A recap of Estonia’s flagship startup and tech event — for the first time in ‘phygital’ form — for the e-Residency community
Last week the e-Residency team and community were in strong attendance at Latitude59 both in-person at Kultuurikatel in Tallinn, Estonia, and online from their homes and offices around the world.
Latitude59 is Estonia’s flagship startup and tech conference bringing together startup founders, industry experts, investors, government representatives, and more. The 2020 edition was jam packed with Ted talk-like founder story presentations, panel discussions on business topics and experiences, mentoring opportunities, and expert presentations on sales, marketing, product, and engineering topics.
In her opening address, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid set the tone of the event, emphasising the main theme of social responsibility by highlighting how startups can lead the way in innovating environmentally and socially sustainable solutions.
Unsurprisingly, the additional strong theme of business resilience was reflected throughout the panel discussions and presentations due to the effects of COVID-19 on global trade and commerce.
Yet, despite the tough economic climate we are in, it was heartening to hear that many of the startups pitching for investments at Latitude59 founded their businesses in the last six months or so. This means that there are still opportunities in the Estonian ecosystem and beyond for entrepreneurs thinking about taking the plunge and transforming their brilliant business idea from a dream to reality.
The event took place ‘phygitally’, i.e. both physically and digitally.
Physically, the conference was in a similar format to its usual state of affairs, albeit with noticeable new hygiene measures, including that rooms were aired between panel sessions, ample hand sanitisers available, and masks provided to all guests.
At the event space in Tallinn, participants could mingle at the Meet Estonia area with representatives of Work in Estonia, Invest in Estonia, Startup Estonia, and e-Residency. Guests of Latitude59 were invited to relax on a hammock and learn how to do business the laid back way.
Guests could also participate digitally via Talque’s Latitude59 conference application. From a laptop or smartphone, they could watch the physical sessions in livestream, search for interesting guests to connect with, and network using inbuilt chat and video-call features.
I participated digitally and was pleasantly surprised that despite not being physically at the conference, I still felt present and connected. Some highlights included:
- Hearing Scottish e-resident Vicky Brock, CEO of Vistalworks, tell her fascinating founder story and also share insights of how to reset your business during a crisis. Brock spoke frankly about her ups and downs as an entrepreneur, from winning top business awards to being shut out of a company she founded, and using this journey to learn from her failures and create her latest successful venture Vistalworks.
- Listening to e-Residency Managing Director Ott Vatter moderate a panel on the new normal of remote working and how Estonia’s Digital Nomad Visa has much to offer location-independent employees and entrepreneurs. Vatter and expert discussants Ruth Annus of the Estonian Ministry of Interior, e-resident Christoph Huebner, and Testlio CEO Kristel Kruustük talked about how COVID-19 is accelerating the existing trend towards remote work, whether at home or while travelling around the world. So far the laws have not caught up to cover the digital nomad lifestyle. Estonia’s new visa now makes it legitimate for 12 month stays, which will hopefully encourage foreigners to discover and become invested in this wonderful Baltic nation.
Find out more about the Digital Nomad Visa here.
- Learning from experts on financial resilience and operational planning for crises. During a panel discussion finance leaders from Estonian tech heavyweights Veriff, MeetFrank, and Starship provided valuable advice to startup founders about the importance of ensuring you have systems in place for financial modelling, financial controls, and scenario-planning.
- Watching the pitching finals, which saw startup founders competing for a large prize pool. Even online, I felt the excitement of the competition and rising tension while the judges were deliberating. ATOM mobility and Adact were the big winners, each scooping a €200,000 investment from the Estonian Business Angels Network EstBAN. Find out more about the winners here.
Tickets are already available for next year’s edition of Latitude59, which will again take place in-person in Tallinn and virtually from 20-21 May 2020.