10 great things that happened in 2017!

As we greet the new year with excitement, the first day of the year is a good time to take a moment to look back and conclude the awesomeness of 2017. Let’s be honest, we are all spending a nice cozy day in bed counting the steps we did on the dance floor last night :) So it is time to carry on the tradition and list the 10 awesome things that happened last year!

It was truly a remarkable year for Garage48. We keep on growing - in numbers, in people, in ideas and in inspiration. This year we organised 29 events all together - including 19 weekend hackathons, 6 Idea Garage’s, 3 Student Startup Camps and 1 mini-hackathon for high school students. Holding events in 9 different countries and 15 different cities, we wanted to make sure that the entrepreneurial spirit spreads far and wide. The events gathered 2113 participants, heard 523 ideas pitched and saw 253 prototypes built. These numbers are a proof to us that we continue building a community of people who are passionate risk-takers, who are searching for new experiences and are not afraid to step outside of the comfort zone.

So there's more than enough to be happy about. Here are the 10 most awesome things we are super grateful for: 

1. Our Estonia-based events keep on growing in quality of participants, ideas and execution

Garage48 was started by forward-thinking Estonian entrepreneurs in 2010 who saw the high potential in the growing startup community here in Estonia. Time has passed and we have grown to be a well-known startup country which is why our Estonia-based events are also growing year-by-year in quality of participants, ideas and execution. Our goal in mind this year was to tackle more interesting topics and to keep on growing a more international community. The Estonian EU Presidency program was a great help in achieving this goal and we organised several hackathons and Idea Garage events to highlight the innovative and out-of-the box thinking of our tech community.

In 2017, we organised our flagship Garage48 Hardware and Arts event for the 4th time. Last February, the legendary event grew to a whopping 175 people challenging the space of the Tartu University Physicum building but successfully delivering 21 working hardware prototypes.

The Garage48 Baltic Open & Big Data event, organised together with Tele2 Estonia, was a true sensation in bringing together skilled participants passionate about data and bold companies ready to open their datasets to bring new solutions to life. Garage48 Tech for Humanity took on a challenging topic - the humanitarian crisis in the developing world. Together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Tehnopol Science park, the hackathon was organised in June and brought together several local and international organisations like NGO Mondo, the Estonian Refugee Council, the Estonian Rescue Board and the IT community to come up with ideas to better the communication during crisis situations, to help refugees integrate better to new communities and so on. Both, circular economy and space technology focused hackathons, brought together a truly international crowd. The Garage48 Circular Economy hack was organised together with the Estonian Ministry of the Environment and hosted 21 different nationalities that all worked together for 48 really intensive (and fun hours) to find new and innovative solutions for transition to circular economy through eco-innovation. The Garage48 SpaceTech: Integrated Solutions hackathon kicked off the European Space Week held in Estonia this year. The hack in Tartu had 122 participants from 23 different nationalities including people from as far as Australia, Iran, China and Brazil. It was already the 2nd time Garage48 is organising a space tech focused event, this year together with the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication we included truly impressive list of partners: the European Space Agency (ESA), the European GNSS Agency (GSA) and our very own student satellite team EstCube.

2. Our Idea Garage format really took flight this year

We organised 6 events on different topics proving that these methods and tools widely used in the tech world can successfully be applied to non-tech ideas. In January, we gathered together 90 people interested in the future of their hometown for Idea Garage: Future Tallinn. The participants were encouraged to propose and validate new ideas to make future-Tallinn a better place to live. We were also part of an anti-corruption themed conference in Berlin, where our team held a 1-day workshop Idea Garage: Hack.Corruption on ideas to tackle the issue of corruption in different countries. We kicked off the autumn season with Idea Garage: Industry 4.0. The goal of the event was to introduce the startup mindset - getting things done fast - to the manufacturing enterprises, where processes are often slow, complicated and require a lot of manual work. It was great to see startups and manufacturing industry specialists working together and producing good ideas with actual potential for further development. The Idea Garage: Estonian Wellbeing, organised together with Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs & CIVITTA Estonia, formed teams that solved problems on subjects like social care, medicine, child care and other similarly important topics. The aim of the Idea Garage: Path to Development 2.0 was to understand the opportunities digitalization offers, to tackle the challenges it embeds and to bring a technological process to the global development. The event was organized in co-operation with our great partner and connector of NGOs working in the field - Estonian Roundtable for Development Cooperation - and as a warm-up to the Digitalising Development Conference 2017. Another idea hackathon held as part of a conference was the Idea Garage: e-Justice. Organised together with the Estonian Ministry of Justice, Civitta Estonia and Estonian Information System Authority, the event brought together 40 experts from various fields like legislation, insurance, the judicial system, government administration, IT and entrepreneurship. The range of experts worked on 4 ideas that were pitched to the whole conference audience by the end of the 24 hours.

3. We successfully experimented with new out-of-the-box ideas

Our stellar team member Anu Piirisild really took the Garage48 can-do-attitude to the next level and took on the challenge to experiment with two new ideas. The Garage48 Experiences and Expositions was an event initiated by SPARK MakerLab and Ahhaa Science Centre to bring together the experts from museums and science centres with the makers and hackathon-goers to build new and innovative solutions to explain different phenomenas and to offer educational experiences. In 48 hours the winner delivered an impressive replica of the Tartu Old Observatory with all the architectural genius showed to the viewer in smaller form. The Garage48 Wood was similarly a gathering of makers - this time the event took place in Väimela Technology House in Võru county and aimed to innovate the wood industry and build physical objects from wood. The first-time event saw an amazing number of 36 wood project ideas pitched, ranging from toys for fun & redesigned wooden products to smart furniture and universal wooden structures' joints. The 18 physical wooden products presented during the final demoshow WOW-ed the whole audience and made sure that the first 48-hour wood hackathon launched with huge success.

4. We kept on building our international community

Our international events took place thanks to our long-time partner Estonian Development Cooperation, we also teamed up with our Latvian friends from StartinLV and were invited back to Oman by the Omani government for the 3rd time.

The traditional startup bus took us to Belarus for the 8th time already, this time for the Garage48 GameHack. Organised together with Eventspace Minsk and supported by our rockstar alumni MSQRD and, the event was a huge success. It gathered 130 passionate gamers plus local gaming companies and awesome team of passionate mentors.

Our goal in Ukraine has been to support and build the startup scene in regional cities. So our events took place in Odessa, Lviv and Kharkiv. The Garage48 VR/AR Odessa in Terminal 42 co-working space gathered 70 participants and really showcased and put in real use the technologies of the future. The Garage48 Mobile Lviv event was record breaking in number of participants we have ever had in Ukraine - 119. We are glad that the interest in hackathons and startup culture is growing in Lviv and all over Ukraine. The Garage48 Cyber Security Kharkiv gathered the local community of developers, designers, marketers to focus on the issue of cyber security.

Our team was also back in Latvia for two events this year. The joint hackathon event Garage48 + Startup Slalom: Shared Economy gathered 70 participants in Riga and saw 10 prototypes finalised by Sunday. Our traditional hardware focused event also moved to Riga - the Garage48 Hardware and Arts Riga 2017 gathered over 100 participants and brought fresh ideas from the participants including a charcoal drawing tool, thunder in a box, tennis ball pickup robot, chess clock, interactive turning heads and so much more.

We also visited Chisinau, Moldova for the 2nd time to hold a general software hackathon together with our great local partner Civitta Moldova. The community there is very eager to come together for such events and to also learn from the experience of other countries success. The teams hacked “touchless”payments, trainings for pharmacists, tackled the problem of cluttered internet tabs and many other innovative solutions.

Our work also continued in Georgia and the partnership with ImpactHUB Tbilisi is growing stronger every time. In 2017, we organised two hackathon events in Tbilisi and also included the regions with two Student Startup Camps in Kutaisi and Batumi. It has been great to observe the rapid development of the tech scene in Georgia and the growing interest in our events as well.

We added Armenia to our international community with the Garage48 “Arts & Culture” Yerevan 2017. The event, organised as part of the EU Presidency program, gave life to new ideas that help the local rich culture reach more audiences. The overall winner PromInnArt really nailed this ambition by creating a platform to connect Armenian contemporary artists with potential customers.

Our 3rd hackathon Sas48H in Muscat, Oman was a great success and we were delighted to see that the tech community has really evolved since we had the first hackathon in 2014. The event had 300 applicants of which 99 participated in the pre-event and hackathon weekend.

5. We inspired the next generation of hackathon-goers

With the goal in mind to inspire and educate the next generation of hackathon participants, we organised several Student Startup Camps, also a mini-hackathon for high school students and made the effort to have students participating at full weekend events as well. The traditional Student Startup Camp held in Tartu every February, saw over 100 participants and successful teams building their idea. The winning team Fractory has since been accepted to the Startup Wise Guys accelerator to take their idea forward. The Youth Empowered seminar was an inspirational day for high school students with a hands-on Garage48 mini-hackathon to learn how to come up with new ideas and how to work with them in a team. The Startup Student Camp format also proved successful in Georgia to inspire and educate the students in regional cities. Both, Kutaisi and Batumi events, saw highly motivated students wanting to get an experience on how to build a tech startup.

6. We were happy to celebrate our alumni teams' success

We were delighted to welcome many of the winning teams of our hackathons in Estonia for the flagship tech conference Latitude59. We also hosted a Garage48 Alumni night at LIFT99 with a panel discussion on the hackathon experience and with a meet and greet with the teams and partners.

We were also happy to see a lot of our alumni teams accepted to develop their ideas further with the Ajujaht competition, teams getting accepted to accelerators and participants local and international sharing their experience in blog posts. It means a lot to us!

7. We launched ELEVATE by Garage48 

Our team had a few amazing additions this year. One of them, Liis Narusk joined us to launch the new brand ELEVATE by Garage48 that focuses on bringing ideation sessions, hackathons, design sprints and other agile development formats to companies who wish to excel at innovation. The initial steps, brainstorming and planning have been very successful and with the endless energy and dedication of Liis the first clients are more than happy with the outcome of the workshops, inner hackathons and teamwork ELEVATE has organised.

8. The heart of Garage48 team was beating ever so strong

The heart of Garage48 has always been our team. We have always had great people working for us which allows the team to be small and very efficient. This year we had amazing people working hard with some great additions as well: Maarika Truu, is a veteran of Garage48 who has been with us from day 1 and keeps on going,  Mari Hanikat, joined the team in March and has already proven to be a crucial team member, Viliyana Mutaffova, joined us as an intern and has exceeded all our expectations of a great colleague, Natalie Mets, joined the team in september and as a true project management ninja has brought great energy to the group. 

For me, Kai Isand, it has been more than a pleasure to work with Garage48 for 3 years already and to lead this beautiful team in the last year. We have had more great people helping us: Anu Piirisild, leading the hardware focused events, Merilin Lukk, who has left the team but is still actively helping out, Dagmar Urb, who volunteered for many events as a super marketing manager, Kadri Kõivik and Triin Liiv, more amazing queens of marketing, Mariana Raudsepp, our best contact in UT and Emil Syundyukov, our guy in Latvia. 

Our founders, Rain Rannu, Priit Salumaa, Ragnar Sass, Jüri Kaljundi and Martin Villig are our advisors and mentors, committing their time and advice at board meetings, hosting and mentoring at events and representing us at wherever their own entrepreneurial journeys take them.

And of course all our mentors, long-time and newcomers, local and international, who with endless energy come to our events to share their know-how and experience. A big shout out goes to Elise Sass, Krists Avots, Maret Kruve, Jordan Valdma, Joao Rei, Andres Susi, Harri Tallinn, Niko Porkka, Peeter Tamla, Indrek Rebane, Alvo Aabloo, Renee Puusepp, Martin Melioranski, Cesar Zeppini, Sven Kirisimäe, Chris Raastad, Helen Kokk, Jaanus Sakkis, Fred Moritz, Jens Kasemets, Martin Verrev, Calum Cameron, Maido Parv, Kair Käsper, Laur Läänemets, Veli-Johan Veromann.

9. We launched our Garage48 volunteer squad

Garage48 events have always heavily relied on volunteer help. Last year we wanted to make the volunteer program more efficient and formal giving a chance to motivated volunteers to put their skills to the test and to organise great events with us. Our 10 great volunteers are building the program with us - with their great energy and ideas we have already seen great results.

10. We received the award for “Education event of the year”

We were so proud that our flagship event Hardware and Arts Tartu was awarded by the Ministry of Education and Research as “Education event of the year”. We want to thank our great organising partners University of Tartu and Estonian Academy of Arts and of course the people behind these organisations making it all happen throughout the years. And the biggest cheer goes out to all the participants who have built hundreds of great prototypes over the years. 

So all-in-all, thanks to all of you reading - participants, mentors, team, partners and hackathon lovers - we had a great year and lots of things to celebrate! Hope you all join us in creating an even more exciting and awesome 2018! 

Garage48 team

This blog post was written by Kai Isand. The photo credits go to Masha Traskovskaya, Gela Bedianashvili, Maido Parv, Rasmus Kooskor, JP Hion, Elen Kontkar, Jaanus Sakkis.