Day 2 of Techchill 2019 arrives in a blaze of bright sunshine and -7 degrees temperatures but I didn’t let that stop me arriving before 9am at the VEF Cultural Palace. As much, because I have a favourite place in the Media Room as I do also plan to absorb as much of todays atmosphere and networking as I can.
After scanning the Startup Lounge and getting a few recommendations from the Techchill team on who to cover next, I slipped into the Superhero Stage to listen to Jack Everitt warm up the audience and be unapologetically controversial. He didn’t disappoint!
Even Techchill will tell you this, what makes them and this event so hot is their startups and that’s what I was here to document. So I hit the Talque app which is this years event app and saw who was up first to meet:
I was pleased to see that it was Alexandra Balkova from Startup Wiseguys. Their name has cropped up numerous times before but I’ve not had the chance to speak with anyone from Startup Wiseguys previously. Their reputation as solid Startup Accelerators preceeds them however. On this occasion I sat down with them, as they have appeared to be a driving force in this years startups and they all say the same favourable things about them.
Startup Wise Guys is the largest early stage B2B accelerator in the Baltics, Nordics, and CEE. Their program is mentorship-driven, primarily sales and scaling focused. Their Accelerator provides up to €30,000 seed capital for early stage B2B SaaS, Fintech, Cybersecurity & Defense AI startups with a co-investment opportunity of up to €150,000. As of 2019, they have portfolio of 125 companies and one large exit. On asking about the one company that had their exit Alexandra said it was in 2016. It was an agriculture tech company called VitalFields which was bought by Monsanto.
I love the ethos they have, they arrange a yearly portfolio gathering in Spain. This builds a strong and sustainable relationship with the startups so its not just about business support but about mental health support also.
Although they did originally start in Estonia in 2012, they now operate in all three Baltic countries since the beginning of this year, so they have themselves shown their own steady growth as well.
Precision Navigation Systems – HIVE
One of the many businesses that Startup Wiseguys have here to support is HIVE. I met with CEO and cofounder Simon Litvinov who explained that their business although still very new, has been somewhat successful very quickly. He went on to explain that it was a drone detection system that can source a lost item within 1cm of its GPS location, where previously it would have been meters out. As an example, he suggested that a bicycle that maybe stored in a bike park can be found among the many!
This technology has been developed to utilise what would be considered today – as already in place but out-dated systems, that were initially set up for surveillance. Along with that and using the Galileo Satellite in orbit and of course their own (for want of a better word) platform it has completely transformed geographical search.
Unsurprisingly the European Space Agency have shown an interest in this product and its earthly applications. Although at this stage plans haven’t been firmed out yet, it’s a line to explore for this under one year old business.
He showed me online data of the HIVE at work in real time. There are scores of data collection points marked across the Baltic countryside that you can see in the previous link. HIVE helps drones, robots, self-driving cars, e-scooters, IoT modules and any other GPS-equipped autonomous systems to be positioned, navigated and tracked with up to 1 cm precision.
Simon said he could see a time in the future where we will be transported in cars similar to the Fifth Element movie. In this movie it showed the journey being tracked in real time on imaginery rails and using systems like his for avoiding collisions. Who knows? There is a great deal of potential in this tool to be fair.
Each year Techchill run a competition called the Fifty Founders Battle. The link next to this explains what it was and who was in it. I had only just been speaking with Simon shortly before the competition began and he then went on to win it!
A very unassuming name, but a mighty mission. It was recommended to me to approach Kristaps Krafte about his remarkable machine learning tool that is akin to a digital CBT (Cognitive Behaviour) therapy treatment for Stroke patients. There are other applications of this product but we only had 20 minutes!
He described it to me as a rehabilitation chatbot that has been built to meet the custom needs of each individual patient. His company is about to start working with Riga East Clinical University Hospital to work on the emotional vector of the program as well.
There is of course strigent rounds of research that the company is starting shortly. However, the hope is that while this is being done, he can build a raft of case studies that support the enormous effectiveness of this product. It will be considerably cheaper to manage this system for national hospitals and health care agencies over and above a human counterpart.
Vigo starts a pilot study next month that will provide essential feedback and will give the company its first real patient testing since they completed trials in November of last year. One to watch for 2019!
A VR Escape Room
What a great intro they gave me as well. Their “hook” was they have a Virtual Reality Escape Room game that’s essentially a move-around (rather than static) 4D. Intrigued, I learned that they have built a 4 x 5 metre room with a wind machine and sensors that can make the user feel like they are on a horse and carriage, on bridges, in towers or even flying islands right down to walking through a room. As you are able to actually physically touch someone within the game it adds yet another dimension. There are sensors mounted on objects within the room that can be reinterpreted as different things as you move through the game as well. So for example the tables you could actually touch and place things on in level 1 will now be repurposed to barrels in level 2 in the VR headset. Watch the video in the link to get an idea of what this game can do.
This particular programme was developed to be more brain-than-brawn as a change to the usual action packed VR that are currently out in the market.
This particular game “TowerHex VR” has been developed by TowerHex Games and is now selling licences so they see it as a working model to be adopted throughout Europe and hopefully beyond. If you would like to learn more, please visit the website below:
This particular company came on to my radar after watching a video on YouTube. It’s of a man doing a base jump off a massive drone! Which just so happened to be Aerones. They were pitching today alongside the others taking part in the Fifty Founders.
I met with Dainis Kruze, cofounder of Aerones this afternoon to learn more about this drone and its capabilities. Their company was primarily started to promote aerial wind turbine maintenance and high-rise building cleaning. Their equipment can reach heights of 150 meters and as the drone is a mere 100 kilos in weight with a capability of carrying a further 200 kilos, its an ideal drone to meet the needs for the specified tasks.
They do also have plans to expand their company to Fire Fighting as well. It makes sense to use drones to reach and put out fires in tall buildings, its vastly safer for all concerned. Dainis explained that they are currently in talks with Germany, Japan and Austria to source a partnership with companies that make Fire Engines and add this tool to their defensive and proactive arsenal.
They are also in talks with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to get licences to fly their drones in the US. So a whole new market should be opening up to them in the very near future.
Whilst walking around today, I came across Karl Llewellyn, CEO of an Irish startup that we have covered once before called Sanctifly.
The travel wellness club that is changing business travellers routines to improve wellness was one of the TOP TEN Startups at the Startup Lighthouse awards today. Sanctifly, who also competed in the founders battle in TechChill in Riga, is rapidly becoming a global player in travel wellness, improving the bad habits that lots of business travellers have when they travel.
With gym, pools, spa, showers and massage options at over 500 locations in 90 airports, its easy to see the growth.
Startup Lighthouse promote and support startups and early scale companies throughout Europe and have selected the top 10 high performing companies to join them on an Elite program planned for later this year to the US and Israel.
Edit: Precision Navigation Systems ALSO won the top 10 award with Startup Lighthouse on the same day!
I have really enjoyed meeting and learning about all of these businesses this year. Although it’s pretty cold here right now, Techchill has demonstrated yet again that it is a hot bed of innovation and enterprise. I wish all the start ups here success for 2019.