Some conference organisers will go to great lengths to get as many people to attend, and as many startups to exhibit, in the name of ‘scale’ and good old greed.

Others, it seems, also take quality into consideration and genuinely want to help promising early-stage tech companies get the exposure they deserve.

Pioneers, the Austria-based organisers of the annual Pioneers Festival, is today making a series of announcements that clearly put it in the latter camp. To wit, the company is making some changes to its flagship event, which is celebrating its 5th anniversary in 2016.

Pioneers is launching a program called ‘Pioneers500’, which is designed to allow 500 innovative tech startups from all over the world get free access to the Festival.

Pioneers Festival, Vienna, Austria, 29 October 2014. Image ©Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media - http://www.heisenbergmedia.com/ All Rights Reserved

Vienna-based Pioneers will cover the costs of startups attending the Festival, while relying on corporations, investors and service providers to finance the event on an ‘invitation-only’ basis.

That means the ticket fees will be waived for 2 representatives per startup, but Pioneers says startups will also receive “access to its exclusive community of tech innovators, and the chance to earn additional mentoring, connect with investors, corporates and media and becoming ‘Pioneer Of The Year’ if qualified for the Pioneers Challenge”.

Pioneers, which also set up a rather large investment fund earlier this year in collaboration with Austrian VC Speedinvest, will select the 500 startups in partnership with investors such as 500 Startups, Techstars, HAX, Accel Partners, Index Ventures, Peter Thiel’s investment vehicle Valar Ventures, Highway1, Startupbootcamp, IndieBio and others.

Andreas Tschas, co-founder and CEO of Pioneers, explains the decision thusly:

“Back in 2009, we started with the mission to support outstanding, innovative early-stage entrepreneurs on their road to success which led to the launch of Pioneers Festival. At the earlier days of Pioneers, we needed financial support from all our attendees to be able to make Pioneers Festival happen, but we have always wanted to provide startups with our unconditional support, and now we can.”

“To provide the startups with the fullest support potential, a juried high-quality community is crucial. Just scaling in numbers is not the solution – we have to constantly increase quality and foster interaction among our attendees to facilitate a meaningful contribution to the next great leap forward for humankind. Hence every potential visionary has to apply in order to make it onto our invitation list,” Tschas added about the new invitation-only policy for all event attendees other than the 500 hand-picked startups.

In other news, Pioneers is setting up an office in Tokyo to expand its business to Asia.

Featured image credit: Dan Taylor / Heisenberg Media – Flickr

  • Ulrica Marshall

    The line up is amazing and simply to be invited shows world class. However I am putting my money on Erle Robotics to be “Pioneer of the Year”