Wins are doable and my favorite way to think, act, work and to make a difference in the world!
See you at Matchmaking Area #Bits19!