By @SimonCocking. Great interview with Marija Rucevska  and Ambassador. Latvian Ninja. Marija explains more about this innovative event in Riga, Latvia. Irish Tech News will be there as the only representative of the Irish media covering it too.

Head of @TechChill and Ambassador @TechHubRiga. Latvian Ninja.

What is your own background and your interests?

Ever since I started working at TechHub, the focal point for Latvian startup ecosystem, I have been impressed by the impact of innovation, the drive & the energy of people being in this field – it’s remarkable! The Baltics are small, but we have so many talented young people who have the ambition of new ideas and I’m just so happy to be part of it and witness it all! Their drive is infectious, and I am passionate about seeing Baltic tech scene succeed and attract even more great minds! I do love hiking, camping & of course coffee as every ‘trendy’ person these days 🙂

When is TechChill on? 1 min pitch for it?

TechChill is on the one tech event that brings together Baltic founders and the most promising startups in one place with investors. It’s on Feb 9-10, kind of a start to the tech event season, and also a winter wonderland in Riga. This year’s agenda will focus on the experiences and insights at the core of startup life, what we call The Human Side of Tech, with speakers that range from promising startups with passionate ideas to experienced entrepreneurs. You can expect around 1000 techies not just from the Baltics, but also from the Nordics and Eastern Europe. Both in format and the agenda, we like to keep it small-scale, fun and personal. We value the things that really matter, both on stage and off. It’s all about kick off, catch up and deal making!

How many years has it been going?

This will be the 6th year for TechChill, it basically started out right along with the startup community. At first, it was just a small meetup, but as the Baltic startups have grown, so has the event – there is a lot of growing interest in the region, investors want to come and see what’s happening here. TechChill is where TransferWise was on stage when they were just starting out in 2014, and now they’re a unicorn. This is what investors are looking for – to catch those promising startups when they’re just at the beginning. This year, we expect around 1000 techies in Riga, twice as many as last year – but that’s probably just scratching the surface, and we expect interest to grow in the near future as well.

What was the inspiration to start it?

At first, the event started out as a meetup of like-minded developers and their friends at a coffee house. 2012 was the first year when people from the tech community started coming together and discussing. Mike Butcher from TechCrunch, who is also one of the founders of TechHub, organized a one-time regional event TechCrunch Baltics 2012 together with TechHub Riga. It was around a hundred people, but it was a success, and next year TechHub Riga continued to grow it as TechChill. The most important thing about the event is that it is organized by the startup community itself, and everyone is involved – the companies, the investors, the accelerators and the policymakers. It’s true community power.

What exciting things can people look forward to for the 2017 version?

This year we’re expanding the agenda to two full days, with more than 40 great and diverse speakers from Silicon Valley to Japan. The first day will focus on the building blocks of entrepreneurship – the practical side of making a product, succeeding at growth, and creating a culture. On day two, we’ll have inspiring storytellers taking the stage on The Human Side of Tech, discussing the role of technology in solving important issues, the personal challenges of success – or failure! – and how these stories are different or similar from Europe, to US, to the Middle East. More focused topics will be discussed on the 2nd stage – diving into trending industries and technology behind it, such as VR, HW, Fintech.

But there is also going to be a lot of fun stuff, because – and everyone who’s been to TechChill before will back me on this – nobody does parties like Riga! There will be several side events, ending with an absolutely massive afterparty – we have some secret acts in store for that one, so that’s definitely going to be exciting.

What opportunities are on offer for startups and companies attending TechChill?

For startups in particular, TechChill is the best opportunity to move forward. Pitch academy and Pitch Battle is the best opportunity for early stage startups to get feedback and mentorship, and compete for audience attention – several have found investors sitting in the audience. Startup Expo is also a great way to showcase their product or idea to a wider audience, and bigger companies can use this to attract new hires and partnerships, as well as valuable knowledge and inspiration for their employees. But of course, the main reason to come are the connections – both the pre-meetings with investors and the myriad opportunities to talk to the people you need to meet to grow your business. For that we have sort of TinderStylelLike app to find the best matches with whom to network during event.

What tips would you give to people attending to get the most out of it?

Have a clear goal and know what you want to get out of the event, do your research beforehand, practice your pitch, and most importantly – connect and have fun! And definitely don’t miss the evening events, cause they’re just as important to get the best experience.

What type of tech innovation does Latvia do well?

Latvia has historically been strong in finance and banking, as the region has capitalized on being in the crossroads between East and West. As more and more talented people go into startups, we see this knowledge passed on to the world of tech, and so fintech is by far the strongest field. There is TWINO making great strides in peer-to-peer lending, micropayment app Monea is a budding success, TechChill 2016 Pitch Battle winner Nordigen, and there are many others.

There are also many startups gaining traction in hardware and VR – AirDog is one of the many drones, there’s Anatomy Next, in VR there’s Giraffe360 and Vividly worth to look out for.

Who should we look out for when we come over?

In terms of promising startups, most of the bigger startup names from the region are coming – the drone company AirDog, edtech pioneers Edurio, VR company Vividly, there’s going to be the rising Estonians – Jobbatical is one of the recent successes, Taxify is looking to bite a share out of the ridesharing pie, and more. Definitely check out the Startup Funeral event – a panel of honest-to-the-bone startup failure stories. Oh, and enjoy the view – TechChill venue is very Instagram friendly!

How can people book tickets / when does it usually sell out?

You can get tickets on the web, – Startup Pass and General Pass are both still 99EUR. However, most Startups and Investors know that half of the work begins before the event – we are already preparing briefings on which startups are registered and coming, Investors are doing research on who they are looking to meet, we’re setting up one-on-one meetings. The sooner you get a pass, the most you will gain from the event.

Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked?

Latvia and the Baltics in general have a lot to offer, and it’s a great place to start a startup. You get access to young talent and capital, startup-friendly regulation and unparallelled infrastructure such as one of the fastest internet speeds in the world, excellent geographical connections. The Baltic capitals are beautiful, most young people here are talented, ambitious and easily speak 3 languages. We already see even more founders choosing the region for their homebase, and we expect the trend to continue.

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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