Estonian Startup Awards 2020

On January 14, the Estonian Startup Awards 2020 recognized the achievements of the most outstanding Estonian founders, startups and community initiatives in 9 impactful categories.

Despite the crisis, Estonian startup sector is growing fast - around 30% year over year. But that’s not just a number. Behind the statistics are real people - founders and their teams - whose achievements have brought our local community to where we are today.

On the verge of 2021, last year brought us a new unicorn, Pipedrive, to our family of Unicorns (we have 5 now!), witnessed 8 exits, startups raised around 440M eur and employed more people than ever before. That is something to be proud of. We will publish the full overview of last year's statistics in mid-February, so stay tune for that!

If you missed the 2020 awards ceremony you can find the recording of the show HERE

What is Estonian Startup Awards?

Launched in 2019, the mission of Estonian Startup Awards is to celebrate the wins of the past year, bring our community together, and to inspire the next generation of startuppers through the stories of these most outstanding founders and startups.

As we know firsthand, the year 2020 was particularly challenging but many founders took it as an opportunity to re-evaluate their startup’s model, market, or product, thus finding fuel for further growth or a pivot. The nominees of the Revenue Hack category are a good example of that; Skeleton Technologies, Veriff, Bolt - they all kept expanding to new territories. 2020 was also a good year for exits and investments. The title of the Founder of the Year 2020 was earned by the biggest exit story we’ve seen since Skype.

While the competition was largely data-driven, we have a soft spot for one category that first and foremost focused on the impact. Many of The Giving Back Powerhouse 2020 nominees (HK Unicorn Squad, Tallifornia School Project, Jõhvi Coding School, EdTech sector’s free services in spring 2020, etc) were born from the mission to open doors for the next generation. They cultivate the culture of giving back within our tight community, and that is one of the secret ingredients why Estonia is such a great place to build a startup in. 

How were the Best of the Best selected?

Estonian Startup Awards 2020 were given out in 9 categories. The search for nominees began in autumn 2020 with a public nomination round. 230 people from the community nominated almost 300 inspiring founders, startups, and initiatives.

After a thorough background check and digging into the data of potential nominees, around 80 candidates made it to the shortlist. The final voting took place from 31st Dec to 6th Jan and was carried out by 159 Estonian startup founders, the grand jury of experts. Among the winners are promising newcomers, launched in 2020, as well as established startups that keep on inspiring us with their unstoppable growth. Who took home the prizes?

Oh, and did we mention that President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid was also with us during the event?

The Winners of Estonian Startup Awards 2020

  1. The Foreign Founder of 2020 - “Their Estonian might not be perfect yet, but they are hungry for success when it comes to startups.” 

    Top 3 nominees: Avery Schrader, Founder of Modash; Vishen Lakhiani, Founder of Mindvalley; Jeff McClelland, Founder of Salv

    Winner: Vishen Lakhiani, Founder of Mindvalley

  2. The Stereotype Crusher of 2020 -“A female road-paver leading the way to more equality and inclusiveness.

    Top 3 nominees: Kaidi Ruusalepp, Founder of Funderbeam; Vilve Vene, Founder of Modularbank, Anna-Liisa Palatu, Founder of Woola

    Winner: Anna-Liisa Palatu, Founder of Woola

  3. The Wise Wallet of 2020 - “The best investors are team-players, gate-openers, and bridge-builders. Made minimum 5 investments in 2020.”

    Top 3 nominees: Jaan Tallinn, Ragnar Sass, Martin Villig

    Winner: Ragnar Sass

  4. The Bootstrap Badger of 2020 - “A startup that has raised under $200k, rising to the top with extra creativity, boldness & a low budget.”

    Top 3 nominees: Rasmus Vooglaid, founder of FIIZY; Rasmus Gross, founder of ELIIS; Vishen Lakhiani, Founder of Mindvalley

    Winner: Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mindvalley

  5. The Big Bang of 2020 - ‘’A newcomer whose loud arrival impressed & inspired us all.’

    Top 3 nominees: Anna-Liisa Palatu, Founder of Woola; Hardi Meybaum, founder of WhatifiVilve Vene, Founder of Modularbank

    Winner: Anna Liisa Palatu, founder of Woola

  6. The Revenue Hack of 2020 - “The revenue-making machines! Startups with massive €€ growth in 2020 is what we seek.”

    Top 3 nominees: Ardo Kaurit, founder of Ampler Bikes; Markus Villig, founder of Bolt; Taavi Madiberk, founder of Skeleton Technologies

    Winner: Taavi Madiberk, founder of Skeleton Technologies

  7. The Giving Back Powerhouse of 2020 - “Passion, dedication, humbleness - a person, event, or organisation that gives back without asking.”

    Top 3 nominees: Computer to Every Student, HK Unicorn Squad, , Jõhvi Coding School

    Winner: Jõhvi Coding School

  8. The B2B Saas Startup of 2020 (Startup Sector of the Year) -“2019 was all about hardware, this year we are looking for a SaaS giant!”

    Top 3 nominees: Martin Kõiva, founder of Klaus; Robin Saluoks, Founder of eAgronoom; Kaarel Kotkas, founder of Veriff

    Winner: Kaarel Kotkas, founder of Veriff

  9. The Founder of the Year 2020 - “This founder deserves a VERY big applause by the end of 2020. Who impressed & inspired us the most?

    Top 3 nominees: Markus Villig, founder of Bolt; Timo Ren, Martin Tajur, Martin Henk, Urmas Purde, Ragnar Sass - founders of Pipedrive; Taavi Madiberk, founder of Skeleton Technologies

    Winners: Timo Ren, Martin Tajur, Martin Henk, Urmas Purde, Ragnar Sass - founders of Pipedrive

2020 was a year of challenges but also a year of growth. We hope our community can gather inspiration from the lessons and wins Estonian Startup Awards 2020 celebrated, in order to carry on even stronger together in 2021! If you missed the 2020 awards ceremony you can find the recording of the show HERE.  Stay tuned for the full overview of last year's statistics!

Estonian Startup Awards 2020 was organized by Estonian Founders Society, LIFT99 and Startup Estonia.Big thanks to our main sponsor, Law Firm Hedman Partners, as well as to all the supporters of this year’s event - Salv, Stebby, TextMagic, So.Fa.Dog, Toggl, Katana, Comodule, Glia, Pactum AI, Sentinel AI, Alphablues, Xolo, GoWorkaBit, Wolf3D, Snackable AI, Silen Space, Siena, Trind, Riina Einberg, Jevgeni Kabanov,, Triin Kask, Ahti Heinla, Paxful.

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