How to Web – helping South-Eastern Europe companies to move from outsourcing services to creating their own products

How to Web 2012 – the most important conference on web business and technology in South-Eastern Europe, takes place in Bucharest, Romania, on the 7th and 8th of November. It aims to bring together more than 800 participants with tens of international speakers from over 15 countries. The conference will address topics on innovation through technology, business and product development in domains like gaming, Software as a Service and mobile, web business development in global markets vs. local markets, particularities of web business development in Eastern Europe and financing opportunities.

Below is my interview with Bogdan Iordache, organizer of How to Web, covering the specifics and the evolution of the event, as well as his motivation to run this event for its fourth edition this year:

Adelina: How do you see the entrepreneurship development in Europe? What are the differences between different regions? 

Bogdan: Entrepreneurship is definitely gaining momentum in Europe. Five years ago there were not so many things happening. Now we’ve got new companies, tons of events & communities kicking off, tens of accelerator programs. Venture capital industry has also grown significantly. The hottest areas right now are London, Berlin and Moscow. London has the advantage of being the European center for all advertising agencies, also the most important financial city of Europe. However, in the last years we’ve seen a more and more tech companies coming out of Berlin, using the fantastic artistic potential they have. Now Moscow, with the Skolkovo project, might be the next hot thing.

Adelina: How is How to Web contributing to the further development of entrepreneurship in South-Eastern Europe? 

Bogdan: When we started How to Web we thought: “There is so much tech potential here, but nobody innovates.”. As you know, South-Eastern Europe is very focused on outsourcing. Giving the context, we thought that our mission is to inspire people to start create their own products, but also to help them get the practical knowledge and connections they need. This is what we’re still doing right now, and we’ve seen more and more companies moving from services to products. On the other side, we’ve helped startups connect with investors and accelerators representatives at the Startup Challenge competition we’re hosting every year. This year we’ll showcase over 30 startups that we’ll go through a fantastic program including workshops, public pitching, mentoring sessions, 1:1 accelerator & investors meetings.

Adelina: What would be the benefits for local participants? 

Bogdan: Well, we think How to Web is rather a regional event, not a local one. We’re addressing the issues the SEE tech industry has been focusing on very practical talks: case studies, how-to talks, and combining them with regional specific challenges and information on global trends. On the other hand, Romania is known as a great place to have a great time. There are a lot of networking opportunities during the conference and during the endless parties that start in the evening and last till morning. It’s a fun time.

Adelina: What about the benefits for participants from outside the region? 

Bogdan: Because of How to Web’s reach and structure, we’ll be gathering some of the most interesting tech companies around and outside the region. This is why last year we’ve got participants from UK, Germany, France, Finland etc. who came here to see who’s who and find partners for their projects.

Adelina: How to Web 2012 is the fourth edition. What is the evolution of the event from one edition to the other? 

Bogdan: Every edition of How to Web was different. Every year we’ve improved the structure of the event, and I think the one this year will be the best ever. We surely learned a lot, and doing a conference in an emerging tech ecosystem like South-Eastern Europe is a very different thing. In terms of numbers, we’ve grown quite fast. From a 150 people event in 2009, to 800+ people probably in 2012. We take great pride in this organic growth and the fact that we have a very strong fan base.

Adelina: Are there any future projects emerging from it? 

Bogdan: Definitely yes. We’ve got a lot of fresh ideas and we’ll pursue some of them in the near future. Some of them are already announced (like the hub we’re planning to open soon), others will be launched this year or next year soon.

Adelina: What is your motivation to organize this conference? How is the How to Web experience helping you with your other projects?

Bogdan: Well, for me personally How to Web is a big help in understanding how tech ecosystems and the global web works. It surely takes a lot of time, but it’s been a fantastic ride so far. Also, the knowledge and the people you meet will definitely help us in reach the next level.