sTARTUp Day, the Biggest Business Festival in the Baltics – How did it all Start?

On the 8th of December the second edition of the start-up flagship event sTARTUp Day will take place in the AHHAA centre. Almost a year ago the first edition of sTARTUp day was organised, and it proved even bigger and better than anyone could have ever imagined. However, very few people know the history of the biggest business festival in the Baltics came into being. In order to tell the whole story, I asked last year’s head organizer, Lauri Sokk, and the man that started it all, Andres Kuusik, some questions.

Have you already bought your tickets? Photo credit: sTARTUp Day team

Looking elsewhere
Several countries around Estonia have been known to organise business festivals, Finland has Slush and Latvia has Techchill. In 2015, Andres Kuusik, the then head of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Centre of TU, came to the conclusion that Estonia should also have such an event as well. After all, many small but interesting business-related events took place in Tartu, yet no one knew about this. sTARTUp Day, which would be organised by the University of Tartu, the City of Tartu, as well as the local start-up community, would have to change this. A pitching session in a sauna (how very Estonian) and a couple meetings later, it became clear that the first edition of sTARTUp day would be organised on the 9th of December in the newly opened National Museum.

Saying it is easier than doing it
Now that an idea existed, it has to be transformed into an executable plan. For that purpose, Lauri Sokk was hired. He became the man that transformed a rather minimalistic concept, just one stage and 500 guests, into a business event that immediately became the biggest in the Baltics. When asked whether or not he expected this success he answered that he certainly had hoped so, but it did not seem very realistic. Sokk stated that “it just didn’t seem logical to manage all of that in 8 months”. Furthermore, he mentions how challenging it is to become an event manager, as most of your initial ideas get destroyed due to the venue, speakers, and the budget. Nevertheless, Sokk and the rest of the team clearly succeeded. In fact, Kuusik stated that Sokk was one of the major success factors of this event.

From zero to hero! Photo credit: sTARTUp Day team

From Zero to Hero
This year, sTARTUp day will focus on success stories and how start-ups resolved major problems. Of course, life is not always rainbows and butterflies. It is therefore only logical that the sTARTUp team also had to resolve a fair number of issues. Kuusik and Sokk mentioned several issues such as: how to obtain enough money; how to manage a team of over 100 people; and more importantly how do you keep them motivated. While difficult issues to resolve, the marketing strategy and the team’s motivation proved convincing as over 3000 people visited the event.

sTARTUp day 2017
This year new people will organise the event, still, Kuusik and Sokk hope that the event will become even better than it already was, attracting people from all over Europe from all walks of life. Moreover, Sokk hopes that the event will stay on the same track, and eventually become the biggest business festival in Eastern Europe with several side-events such as a music and culture program. Some of these side-event will already be implemented in this year’s event such as the after-party, and some other new events are the Keynote competition, the matchmaking area, the Swedbank Firelight stage for intimate fireside chats and discussions, and much more. If you want more information on the great things happening on sTARTUp Day between 7 and 9 December check!

“I certainly believe that the sTARTUp team is working hard to make another amazing event.” Photo credit: sTARTUp Day team

I certainly believe that the sTARTUp team is working hard to make another amazing event. So, if you wish to join in on the fun, buy your ticket on Early bird tickets are still available until the 31st of October, and you can use the special UT promo code to get 30 € off. I definitely look forward to seeing you there.

I would like to thank Lauri Sokk and Andres Kuusik for answering my questions on sTARTUp day, without them this blog post would not have been possible.

Liesa Aitton is studying International Relations and Regional Studies (MA) and part of the sTARTUp Day team.

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