Last week Dmitri and I took the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn, gave a short presentation about startup media tips at Garage48 HUB, and then made the 4 hour drive down to Riga. Now that we've gotten some time to sleep on it, I think it's time for a retrospective.
In essence, the Tech Chill Baltics conference did everything it was supposed to. The talks were inspiring, interesting people were in the crowd, and it was a lot of fun to see Riga startup scene firsthand. And most importantly, the beer was good.
I could have hoped to see more than five startups on stage to pitch (although it would have been hard to fit more into the schedule) but the pitching winner, Bliu Bliu was super cool in the sense that it solves a personal problem of mine - learning a language like Finnish through interesting content. Before we circle back to do a full article on them, you can see what we wrote in our play-by-play coverage of TC Baltics. Also you can watch the full conference here.
Since we entertain a Nordic and Baltic audience, I think one of the things we should encourage is more cross-border networking, especially between the Nordics and the Baltics. Finland seems to be pretty well connected to the Baltic region judging from the people I saw in the crowd and the personal networks I know of, but there wasn't too many conference-goers from the Scandinavian peninsula.
Despite that, there was a good number on stage. Andreas Ehn of Wrapp and Spotify gave a nice talk about developing for those popping Swedish companies, and Sunstone Capital's Johan Lorenzen and Crandum's Daniel Blomquist were on stage for the Investor panel. Andris Berzins of TechHub Riga, who invited us down to the conference, is now an investment advisor for Stockholm-based Creandum. So its good news that investors have their eyes on the Baltics.
But I think more Scandinavian entrepreneurs should be present in the area, especially given the context of Skype, whose Swedish and Danish founders famously placed their development in Estonia. There are a lot of good ideas coming out of the Baltics, it's not just developer talent these days. But the Swedes seem to be good at "bigger" consumer products (think Wrapp, Spotify, iZettle, Magine, etc.) and there is a lot of developer talent in the Baltic countries to take advantage of. You seem to bump into smart people everywhere.
These days the Swedes, for example, seem to be looking at Berlin for a cheap and trendy place to set up shop. Readmill, Soundcloud, and Vamos are three example of that. And I get it. The realative prices are cheap in Berlin, good music still comes to town, and it's just a short flight away. I don't know enough about Berlin to tell you how easy developer talent is to find there, but in Riga, for example, you've got good access to coders.
In the Baltics, food, apartments, office space is crazy cheap (compared to the price level in the Nordics), and there are plenty of interesting startup people to surround yourself with at hubs we saw, like TechHub Riga, or Garage48 Hub in Tallinn. You really can't lose by getting a cheap apartment for a month for your team, and then hack away down there.
If you can't do that, I encourage you to hop on a plane if a startup event sounds half interesting. You've probably tapped out all the good people to know and recurring events at your local startup scene, so get of of town for a night or two - even if it's just a smaller event.
Maybe I should have slept on this even more, because now I need to wrap this up somehow, but my takeaway from TC Baltics was that everyone should really see the Baltic scene for themselves and also hop on more planes to other conferences or smaller events across the Nordic and Baltic region. Serendipitous connections don't happen by accident, you gotta put yourself out there.
We're happy to help our out our readers with any of this. We certainly don't know everyone here at ArcticStartup, but if you have a trip coming up in the Nordics or Baltics, feel free to ping Dmitri and I if you need an email intro to someone, or just want to know some people to meet with. Better yet, also get in touch with the startup hubs in the region you're thinking about visiting. It's usually easy to swing by and see what people are working on, or just pay a few bucks for a desk to work at.