SHIFT 2020: Real encounters in a virtual environment

SHIFT 2020: Real encounters in a virtual environment


SHIFT Business Webstival 2020 started today in the VirBELA event platform. Already in its fifth year, the international intelligent business event is now entirely virtual and fronted by a new CEO. The first festival day has proven the virtual 3D venue to be a successful concept.

In the opening ceremony on Tuesday morning, former SHIFT CEO Mari Männistö passed the torch to her successor Sini Toivonen. Toivonen is a long-time SHIFT alumna and a member of the event crew since 2015. “Although organizing an event in the current world situation was certainly not easy, it was clear to us that SHIFT must happen this year – perhaps now more than ever,” Toivonen says. “Encounters between people and the exchange of ideas are at the core of SHIFT, and we wanted to make that possible just like before, as intelligently as possible and with the help of new technologies. We’ve created a unique and scalable event concept that we can all be proud of.”

The 3D virtual event production is a pioneering take on international business events, and the webstival is expected to gather one thousand business developers and influencers over two days. As attending doesn’t require physical presence on site, attendees can make their way to SHIFT even on short notice. On the morning of the first event day, the ticket store has still been busy.



Besides human encounters and networking, SHIFT 2020 delivers a world-class program to its attendees. On Wednesday 28 October Phillip Malloch from Facebook, Mikko Alasaarela, CEO of Inbot, and Jack Hardinges from Open Data Institute talkinG about democratic access to open data and use of the AI, and Fabien Vieau from Google speaking about how demand for digital services drive decarbonisation. Jacqueline Cramer, Professor in Sustainable Innovation at Utrecht University, Jacqueline Cramer and Kyle Wiens, CEO of will be discussing what the circular economy will mean for businesses as we know it. The second festival day will be concluded with a keynote speech by Rita McGrath, a rewarded speaker and a longtime Professor at Columbia Business School.

According to the SHIFT Head of Program Anne Bergshoeff, SHIFT 2020 was designed “virtual first”: the program could be adapted for a partly on-site event or a fully virtual one as needed, and either way, it would promote spontaneous encounters, casual conversation and festival vibes. With this goal in mind, the Californian-developed VirBELA was selected as the platform for the virtual event. “SHIFT has never been just a seminar, and as such, this year’s installation could not be just another webinar, either. In VirBELA, you can walk up to another person and strike up a conversation. You can meet people by chance and networking feels natural. Real encounters can take place in a virtual environment,” Bergshoeff explains.

SHIFT 2020 continues tomorrow, 28 October. The program starts at 10:30 with Democratic AI is fair AI session on Futures Stage, and What motivates the no bullshit generation to work and consume session on Solution Stage. See you tomorrow!