Being an entrepreneur for already a decade now, I have to admit that I often take a lot of things for granted. But looking back, if I could name the most important thing to have — it would be an opportunity to learn. I am extremely thankful to be around talented people since day one. I was able to see where things worked (or didn’t) and learn from the best in business.
But what if you don’t have the opportunity? Where do you go to learn?
While in college, I felt that universities don’t prepare students to start their own business. Let alone startup specifics… The programs were (and are, to this day) usually way off from the Silicon Valley lingo. Lean Startup? Seed funding? VC? A pitch? No comprendo.
Back in 2008, when no one knew what is a pitch — I had an honor to be among the organizers of the first ever pitch contest in Latvia at the BarCamp Baltics. No one knew the name, but they damn sure had a lot of innovative ideas to present. We had people from all around the region coming in for the “Innovation Incubator” where some of them even nailed investments.
BarCamp Baltics itself was a blast: tens of workshops over the weekend, tons of new ideas, networking and lessons learned. We repeated the next year too, to prove that independently organized events can leave a dent, educate and change people’s lives.
In between Open Coffee Club meetings, tweetups and a trip to Tallinn to meet with some Skype guys, I was really inspired — and motivated to create an event that would let entrepreneurs-to-be take a peek into the startup world from inside, and teach them how to develop their business idea.
For the last five years and counting, I am a proud member of Team TEDxRiga. Being at the launch of the movement, laying the first bricks to the community and having organised smaller TEDx viewings, salons and large conferences, I can surely say that TEDx is a tremendously useful way to listen and learn — in every aspect of life.
If you’re a startup though, there is a missing piece to the puzzle. When you’re looking for investment and growth options — you need that feedback, right? You need the two-way street, you need mentors to dig deep into your idea, work with you, evaluate you, prepare you (be it mentally or financially). Merely listening and learning would not kick it.
I kept pondering and looking for the missing piece. I visited Brussels to participate in the EESC‘s Young European Entrepreneurs Seminar, I spoke in Versailles at The Future of Youth in Europe, checked in with startup communities worldwide, finding ways to empower young entrepreneurs back in Latvia.
Meanwhile on the side of Europe — in Portugal, the Startup Pirates were born. Facing similar challenges, a group of Portuguese youngsters (much like their ancestors who sailed and explored the unknown seas), decided they’d show that entrepreneurship is really possible and has the power to change people’s lives and contribute to the growth of the economy.
The 8-day program with the brave name was launched, which is now being replicated in the cities across the globe.
When I heard about Startup Pirates, it was a no-brainer: of course I’m taking it to Riga! I visited the Pirates Headquarters in Porto, and the rest is history. Startup Pirates Riga sails October 11 – 18, 2015.
With a very hands-on approach and the support of a large community of experienced entrepreneurs, we will combine workshops and mentoring with a clear focus on accelerating the development of entrepreneurs. After the program, our network of partners will support the teams on their quest to thrive.
Can there be a more awesome way to create a company, learn, grow, change the world? And all of that while having fun!
I feel that I’ve found the missing piece to the puzzle of startup education. But don’t take my word for it — join hundreds of startups worldwide, aim for a piece of an investment pie (Startup Pirates alumni raised €5.6m altogether, in all programs) and become a part of a vibrant, changemaking, global community!