Estonia gets its first hardware-focused startup accelerator – Buildit

Based in the Tartu Science Park, one of the largest high-tech incubators in the Baltics, Buildit is the first accelerator in the Baltic and Nordic region with focus on physical devices (hardware in combination with software).

With smart physical things one of the trendsetters in the startup world this year – Google’s purchase of Nest for a USD3.2 billion being a most high profile example – it’s only appropriate that the vibrant Estonian startup scene is not falling far behind. Enter Buildit, the first accelerator in the region focusing on hardware in combination with software.

Partnered and supported, among others, by the Baltic Innovation Agency, EU-funded SmartCap, Enterprise Estonia, GrabCad and Microsoft – either by funding or know-how – it’s currently accepting applications for its first batch of six to twelve teams, while the accelerator programme will run from April to June 2014.

Running two batches annually, Buildit’s three-month program will be based in Tartu, followed by a month-long Seedcamp-style investor “roadshow” in the US, China and the UK, to meet investors and potential partners.

The participating startups will receive free office space at the Tartu Science Park and prototyping facilities, such as the protolab, which includes a full range of product development services in the field of precision mechanics, mechatronics and 3D design.

Startups can apply from anywhere, although there is particular emphasis on Eastern Europe and Russia. Teams must comprise of at least two members and preferably have a working prototype. In return for entering the program, Buildit invests €15,000 for 5-10% equity.

The accelerator claims to have an international network of 80 mentors on its roster, including engineers, VCs, hardware company managers and researchers from Stanford and MIT. Notable ones include a former director of strategy at Nokia and a former lead engineer at HP, as well as the CEO of home-grown hardware startup Click & Grow.

Buildit was founded and is led by an engineer, Aleksander Tõnnisson. “We believe it is the right time to start a hardware startup. Product development and manufacturing has become cheaper and more available for small companies. Still building a hardware startup is hard, that’s why we are launching Buildit. There are over 200 startup accelerators in the world but only few are focused on hardware,“ Tõnnisson said.


Cover photo: Tartu Science Park.

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