Here’s to Europe’s finest: .eu Web Awards mark 10 years with dazzling ceremony
By Alastair Gill
Talented entrepreneurs and individuals from all over Europe come together for the 10th edition of EURid’s annual celebration of the best .eu websites as part of the second .eu Day
After nine years of resounding success, the .eu Web Awards marked their 10th birthday in style in late November with a spectacular ceremony that was high on quality, energy, emotion – and drama.
Since 2014, the .eu Web Awards have brought internet entrepreneurs from across Europe together to recognise the most innovative websites with the .eu top-level domain. Now part of EURid’s .eu Day, the 2023 ceremony welcomed a fresh crop of talent into Europe’s digital elite, with the winners ranging from cryptocurrency websites and smart city projects to digital agencies and American football clubs.
The EURid organising team laid on a lavish celebration in Brussels at La Maison du Bois, a spacious venue in a stylishly converted former mechanical workshop. Holders and representatives of .eu websites made the journey to Belgium from around the continent for the event on 16 November in the hopes of clinching a coveted award and international recognition of their achievements. Some even arrived early to catch the .eu Masterclasses, three expert-led workshops held in the afternoon within the .eu Day format.
A total of 863 websites were submitted for the 2023 awards over the four-month nomination and voting period. The three websites that received the most public online votes (from a total of 8,085) in each of the five categories then went through to the final round, where a five-member expert jury assessed each nominee on various criteria (including content, structure, design, and accessibility) to select a winner in each category. The jury also awarded a special commendation to recognise the importance of youth for the future of the EU.
Up for grabs for the prizewinners – on top of the prestige – was a .eu icon made of Bohemian glass and €5,000 to be spent on online marketing in consultancy with EURid.
Charismatic 1990s MTV Europe presenter Ray Cokes reprised his 2022 role as host for the evening, putting the guests at ease with his sharp brand of humour, while the Lou Roman Band were on hand to provide musical accompaniment. Spectacular onstage pyrotechnics added an extra dramatic flourish to proceedings as the winners stepped up to receive their well-earned awards.
Rising Stars Award
After welcome cocktails and canapés, the awards ceremony began with the Rising Stars category, which recognises start-ups and companies that are still establishing themselves on the market. Peter Janssen, EURid’s general manager, presented the prize to www.ecoinomy.eu, a user-friendly platform devoted to making the daunting world of cryptocurrency, blockchain and digital finance accessible and simple to understand by providing users with clear guides, expert reviews and the latest news.
“Actually it was a great honour, it was the first award for us, it was a recognition that we are on the right path, and also really impressed by the level of organising this event”, said Ecoinomy’s founder Dean Decho. “We really hope this will help us with our brand recognition and it will bring us closer to our goal to become the best cryptocurrency website in Europe”.
“Cryptocurrency at first is very daunting for everybody who’s interested in it and if you’re new to it and you try to dig into it, it could be very exhausting, very difficult”, said Decho, explaining what inspired him to found Ecoinomy. “If you want to put your investment into it, it’s very important to know how it works, and that’s why we’re here, to show people how everything works, so they’re confident in their decision”.
Better World Award
Next up was the Better World category, where the jury decided unanimously to give the award to www.pocityf.eu. Developed by ICONS, a strategic partner specialising in EU-funded Research & Innovation projects, POCITYF is an EU-funded smart city project that aims to transform historical cities into smarter, more sustainable and more livable places while preserving their cultural heritage. POCITYF is playing its part in Europe’s goal of becoming the first Carbon Neutral Continent by 2050 by introducing and testing Positive Energy Districts in these cities.
“It's something that we can sell to other partners and say: see, our websites are recognised by the EU Web Awards”, said Charlotte Michi, director of PMOs at ICONS. “So that's something that is also important for us”.
For Marcello Bardellini, project management officer at ICONS, the prize is “confirmation that that we are on the right path”. “This award, of course, is a recognition of what we have developed, however it’s also a recognition of the contribution of all partners in the project, content-wise”, he said.
House of .eu Award
The third award of the night went to www.frankfurt-galaxy.eu, the website of Frankfurt Galaxy, a professional American football team that competes in the recently founded European League of Football. Frankfurt Galaxy, which was the inaugural European Champion of the 17-team private league, beat out competition from Norwegian and Bulgarian entries in the House of .eu category (which recognises blogs, news outlets, and media websites) for its exciting and user-friendly website.
“It's very important for us”, said Frankfurt Galaxy’s general manager and co-founder Eric Reutemann, an ex-player himself, receiving his award from the chairwoman of EURid’s board of directors, Sandra Hoferichter. As he later explained, while social media plays an important role in promoting the team, he sees the website as “the heart of our organisation”.
“Of course it's the domain”, explained Reutemann, “but the domain is the website. People are going to go on the website and check out what's the latest news and buy something, buy a hoodie, buy a jersey. But it all starts with the website in our opinion.”
Not part of the plan
Unfortunately, at this point the evening had some unscheduled drama in store. Midway through the award ceremony, the evening took an unexpected turn when a directive from the local district mayor mandated the immediate closure of the venue and the prompt evacuation of guests from the premises.
Although the unforeseen and sudden end to the evening meant that three of the six prize-winners were unable to receive their awards on stage, EURid’s event team quickly organized an impromptu handout after the event.
The prize in The Leaders category, awarded to an established national online business, was given to www.web2emotions.eu, a Rome-based digital agency with over two decades of experience. A certified B Corp web agency and a Benefit company, Web to Emotions uses a blend of technology, communication, and marketing to help companies, brands, and start-ups to achieve their goals.
Founder and CEO Roberto Pagliarini was in Brussels for the big night, but the abrupt end to proceedings at the midway point meant that he – like the winners of the other two prizes scheduled to be presented after the dinner break – was unable to accept the award on stage.
The company’s social media manager Elisa Gerardis said that the award has given Web to Emotions more international authority and will stimulate the team to do their work even better. “It was very good for us, for brand awareness”, she said. “Most of our clients are from Italy, but we will be very pleased if in the future we can have customers from other countries”.
Three organisations promoting pan-European projects were up for the Laurels award, and the honours went to www.africoneu.eu, a Horizon2020 project that builds capacity for African digital innovation hubs. By empowering these hubs to back local industries, support startups, and give the younger generation the digital skills they need, AfriConEU reinforces African digital innovation ecosystems and fosters digital entrepreneurship. The project is managed by the European non-profit organisation Youthmakers Hub, which encourages collaboration between Europe and Africa as a way of facilitating social change.
“We really believe in the scope of our project, not just the image”, said Marilena Maragkou, co-founder and project coordinator of Youthmakers Hub and dissemination manager for AfriConEU. “For us the .eu Web Award is a great visibility and great credibility for our work, because from now on we will have it forever”.
“With these kinds of projects you can bring Europe and Africa closer, showcasing that we can both learn from each other, because we have digital innovation hubs in Africa, we’ve done amazing events in Africa, there are entrepreneurs in Africa”.
Commendation for the Youth Award
A young Bulgarian’s devotion to sharing his country’s cultural and natural heritage earned him this year’s Commendation for the Youth award. Tanislav Ivanov is the creator of www.aboutbulgaria.eu, which aims to introduce a wider audience to tourist destinations in Bulgaria. The prize, which recognises the achievements of young European internet entrepreneurs and individuals aged 18-30, was open to finalists from all categories in the .eu Web Awards.
Ivanov, who is still at secondary school, originally created the website in early 2022 for a national IT competition for youth. Speaking several weeks after the .eu Web Awards, Ivanov said that he had mixed emotions about the evening but was pleased that his achievements had been recognized. “I was very happy that I got the award. I worked on this website a lot, and I’m happy to see that my work has paid off”, he said.
He is already working on adding more destinations to aboutbulgaria.eu and is planning to use his marketing prize and social media to try and increase the reach of the site, which he says has seen an increase in traffic since he won the award.
Ivanov had words of encouragement for any young Europeans thinking of designing their own website: “Never stop working, keep going, and eventually the work that you put in will be rewarded”.
Gratitude and support
After the event, EURid Communications Manager Reelika Kirna thanked all those who had made the journey to Belgium for the event and expressed EURid’s backing for those who were unable to receive their awards at the ceremony.
“We were so delighted to welcome all the 10th .eu Web Awards finalists, and despite the unfortunate conclusion of the event, we are pleased that our guests were able to glimpse and partake in a portion of our planned celebration for the evening”, she said.
“We are also exploring options to appropriately acknowledge the .eu Web Awards winners who, regrettably, didn't have their moment in the spotlight”.