Germany: Laptops and lederhosen

When Munich celebrates its Oktoberfest, it’s also time for the start-up festival “Bits & Pretzels”. A blend of future-forward, regional and traditional, the event has grown constantly over the years.

Bits & Pretzels 2019 (f.l.t.r.): Andreas Bruckschlögl, Felix Haas, Barack Obama and Bernd Storm van’s Gravesande (Photo: Messe München / Bits & Pretzels)
Bits & Pretzels 2019 (f.l.t.r.): Andreas Bruckschlögl, Felix Haas, Barack Obama and Bernd Storm van’s Gravesande (Photo: Messe München / Bits & Pretzels)

Bits & Pretzels’ roots go back almost a decade. The first founders’ event took place in September 2014. It was launched back then by Andreas Bruckschlögl and Bernd Storm van's Gravesande. In January 2015 Felix Haas joined the team as the third co-host. The trio gave the event its current name, reflecting a mix of high-tech and Bavarian “gemütlichkeit”. One of the reasons for Bits & Pretzels was a lack of awareness at the time: Until 2014, the discussion about start-ups was mostly focused on Berlin only. However, Munich also had a founder scene of its own, as the organiser team knew. Their aim was to give these start-ups in the Bavarian capital greater visibility.

True to the Bavarian business motto “laptops and lederhosen” the event kicked off with a breakfast at the Hofbräuhaus. Ever since, the number of attendees has grown constantly. Soon, the Löwenbräukeller with capacities for up to 1,800 people was the chosen venue. But the founders wanted to think bigger and reach an international audience. Their solution was to co-locate the event with the Oktoberfest and also to find a larger space. Since 2015, Bits & Pretzels has been held at International Congress Center Messe München (ICM). Three years later, even closer ties were forged: In 2018 Messe München acquired a ten per cent stake in the event. The intention behind this was to grow even further by adding to its professional cachet.

The idea was to co-locate the event with the Oktoberfest (Photo: Bits & Pretzels)
The idea was to co-locate the event with the Oktoberfest (Photo: Bits & Pretzels)

This September Bits & Pretzels already took place for the tenth time. It is now considered one of the leading events for the start-up scene in Europe with 5,000 guests. Its celebrity factor brings additional attention to the event. Time and again, the organisers have invited high-profile guests such as Barack Obama, Kevin Spacey, Jessica Alba or even Arnold Schwarzenegger. Michelle Obama came to the most recent event for an estimated fee of 700,000 euros, as the media reported. But basically, the not-so-glamorous names are the focus of Bits & Pretzels: At the latest edition this autumn 15,000 meetings were arranged between financially strong investors and capital-seeking founders. And now there is even a spin-off event: Bits & Pretzels HealthTech.

International Congress Center Messe München (ICM) with its modern congress infrastructure is the perfect venue for this future-forward event. It has capacities for up to 6,000 attendees and a wide range of facilities. The latter can be tailored to the requirements of Bits & Pretzels with large auditoriums and flexible meeting rooms. The adjacent halls of the exhibition centre offer further growth potential (www.messe-muenchen.de). And the location also plays a significant role: Munich is a metropolis that sees itself as a local start-up ecosystem. Last but not least, its internationally renowned elite universities TUM or LMU strongly promote entrepreneurship and innovation.

Author: Peter Borstel

This article was published in TFI Issue 3/2023

 
 

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