Pirate Summit 2017

About a month ago, Cologne hosted it’s annual Pirate Summit, also known as “Europe’s Craziest Startup Conference”. This unique conference hosted more than 650 founders, 200 investors, attendees from over 70+ countries, and a fire-breathing mechanical horse:

Mechanical Horse
Credit: Pirate Summit

Bringing together a blend of startup techies and investors, the Pirate Summit brings more than 60 speakers from all over the world together to discuss and pitch from a stage before having to ‘walk the plank’:

Credit: Pirate Summit

While the conference is itself an exciting spectacle, the real promise is seen in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which hosts Pirate Summit. With cities like Cologne, Dusseldorf, and Bonn, the region’s tech scene has been growing. For example, Trivago made international headlines when they announced a new headquarters in Dusseldorf meant to house 3,000 employees:


The state boasts a wealth of corporate investment opportunities. According to Metropoleruhr, 16 of the 100 strongest-selling companies in Germany have their headquarters in North Rhein-Westphalia. That includes Aldi, Thyssen-Krupp, & Evonik Industries.

But don’t just take my word for it. Some of the top founders of the region and beyond weigh in on what makes Pirate Summit and the region around Cologne so special:

Martin Riedel

Martin Riedel, Co-Founder at Rise Technologies, based in Cologne

The Cologne tech scene is rapidly evolving and offers a more professional work experience than is found in other German tech cities. There are all kinds of smaller companies here; ranging from bio-tech to startups focused on helping corporations digitalize. There are numerous niche companies designed to fulfill one specific role or problem and a lot of investors in the ecosystem, which means a ton of potential to find support for startups. Cologne is very centralized. The state borders both the Netherlands and Belgium and offers quick access to both northern and southern Germany. Tech talent is needed in the city, it is difficult to find tech talent here. Developers can expect higher salaries here than in Berlin”

Till Faida

Till Faida, Co-Founder at Eyeo GmbH (Adblock), Cologne

We have our headquarters here in Cologne. Adblock Plus is our most famous product with more than 100 million devices using it. All of our co-founders knew about Cologne and the environment here before founding Eyeo GmbH. Cologne is a good place for us because it is very centrally located, with the Frankfurt International Airport less than an hour away. Cologne makes sense for us because we have a new big office here and we plan on staying here for the foreseeable future. I think that there are several interesting startups in Cologne. What I personally like about Cologne is that it is very open here and it's simple to start a new startup.

Jennifer Kanyamibwa

Jennifer Kanyamibwa, Design Studio Manager at Slack, San Francisco

I used to work for an annual conference in Germany called Tech Open Air, so I was able to make a lot of connections here. For people considering starting a tech career, one thing to keep in mind is that there are many different sides to working in tech. These include the business side (marketing and sales) and even graphic design. You don't need to know how to program or code. There is probably a space for you in this field and you shouldn't be intimidated if you don't have a tech background.

Salvatore Vacante

Salvatore Vacante, Co-Founder at Shoppi, London

I love the spirit of Pirate Summit. This is a great venue, a cool conference. Crazy, but cool. You can create a lot of connections, with other startups and investors. I think this is a unique thing they are doing here. The ecosystem in Cologne is interesting and open, you can make a lot of connections very quickly. I think Cologne is definitely growing in technology, because of the potential for B2B startups.

Sigurd Jaiser

Sigurd Jaiser, Sipgate GmbH, Dusseldorf

I find it wonderful in Dusseldorf. It is a great small city. The people in Dusseldorf are also really open and friendly. Everyone has fun with everyone, that’s why I moved there because the people are so welcoming. It’s not as expensive as Munich, Hamburg, or Stuttgart. There are many jobs in Dusseldorf for developers. There are meetups for data scientists, web developers, and Google developers. This gives you the chance to exchange ideas and knowledge. Dusseldorf is a great option for developers.

Malte Goesche

Malte Goesche, Platform Partnerships Manager for Facebook, Berlin

We recently started Developer Circles as a program designed to empower communities of developers to connect and learn from each other. The Circles are locally organized groups and meetups where developers come together to engage with experts, learn about new tech and even build technology and apps with other developers. We want to enable people to build these groups as a grassroots thing just like the German Developer Circles in Berlin and Ruhr. There is a lot of potential for the developer community here in Cologne as there are a lot of interesting startups and tech universities in the area.

Hunter Wright

Hunter Wright

Hunter is Honeypot's Community & Content Manager. As an American living in Germany, Hunter brings his Nashville country roots to the big city life of Berlin startups.