March 31

GeeknRolla: Rock star or one-hit wonder?



By Linda Cheung


Billed as “The awesome annual conference for tech startups in Europe” GeeknRolla was launched just two years ago in 2009. In 2010, over 500 attended despite the travel chaos caused by the volcanic ash cloud. People in the know told me I HAD to go…

On the day, the energy and passion of the entrepreneurs overcame the logistical teething troubles (being an hour and a half behind schedule by 11:00 is quite an achievement!).

Conference organiser Mike Butcher brushed off these issues with “we’re a start-up too”, and most seemed good spirited about it. The fast-paced nature of GeeknRolla (all sessions, whether a keynote or a panel, are less than 20 minutes) meant that everyone kept to the point. I was impressed by the calibre of speakers, panellists and moderators, the content and the networking.

My personal highlights (in order of appearance)…

Dave McClure

Having had 12 hours to adjust to Dave’s expletive level after the Telegraph’s “Audience With”, I could 100% tune-into his excellent tips. Software start-ups must focus on MVP: Minimum Viable Product. We’re working hard to deliver a product that addresses our clients’ lack of time and overload of information. Perfection would be great, but it would mean we’d never get anything to them! I also loved Dave’s “metrics for pirates”: Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral and Revenue – AARRR!!


My favourite of the start-up competition launch pitches – when I tweeted that I wanted to hear more when their time ran out, they promptly tweeted back “come by our table to try it out”. The name comes from “due diligence” and they want to help people find information about the reputation and stability of any UK company. Having won £50,000 from DFJ Esprit yesterday, they’re one to watch. Well done chaps Smile

Wendy Tan-White

Wendy’s presentation was titled “Money makes you lazy” but I can’t imagine for a minute that Wendy’s not constantly on the move! It was incredibly inspiring to hear Wendy describe how she lost $8M and had to sack 58 people out of 60 (including her future husband and mother-in-law), before achieving her current success by experimenting and taking risks.

Max Niederhofer


Max spoke as a GeeknRolla Grad (he took part in the start-up launch pitch competition last year). In less than three minutes, Max explained qwerly’s big idea, how they’d handled the downs and how they’re emerging triumphant. The self-deprecating tone and simplicity of the messages were brilliant. The various tweets I subsequently saw by individuals who had signed up to qwerly “just because” of Max’s presentation were well deserved.

Morten Lund

Last but certainly not least. Morten believes that strategy can be expressed to VCs in 5 to 10 seconds and that start-ups should sing and dance for investment… Of course he didn’t say the latter until after he’d got all the investors on their feet. There was a wonderful moment of realisation as Morten loaded the words of “Fly me to the moon”… and the entrepreneurs in the room were instructed to literally serenade the investors!

I’m not yet convinced that GeeknRolla deserves rock star billing. That said, the quote that seems to have achieved the highest number of ReTweets is: “Marketing in the future is like sex. Only losers will have to pay for it” – Morten Lund. Sex, Geeks and RocknRoll?

About the author 

Mark Bower

Co-founder of Basingstoke startup @CubeSocial. Windows Azure developer, some-time blogger, social media geek & northerner down south. Google Profile

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  1. Fantastic summary of the event, I whole heartedly agree with every point made, well done everyone involved.

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