Estonian Faire in London: Seedcamp Week 2011

After I’ve missed a few events since I was last mentoring at Seedcamp in 2008 after its launch in 2007, managed to sync another London trip with being there again for Seedcamp this week – unfortunately just for the Product Day on Tuesday and a few evening meetups. You can look at full announcement, participants list and agenda here and daily summary clips on YouTube.

Besides a chance to sharpen your mind and spend time discussing their products with the cream of the crop of young European entrepreneurs, a good reason to show up was a recent invitation to join the newly formed Seedcamp Advisory Board, which got announced now. There is tons of action and tons of traction around the European startup scene and Seedcamp has earned quite a central role in this movement. I hope I can contribute to bridging that “center” with the Nordic corners of the continent, where there is tons of tech innovation action happening in my homely Baltic and Scandinavian countries – with the role model and community around Skype playing no small part.

And last, boy, did Estonia in particular rise to the spotlight this year. Out of the 20 finalists picked, 4 have strong Estonian roots: GrabCAD (a community for CAD engineers), Transferwise (Skype employee #1 Taavet reinventing currency exchange), Sportlyzer (Tõnis using the learnings from how much better than me he was in karate training in highschool towards online coaching for endurance sports) and Campalyst (a mixed Baltic social media ROI tracking team who got together at a Garage48 weekend just 6 months ago).

Have to say, the visibility of these teams already became a bit ridiculous at times: you had times where some other teams where apologizing for not being Estonian, you had some tongue-in-cheek slides plugged into pitches, and all of this followed with heavy twitter coverage tagged as #estonianmafia.

(As a sidenote, I am philosophically not fully bought into this hashtag. First, when building a company to change the world, your roots are something to be proud of, but not the main or only thing that should define you. Also, not only is it too easy to misspell (see #estionianmafia or #estonianmaffia), but it’s original connotations with ruthless, violent, non-ethical winning is an extreme opposite of what I actually see among these people… but hell, Dave McClure picked the tag! And maybe the startup movement can do flip version of what Coke did with Santa Claus and hijack the mafia-word completely from its previous bearers?).

By the time of announcing the winners today, the ratio of Estonian companies went up from 20% to 66%: GrabCAD and Transferwise were up there in respectable company of Vox.io (Slovenia).

A major step which will be remembered in defining what #estonianmafia is really made of then came from Hardi Meybaum, the CEO and Co-founder of GrabCAD. Accepting the 25,000 EUR grand prize he said that GrabCAD is already financed and building great companies is not just about what you are able to take. And with that, handed away the fresh stash of euros won to Farmeron from Croatia.

Thanks for making us proud.