Garage48 season kicks off already beginning of March, read more about our events here
How did the Garage48 Foundation concept come
It started early 2010, when we felt that there are many people going around with different business and startup ideas, but rarely anyone starts with execution. There were various business plan competitions, government financed startup incubators and others activities to promote entrepreneurship, but their actions were clearly too slow! Usually in the end of 6 month business plan competition the projects even did not have a prototype ready.
We wanted to push people to move fast and take 1st steps of their business ideas. So we organized first Garage48 event, where 100 people came together to turn their ideas into working web and mobile prototypes in just one weekend, 48 hours.
What is the ethos behind it?
Our main goal is to promote entrepreneurship and inspire more people to try to creating their own startups. We want to lower the burden of turning your idea into working prototype and bring it to market for customer feedback. Our focus is mostly on web and mobile projects, because thats where our founders have biggest experience and what our own companies are doing. Our clear approach is to finance our operations from sponsorship of private corporations and we try to avoid European public funding.
Who are the founders?
Garage48 Foundation was started by 6 active entrepreneurs, who met via Estonian Startup Leaders Club. We are all serial entrepreneurs running our own businesses and startups like Fortumo.com, Pipedrive.com, Talentag.com, Modera.com, Mooncascade.com. Each of us spend about 200-400 hours annually to run the Garage48 Foundation.
Was it slow to get off the ground or did it take off immediately?
Garage48 got started pretty quickly. First Garage48 event was held in April 2010, we announced it few weeks before and we sold out all 100 seats in few weeks. As the first idea was a great success by the feedback from participants and our sponsors we immediately started to plan next events. We held 2 events in Estonia and one event in Africa during 2010. When we returned from Africa, we got an idea to start a co-working space. So we started Garage48 HUB in just 2 weeks from the initial idea.
The company has two main activities – Garage48 weekends and Garage48 HUB. Can you explain what they both do?
Garage48 Foundation is a non-profit organizaton with 2 main activities:
1) Garage48 hackathons in Northern Europe and Africa, where people can turn their ideas into working mobile and web applications in just 48 hours. We have organized 20+ events so far and have a roadmap for 7-10 events for 2013. See http://garage48.org for event dates.
2) Garage48 HUB - the biggest 450m2 startup co-working and event space in central Tallinn, Estonia. We currently have about 40 desks filled with resident members, plus we have daily tickets for visiting people. We run 3-5 community events each week. See http://hub.garage48.org for membership packages and our weekly event calendar.
In total we have 3 full-time employees to run those activities, plus 6 founders who run those activities purely on volunteer work bases. We also have about 10 associated volunteers, who help us from time to time.
What sort of people take part in your events? Are they all ages and professions or do they tend to be younger?
Garage48 events are open for all people, no matter of your background or experience. So if you have an idea, you are welcome to sign-up for our next events. But in order to actually build a prototype, we also need people with specific skills like designers, programmers, marketers and project managers. An average age of our participants is around 30, but we have had participants like 14 years or 58 years old. Enthusiasm matters more than your age.
What do participants get out of a Garage48 weekend?
Garage48 events are very intense interactive product development trainings. We have a strict format - ideas are pitched Friday night, then teams are formed and work starts. We provide everything you need for product development - facilities, internet, coaching, food and drinks. Teams must deliver working prototypes by 5pm Sunday night, when they all step on stage to demo their solutions.
Usually you don’t have so strict rules at work, so people learn to focus on the most important aspects of the project to actually deliver results in short time. Plus, you get truly great new contacts and friends among the participants.
You’ve expanded into Northern Europe and Africa. Is there one country that has the most participants?
Our event concept has a gap - we take max 100 participants for one event. It’s because we form teams and all teams need coaching. On average each event has 12-18 teams, which is how much product demo’s people are able to listen on Sunday night. If we look countries by the number of Garage48 events held so far, then the top list includes Estonia, Latvia, Kenya and Finland.
You’ve won various awards since you started. What is the one that you are most proud of?
The biggest reward for us is the feedback from our community - happy participants full of energy, who keep coming back to our events. This really keeps us going. Regarding awards, we have received several, maybe the most important was the TechCrunch nomination in 2010, where we got listed among top 5 European startup events in just 6 month after our first event. This showed us that we are doing something right.
What’s next? Do you intend to grow further or consolidate what you’ve achieved so far?
We plan to continue running Garage48 events in Northern Europe, going more east. Next year we plan to run several events in Russia and Ukraine. We want to bring great startup experience from Estonia and inspire more people to create their own startups and become entrepreneurs.
The other activities include more advanced training programs based on lean startup and customer development methodology to actually increase the quality of startup companies. We will arrange hands-on trainings how to validate your business ideas and help entrepreneurs to identify scalable and sustainable business models.
Do you get feedback from participants? Are there any success stories as a result of Garage48 that you can share?
Yes, we get constant feedback from our community via social networks and our events. But we have some great success stories as well. There are 3 companies who have received seed investment from Seedcamp, European most famous acceleration program and seed fund. Those companies are Campalyst.com (social media monitoring service), QminderApp.com (online queue elimination system) and MightyFingers.com (HTML5 engine for game developers). We see many other teams continue working on their projects, so hopefully our biggest success story is still coming up.
Member of the board