One year post TechChill - where is this Startup Europe award winner now?

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Last year at TechChill, Alexander Zelinsky and his team won the Startup Europe Awards 2016 in the “Smart Cities” category with their startup Rention.

Over this year, Alexander and his team have made significant progress: found a business partner in the BeneLux region, has signed his first major international contract, and has a client in the diamond industry ready to adopt his iteration as soon as it launches - which happens to be next week.

Can conference awards really accelerate startup success?

Every year thousands of representatives of the tech community gather in Riga for TechChill - the country's largest tech event. With a focus on startups and innovation, the event culminates in a grand awards ceremony. The most promising startups are awarded prizes based on the jury's decisions - it provides validation of their ideas and an acknowledgement of the hard work put in by the teams.

Though the awards process takes time and effort, critical resources that a startup would otherwise be best suited to allocate to the development of the business, the awards can offer a major breakthrough, and step up, for the team. In the case of Rention, the award won them the opportunity to visit the Latvian MEP, Inese Vaidere, in Brussels. As it turned out, this was just the chainlink needed to open the doors to the international market.

An international mindset - critical to growth

Alexander has stated that with every subsequent international trip, it become increasingly clear to him that the Latvian market is too small for his big ideas. In addition to his real estate management software, Rention, Alexander was also developing a happy byproduct of the startup - a blockchain based escrow solution called Velvet Deals.

When in Brussels, the Alexander landed a meeting with a leading escrow company “WorldEscrow” - arranged by the Belgian Commercial Attache in the Baltics. How did the event go? Put it this way - after their first meeting, the WorldEscrow team bought the first available plane ticket to Riga, to get to know the team behind Velvet Deals better. By simply implementing Velvet Deals, WorldEscrow would 5x their turnover - from 2M to 10M. They were on board.

Poised for international success

One year later, Alexander is one week away from publically launching Velvet Deals. It will be immediately adopted by the world's largest diamond exchange platform for their clients' transactions - a contract that they were able to secure thanks to their BeneLux partner.

Though Latvia turned out not be the target market, Alexander is certain that it makes a great testing ground. Where decision makers are more accessible, and products can be quickly implemented and tested.

So do startup awards make a difference? One year later, we see that it make the world of a difference for Alexander Zelinsky. Now we're looking forward to finding out this year's TechChill award winners, so that we can see where they'll be one year later.