The Next Web Conference 2016: €566M fund for EU startups, hope for sharing economy

"If there's no toilet paper, tweet me", The Next Web founder Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten ended his opening speech. It demonstrated the laid back atmosphere of a business conference that's intended not to feel like it's a business conference.

Yup, there are "curated" food trucks and awesome visuals. The conference "is being Snapchatted, Periscoped, and there may be even people taking photos". In the opening hours on stage, jokes and puns about drugs are a staple. This festival-like approach is just what makes The Next Web unique for The Netherlands and possibly even Europe.

As The Next Web expects 20.000 visitors in two days, the Amsterdam Westergas area this year is even more occupied than before. It's safe to say that one day the whole park may be needed. Here's what's we thought was important + some quotes from throughout the day:

EQT Ventures: 566 million euro fund for EU startups

Kees Koolen (ex-Booking.com, ex-Uber) from EQT Ventures announced they raised 566 million euro for a new fund. The fund is meant for startups in all growth stages throughout Europe. "EQT Ventures is modeled after what VC we would have wanted on our own entrepreneurial journeys. I don’t think anyone in Europe rivals our team no matter if it’s about earlier stage innovation or about scaling a company to become a global winner." The fund is backed by a global investor base including, among others, HarbourVest Partners, Ilmarinen, Finnish Industry Investment, European Investment Fund (EIF) and several Scandinavian pension funds.

Peerby: There's hope for the sharing economy

"I don't want to tell a success story, I want to be honest. I would like to tell you how it is, like I share something with my friends", Daan Weddepohl, CEO of Peerby said about the hard stuff of being an entrepreneur. Especially in his niche: a marketplace in the sharing economy.

"Marketplaces are hard, because you have two groups of customers that you need to please. 9 out of 10 startups fail, I'm not surprised 99 out of 100 marketplace startups will fail." Weddepohl really wanted to stress this out: "They say having a startup is like raising a kid. So having a marketplace startup is like raising a twin. Then a marketplace startup in the sharing economy is like raising triplets."

The Dutch founder stresses that at the beginning the sharing economy was praised, but now "press got angry" about the promises of said economy. "Is the sharing economy only about money? Are there no ideals left?", he asked himself.

Weddepohl thinks there's still hope: "We live in a world of abundance and people love to share. We’re heading towards decentralized companies and shareholder structures. With crowdfunding for instance you can compete with VC's. There's a redefinition of value going on."

Impraise: Celebrating diversity

The people at Impraise (co-founded by Dutchie CEO Bas Kohnke) do cool stuff. That's why they're in the Y Combinator and got recently funded. But there's more to that, I found out as I talked with them.

The startup had quite the international tour before it settled down: it started in Sweden, went to Berlin, entered an accelerator in Lisbon, went to San Francisco, then to Amsterdam, and now has its HQ in New York where they attend the Y Combinator programme. It keeps Amsterdam as its European HQ "because it's in the center of Europe and everyone speaks English here", says Matias Rodsevich from Impraise.

For the startup, English as a language is important because the team of 24 has a staggering amount of 15 nationalities (I won't name them all, but yes, Uzbekistan is among them). "In Berlin for instance, it's hard to talk English. Here everyone's interested in talking English with you." At the office, Impraise is celebrating diversity quite literally: "The more nationalities, the better. That way you have more insights from all around the world. So we have a little party when there's a new nationality."

Age seems to be another parameter for diversity: "We hired a 55 year old finance guy. It's a bit like the movie The Intern. But he was eager to work with us, so why not? It's refreshing sometimes to not be a startup with only young people."

Tech 5 winner

The fastest growing European startup is the German Lesara, which showed a nearly 8000 percent rise in revenue since its start in 2013. Painful for us Dutchies: the whole top 5 consisted of German startups. The first Dutch startup to appear in the European list is Tiqets at place 9.

Quotes

"Words are good at the literal, but bad at the abstract"

"Content has become our culture"

"Loop is life" (all by Adam Leibsohn, COO Giphy)

"The customer journey isn't a funnel, it's a maze" (Mark Josephson, CEO Bitly)

"Luckily we stayed independent. It's impossible for me to deal with corporate BS. I'm not suitable for corporate life, not al all." (Janneke Niesen, co-founder Improve Digital on what happens after an acquisition by a big company)