SingularityU Vienna: Openness, Collaboration, and Continuous Participation

You know you’re doing something right when you have repeat participants. In the case of the SingularityU Vienna Chapter, a growing number of hard-core fans are attending every single event the Chapter offers. With a team leadership team of only two, that’s an impressive feat.

Chapter co-founders Markus Heingaertner and Petra Hauser met at Singularity University’s  Executive Program in 2015 and launched the Chapter in November 2016. They say the secret sauce is in a combination of unique event formatting, inspired topics exploring how technologies can help solve global grand challenges and a dash of positivism.

“We want to show the possibilities of technology,” Heingaertner explains. “There’s a lot of skepticism out there—we’re the optimists.”

SU Vienna (IoT Event)
From left to right: Günter Grabher (Grabher Group, Wearables), Jochen Borenich (Kapsch BusinessCom, IoT), Petra Hauser and Markus Heingaertner (Vienna Chapter leaders), Marcus Kottinger (IBM Watson). Photo was taken at Event #2 on the topic of Internet of Things.

Their formula for openness, collaboration, and participation

The team’s winning format for Chapter events keeps the traditional style of “high-profile behind the podium” to a minimum and instead provides more interactive experiences. Additionally, the team focuses on only one topic per event. Drawing crowds of around 100 at every event, participants come from a wide mix of backgrounds. According to Hauser, “Our audience is very inclusive. We have C-level executives, entrepreneurs, startups, students, and more. In fact, we even had the former chancellor with us! Each event is really mixed. I have been so thrilled to get to know so many innovative companies here in our little country.”

To create an atmosphere of openness and collaboration, each event kicks off by showing participants a short video on SU and its mission and providing an introduction to the exponential mindset. They then present short talks from high-level executives, startup founders, and scientists who share their experiences. Following that, attendees break into small groups where they’re able to discuss what they’ve heard, share their own experiences and expertise, and ask questions. Heingaertner notes that repeat participants are opening up more and more at each event, feeling more confident to share an opinion on a topic outside of their expertise, and thinking outside the box.

Moving forward

Witnessing this kind of growth, both in participant numbers and their mindset, in such a short amount of time has made Hauser and Heingaertner more committed to improving their events and providing even richer and more interactive experiences. By actively listening to feedback, they’ve learned to identify a need and then move forward in tackling it. For example, when participants expressed a frustration of not knowing how to incorporate exponential technologies into their own companies, Petra and Heingaertner organized an event centered on corporate innovation. They discovered that simple stories told by others about how they made progress at their company can give participants the information they need to make changes themselves.

The Chapter hopes to always emphasize the vitality of thinking big and truly considering the possibilities of exponential technologies in unexpected places. Regarding their impact so far, Heingaertner says, “It’s about thinking way beyond the horizon, which is not that easy. To switch from these daily problems to thinking globally about problems of the future—that’s a challenge. But that’s what we try to do.” Looks like a winning formula, indeed!

Are you interested in engaging members of your local community in thoughtful conversations about exponential technologies? If so, learn more about our growing global network of Singularity UChapters. Explore the current Chapter locations, and if you don’t see your city or country represented, apply to lead one!

In the Spotlight: Singularity University Chapters

SU launched the SingularityU Chapters program in 2015, and the SingularityU Global network has grown rapidly ever since. In this “SingularityU: Chapter in the Spotlight” blog series, we interview Chapter leaders to learn what led them to establish their SingularityU Chapters, what their Chapter experiences entail, and what makes their cities an important part of a global ecosystem.