Hero of the Week: Meet our new Head Organizer Marili Vihmann

Marili has been with sTARTUp Day since the very beginning. She started as the volunteers’ team lead and was a member of program team for first two years. Last season she was the Head Organizer of sTARTUp Talks, the official side events series of sTARTUp Day. Now she’s taking the whole festival on as the Head Organizer.

You have worn quite a lot of different hats throughout the previous years but how did you first start with sTARTUp Day – why did you join the team?

Back in 2016, I was studying economics at the University of Tartu when the first head organizer of sTARTUp Day Lauri, with whom we had organized a couple of school events together, invited me to the team to lead the volunteers. With no clue about startups, startup ecosystem and less about how to organize a business festival – I said yes, I’ll do it.

sTARTUp Day embodied a whole new world to me and I felt drawn to the people who organized it. Their way of thinking was bold and bigger than Tartu. The more I was in, the more I was starving to learn more and since then sTARTUp Day has played an important role in my life. sTARTUp Day is like glue – I got stuck with it and now can’t imagine my life without it. 

What are your main goals organizing sTARTUp Day 2020?

As head organizer of course I am aiming for higher quality in the program, more international attendees and creating an even more inspiring platform for people to meet and learn, but this like the standard. I am after a feeling you are supposed to feel when you enter the land of sTARTUp Day.

First, you are surprised, because you did have your expectations, but in real life sTARTUp Day is way better than you expected (Peter Vesterbacka’s words, not mine). Then, you feel like it’s a family reunion where you try to escape your relatives, but it’s rather impossible as there are too many ways to meet.

Okay, wow, now, what is this sassy everything is possible mood you are in whilst listening the saddest fuck up story on Earth. And finally, you feel the buzzing energy, the boldness and support to create a story of your own. You have everything you need, right here, right now to make it happen. 
sTARTUp Day is like glue – I got stuck with it and now can’t imagine my life without it.

You’ve said that sTARTUp Day is a startup itself and part of being a startup is the ability to take risks and learn from failure. What are some of the biggest risks you’ve taken and what is the most valuable thing you’ve learnt so far, whether it’s an example from life or career wise?

Well, right now, cleary the biggest risk I’ve taken is to be the head organizer of sTARTUp Day. If I wanted a life which is peaceful and happy, I wouldn’t have made that choice. I chose a chaotic startup life where you try to do your best and assure yourself that what you are doing can be right but actually, you have no clue if it works or not.

What I love about sTARTUp Day is that you can make mistakes here. I think that we’ve got one of the youngest teams running the biggest business festival in the area, and we are all kind of crazy to do that. We are bold, every year trying out new concepts and pushing the boundaries of ourselves and Tartu. If something fails, we learn from it and do it better next year.

Taking risks usually comes with a lot of problems. What I’ve learnt is that there is no life without problems. What matters is to be able to deal with the problems you want to deal with. You must be very lucky to be the one struggling with those kind of problems. If you are able to solve them, the risk always pays off.
What I love about sTARTUp Day is that you can make mistakes here. I think that we’ve got one of the youngest teams running the biggest business festival in the area, and we are all kind of crazy to do that.

What is the best advice you’ve received from the previous head organizers of sTARTup Day?

I think that a lot of people don’t imagine what it means to be a head organizer of sTARTUp Day as it differs from the imaginary fancy life that you should be living. Lauri and Ermo, the previous head organizers, are one of the most hard working people I know. They were the head of finance, partners, technical production and part of every little process that happened within sTARTUp Day. The last one who cleaned up the venue and the first one up to fight another day. Most of the parts on how to run a business festival, I’ve learnt from them and that’s been the greatest advice I could get.

Moreover, besides comparing the leaderhip to the torture chamber and saying it’s the craziest job to do, I remember from them to keep in mind why we started sTARTUp Day. There is no reason to try to change sTARTUp Day into an ordinary business festival. This festival has to be done with your soul and together with the community. It is different, you can feel it at the spot and that is the feeling we can never lose. 

What do you think are the top five reasons why people should attend sTARTUp Day 2020?

Okay, here comes the sales pitch:

  • Smart city Tartu – the only city in the world which fits perfectly into the word sTARTUp and is a perfect place to start or run your company. Come and see yourself!

  • We do not disappoint – quality speakers from all over the world, new functional areas, a massive pitching competition and tons of side-events. We plan to take over the whole city and include everybody into the festival mood. Be ready for surprises and have fun!
  • sTARTUp Day is for YOU! sTARTUp Day is not only for startups, investors and executives, but it is for all entrepreneurial people who have a startup mindset. You are bold, ready to take risks and actions to drive your goals forward in life. sTARTUp Day is covering topics from space tech to creative industry, from founder psychology to corporate innovation. You will find the inspiration and support you are looking for.

  • We know you want to work. sTARTUp Day is the perfect size to meet people, everything is nearby and you can be productive to achieve your goals. Besides focusing on the festival side, we value your time. That is why we are putting extra focus on creating various working stations, call boxes and meeting areas. Get your things done while still being a part of the festival and enjoying the inspiring environment. 

  • Community. Have you ever seen 9 organizations sitting behind one table every week to organize one hell of a business festival? I call it a community effort and that it is really an event from the community to the community who knows what it needs. I bet you want to be part of that entrepreneurial celebrations that are going to let loose. 
See you at sTARTUp Day 2020!

Hero of the Week is a column focused on inspirational entrepreneurs around us – their journeys, success stories & lessons learned from failures, goals & inspiration and everything in between. Get inspired & be the hero of your own life!