The Story of TNW Conference!

Two young fellows, Patrick and Boris were riding their bicycles on a sunny day in the Netherlands. They were cycling toward their office yet that sun wasn’t lifting up their mood.

Why? The two fellows were ready to host their first tech conference. Not a big deal, just a tiny conference in Amsterdam, hosting 230 people. Yet things were not looking good. Only 30 days from the conference day, they still hadn’t sold a ticket. And to make things worst they were eighty thousand euros in debt.

What had happened? And how had those two fellows put themselves in such a messy situation?

It was the year 2006. The phenomenon of social media was still at the embryonic stage. Facebook and LinkedIn only had twelve and eight million users respectively. Very far from the almost two billion and half a billion users, those socials have nowadays.

Thus, growing a startup back in those days was mainly about getting in front of your audience in real life. In that scenario, the two young fellows from Amsterdam didn’t know anything about events organization, yet they wanted to make their startup, called Fleck, known to the big audience. To make things worst they were thinking about booking a famous speaker, that would have drawn a lot of attention, but also additional costs to the already overdrawn bank account.

Where most entrepreneurs would have given up, Boris looked straight into Patrick’s eyes and shouted out,

Fuck it โ€“ letโ€™s go all the way, the only way!

That is how Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten and Patrick de Laive gave birth to the greatest tech conference in Europe. It was the first TNW Conference and now after eleven years that conference, organized as a way to promote a startup, hosts 15,000 entrepreneurs, developers, marketing managers, CEOs, and policymakers.

If we were to ask the two young fellows back in 2006 if they envisioned that conference (organized as a way to promote their startup) to become the greatest tech conference in Europe, my bet is they would never have envisioned that.

In fact, I actually asked Boris, CEO and Founder of TNW, here on LinkedIn,

Me: Would you ever have imagined (or envisioned in your wildest dream) that the TNW Conference (which you organized to promote Fleck) would have become what it is today?

Boris: Hell No! We had no idea it would ever become this big ๐Ÿ™‚

I believe this story is a great lesson for who aspires to become an entrepreneur. The bigger lesson being (besides the audacity, which is a must-have) how entrepreneurship moves on a path that is far from linear. A path that starts from a known place and ends up in an unimaginable location!

The location of this story is Amsterdam. Where we will gather with the WordLift‘s team and many other fabulous European startups!

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Gennaro Cuofano

Creator of | Head of Business Development at | International MBA

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