Marili Vihmann, Head Organizer of sTARTUp Talks: “It’s truly a blessing to be a human being with one’s emotions."

Marili Vihmann is the Head Organizer of sTARTUp Talks, the official side event series of sTARTUp Day. Her daily challenge is to build a brand which consists of four thematic events – sTARTUp Gaming, Blockchain, UX and AI. And the last one mentioned is just around the corner.
Marili Vihmann is the Head Organizer of sTARTUp Talks, the official side event series of sTARTUp Day. Her daily challenge is to build a brand which consists of four thematic events – sTARTUp Gaming, Blockchain, UX and AI. And the last one mentioned is just around the corner.

We talked with Marili about the main challenges of starting a series of events, how did she get involved in the start-up world and what are the motivating and inspiring parts of her work.

Marili found her way to Startup scene thanks to sTARTUp Day. The first head organizer Lauri recruited her as a volunteer’s leader and in addition to the program, she did that for two years. Now, besides organizing sTARTUp Day’s side events, she has accepted a new challenge as a creative director of sTARTUp Day. Side by side with sTARTUp Day, Marili was also a manager of the tech community center and joint office sTARTUp HUB. “My work assignments were to lead the community, manage the coworking space and run the incubation program called .Cocoon. And of course, to organize a lot of startup-related events,” Marili tells.

How did you start with sTARTUp talks? Was it rather easy or difficult? What were the main obstacles? And what were the joys and victories?

It takes three grams of ambition, two grams of naiveness and a bit of determination to organize sTARTUp Talks – in such a way it began. The first event of this series was sTARTUp Gaming. I remember that my first thought was oh well, how hard can it be.

You have to contribute a lot of your time and energy to find out the expectations of the field and then finally offer something that would help along to the growth of that certain area.

And here I am now. One of the hardest events behind me, feeling like I have gone through a very rough world of gaming, but it got done and in a very cool way! So, the beginning was easy, because all you had to have was determination. Everything that came after that was quite challenging, but also I have to admit that I have never learned as much as I do now.

The concept and idea of sTARTUp Talks started from UX Tartu (a community event for UX designers) that I organized in last year spring. After that, I realized that there could be bigger field-based events which could support our entrepreneurial system here in Tartu. You just have to be bold enough to try out which topics work in Tartu and which not.

The main obstacle to organize sTARTUp Talks is that I organize events in the fields I’m not an expert in. This is as hard as it seems, but I believe that a good organizer should be able to put together a high-quality event no matter the field. It’s important to understand the main things happening in the field, to know who could help you with the program, which kind of contacts are important and in which way you should organize an event in that area. You have to contribute a lot of your time and energy to find out the expectations of the field and then finally offer something that would help along to the growth of that certain area.

When one participant told me after sTARTUp Gaming that the things he heard and saw at the event changed his world, then this is it. This is what I work towards every day – to inspire, to change the way people think and to encourage them to think big and to take action. If I succeed at least partially, then it means the event was a success.


How to remain motivated and be happy while doing your job?

“The situation is shit, but it is our future fertilizer,” Lennart Meri, the President of Estonia has said, and he was right. These words were scribbled on my dorm wall already in high school and I still think about them when times get hard and complicated. For some reason, I believe that the harder it is for me now, the bigger opportunity I have to make great things happen in the future.

I think that the important factor of this truth is to recognize the right moment to open yourself up to new opportunities and find yourself a new love.

So, whenever I feel like it’s hard and I’m lacking motivation I think of these words and assure myself that it’s good that it’s hard, it has to be that way! Besides, if everything would come easily then life would be pretty boring. Life has to be exciting, filled with drama and other action movie characteristics to fuel adrenaline and to experience everything – both good and bad.

It’s a well-known truth that “do what you love and you will be happy”. I think that the important factor of this truth is to recognize the right moment to open yourself up to new opportunities and find yourself a new love. Cheating, when it comes to working, is okay, but only if you do it for the sake of your self-development. I believe that you can be happy only then if you see that the work develops your skills and you as a person further.

I think that the important factor of this truth is to recognize the right moment to open yourself up to new opportunities and find yourself a new love.

What is the most challenging thing about being a leader?

1. Tolerance of criticism and admitting your mistake when needed. This is hard but necessary.
2. Ability to communicate your vision and the things you believe in clearly to others. 
Sounds easier than done.
3. To make decisions and stick with them. I often have doubts about whether the decision I made was the right one, but this slows down the progress. Be confident, make a decision and work forward based on that.

I am inspired by...

A certain feeling. 

A feeling of adrenaline and anxiety. Nervousness but confidence at the same time. Sharp thoughts and satisfaction. I have experienced this feeling for about five times in my life. I get it when I’ve given 120% of myself to make something happen. And finally, the moment arrives, and you are in the middle of this mess and success. It is very hard to describe this feeling, but your world is going slow mode when it happens. You are tired and exhausted, but it has all been worth the effort.

I am also inspired by a company called Contriber, which is one of the biggest contributors to the sTARTUp ecosystem and also the place where I work at. In addition, Contriber is one of the most person-centered companies that I have encountered. I am very lucky to be a part of this company.


What makes you excited about the future?

Life itself.

Sometimes I think why wasn’t I born as a cat – life would be so easy and wonderful. I would eat, sleep and play, receive cuddles and that’s it. But then again, it’s truly a blessing to be a human being with one’s emotions and self-exploration. Where I will end up as a human, who will I become, what will life bring – this makes me excited since nobody knows. I also don’t know.

Hero of the Week is a column focused on inspirational entrepreneurial people around us – their journeys, success stories and lessons learned from failures; goals, inspiration and everything in between. Get inspired and be the Hero of your own life!