This is it.
It’s time to bid farewell to PIRATE Summit.
For over a decade, we’ve brought entrepreneurs from all over Europe and beyond to Cologne to create meaningful connections.
In June, we will do so one final time.
It will be the end of a journey that started more than a decade ago.
Born out of despair and naïveté
We started in 2010 with the idea to create an event to connect founders. Back then, startup events were scarce. And the few out there didn’t speak to us.
That despair led us to imagine an event we wanted to attend ourselves.
The problem was that nobody in the crew had created an event before. How hard could it be?
We would soon find out.
Weeks before the first PIRATE Summit, this rag-tag crew didn’t have catering, an agenda, registration procedures or a plan in case of bad weather.
In the excitement of developing a truly unique startup event, we hadn’t realized that an outdoor event in late September can be pretty cold and rainy in Germany.
Luckily, a few people with event experience had pity on us and helped us out at the last minute. Only with their help, we managed to pull it off.
Despite all the operational failings, we managed to get three important ingredients right:
- A great group of participants showed up. People had heard about us through word-of-mouth and were curious to see what we were up to.
- The location – our beloved Odonien – was unconventional and unique and didn’t need a lot of investment to be memorable.
- Our positioning against the German “copycat” stereotype resonated with many. We even burned the Copycat Guy – a small puppet from straw – a ritual that would later turn into the Burn ceremony.
We also had the first encounter with how event businesses work and the uncertainty that comes with it. Planning is tough when more than a third of the participants decide last minute whether they’ll show up.
The goal of the first PIRATE Summit was never about making money. It was about putting something in the world that we wanted to exist. A platform to inspire and bring people together.
A viable business model wasn’t our primary concern.
In the end, for the first event we managed to bring in a revenue of around 17,000 Euro. That was also our budget. Tough to even cover the basics with that.
Naturally, no one received a salary.
Building connections around the world
Somehow we managed to pull the first event off. And the most surprising thing: Despite the amateurish organization, people liked it and wanted us to do it again.
All of a sudden, we became responsible for an event. What now?
Over the next two years, we managed to grow PIRATE Summit with the help of people that felt drawn to the idea.
Still, nobody got paid. But we had a good time, and it felt like we were doing something valuable.
We started building our principles, which became our house rules and set a standard on how we created everything else around the event.
We may have started out in despair and naïveté, but we quickly learned the power of collective action and the importance of building something bigger than ourselves.
It took us three years to fully realize that we had become event organizers and needed to take a more sustainable approach to PIRATE Summit. People were counting on coming together at PIRATE Summit each year.
Many of the volunteers could only stay for a year. With no financial sustainability plan in place, it was difficult to build a solid team and retain knowledge.
Consequently, we thought about ways how we could financially sustain a team of three – later four – people throughout the year.
In that period, we spread the PIRATE spirit to the world. We held up to 60 pitch competitions per year in cities like Cluj, Cairo, Baku, Tehran, Tokyo or San Francisco.
Those community years formed the basis for the ambassador network we have today.
Although these events didn’t make any money, they brought us something more valuable: Connections, fulfillment and fun.
Built with passion and care
PIRATE Summit was never about making money.
I have often – half jokingly – said that PIRATE Summit was my hobby. And while that is probably a fitting description, it was one that I took seriously and dedicated a lot of my time too.
An activity for me to grow and learn. A place that gave meaning and connection.
Many that have worked for and supported PIRATE Summit have felt the same.
The fuel that kept us going was our passion for entrepreneurship and how we see it. We were driven by each of these themes that came to represent PIRATE Summit – purposeful disruption, in the black, solving real problems, raise yourself and making business more human.
We were fortunate that over the years we have had the chance to work with people with a love for producing events. That way, we managed to craft a unique and memorable experience.
Time to set it free
The Covid disruption was tough for us. Most of the team pursued other challenges.
It felt like we needed to start from scratch.
We worked beyond exhaustion to bring PIRATE Summit back. The hard work paid off. People came from all around the world. An astonishing 32.8% of participants were female. It was a triumph.
At the same time, it became clear that I had to cut down my time commitment to PIRATE Summit.
50% of the time I am a single dad. My biggest responsibility is towards my kids. Also, I am operationally involved in helping the companies in the PIRATE family grow.
I tried to find a new steward for the event and turning it into a Purpose company. It didn’t work out.
Now it is time to set it free.
This year we’ll celebrate the PIRATE Summit spirit with a grand finale and one last Burn.
Burn it – One last time
As the world continues to move forward, some memories remain.
Especially those that leave a lasting impression in our hearts. The people and places that have touched our lives. The experiences that we shared.
With each edition of PIRATE Summit, we have tried to create lasting memories. This will be even more so for the last Burn.
In some sense, the final PIRATE Summit will be our masterpiece.
A celebration of all the moments, the friendships, and the magic that we’ve shared.
A magnificent experience together.
As we set sail for the final time, we want to thank each and every one of you for being a part of this amazing journey.
We want to thank you for giving us your time, your energy, and your passion.
Let’s celebrate one more time.
If you have been part of the PIRATE Summit journey, I would love you to join us in June for our last Burn.
To reconnect. To celebrate. To relearn.
If you haven’t been to PIRATE Summit, this is the last time to experience it.
There won’t be any other.
Let’s create a wonderful memory together.
See you in June.
Be safe, be healthy, and be kind. 🙏🏽