"We don't have many people here, but we do great things," so said Marili Vihmann, Head Organiser of sTARTUp Day.
Tartu, where the event takes place, is home of Estonia's oldest and highest-ranked university, which has produced many entrepreneurs and engineers over the years. They, along with anyone with an interest in starting a company and solving a problem with an innovative solution, can join the event on 29-31 January 2020 at Tartu University (startupday.ee).
sTARTUp Day uses Fienta as its ticketing and booking solution, after trying several competitors in previous years, because, according to Marili, Fienta offers something the others don't. "Really great customer service - I've never seen anything so responsive and quick. Each organiser is trying to optimise their workload, and when you find a partner that helps you divide the responsibility, and find a solution, that's what it’s all about, and Fienta does that."
One of the struggles for the organiser of any event is ensuring delegates are properly registered and accredited. It's something that used to mean keeping long spreadsheets, creating mail-merges, and printing badges off the old office laser printer. These days, thanks to Fienta and a custom solution created for sTARTUp Day, the situation was quite different.
"All of our ticketing is connected to Fienta, and goes straight through from attendees to us, and then tickets go straight through to them. We have a live printing system, together with Fienta, to be able to print the badges, on-demand, at the venue. It's one of the best systems we've ever used. Fienta is a startup, and they're really fast; when we ask something they always support us and come up with a solution quickly."
Marili explained how the system works. "We started out with the idea of not printing out all the badges then searching for them, but Fienta offered us a great solution, with a database, and another partner offered us iPads, which we also connected to the system. It all works online, but can be operated offline if need be.”
“As participants went to registration, our volunteers looked then up by name or by scanning their ticket. Fienta had their own registration software that was connected to the database, and as the ticket was scanned, the attendee was marked present. They created another button so we sent the information we needed to the printers, who were geared towards manufacturing labels in large batches."
"Beforehand we just printed out all the name tags, sorting them out by team and name; it took two nights for twenty people to sort out those thousands of name-tags by alphabetical order. It then took even more time to search for each participant by name, and so we had 45-minute to hour-long lines just to get inside the hall. This was one of the main things we wanted to improve."
Of course not everything always goes exactly as planned. "On the other hand, there are always people who don't arrive - all the tags we'd printed out were thrown away previously, and that's wasteful. Creating solutions that meant we could print on-site helped us hugely. We tried an independent solution without Fienta, we had problems with the connectivity of the database, then when Fienta came to help us with their solution, we had zero lines, and people came and got inside really easily. We had opportunities to create time-slots for badge-printing on other days, too, so people could pick up badges early if they wanted, and there were no tags being thrown away without being used, enabling us to be as close to zero-waste as possible."
It's a tough job for anyone, and Marili needs all the energy she can muster to get all her tasks completed. "Startup Day has grown so big that it's a full-time job. We also have paid jobs like a Programme Manager, Marketing Manager, and for the first time now, a Community Manager who tries to level-up the community as a whole. We also have students and volunteers working on it, because it's grown so big and we need as much help as we can get. If you're working on sTARTUp Day as a volunteer, you'll get so many future career opportunities as a result."
"Last year we had 65 different countries represented, and we're always looking for new startups to be represented, but it takes time to get the word out. Every year it's getting easier and we're getting more international people here. We have over 15 topics we're covering, while also doing the marketing meetings and guiding the volunteers who are leading parts of events, so there's a lot of meetings and a lot of guidance as part of the event."
"In the days before sTARTUp Day, it gets crazier, because we're working 24/7 and it's really hard work we're all putting in. Luckily we're all young so we can handle the long days and long meetings! Today, I have 5 meetings left!"
In spite of all that hard work, Marili and the team love working on sTARTUp Day. "There are so many things I enjoy. Particularly the energy and the vibe, we're doing big things, some of which seem impossible, but we find ways to make it happen, and there are exceptional people with great experience. The team and the people are the most valuable thing. For times when we need mentoring help, we have a great advisory board, who are really experienced."
When asked what she felt was the best thing about sTARTUp Day, Marili said, "I think it's that we have so many organisations together. It's sometimes a challenge to organise it with nine separate organisations and companies involved, but the people who do it are really motivated and inspiring. It's a really good energy, with great people, and that's what makes it so special and unique, a really great community festival.
Fienta makes sTARTUp Day much more efficient, and Marili is full of praise. "It's faster, it's easier for the organiser because it takes a lot of work out of the equation, and we can focus on what's important."
Why not see what Marili means, and use Fienta for your event?