Interviews

Till Ohrmann

Till Ohrmann Initiator Pirate Summit
© KölnTourismus GmbH, Foto: Axel Schulten

Some say it’s the world’s craziest event for founders and investors! To make the Pirate Summit happen, its initiator, Till Ohrmann, committed himself to it completely – something which, in the early days at least, meant him merging the boundaries between his home and office and sleeping on the couch at work.

Pirate Summit - An event for start-ups

Some say it’s the world’s craziest event for founders and investors! To make the Pirate Summit happen, its initiator, Till Ohrmann, committed himself to it completely – something which, in the early days at least, meant him merging the boundaries between his home and office and sleeping on the couch at work.

CCB: You were involved in the Private Summit from the very start. What is the Pirate Summit exactly?

Ohrmann: The Pirate Summit is an event for business startups, their founders and investors. We define our start-ups as having investment requirements of up to 1.5 million euros. The Pirate Summit lives from the joy of entrepreneurship and adventure.

That’s why you called it the Pirate Summit?

Yes, we wanted to create a platform where it was possible to get to know investors. After talking to both investors and founders alike, it became clear that our event needed to have an exciting framework! On the back of this, a co-founder mentioned a blog to me that compared entrepreneurship with piracy. Pirates are bold and courageous, they hunt for treasure and, in doing so, forget everything around them, including their private lives. We felt this described our approach to entrepreneurship very well. So we created our conference along those lines and were able to win over some very well-known speakers from the international start-up scene. Nevertheless, dialogue between founders and investors always takes place on equal terms – something that’s written into our house-rules.

Why Cologne?

Originally, we were going to base ourselves in Iserlohn (I studied there), but after talking it through we became convinced that we needed to be in a bigger city. Cologne was our first choice because of its great culture. I don’t believe there are many other cities in Europe that could provide such a fitting home to the Pirate Summit. Cologne works because of its liberal, open-minded, and, among other things, crazy. The simple fact that the carnival takes in Cologne gives it a completely different feel. Its proximity to other locations also makes it a great choice. And I don’t just mean the Rhineland region. We’re also close to the Ruhr region, the Rhine-Main region and the Benelux countries. All of which are within a radius of 200 km of Cologne, or 1.5 h by car. As a result, it is possible to reach millions of potential customers throughout the greater metropolitan area and establish contact with lots of internationally-active medium-sized companies and corporations. That works really well in Cologne.

The Pirate Summit has been running for six years. Why is it so successful?

I believe that’s due to the following mix of factors: authenticity, having the right participants and sheer madness. We market ourselves as being the „craziest start-up event in Europe“, some even say it’s the craziest event worldwide. Another decisive feature is the fact that it’s an application-only event, i.e., people have to apply or get invited. You can’t just buy a ticket. We are very uncompromising. We put on several other events, but the Pirate Summit is our core event and embodies entrepreneurship as we and our participants live it.

Who are the pioneers of Cologne’s start-up scene?

One example would be a company that developed an ad blocker to block online advertising. Their product is installed on millions of browsers. They are based in Cologne; they have a few dozen employees and are doing very well financially! People aren’t generally aware of success stories like these. But the company is based right here in Cologne and is an international market leader in the IT field.

More information about Pirate Summit