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For the 7th consecutive year the team of unrivalled professionals led by Andreas Tschas, Jürgen Furian  and Oliver Csendes is serving the Global Startup Community by uniting the most promising tech startups with the world’s top investors and executives. Pioneers.io invests in startups, connects innovators and established players. It does this all year round, but most visibly at its industry-leading event each spring in Vienna  – Pioneers Festival. Just the day before the publication Pioneers.io has won silver at the Seventh Eventex Global Event Awards in Dublin

I was privileged to interview Andreas Tschas, the co-founder and CEO of Pioneers.io. Andreas reminds of the importance of being ‘customer-first’ when setting up a startup and lives by his interpretation of the famous quote ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’.

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Of the idea & origins…Upon the graduation from Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien Andreas was pretty much aware of the fact that startups & technology can have an immense power to change the face of entrepreneurship and broader economy. Instead of pursuing a traditional career of a consultant or investment banker, Andreas has chosen to help a couple of startups to raise funding and grow a startup community in Vienna. Founded as non-commercial initiative the first event hosted 40 participants, including 12 from the team. “But despite the size in our early years we had such startups like Runtastic with over 18 mn customers, or a Vienna-based Shpock with a couple of million customers. When we noticed that we don’t have similar startup communities in Europe we started to replicate that model in cities like Budapest, Athens, Berlin, Cologne. We were absolutely sure that startups would be the moving force of the global economy and we wanted to help drive those changes…We had a trivial motivation – to make a world a bit better”.

An initiative transforming to a business… “It came quite natural. We had events spread all over Europe – and we thought why not to bring all the stakeholders together once per year in a networking event.  So, that was the moment when the non-commercial initiative started to transform to a business. It was a very fascinating time back then and since then a lot has happened…”

Culture eats strategy for breakfast… When asked about the most challenging thing Andreas answers with a famous quotation… “The most challenging yet critically important is creating the right culture within the team”. Reluctant to praise himself Andreas shares he is glad that he has brought changes to people’s lives both within and beyond the company.

The three complementary dimensions… Pioneers organically exists in three dimensions: Pioneers Discover – to identify most promising ideas, Pioneers Events  – to bring young talents and industry leaders together and Pioneers Venture – to back startups financially…“Last year we had around 5000 applications from over 100 countries and it’s pretty clear that those companies need not only expertise and connections but financing which we can provide through our Pioneers Ventures Fund”. By far the amount of the Fund is about EUR 10mn and 14 early stage companies have already secured funding.  

A truly global reach:  “We have been to 60 cities so far and have done a lot in Asia, Europe, so it’s getting more and more global what we are doing. This year we expect the Pioneers Festival to bring together 2500 attendees, including 1000 passionate founders of 60+ nationalities. A two-day event will be fueled with business meetings, inspiring innovations, founder stories, industry insights, successful collaboration cases and an amazing tech show.

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Supporting industry Pioneers all year round… “At some point we realized that it would be even more effective to launch exclusive events format, where you invite 50 top startups and top corporates and ensure that the matchmaking component is at place. Thus, besides Pioneers Festival we have several ecosystems  – the so-called events in the event where we bring together startups, companies and investors around one specific industry topic. This is what we are offering throughout the year because Pioneers Festival is once per year only”.

Pioneers Fintech is coming… SDK.finance was among top 50 startups showcasing our solution at Pioneers Festival 2016. This year we are heading to a separate event Pioneers FinTech dedicated specifically to our industry which will take place in Berlin 16-17 February. The event, will gather tech founders, investors, innovation executives, and industry experts to discuss, learn and foster the industry development. The agenda includes startup pitches, workshops, 1-1 meetings and panel discussions. “There will be guaranteed 1-1 meetings of startups and corporates aimed at securing long lasting relations between both. This is what distinguishes us from other events out there”.

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When cultures converge… We continue the discussion with the most interesting areas of Fintech. “Obviously peer-to-peer lending, big data & analytics combined with AI will speed up the whole revolution and of course we should still watch the blockchain”. Andreas also emphasizes the importance of collaboration between traditional financial institutions and startups. “But those are the long-lasting relations where both should learn from each other and find the mutually beneficial position where their cultures could converge…not collide”  

Fintech wizards…I can’t help asking my very favourite question about the startups that contributed to the ecosystem most… “Am a big fan of Transferwise, N26 is a very good service, SolarisBank is a pretty interesting idea which can speed up the revolution in Fintech. Cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin as a category are also worth watching”. And we naturally jump to the personal digital experience in finance “N26 is a very cool and very different from what we used to in traditional banking, and I also use Transferwise”.

Another exciting chapter ahead… “We are looking forward to organizing Pioneers Fintech in February but already preparing to the others. This year we want to involve more people, that’s why we will have a lot of receptions”.

Time for everybody to think how you can contribute to the better future“We live in a fascinating time where basically the potential of the technology is limitless and there are still so many cool things that we need to invent…limits exist only in our minds…and definitely I would love to see more companies evolving with the desire to breed changes but not of a pure materialistic approach”.

About Pioneers Fintech Pioneers FinTech  – the leading industry matchmaking event, will take place in Berlin, 16-17 February. Among the confirmed top 50 startups are such names as FinReach, Lunar Way, Pleo (the winner of Pioneers Festival 2016), FinTecSystems, Wyze, and CollectAI. The line-up of prominent speakers of the event includes Alexander Graubner-Müller  – CEO at Kreditech, Maximilian Tayenthal  – Founder at NUMBER26, Ramin Niroumand – Co-Founder / Partner at Finleap, Paolo Galvani – Co-Founder and Chairman at Moneyfarm to name a few.

About Pioneers Pioneers.io establishes business relationships between startups, corporates, and investors. The 7-year-old Vienna-based company focuses on identifying promising early stage startups and connecting them to corporates and investors to foster their innovations. Pioneers does so through organizing events, advising large corporations on collaboration with startups, and directly investing in startups.

About SDK.finance: SDK.finance solution combines a multi-product Fintech platform and a flagship marketplace for Fintech APIs. The Fintech platform enables financial institutions, banks, and major merchants to decrease CAPEX 90% and launch financial products five to 10 times faster comparing to the current industry standards. The first-of-its-kind marketplace of Fintech APIs brings together top-notch technology providers and existing best-in-class development tools to create unique Fintech products.