Hotel Sacher is fucking dead to me. In other news: some trust fund kids have more money than sense.
It’s one of the most famous hotels in the world, yet it can’t accommodate a 5 a.m. order of champagne – in a room that costs nearly €1,200 a night. Pity the poor fool picking up the check. (Not me, obviously.)
Anyway. I’m in Vienna for the delightful Pioneers Festival, which has been getting some rave reviews from journalists and the 2,300 attendees alike.
Even other event organisers were impressed. Rupert Hoffschmidt, director of operations for HY Berlin, said: “What I liked was that it was an actual festival. There was alcohol, enthusiasm from the crowd and so on. I got confused by the sheer size of it.
“The attention to detail was impressive. The production values were as high as anything I’ve been to in Germany or Austria. It’s clear the organisers love what they do.”
The more time I spend on the continent, the more I realise how different the likes of Germany and Austria are to the UK, and how much I prefer being here, even if the products on the continent aren’t exactly setting the world alight.
There are, by and large, sounder business models being toyed with in Britain, particularly by the “middle generation” of founders between their Series A and C rounds. But there’s so much more youthful ebullience, optimism and joy over here.
In other words, the start-up world feels less well developed here, but the people are immeasurably more pleasant.
Partly in this case it’s because Pioneers is the culmination of a vast network of start-up events being devised by organisers STARTeurope, with participants from Bucharest to Porto to Athens to Stockholm.
Notwithstanding its youthfulness, this feverish hive of activity now has a conference it can, and with some pride, describe as a flagship. The production quality of the Pioneers Festival easily matched that of the LeWeb behemoth – organiser Jürgen Furian is famously obsessive about detail – and the guests, including Menlo Ventures’ Shervin Pishevar, were of comparable calibre.
There were some odd choices here and there. I mean, there’s a reason that despite the company visiting every VC in Germany, Klash has failed to secure funding. So it’s odd to see the audience give it a gong. Pity, perhaps? Anyway, such wrinkles are neither here nor there in a conference’s adolescence.
In fact, Furian and his colleagues need do only one thing to ensure the longevity of this conference, which is being spoken of so fondly because it was so upbeat: follow in the footsteps of the almost pathologically polite Loïc Le Meur and avoid the arrogance of the Dublin Web Summit and f.ounders, which is turning off sponsors and attendees at a rate of knots.
I don’t see the latter happening here. Because while a healthy disrespect for institutions of the kind Vienna is packed with flourishes at Pioneers, there’s also a deference to those who made it possible, with sponsors and speakers treated elaborately well, and to history: I’m staggered they managed to snag the Hofburg Palace as a venue.
Old businesses, particularly in the arcane worlds of German and Viennese society, are nonetheless well advised to tread with care. Those fuckers at the Sacher make good cake, but it feels so much better to spend your money at Hotel Daniel.
Austriae est imperare orbi universo? Maybe not yet. But they’re getting there.