Across the EU, states have committed massive financial injections to stir up their economies in the midst of an epidemic, with France, for example, pledging 4 billion euros to support its local startups. But Estonia, the land of blockchain government, had its own unique approach: hosting the world’s largest hackathon – ever!
Starting on April 9th, over 15,000 participants from 100+ countries were united under the Global Hack umbrella, working on over 500 projects. The Global Hack hackathon lasted six hours and was organized by the folks at Garage48, Accelerate Estonia and Guaana. The event was spearheaded by President Kersti Kaljulaid and Minister of Foreign Trade and Information Technology, Kaimar Karu.
Although clichés such as “let’s make sh*t happen” were prevalent across the live streams and the event’s social media page, the projects that came out were downright impressive. The winner of the hackathon was Suncrafter, with its concept of coupling UV lamps with up-cycled solar generators to build disinfection stations. Other noteworthy ideas were Pavan, a low-cost, portable ventilator based on air-turbine for mass casualty cases; an IoT disinfecting tracking sensor platform to monitor contaminated surfaces and equipment; and Voicemed, an app that helps in diagnosing COVID-19 by comparing the voice and the sound of a person’s cough with another person who is already a confirmed case, to see whether there is a match. This app grabbed the 8th spot of the hackathon, the 1st place in HACK THE CRISIS in Italy in the Save Lives category and landed in the Top10 in Norway out of 330+ teams!
Notably, there were at least half a dozen projects addressing mental health concerns. My favorite one from this category was a project that helps its mental healthcare users understand how to better structure their days.
The entire event was led online. Within 90 minutes, over 650 people had posted 80 ideas for consideration. By Sunday— two days later— there were 1,000 people participating and 30 teams working on solutions.
Beyond the hackathon, the government of Estonia demonstrated proactivity in supporting the startup ecosystem. The Estonian Investment agency placed a call inviting registrations by startup companies looking to raise their next funding round (between EUR 250k to EUR 100M+) during and after the COVID-19 crisis. The Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund also announced a temporary subsidies program where “subsidies will be paid to those employees whose employers are significantly impacted by the current extraordinary circumstances. The subsidy will grant an income for the employees and help the employers to surpass temporary difficulties without having to lay off their staff or call bankruptcy.” The main eligibility criteria are that the employer must have suffered at least a 30% decline in turnover or revenue for the month they wish to be subsidized for, as compared to the same month last year.
Finally, Estonian startups themselves demonstrated their hallmark flexibility by tweaking their primary offerings. For instance, ride hailing platform Bolt responded to the effects of fewer people using taxi-hailing by introducing Bolt Business Delivery, which lets other businesses use their logistics network across 35 countries to transport packages.
Estonia has been leading from the front by using technology in creative ways to combat COVID-19.
Best-selling author, startup enthusiast and prr...obably the best copywriter in South Asia. Founder, Inkblot Media copywriting (www.inkblot-media), Launch In India (www.launchinindia.co) and StayUncle hotels for couples (www.stayncle.com).