Tech Open Air, or TOA, is Berlin’s premier tech festival. Just as SXSW has become synonymous with Austin, WebSummit with Lisbon, and Coachella with, well, Coachella, TOA has become synonymous with Berlin.
The first TOA took place in 2012, and since then has grown into one of the biggest tech festivals in Europe. From world-class speakers, to interactive panels and exhibits, to exciting after-hours concerts, TOA invites attendees to partake in a wide array of entertainment and experiences. The festival takes place at Funkhaus Berlin, a former GDR radio house that started operations in the fifties. Funkhaus houses the world’s largest recording space, has a number of pristinely preserved GDR-era studios, and a labyrinth of areas for entertaining exhibiting, and performing.
Some noted speakers of TOA 2019 include Chris Messina, the inventor of the #hashtag, Claire Hughes Johnson, the COO of Stripe, Steve Huffman, the Co-Founder and CEO of Reddit, and Markus Witte, the Founder and CEO of Babbel. One of the best parts of TOA, however, is that the festival helps to prove just how wide the tech field is today. Institutions and companies that might not be considered “tech” in some circles are given center stage in order to show just how today’s innovation and technology go far beyond their traditional parameters.
For example, TOA will feature talks from Jenn Sander, the Head of Innovation and New Initiatives at Burning Man, Eric Silverberg, the Founder & CEO of Scruff, and Katia Isakoff, a Composer and Producer at Women Produce Music. These speakers represent the uniquely “Berlin” aspect of TOA. An international festival of freedom, a “social application for gay, bisexual, and transgender men,” and a non-profit focused on female-identifying producers and artists. TOA shows that the barriers to entry into the tech ecosystem have been lowered — and has resulted in a much more diverse and dynamic festival.
If you’re more interested in interacting with the companies TOA, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. The Haus of Tech expo hall will feature booths, live demonstrations, exhibitions, and much more. In the enormous 3,366 square meter event hall of the Funkhaus (which used to be the home of the GDR broadcasting fleet, and where artists like Aphex Twin have played in years past), companies and startups from all over the world will showcase the latest innovations in tech and beyond. Attendees will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with companies like Mindspace, Accenture, and Amazon Alexa. One can easily spend an entire day in the Haus of Tech alone!
Tech Open Air also makes use of Funkhaus’ fantastic acoustics and aesthetics. Throughout the week, there will be after-hours parties, concerts, and acoustic sessions, and artistic exhibits each evening after the festival ends. The festival invites attendees to “hear, see, touch, feel, imagine, and explore the future of music and fine art through performances, discussions, workshops, and interactive AV experiences.” There will be music production workshops from Funkhaus’ in-haus music school, dBs. dBs specializes in electronic music production and design and has birthed some of Europe’s best electronic music producers and sound engineers.
After the first day of the conference comes to a close, the Funkhaus will transform into “an after-hours playground of arts, music, and all around great summer vibes” for TOAxNight. TOA partnered with the producers of the Melt festival for the event, which will feature performances like Emika, Parra for Cuva, and Kid Simius in the aforementioned largest recording space in the world, Studio 1.The evening will also feature a club area (featuring the city’s own Berlin Bass Collective!), live music along the spree, and more!
Just as the field of tech has continued to bloom and diverge into new and unexpected territory, art and artists have continued to adapt new innovative technologies and push the bounds of the field. Blending AR/VR technologies, holograms and more, artists will be showcasing their thought-provoking pieces throughout Funkhaus. Attendees are encouraged to keep an eye out for a number of interactive installations by artists such as Asawach, Henry von Blockhearts, and Lauren Moffatt.
It doesn’t just stop at Funkhaus, however. Throughout TOA, the whole city of Berlin lights up with satellite events — everything from Google developer roadshows, Yoga & Pilates Classes, and meetups for Women in 3D Printing. One of the best parts of TOA taking place in Berlin is that the city’s thriving tech scene is able to present its best work on an internationally-recognized stage.
From music production sessions, to workshops on fuel cell technology, to exhibitions from the best of the best of the European tech ecosystem, there really is something for everybody at Tech Open Air.
Jill Beytin is an American journalist and radio producer living in Berlin.