sTARTUp Day is born from synergy of the community

sTARTUp Day, which has now grown to be the biggest business festival in the Baltics, was brought to life two years ago to connect several small events under one roof to create a bigger impact.

“We had lots of great events happening, but they were all so small that nobody knew about them and they were not attractive enough to be inviting to investors or journalists from Tallinn,” says Andres Kuusik, one of the founders of this festival. In this way, sTARTUp Day came to life, which is organized by Tartu’s entrepreneurship community.

Let’s get acquainted with the core of the festival’s organization - the city of Tartu, University of Tartu, Tartu Science park, .Contriber, Tartu Business Advisory Services, Tartu Centre for Creative Industries and Tartu Biotechnology Park. We asked them a few simple questions about their contributions to sTARTUp Day’s festival.

1.    What does your organization do?
2.    How do you contribute to sTARTUp Day?
3.    What has been the most memorable thing about sTARTUp Day for you?

City of Tartu

1. City council of Tartu is the representative body of Tartu’s municipal government. If you look at entrepreneurship and startup sides, then the goal of Tartu is to create an appropriate environment for life and entrepreneurship for all our citizens and businesses. We contribute to it through sTARTUp Day, supporting air traffic and through organizing different events, such as seminars, workshops and Tartu Entrepreneurship Week. Our goal is to always think along and to find a good starting point for every idea.

2. We can say that our mayor and our deputy mayors are very proud to have sTARTUp Day happening in Tartu. And that we always bring this up as a good example of different organizations working together when we chat with our Estonian and international colleagues.

But the program, venue, technology and everything else cannot be done with a simple ‘thank you’, although this would be very nice. Tartu has chosen the path to contribute a large amount of sTARTUp Day’s budget financially and in addition, 3-4 people handle different tasks for sTARTUp Day. Because it’s important to us.

3. The first one is of a crazy person called Andres Kuusik, who organized a meeting on 30th of December 2015 with the idea to create a big event. Back then nobody believed that we will actually manage to make it happen. Maybe even Andres didn’t.

Another one comes also from the first event, when our Alo Lilles, Tartu’s entrepreneurship development lead specialist, had just ended the VIP reception and went to Estonian National Museum to carry water bottles everywhere (Alo carrying water has become an inner joke now). Since already everyone had left, then he did it all by himself. He remembers it being very interesting to walk around museum corridors and fill fridges with water bottles. 

By the end of the night, he had been walking for 22 kilometers and burned 4444 calories. So, if anyone hasn’t made new year's resolutions yet and hasn’t started working out then as a team member of sTARTUp Day you can do a lot of it! It’s true though, that you have no opportunities to sleep. Almost zero. But it's worth it!

University of Tartu

1. University of Tartu is one of the oldest Northern- and Eastern-European universities and belongs to top 1% of the best universities in the world. 13 000 students are enrolled in our university and almost 1800 scientists work here. A lot of great business ideas, science-based enterprises and a big part of Estonia enterprise developers are from here.

2. From sTARTUp Day we expect meeting potential science development partners, businesses interested in new technologies and spin-off enterprises which have already gained momentum. sTARTUp Day is a place where students gain their first experience of performing for investors and international collaboration partners can share their experiences.

This year, the program of the University of Tartu is called „Science to Business “. Through different speakers and workshops, we discuss the role of universities in developing science and technology-based startups. The program of the University of Tartu focuses precisely on science-based business and the choices and opportunities that come with it.

In the program, there are two UT’s pre-start-up phase business idea competitions. Festival visitors see the final of “Kaleidoskoop” which is the biggest youth business idea competition in South Estonia. This competition includes ideas from Idealab as well as from participants of other programs. 10 teams who reached the finals were chosen from 36 teams. Amongst these 10 lucky teams who get to sTARTUp Day’s stage, there are six teams from business idea development program STARTER, who began their idea development process in last year’s September.

3. sTARTUp Day as a whole is one of the greatest and the most memorable events in Tartu because it brings together a bunch of enthusiastic active people from all fields and countries. The variety of people and a program designed by organizers creates a unique open environment and gives everyone exactly the experience they need the most. sTARTUp Day’s festival title is well-deserved.

Most memorable ideas of UT IdeaLab are when our students give great performances on the pitching stage in front of a big crowd and answer the jury’s questions easily. There have been several times when a student who enrolls in STARTER program in fall can be very unsure of his/her idea and in his/her capability to step on stage and share this with others. And after three months, she or he stands on a sTARTUp Day stage, explaining the business idea clearly, shortly and convincingly.

Tartu Science park

1. Tartu Science Park has been a home of business for more than 26 years. During that time, we have trained and advised startups, given them rooms and kicked them out of their rooms when it is time for them to fly to bigger markets and bigger offices. Our job is to make companies grow and prosper.

We are proud that during the years Tartu Science Park has also been the forerunner of the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Tartu. Mainly by taking the lead in developing ideas and organizations that seem too crazy or too novel to succeed in the first place. Like creating first prototyping lab (Protolab) in Tartu, a first acceleration program for hardware companies (Buildit), the first European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre (ESA BIC Estonia) in the Baltics and of course, co-organizing the biggest startup festival sTARTUp Day from the very beginning.

2. During sTARTUp Day Tartu Science Park is behind the stage and on the stage and everywhere else! But on a serious note, our main responsibility for the third-year running is to assemble the whole event program – finding and bringing the best of the best of speakers, startups, and participants to Tartu with the help of our partners.

In 2019 Tartu Science Park together with ESA BIC Estonia are very proud to present Christer Fuglesang, the first and only Swedish astronaut, and the space track "How to fund your space startup?". Because who doesn’t dream about a Moonshot? We are also are moderating a stage – this year it will be the Pitching stage. Like in previous years Tartu Science Park will have demo booth with everything a good home needs – coffee, comfy couches, and the astronaut.

3. There is no single separate moment to bring out but thinking about the buzz and excitement during the festivals still brings us goosebumps. The excruciating pain and absolute awesomeness of doing The Biggest sTARTUp festival in Baltics in Tartu, that’s powerful stuff.


1. .Contriber is an inspired team that supports entrepreneurship as self-development. We do it by building the startup community in sTARTUp HUB and SPARK HUB in Tartu, investing into startups, creating Startup Includer software tool for the startup community and developing .Cocoon Founder Psychology Mentoring program.

2.  .Contriber is one of the founding members of sTARTUp Day and from the first ideation conversations three years ago we have constantly contributed our vision and experience to make sTARTUp Day into a valuable event and a central organization for the startup community in Tartu.

Additionally, our team members have been more specifically in charge of volunteers and registration management, supporting the program team, organizing investor events and providing event venues for side events and office or meeting space for the core team in SPARK HUB and sTARTUp HUB.

Naturally, .Contriber, sTARTUp Day and the whole community here in Tartu grows and changes, which makes way for the new. This year we launched sTARTUp Talks as an official side event series for sTARTUp Day to inspire and strengthen the local community even more.

Inspired by .Cocoon Founder Psychology Mentoring program that we created this year, we are bringing Founder Psychology track to the main program to share the experience and importance of self-development. We are continuing to host sTARTUp Day team HQ in sTARTUp HUB co-working, manage registration and the creative program and welcome side events in our hubs.

3.  Our most memorable moments of sTARTUp Day come from the synergy of the people in the team and we are feeling constantly that cooperation between so many organizations bringing sTARTUp Day to life is something very magical.

Tartu Business Advisory Services

1. We are a county development center and a part of a nationwide network of similar organizations. We’re basically a public institution, which is subsidized by the state and local governments, which is why most of our services are free of charge or for a very symbolic fee. We have 4 main client groups: entrepreneurs, NGOs, investors, and entrepreneurial youth.

For getting financing and other topics from business model analysis to accounting, we provide consulting services (not teaching). In addition, we also provide training on the most relevant topics for our clients with the purpose so they will achieve the results and outcome they want and need.

2. We are one of the founders who had an interest that a big international business festival would take place in Tartu, which could also be our business card and with the help of it we would be able to stand out. Annually there are two of our people in the organization team (3 with side events). Additionally, we help to cover organization fees and to look for speakers. We organize a side event called “Smart Manufacturing Meetup”.

3. The first core team meeting in sTARTUp Hub’s safe; Cleaning at night in Estonian Nationa Museum after sTARTUp Day 2016; Tommy Cash afterparty in 2017; First team trip to Riga after the festival.

These memories all are connected to a feeling of belonging, mutual suffering and lack of sleep.

Tartu Biotechnology Park

1. Tartu Biotechnology Park offers development- and consultation services to biotechnology, medicine, and natural science enterprises and to science facilities, rents workspaces, helps to form collaboration agreements, supports networking and is active in founding new enterprises.

2. We contribute in several ways - we help to create conception for the event, we participate in the whole preparation process of sTARTUp Day starting from early planning phases ending with carrying out the event and aftermath. We always try to bring interesting, internationally renowned and hot topic speakers and subjects to the main program. We are very passionate about biotechnology and creating a platform for biotechnology-related topics. We take care of life science companies and their visibility at the demo area, pitching stage, star- and spotlight stage, seminars, matchmaking, etc.

3. After a big preparation period, it always seems nearly unbelievable that everything is working exactly when and how it’s supposed to be. For example, when we organized the Biotech panel during the first sTARTUp Day, we were very excited - we sat in the front row, all experts were at the panel and talks were good and substantive. We looked around us like - wow, this is our Biotech! A true sense of unitedness in the community.

It was also very exciting to send out sTARTUp Biotech winners on the big stage to give their presentation last year. It is very possible to hold your breath for 90 seconds without even realizing it. Our task was to get the winners backstage for the right time, but we held their hand until they went on stage (last encouraging words, pat on the shoulder and off they go.) And after we shared tears of joy - it was a really proud feeling.

Last year our president Kersti Kaljulaid came to our box in the demo area to ask and discuss biotechnology future and about our role in developing Estonian biotechnology entrepreneurship.

Tartu Centre for Creative Industries

1. Tartu Centre for Creative Industries helps creative entrepreneurs to create their business and to develop it. Most of all, we are a society, where everything is done together: mutual displays in fairs and design markets, organizing pop-up stores, sharing contacts and know-how. An entrepreneur receives personal advising, different trainings, support and help with every question.

Thanks to the leadership of Tartu Centre for Creative Industries, Tartu Film Foundation, Tartu Young Art Auction, and design market Kellavärk have been founded. In addition to sTARTUp Day, Tartu Centre for Creative Industries is also Estonian Fashion Festival co-organizer.

2. We have been a part of sTARTUp Day’s team since the idea was born. Our goal is mostly to introduce successful creative enterprises to the public and creating a platform for topical creative entrepreneurship field subjects. This is why we exhibit creative entrepreneurs’ products at the demo area, organize a panel that introduces our entrepreneurs and we have invited outstanding speakers from creative fields to the festival. Through this, we wish to inspire young talents to start their own company.

3. The most memorable moment for our community was definitely in 2016 when we created a mutual exposition for all our entrepreneurs and their products. Our demo area was so attractive that all cameras captured it on site.

As members of sTARTUp Day’s team, we can also say that one of the most memorable things is the synergy and power which emerged during the first festival. Creating sTARTUp Day has united a lot of good people and this is highly valuable. In 2016, Tartu’s mayor recognized sTARTUp Day’s team with a collaboration award which was issued for the first time.

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