LIFT99 Raised $2.3 mil to Develop a Skillsharing Platform for Founders

  • Among other endeavours, LIFT99 is now a startup
  • The software is called LIFT99 Skillsharing Platform

  • In May 2018, we raised $2.3 mil for its development

  • Investors: Taizo Son, Ahti Heinla, United Angels VC, Passion Capital, Stefan Glaenzer, Adam Omar Al-Shanti, and Agrello

  • Will launch in June 2018

 

LIFT99 has mostly been known as a coworking centre. We’ve put lots of effort into gathering a talented community around our Tallinn hub that shares our values of giving back and growing together. We’ve playfully called it a “cogrowing” space. In June 2018, the “cogrowing” ideal will be launched as a software - LIFT99 Skillsharing Platform.

We’ve been quietly working on this product well over half a year. In May 2018, backed by an investment round of $2.3 mil, we are ready to enter the next phase, and sign up our first carefully picked round of users - accomplished founders who’ll form the core of the network.

So, does this mean that LIFT99 is now a startup as well? Yes, from founders to founders - LIFT99’s very own C2C startup is here to help more startups find their success!

 

 

THE MISSION

LIFT99 Skillsharing Platform will transform the way startup founders share their expertise and experiences. Estonia is the perfect place to start this movement from. Our local ecosystem is tight and well established, and becoming more and more globally recognized. Roughly said, we have 1 startup per every 3300 inhabitants.

Estonia is a startup country, thinking outside of borders is in our DNA. 

 

Estonia is a a startup country, thinking outside of borders and on a bigger scale is in our DNA. Success stories like Skype, Transferwise, Pipedrive, and Taxify have laid a fertile ground for the next generation to sprout their ideas from, using all the resources available. We can use this knowledge and experience. And while we're at it, not stop with the Estonian borders. We can go much further than that.

Silicon Valley has been the core of the startup know-how for 50 years because the older generation already established in the area has been attracting new talent for decades. Our goal is to break down the geographical borders, and instead, place the global network of skills and brainpower into a software, available despite the borders or geographical “startup hotspots”.

 Expansion plans for LIFT99 software and hubs

Expansion plans for LIFT99 software and hubs

 

After running hackathons with Garage48 across Central Eastern Europe (CEE) for the last 8 years, we’ve seen the potential this region holds. There’s a highly educated and “hungry” tech talent with great ideas. Over the years, many hackathon participants have started their own startup journey and even made a successful exit. Eugene Nevgen from a hackathon in Minsk in 2015 took video technology to a whole new level, and his company MSQRD was acquired by Facebook for ca $100 mil.

There’s a highly educated and “hungry” tech talent with great ideas in the CEE area.

Other hackathon participants have grown into mentors themselves but that’s not nearly enough. There is still a need for a solid support network. We see the impact LIFT99 software could have on this region, and that’s why CEE is our very first target market. Alongside expanding our coworking spaces across the area.

And we are not stopping there either. Today, Europe; tomorrow, the world.

It’s ambitious, yes, but that’s the way we like it!

 

 

THE SOFTWARE

We have a very clear mission-driven WHY, but HOW are we going to do it?

The plan has many steps: first, gather a high-quality network inside the software; and second, develop the AI smart enough to make matches participants couldn’t even realize they needed. After all, there is a certain pattern some startups followed that made them successful; and there are warning signs others ignored that led them to be among the 9 in 10 that failed. There’s lots to be learned from that.

The driving force behind the LIFT99 Skillsharing Platform is Ragnar Sass, one of the most experienced founders and investors in the region. He explains that the trick is to build a software that can imitate the quality of match-making a VC could achieve, without the limitations of one’s personal network - the network in the software is simply that much bigger, and in some aspects, much smarter. And it’s simply ridiculous that in the modern world a great idea would have to be governed by geographical limitations or opportunities. We will all gain from playing the global field.

 

 First glimpses of the LIFT99 Skillsharing Platform

First glimpses of the LIFT99 Skillsharing Platform


 

 

LIFT99 HUB - A MICROCLIMATE WITHIN THE ECOSYSTEM

A few months ago we mapped the skills and know-how of LIFT99 Telliskivi Hub residents, and matched the participants for 30-minute sessions with each other, based on what they want to learn VS the expertise they could share. Frankly, the feedback was inspiring.

But that was just one of the ways we tried to bring out the unique (and often hidden) value each community member carries. An early prototype of the Skillsharing Platform was a paperback folder on our kitchen table to test the infrastructure of the software. It had a page dedicated to the skills and experiences of each of our members. It proved to be a great conversation starter.

LIFT99 hosts companies like Mindtitan, the biggest machine learning and AI company in Baltics. Their knowledge is unique and highly valuable within the community. When Dashbird.io first joined 4 months ago, they were just getting on their feet. During their time in LIFT99, they have massively grown their own know-how, their list of connections, found 2 investors from within LIFT99, and are now in the position to mentor other aspiring startups.

The question for us has been - how can we pour that unique experience and expertise back into the ecosystem to create more success stories? By now we’ve learned that people who are willing to help each other are the greatest value within a community. We’ve seen that the skillsharing model works on people who have an open mind and a drive to grow. They are our target group, our people, our community.

 

LIFT99 is a micromodel of what we are building within the software.

 

LIFT99 hub has a been the “laboratory” for the skillsharing idea since the beginning. We’ve knowingly built a certain culture of shared values, and taken notes on how to make a community like this thrive. The hub is a full-house of founders, freelancers, and global talents who believe in what we believe in. The application list to join the hub is now longer than we can handle. We simply don’t have any more free tables available.

Expanding into a more countries and building a software are the natural next steps for us.

 

 

A WORD OF GRATITUDE TO OUR INVESTOR GROUP

The launch in June 2018 is very much fueled by the support of our carefully picked group of investors. Each of the participants in the investment round of $2.3 mil offers an unique perspective that we hold in very high regard.

 

Our lead-investor is Taizo Son, the Founder of Mistletoe Inc and of one of the most successful online gaming companies in Japan, Gungho Online. Taizo is a serial entrepreneur with extensive experience in investing and incubating IT related venture companies in Asia. Lately, his focus has been on helping young entrepreneurs build companies and bring them to the market; and develop local startup ecosystems by supporting local key companies. In Estonia, that includes LeapIn, Funderbeam, Jobbatical, and now LIFT99 Skillsharing Platform.

A key ingredient in our partnership is one of Taizo Son’s latest projects, Vivita. The hub for 8-15 year old tech enthusiasts recently expanded to Estonia and it shares the building with LIFT99 Telliskivi Hub. We are very much looking forward to our cooperation as the young talents from Vivita might grow into members of LIFT99. In the meanwhile, our community could help and mentor the next generation on their journey to entrepreneurship.

 Taizo Son, the Founder of Mistletoe and the leading investor in the $2.3M investment round for LIFT99 Skillsharing Platvorm

Taizo Son, the Founder of Mistletoe and the leading investor in the $2.3M investment round for LIFT99 Skillsharing Platvorm

Agrello comes on board with a competency in world of cryptocurrency. The model we are implementing in LIFT99 platform should include a form of “community token” to keep the giving and gaining value in balance. We are grateful that the Agrello team can support us with world-class expertise and the latest trends from the cryptocurrency.

Al-Shanti Holding is is a private corporate advisory owned by angel investor Adam Omar Al-Shanti. Adam is a lawyer-turned-investor and has an excellent knowledge of the global scene, such as Middle East and the USA. He’s been helping us build the software for the last four months and we greatly value his unique perspective. Plus, he’s a wonderful person anyone would be truly lucky to have in their team.

Among the investors is United Angels VC with Indrek kasela. He’s been involved hands-on in the development of the software for the last 8 months. To make sure the “founders to founders platform” maintains a high quality, it was essential to partner with someone from the local investor community and grow the ecosystem from that perspective as well. Indrek Kasela is the key community member helping us acheive that.

Passion Capital and Stefan Glaenzer jumped in on the very last minute, expanding the scope of our investor team even wider. 

 Ahti Heinla, Co-Founder of Skype and Starship Technologies, a co-investeor and one of the biggest inspirations behind building the LIFT99 Skillsharing Platform

Ahti Heinla, Co-Founder of Skype and Starship Technologies, a co-investeor and one of the biggest inspirations behind building the LIFT99 Skillsharing Platform

 

And finally, we have the big league of Estonian Mafia, a man that requires no introduction. Frankly, Ahti Heinla has been the inspiration behind this entire concept. He could have moved to become a key person in any startup hotspot in the world, yet he chose to stay to support the local ecosystem.

The unique lessons he’s gathered since the days of co-founding Skype, and carried across building Starship Technologies, are exactly what we wish to see passed on the the next generation of founders. We were very excited when first pitched the idea to him and he actually loved it, and we are even more excited now that we have him on board as an investor.


 

WHAT NOW?

The software is currently in test-phase. We have onboarded a handful of key players from within the community to start building the founders network within Europe.

If you are interested in joining the platform, you can apply to the waiting list here:

APPLY