It just takes one spark to start a fire, and that is exactly what happened a couple of weeks ago for the One Spark crew in Berlin. The Jacksonville organization made the move to take its brand all the way to Germany. The smaller, one-day test festival, called One Spark START: Berlin, made some changes to the Jacksonville concept to cater to a different European market.
One Spark faced lots of challenges in ensuring that this would be a successful event, but the alterations to the original concept were just the right tweaks needed to ensure that a great group of creators, venture capitalists and spectators would come to check out the festivities. For One Spark START, 200 applications from creators were received, but only 50 were selected to participate. This brought out the highest caliber of projects for visitors to evaluate and vote for. The One Spark staff also opted for a one-day festival with a kickoff party the night before, which worked best in the competitive city of Berlin.
When I arrived in Berlin, I shrugged off some jet lag and made my way over to Platoon Kunsthalle, which translates to Art Hall. It’s an incredible, three-story building made of 34 repurposed shipping containers. The venue was a perfect fit for the vibe of One Spark, and the staff was super friendly and excited to have the festival there. There was already buzz of the festival and a volunteer meeting was going on to get everyone ready for what the next couple days would bring. Over the next two days, the place transformed into a mini One Spark with the same energy and enthusiasm of the 2013 and 2014 festivals in Jacksonville.
The opening party on Friday night was a success (Germans do LOVE to have a good time!) with an awesome performance by one of Berlin’s up and coming musicians, Betty Dietrich, and a good welcoming pep talk and run down of the next day’s activities from Travis Todd, Managing Director for One Spark START: Berlin. The creators seemed anxiously excited for the next day and, as a former creator in Jacksonville, I remember that feeling all too well.
The day of the festival arrived, and I made the trek back to the venue for the full experience. My heart hoped for a great turnout, but I’m not going to lie, in the back of my mind there was definitely the looming question, “Is Berlin going to turn out for this?” I approached the building a couple hours after the festival got started, with the hope that the crowd was hopping and the creators were busy pitching their products and ideas, and I was thrilled to see the outer steps abuzz with the Spark.
I stood out on the sidewalk and took a few moments to soak it in. Fighting back happy tears, I felt so proud of how far the team had come to get to this day. I felt proud for Jacksonville to not just be on the radar, but be right in the middle of a major European city. I made my way inside, to the volunteers who were busy registering people, getting them to vote and eagerly asking me if I was registered or if I had any questions.
Throughout the day, I continued to be impressed with the hard work I saw the from knowledgeable volunteers. Energetic Creators were on top of their game, getting my attention and poised and ready to sell me on their project. I made a lap through all the projects, some set up in the building and others in outdoor booths, mentally noting the ones I wanted to visit again. As I already mentioned, the quality of projects at this festival was so high that it was difficult for me to not vote for practically everyone there, but I gave myself a personal limit of voting for only my 10 favorite projects so as not to water down the voting. The idea of curation made it really nice to not have to weed through all the noise and chatter of sub-par projects.
I was continuously impressed with the quality of projects being presented. Balcon E is a startup that has designed solar panels to hook to your balcony and run electricity to your apartment. The Baroque Experience is a group of theatrical performers who stayed in full costume and character all day to raise money to do more public performances. I sat in on Piffle! A Radio Show for Nonsense while they recorded a quirky podcast focused on start-ups and crowdfunding culture that will be available on their website in the next couple of weeks. The crew from Karmanoia’s Mind Altering Maze was experimenting with sound and mirrors in their booth to raise funds to build a huge labyrinth in Berlin. Room in a Box is a company already producing lightweight cardboard products such as a bed frame, nightstand and more. The talented music projects from The New Beans, Somebody Else, and Belongings were so impressive it was hard for me to pick a favorite!
As the clock ticked closer to the closing ceremonies, just like in Jacksonville, you could sense the urgency and hustle of the creators to get the last few votes they could. Then, as voting closed and the One Spark team tallied votes behind closed doors, Daniel Daboczy, CEO of FundedByMe, gave an inspiring talk about the future of crowdfunding as creators and supporters anxiously awaited the results. Just like in Jacksonville, you could feel the excitement and see the hope for the big prize in each creator’s eyes. They were competing for over €10,000 in crowdfunding, €5,000 awarded by category juries, and a special €10,000 Berlin Prize offered by Projekt Zukunft for the best Berlin-based Project. And the winners are…
Top-voted projects by festival attendees
● Art Karmanoia’s Mind-Altering Maze
● Innovation Room in a Box
● Music Somebody Else
● Science EcoToiletten.de
● Technology Webreife
Juried award-winning projects (coming to One Spark U.S.)
● Art Made in Africa
● Innovation Room in a Box
● Music Berlin Music Campus
● Science N#MMER
● Technology Talkitt
Even with the changes to the original One Spark concept, the passion that creators had for each of their projects translated through time zones and languages. I walked away from the experience ready for April 7 – 12, 2015, to feel the excitement and energy in Downtown Jacksonville once again! Who knows what this talented crew of One Spark staff has in store for the future? From the way things are going, it’s apparent that they will continue to shoot for the stars!