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    on the startup line

Meet 10 startup cities where the future’s happening first

What have Bangkok, Bristol and Brno got in common? The answer is that they are among the smartest, most entrepreneur-friendly cities in the world. And where these cities are leading today — technologically, socially, intellectually — is likely to determine where we’ll all be heading tomorrow.

But what does that mean on the ground? What makes a city smart? And why are some so much better at it than others? These are among the issues that will be explored in the me Convention’s two-day Startup Cities conference track, back by popular demand for a third year running.

Here’s the format: representatives from 12 of the world’s most successful startup cities have been invited to Frankfurt to explain how and why their home town has become an incubator for innovation. Each speaker will be given 10 minutes to outline their city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, run through the subsidies that exist to attract vibrant young businesses, and unpack the benefits of co-operation with universities and other educational institutes. And, to quote Einstein, because “failure is success in progress”, they will also share the challenges, problems and frustrations they have encountered along the way.

What sets me Convention Startup Cities presentations apart is that each and every speaker knows exactly what they’re talking about. Not because they’ve written a paper or conducted a survey, but because they’ve been there and done it. They know what starting a pioneering business feels like from the inside — the highs, the lows, the risks, the rewards, the champagne moments and the mundane grunt work. It’s a rare opportunity to find out what’s really happening in the startup ecosystems of cities around the world — and in the hearts and minds of the entrepreneurs who drive them.

The 2019 Startup Cities sessions take place on September 12 and 13, from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm.

This year’s participating cities are:

• Atlanta, US

• Bangkok, Thailand

• Bristol, UK

• Brussels, Belgium

• Rotterdam, Netherlands

• Fukuoka, Japan

• Marseille, France

• Nicosia, Cyprus

• St Petersburg, Russia

• Tampere, Finland



Grant Wainscott

Senior Director of Ecosystem Expansion, Metro Atlanta Chamber

Grant leads a team of technology-cluster experts tasked with attracting jobs and investment into the Metro Atlanta region. These days, his focus is on fintech, cyber security and the creative industries — film, TV, esports, music, VR and animation — but his backstory is as varied as it’s surprising: he’s been a film commissioner, launched several startups, run a tech incubator, owned a rare bookshop and participated in dozens of business and cultural missions. In between that, he’s found time to visit more than 50 countries and live in five.


Startup City Bangkok
Mameaw Sapprasert

Director, 500 TukTuks

Named by Forbes as one of Asia Pacific’s most influential venture capitalists under the age of 30, Mameaw runs 500 Startup’s 500 TukTuks micro-fund, which focuses on promising startups in Thailand and CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam). Since its launch in 2015, 500 TukTuks has backed more than 60 ‘badass entrepreneurs’ to become one of Thailand’s most active investors. As one of the architects of her region’s burgeoning startup ecosystem, Mameaw is also a sought-after speaker, advises Alibaba’s eFounders Fellowship program and DTAC Accelerate’s A Academy program, and is a mentor and judge for Seedstars.


Startup City, Bristol
Mark Leaver

Strategic Adviser, Invest Bristol + Bath

A specialist adviser on the creative and digital-media industries, Mark assists young businesses on the strategic investment and expansion opportunities to be found in the West of England. Over 25 years spent working across the UK’s media industries, two key themes have defined Mark’s career: the interface of content and emerging technology, and connecting the UK’s vibrant creative ecosystem with international markets.


Startup City Brussels
Leo Exter

Chief Energizer, Hack Belgium

What Leo doesn’t know about Belgium’s startup scene isn’t worth knowing. His CV includes launching the Startup Weekend movement in Brussels, building an online community of entrepreneurs, mentors and investors, leading accelerator programs and organizing investment events. His latest venture is Hack Belgium, a massive — and massively ambitious — ‘open innovation’ festival that bills itself as part conferences and part hackathon. Heading into its fourth edition in 2020, Hack Belgium aims to help its 1,000-plus participants become successful, environmentally-conscious entrepreneurs and intrepreneurs. And have fun in the process.


Startup City Rotterdam
Dave Geensen

Project Manager, City of Rotterdam

Dave is part of an ‘innovation team’ tasked with elevating Rotterdam’s startup ecosystem and connecting its inhabitants and entrepreneurs to the next economy. Like many world cities, the Netherlands’ great port is facing urgent social, economic and environmental challenges, from ecological pressure and climate change to spiralling global competition and the disruptive impact of technology on every aspect of life, work and leisure. Rotterdam’s response has been proactive and decisive as it seeks to transition its policies and approaches.


Startup City Fukuoka
Mumu Makinose

Director, Fukuoka Global Startup Center

In his previous life as an international banker, Mumu lived in several countries in Asia, Europe and Latin America, giving him rare insight into what it takes to start a new life and a new business abroad. That experience has been invaluable in his present incarnation as Director of the Fukuoka Global Startup Center, which supports foreign startups in the island of Kyushu’s largest city. Mumu’s team helps overseas entrepreneurs to navigate the complexities of setting up a businesses in Japan, connects them to local mentors, and provides them with practical help and support along the way.


Startup City Marseille
Mathieu Rozières

Founder and CEO, Black Euphoria/Vice-President of Creative Industries, Aix Marseille French Tech

Matthieu describes himself as a ‘prototypist’ whose work is inspired by curiosity, innovation and fun. His media creation agency Black Euphoria specialises in developing next-generation arts and museum projects, as well as communications campaigns that mix new technology with interactive scenography and creative storytelling. His mission to bring innovation to the creative industries is also reflected in his work for the Aix Marseille French Tech agency, which provides entrepreneurs with the tools and support to grow their ideas into ‘tech champion’ businesses.


Startup City Nicosia
Angela Panayiotou

Director, IDEA

As the head of Cyprus’ largest startup incubator and accelerator, Angela’s mission is to strengthen her country’s focus on innovation, raise its status as a global startup destination, and inspire more young people — particularly young women — to launch their own businesses. Within this, promoting volunteering and a culture of ‘giving back’ is a top priority for the former international banker, who herself coaches and mentors several aspiring young entrepreneurs. Angela has launched a range of intrapreneurial initiatives, is experienced in working with people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds, and is a frequent speaker at industry events.


Startup City St Petersburg
Olesya Baraniuc

Deputy Director, Technopark of ITMO University

Olesya is responsible for developing the entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem of St Petersburg’s prestigious ITMO University. She brings to the job her experience of both academic institutions — she worked as an international program manager in the economics faculty at Helsinki’s Aalto University — and as a legal advisor to a law firm in Cyprus, active in incorporating and administering companies in various jurisdictions. Olesya has also lived and work in Romania, Belgium and Italy, giving her a broad understanding of different ways of life — and different approaches to the business of business.


Startup City Tampere
Sami Puttonen

Project Manager, Business Tampere

Sami believes that a successful startup scene requires three basic elements: a diverse community, an open, collaborative working environment, and a culture of mentorship, where people feel empowered not only to ask for help but also to share their expertise. He also believes this is why Tampere is such a successful startup city — not only does it understand the entrepreneurial mindset, but it is also working hard to develop a regional startup ecosystem under the auspices of economic development agency Business Tampere.

Disclaimer: The views of me Convention speakers do not necessarily reflect the opinions of either Mercedes-Benz and/or SXSW.