Publicize Postcard: Pioneers Festival, Vienna

By Craig Corbett 24 May, 2019

publicize workshop presentation

This month Publicize was invited to attend the Pioneers Festival. Craig Corbett, Principal at Publicize offers some insights into his experience:

speaker in front of banner

On May 9/10 I was invited to run a workshop on the theme of PR for startups at the esteemed Pioneers Festival in Vienna, Austria.

Pioneers is highly regarded within the startup and tech communities, not only for it’s highly curated content but also for the high profile speakers which the event flies in from all over the world. Note* I am definitely not talking about myself.

Despite being held on the same week as TNW conference in Amsterdam, and InfoShare in Gdansk, the tech A-listers were out in force. The event was filled with hundreds of engaged startup founders, and ecosystem builders, who were there to network, matchmake and learn… in style.


The location for this year’s conference packed plenty of ‘wow factor’, taking place in the Hofburg Palace. This is the former main imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty rulers which today serves as the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria.

presenter giving a speech

For anyone who has not had the pleasure of visiting Austria’s capital city, you are sure to be blown away by the jaw-dropping beauty of Vienna’s Ringstrasse boulevard. Famous for its opulent palaces and home to stunning art galleries, and opera houses, Vienna has played a key role in the creative history of Europe. As such, it seems only fitting that the city which helped mold pioneers of arts, music, and philosophy such as Mozart, Beethoven, Gustav Klimt, and Sigmund Freud, should now find itself home to a celebration of a new generation of Pioneers, advancing the fields of science and technology.

Event Programme

The 2-day timetable offered a range of workshops, panels, and talks designed to help founders scale and manage their businesses in a more healthy, human-first manner. There was a whole area reserved for ‘masterclass workshops’ focusing on everything from scaling up software, to how to best use AI in decision-making applications in your business, to growth hacking.

During day one of the event, I presented a workshop titled “Demystifying PR for Startups: How to really use PR for growth” to a group of around 30 startup founders, who were seeking series A funding. During the workshop, we looked at the benefits of long-term, structured PR strategies and discussed different narratives and tactics which founders can use to catch the attention of different media influencers. These strategies will ultimately help them achieve their company goals, whether that be growing their user bases, or connecting with investors. For more information on this theme, check out our free resource, the PR Playbook for 2019.

Presenter giving a speech

The attendees were engaged, and quick to ask questions and offer real examples of their companies’ communication strategies. I was also pleased to see a number of attendees reach out to me for one-on-one mentorship sessions over the course of the event, allowing for the chance to really delve a bit deeper into their startups, and the PR challenges they face.

But in true Pioneers style, rather than just sticking to the standard content tracks which are ten a penny at conferences across the globe, there was an emphasis put on scaling companies in a sustainable manner. This included interesting presentations on team wellness, and developing company culture which allows team members to grow in unison.

Talks and panels featuring experts such as Tiffany Yu, the founder of Diverseability, Aza Raskin from the Center for Humane Technology and Omar Bawa CEO of Goodwall focused on making the tech industry more diverse, inclusive, understanding, and ultimately, interesting!

World Class Speakers

This year, the event organizers brought some of the world’s foremost thinkers in AI, deep tech, and space exploration. We heard questions such as: will we become a trans-planetary species within our lifetime? Will we be able to print out fully functional organs? And will we find love with robots?

group of people at a conference

A few of the many notable speakers included:

  • Kerry McGuire, systems and human factors engineer for NASA.
  • Pete Worden, the Chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and Executive Director of the foundation’s ‘Breakthrough Initiatives’, who is the former Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California.
  • Moon Ribas, a Catalan avant-garde artist and cyborg activist who co-founded the Cyborg Foundation, an international organization aiming to assist people in becoming cyborgs, defending cyborg rights and promoting cyborg art.
  • Dr. Ackley, an Emeritus Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of New Mexico, whose primary research impacts have been in neural networks and machine learning, evolutionary algorithms and artificial life, and biological approaches to computer security and architecture.

The content line up was engaging, and all of the presentations I saw took extremely complex and forward-thinking advances in science and technology and presented them in an accessible manner.

Event Production

The production at Pioneers is simply on a different level to most tech conferences I have attended. From the AI assistant Pionerd who ‘helped’ the presenters run the show, to the lasers and lights which would seem more at home in a Las Vegas Casino than at a tech conference, the whole experience was designed to leave an impression.

presenter giving a speech

But despite the Disneyland feel which crept in at times, such as during the future fashion catwalk performance, or the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-style pitch competition in which both pitchers and the judges were chosen randomly by Pionerd, attendees were there for more than above average hospitality and production. They were there to learn how to grow their ideas and companies and meet the people who could help them do so.

Final Thoughts

All in all the event was a great experience, and I was extremely thankful to the organizers for creating such a cool event, with amazing content, and taking such good care of us speakers throughout. I would highly recommend Pioneers to any startup looking to make connections and learn about emerging technologies in Europe.


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