With 2000 visitors, Riga kicks off the TechChill conference this week and puts the Baltic ecosystem up on the global startup map. Among the biggest surprises of this week: Digital and tech enthusiasts take a remarkable interest in the human side of innovations.
TechChill is back: From February 20-21, Latvia’s capital will be buzzing with startup pitches, discussions, debates, workshops and plenty of networking opportunities. Among these, the startup competition Fifty Founders Battle is a cornerstone of TechChill. The 50 most promising and innovative startups from 19 countries will come to the stage to convince with unusual ideas – and compete for a 10.000 EUR main prize.
A variety of side events will also pepper the week to complement the main conference. From today to the 21st of February, the Future of Mobility hackathon invites tech minds to compete for a spot to pitch on the TechChill main stage on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Startup Wise Guys Fintech Accelerator will celebrate the completion of its second program, and the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) will present a new startup news portal LabsofLatvia.
Provoking questions on the human side of tech
With the fitting title “Superhero stage”, the floor will be open for discussions that span much beyond enthusiasm for breakthrough technology innovation. Organizers announced to the press that they are not afraid to ask “hard and uncomfortable questions”. In particular, how to deal with the impact and consequences of rapidly changing technology.
Among the less expected events are talks that want to zoom in on the human reality behind the hip and glossy startup lifestyle. Some more critical discussions can be expected in the events exploring work-life balance, what it means to “take a flight every 3rd day” or even “what’s going wrong with mental health in the tech industry”.
Prominent guests will further dive into these social aspects. For example, Casey Fenton will share how he moved from being an introvert programmer to the founder of Couchsurfing, the “world’s largest reliability experiment”, and Jennifer Kanyamibwa from Twitter will talk on how to build a strong team and its culture. Meanwhile, Cassie Kozyrkov, chief Google data scientist, will argue her case on why data and AI are affecting everyone’s lives.
On the second day, some big societal questions are on the agenda. Talks on sustainability, circular economy and “the harsh truth behind waste damage” are alternating with events dedicated to drones, smart mobility, deeptech or the future of AI.
Zooming out from the niche to the big themes, from talks titled “How following my passion for illegal street art got me into Silicon Valley” to “The state of innovation in Europe”: The event agenda seems determined to reflect the diversity of TechChill participants.
Putting Riga on the global startup map
TechChill has not only established itself as the leading tech and startup conference in its home base Riga. The conference strives to be a reminder to the world that the Baltic states are home to a vibrant startup ecosystem.
Indeed, emergent startups from the region will come together with some rank-and-file of the global tech world. On the list of the 70 speakers are names from Twitter, Uber, Google, AngelList and Vinted.
Kristine Kornilova, CEO of TechChill, says she feels honoured to bring together a very international audience.“I invite not only to listen to their experience but more importantly to meet these people, network and establish international contacts without even leaving Riga”, she adds.
What makes the Baltic states’ startup ecosystem special? Some answers may be given at a side event Wednesday morning when the Ministry of Economics together with the Latvian Startup Association presents the research results of the state of play of Riga’s ecosystem or next door at the Riga Venture Summit Policy Forum.
One thing will be sure: At 150sec.com, we will follow the Baltic region and its startup stories closely throughout the next week – and we are ready to be surprised.
For more information on TechChill and its agenda, please visit https://techchill.co/