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What are the processes behind the largest start-up event in central Germany? We asked Alexander Müller, one of the organizers of Accelerate @ HHL. Also, you will find out how the participants crowned the winner of the pitch contest through an app and where they found special speakers such as Rolf Schrömgens. Enjoy reading ?
LineUpr: Hello Alex. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Please introduce yourself and Accelerate @ HHL.
Alex: Accelerate @ HHL is a student-organized entrepreneurship conference in Leipzig. With about 350 guests over the course of two days, we are, to my knowledge, the largest event of its kind in Central Germany. From keynote lectures to panel discussions and workshops, we offer our guests a diverse program. The whole thing is rounded off with a kicker tournament and our closing party.
As a team member myself, I’m involved now for the second year and I am currently available as a board member to all four of our divisions.
LineUpr: You already hinted at it, but maybe you can explain precisely what added value you offer the participants?
Alex: While we have been able to grow strongly in the past, over the past two years it has become apparent that our guests, and we too, experience the highest added value through the current size: The close contact between participants, speakers and the companies supporting us is undoubtedly unique and has always been mentioned as one of our most important features. For example, Rolf Schrömgens, who even went to NASDAQ with Trivago last year, was within reach of our guests at the coffee bar. If you are not afraid, you have the opportunity not only to make unique contacts but also to get to know the speakers and get tips off the big stage.
Overall, I think it is a familiar atmosphere and guests who visit us for the first time, notice that very quickly. One of the start-ups that participated in our pitch contest, and which was already in an accelerator programme of VW, told me that Accelerate was also able to deliver the best value for their business contacts.
And of course, the mix of interesting lectures, workshops and company contacts is fascinating for a very wide audience. With the BBQ party on the first day and the party on the second evening, we offer a colorful program, including free offers from the food truck and a drink selection that was very impressive.
LineUpr: We were allowed to experience this familiar atmosphere for ourselves and it is so much easier to get in contact with strangers in such an environment. As an alumnus of HHL, Rolf Schrömgens was certainly also very interested in giving something back to the current students.
Who is the typical target group of Accelerate @ HHL and how do you reach them?
Alex: We realized again this year that we have a very broad target group. Whether self-employed, employees from corporations or the national start-up scene – we were able to sell many tickets to full payers this year. But one thing is clear: We retain the unique charm of the event only through our structure as a student initiative and therefore, we try to address students of all disciplines.
We continue to reach this target group most strongly through Facebook. Besides, Instagram has established itself as another important channel this year. In the process, we noticed that changing the algorithm has made advertised posts much more critical.
In addition, the newsletter remains one of the primary influencers of ticket sales. Within just a few hours, for example, we were able to sell half of all available tickets to HHLers and former participants.
Within the immediate vicinity, offline advertising, especially posters and the free “word of mouth” option, is essential in supporting the excitement towards the event.
LineUpr: If you had to choose one of these channels, which would you choose and why?
Alex: For us, the most important channels are the newsletter and Facebook. The most efficient is undoubtedly the newsletter. We have almost zero costs here and can reach a large number of people who are already interested in Accelerate @ HHL. In particular, general information about the event can be spread here.
For new customers, we would instead use Facebook. The names and stories of the speakers as well as the above-mentioned advertising budget attract new customers.
LineUpr: Let’s get to our LineUpr app. How did you use it before, during and after the Accelerate @ HHL conference?
Alex: We used the app for three things in particular: Overview of the speakers, the current schedule and the voting for our pitch contest.
Also, we gave sponsors the opportunity to transfer the career fair to a digital environment at the conference. We used a sub-page as a “digital job board”, so to speak, a bulletin board for the job postings of our sponsors. This way interested parties could approach the companies in a targeted manner.
LineUpr: That sounds like an exciting idea. How did your visitors respond to the app?
Alex: We received great feedback during conversations on the usability of the app and we were often asked how we programmed it. Through LineUpr we were able to inspire another student initiative at HHL
Otherwise, we do a quick poll every year at the end of the event in the app because we’ve found that instant feedback has the highest response rate.
LineUpr: You just said that you also used the app to do the voting for the pitch contest. How was the participation and how exactly did you do it?
Alex: Every year we have the highest traffic on LineUpr when it comes to voting for the pitch contest. We’ve got a simple tool to interact even better with our guests and involve everyone in the room in the jury’s decision.
To do this, we provided the survey with the names of the pitching start-ups and then make them go live at the end of the agenda. For the winners, there was the one-time payment of 2,500 euros as the jury prize and a fancy gin set for the audience’s favorite.
LineUpr: As keynotes, you had this year, among others, Rolf Schrömgens (Trivago) and the founders of the unicorn condoms Waldemar Zeiler and Philip Siefer. How do you come into contact with such outstanding personalities? And how did you convince them to be your keynote speakers?
Alex: I think one of the key points when contacting the speakers is the reputation that Accelerate @ HHL has built up in recent years. Moreover, it is also the familiar mood, mentioned at the beginning, which excites many speakers and also always encourages them to come again.
In addition, we also used our connections through alumni and professors of HHL in the start-up scene. Not only Rolf but also Christopher Muhr from the meanwhile largest German start-up, Auto1, are graduates of the HHL. Besides, we also have a good contact to venture capital firms, in particular, Kompass Digital, G + J Ventures, and also Earlybird, who fully supported us.
LineUpr: Of course, other events can only dream of having such contacts. Is there a crazy story about this year’s Accelerate @ HHL which you would like to share with us?
Alex: This year we had a Peruvian MBA student as a DJ. The music always provides a good structure for the daily program and then provides an excellent transition to the table football tournament and the barbecue. This year, all participants celebrated so wildly that our DJ had to switch to mood music at 10 in the evening. German pop hits in the middle of an international party were something new for us.
LineUpr: That’s right ?. Finally, a question about using LineUpr. Which three tips would you like to give other organizers?
Alex: From our experience, you can use the app efficiently if you pay attention to a few things:
The participants should be informed about the app one week in advance; the offline function and the indication of the always current timetable are especially important aspects for our participants.
Posts and surveys should be hidden until needed. We were thus able to prepare a large number of posts and surveys and plan and activate them stress-free during the event.
Shorten the URL of the app: At Bit.ly you can individually customize your link, and you can also link the app to your website – that makes it easier for users.
LineUpr: Thank you for the great interview, Alex. It is always Inspiring to learn more about the minds and processes behind such a young and focused event. If you want to take part in the Accelerate @ HHL or want to know more about the speakers, then you can quickly find information on the website or on their Twitter, Facebook. and Instagram profiles.
We look forward to your next event in 2019 and how we can better support you with LineUpr.