There was a lot of startup excitement in Tallinn, Estonia this week, where investment and mentoring program Seedcamp organised their first ever event in Estonia – a tiny country, but best known for being the cradle for the development of Skype.
However, the Nordic tiger is no stranger to Seedcamp as six companies from the country – GrabCAD, Sportlyzer, Campalyst, Qminder, Transferwise and Pult – are already invested startups. In fact, Estonia is raising a few eyebrows given its tiny size, already producing a number of high quality startups at a prodigious rate. Even Estonian president Toomas Hendrik turned up to welcome attendees to “the startup country” and stayed on for the pitches!
20 startups were shortlisted for Seedcamp Tallinn event, eight of them from Estonia, others from Finland, Lativa, Lithuania, Russia, Sweden, UK and Slovenia. The list includes young entrepreneurs aimed at disrupting the online tutoring industry (Arkademy) or concert rider management (easyRider), bringing clarity to the car buying process (Carfitsme), making you the editor in chief of your own social magazine (Kula Magazine), send you “audio tweets” or ads (Notif5), rescue you from energy over-consumption (UtilityCamp) or boosting farming by mixing science and weather (WeatherMe).
The list, with links is here, but for the record:
• Arkademy, Tallinn, Estonia – The first live video seminar community in the world
• Browserbite, Tallinn, Estonia – A service that helps to create web pages that look the same in all browsers
• CGTrader, Vilnius, Lithuania – is a peer-to-peer platform where designers collaborate and trade 3D models to each other
• Carfitsme, Tallinn, Estonia – Carfitsme helps to find and buy right car without spending days and weeks.
• easyRider.me, Tallinn, Estonia – is an online tool helping bands and promoters get technical riders rolling right.
• Kula Magazine, Moscow, Russia – an innovative multi platform magazine
• Merkanty, Ljubljana, Slovenia – Our goal is to make Merkanty the best platform for all traders/sellers and advertisers
• MightyFingers, Riga, Latvia – are making cross-platform game engine on HTML5 to run games on every device.
• Notif5, Tallinn, Estonia – A location based audio notification platform.
• Opuss – London, UK – End-to-End Social Publishing Platform. We apply Github to publishing with game mechanics.
• Pinevio, Vilnius, Lithuania – is a social content discovery platform enabling our users to discover more relevant content.
• Sayduck, Helsinki, Finland – solves the missing link between the online-offline retail experience using Augmented Reality.
• Sketchfab, Paris, France – is the first service to publish interactive 3D content online.
• TaxiPal, Tallinn, Estonia – is the only taxi app that helps you find trusted taxis in 31 countries.
• Tellyo, Helsinki, Finland – An app and small device converting 2nd screens into TV remotes for better TV experience
• UtilityCamp, Tartu, Estonia – We will be the RescueTime for the household energy saving.
• Viewsy, London, UK – is creating Google Analytics for the real world.
• Warmbreeze Studios AB, Gothenburg, Sweden – Healthy Heroes – World of Warcraft meets health and exercise!
• WeatherMe, Tallinn, Estonia – boost farming production by combining farming science and weather data in a simple way
• Zonear, Tampere, Finland – is a startup that focuses on adaptive HTML5 applications and web developer tools.
“The biggest wow for me was to see tech folks from Estonian, Latvia and Russia having finally started expressing themselves clearly,” a Seedcamp mentor and former Head of Engineering at Skype, Ott Kaukver conculded. Although some of the ideas pitched in Tallinn sounded very similar and even too common (another CAD library, another taxi app or social content filter etc), that didn’t bother Jüri Kaljundi, member of Estonian Startup Leaders Club.
“There’s a taxi app presented in every other Seedcamp or Garage48 event. Yet the problem is not yet solved, so more work has to be done!” he said.
Kristjan Hiiemaa, CEO of the Seedcamp company Erply commented: “It’s a classical Seedcamp, having a bunch of guys with market ready products and super cool teams, but the other bunch of guys with just mockups. They will all learn from the mentors and are all winners already, as they are on the Seedcamp boat.”
The pitches were followed by a panel discussion, where Estonian seedcampers Taavet Hinrikus (Transferwise), Kristjan Hiiemaa (Erply) shared their advice on starting internationally from day one and localizing the business.
Speaking about the value coming from Seedcamp network, Hiiemaa pointed out that Erply found their investors an hour after David McLure tweeted about the company. Localization, according to Hiiemaa, is not always a good idea. Instead, a startup should focus on their core markets an postpone localization as long as possible. Erply, that is now the core retail operating system of Elizabeth Arden and other US companies, had their page in Latvian once, with “exit” button translated as “get lost”!
Estonia still has plenty of challenges. One of them was hinted at by Seedcamp’s Espinal, who shared how he had to spent two days in five airports before arriving to Tallinn. Another challenge raised was how to get startuppers to live and work in Estonia, a place known for its cold weather.
But Espinal remains optimistic: “It’s the more high quality startups and repeat of success that turns countries like Estonia, similar to Israel, around. I see all the right things being done in this startup country.” Seedcamp will announce 1-2 companies which will be accepted to the program in a week. Estonian startup community has their thumbs up for 7. Estonian member of the Seedcamp family.