International business accelerator CDL-Estonia launched in Tartu

Official launch of CDL-Estonia at sTARTUp Day in Tartu on Friday. Pictured from L-R: Andres Sutt, Karen Jagodin, Sten Tamkivi, Andres Kuusik. August 26, 2022.
Official launch of CDL-Estonia at sTARTUp Day in Tartu on Friday. Pictured from L-R: Andres Sutt, Karen Jagodin, Sten Tamkivi, Andres Kuusik. August 26, 2022. Source: Mirjam Savioja/University of Tartu

The Estonian site of international business accelerator Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) was officially launched at the University of Tartu (TÜ) during sTARTUp Day on Friday. Nearly 50 startups have already applied to join the accelerator, which aims to bring together research-intensive European startups focused on digital governance, health data and cybersecurity.

CDL-Estonia marks the international accelerator's 12th location worldwide and fourth in Europe, following Oxford, Paris and Berlin, according to a university press release.

Focused on digital society, it was launched in Estonia in cooperation with TÜ, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom and investment fund Taavet+Sten.

According to Estonian coordinator Andres Kuusik, professor of marketing at TÜ, Estonia has e-government services, the Estonian Genome Center, digital data registers, cybersecurity expertise as well as cutting-edge research in these areas.

"Combined with business, all of this combined can bring surprising results," Kuusik said.

Estonia has been home to 1,300 startups over the past decades, ten of which have reached unicorn status, and according to entrepreneur and investor Sten Tamkivi, this is a great achievement.

Tamkivi believes that the closer integration of the local and international startup communities could generate an even more favorable growth environment for research-intensive companies.

"What makes CDL special is its large and diverse pool of mentors, which includes top figures from the scientific and business communities as well as the public sector from all over the world," Kuusik said.

While CDL-Estonia's first official application period is already over, there are still a few vacancies left, and CDL-Estonian will continue looking for suitable candidates through October, when participants will meet with mentors for the first time, he explained, adding that the goal is to involve around 20 companies in the program this year.

Ministry to provide €1.3 million

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications will be supporting the new accelerator with €1.3 million over five years, with matching contributions from each of two private-sector partners.

According to Minister of Entrepreneurship and IT Kristjan Järvan (Isamaa), the rapid development of Estonia's digital society relies on cooperation between the public and private sectors, making it the only way to kickstart Estonia's turn toward innovation.

"To increase the value added of the Estonian economy, we need to boost research-intensive entrepreneurship and innovation," Järvan said. "CDL is a very good example of cooperation between the state, universities and businesses to jointly promote the growth of the Estonian economy and development of digital society."

"As a museum that values freedoms and promotes Estonia's development, we are a neutral partner that can offer support to those interested in cooperation and provide a network to help Estonia establish the international contacts needed for the development of a free society, Vabamu CEO Karen Jagodin explained regarding the museum's involvement in the accelerator.

Founded in 2012 by Professor Ajay Agrawal at the University of Toronto, Creative Destruction Lab is a nonprofit organization that delivers an objectives-based program for massively scalable, seed-stage, science- and technology-based companies, according to the organization's website. It offers research-based technology startups a nine-month mentoring program, allowing founders to learn from experienced entrepreneurs, as well as access to international capital.

To date, participating ventures have generated $19 billion in CAD, or €14.6 billion, in equity value.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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