When you go to a tech conference you may expect that most of the people there may be introverted, not so keen on talking, and not very energetic when presenting on stage.
But boy, these stereotypes are soooo wrong. At least for TechChill 2020 they are.
This is the ninth year of TechChill – an event that celebrates the best of the Baltic startup community. Taking place every year in Riga, it has become a significant occasion in the tech community, as it has gathered more than 2000 people per year over the past two years.
This year the conference highlighted 3 main subjects – Blockchain, 5G, and Greentech. By the way, can I tell you a secret? I’m not a master of any of those subjects. And so, being briefed that this is the tech event de jour I was ready to go to TechChill and allow myself to succumb to dry conversations about subjects that are out of my league.
However, as I mentioned before, the event was not at all dry, boring, or overly complicated. All the presentations that I managed to see stressed not the importance of technology but the importance of people with whom you create, boost, polish, etc. that said technology.
So, having learned a lot from my experience during this event, I wanted to share the lessons I learned from this year’s TechChill.
#1: Everything was very green during this event
First, my attention was caught by all the green lights in the conference venue (see the images below).
My guess for the use of the green color was due to one of the main subjects at this year’s conference – Greentech.
Curious about the visual image of the conference I went to see a presentation by Miķelis Baštiks from the design studio Asketic who took care of the festival’s new identity. Miķelis shared that he wanted to display the festival’s logo not straight but a bit slanted and unique, so that it symbolizes the people in this industry who are always moving, changing, and looking for the next big thing.
#2: Want to do something cool? Inspire others
Another thing that resonated through several panels, presentations, and keynotes was the importance of inspiring other people. It doesn’t matter if they’re your clients, employees, family members, etc.
The Estonian ridesharing company’s Bolt co-founder Martin Villig talked about how important it is, for example, to inspire the youth as they’re in search of their career path in life. Why? Most people tend to choose the wrong career path for them because of their lack of experience and knowledge. Think about this as an opportunity to give back to people (especially teens) and see how you can inspire them in regard to their professional future.
But how to inspire in the start-up scene? One strategy can be sharing success stories like Bolt, for example, so that people can see that startups from Baltic countries are able to achieve great success by having a strong idea and a free space in the market to carry it out.
#3: Create a company with a story
This might also sound like a lesson from a broken record. However, if people still talk about it, I’m pretty sure that it still deserves our attention.
First of all, one of the most important things to remember is to not be afraid to create your company. The co-founder of interactive entertainment company Kabam, Holly Liu said this in her panel discussion – make what you do your own and remember that not making your company can be the biggest regret in your life. Harsh but true.
Jessica Gioglio, a leading digital and social media strategist, talked about how important it is for a company to have a story at the core of its creation. She stated that statistically, companies that have a story can grow 3x faster than the ones who don’t have it.
Why? Because people want something to stand for. Especially Millennials who seek inclusive and diverse brands that stand for honesty, friendliness, helpfulness, and humor.
But what if your product is not interesting? That’s fine. You can turn a totally boring product like a mattress into the most hilarious thing on the Internet, by adding personality and a voice to it. That way your otherwise “not-so-fun” product turns into a fun experience for clients and they can have an emotional connection to it and its story. For example, see the Twitter account of the Casper mattresses below.
Source: Casper UK
You see? All you need is some good puns and a Twitter account to get your story going!
#4: Listen to feedback
This lesson comes from Cristobal Alonso from the B2B startup accelerator Startup Wise Guys. Cristobal concluded that “operating without feedback is like cooking without tasting the food”.
People usually seek positive feedback rather than negative. However, if there’s no negative feedback, where’s the space for growth?
I get why people don’t like to listen to criticism. It can make you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing or, in other words, you may feel like an imposter in your own company.
The strategies on how to deal with imposter syndrome were discussed by Anastasija Oleinika, the CEO of Twino, and the aforementioned co-founder of Kabam, Holly Liu. Their recipe for success is to shake it off, deal with it and own up to it. And if it makes you feel better, you’re not the only one who sometimes feels like an imposter.
#5: Don’t forget to take a breather from time to time
One thing we all can agree on for sure – the tech industry moves faaast. And sometimes we forget that we need to rest in order to get back to business with our minds and bodies properly refreshed.
The importance of taking care of our mental health – this subject was brought up several times during the conference.
Managing Editor of Grit Daily, Stewart Rogers, talked about the effects that the tech industry has on people working in it – how often they’re being stressed and how they’re dealing with it. It turns out that “over a quarter of tech professionals have been diagnosed with a mental health condition mainly caused by stress” according to a survey made by UK’s digital trade body BIMA. And they’re usually dealing with it with the help of medication, alcohol, or drugs.
Stewart also wanted to create awareness around the fact that this industry has increased suicide rates. For example, the suicide rate in Silicon Valley during the last decade has grown 4 times. Yes, the Baltics are no Silicon Valley, however, we need to pay more attention to this matter – not only for our own sake but also for the sake of others.
How do we do that? We listen to other people’s problems – but really listen, not just smile and wave out of politeness. He also suggested trying meditation, sports, and most importantly – not losing your inner child. Because if there’s no play at work – where’s the fun in that?
#6: It’s all about the people – not the millions you make
This may be one of the most important things I learned at this year’s TechChill, and it came from the CEO and co-founder of Mintos, a marketplace for investing in loans, Mārtiņš Šulte.
Mārtiņš said that making millions is great but in 20 years you’ll remember not the amount of money you’ve made but the people with whom you earned it.
This made me think that in start-up culture you cannot have just an idea – you also need a devoted team that believes in you and your product as strong as possible.
In addition, Mārtiņš mentioned that if you want to create a company that has an impact, you need to be transparent and set your mindset towards growth, which isn’t a totally new concept. However, it’s refreshing to see that company CEOs value honesty as the best policy.
Some people say that TechChill is an event that gathers more than 2000 people yet doesn’t lose its sense of intimacy no matter how big the crowd is.
I can stand behind this 100%. As this was the first BIG tech conference for me, I was extremely (and positively, might I add) surprised that the tech and start-up scene isn’t all about crunching numbers, getting your name printed in the big media outlets or a place where you can boast about how cool your company or product is.
TechChill is a place for a community connected through the common interest of spreading the word about the possibilities in tech and how we can become a part of something that can start just as an idea and create something beautiful out of it.