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How Estonia showed its Digitally Wild side at SLUSH

SLUSH, one of the biggest startup conferences in Europe, wrapped up last week in Helsinki, Finland. With dozens of startups, hundreds of attendees and one very special “Digitally Wild” side event, Estonia became a special star of the conference.

Building metaverse and teaching efficiency. Estonians at SLUSH

Since it started in 2009, SLUSH has grown from a small gathering of 300 people to one of the largest startup events in the world, with over 12,000 attendees from all over the world in 2022.

Estonia’s presence at SLUSH was very strong this year, with more than 70 startups attending the conference. Here’s just a sneak peek of those representing the country:

  • Ringo Eco develops an open platform for reusable packages. It enables users to recycle and reuse packaging products from different brands. The company’s mission is to reduce waste and promote sustainability.
  • 99math is a game that makes kids great at math, already scoring more than 1 million users.
  • Single.Earth is a deep tech startup building a nature-backed economy, starting from tokenizing forests for their ecological value – carbon sequestration, storage, and biodiversity.

Estonians were on the main stages, too, with Timmu Tõke, a co-founder of Ready Player Me, speaking about the founder’s journeys and the open metaverse in a conversation with Borget Sebastien, founder of The Sandbox.

Tõke, whose company has raised more than $70M to date for its cross-game avatar platform, is appealing for a decentralized approach for the next stage of internet development. “For an open metaverse to have a chance, there need to be standards and protocols that will make it easy for developers to link different virtual words together”, argues the founder.

Markus Villig, the co-founder of Bolt, participated in a talk titled “Building Global Category Leaders in Europe”, speaking about the successful scaling of his mobility company. Bolt is currently active in 35 countries and has more than 30 million users, and raised more than a €1B last year. “Still, we are deeply frugal at the core and could become fully profitable at any point. We welcome the new environment”, said Villig on the more challenging fundraising market.

Digitally Wild

Finland is the sole biggest investor in Estonia and its main trade partner, so its biggest tech conference has special importance for the Estonian tech sector. This year, Invest Estonia took it one step further and hosted a special side event called Digitally Wild.

Held at Valkoinen Sali (White Hall) — one of the most historically significant venues in Helsinki — it blended together technological advances and MICHELIN-level food prepared by one of Estonia’s outstanding young chefs Tõnis Saar. The musical accompaniment was brought by DJ Liisi Voolaid.

Estonia showcasing Digitally Wild future at Slush 2022

Before the fun kicked in, there was a discussion featuring moderated by a well-known Finnish journalist Mrs Marjo Näkki. Participants included Kristjan Järvan, Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology of Estonia and Dr. Kristi Raik, Director of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute at The International Centre for Defence and Security.

The theme — “Future we’re (re)building together” — reassured the importance of European cooperation in light of future opportunities and threats. “Estonia knows from experience that internet freedom and cyber security go hand in hand – and is a global leader in both”, said Raik. Those are not just words: Estonia scored 93 out of 100 points in the last Freedom of the Net report and ranked 4th globally in National Cyber Security Index.

Uniting investors, entrepreneurs and all kinds of change-makers, Digitally Wild has brought Estonia’s capabilities and ambitions to the attention of a wider audience. It also introduced more specific themes, such as:

Startup competition controversy

Two Estonian startups climbed into the top 20 of the Slush 100 competition, which awarded €1M in investments to the winners.

  • Better Medicine, a Tartu-based MedTech startup that focuses on developing a tool that helps cancer patients.
  • Bitskout, a Tallinn-based AI-enabled task automation platform.

However, the tournament ended with a scandal. Initially, the prize was awarded to the startup Immigram, which is registered in the UK and was founded by two Russians. Immigram helps with relocation procedures for high-skilled workers, with Russia among its main market. The decision faced a strong wave of criticism from the Ukrainian and European tech communities, as they found additional evidence of Immigram operations in Russia. Soon after the announcement, organizers revoked the decision. “In light of new information on the extent of the Slush 100 Pitching Competition winner’s operations in Russia, Slush has decided to revoke their win“, said the official memo. SLUSH team also reassured its support of Ukraine.

The joint organization of Enterprise Estonia and KredEx stands firm on behalf of Ukraine’s independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders. Following the unjustified invasion of Ukraine, it terminated all manner of business-related and marketing activity in Russia and Belarus.

If you’re ready to make smarter and greener investments, use our brand new comparison tool to see how investment opportunities in Estonia measure up to other European countries.

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