Pirates. For those in the US the word probably evokes images of Jack Sparrow buccaneering on the seven seas, for those in West Africa, it’s something altogether more real and deadly. But in Europe, pirates have become synonymous with a certain type of grassroots cool and and adventurous spirit – and sticking it to the man.
Germany’s pioneering Piratenpartei’s campaigns for civil and digital rights have been gaining serious political traction, while a new conference upstart had taken on the Pirate mantle – the European Pirate Summit.
Perhaps today’s digital frontiersmen feel they have an affinity with their risk-hungry swashbuckling predecessors, and perhaps Europe’s not-too-distant past demands an easy symbol of grassroots democracy. Either way, pirates are hot.
We speak to Waldemar Hein, co-founder of the EPS, held in “Odonien – the wicked and legendary republic of pirates, dinosaurs and other creatures that you couldn’t even imagine”. Or Cologne, as we like to call it…
Pirates and entrepreneurs – what’s the connection?
WH: We read Michael Arrington’s post “Are you a pirate?” and we realised that we wanted to establish a yearly meetup for real entrepreneurs who work hard on their startups, ideas or dreams. We approached founders and funders whose focus is on innovative, disruptive business models, funding (a bunch of trustful VCs), like-minded people in a casual and adventurous atmosphere.
How did you convince people to sponsor and attend the event with so many other conferences going on in Germany?
WH: More or less accidentally we managed to bulid a brand with all the attributes that you know from marketing classes, and it’s interesting for sponsors to be associated with them!
Why Cologne instead of Berlin?
WH: We want to help establish a prospering entrepreneurial scene in Cologne and show that Germany is not only Berlin. Furthermore, North Rhine-Westphalia is the biggest state in Germany and has a lot of universities, so there’s more great potential. And Cologne is well positioned – it’s close to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and even London.
Although saying that, we do have a very special and secret event planned for Berlin :)
What sets you apart from all the other events?
WH: Crazy location [EPS is held in a former club site and feels a little Burning Man, a lot steampunk – it’s been compared to Berlin’s TOA, but with “better speakers”], outstanding networking possibilities – you get to know the big guys because they’re not sitting in their speaker lounge but among the other participants…
What sums up a pirate for you?
WH: I have to quote Arrington in his article for that because there’s no better description: “I don’t care if you’re a billionaire. If you haven’t started a company, really gambled your resumé and your money and maybe even your marriage to just go crazy and try something on your own, you’re no pirate and you aren’t in the club.”
It’s an invite-only event right now, how do you plan to open it out?
WH: We’ll be starting a “piratize me” tour at the end of October – connecting the real entrepreneurs in Europe. We’ll announce some more big news at the end of September/beginning of October, as well as some mini events in different cities in Europe – watch this space…
What’s your favourite pirate joke?
WH: Haha, I don’t know any, sorry. ;)