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Bits & Pretzels – 4 Speakers to Watch out for at this Startup Founders Festival in Munich

bits & pretzels munich oktoberfest

Bits & Pretzels, Munich


From hostage negotiators to neural network experts, the 3 day Founders Festival with over 5,000 participants will be offering Oktoberfest Networking along with Startup Night. Cryptocurencies, IoT, Blockchain, Future of Mobility and Gender Equality are among topics that would take centerstage.

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Compared to Tech Week London or Disrupt SF, this event is rather niche and known to a smaller audience in popular media. But has participation from household names like Google, Volkswagen, Audi (YES!), KPMG, Trivago, Siemens, SAP, stackoverflow, Bosch, Osram, Amazon, McKinsey, to name a few.

Last year’s speakers included star footballer Oliver Kahn, actor Kevin Spacey (now dropped from the panel) and Amazon CTO Werner Vogels. Richard Branson had attended the first edition.

Munich is vying to take the top entrepreneurial spot from Berlin in Germany, and both have an active startup scene. There are more than 450 registered new enterprises, among which Biotech, IoT and Insurance related startups are faring better in Munich. Academia-industry interaction has been a forte of the city, which is home to some of the biggest companies based out of Germany.

I was lucky to have been selected as a winner of the “Diversity Challenge” at Bits and Pretzels. And received a free ticket to the event (otherwise for ~400 Euros for early stage startups. As high as 1,700 for corporate attendees).  However, would hate to give it a miss this time, as i have some family commitments. Besides, being selected for an expedition in another country at around the same time held me back from applying for a Schengen Visa. Too late, and then hardly any time to find a hotel at realistic prices during Oktoberfest rush!

And while in Germany (especially in Munich), it goes without saying, the approach towards investments and fund-raising for startups would be very “business-like”. Meaningful interactions and actionable goals. That’s Germany for me and you when it comes to business!

It will be interesting to watch some of the pioneering speakers attending the program. And repent missing the quirkiness of Oktoberfest that engulfs Munich for 2 good weeks.

(All speaker photographs are courtesy of Bits & Pretzels website)

Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg.png

Former F1 World Champion & Tech Investor

Finnish-German Formula One racing driver who won the 2016 world championship. Upon retiring from the big win, Rosberg has been actively investing in startups like Lyft, What3Words, Formula E and SpaceX. He tries to focus on “impact technologies“. He had briefly met Elon Musk at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix, followed by Franz von Holhausen, Chief Design Office of Tesla in 2017.

What3words is mapping the world into 57 trillion 3-x-3-meter (or 10×10 ft) squares. Each square has been assigned a unique three-word address. The app has average rating of 4.3 on Google Play store.

Tarana Burke at Bits & Pretzels

tarana burke at bits & pretzels

Founder of #MeToo Movement

Yes, hardly any of us would be aware of the first founder of this movement. Starting in October 2017, #MeToo movement against sexual harassment went viral. Tarana, an American social activist and community organizer had started using the “Me Too” phrase as early as 2006. In 2017, actress Alyssa Milano urged victims of sexual harassment to tweet about it, which gave a sense of the magnitude of the problem. The impact was huge, in over 85 countries, while there was some criticism to go with as well.

Tanmay Bakshi at Bits & Pretzels

Tanmay Bakshi

Neural Network Architect; Founder of ‘Tanmay Teaches’

This news article by CNBC describes Tanmay Bakshi as “Computer programmer, artificial intelligence expert and all-around tech extraordinaire”. All of 14 years old (only!), he has developed apps, spoken at TEDx Conferences, and delivered talks at IBM Watson summits in countries like Finland, New Zealand, Denmark. This timeline traces his talent ‘down the ages’:

  • Age 5 – started learning to code, with help from dad Puneet Bakshi
  • Age 7 – set up his YouTube channel, posting tutorials on coding and web development. It has over 275,000 subscribers
  • At 9 years of age – first app accepted into Apple iOS Store
  • Age 11 – first caught the attention of IBM Watson. Has been working on Document Service and a Watson app “Ask Tanmay”, which can answer any question

Matthias Schranner

Matthias Schranner.png

Hostage Negotiator & CEO, Schranner Negotiation Institute

He worked with the German Police. In his 17 years long career, he oversaw crimes such as kidnappings and hostage situations. Having worked as an undercover agent in drug enforcement, he was also trained by the FBI. His Switzerland based negotiations institute has consulted to clients like the United Nations, Fortune 500 companies, political parties and government leaders.

One speaker who certainly adds a pinch of mystery and awe to the event – he did that last year too with a presence at Bits & Pretzels 2017.

Apparently, Abhinav Sinha, the COO of OYO Rooms was also listed as a speaker until few days ago. He may have changed plans due to other commitments. But it would be have been nice to listen to the COO of Startup of the Year 2018 in India!

Bits & Pretzels Tickets and Dates

You can see full list of speakers here. And if you’re already headed to Munich for the Oktoberfest, you can still get tickets to Bits & Pretzel events starting September 30.

Startup pitches in segments like mobility, insurance-banking, IoT-Hardware and services take place on 30th September.

1st October finds the spotlight shifting to Africa-related topics. Commerce and marketplace startup pitches, and talks on female entrepreneurs and lean startup methods take place on the same day.

On-table meetings between investors and startups are reserved for 2nd October, during the Oktoberfest networking session. To end with, there is Munich Startup Award and a surprise closing round!

The venue is at Messestadt, the usual place for all big events in Munich. Will hope to make it to the 2019 edition of Bits & Pretzels! Auf Wiedersehen 🙂

(That last ‘bit’ is the German equivalent of “Hasta la vista”)

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