The Amsterdam Dance Event 2021: techno, Techleap, a boat ready to cross the IJ River and a few entrepreneurs from Groningen with a drink in hand. These are the frames in which the idea for MXT (a conference on innovation in the creative technology industry at Eurosonic) was born. "Next to the walkway was a Techleap banner that eventually went to Groningen. And despite not grabbing it myself, I am certainly complicit," laughed Dion ten Heggeler (founder of Chordify).
"Eventually, the entrepreneurs made a video where they stood next to the banner and said: it was great with you guys, but we can do it much better," added Max Papo (project manager of Founded in Groningen). The video ended up with Constantijn van Oranje who appreciated the joke and responded with a challenge: to invite 250 entrepreneurs and investors to Eurosonic and organize a party for them. And that grew with a few pivots into MXT 2023; an event with potential for great impact on the Northern Netherlands. And that's why we spoke a few days after Eurosonic Noorderslag with the still cold, slightly tired and not yet completely landed initiators of MXT, Max and Dion.
Eurosonic is the largest showcase festival in Europe where a small 250 bands and acts perform on 36 stages in the Groningen city center. "This is where Dua Lipa and Stromae were discovered," Max explained. "But the music of this type of artist is not created, distributed or marketed without technology. That's why we say; how cool would it be if we could also bring together, connect and inspire entrepreneurs and investors at Eurosonic, so that the creatives can also advance."
"Eurosonic of course has a very powerful conference with a high-quality program," Dion added. "But that always goes on one hand about the artists; think of distribution and rights management. And on the other hand, about venues/festivals where everything is centrally focused on the organizational side. So logistics, safety and inclusion; things that as a visitor you notice little of, but which are extremely important. And MXT actually fills the gap that we saw in between. Namely, that there is too little for companies in the creative tech industry."
"I've seen a lot of happy faces, that really fills me with pride."
Pushing the boundaries of the future
But what exactly did MXT 2023 look like? Max: "We've always said that we want to inspire and connect the changemakers of the future to push the boundaries of the future. In our context, those are entrepreneurs and investors. And if you look very flatly at this year's program, it started Tuesday with food and partying in the context of connection. Wednesday was full of speakers and panel discussions, with topics from AI to diversity, on the program. And Thursday we provided a hungover breakfast with keynote speaker Tom Holkenborg (Junkie XL)."
"My highlight was probably the overall dynamic," adds Dion. "I saw a lot of happy faces, which really fills me with pride. Groningen is, with ESNS, a sort of center of Europe for the music industry, which is really cool. And we've contributed a lot to this with MXT by expanding the target audience. Because there are really a few hundred people who came to Groningen specifically for MXT. I find that an enormous enrichment."
South by Southwest
"I can explain my highlights with two hats," Max continues. "Content-wise, I found the Young Business Award that we hosted here to be very well organized. Furthermore, for someone who has been involved with the startup ecosystem for so long, it is genuinely awesome to see so many different partners (42) contributing to this story in their own way. Additionally, I am proud that we managed to get so many people excited who also understand the importance of such a large tech conference for North Netherlands.
We have a big brother that we look up to: the South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas. If you look at them, as Constantijn also said in the BNR podcast when he talked about MXT, you see that Austin itself is not unique. By that I mean that it's not even the largest city in Texas, but they manage to be the second tech region in America after Silicon Valley. For example, Tesla and Twitter are located there. And I believe that South by Southwest has been faster in attracting this business activity, talent, and capital."
So that in one week per year we can show what is happening here; that this is a good place to live, work, reside and start and grow a business."
Transcending Groningen and the Netherlands
Max: "I dare not say that we have reached as far as South by Southwest with MXT, but I do believe that this is possible within a few years. So that we can show in one week a year what is happening here; that this is a good place to live, work, live and start a company and let it grow. And that is bigger than just Groningen; that way you highlight the entire region.”
"The reference to South by Southwest is obvious, but if we roll out a consistent program in collaboration with Eurosonic in the coming years, I think we can bring MXT to an even higher level," says Dion. "We are already far beyond the ambitions that were initially there. With thirty speakers, a thousand visitors, and about 48 hours of programming. That's a crazy start, but it also sets a high bar for the future. But I believe that as we become better known, we will be able to attract entrepreneurs and investors from all over Europe more easily and build an ecosystem that transcends Groningen and the Netherlands."
In this way, it becomes a given that the creative sector from all over the world comes to Groningen once a year.