20.1. 2017 Blogi

Greetings from the sTARTUp Day

Li Chen builds co-operation between StartUp companies in Turku and Tartu and writes in her blog entry how important pitchings and networks are for generating new co-operation.

Some years ago I travelled to Copenhagen to pitch a project idea at a matchmaking event intended for Nordic companies and communities. A few days after I had waved goodbye to the little mermaid through the airplane window I received an e-mail from a community specialised in natural sciences. “Would you like to be a shareholder in our project?” they asked. I forwarded the message to my colleague and wished them luck with the application. Later, as a result of this co-operation, my colleagues developed a successful proposal and the project received external funding.

sTARTUp Day exceeded the expectations

The pitching in Copenhagen was followed by a number of pitching events. One of them was the sTARTUp Day in Tartu on 9 December. It’s the biggest business event in Estonia and the biggest start-up event in Southern Estonia.

Jointly arranged by the University of Tartu, Town of Tartu and the Tartu start-up ecosystem service provider Contriber, the sTARTUp Day gathered 2,300 participants to the recently opened Estonian National Museum. That was more than twice of what was expected. All local start-up incubators were well represented.

One of the Finnish participants in sTARTUp was Petri Hiipakka from Turku-based Siroic.

In addition to numerous pitching sessions, the sTARTUp Day included keynote speeches e.g. on business models, creative industry and virtual reality, as well as panel discussions and 15 seminars on various subjects. In the Job Area, some 30 companies met with professionals and talents. Top minds, such as Jamie Dunn from Great Britain, one of the most successful young entrepreneurs in the world; American John Sechrest, the founder of the Seattle Angel Conference; travel blogger Cristian LeBlanc from Canada; and Olaf Gerber, Managing Director of Bayer Baltics, had taken time to arrive in Tartu, a town with 10,000 inhabitants in inland Estonia.

Co-operation in the Tartu way

Thanks go to the University of Tartu that was founded in 1632 and is among the top 3% of the universities in the world. The Town of Tartu and University of Tartu are regular partners of Contriber. Close co-operation within the start-up ecosystem, under strong guidance, and a truly open mind regarding communication and co-operation have created the basis for the surprising popularity of the sTARTUp Day.

All the start-ups that participated in the pitching had one way or another received support from Contriber which must be mentioned when talking about the start-up ecosystem in Tartu. The ambitious goal of Rein Lemberpuu, the founder and CEO of Contriber is to grow the number of start-ups in Tartu from 200 to 5000.

Co-ordination by Contriber

Contriber hosts a number of communities in Estonia: SPARK is a community of IT and hardware companies, and sTARTUp HUB is a co-working space for several IT and high-tech companies and Garage48 HUB Tartu.

SPARK is a modern office space in the centre of Tartu and a home to ten IT and hardware companies, including Mooncascade which has quickly become SaaS leader with 80 employees. The SPARK family also includes e.g. Buildit Accelerator and exhibition area SPARK Demo.

sTARTUp HUB is located in a renovated old building with a beautiful view to the Tartu old town from all four floors. As in many other community workspaces, there are public lounge areas for all community members with shared kitchen and meeting rooms.

”We want people to know that they can do more than they are doing now”, says Mr Lemberpuu who previously worked as the CEO of Playtech, an iconic start-up that grew to become one of the most successful IT companies in Estonia.

Networking around the world

Contriber’s operations in London and the United States have helped the network. In addition, a group of Tartu people are “selling” Tartu to the world. For example, my colleague Vaido Mikheim works at the SPARKS project in Tartu Science Park. He returned from Turkey to Tartu at midnight a day before we arrived. Before that he visited Poland, Portugal and Iceland.

”We have to find potential partners and possible resources in order to survive and develop ourselves”, Vaido said before he presented the vision and business model of Tartu Science Park to the Finnish guests.

Back to Copenhagen

I recalled my pitching in Copenhagen a few years ago.

Ever since I confirmed my participation, I began to prepare for the pitch, which meant reviewing more than 130 participants over a few days. It was time-consuming to find out what they were interested in and tell them what interests us, although we live in the digital age.

Words can be heard. My two minutes may not have been great: my accent could have been more attractive, my voice more confident, and my skills more mature. In addition, words can be smelled, felt and interpreted. Nevertheless, behind the pitch lies uniqueness, sincerity and stamina of each individual. Every organisation and every city will lead to the opportunity that you are looking for.

Li Chen
The writer is responsible for the implementation of the EU-funded Sparks Sparkling Startups project in Turku Science Park Ltd. She participated in the sTARTUp Day arranged in Tartu at the beginning of December.