Since its launch in 2016, the sTARTUp Day business conference has become the cornerstone of the startup scene in Estonia. Since then, it has expanded its reach far beyond its original local scope and this year brought together around 4,000 startup-minded people from March 15th to 17th.
Diving deep while being cosy
The first day hosted side events, with special programmes catering to investors and executives, while the next two days were centred around the main venue at the University of Tartu Sports Hall.
More than 150 entrepreneurs and experts shared insights and experiences on two stages and in seminars, starting with Martin Villig, co-founder of the fourth Estonian unicorn Bolt, opening the show with a strong message. “Top-tier funds, including Sequoia Capital and Fidelity, invested in Bolt — it is clear proof for other companies that you can successfully run a global company from Estonian HQ,” Villig assured.
The programme tracks for this year’s event heavily leaned into a general DeepTech focus and included HealthTech, SexTech, EdTech, GreenTech, artificial intelligence (AI) and leadership and entrepreneurial skills. Investors took notice and stepped up to snatch the best ideas.
“sTARTUp Day was close, cosy, and kind of local. It is definitely a good event to meet early-stage Estonian and Finnish startups and be there at the moment they are stepping into the VC world,” says Simona Andriukevičiūtė, investor analyst at Lithuanian-based early-stage investment company FIRSTPICK. “I feel like the event scene is underused by other neighbouring countries’ startups, which allows an investor to feel closer to the Estonian ecosystem.”
Backing the real innovations
The conference featured a €500,000 prize pool for the region’s top startups in the sTARTUp Pitching battle, with over 70 organizations showcasing themselves in the conference expo area. A visitor could see the famous Auve Tech autonomous vehicle, test revolutionary reusable e-commerce packaging from Low imPACK or listen to DeepTech discussions powered by Enterprise Estonia and Startup Estonia.
MX Labs was awarded a €100K syndicate investment from Cocoon Ventures for their camera-based technology, which accurately measures a person’s heart rate with a smartphone or computer camera, potentially aiding in the diagnosis of physical and mental health issues in the future.
To spice things up, 1,000+ people showed up to experience the first ice-hole pitching in Estonia – a novel pitching concept made in freezing water with investors in a hot tub. It follows former bold pitching completion formats in Estonia made by skydiving and other extreme conditions to test startup founders’ courage and willpower. Quite possible that these tricky challenges may be one of the reasons why Estonian startuppers are the most successful in Europe in creating the most unicorns per capita.
Tartu, Estonia’s second-largest city with near to 100,000 inhabitants, is becoming an increasingly popular destination for tech companies. An increasing number of startups are establishing their development centres there, including unicorn companies Playtech and Glia, as well as fast-growing startups such as Fractory, UP Catalyst, and LightCode Photonics.
The sTARTUp Day conference is a major part of this speedy transformation. It was recognized by the European Commission as one of the top three initiatives supporting the internationalization of business in Europe at last year’s European Enterprise Promotion Awards.
sTARTUp Day 2024 will be held on 24.-26.01.2024.
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