This year I was given the opportunity to spend 24 hours at TOA in Berlin. I was upgraded from press to Open Circle member when I was recruited last-minute as a speaker for the Women in Tech session. If you are wondering what that meant in my overall experience of TOA, allow me to explain later, but first let’s explore why TOA is one of Europe’s biggest tech events.
TOA, which is short for Tech Open Air, started in 2012. A collaborative effort by “a bunch of Berlin startup folks”, TOA was created to bring a new kind of festival to those who enjoy the idea of bringing tech, music, art and science worlds together. With a mission to help people futureproof their businesses and their lives, TOA founders believe that with technology transforming the way we work, live and relate it makes sense for us to want to understand technology so we can take advantage of the opportunities that it is creating.
“By bringing together technological changemakers with representatives of different disciplines, we are able to disrupt and better anticipate the future”
As the world’s first crowdfunded festival, TOA provides a platform for people to build upon. For the organisers, technology is a transformative power that disrupts entire industries and touches every aspect of life. “By bringing together technological changemakers with representatives of different disciplines, we can disrupt and better anticipate the future and the disruptors who better understand the world they change”, states their site.
With so much going at this year’s festival, speakers included people from across different disciplines like Andrea Zitna from Elvie, Asher Levine founder of Asher Levine Inc., Arlan Hamilton founder of Backstage Capital, Cassie Kozyrkov from Google, Jeanette Epps from NASA, Parneet Pal from Wisdom Labs and Susan Danziger founder of Ziggeo to name a few. I was not only drawn to the event by the rather impressive speakers’ list, I was also super curious about the Haus of Tech, a space that I heard was as far away from the usual stuffy conference centre as you can get. A breathtaking arena, the Haus of Tech was designed to give those who attend a chance to experience the best minds in technology giving talks, knowledge exchange and networking. This year partners included big boys like Google, T Mobile and Bosch.
Another TOA perk is that there are people actively hiring and looking for work at the event. This means that it has become the place to scout or be scouted by those who understand the bigger picture when it comes to bringing different industries together. If you are not job hunting, you will get to enjoy the company of (around) 20,000 of the most curious, forward-thinking makers and thinkers from diverse industries including science, technology, investment, industry, government, marketing, corporate, entertainment and health.
One of the things that makes the event different from the rest is that I found out that TOA never sleeps. At night TOA’s Funkhaus becomes an experimental, tech playground, with surreal sound installations, daring live acts, curated DJ sets, and plenty of interactive art exhibits. When you attend, you will get to connect, exchange knowledge and collaborate while enjoying good food and vibing to good music.
So coming back to the Open Circle. I was lucky enough to adorn the bracelet. It gave me access to a bespoke event program that was designed for a select group of TOA speakers, investors, partners, innovators, tech luminaries, influential artists, scientists and media. I enjoyed carefully curated events and one-of-a-kind experiences, in unique venues across Berlin. I even got to enjoy being transported home in a comfortable Open Circle car! As wonderful as that was, I feel that those who did not have this band on their wrist still got to have a fantastic experience. From attending talks on large boats docked in the canal, to sitting on a huge beanie bag in the summer sun listening to someone from Google talk while wolfing down a burrito. The only disadvantage was having to join the ridiculously long line that seemed never-ending. I heard whispers that some people stood in the queue for over an hour, which isn’t fun when the sun is beating down, and all you can hear are people laughing and enjoying themselves beyond the barrier.