As TechChill moves onto Day 2, the conference continues to heat up. Speakers are attracting crowds on two floors, and startups are demo'ing their products in their booths. We've continued to put together highlights from the main stage.
The day starts off with a high-profile visit and speech - the president of Latvia, Raimonds Vējonis, addressed the crowd. He was followed by the minister of education, Arvils Ašeradens, and both emphasized the country's commitment to developing the startup industry. Ašeradens declared that he firmly believes that growing startups is the fastest way to develop the economy.
Latvia over the past half-year has pushed through meaningful startup-friendly inititiatives. The new startup law, that includes a fixed, flat tax, a talent-friendly visa program, investment funds with availability for startups, and more. Ašeradens humoroursly commented that possibily this was passed through parliament so quickly because the members of parliament might not exactly know that startups are.
Ernests Jenavs - challenging your notion of impact
Ernests dropped some major truth bombs in his presentation as he challenged the audience's notion of impact.
Ernests is the founder and CEO of Edurio, an edutech company. He notes that it's not a sexy product that flies of the shelf, that no 9 year old ever gets really concerened or excited about school.
He relized he's building broccoli. A product that's good for you, but not something that the masses are going crazy for. Whereas most startups are trying to build candy - a product that the masses can't help but love. Ernests postulates that real impact is when the two come together to create vitamin candy.
TechFugees - Mike Butcher
Refugees are just like you and me. The first thing refugees ask when they reach land is - Where am I? Is there wifi?
Mike Butcher is usually known as the editor of TechCrunch. However this time, he's on the stage talking about his latest endeavour - Techfugees. A movement that was born out of the human response to help with the refugee crisis. And so Mike brought together like-minded people to discuss how technology can make a differnece.
Some of the innovations:
- Wifi hotspot in a backpack - a person walks around a refugee camp with a backpack containing a free wifi hotspot. Anyone can come up to the hotspot and connect.
- Blockchain vouchers - card with a QR code that contains a voucher - use it to pay, and it becomes verified that the aid has been delivered. This way the help gets to the person who needs it, and it cuts out charity corruption
- Teachng refugees to code
- MedShr - Instagram for doctors. Take a photo, and the community crowdsources a diagnosis from a refugee camp
- Artificial intelligence (AI) bots - speaks different languages
The overlying message is that tech can and is participating in solving problems of a major problem in our world. Already Techfugees has grown to 15 000 members around the world.
We see that technology is saving lives. The UN has declared that had it not been for smartphones, the crisis would have been much worse.
5 things he wished he knew as a 1st time CEO - Bob Tinker
Bob Tinker has been on a team that sold a product for half a billion dollars. He has grown a new company, MobileIron, to 750 worldwide employees from scratch. It's not his first time on the block, and he has some meaninful tips for a 1st time CEO. Here are 5 things he wished he knew:
- Sh*t breaks, be ready.
- The CEO role changes - from the beginning you're in the trenches with your team, then you have to learn to step away, lead, and develop new superheros for your team. A CEO also has to be slightly schizophrenic - on one side, has to be eternally optimistic to lead the team to success, while at the same time paranoid about everything that can go wrong. One thing that stays the same, though, is that a CEO has to be able to "close". To get people to joing your journey, be it convincing your first teammates, getting your first customers, to snagging investments and hiring your first executives.
- Building a business is different than building a product - not only do you have to find product-market fit, but also go-to-market fit - aka how you'll access your markte. Bob emphasized the need to have a sales + marketing playbook - your method of finding and converting customers, that you can do over and over again. Only then will you experience growth and acceleration.
- Culture stuff matters - Culture comes from the founders. Once your team has reached 20 people, the culture is set. Consider how you build it wisely. If your product is your muscles, your team is your brain, then your culture is your company's soul.
- Doing something uncool is cool - hard things take time. And if you want to create something meaningfully cool, you have to start working on it well in advance, so that it's ready when peolpe come around to the idea. So think about trends, what might be happening in the next few years, and in Bob's words - skate to the puck.
Davis Siksnans - lessons from 4 years of growth
Printful is an example of how boring, stagnated industries (in this case, the printing industry) can be completely disrupted by technology. By fusing printing with ecommerce plugins, Printful has tapped into the apparel industry, letting regular, small businesses take over part of the garment maket share.
Some of Davis' lessons:
- Get technical - if you're not a technical founder, learn enough to be able to discuss with your programmers. Learn how servers work, basic HTML and CSS. It will let you converse meaningfully with your developers, and not get the run around when it comes to deadlines.
- Choose overlooked industries - By fusing printing, a stagneated and boring industy, with ecommerce plugins, Printful has tapped into the apparel industry, letting regular, small businesses take over part of the garment maket share.
- Start international from day 1 - being in your target market, speaking to them, being present, and communicating in their language.
- Know the culture - get to know the culture of your target audience so that you can talk to them, as well as your local employees, in a way that's relevant to them. From following the local celebrations to knowing what's culturally relevant. For example, it turns out Latvian customer service is too harsh for American standards and had to be altered.
- Go to niche conferences - Davis emphasized going to confereneces that are specific to your niche. For example, for him that was going the biggest ecommerce event there is - IRCE. That way you get the most relevant experience and meet existing of future industry partners.
Davis is aiming high. With Printful growing by 200% every year, if growth like this continues, they're on track to go for an IPO by year 2020, and would be the first Latvian startup to do so.
David Troy - Social media in a post-fact world
We're living in a world where we're seeing an increase in division in social media.
The division in social media has had a meaningful impact in world events - we see the result of the Brexit vote as well as the US elections. Social media played a large role in influencing voters using specifically targeted advertisements to sway them in favour of the paying party.
What can be done?
What interweaves David's suggestions is that we cannot remain passive. That there is plenty to be done, and a lot of it has to do with spreading real news. From exposing fake news to committing your own acts of journalism, it involves putting a focus on qualitative, fact-based information.
Another notion is the idea of memetic warfare. This is the process of using memes to spread the message of truth. Turining memes into a form of warfare says a lot about the world we live in.
Baltic State of Mind
In a panel with representatives from the 3 Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, there was an overall evaluation of the feeling in the Baltics in relation to startups and innovation.
The panelists were in agreement that the countries live in a state of co-opetition - a fusion of co-operation and competition. Though the countries are always compared to each other, certainly an element of co-operation is necessary, as the countries are bound together and develop together. Karoli Hindricks of Estonia emphasized the need for open mindedness for the Baltic startup ecosystem to thrive.
Web absolutely agree that by supporting the Baltic states as a whole, the entire region will prosper. With startup-frienldy initiatives such as Estonia's E-residency program and Latvia's new startup law, together the Baltics are sure to create a strong foundation for innovation and success, that only encourages each other to push the envelope and make it an even better place to start your business.
As Ernests said at the beginning of the day, "If the talent is here, stay here. If the money is here, stay here. Where good people are, good companies will follow".
See you next year at TechChill 2018 for another conference, choc-full of inspiration ideas! If you move fast, you can get the super early-bird ticket today for 59€!