It’s a wrap! 600 European business angels met at the EBAN Congress Tallinn 2024

Estonian Business Angel Network (EstBAN) together with European Business Angels (EBAN) put together a unique annual gathering of nearly 600 international investors, founders and startup enthusiasts to meet and hear topically important angel investing content on May 20-22 in Tallinn.

Almost 70 speakers from 50 different countries held workshops, keynotes, participated on the panel discussions and 53 startups were selected to pitch their business ideas to international investors. EBAN Congress Tallinn edition discussed the rise of Estonian startups, three decades of digital innovation, and new business challenges due to the tense geopolitical situation. Investors could visit Estonian startups, meet founders and explore Tallinn City.

Who went there and what they spoke about?

Among the speakers were former President of Estonia (2016-2021) Kersti Kaljulaid from Kersti Kaljulaid Foundation, cybersecurity expert Rainer Saks from CybExer, Martin Villig from Bolt, Risto Siilasmaa, former head of Nokia and founder of the cybersecurity company WithSecure, Mikko Silventola, one of the first investors in Bolt, Ivo Ronner, head of Swiss Post Ventures and an investor in Estonian startups, Nora Bavey, whose fund Unconventional VC invests in women-founded businesses, and Davis Siksnans, founder of Latvia’s first unicorn company Printful.

Former Estonian President (2016-2021) Kersti Kaljulaid, currently representing President Kaljulaid Foundation, said that Estonian government should focus on supporting a free market, not choose sectors for preferential treatment. “What if you select the wrong ones?”, Kersti Kaljulaid asked rhetorically and added also that wars are started not by democracies but by autocrats with enough resources. “We need to make democracy stronger – it is the thing that preserves peace,” Mrs President acclaimed.

Rainer Saks, an opinion leader in Estonian media held a keynote speech about how and why we need to continue supporting Ukraine and how the whole situation is related to investing. He said that we will see a growth of hybrid operations – traditional combined with cyber, information and possibly other domains. Cyber operations impact is growing, but despite war, Ukraine is not only keeping businesses running but developing new businesses and doing innovation.

One of the most renowned speakers was former Nokia CEO and current WithSecure founder Risto Siilasmaa who spoke on a tongue-twising topic – the The Knowable and Known Unknows. What emerged from his presentation is that leaders need to identify the best and worst possible scenarios for their organization or investment. “Acquire data that will help to assign their probability and increase the probability of positive scenarios. You can prepare for unknowable unknowns by creating an agile organization and for knowable ones by predicting them. Teach your people to think about probabilities and to use data, and make use of the latest technologies for that,” was Risto Siilasmaa’s advice for the listeners.

Mikko Silventola, global investor and one of the very first investors of Bolt shared his idea of success that instead of following others, you can always do your own homework to find the right deals. The cases that are hard to get into aren’t always the best and as an angel investor, try to get in as cheap as you can. There’s always a possibility to negotiate and offer help to the team in return.

Unicorn panel featuring Martin Villig, Davis Siksnans and Michael Falck on the Main Stage. Photo: Edmond Mäll

Familiar face for all the Estonians – Bolt’s Martin Villig said that building a unicorn should never be a goal in itself. “Focus on solving a problem and if you do things right, the valuation will come with it,” he said. Villig also talked about that the challenge in Europe where founders often sell too early, so the bigger value and growth goes to investors from other regions. According to him, part of Bolt’s mission is to prove you can build one of the biggest companies in Europe from a country like Estonia and inspire others doing so.

Nora Bavey was one of our favourite to speak about equality and diversity. The carrying thought of hers was that it’s an entrepreneur’s essential reasoning is to change how things have been done. – “Business angels are instrumental in changing the thinking and should be asking themselves what the climate and social impact of a startup is. We should be asking who we are saving the planet for. It’s our own extinction we should be worried about. We are severely damaging society and need to address the social side as well in the environmental conversation.”

The Congress was hosted by awesome Linda Võeras from Karma Ventures and Claes Mikko Nielsen from NordicNinja.


Which topics influence angel investments these days?

  1. Understanding DefenseTech, SpaceTech and AI Investing

During the congress, main topics of interest included the importance of investing in DefenceTech for both commercial and national defence purposes. It was emphasised that these technologies should be classified under military use to enter new markets worldwide without restrictions. Investment in SpaceTech was highlighted as a crucial area needing active investment. Additionally, there was a call for democratising space and urging future generations to invest in local space technologies. Another key topic was the rapid increase in investment interest in AI. However, the low entry barriers and aggressive competition in this field make it difficult to find a defensible value proposition. 

2. Driving systemic change in Angel Investing

This year’s congress sought to bring to light the challenges in cross border investments, and questioned the viability over “pan-european investments”. It was emphasised that local networks are vital as well as networks like EBAN who connect investors from all over Europe. The scope of topics in driving change would continue to broaden to incorporate our premier session on Pregnancy, Parenthood, and Term Sheets: A New Paradigm for Founders and Investors. In this workshop topics ranged from the challenges of maternity leave to the importance of balancing parental care with the obligations you have as a founder. 

3. Learning from Estonia’s Success as a Startup Nation

The country of Estonia was put in the direct spotlight throughout the event. As a proclaimed startup nation, Estonia prides itself on being one of the first fully digital countries, eliminating the need for paper in government operations. Its decentralised, stackable economy reduces dependence on the largest enterprises in any sector, allowing for greater agility and continuous development in energy, biotechnology, medicine, and other fields. This focus on adopting new technologies and AI has created numerous opportunities for SMEs and startups.

EstBAN Awarded as the Best Performing Business Angel Network of the Year. Photo: Edmond Mäll

Gala & Awards Dinner with 400 guests

At the Congress EBAN awarded EstBAN with the Best performing BAN-award. EBAN president Janne Jormalainen says EstBAN received the award because it has done very good work over the years in building the angel investor ecosystem in Estonia. According to Jormalainen, business angel network plays an important role in supporting a strong start-up ecosystem. “EstBAN supports angel investors in finding deals, educating them and creating networking opportunities.” EstBAN’s CEO Anu Oks and President of the network, Lauri Antalainen took the award.

Heidi Kakko, angel investor, EstBAN member and active co-lead in syndicate investments also received the award of Premier Woman Angel for promoting diversity within our ecosystem.

Other awards given out:


EBAN Congress Tallinn in numbers

  • over 600 tickets sold
  • 400 Gala dinner guests
  • attendants from ca 50 different countries
  • ca 70 speakers
  • 3 days
  • 7 Side Events
  • 7 Workshops
  • 5 Pitching Sessions
  • 53 startups pitching
  • 16 sessions on the main stage
  • 2 Explore Program Tracks into local startup ecosystem and sights
  • In 2025 the EBAN Annual Congress takes place in Copenhagen, Denmark 🇩🇰, and in 2026 in Vilnius, Lithuania 🇱🇹 special award for startup pitching winners. Photo: Edmond Mäll

53 startups pitched for top European investors

Starting out with 8 DeepTech startups powered by the CASSINI Initiative, an innovation showcase of 17 startups powered by Connect2Scale, 9 Bio/GreenTech startups powered by Bionanopolys, 9 DefenseTech startups powered NATO DIANA, and finishing off with 11 women led startups empowered by UNWomen Europe and Central Asia.  


Thank you sponsors and community partners!

EBAN Congress Tallinn was sponsored by European Union and InvestEU, supported by Swedbank and Dealum. Event partners include Delfi Meedia, Latitude59, Tallinn CityCivitta, Invest Estonia, Tehnopol,, Visit Estonia, Bolt, Tenity, OCCO, Estonian E-Residency Program, Connect2Scale project, Bionanopolys, UN Women and Cassini.

Community partners who helped to spread the event communications were EstVCA, Axel, Check Business Angel Association, FiBAN, Hungarian Business Angel Network, Invest Austria, Lithuanian Business Angel Network, Growceanu angel investing club, sTARTUp Day, Flyacts, Leapfunder, Bulgarian Angels Club, Business Angels of Slovenia, Latvian Business Angels Network.