A few months ago, my friend CBM suggested I go to The Next Web Conference. At first, I thought - “Amsterdam’s cool and all, but I’ve already been and I’ve got a startup to run…” But when a free conference pass turned up, then a free hotel room from a friend who couldn’t cancel, and finally acceptance into TNW Startup Rally - a pitch competition at the Conference - it was a no-brainer. 

So last week, I flew to the city of pancakes, pot, and prostitution - wait, I mean Pancakes and Pitches! Pancakes and Pitches! - to see what the European tech scene is all about, show Amsterdam what’s new with Shelby and of course, represent America.

I was excited to see a great turnout for the Conference, with startups, investors, and press from all over Europe. Amsterdam, UK, Sweden, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic were the “locals,” but teams flew in from as far away as South Africa and Korea as well. So cool to see that type of entrepreneurial energy.

Compared to my trip to Italy last month, there was definitely more appetite for risk in this crowd, but it still lacks the full ecosystem of NYC or Silicon Valley. That being said, I think it will get there. It just takes time, knowledge share, and continued investment. 

The Startup Beta Rally, in which we participated, featured existing companies that are launching something new. So I got up and showed a quick demo of Shelby “GT” - our new version in private beta. [You can get on the invite list here].

The judges - including awesome people like Werner Voegels (Amazon CTO) and Alexis Ohanian (Reddit founder) - liked our vision, so I then had the chance of presenting to the larger audience on the main stage… the largest audience I’ve ever to which I’ve ever presented. Pretty fun, though I admit I wished I’d had my team there with me like TechStars Demo Day last year.** [It’s just more fun when you get off stage and have Spinosa waiting with a giant “FUCK YEAH!”]

Besides the Startup Rally, there were a bunch of great speakers like Hilary Mason (bit.ly), Alexis Ohanian (Reddit) and Chad Hurley (YouTube founder). There was also some fun activity outside, as TNW crew had a live cow in a pen for a game they called Dungville. I’ll let you figure it out from the pic.

The conference ended with the announcements of the winners for the Startup Rally and I’m really proud to say Shelby won “Best Overall Startup.” It felt great to nab that victory as our team worked really hard to get Shelby “GT” ready for launch at TNW. They got the job done. All I had to do was tell our story.

With the conference all wrapped up, I caught up with a good friend and local Dutchman, Jeroen, who took a big group of us to a super local Dutch restaurant for dinner. Really fun times with friends old and (mostly) new. 

I didn’t partake in the coffee shops and usual tourist traps because I really don’t like doing touristy things (in particular, those things), but I did walk around a ton and just explore. Amsterdam is a beautiful city and unlike most cities I’ve been. I definitely recommend going.

Special thanks to my friends Courtney Body Myers, Sophie Op den Kamp, Harrison Weber, and the whole crew at TNW for having me, and to Jeroen for being our guide all weekend.

**[Speaking of which, I can’t emphasize how much of an impact TechStars Demo Day has had on my ability to prepare a pitch and present it to an audience. This time around, I knew exactly how to prepare and how I wanted to tell our story. Thank you to TechStars, in particular the members and mentors of our class for all the help].