Page 1

NO 39 I FALL I 2015


Nordic With A Twist

e-Residency Is Reshaping The World

Taavi Rõivas

Estonia Is The’New Nordic’

Tallinn Test Site For The Virtual City

The World According To Kostabi

Ravi Belani: Innovation Is Inevitable

land & people I state & society I economy & business I technology & innovation I culture & entertainment I tourism

Estonia – Nordic Business Paradise The other day I was having lunch with Lars Hellberg, President and CEO of the machine building company Fortaco Group. After some intensive discussions of different growth scenarios for Fortaco Group in the Narva area, Lars suddenly surprised me with a question. ‘What is it with you, Estonians? Do you have a special entrepreneurial gene in you?,’ he asked. The question made me think of the traits of character foreign investors use to describe Estonians and indeed this can be seen as a Nordic mentality, but with a twist. So what is this twist? It is the innovative mind of trying to get things done efficiently – using technology and innovation to achieve results, both at the Governmental level and in private business. The recent launch of the e-Residency scheme and the immediate take-up of this by foreign business people is a good example. COVER Taavi Rõivas Photo by Atko Januson

Executive publisher Positive Projects Pärnu mnt 69, 10134 Tallinn, Estonia Editor Reet Grosberg Translation Ingrid Hübscher Language editor Andrew Whyte Design & Layout Positive Design Partner Powered by

A dedicated team of professionals at Enterprise Estonia’s Investment Agency supports companies investing and expanding in Estonia. Come experience the ease of doing business in e-Estonia – the low-risk, high quality and competitive location for your company.

But the twist is also persistence and not being afraid of hard work. The Estonians don’t expect things to be brought to them on a silver platter, but know that success always means devotion and hard work. For years and years, technology start-up put a lot of hard work into fine-tuning their virtual fitting room for e-commerce companies before Japanese corporation Rakuten acquired their shares this summer. But the work continues for and new jobs are being created in Estonia to further develop the company and its technology. The devotion of Ruth Oltjer to develop her company, Chemi-Pharm, especially in export markets is another case study you can read about in this issue of Life in Estonia. Estonian society is very interlinked and short on social hierarchy, which is great for engaging the right people at the right level to find an optimal solution to any outstanding issue. This means that solutions can be achieved quickly. That is another twist in favor of Estonia. The business minded and can-do attitude of Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas is a clear proof of this. But there is seldom a good thing without some kind of accompanying down-side: in Estonia’s case it is that there are not enough of us to do all these cool things. But where there is a problem, Estonians are already seeking for a solution. Our solution is the Work in Estonia project to enable foreign talent to come and work in Estonia, where there are excellent career opportunities and challenging projects to work on. For foreign companies too, there are also numerous other small twists that can be found in Estonia, which makes them decide on it. But be careful if you are thinking of bringing your company here: the statistics show that once the foreign companies have decided to be engaged with Estonia, it is a long-term thing! Enjoy this issue of Life in Estonia, which has plenty of fascinating stories (each with a little twist) from Estonia – the Nordic business paradise!

Indrek Pällo Director of Estonian Investment Agency

FALL 2015




#39_FALL_2015 Where to Go this Season? Life in Estonia Recommends 6_


News & Events



Become an e-Resident of Estonia. Online, of course

In October 2014, Estonia first introduced the idea of e-Residency and the interest was huge. Today Estonia has over 4,200 e-residents from Finland and Russia, but also from much further places like Italy, India or the United States, and currently several hundred are waiting for their e-Residency approval. Meet some of them and read how they utilize their Estonian e-Residency. COVER STORY


Taavi Rõivas – the Prime Minister of the ‘New Nordic’

Taavi Rõivas, Europe’s youngest Prime Minister thinks of Estonia as a ‘new Nordic‘ country – rigid in foundation, but flexible in solutions, especially in its approach of embracing new technologies. He is confident that in 15 years from now, Estonia will have caught up with Nordic countries completely. Read what is his belief based on.


Ravi Belani: Even a New World War Will Not Stop the Pace of Innovation!

Why have so many Estonian companies won a coveted place in Ravi Belani’s highly regarded Alchemist accelerator? What is the likelihood of the Estonian e-Residency program conquering the world? Where is innovation heading and what will the next technological breakthroughs be? Life in Estonia met up with Belani during Estonia’s Friends international meeting and looked for answers to these questions.


Ruth Oltjer: Lady with a Mission 19_

Ruth Oltjer – whose educational background is in medicine and economics – is the combined founder, owner, manager and product developer of a small company called Chemi-Pharm which produces disinfectant- and cleaning products as well as natural cosmetics. Caring about humanity and the environment has been the goal of this 18-year old company from the very beginning, exemplified by the fight against one of the biggest causes of death in many countries – hospital infection.

Oliver Wihler – the Expat Who Stayed 24_

Some expats have been living and working in Estonia for a long time already – and seen the country's transition through turbulent times to the more recent developments in joining the club of stable and relatively prosperous states. One of these is a programmer Oliver Wihler, originally from Switzerland, who works as a Coordinator of Development Teams at the Tallinn-based IT development branch of Kuehne + Nagel, the international logistics giant, which established an IT Center of Excellence in Estonia in 2013.




3DPrinterOS is Building the World’s Largest Virtual Factory 37_

In a cramped room of the Mektory Innovation Centre, inside the Tallinn University of Technology campus, a dozen 3D printers are still running full speed at 8pm on a working day. This is no student club, but a company working on a global revolution in production. The company plans to build the largest connected factory in the world without owning a single production line! Meet 3DPrinterOS.


Scoro Wants You to Click Less and Achieve More

Fred Krieger, the creator of unique business software claims that although thousands of similar service providers exist in the world, Scoro is simply so good that customers who value efficiency and time-saving will want to recommend this software even to competitors!


Wazombi Labs — No Ordinary Estonian Startup

Their headquarters is in Tartu and not in Silicon Valley, Boston, London or Tallinn for that matter. They are not competing for a place in an incubator or an accelerator. They make no effort to attract investments from business angels or venture capital funds. And they are not working on the creation of yet another app, but rather developing and producing gadgets and helping customers all over the world to create product prototypes.


Estonia – a Test Site for the Self-driving City


The third TAB will look into the changes, challenges and opportunities that our cities and their inhabitants will be facing once the third industrial revolution is implemented in full scale and we all start using self-driving cars. What will this mean for architects, designers, and urban planners? Curator of TAB 2015, Marten Kaevats, has a vision about that.

Manufacturing Company Fortaco Has a Vision for Narva

The CEO and President of Fortaco Group, Lars Hellberg, wants to reshape Estonia’s third largest city, right on the border between Estonia and Russia. ‘Narva Reborn’ is a vision that will make Narva a better place to create more business, to live and to visit.


Epic Estonia – Experiencing Estonia’s Quirky and Unconventional Attractions


This summer about 300 Swedes visited Estonia to enjoy the most epic once-in-a-lifetime experience Estonia has to offer. These people became digital ambassadors of Estonia to spread the beauty this country has to offer around the rest of the world. Read about their impressions.

PORTFOLIO. Kalev Mark Kostabi



Kalev Mark Kostabi is a US artist with Estonian roots. His iconic painting style is a combination of the metaphysical use of colour, which is linked to surrealism. His drawings are dominated by faceless figures, comicbook-like dynamics and the irony of the post-modernism of the 1980s. In 1987, inspiring extensive international press coverage, Mark Kostabi founded Kostabi World, his large New York studio known for openly employing numerous painting assistants and idea people.

Wood in the Hands of the Designer 63_

Estonians have a special relationship with woodwork. Although modern lifestyle changes have naturally taken us further away from these traditions, new technologies today are opening up new horizons for this ancient art. The products range from furniture from bent plywood to wooden bow-ties and watches.

32 Swings and a Full House – Estonian Pavilion at EXPO in Milan 76_

The World Exhibition in Milan is still open for a few more months. Participating in EXPO has been the largest PR event for Estonia this year, with the aim of representing Estonia well in the world and helping our businesses to increase opportunities for themselves.


Kiiking – Defying Gravity

The extreme form of Estonian swinging has developed into a sport, called kiiking. Invented by Ado Kosk in the 1990s, kiiking derives from the Estonian language word kiik, which means ‘swing‘. Currently, the Estonian record in kiiking is held by Kaspar Taimsoo (7.08 m), and on 16 September Estonians are planning an attempt to set a new Guinness World Record at EXPO Milan.


Practical Information for Visitors FALL 2015




ARABELLA Concert performance of Richard Strauss’ comic opera on 18 November, 2015 at the Estonia Concert Hall

Conductor: Vello Pähn Soloists: Kristiane Kaiser (soprano, Austria), Kristel Pärtna (soprano), Pavlo Balakin (bass), Juuli Lill (mezzo-soprano), Morten Frank Larsen (baritone, Denmark), Roman Sadnik (tenor, Austria), Oliver Kuusik (tenor), Aare Saal (baritone), Mart Laur (bass), Pirjo Jonas (soprano, Theatre Vanemuine), Helen Lokuta (mezzo-soprano) When looking for a subject for a new comic opera, Hofmannsthal and Strauss decided to recreate the feel of the earlier comedy set in the golden age of Vienna, ‘Der Rosenkavalier‘ (1911) that had become a great success. The story derives from one of Hofmannsthal’s own short stories, written in 1909. Unfortunately, their work was disrupted by the death of Hofmannsthal in 1929. In memory of his long-time artistic partner, Strauss decided to set into music the unrevised version of the text. The opera with rich and captivating melodies shows Strauss at the peak of his craft.

NEW YEAR’S EVE BALL – THE WALTZ KING STRAUSS 31 December, 2015 at 19.30 in the Estonian National Opera

‘Arabella‘ continues Estonian National Opera’s successful series of concert performances of operas, being 15th on the list.

hooaja peatoetajad


(premiere) An African initiation rite for vocal soloists, narrator, male choir, girls’ choir and symphony orchestra

Three friends take the journey to the world of shadows governed by the invisible Kaydara, the god of knowledge and gold. The Fula language, African rhythms and instrument brought along from African travels give tone to Peeter

Vähi’s composition. Chuanyun Li, also from exotic and far-away places, the most famous Chinese violin virtuoso, will perform as the soloist in Mendelssohn’s violin concerto. “If China wishes a grand violinist, then here he is.” (Ruggiero Ricci)

In Cooperation with Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and Estonian Record Production The project in sponsored by Tiit Pruuli

Sat 10 October 7 p.m. Vanemuine Concert Hall Sun 11 Oktober 7 p.m. Estonia Concert Hall



On New Year’s Eve, the Estonian National Opera invites everyone to enjoy the dazzling moments provided by the music of Johann Strauss the younger! Come and dance to the music of the Waltz King performed by the orchestra of the Estonian National Opera, enjoy the witty gala performance and the festive atmosphere of the New Year’s Eve. The party is spiced up by DJ Katrin Pärn and the ensemble Swingers, featuring Tanja Mihhailova, Mikk Saar and Birgit. The Theatre Hall, Concert Hall, Winter Garden, White Hall and Café Colombina are all yours! 190 years ago, on 15 October, 1885, one of the most famous waltz masters was born. He brought the waltz from the minuteness of dance floors into the ampleness of concert halls. Strauss has written over five hundred waltzes and most of them are popular also today, the most famous being ‘The Blue Danube‘ (1867).


hooaja peatoetajad

Ballet by Eduard Tubin Premiere at the Estonian National opera on 18 September, 2015

Choreographer and Stage Director: Marina Kesler Conductors: Vello Pähn, Kaspar Mänd, and Lauri Sirp Estonian National Opera Orchestra, Female Choir, the Estonian National Ballet and Tallinn Ballet School The work is based on a mythical character from Estonian folklore, the Goblin, whose sole purpose is to serve his greedy master, the Farmer, in obtaining riches. In Marina Kesler’s rendition, in a contemporary money-hungry world the Goblin is like a voice in people’s head, finding excuses why there is never enough money. But money buys no happiness and the reward for gluttony is ruination – becoming weary of human voracity, the Goblin destroys his maker and dies as well. What is important in today’s material and racing world? Is there room for love?

EK:Labor is Eesti Kontsert’s four-year audience and educational programme for the organisers of youth music events.

Wed. 25 November 9 p.m. Thu. 26 November 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Kultuurikatel (Tallinn Creative Hub) EK:Labor presents:


AudioKinetica Group’s audio-visual performance Composer Aleksandr Žedeljov, stage director Artjom Garejev, Insomnia quartet, actors and other performers The performance of AudioKinetica group combines theatrical tools, live music, kinetic objects, calligraphy and video mapping into an impressive whole. Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “Player Piano” is used as the basis.

Thu. 26 November 7 p.m. Russian Culture Centre EK:Labor presents:


Book of emotions – audio-visual concert based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel “The Master and Margarita” Estonian LAB Orchestra The project of LAB Concert wishes to implement a new form of narrative music theatre, which combines classical music with other fields of art, such as literature and video art, and to make these fields interact with each other in a modern form.

Tallinn Architecture Biennale TAB is an international architecture festival which introduces local architecture culture, current issues concerning architecture, and looks at the future of the architectural profession. TAB offers a program of events for both architecture professionals, students and everyone interested in architecture. The third TAB will kick off on September 9 and will look into the changes, challenges and opportunities that our cities and their inhabitants will be facing once the third industrial revolution is implemented in full scale and we all start using self-driving cars. What will this mean for architects, designers, and urban planners? TAB will turn Tallinn into a test site for the cities of the future, visualising ideas and conceptualising the way cities are built.

FALL 2015




Pipedrive and TransferWise Founders Win at The Europas Top Estonian startup, Pipedrive, won the Best B2B Startup of the Year award and the founders of TransferWise, Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann, were honoured as best startup founders at this year’s Europas Conference and Awards for European Tech Startups. Pipedrive is an Estonian-founded startup, producing sales management software used by over 10 000 customers worldwide. Hinrikus and Käärmann launched the peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfer service Transferwise in 2011 and their firm has now grown to employ over 300 people in London, Tallinn and New York, supporting over 300 currency routes across the world, and attracting investment from Sir Richard Branson along the way. Europas – Europe’s equivalent of tech startup Oscars – took place in London, with over 1 000 guests gathering to celebrate the best of the continent’s tech entrepreneurship. The Europas celebrate some of the most forward-thinking and innovative European tech companies across over 20 categories. While it concentrates on the newest companies on the scene, it also brings together the mid- and late-stage technology startups, as well as leading investors and media in the region.

TransferWise smashes the Guinness record for the largest human currency symbol TransferWise, the Estonian-founded, London-based money transfer platform, broke a Guinness world record in Estonia over the weekend, by creating the world’s largest currency symbol made out of people! The company gathered 350 employees of 35 different nationalities from across its five offices in Europe and the US to complete the giant euro symbol. The effort overtook the previous world record of 327 people, held by the North East Chamber of Commerce (UK).

TransferWise founders Taavet and Kristo receiving the official record.



Estonian Cycle Company Viks Launches New Carbon-framed Bike Estonian cycle brand, Viks, celebrates its second birthday with a new carbon-framed version of its distinctively designed two-wheeler. Viks was set up in 2013 by GrabCAD co-founder Indrek Narusk, who is a dedicated cycling buff. The bicycle has since become a sort of an icon for a new generation of Estonian design, and has featured in many international exhibitions. To celebrate its second birthday, Viks has designed a special, small edition version, which is lighter than its predecessor, thanks to its carbon fibre frame. The frameset weighs just four kilograms, compared with the standard stainless steel frame weight of seven kilograms. In its complete configuration and equipped with the Gates Carbon belt drive and the Aerospoke wheelset, the Viks Carbon weighs 10 kilograms. All carbon tubes used for the frame have been custom built for Viks by the Slovenian carbon enhancer company, Berk Composites, also known to collaborate with Team Sky.

Estonian-founded Sold to Japanese e-Commerce Giant Rakuten Rakuten, a Japanese e-commerce and internet company, has acquired a 100 per cent stake in the Estonian-founded fit preference specialist, Rakuten said it expects the tech startup to further strengthen its e-commerce offerings and marketing solutions by providing a greater personalisation of the retail experience for shoppers. The story began in 2009, when the Estonian entrepreneur, Heikki Haldre, having less and less time to go shopping for clothes, became a more avid online shopper. The problem he found, though, was that it wasn’t that easy to find a perfectly fitted shirt or suit when buying online – an issue made more complicated by the fact that the meaning of small and large sizes can be light years apart in different countries and continents.

The company’s business model was based on ‘implanting’ its software on its clients’ (usually large fashion chains) online store page, where the’s virtual fitting room would appear. An online shopper would then enter his or her basic measurements – height, neck, chest, waist, arm length and torso length. The fitting process is implemented in the software based on the thousands of shapes worked out by Fitbots – which are physically dressed in each item and each size of clothing by the retailer. Shoppers can ‘try on clothes’ in the virtual fitting room, where they will be shown an image of a chosen item and how the item looks on their body shape. charges retail chains based on the usage of their software online. ‘ represents both the fun and functionality of shopping online and is a natural complement to our growing portfolio of e-commerce and marketing services,’ Rakuten founder and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani says.

Hence Haldre and cofounder Paul Pallin came up with an idea to invent a new solution – to find out the perfect fit by creating and using specially-modified robots which can change their body shape. With a development from Maarja Kruusmaa, a professor of biorobotics at the Tallinn University of Technology, the laboratory of intelligent materials and systems at the University of Tartu, and Europe’s largest body scanning and anthropometry research company, Human Solutions GmbH in Germany, a new kind of robot was born – named ‘Fitbot’ by entrepreneurs.

FALL 2015



Photos by Raigo Pajula


The sixth Estonia’s Friends International Meeting Focused on Smart Solutions and Digital Identity The 6th meeting of Estonia’s friends, held in Tallinn on July 9-11, was opened by the seminar “Estonia – where stuff happens first” hosted by Enterprise Estonia. The event explored Estonia as a frontrunner in innovation, discussing the various driving forces behind the early adoption of new ideas. The traditional symposium “Quo vadis Estonia?” featured talks from the Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Balaji Srinivasan, board partner at Andreessen Horowitz and a start-up entrepreneur on the topic of “Identity: Online and Offline”. In his opening address, the Head of State focused on the deficiencies of the common European digital market and identity issues on the Internet. According to Balaji Srinivasan, the Internet is increasingly taking over the services earlier offered by governments, and the importance of states is in decline. He added that people communicate on the Internet



without borders and spend more and more time in a virtual world; in the future, they may choose the country in which they would like to live and that will match their values. This year, more than 150 entrepreneurs, politicians and opinion leaders from more than 24 countries attended the meeting, including the US Department of State Coordinator for Cyber Issues, Christopher M. Painter; MP Gordon Marsden from the United Kingdom; Mayor of Milan, Letizia Moratti, and the board of the Mitsubishi corporation. The idea to have an international meeting of friends of Estonia was conceived in 2010. The event is organised to thank and recognise business, political and cultural figures whose actions and advice have helped Estonia become a truly European country with a dynamic economy and thriving culture.

China is Encouraging Estonian Entrepreneurs to be More Ambitious This July, EAS was honoured to host a high level delegation of Hong Kong business tycoons. A special seminar and networking lunch with Estonian counterparts was arranged during the Estonia‘s Friends International Meeting. The delegation was led by Matthew Lam, Executive Director of the Lai Sun Group and an Honorary Consul of Estonia in Hong Kong. He was accompanied by Justin Chiu, Chairman of ARA Asset Management and Herman Hu, Chairman of Ryoden Development Ltd. The entrepreneurs control more than 30 billion USD worth of assets in 50+ countries and manage a wide range of companies from manufacturing to hotels to real estate development. ‘I am glad to see, that Estonia is not only about IT startups, but there are strong companies also in other sectors. I see high potential especially in logistics industry, Estonia should take more advantage in its geographical location,‘ commented Justin Chiu. ‘You have to be more ambitious. Not be satisfied with outsourcing to Scandinavian companies, but must build your own brands and take them to global market. Only that will create high value.‘ ‘We are interested to invest in companies with high growth potential and support them in entering Hong Kong and Mainland China,‘ added Matthew Lam and Herman Hu. ‘You cannot be present in China if you are not a big player in your home region first.‘ Estonian counterparts included Indrek Kasela (Amber Trust), Karl Ader (EKE Invest), Erik Ringmaa (Port of Tallinn), Jaanus Otsa (Astlanda Ehitus) and Priit Martinson (EAS Shanghai).

FALL 2015




e-Estonia @ Nordic Business Forum Helsinki, October 1-2 Estonia is once again partnering with one of the biggest and most exquisite business seminars in Europe - Nordic Business Forum. Estonian Investment Agency, the e-Residency team and FinanceEstonia are welcoming all Forum participants at e-Estonia stand (no 10) to learn about e-Residency and its power to unleash the entrepreneurial potential of the whole world. Moreover, everyone can apply for e-Residency on-site! At the e-Estonia stand, guests will also find out about the efficiency and flexibility of running a business in Estonia – where else in the world can you establish a company online in just 20 minutes? FinanceEstonia will provide a comprehensive overview of Estonian financial sector advantages and services.

Photos by Raig

o Pajula

Nordic Business Forum 2015, taking place for the sixth time, has become one of the most important business events in the Nordic countries, bringing together over 5 500 leaders and entrepreneurs across the world, including 500 participants from Estonia. The speakers include world-class leaders in entrepreneurship, strategy and innovation. Nordic Business Forum 2015 will take place on the 1st and 2nd of October in the Expo and Convention Centre, Helsinki.

Save the Date Estonian ICT Week 2016! The third edition of the Estonian ICT Week will be held from 30 May to 5 June in 2016 Following the success of two previous theme weeks in Tallinn, ICT Week 2016 is expected to maintain its standing as one of the most eventful week in the centre of sizzling Nordic-Baltic ICT powerhouse, combining inspiring conferences and exciting talks, bringing together opinion leaders, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, top officials around the world and representatives of international organizations. In 2015, the ICT Week encompassed about 20 thematic events, dozens of inspiring speakers and over 3 000 participants from all over the world. The central topic of the week was e-governance, coinciding with the launch of e-Residency application portal at Stay tuned for updates at We look forward to seeing you in Tallinn on 30 May to 5 June in 2016!



Arvo Pärt 80 Arvo Pärt, the most-performed contemporary composer in the world, celebrates his eighteth birthday on 11 September, 2015

Regardless of nationality, cultural background or age, many people have been touched and influenced by the timeless beauty and deep spiritual message of Pärt’s music. His works are performed not only in concert halls, but also in film, dance and theatre performances, and other multimedia texts. From 28 August to 26 September, 2015, Nargenfestival will celebrate the eightieth birthday of the world-renowned composer with the concert series ‘Pärdi päevad’ (‘Days of Pärt’ – ed.). The festival focuses on Pärt’s music, which has been released by the highly-regarded record company ECM under its ‘New Series’ label. At the opening concert on 2 September in the Jaani kirik (St. John’s Church) in Tallinn, Estonian and Latvian musicians will present the full program of Arvo Pärt’s music from ‘Adam’s Lament’, which won the Grammy award for the best choral performance. On 3 September, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir will perform ‘Kanon Pokajanen’, and a different interpretation of the same work can be heard on 6 September by Vox Clamantis. On 4 September, the EPCC and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra will perform Pärt’s music principally from 1980s, while on 9 September the YXUS Ensemble performs works from the program of the legendary concert which took place on 27 October, 1976 at the Estonia Concert Hall, where the style – tintinnabuli – was introduced for the very first time. Leading Estonian music groups will perform at the ‘Days of Pärt’, including the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Estonian State Symphony Orchestra, Girls’ Choir Ellerhein, Estonian State Male Choir and the early and contemporary music vocal ensemble Vox Clamantis conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste, Risto Joost, Jaan-Eik Tulve, Stephen Layton, Paul Hillier and Endrik Üksvärav. The audience will have the opportunity to enjoy all of the symphonies by Arvo Pärt and also his most recent orchestral masterpiece ‘Swansong. Littlemore Tractus.’

In addition, two exhibits can be seen at Noblessner Foundry: the small light installation for which the spatial design was created by Mari Kurismaa and the graphic design by Mari Kaljuste, which has been dedicated to Arvo Pärt’s works under the ‘ECM New Series’ label and the exhibition ‘Arvo Pärt - known and unknown’. Two documentary films will be released as part of the celebrations: ‘The Lost Paradise’ by German film director Günter Atteln and ‘Arvo Pärt – Even if I Lose Everything’ by Estonian film-maker Dorian Supin.

Illustration by Kalle Toompere

Arvo Pärt is a composer who has significantly influenced the way we understand the nature of music. He is known for his unique tintinnabuli style and, although his earlier modernist works are less known, his entire oeuvre has shifted our perception of music.

‘The Lost Paradise’ follows Pärt over a period of one year in his native Estonia and on trips to Japan and the Vatican. The documentary is framed by the stage production of ‘Adam’s Passion’, a music theatre piece based on the biblical story of the fall of Adam featuring three key works by Arvo Pärt, which the American stage director Robert Wilson staged in a former submarine factory, the Noblessner Foundry, in Tallinn in May 2015. Tracing their creative process, the film offers rare and personal insights into the worlds of some of the most fascinating personalities on the international arts and music scene. Dorian Supin’s new film ‘Arvo Pärt – Even If I Lose Everything’ is an intimate and sensitive portrait which gives an insight into the maestro’s life philosophy and creative background and shows simple moments with family and close friends. It is Supin’s third film about Arvo Pärt after the films ‘Siis sai õhtu ja sai hommik’ (‘Then Came The Evening And The Night’, 1990) and ‘24 prelüüdi ühele fuugale’ (24 Preludes For A Fugue’, 2002).

FALL 2015






Taavi Rõivas –

the Prime Minister of the ‘New Nordic’ By Silver Tambur / Photos by Atko Januson ‘We don’t necessarily need a physical tunnel between Helsinki and Tallinn – time will show whether that will ever happen – but what we do need is a “mental tunnel” at least, connecting the two countries by innovation and in cross-border digital solutions,’ says Taavi Rõivas, Europe’s youngest Prime Minister. He is making his pitch whilst looking out of the window of the Stenbock House, the elegant neo-classical, home of the Estonian government on Toompea, in Tallinn’s Old Town. From his office, Rõivas can clearly see the Gulf of Finland; just 90 kilometres (56 miles) separate the two ethnically- and linguistically-close neighbours, and Sweden is less than 400 kilometres (249 miles) away, albeit in a different direction. History has been slightly kinder to Finland than to Estonia, having spared it from the Soviet occupation, but Estonia has made an enormous effort since regaining independence 24 years ago and, in many areas, such as good governance, low corruption levels and the rule of law, has caught up with its Northern neighbour. In fact, in some spheres – such as digital solutions – Estonia is actually leading the Nordic pack. Estonia has not quite caught up with the Nordic countries in living standards and wealth yet, however, although even here, massive progress has been made as well: whereas in 1995, Finland’s GDP per capita was almost nine times higher than Estonia’s, it is just 2.5 times higher today. Rõivas, who has been in politics since the late 1990s and seen most of the progress made in Estonia at first-hand, is now determined to close this gap further. His solution? Estonia as a ‘new Nordic’ country – rigid in foundation, but flexible in solutions, especially in its approach of embracing new technologies.

e-politician from e-Estonia Taavi Rõivas became Prime Minister of Estonia in March 2014, but before that he had held several senior positions over several years. Having joined the Reform Party at the age of 19 in 1998, his political career began as an advisor to the Minister of Justice a year later, a position he held for three years. He was subsequently elected to parliament where he was Chairman of the European Union Affairs Committee and a member of the Finance Committee. Before taking over from Andrus Ansip as Prime Minister, Rõivas served as the Minister of Social Affairs, where he was responsible for introducing the work ability reform which aims to find employment for people with special needs.  As with most Estonians of his generation, by the 1990s the computers and IT was in everyday use for the young Prime Minister. ‘I started using a PC at my dad’s office, but I do remember my very own first computer, which was Pentium 486, bought in 1994 and which at that time cost a couple of month’s wages – an absolutely astronomical sum!’ Rõivas recalls. It wasn’t long after that that the Tiger’s Leap project was undertaken by Estonia to heavily invest in development and expansion of computer and network infrastructure in Estonia, with a particular emphasis on education – the starting point of e-Estonia. Rõivas joined the political establishment soon afterwards, just at the time when the modern foundations for the infrastructure of Estonian digital society were laid.

FALL 2015




‘The fundamental starting point of Estonia’s emergence as one of the most advanced e-societies in the world was not based as much on the technological decision, but rather on a political commitment – based on decisions taken in the late 1990s, when it was determined that all people in Estonia will have secure access to all the e-services where their online identity equals with a signature on paper,’ Rõivas says, recalling the time when Estonia passed the law giving electronic signatures the same legal weight as traditional signatures.

were stolen and then leaked after the terrible accident that happened to him. Something like this would not be possible in Estonia and I have also made this clear to my foreign colleagues,’ Rõivas explains, adding that the phenomenon has indeed sparked interest from others – Finland is expected to follow Estonia’s suit soon and start using a similar model.

‘It was all very innovative at the time – the change in the mindset that signatures do not have to be painted on paper by pens, but you can do it online.’

‘Those Finnish pensioners who have holiday homes in Estonia might be interested that if a Finnish doctor prescribes medication in Finland, they could pick up their medicine in Estonia, removing the need to go back home to collect it,’ he says, characterising the distinguished ties between the two friendly countries.

He also recalls being a member of the working group under the Ministry of Justice in 2000, which was investigating the possibility of whether people could vote via the internet. ‘I was 21 at the time and I remember how the foreign media outlets started ringing us to find out whether it would be possible. We believed we could do it and create the necessary framework for it. Admittedly, it took us another five years, but by the time it was ready, Estonia became the first country in the world where people could vote online. As of now, every third person in Estonia votes online, without needing to go to a polling station. Again, this was fundamentally based on the decision to provide people with a secure online identity,’ Rõivas says. The words, ‘secure online identity’, are repeatedly emphasised by Rõivas, who often finds himself reassuring other foreign leaders on the subject when they visit Estonia and are given a brief on the country’s digital advancements; while Estonia is years ahead on this, most of the European countries are still contemplating whether to implement e-signatures or online voting. ‘Our system is absolutely secure – it gives 100 per cent guarantee that the person who logs in is who he or she claims to be,’ Rõivas says convincingly, while talking about the backbone of Estonian e-services – the national ID card. The ID card carries embedded files which, using 2 048bit public key encryption, enable it to be used as definitive proof of ID in an electronic environment.

It all comes down to a clear political leadership when implementing these solutions, Rõivas underlines. While some sceptics have expressed opinion that the IT-tiger of Estonia might have become sleepier in recent years, the young and energetic PM disagrees and doesn’t worry that the world will get tired of Estonian e-story or catch up and even leave it behind. ‘Estonia has done it on a level that no other country has before, which is why other countries are still interested of Estonian digital success stories. Technologically speaking, most can do it – if not, they can find IT firms in Estonia who will help them – but it is more difficult for others to reach a political consensus that provides an environment for various e-services and which is not easy to come in many countries. There is still mistrust surrounding using online signatures, for example,’ Rõivas says. The Prime Minister is confident that Estonia is far ahead with its digital formula. Yet, he emphasises that others do not need to invent the wheel again – Estonia has already introduced many IT innovations and others can imitate this with ease.

One of the prime examples Rõivas likes to bring out with foreign dignitaries while talking about e-Estonia is the e-health structure – a nationwide system which integrates data from Estonia’s different healthcare providers to create a common record for each patient, and which allows doctors to access a patient’s records easily from a single electronic file.

‘It would be good for us if a large European country started using the ITsolutions we implemented. We already have the experience and therefore we have the confidence to try new ways and take the existing ones to new level. As for resources, there are many countries which have more money than Estonia and which can invest in e-solutions. But if they use this money to create hundreds of different systems that don’t comply with each other, it will be less effective than using a hundred times less money and creating one effective system – as has been the case in Estonia. We do not need to be ashamed – Estonian e-solutions are unique in the world,’ he says.

The doctors can read test results as soon as they are entered, including image files such as X-rays, and in an emergency situation, can use a patient’s ID card to read time-critical information, such as blood group, allergies, recent treatments, ongoing medication or pregnancy, while patients have access to their own records, as well as those of their children.

The first Nordic cross-border IT-cooperation is already in place – Finland and Estonia will adopt the latest version of the Estonian-created data exchange layer X-Road, thus becoming the first two nations in Europe to develop a joint data exchange platform to make digital services mutually accessible for their inhabitants.

‘When President Obama visited Estonia in September last year, he said that he should have called Estonia when setting up the US health-care website. I actually believe that he meant it seriously. Our digital health records are more secure than keeping them in paper form would be. Take, for example, Michael Schumacher’s case, whose medical records

The future of e-Estonia

First cross-border digital exchange with Finland


Rõivas adds that this is where the cross-border digital solutions also come handy.


The Finnish-Estonian data exchange is the first time that another country has based its e-state infrastructure on a solution developed in Estonia, but Rõivas hopes that it will not be last.

‘The sky is the limit now. Everything is possible because the infrastructure behind Estonian information society e-services allows linking various e-service databases, both in the public and private sector, it is an open solution. Estonian e-solutions are unique in the world,’ he says, rejecting any suggestion that the ‘tiger’ is sleeping. Rõivas says that the Estonian national digital agenda spells out a package of next policy initiatives, from leading the development of crossborder digital public services – such as the one just introduced with Finland – and infrastructure to thorough redesign of many digital services towards greater user focus. ‘We have to further develop our services, such as e-health, e-police, e-social services. There are many new steps to take – plus, we have to be sure that our e-services correspond not only to present challenges, but also that may arise in future – we have to be many steps ahead,’ he goes on. One of the latest developments is a state-run, startup Estonian e-Residency – a state-issued, secure digital identity for non-residents which allows digital authentication and the digital signing of documents – thus moving clearly towards the idea of a country without borders. Rõivas says that almost double the initial estimated amount of people have signed up to become e-residents of Estonia since the program’s launch at the end of 2014.

The New Nordic Clearly appreciating the Nordic neighbourhood, Rõivas highlights the many similarities between Estonia and its Scandinavian neighbours, but he also identifies a few differences, as well.

Set your time by Wooch - PM does it! The idea for Wooch was born in September 2014 when four young men – Henri, Hallik Magnus Loos, Meelis Pihlap and Roland Sirg – decided to form a student company and produce watches. The young men’s mission is to offer the opportunity to experience time differently. The watches are beautiful, simple and of high quality. They have been handmade by the men themselves using oak – a symbol of strength and endurance. Each Wooch watch is unique and personal – each watch has its own pattern and story. One of the fans of Wooch watches is Taavi Rõivas, PM of Estonia, who has called it his favourite watch and who wears it with pride, often taking the opportunity to give it as a present to his colleagues. There are already three prime ministers in Europe today who wear the Wooch watch made by the best Estonian student company of 2015. In addition to the Estonian Prime Minister, the Italian PM Matteo Renzi and the Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili.

‘The Nordic countries are based on fundamentally strong values and are also very innovative. There is a certain rational attitude – and this is where Estonia definitely shares their values. But where we would like to do things a little bit differently or even better is to achieve an environment where our entrepreneurial culture is stronger and tax policies more flexible, than is generally the case in the other Nordics,’ he says.

FALL 2015




‘We have a very good reason why we need to find solutions where we need to be more innovative – we have not achieved the same living standard as the Nordic countries yet. Hence we have to try harder and our economic growth has to be concomitantly higher. But I believe that we can definitely achieve this,’ the Prime Minister optimistically states. Rõivas says there are a few advantages already that may help Estonia to catch up soon: ‘Estonia has for over 20 years conducted a very conservative budget policy – our public debt is the lowest in Europe. This is why we don’t need to put any pressure on companies, to tax them heavily – Estonia also has a long-standing system of low, simple, flat-rate taxes – and can invest more money into society instead. If we add here as little bureaucracy as possible to make the business environment as attractive as possible, the result is likely to be not bad at all,’ he says. The Prime Minister also stresses the importance of education where Estonia’s skills clearly qualify it as a Nordic country: ‘Where Nordic countries are also very strong is in education. And I’m glad that Estonia is also doing very well on this front, as the PISA tests show – for example, Estonian 15-year-olds rank second behind only Finland, and 12th out of 44 countries worldwide in problem-solving skills,’ Rõivas says. Governing over a country where kids start learning to code at the age of seven, the Prime Minister says more resources will be invested into



IT-education: ‘Using computer before starting school will be as elementary as it was for us to know how to read or write before going to the first class.’ But catching up with Scandinavia does not necessarily mean adopting Nordic-style welfare state, according to Rõivas: ‘There must be social justice, but Estonia cannot afford to be a country that is like a welfare state from the 20th century. The modern welfare state makes sure that everyone has fair chances. The help does not necessarily need to be in the form of financial support – it can provide opportunities instead – such as the case with Estonian work ability reform.’ he goes on. Rõivas is furthermore confident that 15 years from now, Estonia will have caught up with the Nordic countries completely. He says that his belief is based on the fact that Estonian society is built on solid foundation, with clear rules and business culture, topped up with forwardlooking innovation. ‘In 2030, Estonia will be as safe and well protected, not to mention as wealthy as the Nordic countries, but even more innovative and flexible. This “New Nordic country” does not need to copy the other Nordic countries in everything. If we can be more open to new technologies as well as being more innovative – to be a test platform for new technological solutions, for example – then it is realistic that we catch up with the Scandinavian countries in wealth, too,’ he concludes.

Ruth Oltjer:

Lady With a Mission By MARIKA MAKAROVA / Photos by OLGA MAKINA and private collection

‘What are little girls made of?’ asks an Estonian children’s song. We ask the same question about one of the most talented businesswomen in Estonia – Ruth Oltjer. The answer is a sense of mission, professionalism, thoroughness, empathy, curiosity, eagerness to learn, femininity, and laughter.

FALL 2015




Ruth Oltjer Born 22 October 1959 in Tallinn. 1978–1984 Faculty of Medicine, Treatment specialty, University of Tartu, Estonia. 1988–1989 Cardiologist, University of Kaunas, Lithuania. 1997–2002 International Business Administration, Denmark. 1999–2001 Faculty of Economics, Master’s Degree, University of Tartu. 2012 Estonian Entrepreneur of the Year Married to Andres Oltjer, mother of two grown-up daughters.

‘I think that I save more lives today than I would be able to do as a doctor,’ says Ruth Oltjer without the least sense of self-promotion. The words ‘how can I help?’ are heard more than once during our conversation.

‘Hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved each year, if hospital infection was under control. In addition to disinfecting and cleaning with antiseptics, this includes regulations to kill the viruses in the hospital and not transfer infections,’ explains Oltjer.

Ruth Oltjer – whose educational background is in medicine and economics – is the combined founder, owner, manager and product developer of a small company called Chemi-Pharm, located in a leafy Tallinn suburb, and which produces disinfectant- and cleaning products as well as natural cosmetics.

‘From the beginning, Chemi-Pharm has not only sold products but also offered training – a complete approach to how to develop and implement an infection control system both on the level of single institutions and on the level of the state,’ Ruth explains.

Caring about humanity and the environment, not just by its words but by its actions, has been the goal of this 18-year old company from the very beginning, exemplified by the fight against one of the biggest causes of death in many countries – hospital infection – which has been a major rallying cry for the company. If bacteria could feel fear, then the very name Chemi-Pharm would strike a huge amount of it in both the super-bacteria MRSA found in Indonesian and Malaysian hospitals as well as the Ebola virus, found in Sierra Leone.

Mission Possible After malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS, hospital infection is the fourth biggest killer in the world, with some 7 million people dying and a further 70 million becoming ill as a direct result each year.



In order to raise awareness about infections, Oltjer organises seminars in markets which are new for Chemi-Pharm, meets decision-makers at the state level and researches the local situation by visiting and advising hospitals and assisting with operations. In Indonesia, which has a very high death rate from hospital infections, Oltjer experienced the local situation first hand, operating together with an orthopaedist who had been trained in Sweden. ‘We made 55 operations a day. It was like a production line: a dozen patients waiting in line and the medics moving from one to the other. One brigade prepared the patient, the second administered the narcosis, the third cut the wound open, we operated and the next team finished the operation. If just one patient has an infection, it is spread very easily,’ she recalls her experiences.

Chemi-Pharm Ltd. • 1997 founded with Estonian and English capital • 2000 manufacturing started in Estonia • 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 Certification of Estonian Successful Company • 2012 the exclusive cosmetics range D’Difference reached consumers. Certification of European Corporate Social Responsibility Award • 2014 turnover €3.85 million, profits €413 000. • 2015 I half-year export growth 45% • Over 100 products: disinfection agents, cleaning and maintenance products, natural cosmetics 20 products with CE label • ISO 9001 certified in 2001, ISO 14001 certified in 2003, ISO 13485 certified in 2004 • 17 export partners in most of the EU-countries, Russia, ex-Soviet countries, Asia • Headquarters and warehouse are in Tallinn  • 30 employees.

In Malaysia, she witnessed a case where Norwegian doctors, after operating on twins born with a heart condition, admitted that even though their operation was a success, the children were likely to die of a hospital infection subsequently, since the hospital was unable to control the spread of it. And indeed as it turned out, a couple of days later, one of the twins caught the antibiotic-resistant MRSA and died (the other twin survived). Fortunately things seem to be moving in the right direction – the Malaysian state is prepared to develop an infection control system on the basis of European standards and they would include Indonesia. This means a total of 270 million people!

hospital during my studies, I sometimes needed to take my daughter to work. The department manager and nurses never said anything negative. I also had the best kid ever! She fell asleep straight away when put into her pram.’ Dr. Oltjer, who completed her medical studies at the University of Tartu, is also a trained pregnancy therapist and light treatment doctor, founder of one of the first family doctor centres in Estonia and also active today advising patients with skin problems.

‘Ever since I remember myself as a child, I was always playing the doctor. In primary school, when I was in the third grade, I dropped by the school nurse’s room every chance I got and she taught me to make injections and take blood samples,’ Ruth is very grateful to the woman who spotted her interest in becoming a doctor and really supported her.

We ask if going from medicine to business must have been a total life change? ‘No it wasn’t, though it did not happen overnight’, she explains. ‘When I was already working as a doctor, I went back to the University of Tartu to study for a master’s degree in economics. I did think during the first lectures about whether I would make it through the course, because the only familiar word was ‘cycle’ and it wasn’t the type of cycle I was used to,’ she laughs, having eventually finished the degree cum laude.

‘I have generally been very lucky with the people who are in my life,’ she says. ‘At university, my tutor allowed me to come to the lectures with my newly-born daughter; because my husband was in the army, I didn’t have an opportunity to leave my child. Also, when I was working in the

She has done unexpected things before – at least it may seem so to others. She was the only girl in high school to study in the electronics class. According to Ruth it was engineer. Entering the business world came as a natural step, which was in the end due to health factors.

Soul of a doctor

FALL 2015



I LAND & PEOPLE In 2012, Ruth Oltjer was chosen the Entrepreneur Of The Year in Estonia. Each year, the Entrepreneur Of The Year country winners join together in Monaco to be inducted in to the World Entrepreneur Of The Year Hall of Fame.

Better and different than competitors Working for fifteen years as a doctor, being regularly surrounded by very strong disinfectants and incidentally inhaling penicillin steam from boiling syringes, led to Ruth developing allergies and asthma. However, one day, when she was visiting a hospital in England, she discovered products which were not only odourless but which also did not irritate the skin. Initially she ordered them for herself and later on for her colleagues. At one point there were so many orders that she had to cut back on her working hours as a doctor in order to deal with the sheer volume. In 1997, Ruth Oltjer founded the company Chemi-Pharm together with her English partners and dedicated herself completely to business. In 2000, they moved the product development and production to Estonia, in order to save on costs. Soon the company expanded to the other Baltic states and to Finland too. Today, the company has subsidiaries in Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia and Singapore; distributors in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Russia, Poland and Pakistan. Products will soon be registered in Thailand and Indonesia and there are ongoing negotiations with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and South Africa. Of the customer base of about 5 000, the main ones are medical institutions, dental practices and family medical centres, schools and kindergartens.



‘Giving up on improving old things and doing things better and in an innovative way whilst simultaneously caring about people and the environment – those are the key words behind the success of ChemiPharm,’ confirms the Estonian Entrepreneur of the Year 2012. ‘We added silk protein into the antiseptics, thanks to which you can put on leather gloves immediately without having to wait ten minutes for the hands to dry. For conditions specific to Sierra Leone, we created liquids and gels which will protect hands for hours. Conversely, for those Islamic states where alcohol is forbidden, we have created water-based disinfectants – this was something that was never really paid attention to in the world before.’ Ruth feels comfortable in other cultural environments. But nonetheless she leaves nothing to chance, or at least she tries to reduce the amount of unknown factors to a minimum. Before going to her first business appointment in Singapore and Malaysia, she took a private training course from a local university which taught her how to do business as a foreigner in that environment. Oltjer also relies on the help of Estonian honorary consuls and embassies. And if a mistake happens – which can happen – for example she has attended a meeting in an Islamic country without covering her hair – she urges people to stay true to themselves. ‘If you do things with a pure heart and with no malice, mistakes you make which arise from your own culture are generally forgiven,’ she explains

D’Difference by Nature A different approach is also evident in the newest ‘baby’ of ChemiPharm – the 100% natural exclusive cosmetics series D’Difference for both men and women, which came on the market in 2012. The real star of the cosmetic series are plant stem cells: ‘I had had contact with human stem cells before, but not with plant stem cells. They are incredibly similar! Incredibly!,’ Oltjer says with enthusiasm. ‘We grow a plant stem cell and link it with the skin’s own bacteria so that it would nourish the skin stem cells with its own energy. The results are wonderful,’ she continues. These skin-renewing and elasticity boosting plant-derived stem cells, which stimulate collagen synthesis, come to Estonia from a laboratory in Japan. Our doctor met the lab owner in Singapore. The Japanese, who tend to consider Estonians as having a similar nature to themselves, had asked Ruth, after enduring many long meetings, whether it would now be possible to talk to the boss of the company!...

Officer (COO). Daughters Britta and Gretta have been active at ChemiPharm from early days. As teenagers, they helped to attach labels onto packages, as law students they offered legal advice. Whilst both daughters work for law firms today, they are still involved in the activities of their parents’ company. I ask a fervent fan of Estonia who loves our marshes, algae from Saaremaa, pine tree wax and all the other natural products which can used for medicinal and other purposes, and who spends more than half a year travelling to business meetings abroad, where she gets her energy from? How does she relieve work stress? ‘I have a white dog of my dreams – a young Swiss shepherd dog who gives me lots of energy, as well as having great daughters and a supportive family. I am a stranger to work stress for the simple reason that it is so crazily interesting all the time, and I also get to do what I love.”

‘I guess sometimes they consider me to be the assistant to the boss, but not the boss herself! Now I have business cards, in two languages, printed on thick white paper and in golden letters, which I always give to them with the Japanese text on top. After all, secretaries do not have business cards in two languages,’ she laughs, reflecting on the peculiarities of doing business with the friendly Japanese people. Minerals found in the Dead Sea, which seems to incorporate the whole Mendeleev periodic table boast great skin healing and enhancing properties. Safflower oleosomes take care of the long-term moisturizing and nourishing of the skin, whilst anti-inflammatory plant extracts calm skin irritations stemming from the environment. Next to the ingredients, the right method is equally important. The active ingredients in the creams, masks, serums and other products by D’Difference are used as microsomes, which means it is known precisely how deep into the skin they penetrate, and what it is that they do there. ‘Our product development team is so talented that we receive orders from many countries to develop recipes and technologies. We also have very close collaboration with several universities and laboratories in the world, for example in Canada, Japan, Finland and Singapore. As everybody puts their heart into this process, we also have good results,’ the manager acknowledges the contribution of her team. And why indeed shouldn’t one enjoy your work when you are taken care of as a member of the family?

Family Business in Every Sense Chemi-Pharm is actually a family business, and in the direct meaning of the word as well as in a more general sense. Working hours are flexible, employees can take children or pets to work, and in summer lunch is enjoyed outside. Ruth’s husband, Andres Oltjer, an engineer by background, is the Manager of the Sales and Purchases Department in the company. Their Glasgow University-educated son in law Kristo Timberg is Chief Operating

FALL 2015




Oliver Wihler: the Expat Who Stayed




Estonia, a tech-savvy and ever-globalising country, has lately been busy developing many initiatives to help and encourage foreign talent to relocate in the country. ‘Work in Estonia’, launched in April by Enterprise Estonia, is one of those ambitious welcoming programs that attempts to attract overseas professionals. But there are some expats who have been living and working in Estonia for a long time already – and seen the country’s transition through turbulent times to the more recent developments in joining the club of stable and relatively prosperous states. One of these is a programmer Oliver Wihler, originally from Switzerland, who works as a Coordinator of Development Teams at the Tallinn-based IT development branch of Kuehne + Nagel, the international logistics giant, which established an IT Center of Excellence in Estonia in 2013. Wihler first got to know Estonia purely by coincidence via a friend over 15 years ago and soon afterwards found himself living and working here. ‘I have to be honest – I didn’t know anything about the country beforehand because, when I went to school, Estonia was not even on the map. Of course, Estonia was in the headlines when it regained independence in 1991, but you sort of forgot that afterwards,’ he recalls. By the time Wihler visited Estonia, it was implementing some rapid economic reforms, its IT-tiger had started to roar, and the country was heading towards EU membership. ‘When I first set foot here, a lot was already being transformed, but the contrast with Western Europe was still massive. Yet you could see that things were moving fast – there was a lot of change in the air and this was all very exciting, compared with Switzerland which is a great country, but was very static,’ he recalls, bringing to mind the dynamic atmosphere that first attracted him to come and try his luck in Estonia. What really sealed the deal for him, however, was high-speed Internet. ‘I worked in London at the time, but you could only get dial-up internet, which was also expensive, over there, whereas in Estonia, I could get broadband piped into my apartment – and at a very affordable rate,’ Wihler reminisces. He concedes that at the beginning, it was a big change of environment – from the hustle and bustle of London, with its active social networking – to the much more reserved Tallinn. But Wihler actually enjoyed that too.

‘There was so much noise in London – going out with colleagues at lunch, having a beer in the evening – there is a lot socialising. Conversely in Estonia, if you went out 15 years ago, there would usually be almost no one in the pub and there weren’t so many good restaurants back then either. Of course, these days, things have changed and there are many great places in Tallinn, and they are more busy too,’ Wihler says. His career in Estonia started with working for a small software company, which he helped to build up. Wihler then set up his own IT firm, which provided consultancy services, mainly for Finnish firms. The business grew fast, employing over 30 people in just two years, and it continued to do quite well for several years after that. However, as is often the case, problems came along, which eventually resulted in Wihler switching elsewhere, including a stint at Skype just before it was sold to Microsoft. ‘For me it was great – I got experience in people management, although I lost touch a little bit with the technological side of things,’ he says now. A few years ago, he landed his current position at Kuehne + Nagel, where he has been very satisfied with his career. This Swiss-based company with German roots accounts for roughly 10 per cent of the world’s freight forwarding. Kuehne + Nagel had operated logistics side of its business in the country before, but in 2013, whilst looking for ways to boost the capacity of its existing Hamburg IT centre, decided to set up a department in Tallinn, responsible for global development. The company cited cultural fit, local talent and the high level of IT penetration as the reasons that favoured Estonia over other countries in the region. Wihler says that the company is super-happy in Tallinn – and so is he: ‘It is very good to work for Kuehne + Nagel – it is a very professional environment. And the Estonian work ethic is very strong – people are curious and really want to know why we are doing something. As with everything here, the general rule is that people are very positive and really contribute actively to creating the software – the culture leans towards thinking, and this is what the company expected,’ Wihler notes. While he concedes that the work pace in Estonia is a little bit slower than in London, for example, this doesn’t somehow mean that people are less productive: ‘Perhaps because the environment is right, there aren’t many distractions which would slow someone down in a place with faster pace,’ he comments. In the meantime, sporty and energetic Wihler integrated well into Estonian society.

FALL 2015




‘Someone once told me that when you speak Estonian, you are Estonian – although I think that it is a bit harder than that. It does take time until people take you as their own. There are some Estonians who despise everything foreign. For example, I once got a call where an Estonian had a go at me for not speaking Estonian over the phone. He seemed sincerely upset, so it affected me a little bit,’ Wihler, who now speaks almost perfect Estonian, admits. But he emphasises that people are generally very welcoming in Estonia. Wihler cites many reasons why he still is in Estonia, after all these years, and despite the fact that the sometimes unpredictable buzz of the early noughties that first attracted him, has been gradually been replaced by a more stable environment, just as in most other European countries. ‘I have a bit of a nostalgic feeling about the Estonia at the peak of the change, but at the same time, it is great that the country has moved forward so much. Estonia needs to be proud of its success story,’ he says. Wihler expresses hope that Estonia stays flexible: ‘There’s the danger that people can get a bit complacent, but it is important not to rest on one’s laurels. I would like to see another startup becoming really successful, just a Skype was,’ he remarks, adding that by comparison, Switzerland is still creating its own start-up culture, whereas Estonia is clearly ahead on this front. Although he values his homeland Switzerland highly, Wihler appreciates the ease and speed with which he can get out of the town to a place where there is no one around. ‘In Switzerland, it is not as easy as that,’ he notes, while insisting that the roads and infrastructure has improved immensely since he first



moved to Estonia: ‘There isn’t much congestion on the roads here, unlike in Switzerland,’ he adds. Another asset, he mentions, is the clean air: ‘The clean air here is something you have to advertise; it is becoming a rarity in the world. And it’s the same with the clean water,’ he goes on. In his day-to-day work, Wihler also deals with many foreign professionals who have also relocated to Estonia, and he is surprised how efficient the immigration services have become. ‘When dealing with public services in Estonia, they are all so good, but especially the immigration services – they are super nice, super polite, and super-efficient. Even the restaurants are not better here,’ he laughs. He notes that a lot of this competence comes down to proper training, which he puts a lot of emphasis on. Over the 15 years he has been here, Wihler has seen many changes in Estonia, but there are some fundamental constants that have kept him here throughout. ‘The quality of life is really high here now: you have almost a frictionless society, nice restaurants, clean air. Yes, the prices are also higher now – occasionally I’m surprised that they can be so high, especially in restaurants and hotels – but sometimes you don’t want to be seen as cheap country; too cheap is worse than too expensive,’ he remarks. Wihler says that what really matters is that the level of professionalism is really high: ‘Lots of companies have very good business etiquette here in Estonia. Honesty, respect, trust – that is why I’m still here,’ he concludes.

Become an e-Resident of Estonia. Online, of course Can you guess the one thing that connects Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, The Economist’s editor Edward Lucas and president and CEO of Swedbank Group Michael Wolf? No? Well, they and more than 4 200 other foreigners are all e-residents of Estonia. Last year, in October 2014, Estonia first introduced the idea of e-Residency and the interest was huge – almost immediately over 4 000 followers signed up see where this ‘crazy idea’ would develop. Now, over 18 000 prospective e-residents worldwide have subscribed to the program newsletter. Today Estonia already has over 4 200 e-residents and currently several hundred are waiting for their e-Residency approval. There have been applicants from 113 countries, almost a half of them from neighbouring countries such as Finland and Russia, but also from much further afield places like Italy, India or the United States. Although the project managers of e-Residency dared to predict as many as 2 000 e-residents by the end of 2015, it is obvious that the number is going to exceed their wildest dreams, and reach a level more like 10 000. One of the advantages, and the key reason why applications are booming, is because it is so much easier to apply compared with what it was at the beginning. At the time of writing (May 2015) it is possible to apply for e-Residency online. You can also choose your desired pickup location: one of 38 Estonian embassies and consulates around the world, or an Estonian Police and Border Guard Board service point.

Global investors Michael Jackson, Paul Bragiel and Fadi Bishara (middle) after receiving their Estonian e-Residencies with e-Residency Program Director Kaspar Korjus (left) and the CIO of the Estonian Government Taavi Kotka (right)

Note that these people are not and will not become physical citizens of Estonia, nor will they become residents of Estonia. They will not necessarily become tax residents either and the e-resident digital ID is not a physical identification or a travel document. So what are the benefits of e-Residency and why do people apply? Since e-Residency is a platform for advanced government and business services which is open to virtually everyone on the planet, e-residents will have access to one of the world’s most advanced set of e-services, a set that this small Baltic country has been developing since the 1990s. e-Residency is likely to attract a veritable swarm of business entrepreneurs, freelancers and fans of the digital society in a way that can turn the whole idea of being a small country on its head. Estonia’s unofficial motto is that states can become bigger than the sum of their physical residents. Plus it would be a good idea to move your business to Estonia if you are interested in low amounts of red tape and high quality of e-services. And we already have some numbers to prove that the scheme is working – new e-residents have created 93 companies in Estonia already, and altogether there are 284 companies in Estonia where e-residents are involved.

FALL 2015




e-residents can create companies in minutes as opposed to the days or even months that the process can take in some regions of the world. They can administer their companies and assets in a hassle-free manner from anywhere in the world. They can sign and verify the authenticity of signed documents digitally without travelling. If they need to pay taxes in Estonia, they can take advantage of the world-famous Estonian tax interface which makes declaring taxes so easy that the whole process is over in only about five minutes! You can already access online payment service providers, and conduct e-banking and remote money transfers by establishing an Estonian bank account. Opening an account currently requires one in-person meeting at the bank, and is at the sole discretion of banking partners. The current list of basic services is growing rapidly, but the very success of Estonia’s e-Residency program depends on government and private sector cooperation in creating new applications. Currently several banks and start-ups are working on innovations that will make their services available to e-residents. At the beginning of September there was also an event called ‘Garage48 e-Residency’, where Garage48, Enterprise Estonia, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and the Information System Authorities teamed up to create an international e-Residency hackathon. ‘Our goal is to draw attention to the fact that all developers and service providers are welcome to develop services to the open digital identity platform. The e-Residency platform could in many aspects be compared with the Apple App Store, as it allows to create many needed services to e-residents. It is very important that the new customer base is

Ottawa / Canada New York City / USA Washington D.C. / USA

recognised by the developers and service providers, who may already offer their services to e-residents,’ says Taavi Kotka, the Government CIO, Deputy Secretary General of ICT at Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications for Estonia. If this has whetted your appetite to find out more, and to get further instructions on how to apply, you can visit the e-Residency website at and start your application. It will cost you just €50 in state fee and a credit card processing fee of €0.99. We guarantee that this is worth it. Over the next few pages we will introduce you some notable e-residents of Estonia who are already using the benefits and helping us to revolutionize the world! e-residents receive a smart ID card which provides: • • • •

Digital identification and authentication Digital signing of documents Digital verification of document authenticity Document encryption

Estonia invites developers to integrate the secure and simple open ID platform with services requiring digital authentication and document signing. Choose your desired pickup location – one of 38 Estonian embassies and consulates around the world, or an Estonian Police and Border Board (PPA) service point.

Helsinki / Finland St. Petersburg / Russia Oslo / Norway Riga / Latvia Stockholm / Sweden Vilnius / Lithuania Moscow / Russia Copenhagen / Denmark Minsk / Belarus London / United Kingdom Berlin / Germany Kiev / Ukraine Dublin / Ireland Varsaw / Poland Brussels / Belgium Prague / Czech Rep. Astana / Kazakhstan Paris / France Vienna / Austria Tbilisi / Georgia Lisbon / Portugal Rome / Italy Ankara / Turkey Madrid / Spain Tel Aviv / Israel

New Delhi / India

Bejing / China Shanghai / China

Tokyo / Japan

Cairo / Egypt


Canberra / Australia



Finnish Entrepreneur Advises Fellow Finns to Become e-Residents Simo Hämäläinen (35) is not an Estonian e-resident, but he has lived in Estonia for seven years. He runs his bookkeeping company, Profia Arvestus OÜ, from Estonia and owns a residence permit. However he has daily contact with foreigners who have invested in Estonia and who are interested in doing business here. As soon as Simo heard about the idea of e-Residency, he began to recommend it to his clients and to assist in making applications, hence by now he is well aware of the advantages and disadvantages of e-Residency. ‘Since, in addition to my own company which offers consultancy services, I organise training events on doing business in Estonia, I think that within those training sessions alone I have helped around a hundred entrepreneurs who have applied for e-Residency. There are also many people who are considering it,’ he says. Simo says that in addition to businessmen, there are ‘IT-geeks’, in a positive sense, who are just interested in the process without actually having a big need for it. During his years in Estonia, Simo Hämäläinen has managed his company himself and he has had an Estonian ID card from the very beginning. ‘You could say I’m a serial entrepreneur,’ he continues, adding that he had already founded several companies in Finland. Profia Arvestuse OÜ is a service which helps investors who are interested in investing in Estonia. Simo’s main customers are companies based on Finnish capital who want to come to Estonia. The entrepreneur claims that e-Residency is a great initiative, which enables the easing of administrative processes, and that all his customers to date have been impressed with the speed of such processes. Even now when there are more applicants than the e-Residency team is able to process, meaning they call upon people to be patient as it may take more than one month to review

applications, Simo says that it is still impressively quick how things function in Estonia. He realizes that the e-Residency project is still in its initial phase and there are many good things to come: ‘At first there was more hype around the project when the service itself had not yet really developed. But the fact that they managed to get so much interest in e-Residency demonstrates what a good reputation Estonia has as an e-state, and how much it has already proven itself.’ To be more specific, Simo enumerates the real benefits of the project as follows: the fact that a non-Estonian citizen can log into a bank account and use internet banking services and carry out transactions is a massive plus. Furthermore, a lot of time is saved in signing contracts with the whole digital signature opportunity. However, his clients have also experienced some misunderstandings. As an example he cites the chance of tax risks arising, in which case the Estonian Tax and Customs Board should advise e-residents from the very beginning and to map potential risks. At the same time, Estonian tax officials cannot really say for sure how tax officials of another country interpret local laws. ‘It is an especially unfortunate case if a company is run from another country and unexpectedly it incurs tax duties in two states. Of course much depends on the kind of tax agreements that states have with one another,’ he explains. Also the so-called digital ID code which one receives with e-Residency is not a real proof of identity when things have to be organised outside the virtual environment. Third, Simo urges the leaders of the e-Residency project to really promote and introduce it in other countries so that those countries will adopt a similar thing. ‘An ID card, electronic voting ‒ it is all modern infrastructure and this know-how should be shared. In addition it is important that, next to the state, the private sector is also active

Simo Hämäläinen

in creating services for e-residents because it makes the local business environment more attractive,’ Simo goes on. Simo’s company offers accounting services, various consultancy services in taxation or in applying for activity licenses. They take care of paperwork, invoicing, notary appointments and taxes and also provide an address service and accounting service, so you can start business operations right away. Profia accounting service includes for instance accounting entries for all economic operations, submission of tax declarations, preparation of financial statements, annual statements, salary calculation and preparation of reports to Statistics Estonia and other services. Simo says that the outsourcing of accounting is also modern and cost-efficient way to save money on fixed costs: ‘I started to advise my friends about business activity in Estonia, and in the end there were so many enquiries that I got the idea to start a company to offer my services. There were no competitors in the market at the time.’ Simo works with a team of five people, but says that he has managed to create a much larger collaboration network, including banks, law firms, public organisations, in other words all the involved parties necessary for business activities.

FALL 2015




e-Residency Saves Time on Travel and Printing Finnish entrepreneur Jorma Tuomainen (32) says that he applied for e-Residency as soon as possible because he already had a company in Estonia and is planning to relocate here altogether in the near future. Now he wants to make the preparations for the move easier. ‘e-Residency helps me run my company without constant travel, visiting notaries or printing, signing and scanning stacks of paper,’ he says. His company, Nordic Server Management (NSM), carries out server management for mostly web-based systems. ‘Our clients are either software companies that want to provide full support (software+servers) for their clients or companies with an internal software development team, but no full-time system administrator or people to respond to incidents, and carry out continuous monitoring of services,’ outlines Jorma.

Stanislav Yurin

Ukrainian Wants to Hold International Art Auctions via Estonia Stanislav Yurin (32) is from Ukraine and has been active in the ITbusiness for over 14 years in the country’s capital Kiev. Recently, after the remote registration service was introduced this spring, he also applied for e-Residency. His plan is to create an art selling auction service. ‘Currently I’m running my own small IT consultancy service and also exploring different opportunities in internet businesses. Since I have been active for quite a long time, my ventures have ranged from mobile applications to work services and now we are looking into the idea of creating an art selling auction service’ he explains. The service is still a small venture since it is self-funded and the creators are exploring this side of the art world step by step. Yurin says that the need for such service stemmed, as they usually do, from a personal need: ‘My wife is an artist and we started selling her paintings. We have talked to different artists around Ukraine and worldwide, who would like to take part in such, more centralised auction service,’ he says. Before this, Yurin was also running and helping to do the accounting for various Ukrainian businesses and also has experience also with running US companies.



Right now NSM is registered with a Finnish business ID, since most of its business is carried out in Finland by people physically in Finland: ‘This will of course change when I move to Estonia, since the company remains the same but tax residence will switch from Finland to Estonia,’ continues Jorma.

‘I’m aware of services provided by Cyprus, Latvia or Belize for different kinds of international businesses. Although the IT-business is very well established in Ukraine and we have a large amount of qualified professionals here, problems occur when small companies try to run themselves internationally. We have very tight regulations and strict payment systems,’ Stanislav goes on. He describes two options that are usually available to small businesses: one, to fly to a well-developed country such as the UK and open a bank account and every time, when having any problems, you always have to buy a ticket and fly at short notice or use pricey and fragile remote legal services. ‘This is quite expensive for a self-funded small business’ he warns. The second option is common to off-shore services like in Panama or Belize, but these schemes are not very well-regarded in most industries… ‘So when I heard about the Estonian e-Residency service, I thought it would be somewhere in between these two options that I just described [above]. Estonia is a well-respected country in the EU, and has access to international IT markets, also well-established payment system and other IT services. Estonia is also situated quite close to Ukraine, so in case of problems, it would be cheaper to travel there,’ Yurin says. While this magazine was in the production stages, Yurin was still waiting for his e-Residency card, which he could pick up from the Estonian embassy in Kiev, and he was already looking forward to start benefiting from it.

Tuomainen adds, that right now he mostly uses e-Residency for updating records and signing contracts. ‘Since I already had my company before e-Residency, I needed to visit the notary to get my new ID code to register a business, but I haven’t yet visited my bank to get my ID code added to their records instead of my Finnish personal ID. I have also heard that taxes are easy to file while being an e-resident, but I leave business taxes to professionals.’ he says.

Jorma Tuomainen

Yet there are already some details that even an occasional user like Jorma misses – like automatic information sharing: ‘It would be really nice if there were tick boxes in the e-Residency application which would switch from my old ID to the new in, for instance, the business register, with Swedbank etc., and the system would automatically notify selected institutions about ID change,’ suggests Tuomainen. ‘This of course is no problem if you apply first for the e-Residency and then set up a company and bank account,’ he goes on. Tuomainen also believes that people from all over the world who live in unstable countries with dysfunctional business registration systems will be obvious candidates for Estonian e-Residency in the future.

From Challenging Palestine to Tech-friendly Tartu Lama Mansour and Ismat Tuffaha are two young Palestinians who are managing their start-up Bold Knot (Bold Gadgets OÜ) from Estonia, in Tartu. They describe the product as ‘the world’s fastest phone charger, on a keychain’, effectively a USB battery pack that can be attached to a keyring. With relations between Palestine and Israel being as they are, the Palestinian start-ups residing in the region also face major challenges, since the bureaucracy goes through Israel. But Bold Knot, after being crowdfunded on Indiegogo for almost US$70 000 (the sum they initially aimed for was only US$15 000), reached out to Estonia, and found for themselves an accelerator, BuildIt. The guys then applied for e-Residency and are now full time e-residents. ‘We are happy about having the e-Residency card, because we know it will be there for us when signing business deals and contracts or adjusting any information at the notary even if we were not physically present in Estonia,’ says Bold Knot product manager Lama Mansour. ‘We mostly use the services for internet banking. In Estonian banks, we can’t send more than €200 a day except through using the e-Residency card.

Bold Knot

I imagine that it would be particularly helpful if we were away from Estonia and we needed to sign company deals or papers; in that case it would be really handy. However she says that sometimes an evident drawback is that in an advanced tech world where everything is digitalized, using the e-Residency becomes complicated because it is a physical card and needs a physical card reader to use it: ‘Plus, you have to have the I-digital software installed on the laptop to be able to use it. This means that you won’t be able to use it anywhere and any time you want if you didn’t have these three elements [ie. the card, the card reader, and the software] plus the card’s two PIN numbers,’ explains Lama. The managers of the e-Residency program have already said that while Estonian citizens can use mobile-ID for transactions instead of the ID card and readers, they are trying to provide the same service also for e-residents within half a year. ‘But I think it mainly facilitates things for us when we have to carry out any applications, like applying for residency, because they will have all our information and signatures stored at the Police and Border station,’ concludes Lama.

FALL 2015




Ravi Belani:

Even a New World War Will Not Stop the Pace of Innovation!

By Holger Roonemaa / Photos by Raigo Pajula

Why have so many Estonian companies won a coveted place in Ravi Belani’s highly regarded Alchemist accelerator? What is the likelihood of the Estonian e-Residency program conquering the world? Where is innovation heading and what will the next technological breakthroughs be? ‘Life in Estonia‘ met up with Belani during Estonia’s Friends International Meeting and looked for answers to these questions.



How aware are you of the e-Residency program and the concept of a governmental startup? I was not aware of it before. I had heard of it, of course, but I didn’t really know what it meant. I think it’s a fascinating idea though. What is really cool about it is that now other European countries are trying to adopt the same model. The question will become about what is the advantage of being an Estonian e-resident versus being a Finnish e-resident. It becomes a case of branding, services and constant innovation.

What do you think about the concept that tomorrow, governments will be competing with each other for people, ie. for talent? I think it is fantastic that governments will compete for talent. It creates accountability to the governments and better services for consumers. I welcome that wholeheartedly. This actually bodes very well for countries that can move quickly. It also creates a better distribution of resources, if the best talent can go more fluidly to the best governmental programs.

So straight off the bat, you had to pay 500 000 dollars just to start a company. Now Moore’s law has been applied to this sector as well. It’s literally a hundredth of the earlier cost now, because you can for example do it via Amazon as a service. So, the world is fragmenting differently. Instead of having these vertically integrated things, things are becoming horizontal. This is what Taavi Kotka (Estonian government CIO) was talking about – can Estonia be a service? You can be anywhere in the world and being an Estonian is no longer specifically tied to Estonia as a locale. What’s fascinating is that you are seeing lots of localized differentiations in very personalized ways that never existed in the past, because all the hardware has been commoditized and all the infrastructure has been commoditized. At the same time, this hyper-localized differentiation is finding global communities around the world. That’s really fascinating! You can have Angry Birds start in Northern Europe and then spread all around the world and become a phenomenon.

Right now there are so many people that are held captive by circumstance – by where they were born or the governments that they serve. This can happen on a dramatic scale. You can see an impoverished kid in India – where I am from; they are just born into that situation unfortunately. But it can even happen on a more local scale. You can be a top entrepreneur in a neighboring Baltic state, but you would still feel the need to become an Estonian e-resident. Fluidity is always good!

Let’s say the e-Residency startup applied for a position in the Alchemist accelerator. Would it make it?

There are lots of software startups, hardware startups, ‘Internet of Things’, startups all around Europe and the States. Is there a different category for governmental startups or is the Estonian e-Residency startup a unique one?

Yes, it could. The question is what the vision of the people behind the e-Residency startup is of what they will become, and whether the government is a liability or an asset. If there is a way that they can exploit the services of a government, and have an unfair advantage in that, I think that would be fascinating.

The idea of government competitive advantage is an interesting thing. I run an accelerator. There are tons of accelerators around the world and every region is trying to differentiate by competing on some differentiation. Usually it’s vertical.

The thing that we tend to get scared about with businesses that are built on governments is that the system ultimately has the power. Facebook has had all these third party apps built on top of that and thus Facebook has slowly shut down their APIs and killed those companies.

In Estonia there’s a gaming accelerator for example. You have to start somewhere to create an ecosystem of expertise. This is a classic strategy in any private industry, and I think that more than any time in the past, corporations are thinking of innovation in different ways, as are regional governments for that matter.

So it’s always dangerous whenever you’re building on top of the platform precisely because you’re so dependent on the platform. If there was a company that would be able to make a ton of money off of Estonia’s services, the danger might be that if the Estonian government saw how much money they were making and then said ‘we need to take some of that income’…

I do think it’s a trend that’s accelerating. What’s happening in the world right now is that fixed costs are not as pronounced as they were in the past. What I mean by that is that you had to have really high fixed costs in terms of resources and labor. Ten years ago the bottleneck of starting a company was that you literally had to buy an Oracle database, so you had to have a database administrator. That hardware would cost you 250 000 dollars minimum, then you’d have to pay 150 000 dollars for the administrator on top of that.

It couldn’t have been created anywhere else in the world. TransferWise, Skype all these companies are uniquely Estonian. They had to be born here, but they influence everything else. The idea of governments having competitive advantage is very interesting.

But you would own five per cent of e-Estonia! (Laughs.) That’s true! That would be attractive!

And then you could sell it to Russia! Yeah, it would be very valuable for them!

FALL 2015




Let’s talk about Alchemist. I think there have been at least five companies in Alchemist that have an Estonian background? We’ve had Secured 3D and John Dogru, then we had Erkki Brakmann who is the CEO of DeltaBid, we also had Scoro and Fred Krieger and then Jürgo Preden who did Defendec. Opennode also got an offer to come and join us, but they never came.

So that’s roughly five per cent of your companies. That’s a lot, isn’t it? That’s right. We’ve had around 100 companies altogether and Estonia is definitely the number one country from Europe. We’ve had three Danish companies, they’re second best.

Why is that? We only do enterprise startups, so we’re not interested in consumer startups. I wasn’t planning on just admitting Estonian companies, but there is a very strong synergy between Estonia and the Alchemist in a couple of ways. One is that Estonia creates enterprise startups placed on real value. In the Valley the sexy thing is to do hot consumer startups and, of course, Estonia has created great consumer startups like Skype, but I think there is something in the work ethic here due to which Estonians see value in B2B software. Culturally this is a little bit unusual! In Silicon Valley most people would say the sexy thing is to do a dating app!



When you’re in a B2B startup, it is much clearer where the money will come from. Maybe that’s part of the reason? Yeah. You’re focused on driving money and ROI (return on investment). I think that’s an Estonian cultural ethic that puts a lot of value on clear ROI. The second thing is that we only admit deeply technical teams and our program focuses on sales and marketing. A lot of Estonian companies are very strong technically, but they are also not too good in sales. There’s a strong need to have that sales training and have that access to the US market. Estonia is very transparent, there’s a hard work ethic, there’s honesty in how everything gets done. That is incredibly refreshing and nice. I don’t want to make generalizations but in general when we meet an Estonian company, we don’t question if what they’re saying is true or not true. We know that Estonians are very honest and to reiterate, that’s really nice.

Do I get it right that the Alchemist is like a boutique accelerator? You don’t have hundreds of positions in your rounds? We differentiate based on quality not quantity. We will do 16 companies per class and we pride ourselves on being a premium accelerator. Y Combinator, which is the more famous accelerator, had 120 companies in their last class. So, as Y Combinator has had 120 companies in 12 weeks, Alchemist has 16 companies in 6 months. We are very selective about the companies that we admit and we differentiate by offering a much more personalized, curated experience than some of the other accelerators.

Can you give me an idea about what the competition to get a place is like?

a large timeline, you won’t find a sign of the Great Depression. Where was World War II? You couldn’t tell.

We accept about five per cent of applicants. Usually we have around 800 applications a year for around 40 seats.

I don’t care if even we have another World War. The question is not whether innovation continues. It will. The only question is the issue of the price that you will get for that innovation. The valuations can fluctuate and when the market contracts, it can be a good thing in some sense. There’d be less competition, less capital that comes in.

Can you give me some examples of any success stories? We’ve had 82 companies that have graduated, 41 have raised institutional capital, and eight have gotten acquired. Our first class graduated two years ago, so that’s not too bad a result. It’s hard to measure success yet though, because the oldest companies are just two years out of the program. In my opinion, acquisitions are not a good way to measure success. We don’t like our companies to be acquired. We’ve had companies that have raised 10 million dollars in capital – for example Cambrian Genomics, who are doing a DNA laser printer. Basically they print life.

What does it mean, ‘print life’? You have computer scientists that can create fictitious genomes on their computers. If this or that genome existed, it would theoretically create a certain kind of protein or an organism, but – so far it’s all just on a computer. Right now it is very expensive to create a DNA string. It costs a dollar per base pair and there are billions of base pairs you’d need to create. What Cambrian Genomics is building is like a 3D printer for DNA. They can print a base pair for a penny. So people will e-mail them their genomes and their product that they ship back is a real DNA. Their first products are life forms that have never existed before.

Is that even legal? It’s very scary, but as long as the genome is owned by the person who sends the material, there’s no regulation against it. Cambrian’s first product was a plant. Someone had put jellyfish DNA inside of a plant so the plant would fluoresce. You could plant it in the developing world where there is no electricity. The idea is that you would be able to read via the light it generates. The company raised 10 million dollars, and they are creating a product that is literally changing the world.

You’ve said in one of your previous interviews that you don’t care much what the economy does because innovation and technology will always go on at their own pace. Given what’s going on in China, in Greece … Well, you seem to be really confident?! I don’t have to be confident. I just know that engineers don’t stop innovating just because the euro has deflated or China’s market went down a few percentage points. From a technical standpoint, technology is literally immune to all of that. It doesn’t matter if China drops another five per cent tomorrow. Innovation is going to continue. That’s just Moore’s law. If you look at Moore’s law and you map that out on

It’s more difficult to be a mercenary when the markets are tight, because you can’t really do a startup just for the money. Right now, when the markets have been really hot, you have a lot of people that are like ‘oh should I do investment banking? No, I wanna be a startup guy!’. Because startups are the cool thing; this is sort of nice but it also creates a problem, because you have all these people that are going into the market that are not really passionate, and they create noise and competition. I actually think that when the markets contract, I will enjoy it more in some sense.

If I wanted to talk about an innovation bubble, you wouldn’t agree with me that such a thing might even exist? I don’t think there’s a bubble around the technologies. It is just a question of the valuations that people are giving for the startups, and also the fact that these valuations aren’t real. A lot of founders don’t know that when someone says Uber is worth 50 billion dollars, it isn’t necessarily really worth that. When someone values Uber at 50 billion dollars, they’re putting all these terms on their money that whatever amount they invest, it gets to be paid out first. This is not the same as a public market valuation. I do think there have been a lot of incredibly generous valuations that have not a function on the core technology but have a function on the markets and that there will be a contraction on that.

Isn’t it a bit contradictory that on one hand the cost of establishing and running a startup has become so low, but at the same time the evaluations are rocketing? This is the really, really, fascinating thing about startups today. It has never been cheaper to start a company and for the companies that have become winners, the revenue ramps are steeper than they have ever been before. So this is the conundrum – there’s actually more value being created than ever before in the past. This is not a zero sum game. It’s not like it’s only a certain amount of value and now the cost of starting companies is going down and so the value should go down. Yes the costs are going down, but the amount of value being created is also an order of magnitude bigger than it was in the past. Slack is a classic example. This is the hot, new company that’s coming out of the Valley now that you are going to hear about in six or 12 months. This is the new Skype. If you look at how long it took Skype to get to a certain number of users, this has all been eclipsed by Slack.

FALL 2015




From being founded to becoming 18 months old, Slack went from a value of zero to 2.8 billion dollars. Their revenue has been growing at an unforeseen rate. It’s just amazing.

Everything decentralized again. The next shift will be that some of the things will move from the Cloud to hyper-localized smart devices. We are going to see that shift back, everything will be intelligent. This table is going to be intelligent.

The conundrum is that value is not correlated to cost. It doesn’t cost a lot to create innovations and the pace of innovation creates these new waves so frequently now, there are so many disruptions that are happening that you can create huge amounts of value without any costs. The markets are valuing you based on how much revenue you are bringing in and that’s independent from how much it costs to get that revenue.

Do we need everything to be intelligent – this table we’re sitting at for example?

Can you imagine what’s going to be going on in five years?

Well in one way, all you need is air and food; but I think it would be a fantastic world if the table were intelligent!

I think there will be a lot of new trends. Everyone is talking about the ‘internet of things’. The amount of data between physical objects is likely to dwarf the data in the traditional internet, where it’s people talking to servers.

You just don’t know yet that you need the table to be intelligent?

There used to be a trend where there was e-Everything like e-Estonia; now it’s smart-Everything. It’s so funny that those trends shift cyclically. The whole cloud-thing that everybody talked about for a while, you know, actually the cloud existed as early as the 1970s. It was just called mainframes back then.


Then the CPU rate accelerated past the acceleration of bandwidth rate which meant that things became centralized in PCs themselves. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, you had PCs. Then in the ‘00s, you had bandwidth accelerating past the CPUs, which ultimately resulted in the Cloud.


Yeah, you ‘don’t know that you don’t know’. That’s exactly right. What’s fascinating is this idea of who you are. A lot of your brain is in this computer right now. You probably don’t realize it, but you have outsourced stuff that you don’t normally have to think about into this laptop. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you didn’t need a laptop for that, and what if this table was a visual graphical interface instead? The coolest things are the things we don’t know until we interact with them.


is Building The World’s Largest Virtual Factory By Holger Roonemaa / Photos by Alloria Winter Studios In a cramped room of the Mektory Innovation Centre, inside the Tallinn University of Technology campus, a dozen 3D printers are still running full speed at 8pm on a working day. This is no student club, but a company working on a global revolution in production. The company plans to build the largest connected factory in the world without owning a single production line! Meet 3DPrinterOS.

FALL 2015




‘Just as Windows made personal computers easy for the average person, we want to do the same with 3D printing,’ says John Dogru, CEO and one of the founders of the company. The US-born Dogru studied engineering and computer science and worked for companies such as Dell. These days he has hitched his life and career to Estonia’s wagon and specifically to the Tallinn-based company 3D Control Systems, which owns the trademark 3DPrinterOS.

In other words, 3D printing is probably not something that your grandparents could do today. 3DPrinterOS solves these problems with their creation of the first standard operating system for 3D printing.

‘The 3D printing market is growing at an incredible pace. Currently there are about 400 000 3D printers in the world and this figure is set to double every year,’ says Dogru.

‘We built 3DPrinterOS in the cloud, so it’s infinitely scalable and platform-agnostic. This makes it easy for printers to be controlled and managed via any web-capable device,’ explains Dogru.

Additionally, he says, it is desktop 3D printers, meant for the average person, which are experiencing the fastest growth. ‘Currently the volume of the 3D printing market stands at US$4.5 billion and is poised to grow to US$17.2 billion by 2020. Last year, 90 per cent of all printers sold were desktop printers and only 10 per cent were industrial printers. At the same time, 90 per cent of the revenue came from the sales and services of industrial printers. We’re going to see this trend reverse as the market grows and substantial revenue starts to come from desktop 3D printing,’ states Dogru.

In essence, what 3DPrinterOS is creating is the software for the virtual factory of the future. This could mean a revolution in production as well as disrupting the global supply-chain.

‘McKinsey has estimated a potential of generating an economic impact of US$230 billion to US$550 billion per year by 2025 with various 3D applications, the largest impact being expected from consumer uses, followed by direct manufacturing,’ he goes on.

‘We will make the difficult journey from idea to physical product much easier and faster for home users and for larger industries,’ Dogru goes on. He says that they want to disrupt today’s process, where many companies wanting to set up production have to look to China and then pay a minimum of US$3 000 for moulds and order at least 20 000 items at once.

Most importantly – and this is where 3DPrinterOS comes in – the 3D printing market is extremely fragmented. Every manufacturer uses its own software for operating printers; generally, in order to start printing, a minimum of three different desktop applications have to be used simultaneously, and it can take hours to set up the various parameters and other technical details of the object to be printed.



The 3DPrinterOS software offers a simple-to-use, universal platform that works across the majority of 3D printers and what processes before took hours can now be done in mere seconds.

‘We want to create the largest factory in the world without ever owning a single production line ourselves,’ says Dogru. Essentially, 3DPrinterOS will do the same for manufacturing as what Airbnb did for the hotel industry without owning a single hotel or what Uber did for the taxi services sector without owning a single vehicle.

With the old model, this can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and if things should go wrong, valuable time and resources can be wasted. ‘Our idea is that instead of owning the equipment and taking a risk of building anything, you can build at the point of need and at the time of need,’ says Dogru.

For home users, 3DPrinterOS will create the opportunity to print products without owning a 3D printer. ‘Desktop 3D printers tend to stand idle. When they are connected to the network through our software, there will be an opportunity to print orders which have been received online,’ explains Dogru. This means that all over the world, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of mini-factories will spring into existence, which will be able to fulfill new orders automatically. ‘The quality and speed of Desktop 3D printers is dramatically increasing every year. Instead of buying one high-end 3D printer which costs over US$100 000, it makes more sense to buy a hundred US$1000 desktop printers – even if some of them break down, the others will continue to work,’ says Dogru. The goal is for everyone to be able to connect their 3D printer to the world and set up their own mini-factory. ‘We are trying to radically reduce the latency between design to manufacturing to distribution – ultimately bringing it close to zero,’ continues Dogru. Growth is the number one goal for 3DPrinterOS: ‘It is our aim to grow into the largest connected factory. Today we are already connecting people who know nothing about 3D printing with printers all over the world,’ says Dogru. Today, just three months after their official launch, there has been more than 13 000 hours of 3D printing in over 94 countries via 3DPrinterOS. Recently they’ve partnered with the eNABLE project, which designs and provides 3D-printed prosthetic hands, to leverage the power of the 3DPrinterOS network to build 1 000 hands for those in need in the next few months.

The third largest contract manufacturer in the world, Jabil Circuit Inc., a US$18.5 billion dollar behemoth who builds products for Apple, HP, Blackberry to name a few, has adopted the system and has seen usage of their printers proliferate as their engineers now have a simple, standard way to collaborate, prototype, and print across multiple 3D printers. Dogru says that the monthly growth of the company is about 20 per cent on average. 3DPrinterOS is already the leading software in education. Top universities such as Duke, Purdue and Florida State in the U.S. use 3DPrinterOS to manage their entire 3D printing workflow. ‘We believe just as the first personal computers were distributed to universities, the best brains will continue to push early adoption,’ says Dogru. The company already has an educational program being implemented in Estonian schools. Some schools have 3D printers but, according to Dogru, the main drawback is the fact that the printers can cost thousands of dollars, break easily and their maintenance is expensive and time-consuming. ‘Instead of giving students the printer – which could cost €3 000 assembled – we are providing kits that are worth €500 and teaching them how to build it. They will then also know how to build a printer themselves and how to service it,’ explains Dogru. To date, a million dollars have been invested in the company. The majority of the round was funded by Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital. They’ve invited exclusively value-added investors from Silicon Valley including Ravi Belani, the founder of the Alchemist accelerator; Ian McNish, founder of LinkedIn and is the current principal architect at Box; Ben Li of Zillionize and Steve King, the former CEO of Docusign to name a few. They are currently preparing for their Series A round. ‘3D printing is just the beginning of the connected factory of the future. We want to build the software which makes one-click manufacturing possible,’ concludes Dogru.

FALL 2015




Scoro Wants You to Click Less and Achieve More The creator of unique business software claims that although thousands of similar service providers exist in the world, Scoro is simply so good that customers who value efficiency and time-saving will want to recommend this software even to competitors! By Ann-Marii Nergi



FRED KRIEGER Whilst Estonians know Fred Krieger more as a music businessman and song writer – last year was especially successful for him in this respect as hits he penned topped the charts – Fred really sees music as a hobby and, from an early age, he has been interested in programming and has educated himself in the field of IT in addition to his education in economics. In addition, he headed the IT division of the US media concern Metromedia in the early 2000s. Fred created the very first prototype of Scoro on his own a long time ago. Together with Product Manager Indrek Saarnak and the CTO of the company, Priit Matiisen, they reached the maturity to offer the product to customers on a larger scale. As is often the case, a new product is born out of a personal need and this was also true for Fred. ‘When running my companies I needed a solution which would help to run things more efficiently and systematically. Such a solution did not exist.’ Last year, Krieger lived for six months in Silicon Valley in California, in order to give himself an extra boost of inspiration. In addition to living in a different environment, it was a real challenge to run his company from a 10-hour time difference. But this was a great experience he says, which helped him to become even more focused.

Based on Estonian capital, Scoro combines the sales, financial and administrative processes necessary for running the daily business of any company. For example, Scoro enables users to link calendar events and tasks to certain projects and customers and, once the work is completed, it takes just one click to view detailed reports. There is no longer a need to brief your supervisor, project manager or colleague about the status of your activities, because everything is visible in Scoro. In addition you can manage your customers, projects, quoting, billing, expenses and collaboration all in one place. Most importantly, the information you need is available with just one click! The story of Scoro started six years ago. During the first four years, the company focused on the Estonian market, boosting efficiency for local customers. In the last two years, the company has started to expand to other markets. There are 26 employees working at Scoro today, but because of its wild plans and fast growth, the company still qualifies as an early stage start-up.

Customers from the USA to Iran According to Krieger, Scoro is different because, unlike many software companies which offer tools, Scoro offers a solution, which means it solves a cluster of problems simultaneously. It is more complicated technically and in terms of marketing and the system requires a proper foundation. A foundation, however, needs either a lot of time or a lot of money, and Scoro has grown on own capital and in an organic way. Today 5 000 users all over the world use Scoro and, although most of them are located in the Baltics today, there are satisfied customers as far afield as the Netherlands, USA, South Africa and Iran. Scoro’s second office is located in Latvia, where customers from not only Latvia, but also Lithuania and Russia are serviced. Scoro’s customers are companies in the professional services industry. In Estonia this includes the majority of local real estate brokers and media outlets. ‘We have got a strong hold on the Estonian market and our main focus now is outside Estonia,’ says Krieger. Whilst a lot of companies – if not thousands, but at least hundreds of them – offer business software solutions globally, Krieger is convinced that Scoro is unique. More often than not it is the customers who find Scoro and not the other way around.

‘We grew slowly and over a long period in the beginning, but it is our aim to at least double our size each year over the next five years,’ confirms Fred Krieger, founder and CEO of Scoro.

If you insert certain keywords into a search engine, we come out first on a multitude of different keywords. There are lots of companies entering the software market but there is still a lot of space for specific solutions and specific tools. When you do something better than others and design it more elegantly, customers will come to you and also recommend your product to others, even competitors.’

‘In the first year, our main effort went into building the product platform. We wanted to first guarantee quality and then to start active sales. We were not able to start as a typical start-up, because our software provides critical functions for our customers. It takes more than just a basic offer.’

The company owes much of its success to competent advisors who are very experienced in the field of technology. For example, Ravi Belani, Managing Director of the Alchemist Accelerator and Lecturer at Stanford University or the German venture capitalist Mike Reiner, cofounder of Startup AddVenture and Startup Wise Guys.

FALL 2015




The ‘Big Brother’ syndrome Krieger explains that companies often try to solve their administrative problems bit by bit, and by using a separate tool for each problem. Such a fragmented approach ends up too much of a strain because different tools do not complement each other or a mammoth solution may be more, not less, time-consuming to use. This is where Scoro comes to the rescue – the software integrates data from different software applications into its system to solve critical problems. It all boils down to effective time-management. ‘One of the main reasons why customers like our solution is the fact that, unlike with other similar services, you do not have to make ten clicks to get something done – it just takes one or two clicks. On a busy day, you end up saving several hours,’ Krieger states. He adds that he is surprised to see large corporations abroad still using Excel for administration and reporting. Isn’t there a risk of the ‘Big Brother syndrome’ for employees when using the system – the feeling that my boss is watching my every step? Krieger answers that if you have a healthy relationship with your employer, such a problem will not occur – after all, you are paid a salary for the work which should be visible in public calendars and everyone wants to work as efficiently as possible.



‘Of course Scoro does permit the making of certain activities and projects confidential, but if the development team sees what the sales team is working on and the sales team sees the efforts of their colleagues, then the software also has a motivating function. For managers the benefits of Scoro are obvious because it helps to make processes transparent.’

Wazombi Labs is no ordinary Estonian startup. Their headquarters is in Tartu and not in Silicon Valley, Boston, London or Tallinn for that matter. They are not competing for a place in an incubator or an accelerator. They make no effort to attract investments from business angels or venture capital funds. And they are not working on the creation of yet another app, but rather developing and producing gadgets and helping customers all over the world to create product prototypes.

Wazombi Labs

No Ordinary Estonian Startup FALL 2015




Moreover, the company, which was only founded a year and a half ago, is making profits and experiencing growth both in terms of staff and economic indicators. Customers from countries like Japan, Israel, Germany and Great Britain value the services they receive so highly that they often adjust their activities to match the ideas of Wazombi. Customers often travel to Tartu to find out just what is happening to their products. ‘It is our philosophy to always go the extra mile when it comes to the needs of our customers. We dedicate ourselves totally to their needs and we expect our customers to match our efforts,’ explains Raido Dsilna, one of the founders and the Manager of Wazombi. Wazombi’s business is everything from product design to production, from the development of fine electronics to serial production. They help customers develop prototypes of different products as well as creating and marketing their own products. ‘We are not just service providers ‚– we want to include our ideas in each product,’ says Dsilna. He explains that before signing contracts with customers they always ask ‘why’ questions. Why is this product needed? Why should it be made like this, with that particular functionality and design? ‘If we ask three why-questions but do not receive a reply we like, we do not want to contract that customer because it means we will not believe in our collaboration. Customers need to be brave enough to think along with us,’ Dsilna continues.



Dsilna says that there are hardly any hardware startups in Estonia which Wazombi has not cooperated with. Wazombi considers itself to be a mentor for younger companies, which means helping them to create a product prototype together with teams that have potential: ‘We want a partnership, we invest our time and dedication in these start-ups and we ask for a small share in return,’ he says. Wazombi was founded by four guys. Dsilna himself used to work for years for the online-casino software company Playtech, which has a development centre in Tartu. He is a specialized graphic designer who worked on mobile games at Playtech, heading a team of 25 people. At the end of 2013, he teamed up with the robotics specialist Martin Meisalu, the engineer and hardware specialist Tiit Rätsep who worked at ABB, and Kristjan Habicht, the leading architect of the Playtech mobile team. ‘It dawned on us that we would not be able to do something meaningful within the machinery of a large corporation, so we got together to change something. This is how Wazombi Labs was born,’ recalls Dsilna. The company soon outgrew its first base on the narrow Vallikraavi street in Tartu, and moved to the premises of a large former factory, where experimental production had been carried out in 1960s. ‘In symbolic terms, the similar kind of experimental production has returned to the building,’ says Dsilna. Enthusiasm and experimentation are the two keywords which characterize Wazombi.

Wazombi’s main business is building gadgets which use bluetoothbased low-energy technology. As an example, Dsilna gives a Japanese corporation whose name he is not allowed to reveal. ‘We produce a socalled smart doorlock solution for them. In larger offices there is often a need to provide different people with different access levels. Our smart doorlock is based on Bluetooth, hence it is a virtual key. When the right person is at the right door, the door will identify the virtual key in his or her mobile phone and the lock will open,’ explains Dsilna. Japan is looking for a high tech solution to this issue in Estonia. Wazombi’s portfolio also includes a place in the final of the Make It Wearable competition, organized by Intel, where the British Arc Pendant (a gadget worn around the neck which measures heartbeat, steps, pace and vibrates gently to tell you which direction to walk in as well as taking voice commands) developed on the basis of a prototype created by Wazombi, was ranked among the top 10 innovative wearables.   

Another example of products currently in development at Wazombi is the smart curtain system, which works on the basis of solar energy and fits the blinds of diverse producers. It enables users to automatically lift or lower blinds when light conditions change or to adjust the height of the blinds at all windows with the help of your mobile phone. Dsilna says that one of the aims of Wazombi is to show that there is no need to move to China when working on product development. ‘We only use Estonian and European partners, even our printing plates are produced in Estonia.’ Wazombi has successfully survived the critical first year of business and things are really about to get interesting, Dsilna believes. ‘Clients trust us and keep coming back to us.’

At the end of the year Wazombi plans to bring something onto the market specially for cat lovers – the special playing ball ‘Rollycat’, which is controlled via Bluetooth on the mobile phone. The ball is controllable on your mobile and takes away the pressure from cat owners to play with their pets. Rollycat works automatically, which means that it starts to play with your cat even when you may be at work. Special sensors measure how much and at what intensity the cat played during the day and provides users with the data. Hence it is a fitness tracker for cats. Lack of movement is actually the number one cause of health problems with cats.

FALL 2015




Manufacturing Company Fortaco Has a Vision for Narva By Ann-Marii Nergi / Photos by Madis Veltman and SCANPIX

The CEO and President of Fortaco Group Lars Hellberg wants to reshape Estonia’s third largest city, right by the border between Estonia and Russia. ‘Narva Reborn’ is a vision that will make Narva a better place to create more business, to live and to visit.




Lars Hellberg

Fortaco Group is a unique manufacturing company operating in the heavy equipment market. In 2013, Fortaco’s net sales totaled 216 million euros, with approximately 2 300 employees. Fortaco has production sites in Finland, Estonia, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. Fortaco was created through a merger of Komas and Ruukki Engineering businesses in 2012. CapMan funds is the owner of the company.

Lars Hellberg has a wide experience in leading large and well-known industries around the world. Before Lars Hellberg was appointed as the president and CEO of Fortaco Group with headquarters in Helsinki, he served on as President of PowerTech division and executive vice president at Wärtsilä Corporation since 2004. He has held various positions at Wärtsilä with a focus on the industrial operations, R&D and a strong focus of establishments in all the BRIC countries (ie. Brazil, Russia, India, China). Prior to that, he was a member on the board of management at Saab Automotive AB, executive director for the customer satisfaction and quality division and also member of General Motors Europe executive board for quality between 2001 and 2004. He began his career in 1985 at Volvo Cars AB, where he worked until 2001. There he held various positions eg. research engineer within advanced engineering, project director for power train and vehicle development programs, general manager for Volvo Car Operations BV and vice president of Global Business & Volume Optimization within the Marketing, Sales & Services. Lars Hellberg is a Swedish national and has worked mostly outside of Sweden in Europe, Asia and the US.

Lars Hellberg

Lars Hellberg, what is ‘Narva Reborn’ and how did this project came to life? I guess I’ll have to start from the beginning. Fortaco is a rather new company, only in existence since January 2013. Fortaco consists of acquisitions of other companies together with one that was acquired and merged into Fortaco – Finnish cargo-handling machinery company Cargotec, which already had an operation in Narva. I took the on position of CEO and president of Fortaco in October 2013 and I was invited to Narva the following month to meet the minister of economic affairs Juhan Parts.

My experience from the past in China, Korea, Russia, etc. is that if you want to partake in these kind of developments, you need to work with local government and make sure that they are on board with you. It is also vital that the national government is at least aware of the project and stays informed.

What is the concept of ‘Narva Reborn’? The ultimate goal is to secure the attraction of more business, companies and people with skills to stay or move to Narva. For example in engineering, it is quite difficult today to attract engineers who want to move to Narva from other parts of Estonia still more from outside of Estonia. We also want to welcome our customers who are not from Estonia, as we are exporting 100 per cent of our products. So when we bring in representatives of new large, global corporations like Atlas Copco, Volvo, Kalmar, Brook etc to Narva, in all respects, it has to be said that Narva is not the best and nicest place to be and stay overnight.

By that time it was already clear that we had a fantastic factory, but the question was how to make it even more attractive both to customers and employees alike? Today we can say that Narva city hasn’t been party to any major developments of the kind there have been in Tallinn or in other cities in Estonia. So when meeting Mr Parts, we discussed the situation and we agreed that the region needs some kind of boost in development. We started to build a team around us and named the project ‘Narva Reborn’.

The only hotel in Narva dates from the ‘60s and I think it has been barely renovated since then. But now we need to make sure that there is a proper theatre, a hotel and other critical places like this in the heart of city.

So it is not only a Fortaco project, but it embraces the whole city. We started to form a project team with multiple participants – Enterprise Estonia, local government from Narva as well as the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.

Right now we already have an agreement with Vabalava theatre, which is already operating in Tallinn, and they are going to invest and build another Vabalava in Narva in one of our facilities (where there also used to be a theatre).

This is the key concerning how to make Narva reborn – via new investment and by making the whole city a better place to live and we think we could help bringing potential investors to Narva.

FALL 2015




We are slowly creating awareness, and what we are getting in return are very dedicated people. Our factory in Narva is our best factory and the third biggest in the group with the revenue more than 30 million euros this year. We have also managed to raise its profitability. We have in total 10 factories in the Fortaco Group – also in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Finland. At the same time, our factories are safe. For example, in Narva, there have already been 700 days without any workplace incidents – in our business this is quite unique. In other factories, the best case is usually half of that time. Furthermore the quality and delivery performances are In addition was our original idea to support the development of Narva as the natural logistical hub between Europe and Russia. This idea is still just as valid for the future as it was 400 years ago when Narva was founded.

How much is Fortaco investing in all this? We ourselves are considering either enlarging our factory area or moving to a new factory outside the city centre, and the investment is estimated at roughly 10 million euros. It will cost four million euros for the equipment and up to six million euros, if we stay at our current location, in order to construct the factory enlargement, since our responsibility is the factory where we have developed the business very nicely. We are thinking of expanding the Narva factory by 50 per cent, so that the number of employees, which is today 370, will continue up to 500 people in the coming years. But we want to support other investors. Fortaco actually owns quite a lot of real estate in Narva and in the centre of the city, but we are not using all of it. So we have been trying to find buyers for the units we don’t need, and we want to sell them only in alignment with the ‘Narva Reborn’ philosophy, so that the renovated buildings can benefit all society. The Vabalava theatre outlined above is going to be located in one of our buildings, and we also have an old office building that could be turned into a renovated hotel. The Estonian architecture and construction consultancy Sirkel & Mall have already come up with a vision of how the building could look like. So we are looking for investors for the hotel and I hope we already have some candidates.

So Fortaco’s goal is that Narva becomes a better place to live for Fortaco’s (future) employees? Yes, our starting point was to make Narva more attractive for employees and also for its clients. Of course we have to mention that the situation and tension between Russia and Europe has reduced the pace compared to when we started the project.

But you are not quitting? No-no-no! We are definitely in Narva and we want to develop further. I think ‘Narva Reborn’ has also enlightened the people from Narva and its local government, giving them the sense that ‘hey, we need to do something together!’.



excellent. When I entered the business, Narva factory had only one client and that was the former owner Cargotec. Now we are producing for ten new customers. In my previous job in Wärtsilä Group I myself was a customer of this type. And as a customer you always have to evaluate not only the current situation, but also the future. And when you see a factory that hasn’t got the right skills or safe environment, you start to wonder if that supplier is the best for you. So my job is to think about all aspects of how to secure a future for Narva factory.

Do you think this is enough – a hotel and a theatre – to make a city a better place to live? I think that we still lack further support to develop the social life in Narva. Things are changing, but they are not yet in the phase where we could easily attract people from Tallinn or outside Estonia to come to Narva.

Right now you have 370 people working in the factory. Are they locals? There are a few people working at the factory who are not from Narva who have come from Tallinn. But the whole management team of the factory is local, which is also unique. The willingness and openness of our Narva team people to take on improvements, as the industry speaks virtually every day about how to make things more effective and ‘smarter’, is really setting an example to others. The factory also has great working conditions as noted above; it was renovated and rebuilt by the former owner in 2008. We understand that employees in our factory appreciate our developments, they support us and that altogether it is very important to feel that there is a future for the company and the factory.

In the coming years you are planning to hire about 200 new employees. What kind of skills are most needed? Since we are in the production business, it means that most of our workforce is blue-collars and we train them ourselves. We also enjoy great collaboration with vocational schools.

But if we think about project managers, engineers, designers, then we definitely have issues to find that kind of skill-set. Even if young people learn these skills, they usually want to move away from Narva – that is also one thing we want to halt, the rate of internal emigration.

You have a very successful career behind you and as you mentioned before, you have worked in no less than 28 countries. Have you done anything like this before with any other city? I spent seven or eight years working in China and elsewhere in Asia with Wärtsilä Group (one of the largest companies in Finland, which provides power solutions for the marine and energy markets and has more than 17 700 employees and has a revenue of about 4.7 billion euros). During my time there as a group vice president we were constructing factories in China, South Korea, Russia. My clear experience from that time is that you have to work closely with the local government. For instance we built a factory in Penza in Russia (800 km from Moscow) and we worked with local government and also spent a lot of time in Moscow’s ministries to be sure that everything was in order. But in other cities we haven’t experienced this kind of need as in Narva. Penza was a little bit more developed and in China there were so many investment projects going on anyway.

Did it take much time for you to convince the supervisory board or the owners of Fortaco Group for this Narva project? No. It was a clear indication from the representative of the owner also that there needs to be a parallel development with our factory. I think that we can put it like this – ‘Narva Reborn’ is to ensure that Fortaco can grow the business profitably, but also to make the city attractive to have the best workforce.

How does the local government help Fortaco? Local government is always important when it comes to discussing business opportunities, permission and bureaucracy. Furthermore the questions with infrastructure – just recently they renovated the road to the factory.

What do you think, how long-term is your project? How long does it take to make people want to come (back) to North-Eastern Estonia? It is not a short-term and of course it depends what is the final expectation, on market developments and all the other uncertainties that exist. But I guess it takes at least five years. But I assure you that there are already changes going on – more and more shops are being opened for example. When people believe, things tend to get done.

How often do you come across other investors who still have prejudice toward Narva as a city or even Estonia as a country? I am going to be frank – it’s still difficult to find investors for the region in the eastern part of Estonia and it has been like this for some time. I don’t think it is even so much due to hesitations about the situation with Russia, but because there needs to be business reasons to make investment. Cargotec have made a massive investment; there is big power plant near Narva which has invested a lot, and a number of logistical companies investing in Narva. But there is room for much more. Estonia is a beautiful country and I strongly believe in investing here.

The investors who have big plans for the former Kreenholm factory facilities are also Swedish. Maybe you even have plans to combine your ideas, because they would also like to give a new lease of life to an old manufacture? Yes, I have met the owners in Stockholm (the owners of Narva Gate OÜ are Mats Gabrielsson, Carl Andreas Claesson, Lars Kenneth Eriksson and Per Johan Damne). Of course, they have a fantastic vision, but they are located a little bit off the core city. Also, the size of investment needed in their project is hundreds of millions of euros. But I am convinced that the heart of the city of Narva will be in the same place as it is now and I hope to see Kreenholm to also be developed going forward

EAS Supports Foreign Investors with Building Relationships and Giving Advice Ruth Vahtras, Project manager in Estonian Investment Agency / EAS I have already been cooperating with the Narva factory from 2007 when it was owned by Cargotec and continuing with Lars Hellberg and his team since October 2013. We have already had 11 meetings with different ministries, institutions (eg. the Ministry of Education and Research, The Ministry of Culture, Environmental Investment Centre, the city of Narva, Ida-Viru county government, Ida-Virumaa Industrial Areas Development (IVIA), Töötukassa (Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund), Narva college, Narva vocational school etc.) to use the Team Estonia model, by which we are trying to bring together different parties around the table at the same time, to discuss and find solutions. I have been in Enterprise Estonia for 10 years, but in 1988 I created Estonia’s biggest travel agency Estravel. I know what it means to be an entrepreneur and manage a company, therefore I am trying to help in every way to bring the state representitives closer to my customers and to thus save the customer’s time. Enterprise Estonia (EAS) is a service provider and a business facilitator in Estonia. Companies will benefit from our free, qualified and confidential advice as we gather all the relevant legal and technical information required to carry out successfully your investment project in individual branches of industry, technologies and markets, as well as on political and economic framework conditions in Estonia or in EU common market. My job is to work together with customers, building relationships in order to gain a better understanding of the information needs and requirements.

FALL 2015




Kalev Mark Kostabi, a US artist with Estonian roots, staged a concert, exhibition and TV-show at the Tallinn Art Space Gallery on 15 August, 2015. The event is portrayed in the documentary film ‘Kalev is at home’. This humorous title speaks volumes to every Estonian as it refers to the Estonian national epic Kalevipoeg, which ends on an optimistic note: the hero Kalev will return home to bring a new life to Estonians. According to linguists, Kalev is an ancient male name and its root etymology goes back to the original meaning of the word ‘strong’.

Kalev Returns Home By Heie Treier

continues on p. 59 >




Progress of Beauty I

213 X 162


oil on canvas, 1987





60 X 50 I

oil on canvas, 2015

The Other and Beyond


150 X 150


oil on canvas, 2006-2015





121 X 228 I

oil on canvas, 1991

How to Get Ahead


60 X 60


oil on canvas, 2009-2012


Embracing Desire



45 X 60 I

oil on canvas, 2015

Significant Others I

30 X 25 I

oil on canvas, 2015


Artful Dodger



60 X 45 I

oil on canvas, 2009-2014

Tallinn Art Space gallery, run by Jaak Visnap, specializes in lithography, which carries the old and respected tradition of graphic art that has become more or less exclusive in the digital culture of today.

The Kostabi Show The format of the show has been fine-tuned over the years at Kostabi World – a painting factory in New York which has been in continuous operation since 1987. Over time, whilst the title has changed, the content has not. At this event, paintings which have come from the socalled factory receive a title – the last step before a painting is finished and signed. Three famous people (Kostabi usually uses the word ‘illuminates’) participate in each show and propose various titles and the audience votes either for or against. The title with the biggest collective vote wins the show. The person who proposed the winning title is awarded US$20. In the past, the show has taken place in the English language in New York, naturally, and equally naturally in Italian in Rome, and now in Estonian in Tallinn itself. Each cultural context provides its own flavour. The shows in New York are often the most entertaining, piquant and full of humour. In a sense, such a TV-show format is genius because it forces the audience to watch paintings, which they normally wouldn’t see, and to analyse them, which they normally wouldn’t do. Each painting receives a title in an effective and fast way, which does not reflect the content of the painting passively, but adds an active verbal meaning. Service


bronze, 1986

The beginning Having escaped the Soviet occupation as war refugees, Kalev Mark Kostabi’s parents, Rita and Kaljo, met in the 1940s at the Estonian House in Los Angeles. Rita, a piano teacher, came from Tallinn. Kaljo Kostabi came from the Võru county in southern Estonia from the midst of the large and vigorous Kostabi family, and he brought with him the local tradition of making music instruments. In the USA, Rita and Kaljo raised three sons and a daughter. The two younger sons, Kalev and Indrek, have long been collaborating in the Kostabi World, which brings together factory production of paintings and music, and business. Whereas Indrek Kostabi used to be a musician who played guitar in punk bands, he has now also actively shaped his career as an artist. He paints brooding portraits with spiky hair, which can naturally be linked to punk culture. The arrival of the young and ambitious Mark Kostabi in New York in 1982 became a turning point in his life in more ways than one. Having painted realistic works of his parents on the basis of family photographs as a teenager, and other drawings resembling comic books and pictograms, he saw the grand Giorgio de Chirico retrospective in MoMA in 1982. De Chirico is the master of Italian metaphysical painting, whose more innovative creative period was in the early 20th century. De Chirico’s impact on the young Mark Kostabi must have been particularly momentous, as from it he received an understanding of what his own artistic signature was to be for the rest of his life.

FALL 2015



Let this be a Lesson I oil on canvas, 2002

The recipe of being an artist Kostabi’s iconic painting style is a combination of the metaphysical use of colour (mysterious halos), which is linked to surrealism (subconscious and a puzzle). His drawings are dominated by faceless figures (a generalising message), comic-book-like dynamics (narrative) and the irony of the post-modernism of the 1980s. Add to this the impact of the East Village scene of the early 1980s, where painting was a race against the clock and the Stock Exchange bubble influenced the art world for the first time ever. Plus the shine of Andy Warhol. Plus ‘media-gymnastics’, for which Kostabi invented a new genre – ‘kostabism’. Plus factory production. The blue-black-white colour combination, as a reference to the Estonian tricolor, is a repetitive undercurrent in his paintings. So is the motif of a sphere, which refers to the Idla women gymnasts on the family photographs dating back either to the Tallinn of 1930s or the Stockholm of 1940s. One of the gymnasts was young Rita, and this is probably where the definition of ‘beauty’ in Kostabi’s paintings comes from.

213 X 304

As of today Mark Kostabi has created his own little art universe which he runs from Rome and New York. He is actively collaborating with leading Italian and Estonian musicians and has moved more into this world at a time when his painting factory in New York continues to operate at full speed. Having studied piano under his mother’s tuition and possessing the skill of perfect pitch, he has written pieces of music which the late composer Lepo Sumera has adapted for the orchestra. Let’s hope that one day those are published as music sheets and turned into songs which joint choirs perform at the national Song and Dance Celebration in Tallinn.

Kalev returns home The name Kalev has no significant meaning in the USA. In Estonian it is a typical man’s name. We have the Kalev chocolate factory, the Kalev stadium and the Kalev swimming hall. We used to have the Kalev basketball team, which was a championship-winning team in the Soviet Union.

All of this signalled the arrival of the painter of the new, postmodern age. In comparison to the modernist painter, the difference is great and is also a matter of principle – the modernist was alone, painting in isolation in his studio, worshipping an idealist philosophy and the aesthetics based on it. The conflict has been written into the relationship between the two approaches, and Kostabi made this conflict the basis whence to advertise his works. In the eyes of the art world, Kostabi has remained the disobedient ‘artist as pagan’ type, characterised by the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard in his famous 1979 book ‘The Postmodern Condition’. According to Lyotard, it is a type of artist who creates his own rules instead of bending to existing ones. Still this particular artist discussed here can boast several collaborative projects with art museums and art critics in different countries.



Untitled I

54 X 55 I

litography, 2015

In the USA, Kalev has been the ‘secret name’ of Kostabi within family circles. His father Kaljo only used to call him by that name. The fact that all sons were given traditional names was supposed to maintain the connection to their fatherland. The name Indrek is also part of the Estonian literary classic canon, referring to the 5-volume novel by Tammsaare called ‘Truth and Justice’. News of the young and successful artist Kalev reached Estonia in 1988, the year of the Singing Revolution, which led to Estonia’s independence. It was a period of euphoria in the Eastern European countries, a period of freedom and one of becoming free. Young writers such as Kauksi Ülle, Sven Kivisildnik, Karl-Martin Sinijärv, Piret Viires, Indrek Särg, Neeme Kahusk founded the Estonian Kostabi $ociety which started to publish books and the weekly cultural paper ‘Kostabi’. It was one of the first privately-initiated publishing activities after the collapse of the strictly regulated and censored Soviet regime. ‘Kostabi’ was published for about three years.

Fluid Memory I

30 X 30 I

oil on canvas, 2015

Love is a Game I

30 X 30 I

oil on canvas, 2015

State of the Union I

30 X 30 I

oil on canvas, 2015

The first ‘Kostabi’ was issued in 1991 just after Estonia regained independence. It looked like punk journalism – full of laughter and irony, with a haphazardly designed appearance, and barely-readable text. It seems the first western computers had reached Estonia, and some members of the Kostabi $ociety started to actively bring more computers into the country. They wrote manifestos claiming computers to be the future and especially suited to the introverted nature of Finno-Ugric peoples. Recalling this is strange, almost as if they had predicted the era of Skype and Transferwise. Contemporary art in the newly-free Eastern Europe turned now to computers and new technology, which signified the political rejection of and moving away from the Soviet empire and the young generation’s thirst for the new.

15 August, 2015 The latest Kostabi performance, with the concert, exhibition and TVshow took place in Tallinn Art Space. This gallery, run by Jaak Visnap, specializes in lithography, which carries the old and respected tradition of graphic art that has become more or less exclusive in the digital culture of today. Kalev Mark Kostabi used free moments to create lithography. Those were the artist’s first drawings on the massive lithographic stone, from which prints were made with the historic graphic press. The vocalist Greesi Desiree Langovits, who has won a Grammy together with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, performed music written for Kostabi’s text. The earlier instrumental pieces were now complemented by vocals. The song dedicated to the powerful art critic Clement Greenberg – the soldier of modernist art in the USA with whom artists of the Kostabi generation also here in Estonia have had most to argue with – seemed especially significant. All of it will be pulled together into the three-part documentary film ‘Kalev is at home’ which will be available soon.

FALL 2015




Kostabi World In 1987, inspiring extensive international press coverage, Mark Kostabi founded Kostabi World, his large New York studio known for openly employing numerous painting assistants and idea people. Kostabi has been profiled on 60 Minutes, Eye to Eye with Connie Chung, A Current Affair, Nightwatch (with Charlie Rose), The Oprah Winfrey Show, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Nonsolomoda, West 57th, CNN, MTV and numerous television programs throughout Europe and Japan. In print he has been featured in The New York Times, People, Vogue, Architectural Digest, The Face, Playboy, Forbes, New York Magazine, The Sunday Telegraph, Domus, Corriera Della Sera, Panorama, Artforum, Art in America, ARTnews, Flash Art, Arte, Arte In and Tema Celeste. Retrospective exhibitions of Kostabi’s paintings have been held at the Mitsukoshi Museum in Tokyo (1992) and the Art Museum of Estonia in Tallinn (1998). Kostabi’s work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the National Gallery in Washington D.C., the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome and the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands.



Kostabi has designed album covers for Guns ‘N’ Roses (Use Your Illusion) and The Ramones (¡Adios Amigos!), Seether Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray, Jimmy Scott (Holding Back The Years), Glint (Sound in Silence), RK: Roman Klun (Kingsway), Psychotica (Espina) and numerous products including a Swatch watch, Alessi vases, Rosenthal espresso cups, Ritzenhoff milk glasses, and a Giro d’Italia pink jersey. Kostabi is also known for his many collaborations with other artists including Enzo Cucchi, Arman, Howard Finster, Tadanori Yokoo, Enrico Baj and Paul Kostabi. Kostabi has performed music as a soloist and with other musicians including Ornette Coleman, Jerry Marotta, Tony Levin, Tony Esposito, Stefano di Battista, Olen Cesari, Aaron Comess, Richard Hammond, Amedeo Ariano, Marco Siniscalco, Stefano Nunzi, Puccio Panettieri, Pat Daugherty, Roman Klun and Paul Kostabi. His compositions have also been performed independently by Rein Rannap, Kristjan Järvi, Maano Männi, Delilah Gutman and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. His debut album, I Did It Steinway was released on Artists Only Records in October 1998. Produced by Dale Ashley & Charles Coleman, the album features original compositions by Kostabi, and was recorded entirely at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City. Kostabi’s other releases include: Songs For Sumera, New Alliance and The Spectre Of Modernism.

Last year’s design award, Bruno, was given to What? – a humorous plywood clothes hanger-light created by designer Tarmo Luisk.

Wood in the Hands of the Designer

By Anneliis Aunapuu

Estonians have a special relationship with woodwork. Although modern lifestyle changes have naturally taken us further away from these traditions, new technologies today are opening up new horizons for this ancient art. Rediscovered woodwork is thus like an old flame rekindled.

When the President of Estonia made his opening speech at a wooden house design contest, he claimed that in terms of trees per capita, Estonia is perhaps only succeeded by some sparsely populated island in the South Seas. That was not so much a challenge to statisticians, as it was putting things into perspective.

FALL 2015




From forest folk to high-tech nation Fortunately there are still a few amongst us who remember the art of living together with trees, paying attention to the annual circle of nature – when should a tree be left to grow and when should it be cut down, how to care for it and treat it so that the properties of the material would not diminish, but improve, and so on. Such know-how is especially concentrated in the workshops of local music instrument makers. Before World War II, dozens of piano workshops were operating in Estonia, where wood was a material which people were as familiar with as they were with the back of their own hand. The Estonia Piano Factory produces world-renowned pianos even today. However the production of wooden furniture in Estonia lacks vibrancy at present. Regardless of the efforts of designers, cooperation is being slow to take off. On the other hand, there are young and entrepreneurial people who are smitten with the character and opportunities offered by wooden materials, as well as with the associated new machines and technology, and they are certainly excited to experiment and innovate.

Grünberg has not forgotten her dream of producing furniture from bent plywood. She has created a large collection of designs and prototypes. Those are still waiting for a producer courageous enough to go into production on our small market. The design has great potential – it is effective and has grown out of experience, but the realization of the idea is still up in the air.

From woodworking lathes to plywood Our fathers still remember the woodworking lathes of their fathers (ie. our grandfathers), which were operated with the foot like a spinning wheel. Since then, machinery has become more powerful and complex, enabling the reshaping the look of the wood and giving it new qualities. The use of plywood took off in Estonia at the end of the nineteenth century. The furniture factory Luther began to produce bent plywood products – chairs with plywood bottoms, suitcases, small cylinder-shaped children’s cases and large round boxes for hats. In post-war years, the Luther factory was renamed the Tallinn Plywood and Furniture Factory. Malle Grünberg, who worked there for years as designer, was able to produce effective products from bent plywood, which attracted attention at trade fairs, but unfortunately the legendary factory was nevertheless closed down.



From plywood to 3D printer These days it is also possible in Estonia to carry out fine laser cutting. The only limitation of the advanced technology is the relative twodimensional nature of products which can be created – as the plywood layer becomes thicker, the machine tends to burn it. One of the ways to give some depth to products is by playing around with separate layers which have been cut out – for example in the interesting decorative platters of KR Stuudio.

This striving for the easiest way to turn wood into a 3D product might be accomplished by mixture combination of wood fiber and resin (known as MDF) plus the newcomer in the world of technology – the 3D printer. After this, anyone is free to predict what wood will look like in the future.

Estonian jewellery-makers are also playing around with wood. Combined with precious metals and -stones, the wood naturally becomes quite valuable. The most well-known range for its uncompromising use of wood is Tanel Veenre’s jewellery range called Big Trophies. His newest collection, ‘Batwoman’, offers ladies the opportunity to wear wooden bats as accessories (

We are once again at crossroads. The dream of well-designed wooden products, which are made of local raw materials and area also eminently marketable, is yet to become reality. But as the Chair of the Union of Designers, Ilona Gurjanova, said, it may be the advent of the 3D printer which will put an end to the long-lasting conflict between designers and production. Perhaps 3D printers will enable us to spend less on product development and thus results will be reached faster, together with designers?

Makeover of wood Small producers are not so easily put off. Locals also tend to buy wooden, ethno-rustic household items – cutting boards, ladles and butter knives made of wooden blocks with woodgrain running in different directions are practical, and their design is met with the approval of even the fussiest customers. These products are appealing, with a surface finishing of wood which brings out its amazing colours and effective features. In addition, one can find a more experimental and artistic approach to wood, surprising material choices and combinations. Karl Annus, for example, is a designer who has won much acclaim and customers over the last few years. His brand is eyewear with wooden frames! Another exciting product is wooden bow-ties, the success of which came as a surprise even for the authors (a family business called Wooden Lifestyle) and is probably homage the image cultivated by the President of Estonia, Toomas-Hendrik Ilves.

There are also more ambitious designs: the use of wood to house electrical- and smart appliances; the trio called Ööbik have even constructed an electric bicycle which is fully compliant with EU standards! Last year’s design award, Bruno, was given to What? – a humorous plywood clothes hanger-light created by designer Tarmo Luisk. The natural wood surface is decorated with embroidery by the textile designer Monika Järg. Students of the Estonian Academy of Arts are testing plywood in lighting design.

FALL 2015




The latter have also invented a smart, reusable way of bending plywood. The need to liven up top world design product like the iPhone serves as a red flag to designers as it demonstrates the major weakness of mass production – the lack of individuality. In search of individuality, people have started to value the parts of wood which used to be considered offcuts or of lesser quality – damaged parts, layers of pith or even bits of bark. The defect has thus become an effect! Shortcomings in quality are made up for by contemporary finishing; the vacuum method guarantees the infiltration of preservatives into porous wood.

Changing design ideals The popularity of decorative covers for technical gear demonstrates that customers tend to get bored with mass product design. To give some examples from wooden items, the company Beam offers covers for phones and earphones ( Similar products, but with a wider range of colours and designs, are offered by KOOR wood (www.



An example of this is the young Kersti Teenu, who has discovered an unexpected but quite successful way of self-realisation by changing strange pieces of wood into designer watches! The demand for these products is growing (see: Both more and less playful and stylish wooden designs can be found at the Estonian Design House in Kalarand in Tallinn (estoniandesignhouse. ee) or from the NuNordik shop at the Tallinn Art Hall at the Freedom Square. And of course – online.

Estonia – a Test Site for the Self-driving City By Maris Hellrand / Photos by Tþnu Tunnel

Tallinn Architecture Biennale addresses changes to the city space once self-driving cars hit the streets. Curator of TAB 2015 is Marten Kaevats, an urban planner, architect and community activist.

FALL 2015




What might an ideal smart city look like by 2030? For Estonia, the ideal might be that 90 per cent of traffic in both the cities and the countryside are self-driving cars. As a result, the circulation system of this society and psycho-geography will have changed immensely. Self-driving cars that have taken over the streets and roads by 2030 could provide a great symbol for a whole new mind-set: human consumption will change profoundly once we are prepared to give up the current symbol of freedom and status – a personal car. By 2030 it will be common sense that sharing a car makes economically more sense than owning a car, and this is a big step towards a sharing economy on a much wider scale. From personal experience, I’ve spent a lot of time transporting things around in order to deal with silly logistics. All this annoying activity, whilst it is of course also a defining feature of today’s economy, will become a thing of the past. This will manifest in a totally different situation of traffic flows, which the urban space will have to adjust to. For Estonia it would make most sense if people prefer community based systems - when a local community owns the hardware and decides how to share it. This would include all sorts of transport means as well as tools – all these will be much more accessible to people. It’s really a question of interface, because a screen and space are both user interfaces, nothing more.

What is the big change for the citizen? Life for people will change quite remarkably: the whole space around a person will be sending them feedback. But this should be arranged in



Project by Arhitekt Must

such a way that a person has the final control over the kind of feedback they receive. To imagine that my hat will whisper to me the arrival time of a bus scares me personally! However, the option that the first car to drive over a pothole sends a signal to maintenance robots who will arrive immediately to fix it, sounds like a good plan. The key factor is that a person has a choice of how much he or she wants to be part of the data exchange. Data is a very sensitive issue, even in the context of advertising. If we are able to implement smart data protection laws today, it will be possible for people to trust the environment and the state. A community’s trust for the system will make life much more convenient. A swipe or a touch of one’s own smart device will help us to move around easily and solve other needs as well. The movement of people will be free when streetlights can react to smart devices, cars drive completely safely etc. But in today’s world the traffic situation has created a background of fear in the city. Before sending our children off we always need to remind them to be careful. But when the reason for these fears disappear, we will feel much freer. The space will become much friendlier regardless how we move around – be it by selfdriving car, bicycle or roller-skates etc. Furthermore, we will be much more flexible in work due to good connectivity both virtually as well as in reality. Of course the notion of work will change with technological development. Many professions are likely to disappear – drivers, car mechanics, etc. On the one hand this will create unemployment, but on the other hand people will have more free time. The possibilities for remote work will thus be much better.

What is the role of an architect and urban planner in this development?

Which steps are needed from the state and the society for this technological development?

Planning will need to enter a new dimension. The architect has to understand and predict the technological revolution beyond buildings in order to plan for the future space.

Quite a few strategic decisions are needed, primarily about the data that all smart devices around us are collecting. Privacy is a crucial question. Self-driving cars are again a great symbol – these are machines that collect and save a lot of data about what’s happening around us, where and when we move.

Cars and traffic will require much less space, so there will be more public space leftover. But that’s the tricky part – what to do with this new large public space. I have calculated that the major streets of Tallinn could fit as many as 600 000 trees when traffic is optimized by selfdriving cars. Today’s roads with their busy traffic will transform into a safe social environment. For the smart space the focal spots need to be planned carefully. We have to take into account that self-driving cars will cause a ‘super urban sprawl’. So smart planning doesn’t plan buildings but rather the movement of people – walking, cycling routes, getting around. The planners will need to figure out focal points where people want to go, and where they will want to spend time. More focus will be on city centres that will have more space for diverse small businesses. When the traffic space diminishes it will be possible to create a denser service space. There will be more event space that needs to be filled with content, is another way of putting it. At the same time there is the danger that a lot of non-space will emerge. This is an opportunity for the architects – to build strong identity networks into these spaces. Big data helps to predict these spaces and adjust the planning accordingly. All these are topics for this year’s Tallinn Architecture Biennale which will involve and include scientists and researchers from other fields to complement the work of architects. Tallinn could be a model city for all these new options.

All this points to bigger questions of the paradigmatic change of the society. Who owns the data? What can he do with it? What are the rights of the user for his/her data? Estonia is today an ideal model country to test these technologies as we already have a great digital foundation – the ID card and a great level of public trust towards digital technology. But the innovation in Estonia needs to be taken to the next level; we can’t rely on the success of the ID card much longer. It’s about time to start thinking of a self-driving Estonia - a whole country covered by a network of self-driving cars. Estonia would be an ideal testing ground for the whole world. We are not big enough to be a development centre for this technology but we could be the first to implement a comprehensive system. In Estonia the public trust in data protection is very high; this however is not the case everywhere. Isn’t trusting the government with one’s data the biggest obstacle for the development of such a self-driving community? People are scared of any Orwellian scenario.

FALL 2015



I CREATIVE ESTONIA in consideration that people will in due course be sharing self-driving cars. Until now the planning has followed a modernist approach. The city is divided into separate spaces for residential, production, business properties etc. but these notions are out-dated; the reality is mixed use. Why does someone need to go through the whole application process of changing the set purpose of use for a plot if he wants to open a café in a residential area? This should be so much more flexible. Also the public transport needs an overhaul. Does Tallinn still need public transport at all when there are self-driving cars in the city? We need to plan for this already today.

How can people adjust to these rapid changes especially when they start to shape our public space?

I’m discussing this topic just now with a French friend who doesn’t have a great trust in his government and makes a lot of daily efforts to leave as small a digital trace as possible. Mistrust is indeed the biggest obstacle for the ‘third industrial revolution’. The questions of privacy and data protection are crucial. I still would like to remain optimistic. A negative scenario is possible but it can be avoided with smart decisions. Estonia should aim to become a “‘little brother”’ by doing in data protection what Switzerland has done in banking – to become the beacon of data protection. In big countries with centralized systems it is very hard to build this kind of trust. If Estonia manages to develop a positive example it could be an inspiration for others. It is only a matter of time before self-driving cars become part of our daily lives anyway and everywhere. At a time when data moves freely across borders people will be looking for a place where they can trust the system. It’s only a matter of time when large car companies will start selling not physical cars but rather traffic kilometres. This means that they will also need to possess a lot of information about the movement of their users.

How can a person feel safe and secure within this development? The other side of the coin is social cohesion – open government, participation and involvement. The feedback system of the society needs to become more effective. The future planning can only happen through participation of the community – hyper local planning. Tallinn has seen a positive development over the last few years – local community festivals prove that people care about their environment and want to shape it. Community involvement has resulted in a change of physical environment – a busy street has been adjusted to the needs of local people, with more space for pedestrians and cyclists. These small steps act like ‘acupuncture’ for the city and have an empowering effect on people.

What are the things in today’s Tallinn that are hopelessly out-dated? Firstly the public transport system was established in a very different era, so the whole network was developed with an out-dated mind-set in today’s terms. The whole traffic flow needs to be rethought taking



Changing the mind-set is most difficult, especially for politicians. So far opening a large new traffic junction has been regarded as a massive achievement for a politician; from now on this will no longer be the case. The thinking needs a proper ‘software update’. When talking about future trends the acceptance by the community is the key aspect. Estonians may well consider themselves tech-savvy but many aspects of that are not yet self-evident. I have a steam engine in our summer cottage – it’s used to heat the sauna. The steam engine started the first industrial revolution. Today the pace is much quicker; we literally need to invent a steam engine every day to keep up with the global development. The human nature cannot adjust so quickly. So information and education are crucial in order to understand the changes and take advantage of them. All of that is of course part of our lives already today – while standing next to a golden field of wheat in Southern Estonia and conducting this interview via Skype, it seems very real that in Estonia we need to talk about smart space not just in the cities. For a country so sparsely populated smart solutions would provide an immense logistical advantage. A smart city that we address at TAB should also inspire regional development of a small country like Estonia. This is a great testing ground for the concepts of smart cities.

Martin Lazarev

Andrus Kõresaar partner and creative director at KOKO Architects:

is a designer, illustrator and inventor. Among other things he has invented what is to date the tiniest ID card reader available.

Virtual City

a Home for Estonia’s e-Residents and New City Planning Ideas Estonian IT strategy’s latest hit, the e-Residency has inspired the designer and illustrator Martin Lazarev to come up with an idea for a virtual city that could offer virtual living space for Estonia’s e-residents. What started as a joke in the KOKO architecture bureau has fast become a real possibility as Martin explains: ‘We thought, it would be nice if the e-residents would have somewhere to “live”. How about if we create a second layer of Tallinn, where architects could create a SIM-city-like environment where e-residents can rent apartments and have a real address in Estonia.’ Now the work is well in progress to get a real framework off the ground, to start a tender for development and maybe one day offer virtual addresses to millions of e-residents of Estonia. In a way it is of course just a publicity stunt for the e-Residency project. So far the e-Residency has appealed to business people who can start companies, open bank accounts, pay taxes and do their everyday business in Estonia. This, Martin thinks, has excluded a potential younger target group: ‘The 20-somethings are not

interested in doing business yet. But they would be a great potential target group for e-Residency if it offers a certain fun factor,’ he states. Martin thinks Estonia could benefit enormously if the virtual layer of Tallinn would for example offer access to all virtual museums of the city. The possibilities of fun services for virtual tourists are endless. In other words a website as a tourism marketing tool is so last century! How about a virtual train-ride above and around Tallinn’s UNESCO heritage Old Town? You could stop any time, enter the virtual versions of real historical buildings, explore them immediately or save it for later. The many great new museums would have a true incentive to develop their virtual versions to attract public on a different level. This would be a real tourist magnet. However, for Martin the idea goes beyond the touristy fun factor: ‘The virtual layer of Tallinn could interact with the real life city and the two worlds could start supporting each other. A virtual city government is a real possibility and being free and liberal it could start having an impact on the city governance in real life’. He picks two examples from city planning, where a virtual city could be beneficial right now: ‘When the new building of the Estonian

Enabling a local home or work address for e-residents by creating a virtual architecture allows the enhancement of Tallinn as a futuristic utopia. The skyline and image of the city will certainly change in a very exciting way if the number of e-residents one day exceeds the number of physical Estonian residents. The e-resident doesn’t have to live in a house or an apartment with an architectural form that follows the laws of gravity; it’s his or her free choice with the virtual architect what the residency looks like.

Art Academy was planned there were more than 200 entries, which were judged by a commission. In a virtual city we could test each blueprint in the actual environment for a while and let the (e-)residents decide which one fits best. Or take Linnahall – the former giant concert hall from 1980 that has been unused for many years. In a virtual layer we could easily brainstorm and test different solutions and maybe find something that nobody has even thought of so far. This virtual solution could inspire real life ideas. It would be possible to test ideas what and how to change in the city without any cost. It would be cool to call for worldwide competition to create new imaginary buildings for Tallinn. A virtual competition for a city would be unique and quite a perk for architects and students. Become an e-resident and get a flat in an interesting building with a great view!’ So in that way the virtual city would open up great tourism marketing potential for the city, for the e-Residency by widening the potential target groups of e-residents, create a whole new business for Estonia’s flagship IT sector, promote Estonian architecture and design and maybe even take the democracy to a whole new level.

FALL 2015




Epic Estonia

Photos by MART VARES

Experiencing Estonia’s Quirky and Unconventional Attractions This summer about 300 Swedes visited Estonia to enjoy the most epic once-in-a-lifetime experience Estonia has to offer. These people became digital ambassadors of Estonia to spread the beauty this country has to offer around the rest of the world. The ‘Epic Estonia’ campaign was based around the insight that people increasingly book their holidays based on what other people say about their own experiences. The campaign used 97 themes in recognition of the number of years since Estonia first declared independence in 1918. Each one of these 97 trips was individually designed with a special twist, to celebrate the wide variety of unique attractions that Estonia has to offer. So forget everything you have heard about travelling in Estonia and have a look at a selection of these epic adventures. Ainars Fogts ‘Awesome experience!’




Scubadiving in the world’s only underwater prison

When the prison was closed, pumps that kept the quarry and the prison dry were shut down.

Ainars Fogts went scuba diving in the underwater prison in Rummu quarry close to Tallinn. This eerie place, which once held about a thousand inmates, is now an amazingly popular and mesmerizing beach.

According to legend, water rose so quickly that it covered a large mining excavator and other equipment that could have been taken to a higher ground well in time.

Rummu quarry was used as a mining site for Vasalemma marble (a kind of limestone) for many years. Most of the workforce came from among the detainees of Murru prison.

At Rummu, you are going to find submerged buildings and other things that form a unique underwater museum, and a paradise with unusually clear water (due to the limestone bedrock) for swimmers and divers.

FALL 2015




Matilda Andersson ‘Unforgettable time together.’


Cooking lamb in an earth oven according to the old traditions at Muhu Wine Village In the Luscher ja Matiesen wine house on the island of Muhu, Matilda Andersson and her friends prepared lamb underground according to ancient traditions. This delicacy was prepared for 11 hours and all extra ingredients of the meal were found from other parts of Muhu island. For instance, there is an ostrich farm where you can get ostrich eggs for breakfast, or you can visit Muhu Bakery where you make your own Muhu bread or find herbal tea components from the meadow near the seashore.



Fanny Staaf ‘Pure Magic.’


Hot air ballooning at Kõue Manor Fanny Staaf stayed in the luxurious boutique hotel Kõue Manor, which is surrounded by striking nature. In order to experience the wonderful surroundings, what could be better than a hot air balloon ride above Kõue Manor and village? Seeing the beautiful landscape from such a height is a both extreme and romantic experience.


Night canoeing in Soomaa Petra Månström went canoeing in the Soomaa Natural Park. The park is actually an extensive wilderness area, containing large peat-bogs and thick forests interwoven by numerous rivers and the floodplains. In Estonian, the word ‘soomaa’ literally means ‘swamp land. The epic experience encompassed mid-night canoeing together with beavers, hearing wolves howling, fish splashing and other sounds of wild nature during night time.

Petra Månström ‘True balm for the soul.’

FALL 2015




Bread Day


32 Swings and a Full House – Estonian Pavilion at EXPO in Milan Andres Kask / Project Manager of the Estonian representation

The World Exhibition in Milan is still open for a few more months. Participating in EXPO has been the largest PR event for Estonia this year, with the aim of representing Estonia well in the world and helping our businesses to increase opportunities for themselves. Estonia’s participation at EXPO is organised by Enterprise Estonia. The Estonian pavilion, designed by the architecture bureau Kadarik &Tüür Arhitektid and built by Redaelli Costruzioni S.p.A., differs from many other pavilions because it is open from three sides of the building. This means that visitors do not have to queue for hours in the heat and it creates a good mood already when entering. The permanent exhibition ‘Powered by Estonia’ is open every day and introduces Estonia from many aspects of science to business. On the first floor of the restaurant you will find the Estonian Rye Restaurant, which serves Estonian dishes and five types of Estonian beer and, in addition, 32 swings where anybody who wants can rest their feet and enjoy themselves. On the second floor, there is the Estonian souvenir shop, where, for example, the producer of wooden wall panels, Reliefwalls, showcase their product, and who have already received their first contract directly due to exposure on EXPO.



Rye Days

Although the Estonian pavilion has the smallest budget of all the selfbuilt pavilions, CNN selected it as one of the 22 most interesting pavilions at EXPO and the local newspaper Corriere della Sera ranked it in the top 10 of pavilions with the most beautiful terrace. The pavilion will close its doors on 31 October. If everything goes well, it will enjoy a second life, but where and in what format you can find out in the next issue of ‘Life in Estonia’. Estonian pavilion can be followed both in social media and other online sources at

Fashion Show


Events at the EXPO Estonia pavilion to date •

The Estonian pavilion opened its doors on 1 May, 2015. Estonia is the only Nordic-region country at EXPO; the neighbouring pavilions are Oman and Russia.

During the four months of being open, the Estonian pavilion has been visited by twice as many visitors as Estonia has inhabitants (on July 12, the number of visitors first exceeded the number of Estonian inhabitants of 1.3 million).

We have hosted many business delegations, for example from France, Monaco, United Arab Emirates and Lithuania. Every day, visitors are greeted by guides who have been clothed in Amanjeda by Katrin Kuldma and also UP by the designer Reet Aus.

The Estonian pavilion opened its series of events in May, with the tourism sector seminar for local tourism journalists and representatives of the tourism industry.

In early June, the Estonian national day took place, with various events in the pavilion. The event was visited by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who was given an Estonian flag to be hoisted at EXPO by the ten-member EXPORide bicycle team. Events which took on the day included trying to break the Guinness record in ‘kiiking’ and the opening of the exhibition ‘Powered by Estonia’. Before the reception in the evening, people were able to enjoy the concert by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, who performed music by Arvo Pärt. In June, Estonian models living in Milan participated in the fashion show of the Embassy of Fashion. The red carpet was rolled out and visitors could enjoy the creations of designers Aldo Järvsoo, Riina Põldroos and Ketlin Bachmann-Põldroos.

In the beginning of July, Italian entrepreneurs participated in the Estonian transport- and logistics seminar and learned about the services and business opportunities available in Estonia. Estonian companies represented included the Port of Tallinn, Port of Paldiski, Estonian Railways and GoSwift. Nearly 40 representatives of the Italian logistics and transport sector participated in the event.

August started with the Rye Days, which introduced the history of cultivating rye, rye products and fresh bread baked on location. The event helped to value rye as the national grain of Estonia through centuries. The winter rye variety ‘Sangaste’ is the oldest known type of rye in the world which is still in production. The seed of ‘Sangaste’ rye is preserved in the World Gene Bank. By the way, in 1893, ‘Sangaste’ rye won first place at the EXPO in Chicago.

In August, the Ray-bike (a push bike invented in Estonia) competition took place.

The bravest visitors could try out kiiking – a sport invented in Estonia. Over four days, the Estonian Kiiking Union introduced the sport, which is becoming more well-known in the world, to the EXPO-going public, and which had already attracted a lot of attention in Milan during the Estonian National Day.

On 16 September the attempt to make the new world record in kiiking is to take place.

In October Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas will visit the pavilion with an IT-business delegation. At the IT conference to also be held at the pavilion, we will introduce the Estonian e-state success story and speakers are due to include well-known and acclaimed Estonian IT specialists.

FALL 2015




Kiiking – Defying Gravity

A particularly extreme Estonian form of the old playground swings has developed into a sport, called kiiking. Invented by Ado Kosk in the 1990s, kiiking derives from the Estonian word kiik, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, means ‘swing’. Riding on a swing is one of the oldest forms of entertainment, be it alone or in a group, in many parts of the world, for young and old alike. In the past, each village in Estonia would have a traditional wooden swing in the marketplace, where people would meet up to celebrate the end of the harvest or to have a party on Jaanipäev (Midsummer night). One of the main reasons why kiiking is close to Estonian hearts is that our great-great-great grandparents very likely met each other on a swing – this is where we began in other words! Swings have brought Estonians together for centuries. The roots of this more extreme form of swinging – kiiking as we know it today – stem back to 1993, when Ado Kosk built two kiiking swings. Whereas for safety reasons a regular swing does not allow the user to pass over the top bar, with its main purpose being for leisure, the inventor of kiiking designed one of the swings to pass over the spindle for the first time, which inspired him to create the new sport. Unlike with a normal swing, in kiiking a person is fastened to the swing base by the feet. Safety is paramount; without the right measures in place, kiiking can be very dangerous, or even fatal.



To achieve a swing, the person begins to 'pump' by squatting and standing up on the swing. The swing will thereby gain momentum and will, with the right amount of pumping, carry a person right over the fulcrum. While regular swings can be made of different materials such as wood, rope or metal, kiiking swings are strictly constructed from metal or modern composite materials. Kosk observed that it became more difficult to swing over the fulcrum as the arms of the swing became longer. He then designed and patented telescoping swing arms, to gradually extend the arms for an increased challenge. In a competitive kiiking scenario, the person able to swing over the fulcrum with the longest swing arms is declared the winner. Currently, there are three kiiking swing models in operation, with the maximum shaft length of the tallest swing being eight metres. Many kiiking world records have been set since the sport first emerged – the first Guinness World Record of 7.01 metres in the men’s category was set in 2001. This record wasn't broken until 2004, by one centimetre (7.02 metres). On 16 September, 2015 a group of Estonian kiiking enthusiasts are planning an attempt to set a new Guinness World Record at EXPO Milan. Currently, the Estonian record in kiiking is held by Kaspar Taimsoo (7.08 m) (men's) and by Kätlin Kink (5.94 m) (women's).

Practical Information for Visitors

Visitors arriving in Estonia with visa must have national passports valid at least 3 months after their planned departure from Estonia. Children aged 7 to 15 years of age must have their own passport when travelling to Estonia or be registered in their parents’ passport, including a photo next to the name. Persons above 15 years must have a separate travel document with a photo.

Arrival By plane: The modern and user-friendly Tallinn Lennart Meri Airport is located just 3 km from the city centre and provides an easy access to most hotels and restaurants located in the city centre. Among other amenities, travellers have access to a free WiFi area in the

popular border crossing in eastern Estonia on the Russian border is Narva, located on the St. Petersburg-Tallinn road. Other border crossings with Russia include Luhamaa, Koidula and Murati. On the Estonian-Russian border, all traffic is subject to border formalities both when entering and leaving Estonia. By coach: When travelling between the Baltic states and nearby locations such as Poland and Germany, coach travel might be the most convenient option. Regular connections to Tallinn and Tartu depart from all major cities in the Baltic countries and St. Petersburg. Eurolines and Lux Express offer comfortable Riga Airport transfers from Tallinn, Pärnu, Klaipeda, Vilnius, Panevezys, and Šiauliai. Prices start from €20. By train: An overnight train service from Moscow to Tallinn is available.

For more travel details, please consult the sources below: (Estonian Tourist Board), Tourist information centres are located in all larger towns. The Tallinn Tourist Information Centre in the Old Town is located at 4 Kullassepa Street - no more than 10 steps from the Town Hall Square (ph.: + 372 645 7777, e-mail: turismiinfo@ A wide selection of maps, brochures and publications in several languages (largest selection in English) can be found at local bookstores and tourist information centres.

Visa Estonia is part of the Schengen visa area, granting the nationals of EU and EEA member states free entry to Estonia. The required travel document for entry is a national ID card or passport. In addition to the citizens of EU and EAA states, nationals of numerous countries can extend their visit up to 90 days in any 6-month period. The required travel document for entry is a valid passport. A comprehensive list of countries is available at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website at Citizens of countries not listed require a visa to enter Estonia.

transit zone. The airport’s 24-hour customer service telephone is +372 6058 888. Tartu Airport is situated near Tartu, hosting frequent flights to Helsinki. By ship: The Port of Tallinn, hosting over 6 million passengers annually, is undoubtedly the main gateway to and from Estonia. Large passenger ferries depart daily to Helsinki and Stockholm. Cruises from Tallinn to St. Petersburg depart less frequently. The 85-km TallinnHelsinki ferry journey takes approximately 2 hours, and slightly less by hydrofoils and catamarans in service from spring until late autumn. Travellers should note that different ferry lines depart from different terminals and harbours. The City Port with its four terminals is a 10-15 minute walk from Tallinn Old Town; the Paldiski-Kapellskär line uses the Port of Paldiski, about 50 km from Tallinn. By car: Visitors from Central and Western Europe can drive to Estonia via Latvia. Ikla and Valga border checkpoints greet travellers entering or departing the country. The most

Customs The limit on import of alcoholic beverages from outside the EU is one litre for beverages over 22% alcohol content, and two litres for beverages up to 22%, and four litres for wine. Import of tobacco and tobacco products from non-EU countries is limited to 40 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 50 grammes of tobacco products. Counterfeit goods, including pirated CDs, video and audio tapes, are prohibited by law. A special export permit is required for specimens of plants and animals of endangered species, protected species and hunting trophies (please contact the Nature Conservation Department, Ministry of the Environment for details). Articles of cultural value produced in Estonia more than 50 years ago also require special permits (please contact the National Heritage Board). We suggest travellers consult with the Estonian Customs Board help desk (ph.: +372 880 0814 or for details.

FALL 2015




Getting Around Estonia Inter-city public transportation Public buses are the easiest, cheapest and most convenient solution for visiting Tartu, Pärnu and any other larger Estonian town. Buses from Tallinn to Tartu depart in every 30 minutes and to Pärnu every hour. On weekdays, seats to these destinations are almost always available even immediately before departure (watch out for special events). For weekend travel or trips to more remote locations with fewer connections, it is advisable to buy a ticket in advance. The Tallinn Bus Terminal is located at 46 Lastekodu Street. The timetable is also available online at and ticket information is available by phone: +372 6800 900.

possible to rent the car in Estonia and drop it off at a rental agency in Latvia or Lithuania. The speed limit in rural areas is 90 km/h and in cities 50 km/h. In some areas the highway speed limit is increased during the summer months. Headlights and seat belts (front and back) must be on at all times. Acceptable blood alcohol limit in Estonia is up to 0.2 % BAC.

Local Transport Taxis: Taxis must clearly display their fares, driver’s taxi service licenses, and a meter. The initial charge for entering a taxi ranges from 2 to about 4 euros. Different taxi companies have different rates, but the average charge per kilometre is 0.5 euros. There is no additional charge for ordering the taxi by phone, and it usually takes the cab just five to ten minutes to arrive. All taxi drivers must give you a receipt (in Estonian, ask for “Kviitung, palun”). Locals usually give the exact fare and no tip. Public transportation: Tallinn has a public transport network of buses, trams and trolley buses. Schedules are posted at bus stops and tickets available at newsstands (the yellow and blue “R-kiosks”) and from the driver. Check the prices and timetable for Tallinn bus lines for any bus stop at

Tickets for Visitors

Trains from Tallinn to Tartu leave 3-4 times a day, and it takes a little more than 2 hours to get to Tartu. The Balti Station is situated just outside the Tallinn Old Town and sea port, a taxi or tram No. 2 (from the port). Trains are comfortable and you can use WiFi in the first class.

Travelling by car Travellers hoping to see more of the country and the rural areas it would be best advised to travel by car. The roads are quite good and traffic is light. Crossing Estonia from north to south or west to east by car takes approximately three to four hours. All major car rental agencies have offices in Tallinn. It is also



The Public Transport Card Ühiskaart may be purchased for a couple of euros. Smart card and e-tickets can be purchased from post offices and online at Personalise the card for a small charge at the point of sale or for free at If you are using pay-as-you-go credit, your smart card automatically calculates the cheapest fare within the next 24 hrs (never more than one-day travel card). Validate your journey with the Ühiskaart immediately after entering the public transport vehicle. You can also buy tickets from kiosks and from the driver (single ticket €1.60 and student ticket €0.80). Try to have the exact change (cash only) when purchasing from the driver. The ticket is valid for one journey only in that specific vehicle. Discounts are available only for ISIC Scholar and Student Card holders. Holders of a validated TallinnCard are entitled to a free ride.

Accommodations All major hotels in Tallinn have been newly built or completely renovation in recent years. Despite annual additions to the number of hotels and rooms, it can nonetheless be difficult to find a hotel room on a short notice (particularly over the weekend). For the best selection, we urge visitors to Tallinn and the rest of Estonia to book hotel rooms in advance. For more details, see the Estonian Tourist Board website at

Money Estonia uses Euro and Estonians are keen users of card payment facilities, with most hotels, stores and restaurants accepting Visa, MasterCard, Eurocard, Diner’s Club and American Express. Traveller’s checks can be exchanged in most banks but are less likely to be accepted in shops. Eurocheque is the most widely accepted traveller’s check, but American Express and Thomas Cook are also accepted. Banks can be found scattered around the centre of all major Estonian towns. Most banks in Tallinn are open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. on weekdays, while some offices are also open on Saturday mornings and offer currency exchange services. Exchange offices can also be found in larger hotels, the airport, harbour, railroad station and major shopping centres. ATMs are conveniently located around town with on-screen instructions in English, Russian and Estonian.

celebrate Midsummer Eve and the Victory Day in commemoration of the 1919 Battle of Võnnu, and June 24 is St. John’s Day (Midsummer). August 20 is the Day of Restoration of Independence (1991). December 24 (Christmas Eve), December 25 (Christmas Day) and December 26 (Boxing Day) are usually spent at home with families.



Saku and A. Le Coq. Saku is Tallinn-based, and its corporate colour is navy blue while A.Le Coq is brewed in Tartu and its colour is red. There are also many smaller breweries. A full list of Estonian beers is posted at

The main drinks in Estonia are beer, wine and vodka. In the 1930s Estonian vodka made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the strongest vodka in the world (96º). Local brands of beer enjoy a very strong market position in Estonia. The two main breweries are

Telephones and Internet Estonian country code is 372. Dial 00 for outbound international calls. The GSM mobile phone system is available; please check compatibility with your operator. Public Internet access points have been set up all over Estonia. They are located in local libraries and post offices. There are over 100 wireless free Internet zones around the country, many of them in rather unexpected places - beaches, Old Town squares, stadiums, and concert halls.

Emergencies 112 is the emergency number for ambulance, police and fire department. The police can also be reached directly at 110. Emergency numbers can be dialled free of charge. Select pharmacies are open 24-hours-a-day in many major towns. The one in Tallinn is located at 5 Tõnismägi (opposite the Estonian National Library); the one in Tartu is located in the Town Hall building (Town Hall Square).

National Holidays

Traditional Estonian cuisine consists of simple peasant food, such as cottage cheese, potatoes and bread, all of which are still important components of the local diet. The Estonian dark bread is the main staple missed by Estonians abroad. Typical Estonian dishes do not feature prominently on restaurant menus, and traditional home cooking is more likely to appear at small eateries in remote areas.

Estonians celebrate January 1 as New Year’s Day, a rather slow and quiet day as people recover from the festivities. Shops open late and banks are closed. February 24, Independence Day, is celebrated with a parade of the Estonian Defence Forces at Vabaduse väljak (Freedom Square). May 1 is a bank holiday, similar to Good Friday and May Day. June 23 is the biggest holiday of the year as Estonians

Modern Estonian cuisine is based on the ageold tradition of locally sourced, pure ingredients, influenced by Scandinavian, German and Russian cuisines. Estonian culinary scene has been on the rise for about a decade now with new gourmet restaurants popping up frequently all across the country. The list of the top 50 Estonian restaurants can be found at

Spirits also include some traditional liqueurs. The famous Vana Tallinn (Old Tallinn) has a 45º alcohol content, and is coincidentally made from 45 ingredients - the recipe is known only to a handful of people. Indeed, the legendary 19th-century kristallkümmel (caraway liqueur) has made its long-awaited comeback. Estonian wines, made from currants or other local berries, are rather sweet. Wine lovers usually prefer imported wine, of which there is an ever-increasing selection at stores and vinoteks. A very popular and refreshing nonalcoholic drink is kali, made of bread, malt, rye or oats flour and yeast; it has a characteristically dark brown colour.

FALL 2015




Shops Quality handicrafts, designer goods and food are available at supermarkets and smaller boutiques in all larger towns. Typical opening times of supermarkets in Tallinn are from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Department stores close a few hours earlier on Sundays and, in smaller towns, may be closed on Sundays. Smaller food shops may have shorter opening hours. Some 24-hour shops can be found as well. Other shops usually open at 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.; they often close early on Saturdays and are closed on Sundays. Most shops accept credit cards, with the exception of smaller stores and stores in rural areas. Alcohol is sold from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Entertainment The entertainment scene in Estonia is vibrant year-round, providing visitors and locals alike with a long list to choose from. Concerts, festivals, theatre and parties – Estonia has it all. Opera and ballet theatres in Tallinn and Tartu offer world class plays for affordable prices starting as low as 10 euros. For more information on the concert schedule see; the programme for the national opera is posted at Tickets can be bought at the box offices or via ticket agencies located in all larger supermarkets, or via Internet www., and Even the most sceptical museum-goer is bound to find something intriguing in Estonia’s large selection of museums, which feature everything from history, art, photography to toys, chocolate, musical instruments, even wax figures and many other topics. Most museums are closed on Tuesdays and many on Mondays as well. It is advisable to have cash on hand as many museums do not accept credit cards. Tallinn is also bustling well into the night with booming and blooming club scene. Clubs are usually open and packed with energised vibes from Thursday to Sunday, with Friday and Saturday drawing the liveliest of crowds. In addition to local and resident DJs, clubs frequently present guest performers from London, the US and other club hubs. For those looking for a more mellow night on the town, Tallinn’s street are brimming with bars and pubs, many of which offer live music even on weekdays. Rather take in a movie? Films in cinemas are shown in the original language with subtitles.



Souvenirs Souvenir and shopping preferences vary hugely but there are certain souvenir gifts that have gladdened many a heart. Estonian handicraft comes in many forms. There are woollen sweaters and mittens with local ethnic patterns, linen sheets and tablecloths, crocheted shawls and veils, colourful woven rugs, handmade jewellery and glassware, baskets, and an array of wooden spoons and butter knives made from juniper. Fine and applied art for show and purchase is on display at art galleries around the country, featuring graphics, glass, ceramics, hand-painted silk scarves and leatherwork. Various herbal teas from wild plants are available at pharmacies. Local honey – pure or flavoured, e.g. ginger, is another delicious treat. In rural areas, you may find hand-milled flour. And those who keep coming back swear by the Estonian black rye bread. To bring home local spirits, popular choices include Vana Tallinn or kristallkümmel liqueur or local beer. And there is no place better than Estonia to buy Estonian music.

Crime Although common sense is advisable in all destinations, Estonia gives no particular reason to be excessively worried. Do not walk the unlit and abandoned areas alone at night. Do not leave bags or items of value in the car, as not to tempt car thieves or robbers. Pickpockets may operate at crowded tourist destinations in Tallinn, so make sure your wallet and documents are stored safely.

Language The Estonian language is the only official language of Estonia and spoken by about a million people worldwide. Many people are fluent in English, particularly the younger urban generation. Knowledge of foreign languages is naturally a must for hotel staff and numerous other professions in the service sector. A great number of people also speak Finnish due to Finland’s close proximity and the great number of Finnish tourists. German is less widely spoken and Russian language is spoken mainly by the older generation. Estonians do not expect short-term visitors to master the local language. Still, local people are thrilled and pleased to hear a foreigner say “Tere!” (Hi!) or “Aitäh (Thank you) in Estonian.

Estonians Estonians are typical Nordic people – they are reserved, not too talkative and speak rather monotonously, with very little intonation. All this may give one the impression of coldness bordering on rudeness. But rest assured, this is not the case, and the speaker may actually be extremely well-meaning, even excited. There are several well-known Estonian sayings, such as “Think first, then speak”, “Weigh everything carefully nine times before making a move”, and “Talking is silver, silence is gold”. It is, therefore, no wonder that the people are not very good at small talk, do not waste too much time on grand introductions, and usually come straight to the point. This is why Estonians’ English may sometimes sound shockingly direct. There is, however, often a subtle irony involved in Estonians’ utterances - delivered with a serious face and just the slightest twinkle of the eye. Estonians are relatively individualistic. There is a saying that five Estonians mean six parties. Even though people agree on the final objective, they insist on reaching it in their own ways. Estonians also value their privacy. In the old days, it was said that the neighbour’s house was close enough if you could see the smoke from the chimney. Modern, tight-packed urbanites flock to remote countryside on the weekends to enjoy more space and privacy. Even though guests at birthday parties and concerts are rather quiet and subdued in the onset, they warm up eventually and turn into a direct opposite of their day-character, as you are likely to see in Tallinn’s clubs.


Job listings and practical info on


BECOME AN E-RESIDENT! e-Residency offers to every world citizen a government-issued digital identity and the opportunity to run a trusted company online. »

» »

Life in Estonia. Fall 2015  

Nordic with a Twist Special

Life in Estonia. Fall 2015  

Nordic with a Twist Special