The roots of PIRATE Summit
Dec 11, 2019 · 3 min read

When we organized the first PIRATE Summit in 2011 it was perceived as a very unique event in the startup scene. In the last seven years, the market has changed substantially. The most obvious change is the sheer number of startup events competing for the same participants. Also, most of the events are very similar in content and setup.

We spoke to many people about (the future of) startup events. These conversations confirmed our hypothesis that people are getting weary of them. Whilst we don’t think we are a “normal startup conference”, we certainly don’t want to become one.

During our conversations, we also learned that — even with the oversupply of events — there is still a need and a longing for meaningful exchange. Maybe more so than ever.

Therefore, we have used the last couple of months to reimagine PIRATE Summit and we are going to reveal the changes over the next days and weeks. Starting today.

Back to the roots: Why we organize PIRATE Summit

When we had the idea for PIRATE Summit in 2010 we wanted to create an event tailored specifically to the needs of startup entrepreneurs. Essentially — being entrepreneurs — we were creating an event we would love to attend ourselves. Successful events are usually started by people with experience in organization and money to get things started. We had neither. However, this turned out to be a good thing. Had we not been this naive, we would never have started PIRATE Summit in the first place.

Our ambitions weren’t ever about building a huge event or earning big money with it. If we’d be able to cover direct event costs that would have been plenty for us. Instead, as you can see in the Gentlemen’s Agreement from 2011 below (basically our founding agreement) the idea was: “The event should always be an end in itself and contain the elements of pirate and entrepreneurial spirit as well as networking. Only then should profit targets become relevant.” Over time we have reworded our “WHY” to “celebrate and grow entrepreneurship”, “create meaningful connections” and “spread the ARRR”. However, in essence, it hasn’t changed.

With everybody working for free and a revenue target just high enough to cover the direct event costs we decided to focus on what really mattered to us:

  • No-Assholes. We handpick every participant and bring together people with the same mindset and challenges.
  • No-Bullshit. We want everyone to focus on authentic and real exchange.
  • No-VIPs. Our vision was to put all participants on a level playing field and meet as humans. For every participant, we always asked ourselves: “Does this person have a story to tell”? Especially one that is relevant to our community. If so, this would make him a potential speaker. And — contrary to many other events — at PIRATE Summit every speaker should be a participant.
  • Paying-It Forward. We wanted to create an atmosphere that would foster an atmosphere of helping each other out, instead of pure transactional interactions with a “what is in it for me” mindset.

These ideas drove us from the start and we formalized them — if you can even say that in this context — into the house rules we still apply today.

The past has shown, that, amongst other things, staying true to our roots is what makes PIRATE Summit what it is. This is why we will keep on doing so in 2020 and hopefully, for many years to come. ARRR!

Head over to to check out what we have planned for the 10th edition of PIRATE Summit.

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Our mission is to create meaningful connections & grow the startup ecosystem.

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