Innovation on skis

Attendees networked outdoors at the ski resort with a backdrop of breathtaking mountain views


By Edwin Colyer, founder and impact lead

21 March 2024


Edwin reports back from the slopes after attending Skinnovation – The Innovation and Startup Festival on Skis 2024.

  Photo courtesy of Edwin

“So,” I said to the team, “I’ve come across this event for startups and innovators. It’s in a ski resort in Austria and combines skiing with talks, seminars and a ski lift investor pitch competition. Who’s in?”

The silence surprised me.

“I’m picturing a load of young, white, arrogant and over-confident men,” a colleague admitted, declining the offer.

“Well, apart from my age,” I replied, “I’ll fit in perfectly. I guess it’ll have to be me!”

First, to all startup founders and innovators: my apologies. I met only enthusiastic and passionate problem solvers at Skinnovation 2024. People with great ideas who wanted to make life better for people and the planet. Plenty of women founders, people from across Europe, people of all ages. The Skinnovation invite revealed our prejudices and deep-seated stereotypes of ‘founder’; we are recalibrating and will be less blinkered for Skinnovation 2025.

As for what I learned: It is almost impossible to summarise this incredible mashup event in just a few words, but here are my headlines.

  1. Hang out with creative thinkers

Every startup founder and innovator I met is trying to solve a problem, from lonely international travellers to sustainable fashion, ski whiteout terror to teenage suicide rates. Such creativity is going into the design, development and commercialisation of these beautiful and useful ideas.

I’ve discovered over the past 12 months that I’m a non-stop ideas machine. Fortunately, my fabulous colleagues keep me focused and grounded. But a critical mass of innovators takes things to another level, and I left Innsbruck enthused and reinvigorated with a head full of new ideas. Let’s see how they mature!

  1. Create space to recharge

I am an extreme introvert. I’ve learned to channel an outgoing and engaged persona when I’m with people, and at events when I need to speak with strangers. But left alone at a party or conference poster session, I’m likely the one alone in the corner.

I deliberately sat next to people at Skinnovation and initiated conversations in every seminar, on the ski bus, over lunch. But all the interaction – which I loved, don’t get me wrong – drained my energy. It was amazing to then hit the pistes and soak in the mountain views in solitude.

Whether you are running an event or leading teams, build in time and space for people like me to think, reflect and recharge. It’ll pay dividends.

  1. Stick to policy, but be prepared for disaster

We’ve decided as a company that we won’t fly. So I travelled by train. I was excited for the sleeper from Amsterdam to Vienna… which was cancelled.

Think fast and keep moving towards the target, I told myself. A 15-hour coach ride got me to Innsbruck ahead of time. Not quite so green, sadly, but a good lesson in resilience and adaptation. I’m glad I didn’t give up!

  1. Know thy fear, learn to trust

We often give up – or make poor decisions – when we are fuelled by fear. In the opening keynote event, speed mountain climber Benedikt Böhm shared how his team left nothing to chance. His fear mapping exercise was fascinating. He revealed that most of his fear focused on skiing down terrifyingly angled slopes, whereas his teammate mostly feared ascents.

They led one another, with the least fearful in charge.

This is why diverse teams of people with different strengths, skills and perspectives are so powerful. It is why I’m so grateful for my colleagues. And it is why we develop and deliver strong, quality projects. We’ve found our secret sauce: combining strengths and supporting each other.

I don’t know if the people I met at Skinnovation will become future clients, collaborators or simply join the host of enriching connections I’ve made over the years. But I do know that good things happen when you share experiences and explore ideas with others without expectations of any return.

Now, who wants to join us at Skinnovation 2025?