ESTC 2009 Impressions

Start of December I attended the ESTC 2009 (European Semantic Technologies Conference) here in Vienna.

It was my first attendence, and it was interesting to see how the non-academic faction of the semantic web crowd looked like. I had seen the academic portion at the ESWC 2009 where I presented a paper on semantic time series in one of the workshops.

And while I wore my Topic Maps T-shirt publicly in Heraklion, at the ESTC it was kept well hidden under my pullover all the time. It is cold here in December, anyway.

The Next Supermodel?

One remarkable thing at this conference was the Innovation Seed Camp.

Several Austrian, but also other european startups could pitch their business model, partly in front of other startups, partly before VCs. The procedure reminded me of these The Next Supermodel shows:

  • the host would ask a young person (usually in their twenties) onto the stage,
  • then a bit of fiddling with the slides,
  • then 20 minutes mostly bullshit, vocabulary straight from the how to talk to a venture capitalist dictionary,
  • then the host would thank the presenter off the stage.

But maybe my Supermodel analogy is wrong: I do not even own a TV, so how would I know that show?

Only very few (for instance Leo from Gnowsis) had a decent pitch, the rest was unconvincing, sometimes even pathetic. The negative culmination came from Romania:

  • "Give us 1 million Euro".
  • "We will multiply it with 10."
  • "=> You get it back tenfold."


But maybe my "Supermodel" analogy is not so wrong after all: I got the impression that the general thinking is

  • "Get rich. Or die while trying."

All in all, most startup people made an exhausted, tired impression. Easy game for VCs. Maybe that's a path I could persue. Enslaving young people can't be that wrong.

Viennese Mafia

One disconcerting incident I had involved one of these startups.

In one of the breaks, just when I got myself another apple juice from the bar, one of the eastern european startup people chatted me up:

"And you also belong to the Viennese mafia?"

He was grinning, but he still caught me off-guard. I managed to mumble something like

  • "I know what you mean, but no."

but actually I have no idea what he meant. Still, it rings in my ears and things like these make me wonder. And they make me somewhat reassess the funding situation for semantic technologies here.

Maybe time to move on.

Overall Impression

Very good place to talk to people about semantic technologies and their business models. Bad place for presentations. Interesting product tutorials, though.

Excellent food at a first-address venue. Thank God, I have been sponsored. ;-)

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