Play hard, work harder !
Way to go in the Baltics. 4 days of good fun, inspiration and, of course, an awful lot of work.
That was Silicon Valley comes to the Baltics first, in Vilnius, Lithuania, November 15th and 16th. 2 days, crowd of a thousand, “Valley” spirit.
More than a fair springboard for StartupWeekend Lithuania. Starting end of the day, Friday, November 16th and up until Sunday, November 18th. Still in Vilnius.
The “high” one. Seriously; happening top of the TV tower, 165 meters above ground, how cool is that ? A hackaton with a view.

So that is me now back from those two events.

And one thing stands out, these guys have proved me right (see my previous post on SVC2Baltics).

Silicon Valley comes to the Baltics

Bringing in a crowd of 1000+ to hear about startups and entrepreneurship from the best definitely is a wonderful achievement. That is not the mention the interest, the dedication, the actual will from all people, from volunteers to attendees, to make a (huge) successful startup conference.

What more ? The presence of Lithuania’s PM, the Minister of Economy, support from the Vilnius Mayor, all major forces behind the startup ecosystem taking part and all youngsters sitting in to get a shot of Valley spirit. Entrepreneurship seems to be on the road to success in the Baltics.

Inspirational speeches by the amazing likes of Tim West, Gigi Wang, Chris McCann, Bowei Gai and all other speakers (please bear with me for not mentioning all here but the full rock-stars’ list is to be found on the SVC2Baltics website) have paved the way for local youth towards entrepreneurship.

The foundations were already built (very good internet network, great engineers, ecosystem developing, driven and inspired people). Now, the stage is set for the Baltics to keep growing and shine under the sun.

With something like 30 startups pitching over the two days, no questions, the ideas and quality are there.

So, next steps ?

Well, still work to be done on the pitching part and improve the presentation. Make it short but on target : What does the product do ? Who/what we target. How do we market it ?

That is for a start.

Then, the ecosystem. It is currently developing and that is definitely great. One potential hurdle to be faced soon could be a lack of collaboration though.

This is not about a sole city (Vilnius) or even a sole country (Lithuania) but about a region (The Baltics). This must be a great advantage, this can be a reason for failure.Failure is still ok but failing to properly develop could leave some serious wounds though.

I did speak about the major importance of people.

That is top asset for a startup. That is even more crucial when it comes to the surroundings of startups. People are mentors, are building and driving accelerators, are responsible for helping develop and “market” the startup scene and so on.

People can also be a primary reason for failure. Especially as building an accelerator, incubator, startup network, etc … seems like becoming more and more a career path first rather than a “let’s get together, have fun and collaborate to shake things and progress all together” idea.

The bottom line here, having the opportunity to build on the clear foundations of the Baltics is an amazing chance. People, let’s not screw up and work together to build a proper – smart – ecosystem which will definitely help the region progress, the startups develop and, mind you, shed the proper kind of light on the region. Keep in mind that looking good (on top of looking strong) is still an important part of the development (see Berlin’s good looks versus Stockholm’s strong – but shy – startup scene in Pandodaily’s very good article).

No question that an event like this one will surely help keep the focus and the right direction to success.

StartupWeekend Lithuania

The second main event of last week was actually StartupWeekend, kick-starting just after SVC2Baltics.

With a strong crew of 25 startups, the stage was set for a great 54 hours day. Shame on me, my very first StartupWeekend though (I would blame the lazy me for not committing to 54 hrs in the past). Now, that was a wonderful time. Loved the spirit, loved the TV Tower … so cool building a startup while sitting in the clouds.. almost. And, mainly, I was amazed by all these “kids”, out there in the entrepreneurship wild, thriving to push their ideas forward and make them a success.

Truly refreshing. And to atone for missing previous StartupWeekends – well, or not – I was one of the mentors getting the chance to discover and offer advice to these wonderful teams.

I am not going to mention every winning team here, these being available on the StartupWeekend Lithuania website.

Just a special high five to a couple of them who are my special “crush” : “My sweet smart digital babysitter” and “Timesaver”.

So … .

In the end, that was a hectic and tiring week. But, first, that was an amazing, inspiring, crazy week.

And I am definitely glad that the guys (mind you, my “guy” is gender neutral) there are indeed proving me right. On top of a great region with an open road towards success, they do boast wonderful people. Smart, dedicated, driven, no-barrier individuals who can assist in making the region shine.

That was both a pleasure and a honor to be attending and being a speaker at Silicon Valley comes to the Baltics. And how often do you face a crowd of 1000+ ? Turns even a crappy speech (yeh, I missed doing my Kick-it-Spartan-way speech… “This .. is .. Startup !!!”) into a rock-star experience. I loved being able to share with local youth and entrepreneurs during my workshop and was thrilled to get to mentor these ass-kicking startups at StartupWeekend Lithuania.

For this, thanks and high five to all people involved and especially to the special ones : Andrius Neviera, Dovydas Varkulevicius, Edmundas Balcikonis, and Vytautas Butkus + all my fellow speakers and mentors. You guys rock !

Baltics, keep things up and go shake the world !


SVC2Baltics : Entrepreneurs in the birth.

Entrepreneur was born a French word … .

At i7 Summit , last week (Oct 10 to 12th), Tim Draper was asked a question regarding France.

Basically, what should be done to make France successful, or say a successful business in some way ?
The reply, with a grin, was about breaking it down and rebuilding.

Suits me well. At least we share the same view on this matter.
No point in throwing away everything but, for some parts, entrepreneurship (or just entrepreneurial spirit) in the country has to cope with what I would call the “habits”.

Heritage regarding bad practices, poor company management and development skills, a looking-for-big-money-only spirit in some, etc … .

And those can hardly be turned back to the right direction. And how do you break down such a huge piece of past ? Try beating down a stone wall with a straw.

The current economic situation and random legal moves from the Government on taxes (for entrepreneurs, on profit, on earnings, on whatever … they seemingly wake up every morning with another new … idea for a tax) could maybe help sort the entrepreneurial landscape in the (near ?) future.

Well, even during dark times, the sun does still rise.
Have a look East and a buzzing startup scene is in sight. That is Berlin. Strongly developing, drawing in a lot of talent and showing the potential to be some new European “Valley”.

Still, keep looking East and there, one will see Lithuania. The new, new hub for startups in Europe ? Future will tell but, so far, the country has been making some noticeable noise on the startup scene.

With a reputation for boasting strong technical skills, the country does have a similar basis as France and, funny enough, still tend to have to overcome some of the same hurdles.
There is not yet much of a tolerance for failure there. The ecosystem still has to be developed, be it locally or internationally (especially when it comes to investors) and the Government would have to get more involved in the overall process of pushing entrepreneurship forward.

However, the startup culture in the country is growing.

People to meet when willing to have a look into the future : students.
Lithuanian students are quite ok with working part-time while studying and setting up their own businesses at the same time. Add to that a high level education, multilingual talent pool, fair investments in internet infrastructures, shake and you get the seeds and birth of a buzzing entrepreneurial culture with many young startups developing at country level and on the way to going global.
While still not shining on the startups world map, Lithuania is quietly but strongly developing, luring entrepreneurs through a relatively low-cost startup ecosystem mixed with talent graduating from local universities.

So Lithuania has a very large – and talented -youth base that basically needs entrepreneurial skills and mentorship.
With good work ethics and risk taking minds driven by senior and innovative mentorship, they will blossom and deliver.

Now, what better way of doing it than bringing Silicon Valley to this youth base ?
Let them experience, for a couple of days, what startups truly are about. Let Lithuania have a taste of where the next milestones should be.
What better opportunity is there for a country, for a startup ecosystem, to actually build on clear foundations with the advice – and enthusiasm – of the bests ?

That is what “Silicon Valley comes to the Baltics“, a two-days event, in Vilnius, Lithuania, is about.
This, from my point of view, is going to be an awesome event.
Putting together the next force behind the country’s future (e.g. local, talented, youth), inspiring Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, the Baltics business community and some random guys like myself from all over Europe, that definitely is the way to develop a sound and strong community around the startup ecosystem. And bring entrepreneurs, The spirit.

I am definitely looking forward to this event and to the actual development of Lithuania as a European startup hub.
Prove me right guys!

[event links :]