Starting a new conference

because what could possibly go wrong?!

A while ago, there as a little bit of a conversation happening on Twitter, that was sparked by Matthias’s statement that more and more meetups are happening again. Now only a short year later, I felt like it was time. The time to actually follow through and start a new conference. In case you haven’t seen it yet:


This is a new thing. I mean, sure, I’ve organised a handful of concerts when I was in my early 20s, but I’m not sure that’s comparable. So I thought, I’d share my learnings here in a blog post, or rather series of them, since the whole thing is still ongoing. I want to somehow share the experience but also maybe help others to know what they’ll need to get their own conference started.


Honestly, my biggest focus here was just to not get into copyright infringement issues. Makes it also easier to get higher rankings on Google as if you were to compete with 50 other things for the same company.

Cost: 0EUR


Next up I had to get the domain cost me 36$ with Cloudflare. Simplicity is key here for me as well and the other advantage, besides the cost, is that I would be able to also host a static page later on.

There are a bunch of other options, obviously. Previously I used to default to Google Domains, but since they sold off that bit to square, I really default to Cloudflare now. The downside is, that they don’t offer that wide of a variety of TLDs. In this case, I would have otherwise opted for a .berlin one, but so be it.

Cost: 36$ Total Cost This Far: 35EUR


I cannot state this highly enough: form some sort of corporate entity that you will use to handle everything related to your conference. Separation of finances is one of the biggest aspects here and that just gets a lot easier if you separate everything. Every invoice I get, every bill I pay or receipt I send out is now in the name of the corporation and the money goes to or gets taken from a separate bank account. I can therefore seamlessly form a papertrail for all my actions and make sure I can provide that when it comes down to taxes but also prove that I’m not commiting any kind of fraud. Additionally, I now have the option to have proper working contracts in case I need to pay any personell later.


I personally went with a German corporation. Mainly because the conference is supposed to take place in Germany and therefore getting contracts and everything established between German entities is pretty straight forward. Additionally, my wife has a background in finance and is pretty familiar with German laws around that whole topic, as opposed to e.g. a C-Corp or an LLC in the US.

When in Germany, things get complicated. There are a bunch of different options and they all have their pros and cons. If you want to be on the safe side as much as possible when it comes to liability separation between you and your business a “GmbH” is your best option. It’s basically a limited liability company. The downside is that you need to put 25k subscribed capital in. That does not actually have to be cash in the bank. You could also have a different static asset worth that. I didn’t actually want not put an asset down and then the options shrink a little. You could do an “UG” but then you basically build up the 25k in asset over time and then reform to a “GmbH”. The next best option would be a “GbR” but that requires two people (at least) to form. So I’m left with “Einzelunternehmer”, wich I went with.

Creating the corporation is decently easy: sign the papers online and wait. The more problematic part comes after that: taxes. In order to get a tax number (which I really wanted), you need to fill a 15-page-long survey on the Elster website. Honestly, I just filled it to the best of my knowledge and now I’m waiting.

At some point you’ll get back your “Gewerbeschein” so your confirmation that you have formed the given legal entity and are the owner.

Cost: 15EUR Total Cost This Far: 50EUR


I went with Qonto. I wanted to have as low as possible monthly cost and that’s it. I’m not expecting a high outbound transaction volume and receiving money is free pretty much everywhere. I am such a big fan of Mercury, but sadly, they’re not available in Europe yet, so I chose something that promised an equally easy signup process and clean dashboard. So far I’m pretty happy. I had to sign on, verify my identity online in a quick call, send over my “Gewerbeschein” and now I am the happy owner of a bank account, including a credit card. The whole thing costs like 20EUR per month. There’s no signup, but I chose to top up my account with 100EUR so there’s something to get started with. Let’s just calculate that as cost.

Cost: 100EUR Total Cost This Far: 150EUR


Next up we need a website. I have a lot of things to do, so friggling with design and what not wasn’t really high up on my list. Hence, I decided to try one of the nocode tools. TeleportHQ looked promising and honestly, I have no complains. It’s free, and you get the option to use “AI”. No idea what they’re using under hood and honestly, I don’t actually care. So, I went through the process and got a half decent website out. Some customisations here and there, that you can actually do in a drag & drop manner, and then I was done.

The cool thing is, that you can either host on their service or download the source code. I did that and customized a little bit in a local IDE (Jetbrains WebStrom, in case your wondering) and then pushed the whole thing to a repo. Now is the time for Cloudflare again:

You go to the front page, then choose Workers and Pages and create a new application. You can hook that directly to a GitHub repo. After you’re done, you can choose a custom domain, ideally one that you have the records for on Cloudflare. Done. The whole deploy, hosting, DNS blah took less than 5 minutes. Absolutely stellar. And now any change I make, like adding new speakers or other things, gets deployed automatically on a push to the main branch. The whole things is free. Perfect.

Cost: 0EUR Total Cost This Far: 150EUR


Since this is the first time, the whole thing is guess work, and if I fuck it up, I have a lot of explaining to do to my wife. That makes finding a location really, really hard. Essentially I just looked at other “not super big” conferences and their attendance number and then eyeballed the whole thing. Why would I do that? Well, the issue is, if I start with ticket sales, a) I can’t actually tell people where they’ll see the conference, but much worse b) I have to wait. When it comes to locations and event venues, time is everything. The more time between now and the day of the event, the better your chances to get a good venue. After finishing my guessing, I figured that roughly 500 people should be doable. That means 125 per track, so 125 per interest group. Now I went off to find a location. There were basically two that I liked: Malzfabrik & Motorwerk. I asked both of them for a quote for renting the venue for the specified dates and after some back and forth it turned out that Malzfabrik couldn’t rent out the whole place and the sections they had wouldn’t fit everyone in a room for e.g. Keynotes while also offering a place for lunch and coffee. So Motorwerk was in. They were super nice, and it seems they’ve done events like that in the past. We’ll see how it turns out in the end and if people will like it. Now comes the fun part: the price.

The cost basically is split up into a bunch of different things, that are mandatory mostly but some are just recommended, like for example the chairs. Like, why would I rent chairs for 1EUR less per chair somewhere else but then have to ship them to the location and pay people to unload them and what not.

Let’s take a look at some of the cost factors:

  • Rent per day: 9900EUR (We need 2 days for the event and 0,5 for build up)
  • Rent for catering room for 3 days: 3000EUR
  • Cost of running (power and water): 4500EUR
  • Lights (base pack, can’t opt out because it’s fixed installed): 9000EUR
  • Sound (same as above): 4500

There’s bunch more, but the total in the estimate is slightly north of 70k.

I won’t lie, the number caught me a bit off guard, but I check with some friends with a little more experience, and it seems fair. Not cheap, but fair.

Now the way it works is, that I sign, pay 50% and then the rest later.

Cost: 72471EUR Total Cost This Far: 72621

That escalated quickly

There are some other cost here that aren’t really included yet but definitely have to come on top like security, that this specific location requires to be arranged with them. In other cases, you might be able to bring your own team (that still has be licensed so can’t just bring a couple of friends and be good). Security comes at around 35EUR per hour and this venue requires approx 10 people to cover entry and all the exits because emergency doors can’t be locked, so you need a sec person there. Then an additional person for the night and one that’s called “Brandwache”. So that will be around 10k again.


If you come to conference, and you pay XY amount you deserve food. Period. Lucky me, my best friend used to own a restaurant, is a chef and now works as head chef for some fancy spa. That means for me, I get good deals from reasonable catering firms. If you do this, you have to ask yourself what you want to offer. For me, I get very hangry very easily, so I basically need some options all day. The idea is to have coffee with some light snacks and fruit between doors opening and the first keynote, then lunch in the lunch break and some snacks and cake and coffee in the afternoon in a smaller break. The whole thing comes to around 70EUR per person per day, so 500 expected attendees + round about 50 speakers + staff and the whole shebang for two days. So round about 80000EUR. That is without any drinks. We’re still figuring out how much that’s going to be and what we actually need, but assume somewhere around the 20EUR per person per day mark so round about 25k.

The cost aside it is important to offer something for everyone, hence there’s a field in the ticket form to ask for food preferences: vegan, vegetarian or if you eat everything.

The good thing is, that this doesn’t really have to be paid out of pocket. Basically, when someone buys a ticket, I know that I have to order ticket for one person extra and by that time, I collected their money.

What else does a good conference need? A social event. Basically for that I’m planning mostly drink and some basic fingerfood, so we’re probably looking at another 20EUR per person. So we’re at about 10k for that.

We also need a speaker dinner. Can’t say too much about that though. It’s supposed to be a little bit of a surprise, but can calculate around 50EUR per person * 50 speakers brings us to another 2500EUR.

One thing we do have here is time. There’s no rush to get this done as soon as possible especially since I have the contacts already for caterers but also delivery companies for drinks and stuff. I can basically just ping them like a month in advance, when most ticket sales should be through and I can make an assumption and give them the go. A not so cool bit, that I’m still trying to regulate is, that there’s no tasting option. I really don’t like to buy meals blindly. I wouldn’t go to a restaurant either, ask for the price and then hope for the best and eat what I get. Sure there are things like tasting menus, but we’re not really shooting for Michelin Star cuisine.

Costs: 117500EUR Total Cost This Far: ~190000EUR


Tickets are an absolutely nasty but essential piece. Why nasty? Because of the money. If you are organising a conference, and you’re not associated with a foundation or a company that’s paying the checks you desperately need the money. I mean we’re at 190k this far. That money has to somehow come from somewhere.

The issue with most ticket providers is that they pay you after the event. Somewhere between a couple of days and two weeks is pretty average. That means I’d basically have to cover the total cost out of pocket and I don’t know about you, but I currently don’t have 190k in the bank not knowing what to do with them. So, I needed an alternative to the usual suspects like Eventbrite and landed at Ticket Tailor. The whole sign up process is pretty easy: you create what they call a “box office” and then your “box office” sells tickets to different events. In this case, one event, SkySummit. They rely on Stripe for the actual payments, so no money ever touches their bank account. Everything goes right through to Stripe, and then you can choose how often you want payouts from Stripe. I’ll not largely talk about Stripe. They’re well known and their whole process is pretty easy.

The cost here works per ticket. Since I chose “pay as you go” it’s 60 Cents per ticket plus VAT, so that comes down to 71 Cents per ticket and then additionally Stripe charges you per payment depending on what card you use to pay and from where and so on. But roughly 1,9% + 0,25EUR, so in our case 990*0,019 = 18,81EUR plus the 0,25EUR, so close to 19,06 and then add the Ticket Tailor fees, and it’s 19,77EUR total per ticket, so roughly 10k if we sell out.

What I liked here, is that I don’t really have to build a lot of stuff. You get a checkout page that you just link to from your homepage and that’s it. No wrangling of the styles and what not.

Cost: 10000 Total Cost This Far: ~200000EUR

Call For Papers and Scheduling

A couple of different options here, but I chose Sessionize. It’s pretty cool to use: you sign up and fill in the details for your event. There are some default field for the CFP (they actually call it CFS) but you can also define your own. In my case, I added choices for which track a given talk should go on and the format: lightning, session or keynote.

You then define the timeframe until which CFP is going. From the CFPs that you get, you get a breakdown by category and track (so really the fields you defined) and then you can move a session between different statuses until they’re accepted. You can also choose to bring in additional people as reviewers and build like a content team, which is nice if you want to eliminate bias.

If you want to be on the content team hit me up. Condition is that you haven’t submitted a talk yourself though.

The cool part comes after the CFP is done though: from the sessions that you accepted you get to build a schedule for your event. And that works nicely with drag and drop, and you keep a good view of your event in total. CFP isn’t over for me, but so far it looks really promising. Additionally, you can embed the schedule once it’s published and even get a mobile app.

There’s further testing to be done here. And I’ll report further as things move along.

Speakers & Sponsors

Technically, I wanted to talk about speakers and sponsors, but I’ll let the whole drama with the fake speaker profiles settle for a bit. (Yeah, really some idiot generated fake profiles to attract top level speakers and sponsors).

Closing Remarks

So far we’ve accumulated 200k in cost, have earned 0. I’d say it’s going great.

I’ll add another post, once we’re a little further along, but so far, if you have questions ping me on Twitter or LinkedIn or per mail.

If you want to support the whole effort, submit a talk here or get your tickets here. There’s an early bird discount going.

See also