Riga, Latvia, February 13th, 2014
For the third time TechHub Riga hosted the TechChill Baltics conference, welcoming over 350 startups, investors and eco-system participants to hear great speeches about marketing, PR and sales, see 5 teams pitching to a top-tier panel of VCs and network with each other. The day began with Infogram announcing their 1.34m Euro funding round and ended with TrackDuck winning the pitch competition.
Technology, Baltic startups and success
It was a warm morning when Palladium opened its doors to TechChill Baltics conference. With more and more participants arriving at the venue and taking their seats, the atmosphere kept heating up to prove that technology business mattered, and co-hosts and TechHub Riga board members Andris K. Berzins and Ernests Stals could kick off the event with an update about the successes of Baltic technology startups since TechHub opened in Riga two years ago.
In Latvia, the recent exit by Cobook was an inspiring highlight, when the company that had created a simple and fun contact management application was acquired by the US-based FullContact. Likewise, Uldis Leiterts, CEO of Infogram, was invited on the stage to announce EUR 1.34m funding raised from Connect Ventures and Point9 Capital, the largest Western VC funding round. In Estonia, fast-growing Estonian startups Transferwise and Erply, both featured on the TechChill agenda, as well as the recently funded Vinted had been at the centre of attention and mentioned as successes that were about to boost the technological business even bigger.
The golden tips on how to reach your audience
The focus of TechChill Baltics in 2014 was to provide lessons on �go-to-market� - marketing, promotion and sales. Colette Ballou, President of Ballou PR, explained the do's and don'ts of working with the media and reminded the crowd that "if you don't speak, others are going to speak for you and form your reputation". Outlining the significance of building and maintaining networks, Colette made the participants remember to be professional and dedicated whenever they decided to spread the news about their products and companies.
Rob Fitzpatrick continued and argumented why our mother would be a better feedback source for customer development than all those friends and colleagues who tried to be nice and constantly hailed our product. "Compliments are big scary monsters, ignore them," Rob revealed and taught that development perpetually went hand in hand with asking questions about everything and anything.
Afterwards, Colette returned on the stage to moderate a discussion with Mike Butcher, Editor-at-large at TechCrunch, and Dmitri Sarle, CEO at ArcticStartup. All of them adviced to be precise and catchy, avoiding being predictable and over-confident that the company�s product was what both media and public were seeking for. Mike bluntly pointed out: "I don't want to go for a coffee with you, I want to know that the f**k you are doing".
Subsequently, Nicolas Wittenborn of Point9 Capital presented the venture capital firm's summary of the 9 worst practices in SaaS metrics, focusing on such issues as growth analysis, planning and cohorts. Meanwhile, Shira Abel, CEO of the marketing agency Hunter & Bard, recalled the participants why marketing was important: "if people don't know you exist, it really doesn't matter how much your product rocks".
Finally, the crowd met Kristo Kaarmann, CEO of Transferwise, who displayed how to build a growth engine and explained that �once growth is there, everything else falls into place�.
Experience corner that leads to success
The conference was then lifted by experience stories. Andris K. Berzins moderated a panel that included Kristo along with Kristian Hiiema, CEO of Erply and Uldis Leiterts of Infogram. They all agreed that their greatest challenge was hiring great people, even though the Baltic states still had great talent pools.
Piers Ridyard, CEO of Nifty Minidrive, took the stage last to describe the story of the UK's largest hardware crowdfunding campaign, including all the trials and tribulations involved in really raising crowd-funded money and then building and delivering a product.
Startup pitches finished the conference day, with five teams selected to pitch on stage: AirBay (Latvia), GrowOn (Latvia), Meetey (Israel), StoryRoll (Lithuania) and TrackDuck (Lithuania). Viesturs Sosars, co-founder of TechHub Riga, introduced the jury members: Staffan Helgesson (Creandum), Kristjan Laanemaa (Ambient Sound Investments), Christian Thaler-Wolski (Wellington Partners), Daniel Waterhouse (Balderton Capital), Corrado Tomassoni (PayPal - Startup Blueprint) and Nimrod Cohen (Explore Ventures).
AirBay: a marketplace for unused airline tickets for travelers GrowOn: The smartest devices for growing eco vegetables Meetey: your online neighborhood StoryRoll: Collaborative storytelling + Vine = StoryRoll TrackDuck: Visual feedback for websites and web development
After serious deliberation by the jury, the pitch competition winner was selected and was announced at the TechHub Riga 2 year birthday party that evening: TrackDuck.
The hosts also thank Edicy, Hump, Veritweet, Coffee Inn, Mailigen, Embassy of Israel, Latvian IT Cluster, UK embassy and UKTI, Ministry of Economics, LIAA, Vacant.io, AmCham, Pupu Maiss, FundedByMe, Buzztale and media partners Arctic Startup, TechCrunch, Dienas Bziness, IR, Nozare, TVNet, IR Nauda and Kursors.