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New beginnings

Start-ups disrupt business models by thinking differently.

On July 17-19, not-for-profit event Start-up Weekend, the Malta Communications Authority and the University of Malta Takeoff Business Incubator came together to organise the biggest start-up event to date. The event brought in mentors and speakers which firmly puts Malta on the map as a start-up destination.

The event began on Friday morning with a conference entitled ‘Disrupt. Start-Up. Malta’. The aim of the conference was three-fold: to highlight to the local corporate and public world that a vibrant start-up community exists; to discuss the local and international start-up investing world; and to bring to light a few Malta based start-ups that are leading the front.

“The Friday morning conference was thrilling,” Simon Azzopardi, organiser of Start-Up Weekend, said. “Not only was it well thought through in terms of content and set-up, but the vibe and energy in the room was felt by everyone. Of course, having speakers with backgrounds working at global brands such as Amazon AWS, Citrix, Soundcloud and Seedcamp helps, but we managed to balance the international names with local success stories.

Simon AzzopardiSimon Azzopardi

“The event began with a clear message. What we wanted to do was explain that the start-up world is not about tech or software developers. What the start-up industry looks to do is disrupt business models by thinking differently. We look around us and see 3D printing, sharing communities and internet of things and businesses around the world should be thinking about what effect such could have on their own businesses,” Azzopardi said.

Bernard Agius, Malta Communications Authority business and innovation development manager argued that: “It is very important that we realise that disruption brings more to our economy than mere threats. This conference has given a taste of the opportunities that may lie ahead for a small economy if it can locate its niche in a disrupted environment. Being small and nimble can give us an edge in making our economy attractive to disruptive start-ups. This is the right time to talk about disruptive start-ups especially when one considers the push for a European digital single market amid other global technology driven trends.”

“Malta’s start-up scene is still relatively new in comparison to the larger centres, but what we are seeing is that with the little effort done by the local community, we have already seen early successes,” Andy Linnas, Takeoff Business Incubator manager, said. “Companies like HotJar, Reaqta, DiscountIF and Oulala have already achieved impressive traction and we believe that they deserve Malta’s support and attention.”

The event came to a close with Reinhold Karner giving a talk on what Malta should do over the next few months to realise its potential. He spoke about attracting start-ups, creating a platform that nurtures businesses, retention of intellectual property on the island, as well as building a foundation of trust and reliability within the ecosystem.

The Friday morning’s event came to a close in the afternoon, only to be followed by a second start-up event.

“At 6:00pm that Friday, the internationally renowned Start-up Weekend began. From Friday to Sunday, we provided 10 ideas with coaching and support to create business models and live the start-up experience,” Azzopardi said.

The event invited mentors from global brands such as AOL, Seedcamp, Amazon AWS, Citrix and Microsoft, to support the teams during this intense competition. The event also included mentors from the Malta-based eco-system with several reputable entrepreneurs showing up to give back to the community.

“It was great to see early ideas with little substance become viable business models in a short period of time. Not only that, we saw personalities and characters being formed, with leaders emerging from the event,” Azzopardi said.

On Sunday, after the final pitches, four ideas emerged as having stood out from the crowd. The winning start-ups included: HealthHero, a crowdfunding platform supporting individuals that cannot afford or are covered by insurance for key surgeries or operations; AirMeeting, a flight search engine that looks to solve the problem of multiple dispersed people looking for a destination that makes financial sense for all; Sure Guides, a start-up looking to bring the AirBnB model to tour guides; and the winner SiteProject, a start-up looking to translate customer requirements of a website into a functional specification.

“The winner was selected on a single criterion: if the judges had €100,000 to invest, which would be the investable company. HealthHero was awarded as the start-up with the greatest social impact. Therefore the judges agreed that they would invest, though not for the sake of return,” Azzopardi concluded.

Start-up Weekend was sponsored by Altaro, V&A Investments, Takeoff and Malta Communications Authority.

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