A guest post by Latitude59 2023
volunteer Jaden McQuivey
“Latitude59 2023 goes down in history as one of the boldest and most international startup and tech conferences,” said Latitude59 CEO Liisi Org on LinkedIn. From May 25-26, 2023, this flagship event in Tallinn, Estonia, brought together more than 3,000 investors, founders, and startups from scores of countries, while also featuring an impressive selection of speakers, field experts, and panelists. A strong focus on sustainability, diversity, and impact—plus a few surprises—made this year’s event one to remember.
The stage was set early when Org and Estonian President Alar Karis spoke on May 25 to open the conference. After early nods to Estonia as “the land of unicorns” and bold calls for startups to make a difference, Org and Karis introduced the 2023 Latitude59 themes: resilience and impact. Throughout the rest of the event, these topics were continually cultivated by fantastic speakers.
“It’s not about whether you are an impact inventor or investor,” said Madelynn Martiniere, Zebras Unite Co-Op managing director. “We all are! The question is, are you doing it intentionally?” Arbonics co-founder Lisett Luik shared another insight on impact. “Pick one problem and solve that really well,” she said, “and you will have made a massively positive impact in the world.”
Even in discussions on AI, one of the world’s hottest topics right now, the conversation was centered on impact. Jaan Aru, associate professor at the University of Tartu, explained that humans, in contrast with AI tech such as ChatGPT, are uniquely endowed with an internal drive to accomplish amazing things and discover new solutions. “The main goal of technology should be to support the internal creativity of people,” he said. “We need to create technologies that do this.”
Additional highlights from the conference included:
- Two officially bold afterparties
- A steady stream of soft-serve ice cream from the Google team
- A Porsche Taycan GTS spray-painted with bright, bold colors on-site to reflect the ambitious dreams of startups and founders
- Pitching from space tech startups
- A zebra-unicorn mechanical bull ride
- Extremely sustainable practices, including exclusive use of reusable Ringo cups, dishes, and cutlery
In suspenseful fashion, the event closed with the L59 Pitch Competition finals, where six startup teams—narrowed down from almost 400 applicants—competed for the €1,25 million prize pool funded by TeraVentures and EstBAN. In the end, the judges split the prize pool between three different companies, awarding Flowstep €600,000, Cino €500,000, and ÄIO Tech €150,000. This was the largest investment of its kind ever issued in Scandinavia or the Baltics, serving as a fitting capstone for this year’s legendary Latitude59 conference.
Despite the magic of Latitude59, as Org shared in her opening address, “the startup world isn’t pink unicorns anymore.” Gone are the days when founders could simply revel in the hype of it all, she explained; now is the time to make a positive impact on the world through technology. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas—one of the surprise speakers at Latitude59—also highlighted this theme: “Resilience means surviving every day,” said Kallas. “It’s hour by hour. Concentrate on the positive.”
Though the future may provide unprecedented challenges for startups and investors, Latitude59 2023 helped attendees rediscover the power of impact and resilience, and to be bold in whatever challenge they might choose to undertake.
Thank you to everyone who helped to make this year’s Latitude59 the boldest one yet! Travel back in time with the official photo galleries from all three days of the event. The photobooth shenanigans can be found here – use the code mF3Lk to access the gallery.
The recordings of the stage program will be uploaded to our Youtube and Spotify – follow the channels and keep an eye out for valuable content from the heart of the startup and tech scene of the world’s first digital society.
Or better yet, join us next year! Latitude59 2024 is taking place on May 22-24 in Tallinn, Estonia. The tickets are available here.