What I learned as a Startup Exhibiting at CeBIT 2016

In March 2016, I attended the CeBIT in Germany. I was a part of the IBM booth, and my startup company CLTRe ( was invited to showcase our products as part of the IBM booth. A security culture specialist as I am, I could not help but make a few observations. Here are a few:

CeBIT is not like a security event

My company and I offer security services. We developed the Security Culture Framework in 2012, and this week we launched the Security CLTRe Toolkit, the worlds first software-as-a-Service company to measure security culture and behaviors. I visit a large number of security events during a year, and most of the time I meet people who are interested in security behaviors, training and change.

During CeBIT, several hundreds of thousand people attended. Of those participants, very few seemed interested in security. And of those interested in security, even fewer thought security culture any cool.

For us, a small startup looking for customers, CeBIT turned out to not give us what we wanted. At security events, we tend to get more focus and much more interest.


CeBIT is global — in Germany

Attending CeBIT is a great thing. Few events are this large, and few other places will you meet this number of people, see so many cool products, and be able to buy or sell almost anything within the ICT-industry. CeBIT claims to be International, a global event that should attract visitors from all over the world.

After spending a week here, it is clear to me that CeBIT is indeed international. The germans have succeeded in drawing a large number of exhibitors from around the world — from Salesforce who booked three full halls (yes, actuall halls), to one hall dedicated to chinese manufacturers of all sorts of electronics, to the hall of drones.

There was only one challenge.

Most information was in the German language. One journalist I spoke to (brittish, not german) told me that during the press tour, a guided tour for the press, the guide only spoke german. Not at all a problem is CeBIT want to be a German event. A huge challenge if CeBIT indeed wants to be an International event.

This also made an impact to us: most people we met spoke german. Most people we spoke with during the five days, came from the german speaking parts of Europe. We met quite a number of potential business partners for the german market, but few from outside. For us, this means that we will reconsider our investment in CeBIT in the future.


CeBIT is a study of Culture

CeBIT does inded attrackt a larger number of exhibitors from around the world. How the different companies reflect their countries cultures is also interesting, especially for someone like me who finds culture to be of special interest.

Take the US-company Salesforce. They went all-in and hired three full halls for their grand tour. Three halls, each large enough to house a large number of booths. Like the Chinese delegation who hired half a hall, into which they fitted probably more than 200 different suppliers and companies, each with their own booth.

Several regions in India had their own booths, showcasing local business. The Kerala one was delicately colored in green, and had a fairly active group of people, smiling and inviting you over to talk. Next to them were another indian region, one I was unable to recognize. White tables, if they were ocupied, it was with business people who where clearly introverted, or not interested in doing business.

Then you had the Romanian booth, in which my female colleague recieved a large number of sexist comments. Or the Amazon plastic cloud thingie, an idea that must have looked so much better on the computer screen during design phase than in real life.

And of course the german efficiency everywhere, making it easy to move around the huge grounds, and to get information when you needed it (if you did speak german, that is).

CeBIT all in all

Me and my team had a great time during CeBIT albeit the challenges above. Being showcased as a promissing startup in the security space by IBM is a very good thing. Spending a full week with some of IBMs smartest people, learning the tricks of the trade and networking, was equally valuable to us.

Will I be back at CeBIT? Sure thing! Not as a startup, but in a few years when we have matured and are able to afford the investment to enter the german market.

What I learned as a Startup Exhibiting at CeBIT 2016 was originally published in Security culture and other ramblings on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Security culture and other ramblings - Medium authored by Kai Roer. Read the original post at: