In the early days of 2015 we said that 14 events per year is too much. Well, having now organised 16 events, plus 5 idea-garage events and 2 week-long workshops, it seems that quantity can indeed equal quality. 2015 was a record year for us in many ways. 1362 participants, 411 ideas, 210 working prototypes and 8 countries are just numbers in an Excel sheet. What is really important to us is having inspired so many ambitious and skilled people along the way. “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm,” as the literary legend Ralph Waldo Emerson once said. Indeed, but there is more than just thinking big. Enthusiasm needs to be mixed with action, and only then, we can change the world.
In the past few years Garage48 has visited Ukraine 5 times: we've organised two events in Kyiv, Lviv and one event in Odessa. Adding the planned events for 2016, we'll finish the year with at least additional 3 events. To keep the blood going, this year we're taking one of our events to the second largest city in Ukraine - Kharkiv. We've actually noticed something really special about the events in Ukraine - the people taking part of the events are one of the most motivated participants we've had. They join our events with sparkle in their eyes, they're happy to hack and always happy to come back. Besides the participants we've been lucky with our greatest co-hosts and partners: N-iX Development Center, co-working space Chasopys, Terminal42, Microsoft and the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Our hats are off to you!
We’d like to bring out two more countries - Belarus and Georgia, both for different reasons. Belarus has been one of the most attractive and visited countries for Garage48. Since 2013 we've visited Belarus 6 times, mainly organising events in Minsk, but also in Vitebsk. This year, Georgia, on the other hand, was the first foreign country in Garage48 history, where the pilot Hardware & Arts event was organised. We are glad to say that it was a success, as we had 9 working prototypes presented on Sunday!
"The year of 2015 was a real step forward for countries like Belarus and Georgia. Organising events in these countries, you can witness the rapid development of the IT scene every time you visit. Whether it is the level of technical skill at the software events in Minsk or the new co-working spaces and accelerators popping up in Tbilisi, I'm always impressed with the hard work and passion our local partners are putting into building their communities. We are lucky to be part of this and definitely will carry on the work in 2016 with more subject-specific events and different formats to bring the know-how of Estonian experts to the next startup hubs of the region", says Kai Isand, the Project Manager of events in Belarus and Georgia.
Every year we welcome new countries to join our journey. In 2015 the big newcomer was Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia along the Silk Road. Garage48 organised the software hackathon Garage48 Bishkek 2015 at the American
University of Central Asia, where 17 working prototypes were born. The 9 mentors from Estonia were excited to help the many motivated participants and promised to be back as soon as possible. The beautiful scenery of Kyrgyzstan also needs to be pointed out, as the mentors led by the organiser Maarika Susi, could witness its beauty while paragliding in the mountains near Bishkek. “Kyrgyzstan surprised us with real talent and sparkling eyes,” says Maarika “it was the very first international hackathon type of event with foreign mentors in the region and we already see the impact. Many of the teams and participants work on developing their projects further and invite us back in 2016. Thanks to and with the help of our partner KG Labs I'm sure that we'll bring the Kyrgyzstan startup community to the next level”.
For the 2nd year the team of Garage48 was also invited by the Informational Technology Oman and Sas Incubator to the Sultanate of Oman to host the Sas48H 2015 week-end hackathon event. This time the focus was even more on giving also theoretical knowledge to the local participants additionally to practical experience they get from participating at hackathon event.
Garage48 is over the moon, literally, to also organise hardware hackathons. The team hosted the 2nd Garage48 Hardware & Arts hackathon in Tartu, Estonia in the beginning of February and the 1st hardware & Arts hackathon in Tbilisi, Georgia! Being able to take our excitement and energy around the world is always fantastic, but to be able to see what great hardware projects the skilled hackers and “handy-men” in Georgia can do, is priceless. For the Hardware & Arts hackathon we always have the same team, which speaks volumes of our trust in people. Both the Estonian and Georgian hackathons are organised by the representatives of Garage48 (Priit Salumaa), Estonian Academy of Arts (Anu Piirisild), University of Tartu (Alvo Aabloo) and BuildIt hardware accelerator (Indrek Rebane).
Lets not forget also the WOMEN in tech and how much we care about motivating more women to come and join the cool startup community. For the 3rd year in a row we held an autumn event in Southern Estonia, Pärnu, where among motivating women we also focused on tourism sector. Garage48 Tourism Pärnu 2015 event organized with the help of Enterprise Estonia Tourist Board brought in fresh ideas to innovate and shake the tourism field. Maarika promised that in 2016 we'll bring together with Tech Sisters Organization motivating women to a new level and great results will follow. So women, get ready to join the movement!Garage48 is really made up of the ambitious Estonian people and the forward-thinking Republic of Estonia. The government actively supports the hackathons abroad. The ministries of different sectors team up to organise special themed events like Garage48 GreenTech with the help of Ministry of Environment and Garage48 Trafficking in Persons, which was supported by the US Embassy Tallinn. There are a lot of people involved, who want to make the world better with the help of technology and smart thinking. The Government of Estonia isn’t bad in innovating itself either. Apart from the e-election and e-banking, the year of 2015 was the year of e-Residency. Tens of thousands of people have signed up to enjoy the digital identification platform to run companies from abroad and to manage their everyday tasks online. Garage48 naturally teamed up with the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and the Information System Authority to organise the legendary Garage48 e-Residency hackathon on the island of Vormsi.
Even though Garage48 is more about producing prototypes, test and practice their skills, most of the participants are still full-blown serious startup stars. The people who participate really want to change the world and Garage48 does the best to support them in every way they need. 48 hours is a relatively short time to build something, but in 99.9% of the cases all teams deliver their working prototypes by Sunday evening at our hackathons. This is the reason why we have so many great teams doing amazing and kicking-ass way after the event is over. The star alumni this year were Hitafly, Tippy, FeelingStream, SafeBOX, LocalsMade, ShipitWise etc. We hope you will fly high!
As the Estonian hackers and entrepreneurs probably know, we have one of the most iconic co-working spaces in Estonia - the Garage48 HUB. The co-working space, which was born in 2010 together with the Garage48 event series, is a go-to-place for working and holding meetings, but what it is really famous for is the parties. Oh yes - the neon green lights and the eclectic interior design spiced up with the cool residents have won the hearts of our beloved international and local friends and partners. This is why we wanted to spread our awesomeness to the “student capital” Tartu. Garage48 HUB Tartu was launched in September 2015 right in the centre of the busiest street in Tartu - Raekoja plats. The co-working space, managed by Karin Sepp, was greeted with waves of joy. We are glad that the startup communities in the Southern part of Estonia now also have place to work together and meet, which is essential in building their startups.Garage48 is not only about hackathons, but we also continuously help the many partners and organisations that we believe in. Krists Avots is helping to organise the European Innovation Academy and Estonian Student Startup Camp (ESSC), who have been our friends for a long time and we continue to work together also in 2016. The Estonian Student Startup Camp is an intensive 1-week-long tech entrepreneurship program that enables the students to learn valuable skills needed to start their tech path. Additionally, the European Innovation Academy is a 3-week intensive summer program in Nice, France where students from around Europe can build their tech business idea. The Garage48 mentors support the students from the top-level universities of Europe on technology and design related issues.
Garage48 loves active, smart people full of energy. We love every participant, who works until the end to deliver their prototypes. During the years we have met a massive number of dedicated people, who have becomeregulars at our hackathons and who we consider our friends now. We also have many partners, who single-handedly help us to make the hackathons happen. One of the biggest supporters of the startup community in Tallinn is the UK Ambassador Chris Holtby, who launched the UK-Estonian startup entrepreneurship platform UK-Estonia TechLink. The head of Startup Wise Guys accelerator program Calum Cameron is our long-time friend and mentor. We also need to thank the whole team of Startup Estonia, Triin Mahlakõiv from Tehnopol Startup Incubator and Rein Lemberpuu, who has really stepped forward in building a startup centre in Tartu.
Garage48 has always had great people surrounding it and here's the part where we admit we couldn't have done it without our great mentors and volunteers. The most active mentor and host of Garage48 in 2015 was the co-founder of Garage48 - Ragnar Sass. Ragnar mentored at a whopping 9 events all together, followed by Elise Sass and Martin Verrev with 7 events. The mentors at Garage48 are exceptional. All of our mentors work actively in the field of IT and almost all of them are tech entrepreneurs themselves. We want to say a big THANK YOU to our beloved mentors:
Priit Salumaa, Krists Avots, Martin Grüner, Jaanus Sakkis, Cesar Zeppini, Maido Parv, Helen Kokk, Andres Susi, Calum Cameron, Indrek Rebane, Martin Rand, Jaan Kruusma, Anton Shunkov, Kair Käsper, Raigo Lilleberg, Agu Suur, Rene Rumberg, Jaanus Kalde, Martin Melioranski, Renee Puusepp and many many others! You rock our world!
The year 2015 was a success for Garage48 and for the whole startup community. The growing numbers of startup minded success-driven people are the key factors of a developing economy. Even though we read every day about various startup success stories (TransferWise, VitalFields, Lingvist, Starship Technologies, Skeleton Technologies, GrabCAD, Pipedrive, Taxify etc) reaching this level comes after years of hard work. Owning a startup is a lifestyle! Therefore, it is important to point out that building a successful startup is a process. There are no overnight stars, therefore Garage48 continues on its 7th year to be a platform for new ideas and solutions.
The X factor that makes Garage48 as amazing as it is are the people behind it. The girls (yes, girls) who were actively involved with developing Garage48 and keeping it running daily in 2015 were: Kai Isand, who joined our small team in the beginning of 2015 to organise the most inspiring hackathons and bring innovation to project management; Jane Muts, who built up a local startup network by welcoming both Estonian and foreign startuppers to the most motivational and friendly co-working space in Tallinn; Triin Liiv, who took the three words "Social Media Guru" to a whole other level and Karin Rand, who was the mother of all operations and financials.
Plus we have kick-ass volunteers who help us at the hackathons, making sure everything is running and everyone smiling!
In 2016 Garage48 is planning to go even bigger. Additionally to our annual events in Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, Georgia and Belarus, Garage48 is planning to take its first steps in Azerbaijan, Palestine, Morocco, Hungary and maybe even Tajikistan. We're happy to be acknowledged in growing the level of entrepreneurial interest. The motivation and the willingness to start a business is increasing when thinking both economically and when finding solutions to big global problems. We're also glad that our friends and partners from abroad keep inviting us back. This gives us a reason to always improve and organise high quality events for the Garage48 participants.
Until next time!