AWS Startups Blog

Bits & Pretzels Networking Week 2020: Introducing a Brand New Platform to Connect with Your Favorite Founders, Built on AWS

Check out how Europe’s leading founders festival adapted to the challenge of throwing a virtual event, how you can get in on the action, and the bonus you’ll get by buying a ticket today. 

The leaves are starting to turn and the Oktoberfest brews are hitting shelves. That can only mean one thing: it’s time for Bits & Pretzels, Europe’s largest founders festival. Last year, the event drew thousands of the world’s best and brightest entrepreneurs, founders, and leaders to Munich, and the Bits & Pretzels team knew it’d be a tough one to top.

“2019 was our most successful conference yet,” says Christoph Commes, Bits & Pretzels managing director & CFO/COO. “Barack Obama spoke, the conference ended with a half day at the Munich Oktoberfest, and our brand awareness skyrocketed. Then, in 2020, COVID-19 hit. But knew we were not going to cancel the conference. Even after Oktoberfest was cancelled, we stuck to that commitment.”

Taking an in-person event online would be a monumental enough task for most companies. But Bits & Pretzels rose to meet another challenge when they couldn’t find an online event platform that could accommodate their needs—they built their own virtual event platform from scratch.

The team didn’t just want a platform that allowed the 5,000 attendees to simply connect online. They wanted to use the switch to virtual as an opportunity to create fun and innovative ways for attendees to gain learning and networking experiences that couldn’t be found anywhere else in the physical or digital worlds.

But no event platforms could handle their complex needs. So, in just 5 months, they used AWS to develop their own. In just two weeks they were able to build an MVP that hosted 35,000 participants for a founders breakfast. Following that initial success, they fine tuned the product and added new features. When word got out about the hot new platform in town, Bits & Pretzels turned into its own company, and have been fielding inquiries about dev help for teams looking to launch their own virtual and hybrid platforms.

Some of the innovative features attendees will get to experience include Founders Roulette, a fun networking tool that allows attendees to randomly connect to fellow entrepreneurs in 3-minute increments. The platform will also serve as a startup ecosystem that will help attendees search for potential future business partners, mentors, and more, and then reach out to them with an easy virtual handshake. While chock-full of talent, that ecosystem won’t be so overwhelming that you can’t find the connection right for you. That’s because Bits & Pretzels limits the number of attendees, creating an exclusive crowd for the most promising founders in EMEA to connect.

In addition to these virtual bonus features, the event is expanding to a full week of speakers, intimate 1:1 interviews with global leaders, and six-minute high speed briefings. This year’s speaker lineup includes Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, Stewart Butterfield, co-founder and CEO of Slack, and Margit Wennmacherws, operating partner at Andreessen Horowitz. The talks will be accompanied by interactive chat features that are designed to allow conference-goers to gain personalized insight from the wide variety of engaging speakers.

The most exciting part? The cost of a ticket won’t just get you in the virtual door to Bits & Pretzels. The company is also partnering with AWS Activate, a program that provides startups with a host of benefits including credits to build, technical support, and training to grow your business. Whether you’re a first-time founder or have a few launches under your belt, Activate gives you the tools you need to take advantage of everything AWS has to offer, while optimizing performance, managing risk, and sticking to your budget. By attending the Bits & Pretzels 2020 event, attendees will also gain access to AWS Activate.

“The founders of Bits & Pretzels are all founders themselves. And it’s important to us to give something back to the startup community. So by partnering with the AWS Activate Program, we’re able to give an immediate and extremely useful benefit to the people who are joining us for the conference,” says Commes.

It’s a deal too good to pass up—even if you do have to supply your own Oktoberfest brew for this year’s event. Interested? Check out more about Bits & Pretzels and AWS Activate, and snag your ticket before they run out!