Tartu has always been known as a prominent university city.
It’s home to the University of Tartu — the most prestigious university in Estonia — established in 1632.
But the city is aspiring to be more than just the intellectual center of Estonia.
Tartu is striving to become the startup capital of the Baltic states!
And it’s the local startup community (of which SPARK is a leading player) that is providing the driving force for this endeavor.
SPARK Is On The Up-And-Up
After 10 months of operating and establishing their role among local startuppers and beyond, SPARK is emerging as a key player in Tartu startup ecosystem.
Located in the heart of Tartu, SPARK serves as a business and community center for tech and hardware companies. Just a 5-minute walk from its sibling counterpart sTARTUp HUB (I’ll discuss more about that later), it’s a building that brings together innovative entrepreneurial people in IT, tech and hardware.
Being a home to both startups and already established companies, SPARK’s community is designed to meet the essence of cooperation.
Open space area in SPARK
The four floors of the building hold offices for separate companies while offering open space lounges, meeting rooms and even kitchens that are for everyone to share. By providing businesses with this kind of work environment, SPARK aims to help startups and entrepreneurial minds network more easily.
That’s the magic behind the idea of such a coworking community — to enable people of the same field to share their experience and knowledge so that everyone can benefit.
sTARTUp HUB (The Sibling Twin to SPARK)
You may have already heard of sTARTUp HUB — it’s a business centre for IT and tech companies located in the heart of Tartu. In addition to offering coworking space and offices in Tartu, it serves as an events venue for related social functions.
Just recently in fact, the president of Estonia met with representatives of the local startup community at Startup Hub.
sTARTUp HUB also houses sTARTUp HUB coworking space (a community-run coworking space for startups, entrepreneurs and freelancers). Together they serve an important role in strengthening and bringing together the cadres of startups in Tartu.
What’s The Connection Between sTARTUp HUB and SPARK?
Both SPARK and sTARTUp HUB share the same basic ideological principle — to bring together startups and established businesses in IT, tech, and hardware — thereby creating a synergistic effect on creativity and productivity.
Together with Garage48 HUB Tartu, they’re providing the essential elements for growing the community’s communication and cooperation.
SPARK offers private offices in a collaborative workspace environment. sTARTUp HUB offers the sames services in addition to the coworking space Garage48 HUB Tartu, which also allows entrepreneurs to rent desks.
Contriber is the proprietor of the two buildings. To learn more about Contriber, have a listen to the company’s CEO discussing the benefits of having a transparent business culture.
Who’s Occupying SPARK’s Offices in Estonia?
Though the building has not officially opened, it has already proven to operate as imagined.
At the moment, SPARK is already a home to the following businesses:
1. SPARK Demo
SPARK Demo is a business and demo center led by Tartu Science Park. It brings together the region’s most successful manufacturers, exporters, opinion leaders, employers, brightest start-ups, business support organizations and educational and R&D institutions.
Located on the ground floor of the building, SPARK Demo is the first thing to catch your eye when entering the building or even just passing by. The demo area serves as an event venue.
Next to the demo area, Spark Café is about to be opened soon. According to its executive Mariann Vahi, the cafeteria is soon to be serving the best coffee in town (which not only SPARK’ers will soon be enjoying, but people in Tartu as well).
2. SPARK Makerlab
SPARK Makerlab is a makerspace where every maker, artist, builder, and DIY enthusiast can find everything (s)he needs to make something real. You can hammer, weld, paint, 3D print, lasercut, CNC mill, jig saw, fix a bike, draw, drill, model, piddle, edit movies, use an oscilloscope, build a stool or a drone, or even sew a dress.
In addition to hardware, it also provides all the necessary materials and electronic components. The makerspace even provides experienced people who can lend a hand (or a head)!
Convertal, a Google Partner in Estonia, is an advertisement and digital marketing agency that is also housed in the building.
If you are ever in need of help with Google AdWords, Facebook or Linkedin ads, or social media pages, email campaigns etc., you should turn to them on the first floor of the building.
On the first floor, you may find a few other businesses that may impress you.
Buildit is an accelerator for new global success stories in hardware and creative industries & health-tech. It’s the first accelerator in the Baltic States and Nordic countries with a focus on physical devices (that being hardware in combination with software).
Buildit offers it’s customers an intense program specifically designed for creative industries and hardware startups from all over the world. For example, the key areas covered during the four week main program include strategies for business idea validation, design thinking, product design and development, product-market fit, sales and marketing, fundraising and legal issues and last but not least, pitch training.
Another rising star which is about to expand to SPARK is Estonia’s fastest growing product and software development house Mooncascade.
Mooncascade works with both local and international customers in the telecom, defense, finance and startup sectors across Europe — they are often brought on board when companies need to set up an innovation arm and do rapid prototyping. They are experts in developing mobile, web & online applications, IT security services, Big Data analytics systems, biometric services and financial payment services.
Mooncascade is here to define goals, users, needs, and limitations — and from that comes user flows, user stories, user personas and early screen layouts.
6. Aasa Global OÜ
Aasa Global OÜ has an office in SPARK as well.
They are a business focused on the constantly growing consumer credit market abroad — and have taken a spot in the SPARK building to do what they do best.
Winner of Prototron 2015, SprayPrinter brings to you the 21st century way of designing walls.
SprayPrinter is a new technology that converts designs into wall art. Basically, all you need to do is download an application to your smart phone, choose your favourite image, attach the Sprayprinter nozzle on a spray can and start painting.
It’s target group is DIY homeowners all around the world who love innovative technologies. An artsy kind of business that brings colors and beauty to our everyday life, right in the center of the SPARK building!
8. Wazombi Labs
Wazombi Labs operates to create awesomeness by turning ideas into reality. They build awesome mobile applications and gadgets — building simplicity into products.
When working with technology driven startups, you may face many unseen variables that could be called “the technology unknown paradox”. And the unknown is what drives the guys at Wazombi Labs.
Having experience from web to mobile development, they have the know-how of different hardware solutions and graphical implementation.
Fitlap is a web-based personal training and nutrition consultant.
It provides it’s customers with nutrition plans approved by doctors and adjusts them according to their accomplishments and personal development. Fitlap’s customer base is comprised of a wide range of people — from sportsmen to retired folks.
So anyone in need of a good and concise nutrition plan, and also seeking health improvement, can find Fitlap inside the SPARK building.
LeanEst helps you find ways and solutions by which to ensure efficiency for production companies.
For example, if you are asking “How much more should my company produce so the resource input would be the same?” or “What is the hidden efficiency and how to actually implement it?”, LeanEst just may have the answers you are looking for.
And last but not least, SPARK is a home to a role-playing game designed to boost entrepreneurial and financial skills — it’s called Bizplay.
Bizplay provides engaging curricula and online tools for your classroom, whereby every student can experience what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. The web-based game teaches business, finance and entrepreneurship to students by helping them focus on marketing, sales, and personal & company finances. It helps students experience the roles of family business, consumer and public sector, and teaches kids how money works in real life.
By letting you customize your own curricula with relevant modules, it creates a classroom of enterprises, using an intuitive and easy online game platform, providing a full study program with theoretical and practical materials.
Anything Else About SPARK?
Well, the aforementioned list of businesses is hardly complete. Not even close. In fact, SPARK is expecting many more businesses to be settling in soon.
And the person who helps with the settling, administrates the building’s inner and outer communication, and makes the community feel whole, is Kadri Kõivik. And while the heart and soul of SPARK is made up by the people working there, an enormous part of the good vibes and atmosphere lies within Kadri.
Basically, she helps the community feel happy and the people coming to SPARK welcome. Kadri is the one everyone can turn to, whether it’s everyday worries or joys — or when one of the coffee machines needs to go to the doctor.
In addition to managing the building’s communication and its Facebook page, Kadri organizes events and OpenCoffee mornings to encourage the SPARK’ers to network and connect.
SPARK Is Buzzing
Though it hasn’t had its ‘official’ opening, SPARK is operating as imagined, and has become home to several tech and hardware businesses.
If you’re looking for an office in Estonia or just want to get to know the building better, you’re more than welcome to stop by!
Just come by to Narva mnt 3 in Tartu — and when you arrive, grab a cup of coffee and mingle among the good vibes and ideas that hold SPARK together.
If you want to learn more about SPARK (office space, meeting rooms, & event rooms), you can get more info at their homepage.
If you’re not currently living in Estonia, but are considering moving here to find a job, I highly recommend reading this article about getting a dream job in Estonia!