2020 | sTARTUp DayLive EventsPublic Events

sTARTUp Day 2020 festival

If we can pick out one event that we can say has influenced us the most, then it will definitely be sTARTUp Day business festival. And the answer is simple – we have been with this festival from the beginning. Our producers Lauri and Ermo have both been the head organisers of sTARTUp Day and this year they were 100% responsible for the production.

sTARTUp Day started off in the end of 2015 in a small sauna located in Tartu, when University’s marketing professor Andres Kuusik had an idea to join all small entrepreneurial events taking place in Tartu together into a one big conference. His idea at first place was to have one keynote speaker with 300 visitors. So, everyone liked the idea, but one thing he was missing, was a head organiser. At that time, Lauri was starting off at the event management sector and somehow ended up being a Master’s student for Andres. He decided to offer the job for Lauri.

Rest is history, instead of one keynote speaker and 300 visitors, Andres and Lauri together with Ermo (being Head of Marketing) wanted to dream big. At first no-one believed that it would bring together 300 visitors. In Tartu? But we went further and about 5 months before the festival we said it will be the biggest in the Baltic’s. Everyone thought of us as crazy. But we weren’t, sTARTUp Day 2016 was indeed the biggest startup event in the Baltic States with more than 3000 visitors, 50 speakers and around 100 startups.

After first year, Lauri decided to move to Tallinn and leave head organiser’s position to Ermo, promising that he will never deal with sTARTUp Day again. But this did not happen, Ermo being the second head organiser, somehow in the end still managed to co-operate again – Ermo leading the festival and Lauri organising one of the biggest sTARTUp Day after-parties with Tommy Cash at the old sports arena in the centre of Tartu. Same happened for the third year.

This year, the fourth festival year, Ermo decided to leave festival’s head organising to the coolest lady of all time – Marili Vihmann, who actually was one of the head volunteers in the first year. And she did good! (Un)fortunately the event has grown so big that head organiser can’t be anymore responsible for the whole organising, especially for production on site. So again, somehow Ermo and Lauri managed to take these positions and help sTARTUp Day with the production of the festival.

Previously, all the organisers were part of the everyday team. This year we invented a new model that can be sustainable as well – an external production team that will work extremely closely together with the team to offer the best physical solution at the venue. And it was extremely right decision!

Velvet Live (meaning Ermo and Lauri) was responsible for the whole production of sTARTUp Day 2020 business festival and sTARTUp Night after-party at brand new Delta building. And what is super cool about it, is that we did all the prep works in matter of months – our first meeting was in October and actual planning was carried out in around 1,5 months. Ermo and Lauri knew how to organise this thing on a physical level and Marili had the most craziest head organiser ideas that supported this whole thing.

One thing you have to know about organising one of the biggest startup events around Scandinavia – it is super stressful and the build-up takes time. When visitors arrive to the venue, they most probably can never see what has happened behind the scenes. We had more than 150 volunteers, 50 core-team members, 50 technicians from the best tech company in the world (yep, it’s RGB) and so on. Every soul invested their time and energy to this build-up to get the festival ready for 4400 visitors, 320 startups, 179 investors, 301 executives across 60 countries that have agreed to travel all the way to Tartu.

And we can say everything went pretty well. I mean, actually, extremely well. It is said by the visitors that it was one of the best sTARTUp Days of all time with best organising. And we are super happy about it. Finally all three head organisers joined their forces, Lauri and Ermo on the production side, Marili being the most awesome head organiser with the energy that you can’t imagine.

Not that we had some extra time left, we also made sure that the biggest after-party for sTARTUp Day will take place at brand new Delta building. This idea again was one of great thoughts by Marili to bring the party to one of the most entrepreneurial buildings in Tartu – University of Tartu Delta. So, how can you fit 4500 visitors to that building, which originally is meant for studying? You take them underground to a garage! Fortunately, only (!!!) 1700 people showed up and had the craziest sTARTUp Night of all time!

We transformed the 0-floor garage into a huge event venue and took everything out of this place we could – startup demo area where startups stepped up and showed to the visitors what extra they got, super awesome Motown Sound band supported by Jägermeister Brass Band and DJs Hendrik Ehte & PhilGood. And yes, as this year’s head organiser’s quote was “If you feel you just can’t do it anymore, just keep going“, then we followed this.

We were also asked to design Networking area for the festival. Adapter Matchmaking area is meant to host all 15-minute meetings between visitors. And this year there were 2491 of them. As the client, who hosted this area is called Adapter (a free service created by the Estonian R&D community, to offer simple access to the best of Estonian R&D for all companies and organisations), we decided that we will follow that name and create a huge electricity field across those people’s heads to get these meetings powered up.

Our plan was to make something different, and we did it! We literally went into an electricity store and asked for 125 light bulbs. Guys at the shop were also looking us as crazy, but we had a plan! The plan was to be noticed at the venue! And best way to do it, is to use the full capacity of the area that was meant for the Matchmaking. So we hung up all those lights together with charging stations to keep matchmakers powered. Super easy, but in overall super cool solution. It does not always have to be a roll-up :).

So sorry for the long-long storytelling, but this content is important! sTARTUp Day is one of the most important events that has ever taken place in Estonia. Not only because it has created several startups, it is inspiration for the people who visit this place. It is a place, where people can show who they really are and create connections that they could have never made before. We are super happy that we have been part of this journey and through-out the years, although not being everyday members of the team, still can help with the whole thing and be next to it.

So thank you sTARTUp Day!


  • Lauri Sokk Producer
  • Ermo Tikk Producer