Why is a ticket for Money20/20 worth its price? An interview with Clas Beese
Standard pass (for early birds) costs almost 3 thousand euro, to be exact €2995. That’s why I met with Clas Beese just two weeks before one of the biggest European FinTech conferences – Money20/20. We talked about the business code of conduct during the pandemic and the reasons why it’s worth spending that much money and time to be there.
Clas Beese – Founder and CEO of Fintech Week (Fintech Week is Germany’s biggest FinTech related event, taking place in Hamburg) & Finletter, leading German fintech newsletter. Published on Fridays, covering the latest news on fintech.
Martin Konieczny – Fintech Enthusiast, Business Development Manager at j-labs software specialists.
Martin Konieczny: The reason we are talking is to ask you as an expert about the FinTech stage. What is your current outlook on the fintech events in Europe? How have they changed during the last year? And was it for better or for worse?
Clas Beese: Ok, there are many questions at once. So what has changed what I believe that with the COVID crisis, all events shut down at once, all over Europe and everybody went into a home office. I believe it took quite a while to realize that all the fintech events were shut down as well. And we realized last year and during 2020 that there still is a kind of need to meet people, to exchange ideas, to meet old colleagues, but also to meet new contacts.
I believe what has been done is that many fintech events have changed to online events. In my opinion, that has been a success in the way that the content delivery of such events has been put online. But we tried, and we failed as well to put the networking online because I believe that people still need to be in physical touch.
If you meet someone for the first time, you try to find out if you’re having a trustworthy partner there or not. That’s what we as humans are trained to do in a kind of physical way. It’s quite important for new leads, contacts, partnerships and of course for new innovative ideas to come up with. Co-founders, founders and investors need to meet. You can organize everything online, but sometimes you just have to bump into each other. And this is one function of fintech events, which I believe many have undervalued so far.
Martin Konieczny: I really understand what you are saying, I did take part in quite a few events online and I completely agree that the content delivery was there, but from the networking point of view, I didn’t work at all.
The reason for it, it was not possible to have a typical, so to say, chit chat online. You either had a reason to talk to someone. And in my case, I wanted to sell someone something, or we had no reason to talk at all. In contrast to physical events where this kind of behavior happens all the time.
While getting a coffee, there’s someone standing behind you. You can always exchange a few words and then maybe have a connection or not.
I would say for the pre-arranged meetings, online works almost the same, but for any Ad-Hoc spontaneous meetings, definitely not.
Clas Beese: Absolutely not. If you’re speaking about physical events like the Money 20/20. People who are going to travel, taking the time to be there. So they are there to approach and be approached by other people.
It’s quite a commitment because you’re cutting out one or two or three days of your really busy schedule to be reachable at an event. This is not happening at online events because they are happening at your home office, at your daily business. You’re trying to grasp some content there, but then you’re trying to do some work as well. And if you reach out to someone you don’t know if he or she is approachable or not.
And this is really easy at a physical event because you see someone you know or you want to know. If you see someone queuing at the buffet you may approach. if you see someone in the middle of a lively discussion with someone else, you better wait.
This piece of information is absolutely missing at online events, so you do not know if you’re disturbing someone or cheering someone up by saying hi to that person. This is very crucial, and that’s why I am personally looking forward to being at Money 20/20 again because I’ve been missing that deeply.
Martin Konieczny: This year’s Money20/20 conference is going to be the first time for me. I booked the ticket last year, but it didn’t happen.
Can you tell me, what do you think about it and why is it so special? Because it seems it is.
Clas Beese: I know from my personal experience that we’ve been putting great effort into our content creation at Fintech Week.
We have been really proud of this content which we have created and now we are trying to pick up the up to date topics. With the experience over the years, we realized that our content is maybe one-third of the reason why people attend and the other third is because people want to experience the speakers and what they have to say on the topic.
The third reason is that people want to meet each other for networking. When I’m thinking of Money20/20, I’ve been there only once, which was in 2019, just before the crisis. I was not that impressed by the content, but by who was there – everybody relevant from the European FinTech scene has been attending this conference.
I believe this is the very own network effect of the organizers of Money 20/20. In essence, Money 20/20 is special because everybody is there.
It’s a way to meet business partners in a very efficient way. You can travel Europe for three, four weeks or even longer doing a lot of meetings all over the place or you just spend three days in Amsterdam. To defend the content creator team of Money 20/20, in my opinion, the content of this year in 2021 is looking very promising.
Martin Konieczny: Would you say it is definitely worth it because it is expensive at the same time, right?
Clas Beese: Absolutely. It’s expensive. But then again, compare it to three or four weeks of doing business trips across Europe. Then it’s cheap.
Of course, it is probably the most expensive FinTech event in Europe, I absolutely agree, but the value is high. But, if you’re only up for content and not for meeting people, it is too expensive.
Martin Konieczny: We will move shortly to the FinTech Week itself. I’m curious, what are your personal goals for Money20/20?
Clas Beese: I’m really fond of the content this year because some topics are really at the cutting edge. I’m interested in seeing those topics, which are relevant to my content-related work at Finletter, and for my very own event, Fintech Week.
I’m looking for inspiration because I’m a person who gets very creative when sitting on a chair and listening to someone else speaking. I tend to drift off the topic then. I usually enjoy having ideas, which I do not have during my daily business weekdays. That’s the second thing.
And thirdly, of course, I’m really happy to meet people in person again, which I haven’t seen for one and a half years. Just this week I’ve looked at this networking app, which Money20/20 is providing and see who’s attending. It was just a very peak, and I was pleasantly surprised to be already registered there and who I would love to meet again.
In my experience, I know to schedule this way, less hectic than the last time I was there. I was approached by many FinTech companies and PR agencies, and I was contacted by many FinTech CEOs who were doing background conversations with me, which were interesting.
But, to be honest, I was in some cases forgetting my next meeting because I had to run from one point to another in a rush. I have to change that a little bit, but of course, I’m also meeting people to talk about Fintech Week as well. It’s not a secret.
Martin Konieczny: That seems like it’s going to be a busy three days, and I guess, you know this advice. I have learned it from my experience of how you see someone who goes often to conferences and someone who is there for the first time – the shoes they are wearing!
Clas Beese: Yes, I know. They know it’s going to be a lot of kilometres and don’t even laugh. But I got a new pair of sneakers two weeks ago, especially for that.
Martin Konieczny: It makes all the difference. Can you then tell me more about the FinTech week itself? Because I did see that it is happening this year, right? And what is the plan? How can you describe it through what is going to be special and interesting about it?
Clas Beese: Since we were going to be back, we paused last year to year due to COVID, and this summer we decided to run it again. What we’re doing differently this time is that, you know, we’ve run a kind of decentralized concept last time. The venues and the events of the FinTech week were spread all over Hamburg in one week. That’s a part of the concept because we are not running the events ourselves, but our partners do.
Content-wise, our partners are going to run the events, but the venue will be centralized this year. So we have one venue where all the events are happening, and we’re doing this to make it easier for us to register the people. Because we are running under the so-called 2G rule, hence people need to be vaccinated or recovered from COVID to attend. We’re going to check not only the tickets but also the IDs, and the vaccination certificates. We’re also making sure that participants are using the tracing app when they’re attending.
It requires a huge effort in getting people into the building. Much more than we had in the past. That’s why we’re doing it at a central location, hoping for the benefit that more people are at the same time and place to use lounges in between events, hang out there and accidentally bump into each other.
Martin Konieczny: When it comes to the size, I would guess it’s too early to say because it’s growing. But when it comes to content, how big do you expect?
Clas Beese: I expect it to be smaller than the last time because we and our partners have less time to plan everything. We have to act more quickly this year. I can hardly say how much smaller, but I believe it will be smaller in the dimension of a number of events, as well as participants. I can’t really say more at the moment because we are in the middle of curating the content and we have not started the ticket sales for participants yet.
Martin Konieczny: So it’s still time to acquire early birds tickets?
Clas Beese: Not even that.
Martin Konieczny: From my point of view, we just don’t know what’s going to happen in two weeks. We are almost expecting another lockdown at some point and it is difficult to plan ahead. Of course, I’m vaccinated with two doses and everyone around is as well. But still, if the lockdown happens, we have to shut down everything.
Clas Beese: Absolutely true, we’re operating under uncertain circumstances.
Martin Konieczny: Considering that actually, I also think that conferences can be more special than usual. For me personally when I want to meet with someone then I want to meet in person. It was always my standard. People still might be afraid to do that during the conferences. But I would guess that they should expect to be approached and those should be the people that are open to meetings.
Clas Beese: Of course, and getting back to your question about what’s different this year and fintech events in Europe. I believe that a physical event is having another benefit, value for the participant because the people are being checked first. While being there, you can be sure that everybody else is also safe. It’s not affecting you. That’s why I’m expecting a kind of relaxed atmosphere.
Besides conferences, when I’m going to one on one meeting and it’s in a restaurant or we meet in a business environment you do not check your vaccination status. Nobody is saying: “Could I please see your certificate?” it’s not a custom. So you might have this slightly dodgy feeling of uncertainty.
I believe that’s quite a new kind of value proposition by the event saying, OK, we’ve checked everyone. Giving back this kind of normal life, which we enjoyed before the pandemic. Which we didn’t appreciate then.
We definitely have a proper check at Fintech Week at the entrance. And I hope and I’m expecting that for Money20/20, too.
Martin Konieczny: Let’s carry on with the overall safety. How do you feel? How is it in Germany, especially when it comes to trust and in general meetings face to face? Do you know if it’s already happening as it used to be?
Clas Beese: I think you can observe everything in Germany at the moment. Many people are still at home office and they like it that way. Many meetings are still happening online. People are also doing physical meetings and all kinds of stages, like doing tests before, even when being fully vaccinated. People are wearing masks, some others do not. So it’s always a kind of negotiation on who’s feeling comfortable with what.
For example, in Germany, the rules are different depending on the Lander. There are different rules in Hamburg than in the neighbouring Schleswig-Holstein. It makes it really difficult to know who’s used to what.
Martin Konieczny: The last question that I have planned for you is related to your personal interests. What are your favourite top three FinTech events in Europe?
Clas Beese: I’m feeling that I haven’t been to many of them or hardly enough, so I personally would love to travel way more and attend more events, which I couldn’t afford in the past. Money20/20 is now obviously the number one, which is because they’re coming up again. And we have hardly had any FinTech events in the last one and a half years. And before that, we had just way too many to attend them all. I can not really answer that question. I’m looking for my very own fintech week, but I’m biased there, so I can’t mention that.
Martin Konieczny: Of course you can!
Clas Beese: I mean, I can hardly answer the question of what’s a good fintech event because it always depends on what I’m trying to do there. If I want to be inspired, meet people, catch the latest content, get to know the speakers. I’ve been to two very small events I really liked, and two big events which didn’t have a benefit for me. It always depends on my motivation in what I’m up for.
Martin Konieczny: Fair enough, but I was hoping for a name. Maybe we can catch up again after Money20/20. Thank you for your time.
Clas Beese: Of course, thank you very much for your interest.