We sat down with Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten and Pieter Paul van Oerle, the founders of The Next Web and the Accenture Innovation Awards. In this interview, the two entrepreneurs break down what it takes to be innovative in the fast-changing world of tech and preview the highly anticipated The Next Web Conference 2018.
One of the most prestigious international tech events is right around the corner: The Next Web (TNW). TNW Conference is a technology festival that brings together international technology executives, top-tier investors and promising startups for two days of business and knowledge sharing. Over the past 12 editions, TNW Conference has grown from a 200-person event to one of the leading technology events, bringing together 15,000 attendees and 3,500 companies from all over the world.
The Next Web Conference will be held on May 24 and 25, 2018. At this event, the Accenture Innovation Awards (AIA) jury members will get together for the first time. Together they will discuss current challenges and opportunities for innovation in their specific theme. At the end of the day, they will have reached a consensus on a compelling vision for the AIA18 themes. The bar will be set high, and a solid framework for the 2018 Accenture Innovation Awards will be ready to inspire the participants.
To keep you up to date on this seminal event, we approached founder and CEO of TNW Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten and AIA founder and strategic director of TNW Pieter Paul van Oerle to ask them about their vision and expectations for The Next Web 2018. Let’s look ahead at TNW 2018 through the eyes of these two visionaries.
Congratulations on the 13th edition of The Next Web conference. A lot has changed over the years, both in the world of tech as at The Next Web. How do you remain innovative?
Boris: “This year, a large number of innovations have been implemented in the programming. The most striking thing is that this year, there are about 20 specific ‘tracks’ in which the content is clustered. Some very special new tracks are, for example, ‘Offside’ about sports technologies and ’Future of Work’ about the future of offices and flex workstations. It is also very special that this year, TNW hosts the finale of the Chivas Ventures competition, in which a 1-million-dollar prize is awarded to social impact startups.”
Pieter Paul: “In addition, there is an event app which has a new function that makes it possible to schedule appointments with other attendees at the conference. Companies, investors and startups can therefore easily plan meet-ups at the conference or stay in touch afterwards.”
What are the components that make The Next Web so unique in its kind?
Boris: “The power of The Next Web was recently summarized by a leading journalist as ‘The Most Intimate Tech Conference in the World’. If you can make that a reality every year- even with about 15,000 guests present each day- that is a great strength.”
Pieter Paul: “We will also be returning this year with a collaboration with Accenture, Microsoft and Pluralsight. They are the hosts of the ‘Assembly’, a platform on which 250 top decision-makers and influencers from tech, government and industry together explore the opportunities and threats in the most important technological developments such as AI, robotics, (fake) news, machine learning, cryptocurrencies, etc.”
What are the highlights of The Next Web this year? Are you looking forward to any speakers in particular?
Boris: “Three days. Dozens of side events throughout Amsterdam. Hundreds of speakers. Pitch Competitions. The Chivas Venture finale. Twenty different tracks. Hundreds of stands on the business floor. How can I pick favorites?”
Pieter Paul: “Some great speakers that I’m looking forward to are will.i.am, the founder of the innovative fash-tech company i.am+, Kevin Kelly (co-founder) of WIRED, Lex Hoefsloot (CEO) of Lightyear, Elie Seidman (CEO) of Tinder, Coen van Oostrom (CEO) of EDGE and Mark Curtis (CEO) of Fjord.”
What is the strength of the collaboration between The Next Web and the Accenture Innovation Awards?
Pieter Paul: “Accenture has a tremendous network of companies and global technology companies. The Next Web has contact with the technology ecosystem and reaches all tech startups, scale-ups and talents worldwide. Bringing these worlds together has enormous value.”
Can you describe The Next Web in 3 words?
Boris: “Global Tech Connectors.”
Innovation is a central theme for both The Next Web and the Accenture Innovation Awards. What does innovation mean to you?
Pieter Paul: “Innovation is about realizing new services for the customer or improving internal processes by making smart use of technology or other environments. We strongly believe that if a company can define which challenge it wants to solve, solutions can always be found in the global tech community that can speed up the realization of the solutions. At The Next Web conferences and TNW.co, visitors are kept informed of the most important tech developments. In addition, our new TNW X unit can ‘scout’ specific solutions at the request of our customers. It really gives a kick if you can help accelerate the development of an innovation in this way, and it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.”
What innovative tracks in this year’s program are you most proud of?
Boris: “There are a number of tracks that we haven’t mentioned yet that show major developments in technology. StartupCity Summit, where we discuss how cities and regions can optimally facilitate the technology ecosystem in their environment; Machine:Learners, about the power of machine learning; Mixed Realities, about VR, AR and mixed reality; Hard Fork, about cryptocurrencies. We have a lot to be proud of this year.”