Cross-border Demo Day of the isolation age

The future didn’t look that bad when the Northbound Startups acceleration program started in autumn. Sure we had to start online with the workshops but we knew that when the spring comes we have defeated the pandemic, borders are open again and we can all get together for good old matchmaking and celebration for the job well done.

How little we knew!

Early 2021 it became obvious that we cannot meet each other at Tehnopol as it was initially planned and then the third wave of covid-19 hit us hard just at the dawn of the Demo Day. Travelling was banned, physical meetings were heavily restricted again and at the same time people really started getting fed up with all the online stuff. So what to do? The promise for the glorious Demo Day had been given and the startups deserved that to be fulfilled.

So we had ten startups waiting to deliver their pitches. Restrictions were slightly different in different countries but if we would divide the presentations evenly at all sites and have a skeleton crew running the tech we could just do it safely. Sleeves up again with the organizers and soon we had a vision of the pitching and matchmaking event with one host, three interconnected venues, top notch panel and online audience following the live stream. Well, three venues requires three times the tech but eventually we had nice studios in Turku, Tallinn and Västerås and could provide the startups live pitching on stage.

Producer and his gadgets…
… and the office of the Estonian counterpart

How did it go then? First of all our startups were great. They didn’t worry too much about the circumstances but took the chance, delivered the pitch precisely and fluently and had good discussions with the expert panel. The session was started with an online pitch from Finland and then it jumped all over from country to country, remote to on-site, medical to IT to fashion, and what not. All this was mastered on stage at SparkUp, Turku, by Jarkko Nissinen with the aid of the Northbound Startups crew in Tallinn, and Västerås. Probably the busiest guy however was our producer Ville Lahtinen who had to follow the different feeds from three sites added with remote speakers and compile it all to one live stream, realtime. But if the startups were international, so were the panelists. Liina Laas, Björn Larsson and Patrick Halford analyzed each concept with such professionalism that no one left the stage empty-handed. Actually I think some startups even got new customers from our panelists. In general the implementation was successful and gave us confidence to carry on with it. Some technical issues with sound and vision was experienced in Zoom. Sorry for the online audience about it.

Panelists in action

The rest of the event was reserved for the matchmaking between startups and investors. Each business had a meeting set up and rushed there to host the discussions with potential collaborators.

Stage in Västerås
Stage in Tallinn
Stage in Turku

Thanks for the photos Anne-Liisa Elbrecht, Petra Ärlsjö and Arto Branders. The full recording of the first Northbound Startups Demo Day will be released soon.