For student entrepreneurs who want to build successful startups in Estonia
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BOSTON - AUGUST 7: Members of the judges panel question the students during their presentations at Launch, a summer entrepreneurship program for high school students at MIT. Photo credit: Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images Israel

BOSTON - AUGUST 7: Members of the judges panel question the students during their presentations at Launch, a summer entrepreneurship program for high school students at MIT. Photo credit: Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images Israel

Would you like to launch a startup, but don’t know how to get started? Here are some practical tips that will help not only folks in Estonia, but all over the world

You’re a student with an idea and you want to turn that idea into a successful startup or business.

Well, you should stop hesitating — and start working on it now!

“Why?” and “How?”, you ask?

Well, student entrepreneurs have advantages to starting a business that others do not have.

I intend to show you what they are and how you can get started taking your idea to the next level!

The best time to launch a startup is actually when you’re studying at university.

And there are at least five reasons for that:

1.  Your friends at university have expertise in different fields. And having a multi-disciplinary team is a great way to boost your chances of success.

2.  University provides you with lots of support. As Jess Ekstrom has written, you’re “surrounded by experts” — so take advantage of it! Universities often have pre-incubation programs and mentorship (usually for free).

3.  If you don’t have a job in addition to studying, your schedule is probably quite flexible — you’ll have enough free time to work on your idea.

4.  The risk is quite low. Even if your startup fails, the loss is not so significant as you are so young. As Paul Graham notes:

 “Your second advantage, poverty, might not sound like an advantage, but it is a huge one. Poverty implies you can live cheaply, and this is critically important for startups. Nearly every startup that fails, fails by running out of money. It’s a little misleading to put it this way, because there’s usually some other underlying cause. But regardless of the source of your problems, a low burn rate gives you more opportunity to recover from them.”

That’s true. During your studies, you still have support from your family and relatives — and you don’t have to worry about feeding your own family yet.

5.  You can apply for a student loan, which will have a low interest-rate and student-friendly terms. For example: Charleh Dickinson used the help of her student loan to launch a startup called Designed2Eat (and it now has 30 UK and European stockists).

It might seem a bit frightening at first, but launching a startup is actually a great adventure. It’s also an exciting opportunity for hands-on learning.

Here’s some advice on finding guidance, workspace and funding for your startup:

Where should student entrepreneurs look for guidance?

1. Articles, books, podcasts and other web resources

The Internet is full of practical information — so why not use it for educating yourself? There are many useful guides available that explain how to start your own business. The main reason for their existence is that many venture capitalist investors share great pieces of advice as part of their content marketing strategy. I would recommend that you start with Sam Altman’s Startup Playbook.

Image credit: Startup Playbook

Image credit: Startup Playbook

Helping entrepreneurs is also why we started Unlock People’s Potential at Contriber. We give startup founders answers to questions such as: How to be an inspiring leader for your team; How to make team cooperation more effective; How to position your product or service; and How to choose your co-founders.

In fact, we recently answered a critical question regarding how you should choose your co-founders. For that we interviewed a world-class expert, Tim Sanders. He is a bestselling author, a sales expert, and a former C-level executive at Yahoo! His advice was precious. You can listen to it here.

2. University/College

As a student, you should always take advantage of being at university.

You can start searching for support from your university and associated organizations. Such institutions usually have pre-incubation programs, where you can participate in different seminars and workshops and get feedback from mentors.

The aim of these programs is to help you successfully implement your ideas and give you the required knowledge. Even if you don’t have ideas to implement, you can still participate in events and see how others are pitching their ideas. Some of these teams may be looking for new members who have expertise in various fields.

At the University of Tartu, students can participate in the Idea Lab pre-incubation program. Various teams work on their ideas throughout the semester. Different workshops and seminars are organized where students have the opportunity to get advice from mentors in different fields. At the end of the program, teams pitch their business plans at Kaleidoskoop (a student business and project ideas competition which takes place twice a year in May & December).

Photo credit: Idea Lab

Photo credit: Idea Lab

In May, the winner was team Konku. Their innovative web and mobile application provides rental ads without estate agent fees. As a result of hard work and constant testing in Idea Lab’s pre-incubation program, they got a chance to travel to Helsinki and participate in SLUSH, a conference that “connects startups and tech talent with top-tier international investors, executives, and media.”

Photo credit: Slush

Photo credit: Slush

After graduating from a pre-incubation program, you can move to the discovery phase and look for help from one of the top accelerators and incubators to speed up your growth.

3. Workshops and Events at Coworking Spaces

Coworking spaces are community-led shared working environments that offer more than just a place to work.

They are home to tech and startup communities that often host events aimed at entrepreneurial individuals and startups. These events are perfect places to acquire knowledge and skills about key topics like pitching, funding, product design, sales, and more.

There are also networking events where you can have a chat and exchange experiences with leaders of successful startups or members of various startup organizations such as Startup Estonia.

Photo credit: Garage48 HUB Tartu

Photo credit: Garage48 HUB Tartu

In Estonia, the main coworking spaces that host these types of events are Garage48 HUB in Tallinn and Garage48 HUB Tartu in Tartu. Both hubs organize OpenCoffee Club ‘networking mornings’ on the first Thursday of every other month. Additionally, Garage48 HUB Tartu regularly organizes Tartu Community Meetup Lunchathons: events where Tartu startup community members come together for lunch and discuss co-operation opportunities, among other things.

The HUB in Tartu also hosts:

Where can you find a suitable working environment?

If your startup is growing, with more members coming on board, then you’ll need to find a suitable place to work.

In the beginning, your dorm room, team member’s homes, coffee shops or university lounges may work just fine. Eventually though, you’ll need to find a location where you can really spread your wings — a place where you can focus your energies and work more effectively with your team.

Renting an office can be expensive — and it often requires signing a long-term lease. Not to mention, you’ll also need to furnish the room and buy equipment such as printers, scanners, and so on.

Fortunately, you don’t need to worry about that — many startups take advantage of coworking spaces, rent-a-desk services, or collaborative office spaces. These all provide ideal solutions for your growing startup.

If your startup is based in Tartu (Estonia), you’ll can find suitable workspace among one of these 5 awesome coworking spaces for startups.

The Garage48 HUB Tartu coworking space is the most popular of them among startups in Tartu — and it’s conveniently located in the city center at the Town Hall Square. You can rent a desk for just a day or get a membership with a fixed monthly fee.

Here you will have access to:

  • High-speed internet
  • Printers and scanners
  • Shared kitchens and lounges

In addition to a nice workspace, you have access to all of the hub’s facilities — perfect for relaxing, making coffee, or even playing pool or ping-pong when taking a break from work.

How can you get your startup funded in Estonia?

1.  The Vega Fund

The Vega fund provides funding for science-based business ideas. Students and scientists from all fields of studies can apply.

This fund supports projects that have scalable business potential. Additionally, it offers funding for the construction of knowledge-intensive services and working prototypes. The Vega fund also supports small-scale and large-scale science-based development projects that create innovative solutions which can be applied in everyday life.

For example, the Estonian startup company Upgrid (which builds the Magic key that can open all doors) got 3,600 euros from Vega Fund just to make their dream project come true.

2.  EAS Startup Grant

The main aim of the EAS startup grant is not to fund the creation of new companies, but to help already established young companies grow. Entrepreneurs who have created their startup within the previous 24 months are qualified to apply. Its goal is to help people launch their companies according to their business plans and reach their desired goals.

The grant can be used to support activities like acquisition of fixed material assets, marketing, personnel costs and many others. You can take a look at the complete list and read about the terms and conditions here.

Their long-term goal is to help Estonia become one of the most competitive countries in the world and create 1,000 new jobs by 2023 as a result of all the supported projects.

3.  Crowdfunding platforms

There are also various crowdfunding platforms where people from around the world can make a contribution to your idea.

One of those well known sites is Kickstarter, where everyone can submit their ideas to raise money. Kickstarter’s mission is to help bring creative projects to life. It helps artists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, and other creators find the resources and support they need to make their ideas a reality. Be aware that Kickstarter is just a platform (advertising your product on it doesn’t guarantee immediate success). You need to come up with a strong marketing strategy as well.

Estonian startup Click & Grow met their goal of raising $75,000 on Kickstarter in less than 48 hours in 2013, and 1,536 people contributed to their project.

Image credit: Click & Grow / Kickstarter

Image credit: Click & Grow / Kickstarter

Hooandja is an Estonian crowdfunding platform (similar to Kickstarter) where money can be raised for creative projects initiated by individuals, NGOs or businesses. So far, 513 projects have been successfully funded on Hooandja by 53,271 backers.

Another platform that connects startups to investors is Funderbeam Markets.

Funderbeam is “not just another crowdfunding site, however, the same benefits of crowdfunding apply” as their co-founder Mads Emil Dalsgaard explains. On Funderbeam, syndicates of investments are formed. Each of these syndicates is headed by the lead investor and represented by a separate private limited company. Investors can join the syndicates with investments starting from 100 euros.

When desired funds have been raised for a startup, then the special-purpose vehicle (SPV) becomes the startup’s shareholder and all the syndicate members receive digital investment certificates, which can be traded on Funderbeam’s secondary market.

Sportlyzer, a startup from Tartu, is developing team management software for youth and amateur sports clubs. They used Funderbeam to raise money and exceeded their goal by raising 100,000 euros on Funderbeam this June.

4.  Pitch your idea at a startup or tech conference

One more way of finding funding for your startup is to pitch your business idea at different pitching competitions, which often take place at the big tech and startup conferences.

One such conference is the previously mentioned SLUSH, which takes place in Helsinki, Finland — but you don’t necessarily need to travel that far. There’s an annual tech conference called Latitude59, which is held every spring in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia also referred to as the #EstonianMafia flagship conference). It’s a two-day event where you can listen to world-class speakers and meet investors from Silicon Valley, Europe, Russia, and Asia.

Photo credit: Latitude59

Photo credit: Latitude59

It took place already for the 9th time in 2016. Visitors had a chance to listen to speeches by famous founders like Tim Draper, Rainer Sternfeld, Aleksander Tõnnisson, Kristel Viidik, Rain Rannu, and many others.

One part of the conference was the [email protected] Estonia pitching competition, where more than 100 startups from all over Europe applied. This year’s winners were RangeForce and Timbeter, who were given a chance to attend [email protected] Global at St James’s Palace on December 7, 2016.

5.  Participate in sTARTUp Day to Meet Investors

sTARTUp DAY 2016 is a tech conference that will be held on December 9, 2016 in Tartu.

There will be various speakers talking about biotechnology, smart solutions, the sports industry, space technology, computer-simulated reality, and many other gripping topics. It’s a festival where old and new members of the community, traditional entrepreneurs, startuppers, government and media will loudly and proudly discuss different business models. The main topic of the conference is ‘How to earn if there is nothing to burn?’

Traditional entrepreneurs often criticize startups for burning investors’ money, but not for being brilliant at earning money. At sTARTUp DAY, all parties will have a chance to give their opinions on the big stage.

It’s a festival where all the biggest community parties will joyfully end their year: Prizes will be given, the champagne will be poured and pitches will be presented.

The conference includes plenty of different blocks for demo pitching (for instance, the Vega fund pitching demo). Additionally, startup founders will have the possibility to present their ideas to investors.

Photo credit: sTARTUp Day

Photo credit: sTARTUp Day

How to facilitate your work with 11 top tools for startups!

To build or grow a startup, you need to invest in tools that can help you throughout the way. There’s an endless list of tools out there, and it can be daunting deciding which are the best to use.

Here’s a list of some of our favorite tools that can help you meet with success!

1.  Zenefits

Zenefits is a free online human resource management software. It claims to reduce the amount of paperwork significantly, which can save you a lot of time.

2.  Buffer

Buffer allows you to manage all your social media accounts from the same place. You just need to write one post and then choose which channels you want to share it. It also allows you to schedule posts to be published throughout the day at chosen times (which means you don’t have to be on the internet to post). Buffer does it for you!

3.  Pablo by Buffer

Pablo is a tool that allows you to add text to pictures. You can choose an image from their large database or upload your own before adding text to it. It’s very nice to generate illustrations to improve your communication on social media.

4.  Pexels and Unsplash

Pexels and Unsplash are two websites where you can find high-resolution photos for free use anywhere. We use Unsplash a lot to spice up our articles at Contriber.

5.  Canva

Canva is a graphic design software. It allows you to use millions of images and photo filters. It also gives you access to free icons and shapes and hundreds of fonts. Use it to create designs for your webpage, presentation, or blog.

6.  Typeform

Typeform is an online software for carrying out surveys. It allows you to design them in a way you like.

7.  Fireshot

Fireshot is a screen capture application, which can be added to your web browser. You can capture either a small area of a webpage or the entire page (including the part that is not currently visible on your screen). The best thing is that you can edit these screenshots instantly and save them in PDF, JPEG, or PNG format.

8.  Toggl

Toggl is a time-tracking software developed mainly for small businesses. It makes tracking your team’s work hours easy and convenient.

9.  Pipedrive

Pipedrive is a sales management tool that keeps your sales team focused. It helps you to see opportunities and make predictions about sales.

10.  Contriber Workspace

Contriber Workspace is an online team collaboration and project management software. You can gather all your internal company communication and access your email, all within the same place. You can also send files and pictures, create task lists, and edit Google documents and spreadsheets right next to your conversations (all without having to leave the workspace).

11.  Includer

Includer is an idea evaluation platform. You can collect feedback for ideas, easily improve them, and choose the best ones.

Let’s make a dent in the universe!

We sincerely hope you feel encouraged to start taking the first steps in making your idea become a reality. After all, it’s your ideas that can help shape a better and more exciting world.

And as you can see, there are plenty of opportunities available to you for supporting your idea in terms of mentorship, workspace, funding and tools — and in realizing this, we hope you feel motivated to take things to the next level.

And if you’re looking for even more motivation, you can read this article about Playtech (a once small startup that became one of Estonia’s largest corporations) and how the Estonian startup scene has developed over the years.

Good luck and best wishes to you on starting to make your own dent in the universe!

To end, I would like to thank Andres Vaher for his excellent work at helping me research this article.

This post was originally published on Contriber

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Liina Kudu

About Liina Kudu


Writer at Contriber.

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