NOAH 2011 brings a pan-European networking space to London

What I like about NOAH is that it feels a bit like a big cocktail party. Yes, there are the panels and presentations, hidden elegantly behind the black curtains that separate the exhibition area from the conference hall, where the big guys onstage share success stories with the audience. But the real action is outside where the bar invites to mingle. Networking is just more fun at Noah.

In the past two years the annual conference organised by NOAH Advisors founder Marco Rodzynek has gained a reputation for being a genuinely pan-European top event bursting with investment opportunities. It lived up to its name. NOAH 2011 was vibrant and it was big, with over 1700 attendants and 100 speakers. What’s really awesome though is that it felt so international. Only few attendants at the Old Billingsgate venue were from the UK.

Instead it sounded like the entire German startup scene had met in London, with a dominant presence of businesses from the big three German tech hubs: Berlin, Munich and Hamburg.

Entrepreneurs from Hamburg, like taxi booking application MyTaxi or super-simple website editor Jimdo, convinced me that the seaport has become a serious competitor for Berlin’s title of Germany’s top tech hub. Berlin is bristling with creativity, but Hamburg can pride itself with people who have an excellent intuition for business opportunities. Remember Hamburg based investment venture HackFwd? Founder Lars Hinrichs explained onstage why the fund only invests in software developers. It’s because they are the “artists of the 21st century”. Hear Hear. Hamburg has brilliant developers, too, and in combination with an attitude like Lars’ we have a a new hotspot to watch as it’s currently growing rapidly.

So Germany wins the prize for most dominant this week, but the second phenomenal startup hotspot that stood out was Israel. CEOs of publisher network Conduit and their recent acquisition Wibya were amongst the panel speakers and feedback management platform Kampyle‘s CEO Ariel Finkelstein had a chat with me about Israel’s growing network of keen entrepreneurs. The enthusiasm and sedulity of Israel’s startup crowd has reached a new peak and NOAH 2011 proved it.

As its reputation promises, NOAH is still the place to go if you want to meet some great entrepreneurs from all over Europe without leaving London. I hope it will stay that way next year at NOAH 2012. The date is already set for 6th and 7th November 2012.

The stage itself at this week’s conference was a platform where mostly well established startups presented themselves. The presentations felt self-promotional at times, which is a shame. The potential for some great onstage discussion was huge with so many important international startups involved and the results didn’t quite justify that crowd.

That’s not to say there weren’t some good panels. You can see for yourself on the NOAH website soon. I was told that all videos of the panels will be online by the end of next week.

All in all well done NOAH and see you in 2012. And tell you what, if you add some fire to the presentations next year my rating might even go from “great” to “absolutely kick-ass”.