The longer I live in Rotterdam, the more I fall in love with the city. There is no lack of innovation or desire to make it a better place! Recently I attended the 20th Awesome Rotterdam Pitch Night, and I was blown away by the…well, awesomeness of it all.
About Awesome Rotterdam
Since 2015, the Awesome Foundation in Rotterdam has organized a pitch event four times a year. The concept is simple: a pre-selected group of people propose their ideas, and then a group of “trustees” selects which concept receives the 1,000 Euros cash prize.
The trustees are just Rotterdammers who want to help people make it happen. Anyone can apply to be a trustee. If selected, trustees have to bring 50 Euros cash to the event and help choose the winner.
To be a pitcher, the Awesome Foundation has three criteria:
- Is the idea awesome?
- Is it good for the people of Rotterdam (aka Rotterdammers)?
- Can it be executed in the short term with just 1,000 Euros?
And before this special edition, attendees voted on their favorite past winners in three categories: Social, Green, and Fun.
The Social winner was Rotterjam, which brings young and elderly Rotterdammers together to make fruit jams in an effort to reduce loneliness. Waste Works won the Green award for its recycled plastic street tiles. And the Fun winner, Sneaky Fitness, encourages people throughout the city to exercise in small, fun ways.
A Remarkable Community Without Remarkable Money
These ideas don’t intend to change the world. The pitchers themselves may not even want to make a sustainable business out of the idea. The intent is simply to make Rotterdam more awesome.
What really amazes and inspires me is the simplicity of the whole concept.
And I’m not talking about the event execution. But as someone with minimal event planning experience, I appreciate the effort that goes into coordinating an event that’s free to attend!
I’m talking about the simple concept of micro-crowdfunding to support someone’s idea to make the city a more fun, more lovely, more awesome place to live. I had the luck of sitting next to a trustee, who explained the process a bit more.
First, he told me there’s a waiting list to be a trustee. In other words, there are plenty of people in Rotterdam willing to donate 50 Euros so that the city can be more awesome!
He also mentioned that all 20 trustees have varied backgrounds. It got me thinking about what Maria said at The Next Web Conference, and what Backstage Capital achieves as a fund: without diverse investors, we won’t have diverse ideas or companies.
While a trustee needs to have 50 Euros worth of disposable income, the requirements to invest in an awesome idea are minimal. And Awesome Rotterdam functions more like a non-profit than a fund – there’s no return on investment or profit sharing. But the event itself functions like a pitch event, even though the funding is really a donation rather than an investment.
Regardless, the process is a fun, low-risk way for future investors (like me) to dip their toe into the experience of a pitch event.
Four Ideas, One Winner
Other than making Rotterdam awesome, there weren’t any other themes or restrictions for the ideas. Pitchers had approximately 10 minutes to describe their proposals, explain how they would use the 1,000 Euros, and answer questions from the audience and trustees.
Out of the four awesome ideas, the trustees chose SlutWalk Rotterdam! Organized by KONTRA and partners, the event aims to initiate conversations about societal treatment of women and minority groups. Ultimately, the organization wants to achieve policy changes that create a safe city for all inhabitants, no matter their gender, race, sexuality, ability, or any other aspect of their identity and existence.
According to Atria’s report Violence Against Women in 2016, 45 percent of Dutch women surveyed had experienced “some form of physical or sexual violence (since the age of 15).” And according to a survey by Erasmus University in 2017, 84 percent of women in Rotterdam experienced some form of verbal sexual harassment.
SlutWalk Rotterdam is certainly an important effort towards making Rotterdam awesome. KONTRA will use the funds to cover the costs of workshops, performances, volunteer training, and marketing materials – just a third of their overall expenses.
Ready to Make It Happen?
Between pitches, comedy acts, and additional awards, Pathe buzzed with an enthusiastic energy as attendees networked and celebrated Rotterdam. It’s truly a privilege to live in such a motivated city, and I can’t wait to see what we do next.
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