One Spark Berlin Festival: call for creators – interview with managing director Travis Todd

From September 12. to 14. September One Spark Festival from Jacksonville, Florida takes place for the first time in Berlin. A festival where the crowd funding concept is transferred from the digital to the analogue world. We talked to Berlin’s festival manager and former Jacksonville local Travis Todd what the public and creators can expect from the event which takes place at Alte Münze Berlin and brings together makers, investors and the interested public during a weekend full of sparks – and big money!

Travis Todd
Travis Todd

Interview by Sandra Wickert for MaketechX

Travis, what were the biggest challenges in bringing the festival to Berlin?

The festival in the US was massively successful, over 260.000 people were attending in the second year. More than 4.5 million USD in crowd funding and investment were distributed so far. Having that as a benchmark made it much easier to come to Berlin and get attention. Still, it is the very first year of the event in Berlin. We know it is a really powerful event, but it was hard to convince the skeptical Germans that this is a great thing, were creators who start a business can get funding and feedback. Also, in Berlin it is tough and everyone wants everything for free, so it was first not easy to convince creators to pay a registration fee in order to participate. Cutting through that noise was difficult in the beginning, but we now have found great partners to promote it.

Tell us a bit more about how the festival works

Creators can register in any of the five categories, art, science, technology, innovation and music. A jury of experts then decide which projects are accepted. On Friday, there is first the speaker summit before the main events kicks off with a party in the evening. From then on, the public can come and start voting. The votes distribute over EUR 35000 in cash and people can vote either through our app or SMS. There is also a jury prize doted with EUR 1500 in each category by the way! For example, with just 50 votes of the crowd fund the entry fee is probably already covered. The investors will also be present, they have a separate area where they can take creators and they can pitch in private. For the public, the festival is also a lot of fun. Not only can they get to know new ideas and take actively part in supporting them, but there are also a lot of side events. We have our own street food market in cooperation with Bite Club, we are brewing our own Onespark craft beer together with Brewbaker and of course, there is music. On Sunday night, the votes are counted and we’ll give out the awards in the closing ceremony. It is like a big party, but with a purpose.

Which projects from the previous festivals in the US impressed you the most?

Oh, there were many ones. For example, people who wanted to set up a live music venue and recording studio in a former church that was now closed. Or Marbel, who developed electric motorized skateboards and did a pretty successful kickstarter campaign afterwards and found investors. Or a great street art artist and the first Whisky distillery to be founded in Jacksonville. We are bringing the five juried award winners from the US to Berlin, this will also be exciting!

In which phase are you at the moment, can people still register?

We just extended the deadline a bit, because we received an extra prize of 10000 EUR from the Senatsverwaltung für Wirtschaft, Technologie und Forschung and therefore would like to allow more people to participate. Creators can register until August 1st.

How many creators have registered so far?

I’m not supposed to talk about numbers. We have a lot registered, but there is still plenty of room. Especially in terms of makers’ projects and hardware stuff we don’t have that many yet, but it would be great to have more. They normally have a very good potential to win the crowd fund, because tangible things do really well at this kind of event.

The registration fee is EUR 60, what will creators get out of this?

It first seems high, but to be honest, this just covers our expenses. The participants will get a lot of benefits out of this. For example, with just 50 votes of the crowed the entry fee is already covered. There are not many opportunities for makers to get this much exposure, feedback and, of course, money. Even if you have just an idea and not a business yet, it is a great opportunity and bears no risk at all. The vehicle of crowd funding is really beneficial in Berlin, a city where everybody is living the poor but sexy lifestyle and where you don’t have much access to investment money. The jury prize of EUR 10000 for projects from Berlin from the Berliner Senatsverwaltung is a great incentive for people to participate as well. Also, apart from access to the investors, the creators get free food and drink and their own space in the venue. They can do whatever they want with this space. We’ve seen people build a house of shirts or people setting up a bus with an art gallery inside. Everything is possible.

What are you most looking forward to?

So many things. First there is the speaker summit on Friday. We have some pretty cool and diverse speakers there, who talk about what crowd funding and crowd investing is and how it’s done. The festival itself is a lot of fun. The wide mix of startups, musicians, makers and fashion people makes it special. You get to know the people who are behind the projects and can feel their passion. There are lots of different aspects which I’m looking forward to. For example, when you see people on the first day, it takes them about ten minutes to explain their idea to the public or to investors. And then, on the last day, they just nail it. It is like a pitching bootcamp, which is also exciting for investors. Having this mix of tech, art, makers and a lot of interesting discussions is a great benefit for everyone. For makers, you’re not in a bubble but exposing yourself to other people  with different ideas. This adds a lot to the way your idea and product develops.

One Spark Berlin

12-14 September 2014

Alte Münze, Molkenmart 2, Berlin-Mitte

entry for public: free

registration fee for makers: EUR 60. Registration deadline: August 1.

To apply for registration, click here. 

One Spark Berlin 2014