Last week, another big milestone was reached in the Empowering Youth event series of Georgia. After running regional pre-events in Kutaisi and Batumi a hackathon took place in December in Tbilisi that gathered 60 participants and finished with 12 strong prototypes. 5 of the teams, most committed to take their idea to the next level, made it to the bootcamp to validate their idea with real customers and to aim for the product-market fit. The next step for the most invested teams is the Startup Wise Guys accelerator where they can develop their business model and tap into the extensive list of business coaches and investors in the region.
The chain of events were designed in a way that the participants can follow through each of the steps - to pitch and develop their idea at the pre-events, build it into a prototype at the hack and start talking to real customers at the bootcamp. Our goal is to keep on building the community - to keep the participants coming back giving them new tools, methods, and challenges each time and giving an opportunity to connect with fellow innovators and entrepreneurs. We have long said, Garage48 is not a startup factory, our success stories are people. People who are working towards ambitious goals, who have the courage to imagine a better world and who are not afraid to work towards making that world happen.
5 teams who made it to the bootcamp have members just like that. They have high hopes for the future of Georgia and they keep on coming to hackathon events to develop their skills and to make an impact themselves. Meet the teams, the ideas they are working on at the moment and the reasons why they keep on coming back:
ARI offers an eco-friendly steam car wash service onsite by using an application.
ARI consists of a team of ladies who all come from the city of Batumi. They started their idea already at the pre-event and have followed through all the steps. Getting encouragement and new skills along the way, they have also launched an organization that stands for women's rights and holds trainings all over the Adjara region. Although they are working with a car wash idea at the hack, their deepest passion is to help and inspire young women like themselves. Their mission is to help build Georgia into a fair place for women to live, where they can freely follow their dreams and where the men support and respect their ambitions.
The reason why they keep on coming back to hackathons is the opportunity to develop their skills. "Hackathons are a great place to learn the tools and methods that you can later use in any project in your life. We have been to Garage48 and Latitude59. These events give you energy and encouragement to create a better life," says the team lead Rusudani Sakhechidze.
TherApp is an online platform, creating better connections between those suffering from mental health issues and the professionals best suited to help them.
TherApp is a team of artistic members with a passion for solving mental health issues in Georgia. With skills ranging from graphic design to copywriting to visual art, the hackathon gave the team an opportunity to come up with a more precise idea to build a tech solution. In Georgia, mental health issues are still a stigma. "It can be discerning to ask for information about available therapists. There's a serious lack of infrastructure and no government support," says the team lead James Lawrence. "Our goal for the future is to list the certified therapists and to make finding and asking for help easier for the Georgian people. We want to help create Georgia where there is no shame in talking about mental health issues," adds the team designer Tinatin Kharkhelauri.
The team finds the mentor support at hackathons the main benefit. "They help you find focus on your idea and they guide you during this limited time frame. It is a perfect marriage between giving you structure and pushing you to results," says James.
3. Symphony of Emotions aka SOE
SOE is an application that helps people to create unique music by their emotions and assist them with their emotional and mental issues.
SOE consists of people with a diverse background in design, marketing, sound design, and psychology. As the teammates share a passion for music, it is through sounds that they offer their users a creative way to express themselves. Their wider passion is to start a conversation about mental health issues in Georgia and to help lower the stigma.
The team considers coming to hackathons an exercise of teamwork and understanding all aspects of the project. "At the hackathon, you understand the bigger picture - you learn how to build ideas from scratch together with a whole team." says team lead Nika Tsotniashvili. "I just love creating new things together. Some people jump out of airplanes, but I come to hackathons for an adrenaline rush," adds the designer and idea author Zizi Nishnianidze.
TickUp is an online platform that offers an online ticket selling system for travel routes in Georgia.
The team consists of students of economics from Tbilisi State University. The tourism sector is one of the fastest-growing in Georgia and is becoming a source of income for many. "To develop tourism, you also need to develop other services like transport and infrastructure to go with it," explains team lead Salome Kakabadze. "The bigger idea is to make life better in Georgia. In 5 years' time, Georgia should have a controlled system of transport that will affect tourism, the local life and also the environment in a positive manner."
Team members agree that hackathons are a great place to learn new things. "The structure gives you motivation in your life not only to create startups but other things in your life as well."
XYMBA is a platform that lets you earn money for your data by selling it to the highest bidder.
Xymba is a one-man-team consisting of a full stack developer, doing client work but mainly building his own project. Mark's deepest passion is to see a post-internet government. "We are not going to change people’s greed or lack of motivation. We can only build a system that will try to eliminate the effects of human nature," says Mark. Georgia, in his words, is a great place to build and test this system because here you can fail fast with efficient resources. He adds "Georgia doesn't have the snobby attitude of the West - which stops innovation. Georgian people here might not be so familiar yet with the newest slickest tools but at the same time, they are truly creative. I can teach someone new tools, but I cannot teach anyone creativity." He sees true potential for Georgia to be the startup capital of the region in the near future. "Tbilisi will maintain its charm but the business environment will develop massively."
Mark goes to and organizes similar events and appreciates the opportunity to connect with people who share similar interests and values. "There is a positive networking effect and an opportunity to connect with friends."
All the 5 teams were immersed in lectures, team-work and lots of individual mentoring in the 3 days. Teams’ main goal was to tap into the real world and validate with real customers aiming for the product-market fit. All teams set different goals and different success metrics but all 5 teams pitched on Friday explaining their validation process, experiments that they held and the traction that they managed to achieve. Our mentors supported them with the main topics of business and validation (Kai Isand), building a landing page (Toomas Tartes) and marketing (Jaan Kruusma). We also had dedicated mentors who acted like team members giving them hands-on help with everything from setting up social media ads, to coding their website to putting together their pitch, the hard work was done (with great passion) by Dagmar Urb, Kristofer Turmen and Tim Vaino.
Our kickass mentors' crew: Kristofer Turmen, Dagmar Urb, Merit Vislapu, Kai Isand, Tim Vaino, Toomas Tarter and Jaan Kruusma.
The boot camp format is a little different than our regular hackathons but similarly, we got to experience the magic of a bunch of motivated people working together in a limited time frame. We wish the best of luck to participating teams taking the next steps and making their goals of building a better Georgia into reality.
Garage48 Youth Empowered Tbilisi 2019 is organized with the financial support of Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Fund for Development and Humanitarian Aid. And with great support from our partners in Impact HUB Tbilisi.