The eleventh edition of Latitude59, Estonia-biggest and most influential tech conference, embraced the theme of “Being Bold” and attracted a staggering 3,000 attendees.
To spice things up, there was also an alternative narrative running, with the conference’s host country being presented as the Muse and a unique Digital Forest established, where investors could find the next business or employment opportunity.
The miracle of DeepTech
Estonia is a magic land, where investments blend with innovations to create progress. Is there an explanation for such a powerful formula? Yes, argued participants of “Thinking in Billions”, a side-event which kicked off an Investor Day of Latitude59, before the main program.
The gathering, opened by Tiit Riisalo, the Estonian Minister of Information Technology, focused on analysing private-public collaboration, with a particular emphasis on DeepTech. “In Estonia, it’s normal for talent to flow between the public and private sectors. And that’s going to be a tremendous opportunity in the future, as the EU is working to be competitive in every aspect — from strategic raw materials to AI”, said the minister.
To conquer the tech frontier, one needs to be bold, and Estonia is just like that. “The main message is — be bold. This is what is needed in entrepreneurship and beyond that. We, in Estonia, took calculated risks as a country, and it paid off, via GDP growth, unicorn creation and digitalisation,” said Joonas Vänto, director of Invest Estonia.
“It’s hard to determine the only reason for the unfair gender split. If you talk about diversity with venture capital firms, the words are beautiful and the numbers are very bad. My guess is that the underlying issue is the low number of female partners at funds,” guessed Kristian Lepik, the founder of ClimateTech startup Arbonics.
Digital forest in the land of unicorns
Latitude59’s main programme kicked off the next day with a strong message. “Welcome to the land of unicorns,” said Estonian President Alar Karis, stressing the need for continuous innovation. “Future growth has to come from innovation and new solutions that have never been tried before.”
A strong foundation will back off the next chapter in the Estonian investment fairytale, assured Karis. “I believe that DeepTech is the current and the next thing in the economic progress for Estonia. Traditional and less technologically advanced companies will always have a role in the economy, but science and innovation are the foundations of true success.”
Guided by those powerful words, attendees were set to explore Latitude59’s opportunities. In the immersive world of the conference, attendees could embark on a unique journey of self-discovery and creativity in the Meet Estonia area and its Digital Forest, powered by Trade with Estonia, e-Residency, Startup Estonia, Work in Estonia and Invest in Estonia.
There, Estonia was personified as a muse by a world-famous composer Kristjan Järvi, symbolising the harmonious fusion of nature and technology. Guided by the Muse, participants explored the interconnectedness between the physical and digital realms, tradition and innovation, reality and imagination. They were encouraged to plant a digital tree, signifying their desire to make a meaningful impact and embrace the future.
Equipped with bold ideas and a growth mindset, Latitude59 speakers and participants continued to dive deep into the world of tech and entrepreneurship, not shying away from tough topics. “Democracies always do the right thing, but sometimes only after they did the wrong thing,” said Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia (2016-2021), in regard to AI systems regulation.
Foreign guests, coming from all over the globe, have been impressed with the Estonian business climate. “Estonia is a country that punches so much higher above its weight. It rivals bigger countries without becoming arrogant, and therefore my experience was unquestionably inspirational every time I get here,” said Pramod Bashin, chairman at Clix Capital.
What could be better for a fairytale ending than a small fortune for the brave and smart heroes?
Latitude59’s traditional pitch competition received an impressive 400 applications from startups hailing from 61 different countries, fighting for the record prize. The investment amount exceeded the initial target of €1M and reached €1,25M, backed by Tera Ventures and an Estonian syndicate of business angels EstBAN.
Ultimately, three startups were chosen:
- Flowstep, a Tallinn-based company founded in 2022 by Matt Clannachan and Nikita Uans, offers a UX library with recordings and screenshots of popular apps like Airbnb, Klarna, and Spotify. Flowstep claims it can help users quickly analyse these apps and design their own products, which landed them an impressive €600,000 investment and first place in the pitching battle.
- Cino, an Estonian virtual card startup founded by Elena Churilova and Edward Poot, is the second winner. The card is compatible with digital wallet services, like Apple and Google Pay, and can be used for online payments. The company received a €500,000 prize.
- Estonian ÄIO, a biotechnology firm aiming to replace environmentally depleting oils with sustainable alternatives, received €150,000. Its oils and fats are sustainable and plant-based alternatives to the palm, coconut oils, and animal fats currently used in the food industry. Earlier this year, ÄIO raised €1 million, co-led by Nordic Foodtech VC and EAS.
Once again, Latitude59 proved to be a sell-out event and solidified its reputation as Estonia’s most internationally diverse tech and startup event. Thanks to the unique Digital Forest, as time passes, these digital trees will grow taller and stronger than ever as the prosperity of the land they were planted in. New innovations and technologies will be developed that were built upon the foundation of these digital trees, all under the Muse of Estonia’s careful supervision.