Event | Inside FutureX | Startup Summit / October 30, 2020

Reflecting on Startup Summit 2020

If you’ve been following the work we do at FutureX for a while, you’ll have noticed that after each of our major events (Startup Summit, Impact Summit, Future Business Forum) we like to write a piece reflecting on the event. We do this for a few main reasons:

  • To celebrate our successes (especially in this year of all years!)
  • To acknowledge where we could improve (we’re always striving to get better!)
  • To hold ourselves accountable (to our values, and areas we committed to improve on in the past)
  • To open up the conversation (let us know what you think and give us advice!)
  • To share our findings (hopefully you can learn from us!)

To guide these pieces we use the post event feedback we gather from attendees, speakers, and stakeholders, as well as the (slightly less scientific!) thoughts and feelings of the FutureX team. 

Background to Startup Summit 2020

2020 was defined by two world changing events – the Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement – and so, in turn, was this year’s edition of Startup Summit.

As well as meaning that the event could not take place physically in Edinburgh as normal, the pandemic was a key topic throughout the event, due to the huge impact it has had on the business world and our lives in general.

Equally, in a year that the Black Lives Matter movement made headline news across the world, diversity and inclusion were driven – belatedly – to the top of the business agenda. It was imperative that SUS20 recognised the impact of BLM, championed a diverse range of voices and contributed as much as possible towards positive change.  

Black Lives matter Black Lives matter @ClayBanks

Diversity & inclusion

Earlier this year we made a pledge to improve diversity across all FutureX events. In our first major event since then, we’re delighted that SUS20 featured our most diverse speaker lineup ever, with 33% BAME speakers, which is above our target of at least 30%. In terms of gender diversity, 45% of our speakers were female which was close to, but below, our target of at least 50%.

In our efforts to help remove barriers for BAME people in the business world we also provided free tickets and exhibitor stands to BAME businesses and this is something we will continue to do at all of our major events.

Overall, we were happy with the diversity at SUS20 and we are determined to maintain these levels from now on.

Sustainability & Accessibility

A happy byproduct of moving our events online, is a massive reduction in our environmental footprint – with no need for any of the paper, plastics or single use products associated with physical events (although we’d been working towards reducing them too!), or any need for attendees and speakers to travel to the event. 

In terms of accessibility, geographical proximity was no longer a barrier, so people from around the world could easily join us, provided they have an internet connection and a computer or smartphone.

Attendees from

34 Countries
84 Cities

To improve accessibility, we reduced the price of tickets compared to last year and provided a number of free or heavily discounted tickets to students, BAME businesses, unemployed people and other groups.

However, we acknowledge that we still need to improve how accessible the event is for people with disabilities, particularly people with hearing impairments, and we are looking to incorporate closed captions on our videos. We would also strongly welcome any further input from our audience on additional improvements we could make to improve accessibility at future online events. 

Event Format

As well as moving the event online, it was extended from one day to two (slightly shorter) live days, plus an additional five days for attendees to watch replays. This meant we were still able to cover a wide range of themes and subjects, and that attendees had a greater amount of flexibility to watch the sessions at a time that suited them.

Overall, these changes were very well received by our attendees. We believe that this flexibility is one of the clear advantages of online events, as delegates need not miss any sessions due to scheduling clashes or other engagements. We’re also seeing that attendees are becoming far more comfortable with online events than they were earlier the year, as they become more used to the format and make less direct comparisons with physical events.

Speakers & Content

Each year we seek to raise the bar in terms of our speaker lineup, while still seeking to maintain a balance between big names, international perspectives and local success stories. We were very pleased with our speaker lineup this year, which we believed to be Startup Summit’s strongest yet. Attendee feedback would seem to back this up, with 95% of attendees happy with our speakers and the topics that they covered.

An area that we are still keen to improve on is interaction between speakers and attendees. Based on this year’s feedback, we will look to increase the number of opportunities (and the quality) of attendee / speaker interaction at future online events. 

Networking & exhibiting

Networking is consistently one of the top motivations for attending our events, so we know how important it is to get right. Equally, the online networking and exhibitor area is one of the trickiest elements to recreate from a physical event.

We’re really encouraged by the feedback we received about our networking platform Remo. Attendees compared it favourably to other online networking platforms they’d used, and enjoyed how interactive the event was overall.

We also created a Startup Summit Slack group in addition to Remo, to provide attendees an additional way to connect and communicate with each other, and for us to provide important information and announcements.

Average time spent in exhibitor area

4.5 hours

We’re aware that some attendees found it hard to keep up with two different platforms, and we need to make sure that we strike a balance between offering attendees choice and overwhelming them.

There’s definitely still room for improvement in terms of online networking and exhibiting, but we’re really positive about what’s possible, and we’ve seen huge progress between each of the three major events we’ve held this year.


Tech failures can spell disaster for online events, and this was perhaps our biggest fear leading up the event. Aside from a few attendees experiencing problems accessing Remo, we were delighted that overall everything worked smoothly across the full two days.

We’ve noticed a big decrease in attendees experiencing technical issues over our last three online events, which is great to see, and we’re working hard to make the event experience even more seamless between our different platforms.

Amid one of the most challenging business backdrops of our generation, we hope that this year’s Startup Summit was a source of inspiration and optimism for our attendees. It certainly was for us! To be honest, we’ve been blown away by the feedback, with an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5, it matches the best attendee rating we’ve ever received for an event (physical or online). 

We know there’s still plenty of room for improvement, and we’re already back in planning mode ahead of another packed year for FutureX. Hopefully in 2021 we’ll get to see you all in person! 

In last year’s Startup Summit reflection piece we finished by saying:

“A perfect Startup Summit is one that reflects the incredible diversity of the world we live in, is not a strain on our environment, and empowers entrepreneurs to take their place in the incredible community we are building”

– FutureX team 2019

Hopefully this year we got pretty close! 

FutureX Team