Starting a business in 48 hours at Garage48 hackathon in Estonia

Garage48 is all about doing and hates talking. Therefore they love hackathons and hate business talk sessions. When they collected 80 people on Vormsi Island (Estonia) last weekend it was all about creating a tangible product or service in just 48 hours.

The goal of the e-Residency Hackathon was to create new services around Estonia’s e-residency programme. Basically anyone in the world can apply for e-residency in Estonia, but not everyone knows what to do with it. Already some services have been created but there should be more. And that’s where the Garage48 hackathon came into play.

80 geeks from 26 nations picked 10 favourite ideas

Friday 11 September around 80 people arrived on Vormsi Island in Estonia. An immense diverse group (26 nationalities), also professionally: front-end developers, back-end developers, marketers, designers, lawyers, and many more professions. And among these geeks travelling geek Martijn aka me.

All teams at the e-Residency Hackathon

After the pitching of ideas everyone picks the project he/she would like to work on. This means that only 10 idea owners were able to round up a complete project team. The other ideas were unfortunately trashed.

From then on the 48 hours started. By Sunday afternoon each team should have created a real product or service. Not just a mock-up but a real website, app, or whatever. Let’s hack.

Food for thought

In between the thinking and creating there was time for expert sessions with and tips and advice from awesome mentors like Siim Sikkut (Digital Policy Adviser at Government Office of Estonia), Kaspar Korjus (e-Residency Program Director), Raigo Lilleberg (UX/UI Designer, Founder @ Kreit), and Calum Cameron (Managing Director @ Startup Wise Guys).

Oh there was even time to get a bite and a drink. First you need to fuel yourself before you can fuel the project with your creativity. As sleeping is not being productive during a hackathon it’s only done when absolutely necessary. No real sleep till the final presentations aye.

And the results…???

It always ends with one winner and a few runner ups. This time even with a runner up of the runner ups (special prize). Team InstaVisa took the win with their web-based system to make applying for an Estonian visa easier. And team eSparQ (my team)? We were the runner up of the runner ups. Facilitating the process of starting a location-independent business is a great idea but we faced bigger challenges than we thought at first.

In the end… Gold?

As soon as the ceremony ended it was back to the bussed to get back to the mainland. All that remains on Vormsi Island are a lot a thrash bags filled with cans and bottles, our sweat, a sweet message to the kids (thanking them for letting us use their class room), and… A pile of rejected ideas that will be used to start a fire soon. But you’ll probably find gold if you go through them once more. 🙂

It will be interesting to see which team will continue working on their project and will launch it eventually. Of course I’m rooting for Tsutomu Komori and project eSparQ. Unfortunately I myself won’t be able to continue to work on the project but wish the others the best of luck.

I had a great time at Vormsi. Thanks Garage48 for putting the e-Residency Hackathon together. I’ll definitely join a future hackathon, either in Europe or New Zealand.

Can’t get enough of the Garage48 Hackathon on Vormsi? Then check out the blog post Demystifying Hackathon by my team mate Tarmo.