From Garage48 Hardware & Arts to orbiting the earth and London Fashion Week

    Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Garage48, an event we really admire taking place February 6th-8th

    As the Garage48 Hardware & Arts 2015, biggest hardware and design hackathon in the Baltics, is approaching, we took a look back at the results of the first event.

    If on average 1-2% of the teams from a hackathon end up as companies, remarkably altogether 6 teams from Garage48 Hardware & Arts 2014 are still working on their products a year later, yielding an almost 30% success rate. The companies already have a number achievements under their belt and even more ambitious plans. We talked to four of them about their journey so far and next steps.

    Despite the 40+ hackathons held so far by Garage48, none of the organisers had ever hoped to see satellite modules being built at a Garage48 weekend  – until the guys from Crystalspace came along. The team wowed the audience of Hardware & Arts 2014 by building a second generation Electrical Power System (EPS) for cube satellites. Out of original six members, half are still actively working together and good relations are kept with others. The team considers their biggest achievement so far getting their product to the online satellites parts store.

    “Our vision is to be the first one to provide the market with second generation nano satellites subsystems, and to get a contract to work on small satellites Internet provisioning project with bigger investors and companies,” says Pätris Halapuu from Crystalspace. As the procurement process  in satellite business is often very long, reaching the goal might require years of work. But the team is prepared for that, believing the reliability, compactness and energy efficiency of their subsystems makes them most suitable for companies and research institutions developing small satellites.

    Heelosophy (formerly Heelies) took home the overall victory as well as Favorite of the Audience title from the event with their custom-made insoles for high heeled shoes. The company has since continued their winning track, snatching awards from local and national contests, most recently making it among Top20 startups at Slush. They are also one of the three Hardware & Arts teams to have undergone Buildit Hardware Accelerator’s 3-month acceleration programme to polish their prototype and business model.

    Since end of last year the company  has been running a pilot project on 15 ladies and the first feedback has been encouraging. “Among other things we have learned that our insoles can actually make wearing low heeled shoes more comfortable, too. And we have gathered ample proof to our belief that people´s feet are very different,“ tells Seren Eilmann, co-founder of Heelosophy. The team is currently busy preparing for production and looking for additional investment and is planning to launch their insoles during London Fashion Week at the end of February.

    Natufia Labs carries on with many ideas and a few members from the initial vision of IoG (Internet of Greenhouse) born at Garage48 Hardware and Arts 2014. The company was established by one of the original team members (Lauri) and a cofounder (Gregory) in August 2014. To jump-start the company, a decision was made to design and build a working prototype of their automated home gardening system by the time of the upcoming Dublin Web Summit. “We beat the race just in time for the event – and faced the first setback when the whole setup was too heavy to fly to Dublin. In the end, we took out all the weighty components and had no water running in the system, but nobody noticed it. A week later we also exhibited at Slush,” recalls Gregory Lu from Natufia Labs. Their next big goal: start shipping Natufia to beta testers.

    All the teams have had to some degree modify their original concept. “At Garage48 we produced the first prototype of an interactive, smartphone controlled cat toy,” says Raido Dsilna from team Rollycat. “However, after testing it with real users, we understood that we need to considerably develop it to make it attractive for cats and their owners.” Consequently, the product has become much smaller and smarter, controlling it via smartphone more intuitive and an automated playmode has also been added. RollyCat is currently preparing a crowdfunding campaign and foresees the product launch in the third quarter of 2015.

    How do the teams, one year later, view the event where it all started? Almost all of them list the supportive atmosphere, new contacts and the possibility to challenge oneself as benefits of attending an Hardware and Arts event. “It was the perfect occasion to go through the process from an idea to reality in a very focused manner in just 48 hours,” says Raido. Seren adds:  “I had a strong belief in my idea also before, but from Garage48 i found a fantastic team and the confirmation that others see the potential, too. That´s the coolest thing about Garage48 – you can take it as two days of fun but it might also change your life”.

    “My guess is that people come to hardware event with a more mature idea they have played with for a while and now want to execute. Plus, there are not so many hardware hackathons out there in the first place“ suggests Priit Salumaa, co-founder of Garage48 and the main organiser of Hardware & Arts. “A hackathon can be compared to a one-night stand. In lucky cases, it might lead to a marriage, and it seems the odds for happening for that at Hardware & Arts are higher than usual.”

    Garage48 Hardware & Arts 2015 will take place on 6-8 February 2015 in Tartu. More info and registration at