SPRING I 2014
Arvo P채rt's Music Emanates Love
Government Leading Innovation Hot #EstonianMafia Start-Ups
Estonia Moves Into The Cloud Cleantech Innovation
Estonia Aims For Real Time Economy The e-Tiger Continues To Growl
land & people I state & society I economy & business I technology & innovation I culture & entertainment I tourism
Estonians are e-believers. We are proud to be pioneers and
leaders in e-government. We have developed and implemented innovative solutions that improve the lives of millions, and we intend to develop more. In Estonia we can see a version of the interconnected and computerized future that is inextricably a part of the fundamental operations of society: 25% of the electorate votes online, nearly 100% of prescriptions and tax returns are done online, as is almost all banking. Estonians have given 140 million digital signatures, and last December, Estonian and Finnish PMs signed the first international treaty digitally. Adding to this near 100% broadband coverage and countrywide Wi-Fi, Estonia is one of the most wired countries in the world.
COVER Taavi Kotka Photo by: Tiina-Liina Uudam
Executive publisher Positive Projects Pärnu mnt 69, 10134 Tallinn, Estonia firstname.lastname@example.org Editor Reet Grosberg email@example.com Translation Ingrid Hübscher Ambassador Translation Agency Language editor Richard Adang Design & Layout Positive Design Partner
As a country so dependent on digital solutions, the whole of ICT infrastructure must be regarded as an “ecosystem” in which everything is interconnected. It functions as a whole, thus it needs to be defended as a whole. The more digitized we are, the more vulnerable we are. It is therefore crucial to understand that cyber security is not just a matter of blocking the bad things a cyber attack can do; it is one of protecting all the good things that cyber insecurity can prevent us from doing – in other words, cyber security should not be seen as an additional cost but as an enabler, guarding our entire digital way of life.
Cooperation has been the guiding principle of our IT success. As we prepare for the new opportunities and challenges that will arise in the coming years, we recognize that cooperation with and among the Baltic Sea states and in transatlantic and international forums will be crucial to our success. We are stronger and our reach is wider when we work together and combine our efforts in pursuit of our common goals. I am glad that the Estonian ICT Week 2014 will seek to demonstrate the interconnection between innovation and the culture of start-up companies, the awareness of net neutrality issues and the capability to implement IT solutions within states and over state borders.
However, even though we cannot take security issues lightly, they cannot be used as an excuse to limit freedom of expression. Freedom and security need not contradict each other: on the contrary, secure online interactions, enabled by a secure online identity, is a precondition for full internet freedom. The freedoms we value are equally valid online as well as offline. Those of us, for whom democratic values are important, want to find a balance between security, privacy and free flow of information. An encouraging example is Estonia, where all residents are provided with a secure e-services system while Estonia has also been ranked as the first or one of the first in Internet freedom for several years in a row.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves President of the Republic of Estonia
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SPRING_2014 6 Where To Go This Season? Life In Estonia Recommends 8 News 10 Events The two most important international events to be hosted in Tallinn are the international information and communications technology week “Estonian ICT Week 2014”, from 23-30 April and the FinanceEstonia International Forum 2014, from 17-18 June.
26 What To Do With Legacy? Implement No-legacy Policy Estonia wants to introduce a no-legacy principle, which would require us to renew all the state IT systems and technologies after a certain amount of time, to keep in line with the ever-changing environment and development of technology. Aet Rahe, Head of State Information Systems Department, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, introduces the policy.
28 The Estonian Government Is About To Boost Seed Investments In Estonia In 2014 EstBAN is an umbrella organisation for business angels and business angel groups seeking investment opportunities in Estonia and its neighbouring regions with an aim to grow the quantity and quality of local seed stage investments. Signe Viimsalu, CEO of EstBAN, gives an overview of the main goals in 2014.
16 Estonia As A Country Moves Into The Cloud And Expands All Over The World! Taavi Kotka, the Estonian government CIO, talks about taking the already successful e-state onto a totally new level: Estonia has an ambitious plan of moving the state into a data cloud spread all over the world. In addition, with the help of ICT, there can well be ten million Estonians by 2020 instead of the current one million.
30 VitalFields Helps Farmers Be More Efficient The Estonian start-up VitalFields, which offers web-based services for farm management, accurate weather and plant disease forecasting, challenges the outdated view that farmers are remote from technology and somewhat wary of it. The CEO of VitalFields, Martin Rand, says that agricultural enterprises are in fact very open to new solutions.
32 The Success Story Of ZeroTurnaround Having to date financed its rapid expansion with sales profits, ZeroTurnaround announced at the beginning of March that it has attracted six million dollars of growth capital.
20 Estonia: The Little Country With A Start-Up Mindset Sten Tamkivi, now an EIR at Andreessen Horowitz, who became known as the Chief Evangelist of Skype, tells the story of Estonia’s IT success.
23 Estonian Tax Board 2.0 Presents: Real Time Economy The famous Estonian e-Tax Board has been admired and set as an example all around the world. Where else can you submit your tax return in just a few clicks and all declarations online without spending days on end filling out paper forms? Marek Helm, Head of the Estonian Tax and Customs Board, claims that although our e-Tax Board is admired all over the world, the time is ripe for some qualitative changes.
LIFE IN ESTONIA I 2014 SPRING
34 Pipedrive – Estonian Company in Shaq O’Neal’s Investment Portfolio The Estonian company Pipedrive has developed valued customer management software which provides wise and practical help to any salesman. Recently, the Silicon Valley technology guru Vivek Ranadive and the former star basketball player Shaquille O’Neal invested in the company.
36 Estonia Can Change The World, Will It? Carl Pucci of Datel Ovela, the subsidiary of Datel AS, acknowledges Estonian ICT technologies, many of which would be an excellent fit for the global market.
38 Next Silicon Valleys: Small Estonia Has Big Ideas Nigel Cassidy from BBC visited Estonia for innovative start-ups and, among other things, found the Stigo scooter. He saw it, drove it, and liked it.
41 Nordic Cleantech Open The third edition of the Nordic Cleantech Open competition saw a record-breaking 107 cleantech companies applying. An international jury of more than 50 influential representatives of multinational companies and venture capital firms selected the top 25. Out of the 11 impressive Estonian cleantech start-up companies which entered the competition, Cityntel and Stigo both made it to the top 25.
51 Portfolio – Marko Mäetamm From the moment he entered the Estonian arts scene, Marko Mäetamm has amazed audiences with his productivity and overflowing sense of fun, which may border on the provocative or reach painful integrity. He never tires of surprising the audience and, quite possibly, himself.
62 Sounds Emanating Love At the turn of May and June, four concerts of Arvo Pärt’s music will be performed in Washington D.C. and New York. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and orchestra will fly over the ocean, the recent Grammy-winner Tõnu Kaljuste will conduct and the composer himself has helped to put the programme together. What is the secret behind the music of the most well-known Estonian? Life in Estonia tries to find the answer.
68 Jazzkaar – More Than 43 Startup Wise Guys On The Hunt For B2B Start-ups Just A Festival The Estonia-based start-up accelerator Startup Wise Guys is about to commence its new programme, Business Tech. For the first time, they are looking specifically for B2B start-ups only. Life in Estonia met with Mike Reiner, the co-founder and managing director of Startup Wise Guys to find out more about the guys.
The biggest Estonian jazz festival – Jazzkaar - will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year, marking an important cultural milestone. Let’s cast a look at the history of the festival.
46 GameFounders: We Believe In The Gaming Industry GameFounders is the first European business accelerator exclusively working with game studios. The accelerator was started in 2012 and, in the past two years, it has become a considerable player in the game industry.
47 How Do We Fix Maths Education? “I hated maths”– this is something we often hear from former school leavers. The problem is not unique to Estonia. The British educational visionary Conrad Wolfram has developed a programme called ComputerBased Math, and Estonia is the first country in the world to implement this programme in schools.
49 ProgeTiger, Lego Robots And Computer-based Math Conquer Schools “We need a smarter workforce,” says Ave Lauringson, ICT skills coordinator at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications. Life in Estonia asked her to give an overview of smart initiatives in Estonian schools.
70 Estonian Song And Dance Celebration Touches Hearts The Estonian Song and Dance Celebration is a unique event that brings together a giant choir of 25,000 people every five years for a weekend in July. More than 100,000 people enjoy the concerts and sing along with the most popular songs. This summer the theme of the Song and Dance Celebration on 4-6 July is “Touched by Time. The Time to Touch.”
73 Lottemaa Welcomes Visitors Beginning In July There is Walt Disney’s original theme park Disneyland in southern California in the USA, and in Paris in Europe, and Astrid Lindgren’s World in Sweden. Finland, our neighbour, has Moomin World. In July, Lotte, a cartoon character cherished by Estonian children, will spring to life in the theme park Lottemaa, built at the site of a former Soviet missile base near Pärnu.
77 Estonia In Brief 78 Practical Information For Visitors SPRING 2014
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I WHERE TO GO THIS SEASON MEDEA
/ Ballet by Gianluca Schiavoni /
Music: Igor Stravinsky, Alfred Schnittke and Dead Can Dance Libretto by Marco Gandini World premiere at the Estonian National Opera on 13 March 2014 Conductor: Vello Pähn Choreographer and Stage Director: Gianluca Schiavoni (Italy) Set Designers: Maria Rossi Franchi (Italy) and Andrea Tocchio (Italy) Costume Designer: Simona Morresi (Italy) Medea, a sensual and powerful princess of mythical Colchide (a region corresponding to present Georgia), is a seductive sorceress, who abandons her country and her family for her love of a strong and beautiful man called Jason. Yet he is not only interested in Medea’s love, but also in getting hold of the Golden Fleece, a symbol for power. Medea gains Jason’s love by giving him this symbol of power. Soon she gives birth to two boys. Once she realises that Jason is betraying her with the King of Corinth’s daughter, Glauce, she decides to take revenge by killing Glauce and her own children.
Friday, 4 July 2014 6 p.m. The first performance of the 19th dance celebration Puudutus (The Touch). Tallinn, Kalev Central Stadium. Photo: Chris Männik
Saturday 5th of July 2014 11 a.m. The second performance of the 19th dance celebration Puudutus (The Touch). 2 p.m. Procession. 8 p.m. The first concert of the 26th song celebration Aja puudutus (Touched by Time). Tallinn, Song Festival Grounds.
Sunday 6th of July 2014 11 a.m. The third performance of the 19th dance celebration Puudutus (The Touch). 12 a.m. The second concert of the 26th song celebration Puudutuse aeg (The Time to Touch). Tickets are available at Piletilevi for 4 – 50 Euros. 2014.laulupidu.ee/en/
LIFE IN ESTONIA I 2014 SPRING
JULY 20–27 2014 Presenting the Ukrainian National Opera!
Verdi “DON CARLOS“ Lysenko “NATALKA POLTAVKA“ Bellini “NORMA“ OPRERA GALA CHILDREN GALA Artistic director of the festival: Arne Mikk
saaremaaopera.eu facebook.com/saaremaaopera Vello Pähn
/ Opera by Gaetano Donizetti /
concert.ee Premiere at the Estonian National Opera on 15 May 2014
Season Closing Concert
Conductors: Vello Pähn and Risto Joost Stage Director: Georg Malvius (Sweden) Designer: Ellen Cairns (Scotland) In leading roles: Kristel Pärtna, Kadri Kipper, Oliver Kuusik, Merūnas Vitulskis (Lithuania)
“L’elisir d’amore” is one of the most frequently performed Donizetti’s operas together with “Lucia di Lammermoor” and “Don Pasquale”. It combines a touching love story and a hilarious comedy with lightness, sparkling wit and beautiful music, including the well-loved tenor aria “Una furtiva lagrima”. Its premiere in Milan in 1832 was a triumph and secured Donizetti’s place as one of the leading Italian opera composers of his day. “L’elisir d’amore” relies on the traditions of the 18th century opera buffa and offers an ear-tickling delight for all lovers of 19th century Italian bel canto.
Tallinn Chamber Orchestra Conductor Kristiina
May 15 at 7 pm Estonia Concert Hall
May 16 at 7 pm Jõhvi Concert Hall Georg Malvius has directed more that 60 plays, 70 musicals and 20 operas in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, England, Holland, Italy, Luxembourg Austria, Monaco, Hungary and elsewhere. In Estonia, Malvius has staged 14 musical and drama productions. www.opera.ee
Tickets from Eesti Kontsert, Piletimaailm and Piletilevi In cooperation with Tallinn Philharmonic Society
Eesti Kontserdi suurtoetaja
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I NEWS Estonian start-up develops training programmes for cognitive rehabilitation at an American business accelerator The Estonian start-up Cognuse has beaten tough competition to be included in the reputable US business accelerator DreamIt Health. Cognuse develops and distributes innovative evaluation and therapy solutions meant for cognitive rehabilitation patients. A total of 120 companies applied to be accepted into the DreamIt Health accelerator and only the nine strongest were selected. “With the help of DreamIt Health, Cognuse is taking significant steps closer to health insurance and medical care suppliers in its sector. It also enables us to get access to research and development institutions and larger
investments which are necessary for growth,” explained Andres Mellik, one of the founders of Cognuse. Currently the main focus of the company is product development and implementing business models. “We are focusing on the US, Scandinavian, Japanese and Estonian markets, and the training programme developed by us is already being used by 20 hospitals and more than 100 private patients,” added Mellik. Cognuse was founded in 2010, and in 2013 it participated in Accelerace Life, an accelerator of the Tallinn Tehnopol Science Park targeting health technology companies. The main activity of Cognuse is the development of training programmes for cognitive rehabilitation and the adjustment of those programmes for various devices, such as iPads and smart phones. In addition, the company has developed different appliances for the use of rehabilitation programmes. Cognuse products are meant for medical institutions and private patients.
Kasparov has always had good relations with Estonians and he chose Estonia to be the first country to launch his project of teaching chess at schools. The Kasparov Chess Foundation Europe programme started in 2012 and has become very popular. Also, Kasparov announced his candidacy for the 2014 FIDE Presidential Elections in Tallinn, Estonia.
Garry Kasparov helps to promote Estonia Enterprise Estonia announced that the Estonian national booth and Garry Kasparov’s simultaneous chess event attracted heightened attention at the world’s largest mobile trade fair, Mobile World Congress 2014, which took place in Barcelona from 24 – 27 February. According to Martin Hirvoja, Member of the Management Board of Enterprise Estonia, the fair in Barcelona clearly demonstrated that participating in large trade fairs with a national booth is beneficial for Estonian entrepreneurs in finding useful contacts, as well as for increasing awareness of Estonia as a country. “It is great news that Regio is the first Estonian company to win a Global Mobile Award prize, with the Reach-U solution Demograft. This respected award demonstrates that Estonian exporters need such support,” added Hirvoja.
According to Tony Rivshin, the owner of Topconnect – one of the largest Estonian exporters – the special event with Kasparov was the most interesting occasion at the entire trade fair. Nearly 100,000 visitors came to Mobile World Congress this year. Participants in the joint Estonian booth included software development companies and IT service providers.
Photos: Linda Uldrich
Andrei Korobeinik and Garry Kasparov
“Garry Kasparov’s simultaneous chess event with leaders of companies was an innovative way to introduce Estonia to large international ICT corporations. The event organised by Enterprise Estonia significantly helped Estonia to stand out and receive positive attention. It is usually extremely difficult to stand out from others at large trade fairs, and therefore we definitely ought to organise similar events in the future,” said Andrei Korobeinik, President of the Estonian Chess Federation, who moderated the event.
Enterprise Estonia also used the fair to hold a networking event, with Garry Kasparov as its magnet. A few lucky people were chosen to play chess with the legendary chess player. Kasparov’s simultaneous chess event turned out to be one of the magnets of the entire fair and attracted representatives from IBM, Tata Consultancy Services, Deutsche Telekom and many others to the event.
LIFE IN ESTONIA I 2014 SPRING
GoSwift – online reservation system for border crossing Crossing the Estonian border from Russia, an external EU border, was once a time-consuming, uncertain wrangle lasting days and resulting in bribery, illegal sales of spots in queues, pollution, traffic safety issues and losses for freight carriers. The GoSwift Queue Management Service for motor vehicles allows drivers to book a time to cross the border, thereby creating a more efficient system, as drivers do not have to wait in long queues. Using the GoSwift system, trucks and cars can now drive to the border just before the registered border crossing time. Drivers can wait at designated waiting areas where toilets, showers, dining areas and free WIFI are available, proceeding as scheduled to cross the border easily and on time. By allocating a specific time and date for the applicant to cross the border online, GoSwift has created minimum waiting times, cleaner surroundings near border crossing points and considerably more movement of cars and trucks due to online efficiency. The service has been implemented on the borders of Estonia, Lithuania and Russia. The system saves Estonian road transportation companies four million euros a year. According to Hannes Plinte, CEO of GoSwift,
drivers have already got used to the convenience of the online reservation system for border crossing, which has been in operation for two and a half years. Nobody has to queue for long hours any more, and the average border crossing time now is one hour. In 2013, GoSwift won the World Summit Award (WSA) in the category of e-Government & Open Data. According to Ken-Marti Vaher, the Estonian Minister of the Interior, it took a bold and demanding client, as well as a result-oriented developer to create such a good e-solution. “It is a great honour to see the high standard of e-solutions being created by Estonia and for one of our projects to receive recognition from international experts within the UN and the World Summit Award,” he said. The GoSwift Queue Management Service has been used to queue vehicles at the Estonian-Russian road border since 2011. In 2012 the service was launched in Russia and in the summer of 2013 was also opened in Lithuania. Besides border crossings, GoSwift can also be used at tourism sites and to manage ferry queues: basically wherever there are queues. Since June 2013, GoSwift service has also been used at the Tallinn TV Tower pilet.teletorn.ee, where customers can book a time to enter the tower online instead of having to queue outside.
Estonian Start-up Weekdone Announces $200K Investment Weekdone, an Estonian start-up which aims to become the #1 app for managers to monitor and manage their teams, won the Slush Pitching Competition and raised $200k in new fundin from a group of investors led by KIMA Ventures. Weekdone, launched in 2013, is an easy yet powerful tool for managers to track what’s happening in their teams and an opportunity to give immediate feedback to their employees. In essence, it is a hassle-free weekly employee status report, dashboard and feedback system. In November 2013, the company won the Slush Pitching Competition in Finland among 1,300 start-ups, 400 of whom had applied to pitch. According to the winning pitch, the best part of this tool is that it is suitable and easy-to-use for both managers and employees, making life easier for managers and teams more productive. At the end of 2013, Weekdone also closed their next investment round of $200k. It was led by Jérémie Berrebi’s and Xavier Niel’s KIMA Ventures, one of the world’s most active angel investors. The round also included existing investors: Skype/Kazaa founding engineer and chief architect Ahti Heinla, the Rubylight venture fund, and Taavi Lepmets, a former
backer of Odnoklassniki, Russia’s largest social network. The round brings the total raised by Weekdone to $290k. “I have managed and I am still managing many companies,” said Jérémie Berrebi of KIMA Ventures’ investment in the Estonian company. “I really think weekly reporting is the most important thing a manager needs to request from his team. It’s not always easy, but with a tool like Weekdone, it’s becoming fun for everyone.”
for internal daily communications among many users. “Weekdone is not just about managerial reporting, but also about employee-to-employee communications and making sure your co-workers know what you are doing and are able to help you,” said Kaljundi. “Checking Buzz helps you to keep up to date on the pulse of your company.” Photo: Sami Heiskanen
Recently, Weekdone grew its team from three to six people and set up an office in New York City. These moves follow a recent ramp-up in sales: almost a third of Weekdone’s paying customers started their subscriptions in October. Weekdone has seen a lot of new uptake on mobile platforms, with iPhone and iPad being available for some months. “We believe that the future of many communication tools is mobile, moving with you wherever you go. Both leaders and team members are giving up PCs and switching to mobiles for many tasks. We already get many more registrations from mobile devices than from web browsers and PCs,” said Kaljundi. This year Weekdone launched their real-time Buzz timeline activity feed, which is now used
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Estonian ICT Week 2014 ICT Week
From 23-30 April, Tallinn will host the international information and communications technology week “Estonian ICT Week 2014”, held on the initiative of the Enterprise Estonia Foundation (EAS), which will focus on entrepreneurship in technology as well as topics relating to the public sector. Furthermore, the week will be filled with receptions and meetings designed for guests of ICT Week, aimed
at contributing to cooperation both in Estonia and worldwide. Estonian ICT Week aspires to become an annual top event in the field of ICT in the Baltic and Nordic area and hopes to attract opinion leaders in the field, entrepreneurs, risk investors, major foreign officials and representatives of international organisations.
CHANGE, QUICK! 24 April / 2014 @ Tallinn University www.ictconfestonia.com The main idea behind “Change, Quick!”, an international business transformation conference, is well expressed by Gartner, the world´s leading technology research company, whose Vice President, Stephen Prentice, will deliver the conference´s keynote presentation. We now live in a world where “Every budget is an IT budget. Every company is an IT company. Every business leader is becoming a digital leader.” ICT is an integral part of virtually everything that we do nowadays; it is visibly changing how people behave, think and do business. The main question for more and more entrepreneurs from all walks of life is how to make use of the opportunities provided by contemporary technology and not lag behind. This is exactly what “Change, Quick!” is about. The conference focuses on using ICT to transform business models in other sectors so that they become more efficient, and meet the needs of the changing world and increasingly tech-savvy clients. A large part of the conference day is dedicated to insightful case studies from a wide range of sectors, particularly “traditional” ones. Although at first sight it´s maybe not clear what ICT has to do with wooden floors or growing cereal, ICT can be the key component. For example, the Estonian company Bolefloor is the world’s first industrial-scale manufacturer of hardwood flooring with naturally curved lengths that follow a tree’s natural growth. This is achieved by combining wood scanning systems, tailor-made CAD/ CAM developments, and innovative optimization algorithms. Before Bolefloor, such floors could only be produced by an extremely limited number of dedicated craftsmen. Another company, Trigon Agri, is able to control virtually everything that goes on in their vast cereal fields in Poland without having to physically leave Estonia: ICT allows them to work smarter and lower costs considerably. “If you want to become a big player on a global scale, it is important to see ICT as an investment not as an expense”, says Jüri Jõema, the CEO of the Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications (ITL), the main organiser of the conference. “On the other hand, ICT is not something-in-itself and this is precisely why we talk about business models in this conference. You have to think about your entire business process before you make an investment.” What “Change, Quick!” aims for, therefore, is to support better decision-making and, in most cases, this doesn’t mean buying the most expensive solution available.
LIFE IN ESTONIA I 2014 SPRING
The other highlights of the conference day include: The Gartner keynote offers participants an opportunity to benefit from the very best in terms of the world´s technology research and to find out where ICT´s influence on other sectors is likely to take us in the coming years; An on-stage development takes place throughout the day, engaging participants in a real change process: a dream team of business and tech experts, led by Yrjö Ojasaar (Solon Partners) and Marko Kokla (Virtuaalettevõte), will work on finding a solution to one company´s real business problem; More case studies offering guests both inspiration and knowledge, including the Estonian Mafia´s Startup Superstars: guests can step into Fits.me’s virtual fitting room for online retailers based on shift-shaping robots, learn how TransferWise has managed to revolutionise international money transfers and what has made Fortumo’s mobile payments a huge success in 79 countries. Joni Lehtonen, Tieto’s Vice President, will focus on state-of-the-art Industrial Internet based-on-use cases in Field Engineering and at the service level. The conference’s Demo Area is the place for practical demos and hands-on access to novel technologies and the newest gadgets; The Executive Evening at the Estonian National Opera will offer some serious networking, kick-started by an opening discussion by special guests. The moderators of the event are Jarmo Eskelinen (Forum Virium Helsinki, CEO and Chair of the European Network of Living Labs) and Yrjö Ojasaar. “Change, Quick!” is co-organised by ITL and the Baltic Innovation Agency.
Nature in combination with leading technology Bolefloor´s unique hardwood flooring continues to impress the world. Their floors can be found in the showrooms of noted fashion designers, as well as in the residences of Apple executives in San Francisco.
Nordic Digital Agendas Day
25 April / 2014 @ Swissôtel Tallinn Organised by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications
The first Nordic Digital Agendas Day – dedicated to innovations and future plans in the field of the information society, focusing especially on e-government – will bring together government CIOs and experts from all over the Nordics. They will be sharing their main lines of activities and will introduce ambitious plans for the next 10 years. Just as Singapore and South Korea are featured at every international ICT event in Asia, the Nordics have been the main trend-setters in Europe. Northern European countries are implementing more and more incredible IT solutions that completely change their citizens’ interactions with their countries, and Estonia has been showing the way to the rest of the world. Estonia is known for having the first e-government and first successful implementation of the digital signature, and Denmark for its successful e-invoicing system. At this forum, each country will introduce their crazy yet necessary ideas that deal with real challenges of today, ideas which could prove to be valuable for others. The moderator for the event, Siim Sikkut, ICT Policy Adviser at the Government Office of Estonia, and Taavi Kotka, Estonian government CIO, provide previews of what Estonia’s message is going to be at the event:
Global Information Society Institute (GISI)
system. The Real Time Economy is a new trend in the world, with Estonia still leading the way.
Education and healthcare Two areas of public services have particularly big plans for changes. In education, the goal is to use technology to make every class more interesting and personalised for each student. In the healthcare field, the main objective is to make services more preventive, accessible and directed towards specific groups. Estonia wants to introduce remote services, such as telemedicine and care, to reduce the need for physical interaction and make it possible to use services from a distance. Another idea that is being bounced around is how to make the ehealth information system a platform where a person can gather information about herself with all kinds of devices, apps and solutions, enabling doctors to use this information for medical, especially preventive, purposes.
What happens to the Internet?
Strength lies in cooperation. Technological and human readiness to adopt new solutions has been the foundation for the GISI, which will launch in 2014, and which, in addition to addresses by specialists and politicians, will provide opportunities to offer scientific information and ideas in the field of information societies.
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves was recently appointed by The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to serve as the chairman for the group figuring out what Internet governance should look like in the future. Estonia’s goal is to help create and apply solutions that guarantee a free and open Internet, including a better multi-stakeholder model.
Digital market across countries
Country without territory
It’s true that success breeds success, and this is why successful and ground-breaking solutions from Estonia keep on coming. We have already started cooperation with Finland in cross-border digital signatures and e-services, i.e., we’ve created an actual unified digital market. The intention is to extend this cooperation to other countries.
Since most of the crucial services in Estonia can function digitally, there are talks of a new concept: a country without a territory. This means that the Estonian services landscape – especially critical public services and systems – can in emergency cases function in the cloud, without a physical territory.
No-legacy principle and Real Time Economy
An ambitious idea that will be discussed at the ICT Week is the concept of e-residency. “For the rest of the world to be able to benefit from our e-solutions, we want to provide the opportunity for all foreigners to get an ID-card and Estonian e-identity in the near future,” says Kotka.
Estonia has set the goal of replacing many of the existing e-services with new and improved ones. Estonia wants to introduce a no-legacy principle, which would require the rebuilding of all state IT systems and technologies after a certain amount of time, to keep up with the everchanging environment and development of technology. Estonians can already file their taxes in a couple of minutes through a web interface, but we intend to radically reform and automate the whole tax collection
In addition to the topics mentioned above, Nordic Digital Agendas Day will bring many more to the table. Which of the ideas are held in common by several countries and where the best cooperation opportunities lie will be revealed at the conference.
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25.04 26.04 27.04
eHealth & Wellness hackathon 25-27 April / 2014 @ Tehnopol Mustamäe
Does walking around with head-itching ideas for a long time sound familiar to you? That is where Garage48 hackathons come in. Garage48 is a 48-hour event, with the goal of building technological prototypes in just two days and nights. The event is organised by the Garage48 Foundation, launched by six start-up entrepreneurs who met thanks to the Estonian Start-up Leaders Club. The idea is to give handson experience in how it feels to build a start-up with a team. Garage 48’s main goal is to promote entrepreneurship and inspire more people to try to create their own start-ups. The aim is to lighten the burden of turning an idea into a working prototype, and bringing it to the market for customer feedback. Founded in 2010, in Estonia, arguably the most tech-savvy country in the world, Garage48 events provide an opportunity for people with different skills to pitch ideas, gather teams and build working tech product prototypes during a weekend. So far 33 events have taken place in 12 countries, from South Africa to Finland, with 2,500 participants, more than 800 ideas pitched and nearly 400 prototypes built. Nine teams created in those events have successfully raised venture capital while many more met their future co-founders or partners. One of the most successful Estonian start-ups born in Garage48 is VitalFields: their product vitalfield.com is the modern farmer’s best friend, in a pocket tool for farm management, and accurate weather and plant disease forecast. With the backing of 750,000 euros in a venture capital investment, the VitalFields team now is on the way to making farming more efficient globally.
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With the globally rising importance of technology, more and more people are daring to exchange safe jobs with guaranteed pay cheques for the roller-coaster start-up life, aiming to build corporations of their own. Garage48 aims to prove that a working prototype is a much better start for a successful business than 1000 slides. Garage48 co-founder Priit Salumaa says: “We have been doing Garage48 hackathons in order to boost local start-up scenes by bringing the Silicon Valley attitude to Estonia, to Eastern Europe and to other developing markets. We wanted to show that a small team with a kickass attitude can achieve amazing things on a lean budget in a very short time: you can start with an idea and its first prototype without waiting for a white boat with an investor on it!” In recent years, developing new technologies has become cheaper: what previously took years and millions of euros can now be done almost for free and in a short time. “There are millions of apps out there, yet we see that there is still huge potential for ITC and hardware products that solve big challenges in particular industries, such as healthcare. Therefore, the 35th Garage48 hackathon is devoted to e-health and wellness solutions,” noted Garage48 co-founder Ragnar Sass. As Estonia has positioned itself as a hub for pioneering new technologies for state-wide adoption, including e-health solutions, such events are definitely worth keeping an eye on for great ideas that might improve the world.
The Freedom Online Coalition’s 4th annual high-level conference ”Free and Secure Internet for All”
28-29 April / 2014 @ Swissôtel Tallinn Blocking and filtering content, passing laws that oppress government critics and deliberately making Internet or mobile access slower, are just a few scary examples of censorship on the Net. How to keep such dark scenarios from happening and how to ensure the future of a free and secure Internet will be the main topics of the Freedom Online Coalition’s high-level conference in Estonia’s capital Tallinn. In regard to Internet freedom, Estonia continues to enjoy one of the top positions in the world. According to the Freedom House Freedom on the Net report, it is in second place just after Iceland. Supporting and protecting freedom online is a stance that Estonia strives to promote worldwide and is dedicated to working closely with all partners that stand for the same values. Estonia believes that virtual freedom of expression is an inseparable part of human rights – supporting and promoting freedom of expression on the Internet is just as important as protecting all fundamental human rights. Unfortunately, all countries do not share this view. According to the Freedom on the Net report, 34 countries out of 60 that were evaluated experienced a decline in Internet freedom. This shows that freedom online is not a self-evident phenomenon, but rather a sphere that needs constant support and maintenance. Estonia is a founding member and the current chairman of the Freedom Online Coalition – a group of governments committed to advancing Internet freedom worldwide. That is to say free expression, association, assembly, and privacy online.
The outcome of the conference will be ”Recommendations for Freedom Online” – concrete solutions on how to keep the Internet free and secure based on the multi-stakeholder model. The 22 Freedom Online Coalition states have already shown their commitment to ensuring that the development of the Internet will stay on a free, open and undivided course. In addition, there is always room for new members, who value the same principles.
Members of the Freedom Online Coalition: the 22 member states are Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Costa Rica, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Kenya, Latvia, the Republic of Maldives, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America. Who will participate? More than 200 leading Internet freedom experts from all over the world, including foreign ministers, civil society representatives and top entrepreneurs. Key speakers include the President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Vint Cerf of Google, the foreign ministers of the Netherlands, Sweden, Kenya and Mongolia, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland, and many others.
For more information: www.freedomonline.ee
The only way to ensure these freedoms is to have close cooperation between governments, civil society organisations and private sector. This is precisely what the coalition’s meeting in Tallinn will focus on. It is one of the year’s most relevant milestones in the discussion of Internet freedom worldwide, bringing together foreign ministers, representatives of civil society and business, as well as distinguished experts from all over the globe.
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Latitude59 conference “Welcome the Light!“ 28-29 April / 2014 @ MEKTORY latitude59.ee
The go-to place for the Nordic and Baltic start-up scene in the spring!
The Latitude59 conference, in its seventh year*, brings together innovators, entrepreneurs, venture capital partners, angel investors and those who support the global expansion of innovative companies originating in countries three hundred kilometres either side of Latitude 59, to understand and address the challenges of expansion into global markets. The speakers and panellists are all leaders in their respective fields, with long experience and insight into the chasm facing young companies, which must look beyond their local markets if they are to fulfil their dreams and ambitions of providing sustainable solutions to business “pain points” and consumer demands. There will also be demo rooms for Cleantech, IOT (Internet of Things), gaming and an authentic sauna by Startupsauna. The Latitude59 conference is held at the new Innovation and Business Centre Mektory (founded in 2013), which is a part of the Tallinn Tech University campus: a perfect place for meet-ups. Mektory was created for scientists, students and entrepreneurs to solve practical product development problems and generate new innovative ideas.
Meet the people The two days of Latitude59 consist of a number of panel discussions featuring the challenges of start-up growth & going global, term sheets & valuations, talent acquisition strategies, finding followon investors and preparing for Exits, and discussions on how accelerators and angel investors have supported the rapid globalisation of the start-up community by removing the barriers to entry and providing access to capital to start-ups not located in Silicon Valley. The speakers include Vint Cerf, Vice President of Google, one of the “Fathers of the Internet” California), Tim Draper, Founder & MD at Draper Fisher Jurvetson & Founder of Draper University (Silicon Valley), Micke Paqvalén, Founder and Operational Chairman at Kiosked (Finland), David Bizer, Partner at Talent Fountain, ex-Google & ex-Netscape recruiter (Paris), Taavet Hinrikus, Co-founder of TransferWise (London), Deborah Magid, IBM Venture Capital Group (Silicon Valley), and many others.
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We expect around 300 participants, with a strong focus on invited venture capital and angel investors, as well as accelerator managers from Europe and the USA.
Pitch Contest Silicon Valley style A highlight is the Latitude59 pitch contest, Silicon Valley style, powered by the accelerator Startup WiseGuys, introducing the most promising start-ups in the Nordic and Baltic region. Twenty preselected start-ups get dedicated workshops with VCs, a free demo stand and can win 5,000 EUR cash from one of the pillars of the Estonian start-up scene, Skype, plus 5,000 EUR worth of services from the ReedSmith Law Firm. In recent history, the Latitude59 pitch contest has boosted such startups as Fabulonia and VitalFields.
Baltic-Nordic start-up ecosystem It has become a tradition that the investors and start-up community of the Nordic Region get together in Tallinn in spring for Latitude59, and every autumn they meet again in Helsinki during Slush. “The strength of the Baltic-Nordic start-up ecosystem lies not in single countries, but in co-operation. United we are strong. Most top Estonian start-ups visit the Slush conference, as Weekdone did when we won the pitching competition. It’s a unique learning experience to hang out with the best from the whole region. There are always plenty of Finnish startups and investors at Latitude59, and this year we hope to see even more of them in Estonia,” said Jüri Kaljundi, the co-founder of Weekdone and the Garage48 Foundation.
* This conference is a continuation of the annual conference organised by EE and the International Technology Law Association, held for the first time in 2008.
Finance Estonia The FinanceEstonia International Forum 2014 will be hosted on 17-18 June in Tallinn, Estonia. It will gather international senior financial decision makers for a dialogue on flexible and efficient finance support systems and tools, and the Nordic finance landscape as a source of exciting new opportunities. The event elaborates on the Estonian financial environment and presents aspects that lead to higher efficiency in Fund Administration, Treasury and Shared Services, and in International Private Banking. Companies showcase their best practices and guests get a chance to meet and greet top level executives from business and politics. Besides offering business contacts, the programme assists in getting acquainted with Tallinn and Estonia. The audience of the forum consists of senior level decision makers, who consider outsourcing financial functions or fund administration make investment or wealth management decisions (including private equity) are looking for VC and Angel investment opportunities are interested in understanding other business opportunities in Estonia, as altogether nearly 300 participants will gather in Tallinn.
FinanceEstonia is a public-private cluster initiative formed in July 2011 with the aim of establishing Estonia as a vibrant and innovative location for financial services. FinanceEstoniaâ€™s key activities encompass ensuring an attractive and competitive environment, as well as creating and offering opportunities for our members. The forum will be organised in a joint effort with EstVCA and EstBAN. The first day of the forum introduces the latest news in Estonian and European economics and finance. Fund Administration, Treasury and Shared Services, FinTech and Private Banking will be covered in lively, detailed discussions with experts and practitioners. Among the speakers and panellists, high-level European financial institution representatives, and Estonian and European business leaders who have experience in Estonia will be present. The FinanceEstonia International Forum Gala Dinner will take place between the forum days on 17 June. Last yearâ€™s dinner was considered a great success by the attendees. The location, programme and dining all supported new business relationships. The Gala Dinner will be memorable in terms of entertainment and business opportunities. The second day encompasses best-practice presentations by Estonian and international leading vendors in finance. It provides excellent opportunities for business match-making and networking. Additional information about the forum can be found at www.financeestonia.eu
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Taavi Kotka Work: • •
Government CIO since 2013 AS Webmedia (now Nortal) Partner and CEO (2005-2012): the largest software development company in the Baltic region • Angel investor or founder in many start-up companies: ZeroTurnaround, Plumbr, etc.
• software engineer, University of Tartu
Honors: • •
2009 – 2013 President of the Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications (ITL): ITL unites all major ICT players in the Estonian market 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year in Estonia
Estonia As A Country Moves Into The Cloud And Expands All Over The World! By Toivo Tänavsuu Photos by TIINA-LIINA UUDAM and HELE-MAI ALAMAA
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Taavi Kotka, the Estonian government CIO, talks about taking the already successful e-state onto a totally new level. Namely, Estonia has an ambitious plan of moving the state into a data cloud spread all over the world, which will, in a sense, make occupying the country pointless. In addition, with the help of ICT, there can well be ten million Estonians by 2020 instead of the current one million.
centre. In this room, the same rules would apply as in real embassies, meaning that the specific space would be the territory of Estonia, with Estonian legislation in force. The partnering state would provide us with electricity, cooling and an Internet connection, but otherwise it would respect the diplomatic immunity of the embassy.
What is the essence of the cloud initiative?
As the network of data embassies involves a cyber security aspect, we plan to move all data and information systems critical for the functioning of the state to such private clouds. As a result, there would be an additional global dimension to the government cloud currently physically located in Estonia, dispersing data and information systems all over the world.
The development of the e-government in Estonia has reached a point where several vital registries of the state only exist in digital form without any paper copies. For example, the Land Register has become a database of critical importance and the Estonian state cannot afford to lose it or have its data tampered. In order to mitigate risks and ensure the preservation and integrity of data, relying on data centres located in Estonia is not sufficient. That is why we have maintained copies of Estonian registries at our embassies abroad for years. However, embassies are not really meant for preserving large volumes of data and running applications. In addition, Estonian legislation, similar to that in other countries, establishes that data vital for the functioning of the state is to be maintained exclusively in the Estonian territory. With this in mind, we developed the concept of the “Data Embassy”, whose principal idea is that, in addition to its network of physical embassies, Estonia needs to develop a network of data embassies. In simple terms, data embassies would be server rooms in the territories of friendly partner states.
So, in addition to the physical embassy, would Estonia open a Data Embassy in Germany, for example? Germany could be joined by other countries: Canada, Australia, Sweden, Holland etc. We would, in fact, sign a bilateral agreement with a friendly state that would allocate to Estonia a special physical or virtual room in the government cloud of that country, in some data
What would be stored in such data embassies?
In principle, such a cloud should contain everything necessary to run a state: from the Population Register, Land Register and Business Register to e-government, e-health, judicial systems and so on.
What would be the impact of such a system? Above all, there would be improved cyber security. Should Estonia become a target of a massive cyber attack, it would be much more difficult to “switch us off” as a state than, for example, Georgia in August 2008. The state would be able to provide e-services from Germany, Sweden or Holland. But let’s aim higher! Estonia could become the first country in the world completely in a cloud! In other words, the state together with its citizens and services do not have to be tied to a specific territory. Estonians could live in Finland or London, be deported to Siberia or whatever: we could still elect our parliament, collect taxes etc. Businesses would continue to operate, documents would be exchanged, addresses could continually be changed in registers and new citizens would be born. We could even send our athletes to the Olympics, even if they did their trial competitions in some other country. This may sound like abstract bragging, but we would actually be able to ensure the functioning of the state from the cloud!
What does that mean in the light of events in the Crimea? The capacity to support the existence of our state from the cloud would lead to a situation where—considering the recent events in Crimea—it would be much more complicated (i.e. expensive) to occupy Estonia. There would be no point in conquering the country with tanks, as the state would continue to function from the cloud. In addition, considering that Estonians have been voting over the Internet for nearly ten years, it would be impossible to organise a fake referendum. People would be able to legitimately express their free will, using tested solutions. This means that in order to occupy the state, all of our data embassies all over the world would also have to be occupied.
Can we say that investments in the army, cannons and tanks would become pointless? No, Estonia should definitely maintain its capacity for physical and virtual defence and keep fulfilling its tasks as a NATO member state. Being able to function from the cloud would just offer us an additional security guarantee.
How was the idea of Cloud Estonia born? The need for a data embassy was born about a year ago. The follow-up idea of a country without a territory, i.e. a state functioning from the cloud, was born in the process of drafting the Estonian Digital Society Strategy 2020. President Toomas Hendrik Ilves read the draft of the strategy and said it lacked ambition. I then added this revolutionary idea to the document’s foreword and asked: “Is it ambitious enough now, Mr. President?”
What kind of reaction has the cloud idea provoked? At first it usually creates the wow effect. In the context of cyber security, the topic of virtual embassies is a hot one. Our approach is often considered too futuristic, because even Internet elections, so ordinary for Estonians, are regarded as too revolutionary in many other countries. Silicon Valley has also dreamt of a similar cloud state.
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ESTONIAN DATA EMBASSIES
tax declarations and refunds. But there is still room for improvement. The handling of taxes, e.g. declaring and refunding taxes, has delays and those delays, in fact, “hold up money”. In the worst cases, businesses receive their overpaid VAT back in two months, and citizens receive their income tax returns once a year. These periods could be shortened significantly. The goal is to reach a situation in which the economy, including taxes, and recalculations thereof, function in real time. We are very close to this in Estonia, and if we succeed in strengthening the tax control systems, we will be able to take another step closer to our aim.
The tax system is not the only field where such improvements in systems and services are happening, right?
There is another wild idea in relation to the state in the cloud: start issuing Estonian e-identity to foreigners. This idea came about when we were looking at how to allow foreigners working in Estonia on a temporary basis – for example university professors and entrepreneurs – to benefit from our digital society. In order to use Estonian eservices, such as digital prescription, e-banking, digital signature etc., one needs digital identity. Thus, we need to issue non-resident ID cards and mobile-IDs to those working or studying here temporarily. At a certain point, we realised that the need for such a card is much wider. For example, the card could be used by businessmen who do not reside in Estonia but who want to be involved in daily business development as board members. E-identities together with digital signatures would make this possible.
So you can be from New Zealand, but do business in Europe without ever leaving home? Precisely. You just need to get a non-resident ID-card. In only 18 minutes over the Internet, you can start a company in Estonia, open a bank account and sign all necessary documents with a digital signature. In less than a day, you have the capability of doing business
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not just in Estonia, but in the whole European Union. And you can do all that without leaving your home. “An operational company with a bank account in the European Union in less than a day” is a much-needed service for many EU citizens, as well as people from other countries. The non-resident ID-card is not the key issue. There are more and more private businesses all over the world offering e-identity services. Estonia’s goal is, after all, to make its e-services accessible to other countries. People having Estonian e-identity would become “satellite citizens”, who would develop some connection with Estonia through those processes. In addition, having 10 million satellite citizens on top of our 1.3 million permanent residents would also serve as an additional security guarantee. In reality we will not reach such numbers, but dreaming is important. Virtual residence also confirms the viability of our “state without territory” concept.
What other innovations await the Estonian e-state? I am personally most interested in the Real Time Economy. Estonia is the most effective tax collector in the whole world. This means that per euro collected we spend much less in tax collection in comparison to other states. We have developed a fully automated system of
Indeed. For the next seven years, substantial resources have been allocated for ICT investments. The aim is not only to create new solutions, but to improve the functioning of the existing system. Many systems, including especially the ones that are more than a decade old, need to be re-engineered, since work processes, legislation and especially technology change significantly. Voice recognition, touchscreen technology, cyber-security, big data etc. – a decade ago we lived in another world and there is no point in remaining stuck there. ICT systems need to be modernised on a regular basis. Thus, we have established a rule that no vital information system in the Estonian public sector can be more than 13 years old. We call this the no-legacy policy.
Isn’t the no-legacy policy too expensive? This is a very good question. It turns out that the opposite is true. Our research and comparison with Scandinavian countries prove that the continuous renewal and updating of systems will be cheaper in the end than maintaining legacy. In addition, there has been a revolution in the production and management of software and the start-up culture has proven to the world that huge ICT enterprises have been nourished for no reason for decades. ICT is not as complicated and costly as some believe. The UK government’s ICT budget is 16 billion pounds. The Estonian Government ICT budget is about 40 million pounds: 400 times smaller.
But the United Kingdom is also a much larger state… Yes, but not by four hundred times! Moreover, in the digital world the size of states does not matter: the services that countries have to provide to their citizens are similar in big and small countries alike. Hospitals, banks, the police: these are the same services. The differences are only in scale, but in the cloud age this is no longer an issue. In praise of the UK, it has to be said that they have a great CTO, who has significantly managed to cut ICT costs and continues to do good work.
What is the main lesson that the rest of the world can learn from Estonia?
are the real benefits of a whole society using digital signatures? How do e-elections change people’s understanding of elections and voting procedures? Improving evidence-based policymaking is another funding priority for us in the coming years. This will be done in cooperation with the world’s leading universities. In addition, we have started negotiations with Finland and the UK on the joint development of basic ICT infrastructure: for example, e-elections, e-identity and the middleware X-road. In some situations, it makes more sense to put our brains and money together with other states in order to together develop the cornerstones of state ICT.
So, the Estonian e-tiger is not dead and continues to growl? It’s very much alive. The economic crisis demonstrated clearly that ICT can make public administration, as well as the functioning of the whole society, more cost-effective and userfriendly. Furthermore, the image of Estonia as an e-country continues to be an inseparable part of Estonia’s identity, and our president, who has a background in programming, continues to change the world through ICT. Finding motivation is easy. Everything we do today, and everything we do not manage to complete, will affect future generations. I have three children myself.
I would like it to be the no-legacy policy. I wish that those coming to learn from our experience would get rid of their outdated systems and pseudo-fears and start from scratch. Unfortunately this is just a dream. Many people visit to learn from us and see how we do things. Over 350 governmentlevel delegations come here to learn about our e-government annually. Hence the e-Estonia showroom (ICT Demo Center) has a special role in telling e-stories. This also points to a significant problem. Until now we have focussed on developing new solutions and approaches without having carried out any research or impact analyses. What
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Estonia: The Little Country With A Start-Up Mindset 20
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Follow the leader is a title, theme, task Now you know, you don’t have to ask - Rakim, “Follow the Leader” Ben Horowitz, co-founder and a partner of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz: Being someone reasonably well-known in technology, I have been getting a lot of questions lately about healthcare.gov. People want to know why it cost between two and four times as much money to create a broken website as to build the original iPhone. This is an excellent question. However, in my experience, understanding why a project went wrong tends to be far less valuable than understanding why a project went right. So, rather than explaining why paying anywhere between $300M and $600M to build the first iteration of healthcare.gov was a bad idea, I would like to focus attention on a model for software-enabled government that works. In doing so, perhaps this will be a step toward a better understanding of how technology might make the US government better and not worse. Early in my career as a venture capitalist, we invested in a company called Skype and I went on the board. One of the many interesting aspects of Skype was that it was based in Estonia, a small country with a difficult history. Over the centuries, Estonia had been invaded and taken over many times by many countries, including Denmark, Sweden, Germany, and most recently the Soviet Union. Now independent, but well aware of their history, the Estonian people were humble, pragmatic, proud of their freedom, but dubious of overly optimistic forecasts. In some ways, they had the ideal culture for technology adoption: hopeful, yet appropriately sceptical. Supported by this culture, Estonia built the technology platform to serve its citizens that everyone wishes we had here. Estonia developed an infrastructure that enabled its government to serve its people so well that Estonians would like to see more, not fewer, government technology projects. To explain how they did it, I’ve asked one of our Entrepreneurs in Residence, the Estonian Sten Tamkivi, to tell the story.
EIR at Andreessen Horowitz: Estonia might not show up on the US radar very often. It is a tiny country in north-eastern Europe, just next to Finland. It has the territory of the Netherlands, but only a tenth of the population: 1.3 million inhabitants, comparable to Hawaii. Estonia belongs to the European Union, Eurozone and NATO. A friend from India recently quipped: “what is there to govern?” What makes this tiny country interesting as a governance benchmark is not just that the people can elect their parliament online or get their tax returns in two days. It is also that this level of service for citizens did not start with their government building a few web sites. Instead, Estonians started by redesigning their entire information infrastructure from the ground up, with openness, privacy, security and future-proofing in mind. As the first building block of e-government, you need to be able to tell your citizens apart. Sounds obvious, but sometimes referring to a person by a social security number, then by a taxpayer number and at
other times by something else doesn’t cut it. Estonia uses a very simple, unique ID methodology across all systems, from paper passport to bank records to access to any government office or hospital. A citizen with personal ID code 37501011234 is a male born in the 20th century (3), on January 1st of year 1975, as baby #123 of that day. The number ends with a computational checksum to easily detect typos. For these identified citizens to transact with each other, Estonia passed the Digital Signatures Act back in 2000. The state standardized through a national Public-key Infrastructure (PKI), which binds citizen identities to their cryptographic keys, and now it doesn’t matter if some Tiit and Toivo (to use common Estonian names) sign a contract between them in electronic form with certificates, or with plain ink on paper. A signature is a signature in the eyes of the law. As a quirky side-effect, that foundational law also forced all decentralized government systems to become digital “by market demand”. Namely, no part of the Estonian government can turn down a citizen’s digitally signed request and ask for a paper copy. As citizens opt for convenience, bureaucrats see a higher inflow of digital forms and are selfmotivated to invest in systems that will help them manage the process. Yet a social worker in a small village can still provide the same service with no big investment by handling the small number of digitally signed email attachments the office receives.
For future-proofing, the law did not lock in the technical nuances of digital signatures. In fact, the implementation has changed over time. Initially, Estonia equipped all traditional ID cards issued to all citizens for identification and domestic travel inside the EU with microchips. The chip carries two certificates: one for full legal signatures and one for authenticating on any trusting web site or service (used widely, from government services to Internet banks). As every person over 15 is required to have one, there are now over 1.2M cards active, close to 100% penetration of the population. As mobile use in Estonia rapidly approached the current 144% (#3 in Europe), the digital signatures adapted too. Instead of using smartcard readers with their computers, users can now get Mobile ID enabled SIM cards from their telecom operators. Without installing any additional hardware or software, they can access systems and give signatures by just typing PIN codes into their mobile phones. As of this writing, between ID cards and mobile phones, 1.3M Estonians have authenticated 230M times and given 140M legally binding signatures. Besides the now daily usage for commercial contracts and bank transactions, the most high profile use case has been for elections: since becoming the first country in the world to allow e-voting for local elections in 2005, the system has been used for both Estonian and European Parliament Elections, and in 2011 accounted for 24% of all votes. (Interestingly, the citizens voted from 105 countries in total, where they just happened to be physically at the time - like my own vote submitted from California).
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I LAND AND PEOPLE Having everything online does generate security risks on not just the personal, but also on the systematic and national levels. Estonia was the target of the Cyberwar of 2007, when well-coordinated botnet attacks following some political street riots targeted government, media and finance sites and effectively cut the country off from the Internet abroad for several hours. But, as a result, Estonia has since become the home of the NATO Cyber Defence Center, and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves has risen internationally to be one of the most vocal advocates for cyber security among the world’s heads of states.
To further speed up this sort of innovation, the state tendered the building and securing of digital signature certificate systems to private parties, namely a consortium led by local banks and telcos. And that’s not where the public-private partnerships end: the way the data interchange in the country works is that both public & private players can access the same data exchange bus (dubbed X-Road), enabling truly integrated e-services. A prime example is the income tax declarations Estonians “fill in”. Inverted commas are appropriate, because when an average Estonian opens the form for submission once a year, it usually looks more like a review wizard: “next -> next -> next -> submit”. This is because data has been moving throughout the year: when employers report employment taxes every month, all the data entries are already linked into a particular person’s tax records too. Non-profit reported charitable donations are recorded as deductions for the giver the same way. Tax deductions on mortgages come directly from data interchange with commercial banks. And so forth. Not only is the income tax rate in the country a flat 21%, after submitting this pre-populated form citizens actually get any overpayment deposited into their bank accounts (digitally transferred, of course) on the second day!
Even more interestingly, there is a flip-side to the fully digitized nature of the Republic of Estonia: taken to the max, having the bureaucratic machinery of a country humming in the cloud increases the cost of any potential physical assault on the state. Imagine if a physical invasion of this piece of Nordic land by anyone could not stop the government from operating, but booted up a backup replica of the digital state, hosted in some other friendly European territory. A democratic government would be quickly re-elected, important decisions made, documents issued, business & property records maintained, births and deaths registered and even taxes would flow for those citizens who still had access to the Internet. This may sound futuristic, but this is exactly the kind of world Estonia’s energetic CIO Taavi Kotka not only dreams about but is actually beginning to implement, on the e-foundations the country has already established.
Estonia is a start-up country — not just as a life stage, but as a mindset The circumstances of the Estonian story are special in many ways. The country restored its independence after 50 unfortunate years of Soviet occupation in 1991, having missed a lot of the technological legacy the Western world had built up from the ‘60s to the ‘80s, such as cheque books and mainframe computers, and jumped right into the mid-nineties bandwagon of TCP-IP enabled web apps. During this social reset, Estonians also decided to throw their former communist leaders overboard and elected new leadership, with ministers in their late twenties from whom the world could expect disruptive thinking. But then again, all this was 20 years ago. Estonia has by many macroeconomic and political notions become more of “a boring European state,” stable and predictable, although somewhat faster growing in an attempt to close the gap with Old Europe from the time they were behind the Iron Curtain. Twenty years, but you can still think of Estonia as a start-up country, not just as a life stage, but as a mindset.
This liquid movement of data between systems relies on a fundamental principle to protect the privacy of citizens: without any question, it is always the citizen who owns their data. People have the right to control access to their data. For example, in the case of fully digital health records and prescriptions, people can granularly assign access rights to the general practitioners and specialized doctors of their choosing. And in scenarios where the rule of law can’t allow them to block the state from seeing their information, as with Estonian e-policemen using their real time terminals in police cars or offices, they at least get a record of who accessed their data and when. If an honest citizen finds any official checking on their stuff without valid reason, they can file an inquiry and get them fired.
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And this is what the United States, along with many other countries struggling to develop the Internet and get their increasingly more mobile citizens on it, could learn from Estonia: the mindset. The willingness to ask fundamental questions and get the key infrastructure right, and to continuously re-invent them. States can either build healthcare insurance brokerage sites for innovation, or really look at what key components need to exist for any service to be built: signatures, transactions, legal frameworks etc. Ultimately, the states that create pleasant environments will be those where mobile citizens flock to live their lives. And by many measures, tiny Estonia in 2014 is no worse positioned to be the destination than New England was in 1814.
Marek Helm, Head of the Estonian Tax and Customs Board
Estonian Tax Board 2.0 Presents:
Real Time Economy
By Holger Roonemaa / Photos by Albert Truuv채채rt
The famous Estonian e-Tax Board has been admired and set as an example all around the world. Where else can you submit your tax return in just a few clicks? Where else can entrepreneurs submit all declarations online without spending days on end filling out paper forms? Marek Helm, Head of the Estonian Tax and Customs Board, claims that although our e-Tax Board is admired all over the world, the time is ripe for some qualitative changes.
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I ECONOMY AND BUSINESS What is a Real Time Economy and what does it mean in the Estonian context? We and our counterparts have not defined it completely. Hence, the specific definition of the term is still floating, in a good sense. The way my colleagues and I see it, and how we refer to it in our conversations with enthusiasts, it denotes real-time information exchange in a significantly higher quantity than we experience today. Despite the fact that currently 95-100% of tax declarations are filled in electronically, it is still not a Real Time Economy (RTE). RTE means not only more comfortable and faster services, but totally new services from the point of view of the state and entrepreneurs, which would increase economic competitiveness. New services help to manage cash-flow faster, and help companies and private individuals make quicker and better decisions. Specifically, in terms of our field of activity, collecting taxes, RTE means implementing electronic controls. I do not mean moving PDF files and tables, but data acquisition, and cross and automatic controls. For example, if we look at value-added tax returns, the current logic is linked with the submission dates of declarations and the submission dates of returns. Those dates are fixed. We could get rid of this principle and say that if a company meets certain preconditions the state and the company could make decisions immediately. Conditions allowing for faster information exchange could create motivation for law-abiding activity. This could enliven the economy, and increase cashflow, data quality and economic safety. Interactions with suspicious companies would decrease or be noticed much more quickly.
This would also mean that absolutely all entrepreneurs could work on equal conditions. It would be more complicated to cheat, wouldn’t it? The way I see it, people would have more motivation to be honest. At the moment, the RTE concept does not work and we offer the same service for very many entrepreneurs: the same deadlines for submitting declarations and for returns. But if we implement the RTE concept, companies will have a real motivation to be honest, as honesty will be observable in realtime and automatically detected. In this way, we can offer certain advantages.
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Like what? It is our “problem” in Estonia that most declarations are already electronic and we don’t have the opportunity to develop them further. Some people say that the appendix containing data of transactions in the value-added tax return would be quickly supported by businesses if the Tax Board paid back the valueadded tax faster. But we already do that: 95% of all returns go on the prepayment accounts of companies within three days and from there to banks. If today we paid this back within a month, as prescribed by law, and said that with the automated control of the value-added tax we would start to do it within three days, this automatic control system would exist already!
We have had the E-Tax Board for a while and people submit declarations digitally. Is the implementation of RTE the next logical step? Definitely. According to statistics, we are the most effective tax collector among all OECD states. We took a giant step in 2005-2008, when most declarations became electronic. There was no similar leap between 20082014. We are still in first place but, in terms of efficiency or costs, there hasn’t been much change. RTE would certainly decrease the share of the shadow economy. If we bring some of the money in the shadow economy into the “real” economy, it would significantly improve the revenue and expenditure relationship. The assumption underlying our new approach is that our organisation will not grow. Some say that we should just employ more inspectors, but this would not be right! In that way, we would just have more people doing things the same old way, but what we really need is to do things differently and, in the longer term, probably with fewer people.
Let’s talk more specifically about the RTE projects of the Tax and Customs Board. One of the bigger ones involves declaring VAT and providing data for the Tax Board on transactions exceeding 1,000 euros. This is not liked by businesses. What is the status of this project? We are ready to start. When the parliament approves the draft act and the president proclaims the act, we can start on development. We foresee six months for development work.
We have submitted a very strong concept and it does actually have support among many entrepreneurs. Just a few weeks ago, the different parliamentary fractions discussed this issue and one prominent representative of entrepreneurs said that it is a much-needed act which should be implemented.
What would it involve for entrepreneurs? Businesses have to consider that, if there are invoices on their books which exceed 1,000 euros as single invoices or the sum of invoices for a transaction partner, they need to submit the registry code of the partner, the sum of the transaction and the share of VAT of that transaction as a separate appendix to the Tax and Customs Board. The duty itself looks like this: when the VAT declaration is submitted on the 20th day of the month, there is an electronic appendix which is filled in on the basis of data in the accounting system. In other words, we receive data on the transaction partner, the sum of the transaction and the share of VAT in this sum. We receive no information about the contents of the goods, unit price or amount. Companies add this data to their declarations and the new information system of the Tax and Customs Board will receive and compare this information. Our systems compare the transactions declared by buyers with the declarations made by sellers. The system will cross-check the data and detect any discrepancies. Unlike the current situation, where we receive the VAT declaration without transaction data (just three figures in fact), we will be able to contact companies straight away and ask why the data does not add up. Currently, we start by asking for information, then we receive the data in some weeks and only then can we check it thoroughly. The new situation will allow us to receive data automatically and we can decide immediately which companies to check.
Yet there has been resistance to this idea by Estonian entrepreneurs. I can understand that. After all, the Tax and Customs Board will be controlling more. We receive 35,000-40,000 VAT claims monthly, and we pay 95-100 million euros in VAT back each month to companies on the basis of minimal controls. Under the new system, we would have an overview of who is
There is also a social side to it. At the moment, when an employee goes to work, he is unaware of whether he is officially registered or not. From July, the employee will be able to check this on the e-Tax Board and see whether s/he has social insurance. For employers, this means sending data once; they will not have to send separate bits of information to the Health Insurance, Work Inspection, Unemployment Office, Police and Border Guard.
Is it really true that during your checks every third builder is working “for the first day”?
actually justified in receiving money back. In other words, if a company sells goods, it needs to consider that the buyer will submit information on the transaction to the Tax and Customs Board, having the right to deduct input value-added tax. Hence, there is no way to not account for the sales of the goods in the company’s turnover. When a buyer wants to receive value-added tax from the purchase of goods and provides us with the data of the seller, but the seller is not aware of the transaction, we will see immediately that there is a problem with this specific transaction and that it needs to be checked. Currently, companies often ask for money back without transactions ever having taken place, and we are only able to check 3% of claims for refunds. The resistance from companies results from the fact that, instead of the ability to check 3% today, we will be able to check 100%. I totally understand their concerns because transferring onto the new system will entail one-off costs, including for those who are totally lawabiding tax-payers.
According to your calculations, the VAT gap is currently 200 million euros per year. How much of this sum could you recover by implementing the new system? It is difficult to accurately predict it, but we have calculated that the state could receive
at least 30 million additional euros each year. The gap will never be totally eliminated, but we could significantly improve the culture of the VAT environment. Our current checking logic dates back to 2003. We cannot continue like this; although almost 100% of tax declarations today are electronic, we are still doing the actual checking on paper.
Another new idea of yours is the project of employment registration. What is that? From July onwards, the duty to register employees before they start to work will come into effect. Currently, companies have to register new employees within seven days at the Health Insurance Board, but from July it has to be done either at the e-Tax Board, via a text message or in our call centre, before the employee starts working. For example, you are about to start working for a building company. Your supervisor will send the Tax and Customs Board a text message and it will immediately be registered that you are working. If on the first day you pick up a rake and there is a Tax Board inspection ten minutes later, we already know that you are officially working. Within the last few years, we have carried out regular checks during which it often turns out that every third builder is “working for the first day” and the company has not managed to register them yet. This is a typical kind of fraud.
We cannot generalise, but we often discover that during our inspections. For example, we went to check the construction of a health spa last week and every third employee was not registered at all. From July, it will also be the case that when an employee is no longer employed, we will see within two months that s/ he is not marked on any income or social tax declarations and we will then contact the employer and delete the employee from our register and inform the Health Insurance Board, who, in turn, will delete the entry from their register. Today there are many people registered as insured by the Health Insurance Board but they have not worked for a long time. In future, the data exchange between the Tax and Customs Board and the Health Insurance Board will take place automatically, and people themselves will be interested in monitoring whether they are registered as working or not. Currently they might find out at their GP that they have no health insurance at all.
We haven’t talked about how these innovations would change economic predictions. Would RTE make it possible to understand every day or every minute what is happening in the economy? We do not know the complete impact it will have. It is obvious that RTE will enable us to react to change more quickly, and to assess the current situation more accurately. It could help raise the growth in added value of companies. This will be more and more visible from our data. Prevention is always cheaper and more effective than dealing with consequences.
Tax declaration in Estonia is online
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What To Do With Legacy? Implement No-legacy Policy By Aet Rahe / Head of State Information Systems Department, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.
The term “legacy system” came into use in the 1990s when it started to denote computers (technology) and software which were out of date. Later on, the definition was narrowed down and stood for all systems which were not dependent on the Internet. Today this more explicit meaning has been rejected and the “pet-name” legacy continues to refer to all IT solutions which are out-of-date in terms of content and/or technology, but which continue to be used on a daily basis. On the Estonian IT landscape, legacy is a relatively new concept. The country began to invest in IT only after Estonia had regained independence and, therefore, we were able to start from scratch. There were no earlier information systems from 1960-1980, the “legacy” period. Starting from scratch allowed us to use the newest technologies, to learn from best practices in the world and to develop information systems specifically targeted to individual needs. It was clearly much cheaper (more efficient) to learn from
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the mistakes made by others than to make our own. Today the Estonian IT landscape is at a crossroads. According to an e-health report by the OECD, Estonia has the best e-health solutions in the world: all our hospitals use information systems which interact and exchange data with each other and across hospitals; a common digital image bank has been created; health insurance systems have been developed; effective communication with the National Health Insurance Fund has been ensured, etc. The IT systems of all doctors, pharmacies and the Estonian Health Insurance Fund function as a whole and, in order to receive a prescription, one just has to call one’s GP, take along one’s ID card and go buy the medication at any pharmacy. It took half a year for the society to give up paper prescriptions and take up digital ones. Today, 98% of prescriptions are issued digitally and nobody would change the system back: it just makes sense, considering how easy and user friendly the service is.
Despite this, the recent National Audit Office’s report pointed out a number of shortcomings in the Estonian e-health solution. One could summarise the audit with the following idea: “Considering the technologies available today, it is possible (and imperative) to offer citizens even better services.” So, on one hand, based on the OECD report, everything seems fine and most countries can only dream of reaching the same level of healthcare solutions that Estonia has. But on the other hand, there is internal pressure to still considerably improve these services. This is where the dilemma comes in. It is not a question of resting on our laurels or improving existing services: surely we have to improve the quality of services. But the real question has to do with legacy. Is it enough to make small improvements in existing systems or should we just bulldoze the solutions which have been called the best in the world and start over? The latter (using heavy machinery) seems radical but, once we analyse the pros and cons, it does not seem such a bad idea after all.
Most of our world-leading e-health solutions were created 10-13 years ago. The arguments for radically changing the solutions are the following: Development of new technologies. Doctors could be more effective in their work, if they could use not only the keyboards, but also benefit from touch-screens, speech recognition, teleworking, telemedicine etc. New user habits. Along with the introduction of new technologies, the user habits and skills have changed. The tools used by doctors in their work should evolve in a similar fashion as the tools used in everyday life and they should provide a similar user experience. New work processes. All organisations develop and grow in ten years. To maintain progress, fundamental changes are often needed instead of minor improvements. Changed environment, including legislation, both on the national and EU levels. For example, cross-border medical services have been possible in Europe since last year, but most Estonian health information systems continue to be in Estonian and have therefore no export potential. Cyber security. Guaranteeing cyber security is much more of a challenge today than it was ten years ago. Development of Open Data, Big Data, eidentity, digital signatures etc. technologies, has an impact on how information systems are built, how data is stored and tagged etc., which influences what parts of systems should be custom built and which parts should not. For example, with new technologies, new standardized and reusable components and solutions are being developed, so we donâ€™t need to re-invent the wheel in every information system. Maintenance of legacy systems is costly, as demonstrated clearly by the Swedish and Finnish experiences. For instance, in Finland there are still around 5,000 Cobol programmers. This is one of the oldest programming languages in the world and, throughout the years, continuous development of systems has resulted in an expensive spaghetti architecture that is very difficult to maintain.
OECD 2012 eHealth Availability & Use indicator by country Benchmarking Information and Communication Technologies in Health System Joint EC-OECD WORKSHOP Brussels, Aprill 18-19, 2013 Estonia (7) Finland (25) Sweden (24) Denmark (10) Luxembourg (3) Iceland (7) Netherlands (20) Spain (112) Croatia (7) Hungary (42) Norway (4) Austria (35) Belgium (43) Portugal (34) Czech Rep. (34) Slovakia (32) France (269) Italy (182) Germany (168) UK (51) Malta (1) Romania (78) Greece (59) Latvia (15) Slovenia (6) Ireland (19) Bulgaria (59) Cyprus (9) Poland (146) Lithuania (32) 0
Input The world is in constant flux and, in order to offer the best services to customers, it is necessary to keep up with the changes. The points listed above speak volumes and Estoniaâ€™s private sector practice to date demonstrates that every now and then one needs to wipe off and rebuild. In the long run, this will be cheaper and more efficient than trying to maintain legacy. As a result, a new umbrella term has been taken into use by Estonian ICT policy makers: the no-legacy policy. According to this idea, the Estonian public sector should not have any important information systems in use which are over 13 years old. This means that at least in every thirteen years the most important information systems should be rebuilt from scratch or significantly re-engineered. Why thirteen years? Estoniaâ€™s experience has proven that the quality lifespan of a large national information system is approximately 10 years. Considering that the planning, development and implementation of a new solution is about a three-year process, we reached the number 13.
Because the public sector has a monopoly on the provision of public services to citizens, it risks falling into the comfort zone. If customers do not like the food in a restaurant, or experience bad service in a hotel, they can always choose not to return and can find alternative service providers. However, in the case of public services there is rarely an alternative. Thus, from time to time, impetus is needed to make civil servants generate new ideas and approaches. The no-legacy policy with its obligation to renew, will provide a great opportunity in this regard. Rebuilding the system makes it possible to learn from previous mistakes and, as a result, to create better solutions. This public sector approach is also important for the private sector, as companies providing hardware and software services need to keep up with the latest technologies and developments in order to stay competitive in internal and export markets. In conclusion, if you want to continuously develop e-government solutions and keep it efficient: Do not deal with legacy, kill it!
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The Estonian Government Is About To Boost Seed Investments In Estonia In 2014 By Ann-Marii Nergi
“It doesn’t happen every day that twenty-five businessmen join forces and establish an NGO in order to develop an early stage ecosystem for Estonian start-ups and seed investors,” Signe Viimsalu, CEO of EstBAN (Estonian Business Angels Network), explains how the association was born. “In other countries, the initiator or founder has usually been the state, a public entity or some arm of such an entity. In Estonia, it was the serial entrepreneur Ivar Siimar who said ‘let’s do it ourselves.’ Super!” EstBAN is an umbrella organisation for business angels and business angel groups seeking investment opportunities in Estonia and its neighbouring regions with an aim to grow the quantity and quality of local seed stage investments. The year 2013, the first year of activity, was incredibly successful for EstBAN. Firstly, the goals set at the outset were surpassed. The number of members of EstBAN has grown from 25 to 59. Secondly, the business angels have invested over 4.6 million euros in 66 companies. The initial goals foresaw support to 10 start-ups and one million euros in total. Thirdly, two-thirds of EstBAN members found suitable investment opportunities in start-ups in the first year of activity. Another significant number is 56,112 euros, which is the average investment of EstBAN per deal in 2013. A retrospective of the first year can be found at www.estban.ee/about/2013-review. 28
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It is quality not quantity that matters
Signe Viimsalu explains that it was a conscious decision not to publicise the statistics on the average investment per member. The reason is that this figure is very high in comparison with the members of similar associations in other countries. “It is understandable that the best practice of angel investments is still developing in Estonia. There are not that many business angels in Estonia, the investment need is enormous and invested sums per deal are high for seed investors in order to have a real impact on start-ups,” explains Viimsalu. The Chairman of the Management Board of EstBAN, Ivar Siimar, states that the sums invested show a real interest by members in angel investing. The main goals of EstBAN in 2014 are to increase collaboration with business angels in neighbouring countries in order to have more crossborder syndication and to initiate a co-investment scheme with the Estonian government. Another aim is to increase the number of business angels to 80 and to have about 30 investments in the amount of four million euros by the end of the year, without leverage from the Estonian government. With a co-investment scheme the numbers will be different. Both Siimar and Viimsalu confirm that EstBAN’s priority is to finalise negotiations with the Estonian government to launch a co- investment scheme as soon as possible, but what really matters is the quality of investment projects in the pipeline, not the quantity.
Mutually beneficial collaboration The co-investment scheme, which is being prepared in cooperation with the Ministry of Economics and Communications, foresees an additional 10 million euros added to the money invested by business angels. “Joining forces with the state will increase the number of active angels and the size of investments, which in turn will bring more money in taxes back to the state, create new jobs and enliven the overall economy,” says Siimar, explaining why this “fund booster” is needed. Signe Viimsalu adds that the co-investment fund could follow the working principle in which the state would add the missing 65% of money once three business angels have joined forces to syndicate and have invested in a start-up at 35%. “It is up to the state to decide which institution will be the collaboration partner for EstBAN: the competency exists within Kredex, Estonian Development Fund and Enterprise Estonia.” The CEO claims that the additional support by the state will definitely motivate angels, as in this way the risks they have taken will be mitigated.
Start-ups benefit from cross-border syndication EstBAN also can provide some examples of cross-border syndication. For example, the start-up Cloutex received funding in the amount of 441,000 euros from nine Estonian business angels and one member of the St. Petersburg Business Angels Association (SoBA) at the beginning of the year. The start-up had previously raised a small pre-seed investment of 40,000 EUR from the business angels Riivo Anton and Gerri Kodres and from Startup WiseGuys. Cloutex has built what it calls a “cloud integration hub” software service offering. The service allows small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to link and bi-directionally sync their usage of multiple third party cloud-based software services. The founder of Cloutex, Peeter Mark, says that it took some time to convince the investors: active discussions took place over a year. “During that time, the company continued to develop and investors started to take us more and more seriously,” Mark explains the patience required until the funding injection came. “EstBAN definitely played an important role. One of the important roles is giving advice about what kind of criteria a company has to meet before it even approaches an investor.” Peeter Mark believes that Cloutex would probably have made it without help from EstBAN, but that the business angels definitely helped the company to receive financing faster. For a start-up, finding fast funding is critical.
Busy business angels Although for business angels their participation in the activities of EstBAN is mainly a hobby on top of their main jobs, Signe Viimsalu emphasises repeatedly that being a member of the association requires an active hands-on attitude in helping start-ups, and participation in EstBAN’s workshops and events. There are frequent meetings among members and with start-ups: a pitching event takes place every first Monday of the month, where start-ups selected the previous month present their ideas. On every second Thursday of each month, business angels meet for coffee, where they discuss various topics in a relaxed atmosphere with an interesting visitor to EstBAN. Each third Monday is the time for pre-screening, or the quality check of the ideas that have been submitted, where usually five to seven members participate. This is where it is decided which business idea can be taken further and
EstBAN will be present at larger events related to start-ups and early stage ecosystem this year: • • •
the start-up technology conference Latitude59 in Tallinn on 28 – 29 April EBAN’s Annual Conference in Dublin on 19-20 May FinanceEstonia 2nd International Forum in Tallinn on 17-18 June There are definite plans to participate in the annual EBAN Winter University and the Slush conference in Helsinki, Finland in November
presented to the business angels during pitching events. Viimsalu claims that it is this frequent information exchange among members and startups, the monthly meetings, interesting educational workshops and joint events which give EstBAN a competitive edge over business angels of other regions, and start-ups are aware of this. “Start-ups always need fast financial injections and mentoring, and we know that the EstBAN process has to be fast. If a project is not suitable for us (for instance, the business is not scalable or unique) or we cannot meet investment needs at a certain point in time for some reason, this is also feedback and they don’t have to wait long for our decision. We can also very easily forward the project to the networks of neighbouring countries for analysis, if the entrepreneur so wishes,” says Viimsalu.
EstBAN is open to new members with a hands-on attitude “If you are interested in seed investments and in Estonia more generally, welcome to the club! In order to join EstBAN, one does not need to be Estonian or even live in Estonia. What is necessary is written recommendations from two existing members and the willingness to invest”, says Viimsalu. A living proof of that is Juan Herrera, a Portuguese who used to live and work in London as an investment banker and moved to Estonia a year ago. “At first I heard about EstBAN through some investors in Tallinn. I decided to join as I wanted to gain better access to early stage investment opportunities in Estonia. Being part of a network also makes it much easier to find partners to co-invest with. In addition, I really like the drive and enthusiasm the management has for building EstBAN. In terms of investment, I am interested in strong teams, addressing a profitable market and preferably they should have something original which is not easy to replicate,” says Herrera. So, if you are willing to be active as an investor and participate in selecting and mentoring high quality growth companies, you can try your luck and apply. In the words of EstBAN: “We don’t care which phone you use. It’s the optimism. The belief in knowledge and experience in building successful companies. The wish and ability to invest in start-up entrepreneurship – that’s what matters. And we’re not afraid to get our hands dirty. Got it all? Then, my dear friend, you are welcome to join!” www.estban.ee/en
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VitalFields Helps Farmers Be More Efficient The Estonian start-up VitalFields challenges the outdated view that farmers are remote from technology and somewhat wary of it. One of the founders and the CEO of VitalFields, Martin Rand, says that agricultural enterprises are in fact very open to new solutions, first and foremost due to circumstances: after all, every farmer wants to work his land in the most effective way.
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By Ann-Marii Nergi
This is where the web-based farm management system VitalFields helps. Its aim is to increase the efficiency of its customers. The services offered by VitalFields can be divided into three different but, from the farmers’ point of view, equally important components: weather forecasting, tracking climatic patterns to forecast plant diseases and farm management software for managing day-to-day activities and finances. Hence farmers are able to plan in advance what and where to cultivate in the next season and to draw conclusions from previous seasons. In doing so, they save a huge amount of time and have the ability to react quickly to such factors as changes in weather. “Our grand vision is that the more farmers use the system, the smarter the system becomes. For example, we would like to forecast the phases of plant growth and to offer advice to farmers on that. To this end, we are currently gathering information from existing customers,” says Martin Rand. The founder of the start-up emphasizes that clients should not be concerned about the information leaking to competitors or neighbouring farmers having access to their data. “We are aware that this information is important for the business activity of farms, i.e. plant cultivation, and we will only use this data to improve our system,” confirms Rand. Currently, VitalFields has about a thousand clients all over the world, with the majority located in Russia and Ukraine. The reason? Market research revealed that whereas VitalFields has competitors in western Europe, there are no similar systems in use in the East, yet the agricultural lands there are enormous. As a next step, the app is set to enter markets in Poland and Hungary, followed by Denmark and Germany. The start-up of Martin Rand, a former Skype employee and the creator of Skype’s only enterprise solution, called “Skype manager”, and Vahur Meus, the CTO of VitalFields, who has previously worked as a
back-end developer at Playtech, has been successful in raising investments. Just recently the service received an injection of a half million euros. The sum meant for the development of the service came from Estonian and Russian investors and now the company will be able to focus on entering new markets and on development work. It was the third and the largest investment to date for VitalFields. The first investment, in the sum of 15,000 euros, came from the start-up accelerator Wise Guys some years ago. The second investment, in 2012, of 250,000 euros came from SmartCap (the investment fund of the Estonian Development Fund), Arvi Tavast and Wiser Financial Advisers. In the third round, in addition to existing and new Estonian investors, the Russian investment company TMT Investments has invested in the start-up. Alexander Selegenev, Executive Director of TMT Investments, said that, even though their investment policy is focused on more mature companies, they keep an eye on early-stage companies, as this allows them to establish relationships with promising teams. “This was the case with VitalFields. When we first met, we were impressed by the team and shared their belief in the growth potential of the market segment they were targeting, so we followed their successful progress. At a later stage, it was easier for us to approve this investment,” Selegenev says. TMT has also invested in another Estonian start-up, Pipedrive. The two investments amount to 600,000 euros in total. Selegenev says that this is a typical approach of TMT. “Should the company demonstrate further growth, a small initial investment is often followed by further investments later on.” Therefore, VitalFields already has a likely investor for its next period of raising capital.
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who likes the spirit of start-up companies, visiting the opening party of the Estonian start-up VitalFields in its Tartu office.
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The Boston sales team, which started in 2012 with just five staff members, has the tradition of meeting once a week on a theme day â€“ this time the 1980s were in focus.
The Success Story Of ZeroTurnaround
By Ann-Marii Nergi Photos by Rein RaudjĂ¤rv and Dave Shevett
Would Not Exist Without Estonian Business Culture And Education Having to date financed its rapid expansion with sales profits, ZeroTurnaround announced at the beginning of March that it has attracted six million dollars of growth capital.
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves has visited the Tartu and Boston offices, in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
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Chess is a great way of relaxation and brain training for employees
In 2012, the employees of ZeroTurnaround met at a workshop in Greece where work and relaxation went hand in hand. It was a great opportunity for staff from the offices of Tallinn, Tartu, Prague and Boston to meet each other. This year the meeting in Cancun, Mexico will bring together 120 staff members.
The Estonian software company ZeroTurnaround (ZT) was born in 2007, when Jevgeni Kabanov and Toomas Römer, who worked in Webmedia (today Nortal), created the technology which helps Java developers write programmes faster and take written code into use. The flagship of the company, JRebel, makes it possible to instantly see code changes, and thus save four to six weeks of working time for a developer in the course of a year. In the last five years, ZT has also brought a new product to the market – LiveRebel - meant for application release management. At the beginning of the year, the company presented the third generation version of LiveRebel, and Jevgeni Kabanov, Founder & CEO of ZT believes that 2014 will be a breakthrough year for the product. The company has 4,000 customers in nearly 90 countries. The offices of ZT are also widespread: in Tallinn and Tartu, Boston and the Czech Republic. As the development and sales of the two powerful products require talented sales and development people, the company sought (and attracted) investments in the sum of six million dollars (4.3 million euros) in March. Half of the sum came from the current owners of the company, the US company Bain Capital Ventures, and the other half was in the form of venture debt from the US investment group Western Technology Investment. Kabanov admits that attracting the funds was somewhat easier than usual for start-ups, because one of the investors had had shares in the company for years. He adds that it is perhaps not appropriate to call ZT a real start-up any more because, on one hand, it is older and more experienced and, on the other hand, the company is aiming to grow quickly and bring new products onto the market. “‘Growth company’ would be a better choice of words,” says Kabanov.
Riina Einberg, General Manager of ZT Estonian and Czech Operations, adds that there are plans to increase the sales and marketing team, based in Boston, from 60 to 100 employees. Currently over 40 staff members work in the offices in Tartu and Tallinn, and the company is looking to hire a Head of the Development Team, User Interaction Designer, Tech Writer and software developers: 10-12 smart people in total. “In the case of product development teams, we mostly emphasize quality: both products demand that the developer be smart, able to see the big picture, patient and able to think outside the frame in order to solve real problems. At the same time, we would definitely not be able to find the same kind of marketing and sales leaders as in Boston,” says Einberg. Due to its success, ZT has also been noticed by the President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Ilves has visited ZT in both their Boston and Tartu offices. Kabanov recalls that it was a huge deal in the USA to have the President come meet the staff: some staff members did not believe it until their “home street” was closed off for traffic because of the arrival of the President and presidential escort. In 2012, ZT was selected as the “#1 company to watch in Estonia”. Before the 96th Independence Day of the Republic of Estonia, the then 30-year-old Kabanov received an honorary decoration, Fifth Class Order of the White Star, from the President. Kabanov feels that starting a business in Estonia today is definitely simpler than in the early years of ZT. The improvements evident today have definitely been aided by the IT-friendly President. “At the same time, the success story of ZT would not have happened without Estonian business culture and education,” he adds.
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Sacramento Kings Unveil New App (at 10:10)
The Estonian company Pipedrive has developed valued customer management software which provides wise and practical help to any salesman. Recently, the Silicon Valley technology guru Vivek Ranadivé and the former star basketball player Shaquille O’Neal invested in the company.
Pipedrive Estonian Company
In Shaq O’Neal’s Investment Portfolio Pipedrive is one more example of a successful Estonian start-up which has the potential to conquer the world. Founded in 2010 without much fuss (or advertising), Pipedrive has managed to stand out in the vast ocean of Customer Relations Management (CRM) tools, where each “drop” claims to be the best in the world! The facts speak for themselves: the company has almost 10,000 paying customers (and 50,000 users) in over a hundred countries. It makes millions of euros in sales revenue, whilst claiming that everything—even the product itself—is still in the early phase of development. One of the founders of Pipedrive, Urmas Purde, says that, typically for many remarkable inventions, the idea for the product grew out of the frustration of the founders themselves. Purde and Timo Rein worked as trainers and salesmen with one of the most famous Estonian training gurus, Peep Vain.
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“We had to manage the sales of our own training sessions. We had invested a lot of money in three different CRMs in a row but none of them were suitable for sales people. We asked ourselves how we could fail with customer management software three times in a row. And we were still keeping an overview of our sales activity as post-its on the wall!” says Purde. Five years ago, whilst giving a training session to a start-up company, Purde was sketching some principles of sales pipeline management on a whiteboard when someone from the audience asked: isn’t there software for that? The idea was born and the group of founders - Timo Rein, Urmas Purde, Ragnar Sass, Martin Henk and Martin Tajur - came together to develop Pipedrive. The first seed money came from Peep Vain.
By Toivo Tänavsuu
Why is Pipedrive such a high-flyer? Whereas most customer management software is meant for supervisors and focuses on providing them with an objective overview of sales activity and the working sales people only tick boxes in each stage, Pipedrive has kind of turned it upside down: it starts from the needs of the sales person who is working on developing customer relations. It aims to provide feedback on the effectiveness of sales activity in the “sales-pipe”. This new logic quickly won over the first users, who started to use the product’s beta-version in autumn 2010. The following spring the company was established enough to start charging its customers. Pipedrive helps sales people to maintain focus. Purde explains that sales involves many external impulses and demands: e-mail, meetings, calls, and requests from supervisors and colleagues. It is therefore difficult to keep up the pace of work.
Purde asks: “Doesn’t this sound familiar: you work like crazy for a week, making loads of calls, sending tons of e-mails but you do not achieve what you set out to do? Pipedrive is here to help! It gives you a clear answer on what you have to do in order to get the best results. What is holding your money up? You maintain the pace and do the right things at the right time.”
the founders of Pipedrive stayed true to themselves, believing that this was not the way to reach the masses.
Pipedrive has generally received positive media reviews and feedback from clients. Customers include those who have never used customer management software before and have used Excel, notepaper etc., and those who have experience with Salesforce, for example.
When the first customers came on board, they thought this was not a cause to celebrate. Customers began to pay for the service and they still did not think it was worth shouting about. The number of customers grew to ten, then a hundred and then a thousand. It was only with the thousandth client that the founders celebrated in a restaurant. The second big celebration was the opening of the new office in Tallinn.
Pipedrive can be used to sell anything, from advertising and trucks to journalism. The company targets both small and large customers, and most have found products without any advertising. They just heard about it from other users. The product sells itself. It may be ironic that Pipedrive, a company selling sales software, has no sales team of its own! Purde says that a third of their customers come from Europe, a third from the USA and a third from the rest of the world. In order to use Pipedrive, it does not matter whether a sales company has five or five thousand staff, says Purde. At first the company thought of focussing on bigger customers who made tempting offers to help the company fine-tune the product to their needs. But
Starting a start-up often provides many lessons. Purde says that they have not just learned a lesson about celebrating success. Estonians are modest in this regard.
Pipedrive has now attracted nearly 3.5 million USD in investments, including support from two business angels of the Estonian startup community, former Skype employees Ott Kaukver and Taavet Hinrikus. The company is a graduate of the AngelPad incubator. Last autumn, without much attention, the former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal and his multimillionaire business partner Vivek Ranadivé invested in Pipedrive. “They were the ones who called us, looking for a partner to serve a couple of customers,” Purde says. “We met and seemed to understand each other.
The proposal to invest came from Vivek. We understood that we had a lot to learn from him, especially with regard to building a company like an organization. If we want everyone to use Pipedrive in the future, we have to integrate with many systems. And this is exactly Vivek’s speciality.” Whereas the charismatic basketballer Shaq may be a more familiar name, Ranadivé is no less colourful a character. Growing up in a small village in India, he built up the successful stock-exchange listed IT-services company TIBCO. Ranadivé also “wired up” Wall Street in the 1980s. Since last year, Ranadivé and O’Neal have been the owners of the Sacramento Kings basketball team. Pipedrive continues to grow and is about to reach puberty. Now it needs to be clever in order to allow the inner life of the company, customer relations and the office side to grow in parallel. Currently, nearly 40 people work in the two offices of Pipedrive in Tallinn and Silicon Valley. Purde says: “We are going to reach a 10-million annual revenue run-rate by the end of this year or the beginning of the next. Some smart guys say that things get a bit easier as a management team grows with the company. Until then, as is normal for start-ups, we have to deal with all questions fast and at the same time. We have to maintain focus and not get tired.”
The founders of Pipedrive in 2011: from left, Timo Rein, Martin Henk, Martin Tajur, Ragnar Sass and Urmas Purde.
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Estonia Can Change The World, Will It? By Carl Pucci, Datel Ovela Photo by Siim Solman
Out of the ashes of occupation, Estonia has risen to become one of the IT capitals of the world. Boasting a recent history that includes being one of the birth places of Skype, there have been many down-right astonishing creations in the tiny but brilliant nation of about one and a half million people.
electronically and change their minds during the voting period, file taxes in less than five minutes and without transaction costs, pick up prescriptions, sign legal agreements, access, submit and track public permits electronically, pay for parking, transfer money with a phone call regardless of bank affiliation etc.
Not the least of those was the early decision to invest and push heavily into bringing government services to the forefront of technological innovation.
This fusion of private sector and e-government inspired tools has several simple but profound effects. Government saves money through processtime reduction. There is growth in enterprise as the private sector finds it easier to do business. Increased transparency eliminates the appearance of corruption and leads to faith in government. There is increased public revenue as compliance rises with the ease of access to information and tools; in fact, Estonia has one of the highest tax compliance rates in the world. All of this is, in no small part, thanks to the simplicity and security built into the framework of interaction between the people and their government.
At a time when we see most of the world still struggling with legacy information systems, arcane things like paper cheques, and closed disparate government systems, Estonia breezes ahead with mobile payments and online voting to become the envy of many more sizeable and storied nations. Itâ€™s this story that grabs you: how is a nation with a smaller gross domestic product than the annual revenue of 7-Eleven able to provide such systems? Letâ€™s take a brief glance at what your average Estonian citizen can do in the span of a few moments with a few swipes of a smart phone: vote
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The beauty in this is that Estonia has not only created these concepts, it has brought them into successful practice. The never-ending perseverance and sheer stubbornness to make their way to spite the world is as much of a natural resource in Estonia as are the swaying birch trees and rye flowers.
It is a gift that Estonians can now share these systems with the rest of the world, learning more and more along the way. That is precisely what we at Datel Ovela have set about doing, ever since the idea of exporting these tools to the United States occurred late one night in the middle of a desert (thatÂ’s a wholly fascinating story meant for a warm glĂśgg wine in a cosy Tallinn cafĂŠ). Datel and its peers have grown up with the new Republic of Estonia; side by side with the development of the company has been the growth of these cutting edge national ICT technologies, many of which are an excellent fit for the global market. For instance, we have brought this clever idea to the United States: linking the various spatial databases in local government and connecting them to a web portal map tool that can be accessed from any device without a download, in much the same way as is done within the Estonian X-Road framework (www. eesti.ee/eng). With the overwhelming support Estonia and its firms, including our own, have received from various levels of the international community, there is clear validation for the concepts Estonia has developed. As important to our own development has been the support of the university community, in such places as the United States, for engagement and cooperation. After all, the brilliance of our tools lies not only in the technology but also in the commitment and synergy created between funded government mandates, private sector innovation, and engagement with research institutions. Bringing what Estonia has developed to the global market has involved so much more than simply the Estonian economy. It means building crucial ties to governments, making Estonia increasingly relevant, and showing the world exactly why they should listen to this surprising and brilliant little country in north-eastern Europe.
After all, these concepts we have worked so very hard to build are not merely computers and technology; they are changing the way people interact with government. In 1984 many Western governments had filing rooms full of paper, disconnected databases on huge rotating silicon disks, paper cheques, and people running from one florescent-lit office to the next. What we have found in Estonia is a way to keep 2014 from looking much the same. Together, we can change the very process, not simply give the same concepts a new coat of paint and brighter light. No matter how you look at it, what Estonia has is remarkable, and in the story of Datel Ovela we find just one of many bridges that Estonia can use to change the world. The question is simply: just how far can we go together?
Datel AS was one of the first IT firms in Estonia and has significantly contributed to the development of the Estonian e-governance systems. The firm has developed core Estonian government software platforms for State Land Information that have grown into global products. Specialising in nextgen GIS systems, Datel links all location-connected data with a simple, intuitive user experience in HTML5, tailored for all platforms. Its subsidiary Ovela LLC / www.ovela.us / conducts business operations solely in the United States, with development groups within Datel AS. / www.datel.eu /
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I ECONOMY AND BUSINESS Estonia may be tiny but in tech terms it’s a giant. It has a population of just 1.3 million, yet produces more start-ups per head than any other country in Europe.
Next Silicon Valleys: Small Estonia Has Big Ideas By Nigel Cassidy / Business correspondent, BBC News
Testing out the Stigobike With frozen, packed snow on the ground and temperatures way below zero in the Estonian capital Tallinn, there was no chance that even your fearless BBC reporter was going to risk trying out the Stigo in a car park. The next best thing was getting permission to ride it round an indoor shopping centre. Right on the edge of Europe, halfway between Stockholm and St Petersburg, the tech-savvy country that launched Skype a decade ago continues to be a hotbed of entrepreneurs and innovation. The start-up community in the small nation, dubbed the #EstonianMafia on Twitter, has been gaining visibility globally. Examples of tech companies to come out of Estonia include Fitsme, a virtual fitting room for online clothing retailers, now in 16 countries, and Creative Mobile - a company creating free-to-play games for mobile platforms. Playtech, one of the world’s biggest providers of online gambling software, was founded in Estonia 15 years ago and is now listed on the London Stock Exchange with a value of around £2bn.
Speedy commuting Now a bunch of entrepreneurs and engineers working overtime in modest workshops in the capital, Tallinn, are months away from launching products to revolutionise transport - and guitar-playing. Stigobike - a nifty unfolding scooter, designed for city commuting - is hailed the fastest folding electric scooter in the world. It weighs just 17kg, has a range of 40km for each charge of its onboard lithium battery - and a top speed of 25km/h.
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It was easy to unfold and easy to ride. The tyres made a pretty good job of keeping a grip on the highly polished stone floors. What fun we had dodging pedestrians outside shops and executing tight turns between the escalators. A new design substitutes aluminium for carbon fibre. It has a simple twostep opening and closing mechanism that allows the pint-sized scooter to fold up and stand securely, yet with a footprint no larger than a shoebox. “It’s true we don’t have traffic jams or commuting problems here in Tallinn, but our team travel a lot, and the idea was born when we saw the difficulties commuters face in international capitals. And only now has the battery technology became available,” says Stigobike chief executive Rando Pikner. The inventors envisage the bike, which will cost about 2,370 euros, being ridden right up to airport check-in desks, railway ticket gates, or around large buildings. With safety concerns as they are, the main hurdle could be getting EU authorities to approve the design as street-legal - let alone pavement-legal. It seems unlikely that all the company’s dreams will be realised - in Europe at least.
SPECIFICATIONS: • • • • • • • • •
Stigo – a unique foldable electric scooter
Speeds up to 25 km/h Weighs 17 kg Folds up in 2 seconds with a footprint of a mere 45×40 cm 250W hub motor 36V LiFePO4 battery Drives up to 40 km with a single charge L1e-B street-legal electric scooter Doesn’t need parking space Can be charged from a regular outlet stigobike.com
The new, innovative foldable Stigo electric scooter was presented to the public for the first time on 20 September 2013, in Paris, France, as part of the “1000 Pionniers” event, which brought together exceptional innovators from across the globe. The Stigo solution is really simple: due to its ultra compact design and light weight, it allows drivers to go virtually anywhere and it can be brought along anywhere – to a restaurant or apartment, on public transportation or on a small lift. “It is quite fun to observe the reactions of people in the streets who see us driving the Stigo: smiling faces, recognition and interest from strangers have given us the courage to expect to see a lot of Stigo-bikes on the streets in future,” said Rando Pikner, CEO of Stigobike Ltd. Stigo is also very cost effective: driving 12–13 km per day, which is the average commute of an urban person, costs a mere 1.5 euro cents a day for the user. The cost of the Stigo electric scooter is 2,370 euros and it comes with a two-year warranty. The company is planning to produce 8,000 electric scooters in 2015. Stigobike Ltd, which is seeking manufacturing partners for its novel electric vehicle, has listed three main target groups: urban users, motorhome and yacht users, and organisations, such as hospitals or airports, which are in need of indoor or closed territory transportation.
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Electronics engineer Rein Sabolotny testing the prototype.
Guitar revolution Another Estonian invention - the electronic Spicetone control box - is aimed at competent guitar players. The control box, or effect pedal, is plugged between guitar and amplifier. Until now, devices of its kind have been mono, picking up signals from all the strings together and processing the sound on one channel. But the Spicetone box is polyphonic - it can process the sound of each string individually. This allows an electric guitar to be played using the techniques familiar to acoustic players. The output of all six channels is processed separately, with the facility to control distortion, modulation and overdrive, and to add many other customised effects. Guitar player Janek Kesselmann demonstrates the new device, filling the room with loud yet subtle and undistorted sound - high harmonics and all. “I like it because I can play in the same style as I would on an acoustic guitar, yet fill an entire concert hall with sound,” he says. “Otherwise, to play electric, I would have to change my technique and the sound would be very different.” Spicetone’s prime mover, Rein Sabolotny, is proudly an analog man who began building his deep knowledge of integrated circuits in the Soviet era.
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He doesn’t play guitar himself but knows a lot about processing sound. “A guitar in its nature is a polyphonic instrument. Yet for several reasons, including cost, you lose all the polyphony,” he says. “After a lifetime in electronics, I felt you could do a lot more things to the sound, and now we are finishing the design I hope it will also turn out to be a good business decision.”
But will Spicetone find any customers? London guitarist Greg Michalik runs Guitar Aid, an independent business specialising in guitar repair and modification. He says there are already some polyphonic (or hexaphonic) pickups on the market, but they all have a different combination of coils and components. “Basic designs have changed little since the 1950s and 1960s, so there is always room for fresh ideas,” he says. “It would be good to see something new, but one problem is that serious guitar players are conservative and tend to be sceptical about experimenting with niche ideas if they are too expensive.” Estonia, with its tiny population, has to think beyond its borders and look abroad to sell ideas like these. But it is also coming to terms with the realisation that many of its best new ideas will end up overseas as successful start-up entrepreneurs move to be nearer their markets.
Nordic Cleantech Open Estonian delegation with Cleantech Scandinavia project managers in Trolleholm.
25 most promising Nordic cleantech start-ups selected by an international jury The third edition of the Nordic Cleantech Open competition saw a record-breaking 107 cleantech companies applying. An international jury of more than 50 influential representatives from multinational companies and venture capital firms were involved in selecting this year’s top 25. Among the jury members were representatives from International Finance Corporation – IFC (Int), IdInvest Partners (France), Evonik Corporate Venturing (Germany), General Electric, Veolia (France), Tsing Capital (China), Dow Chemicals (Switzerland), Fortum (Finland), Grundfos (Denmark) and The Swedish Energy Agency, as well as Enterprise Estonia and the Estonian Development Fund. “The Nordic Cleantech Open has always been a great opportunity to discover new and innovative companies from Scandinavia. This year’s cohort was diverse and promising, and we are very much looking forward to meeting with the entrepreneurs,” said Julien Mialaret, Investment Manager at Idinvest Partners, France. This year Estonia participated in the competition for the first time. “Estonia’s participation in the competition was a joint effort of Cleantech Scandinavia and three Estonian organisations: Enterprise Estonia, the Estonian Development Fund and Tehnopol,” said Jaan Heinsoo, FDI Manager and Cleantech Coordinator at the Estonian Investment Agency / Enterprise Estonia. “Participating in the competition has helped Estonian
start-ups find their way to international investors, work on their pitching skills and receive professional feedback.” Heinsoo also pointed out that another goal of entering the competition was to promote the level and achievements of the Estonian cleantech sector to the Nordic cleantech scene and international investment firms. With 11 impressive Estonian cleantech start-up companies entering, two of them – Cityntel (IoT Technologies) and Stigo Electric Scooter made it to the top 25. Among other Estonian participants were Bikeep, Prismattery, RoschierTechnik, Ashtree Eesti, NordBiochem, BioOil, Enetic, Nanoformula and NFUEL. The applicants represented all of the Nordic countries and cleantech segments. Similarly to previous years, the largest proportion of entrants came from Sweden and the largest represented segments were renewable energy and energy efficiency. Norway had the best results in terms of the share of entrants that made it to the top 25.
What’s next? ”We see an ever increasing flow of brilliant, innovative companies coming out of the Nordic and Estonian innovation systems. This is what’s next! It is a great display of what the future holds. The trends that we see are that they are increasingly innovative, solve real industry problems and are driven by younger and hungrier teams. This bodes well for the future,” says Magnus Agerström, Managing Director of Cleantech Scandinavia, the organiser of the Nordic Cleantech Open.
The selection of the top 25 was just the beginning for these companies. An intensive program lay ahead. The top 25 companies took part in Nordic Camp in early March, a weekend meeting of the international jury and the companies, held in the 450-year-old Trolleholm Castle in the south of Sweden. The Trolleholm Castle, one of the best-preserved castles in Sweden, with spectacular interiors and surroundings, provided the Nordic Camp with a unique venue. After the Nordic Camp, a group of companies will go to Paris to meet with European investors and industrials at the Nordic Cleantech Showcase in April. The winners will be announced at the finals in Stockholm on 19 May. The top 25 start-ups and investors from the Nordic Cleantech Open will also be invited to participate in Latitude59, the go-to conference for the Nordic and Baltic start-up scene, held in Tallinn on 28-29 April. Nordic Cleantech Open is a business competition aiming to identify, upgrade and display the top 25 early stage cleantech companies in the Nordic region each year. Partners and sponsors of the competition are Cleantech Scandinavia, Swedish Energy Agency, Tekes, Tillväxtverket, Autodesk, LADEC, Enterprise Estonia, Estonian Development Fund, Innovit, Klak, Level39 and Pivotal Innovations.
For more information about the competition and the companies visit www.nordiccleantechopen.com
I LIFE IN ESTONIA
I ECONOMY AND BUSINESS smart street light control solution Cityntel provides all the advantages of smart street light control, while also offering additional beneficial features. The development of Smart Street Light Solution Cityntel began in June 2012, and the first pilot project was launched in September 2012 in the Tallinn Technology Park Tehnopol. Kristiina Randoja, CEO of IoT Streetlight OÜ with the Cityntel smart street light control device.
A Cityntel control device is installed in every street light, and the street lights are controlled based on high-level rules defined by the owners of the lights. The Cityntel controllers form a mesh network, which makes it possible to both communicate control rules to the lights as well as provide feedback from the lights (including actual power consumption and alerts in case of malfunction) to a central server. The street lights are dimmed and can be brightened dynamically in specific regions based on movement. The reduced complexity and therefore also lower system price of Cityntel permits greater adoption of these systems and thereby savings for society. The Plug & Play installation distinguishes the Cityntel solution from competing smart street light control solutions: any trained electrician is able to install street lights equipped with Cityntel controls. Once the lights have been powered, they form a network automatically and start operation: there is no need for network configuration of individual devices. “The Cityntel solution has been successfully integrated with products of eight luminaire manufacturers and several commercial pilot projects have been launched in Estonia, Finland and Germany,“ says Jürgo Preden, CTO and Founder of Defendec & IoT Streetlight.
Allows For Flexible Smart Street Light Control The modern world presents our societies with many challenges, some of which are extremely difficult to address due to fundamental limitations: limited supply of resources, increased urbanisation and high expectations for standards of living are some of the variables in these equations. Street lighting is the greatest energy consumer for local municipalities, amounting to forty per cent of yearly budgets. By combining LED street lights with smart control, potentially eighty per cent savings can be achieved compared to conventional sodium street lights. The Estonian
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The underlying Internet of Things (IoT) networking technology, which makes it possible to create smart mesh networks of street lights enabling the Cityntel features, was originally developed by the Estonian company Defendec for wireless security applications. Over a period of six years, about €1M have been invested in the development of this technology. As a spin-off from Defendec, IoT Streetlight, the company commercialising Cityntel, is at a great advantage, having direct access to this technology. The IoT network created by the Cityntel solution in cities can also be used for other Smart City applications, such as traffic management and waste management. These applications offer more opportunities for municipalities to reduce CO2 emissions while also saving money. www.cityntel.ee
Startup Wise Guys On The Hunt For B2B Start-ups
By Holger Roonemaa
The Estonia-based start-up accelerator Startup Wise Guys is about to start its new programme, Business Tech. For the first time, they are looking specifically for business to business start-ups only. Life in Estonia met with Mike Reiner, the co-founder and managing director of Startup Wise Guys to find out more about the guys (and girls). What is Startup Wise Guys’ new programme all about? We are providing a dedicated program for B2B (business to business) companies focusing on three key competence areas: Payments, Security and Cloud. With our program we will focus heavily on reducing sales cycles and improving online channels. We are working closely with corporate partners to leverage their networks, knowledge and resources. The reason for this new focus is based on our strengths, portfolio companies and our support network. Most of our companies were already B2B and most of our mentors have a B2B background as well. When we look at the Estonian market, it also makes more sense
because there are a lot of successful B2B companies coming out of Estonia. Another important thing to consider is that European investors prefer to invest in B2B start-ups rather than B2Cs (business to consumers).
Is it because the business model of B2B start-ups is a lot clearer and more simple than those of B2C companies? It’s easier for investors to understand in many cases, yes. B2Cs often have a higher risk profile. A lot of B2C start-ups need to focus more on growth first and revenue might potentially come later. With B2B, you have revenue early on. So the risk profile for investors is lower.
How would you describe the type of start-ups you are looking for? Can you give me some examples? If you’re thinking B2B, it’s any company that has business customers. Good Estonian start-ups include Fortumo, ZeroTurnaround, Erply and Pipedrive. Earlier stage examples are Cloutex and Plumbr. Payments, Security and Cloud are areas we are especially interested in. Its great to see what Transferwise, Fortumo and Erply, for instance, are doing. In the context of security, we have the NATO Cyber Defence Center here in Tallinn, which means that there’s a great link with security. Currently, we are working with different corporations to support the start-ups during our programme.
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Is it enough for you if someone just has a great idea for a startup, or are you looking for someone that already has a product to show? The typical stage of the start-ups we are looking for is when there is a team in place and they have an initial product in place. So far the teams we’ve taken in range from ones that have been building a product for many years and have already raised seed investments, to teams that are really early-stage. They basically just had an idea and a very, very early version of a product, but they still got in. The range is wide. If you only have an idea and a great team, there is a chance that you’ll get in, but typically we would like to see a product and some initial traction as well.
I gather that you are not trying With the acquisition of WhatsApp, some startto find a smaller niche by selectups might get inspired… ing only B2B companies, but rather the other way round: there When will the programme start is more potential in that segment. and what will it be about? The problem we face as Accelerators is that you want to focus as much as possible and, at the same time, you have to be careful not to limit your pipeline too much. At the end of the day, you want to have the opportunity to choose the best deals. If you do too narrow of a niche, then the applications that you get will be too few and hence you might not have enough quality. If you make it too broad, you might not offer enough value in terms of mentor pool and so on. It’s not easy to find the right equilibrium given the competitive landscape.
Is there a trend that the start-up scene is moving more towards the concept of B2B rather than B2C? I think the trend is always changing. Especially in the US, there was a significant B2C trend: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Based on their success, there were a lot of start-ups that focused on social products. It was a real hype. But in Europe, start-ups had a harder time raising money for B2C products. Investors in Europe have seen that B2C is really tough. A lot of investors have got burned and now they prefer B2B. So yes there is a trend in terms of B2Bs right now, but the trend is changing based on what’s happening on the market.
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We’re going to start this summer. We’ve chosen 1 August as the starting date. The idea is that we are going to do a four-month programme. During the first month, we’ll focus heavily on mentorship. The teams will meet a lot of mentors. We’ll do mentor-matching based on the industry background of the startup and based on the speciality that they need. The teams are going to have one lead mentor who’s going to focus very heavily on the start-up. The second month will focus more on the business model validation and adjusting the product based on the feedback of the mentors. At the end of the third month we’re going to have a showcase of the products and we’re going to have a lot of investor meetings for the start-ups and a demo day. Our lessonslearned indicate that it’s much more important to involve the investors early on, have informal get-to-know and get-together meetings. In the fourth month, we are going to focus on the follow-up. We want the start-ups to move to their target markets. We are going to look especially towards the UK and US markets, but only if that makes sense for the team. We’ll help them with co-working spaces, finding new mentors, investor talks and smoothing the transition. We want them to focus on what is most important at the right location.
If I get to join the programme, what will you get out of it? We invest 15 000 euros of seed money in a start-up and typically we take 8% of equity for that.
Surely you are not just looking for start-ups from Estonia but from anywhere? Exactly. So far we���ve had 24 companies from 15 different countries. We’ve had companies from Costa Rica, India, Chile and Russia. Our marketing focuses heavily on Eastern Europe, but the reality is that applications come in from everywhere. Start-ups talk, you get published in the media and attention grows. We’ve even had applications from places like Lesotho. I’m always amazed how they find us.
Can you tell me some success s tories about your graduates? Sure. There is VitalFields from Estonia. They’ve raised 750 000 euros in total so far. They’re focusing on increasing the output of farmers. Then there is Monolith, which is Croatian but is now based in the Netherlands. They have raised a similar amount and focus on analysing shopper behaviour in retail stores. Very literally, they can see what shoppers are doing and what shelves they’re looking at. Customers include Timberland and Nike. A B2C example we invested in at the beginning is WappZapp, which raised around 650 000 euros and aims to compete with Netflix.
How many new start-ups are you looking for? So far we’ve taken in eight start-ups per programme but now we’re looking for ten. The quality needs to be good though.
Let’s take a different perspective now: investors. If someone reads this piece and thinks that maybe he would like to invest in a startup, what should he do? They can definitely contact me. We are always happy to match our portfolio companies with investors. If investors are just interested in seeing our portfolio companies, they can send an email to me or anyone from our team. We’ll make sure we add them to our event lists and we’ll invite them to our demo days and investor events. They can come and meet the startups, and see the pitch. It’s all about building relationships and getting to know the teams. I think it’s a perfect opportunity to become involved, during the programme, and see how much progress the start-ups are making, and how they work as a team.
Who are the mentors that you have? Typically we have three different types of mentors. First, we have mentors with start-up
experience who’ve made exits. Then we have mentors who are themselves currently involved in their own start-ups and have very recently had experiences similar to what our teams are doing. The mentors that I’ve often found to be the best hands-on mentors are actually around 30-year-old guys that had start-ups in the same time space and are still working on them. Those young mentors work really well. Finally we have more experienced corporate mentors with backgrounds from IBM, Paypal, Amazon etc. They can help connect and they bring their networks.
Finally can you give me two or three tips for both young start-ups and investors looking for great new ideas? For start-ups the most important thing is validation. I see a lot of start-ups building stuff without actually validating if there is a need for it. Maybe the most important advice I can give to early-stage start-ups is to go out there and talk to customers all the time. Ask the customers the right questions. You can even go to them without a product. If you are tackling a certain area of a problem, you just ask them about it: how are they currently solving the problem, and how much money are they spending on it? Only then will you get a sense of whether there’s actually a problem and how much money it’s possible to make. You will see very fast if there really is a need for your product or not.
Many start-ups are focused very heavily on money and investments. What they really need to do is focus on traction and the customer. This is where the money will come from. It takes a lot of effort to build relationships with investors. We see some startups just basically shouting “come on, we need the money”. They expect investors to throw money at them. You have to understand that it’s a lot of work to build a relationship with an investor. It’s a full-time job.
And for investors? I see that many investors don’t actually take the time to talk with start-ups. Many of them just take a quick look at the idea and say “okay, this is not for me.” In many cases, you can see that the ideas change very fast and it is much more about the team. Good investors take their time and follow the progress of the teams. Accelerators are the perfect place for that. Another thing is that I would love to see a lot more cross-border investments. That offers a lot more opportunity. Let’s say an Estonian investor and a UK investor invest together in an Estonian company. The company from that point on has access to a UK network as well. Getting those investors early on helps a lot. Angels typically only like to invest locally, because that’s what they know and what they are more comfortable with. If angels trust each other, there’s much more potential.
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Name: Activity: Game studios: Established: Website:
GameFounders business accelerator for game studios 28 (in Portfolio) 2012 gamefounders.com
We Believe In The Gaming Industry GameFounders is the first European business accelerator exclusively working with game studios. The accelerator was started in 2012 and it has become a considerable player in the game industry in the past two years. GameFounders selects 10 game start-ups at a time from a global pool to go through their programme, and so far applications have been submitted by 67 countries. Teams are expected to have a Beta version, prototype or demo rail of their project and be ready to set up a business. The applicants go through a month of evaluation and the best ones receive small investments and the chance to go through the programme. “Feedback from mentors has been increasingly positive. That obviously raises our expectations of future teams,” says Kadri Ugand, one of the co-founders of GameFounders. The teams relocate to Tallinn, Estonia for three months, during which they participate in a programme of seminars and mentoring sessions, have access to gaming partnership deals and get introduced to all the relevant people for their game. GameFounders has over 110
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mentors from various countries all over the world, so the teams have top-notch gaming executives giving them advice and sharing their knowledge in different fields. These mentors fly in and help the teams get the businesses behind their games set up.
Estonia as an exotic place Estonia looked like a truly exotic place to the teams: the city of Tallinn offered free transport, the office in Tallinn University was modern and most areas had Wifi. To top it off, there was still snow on the ground as the teams arrived, which many of them were seeing for the first time. During the three months, various specialists in the gaming industry, from developers to investors, come to assist the companies. In the first weeks of the programme, the teams met almost twenty mentors and the programme is set to continue at this pace until the end of May. In the first week of GameFounders, we have received more than we expected from the entire programme, says Jonas, the co-founder of
Tiny Lab Productions, from Lithuania. The cycle ends with demo days in large gaming events in Europe Tallinn, Malmö and Helsinki - and in San Francisco, USA, where the companies will pitch their products to potential investors and publishers. The purpose is to find the financing/publishing deals necessary for further development. This spring, the Estonia-based first game accelerator in Europe will bring some new power on board: Andrew Walker is joining the accelerator as a partner. Andrew has been working in the gaming industry for eighteen years and has dedicated recent years to working with young game studios developing their businesses and creating strategic partnerships. His previous work experience was with two of the giants in the industry: Microsoft and THQ. Currently GameFounders has twenty-eight game studios from sixteen countries in its portfolio, covering almost all continents. The teams come from Italy, India, Lithuania, Argentina, Hungary, Estonia, Mexico, the US, Ukraine, Macedonia, Brazil, Georgia, China, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland.
How Do We Fix Maths Education?
“I hated maths”– this is something we often hear from former school leavers. The problem is not unique to Estonia. The British educational visionary Conrad Wolfram has developed a programme called Computer-Based Math, and Estonia is the first country in the world to implement this programme in schools.
Conrad Wolfram Knows The Answer Kristjan Korjus, Jaak Aaviksoo and Conrad Wolfram at a meeting in Tallinn
In Estonia we have reached the point where maths education boils down to the national maths exam. Exam results, however, point to a problem: we are testing things like calculus, which is something computers have been able to do for years. There is a clear gap between the maths taught in schools and the actual opportunities offered by mathematics. This begs the question: what should be done? Over the last few decades, the importance of mathematics to jobs, society and thinking has become greater than ever before. Yet maths education is in a worldwide crisis: diverging more and more from the needs of countries, industry, further education and students. Basically, no one’s very happy. People trying to learn maths consider it boring and irrelevant: students spend 80 per cent of their time doing calculus and only 20 per cent of their time learning to think mathematically. Employers claim that people don’t know enough. Governments realise it is a critical issue for economic development, but don’t know how to go about fixing it. Many teachers are frustrated, too. And yet, without question, mathematics is more important to the world than it ever has been in human history. So the falling interest in maths education truly contrasts with a world which is ever more quantitative and ever more mathematical. So what’s gone wrong and how do we bridge this chasm? The British visionary of maths education Conrad Wolfram believes that computers are the key: only when they do the calculating is mathematics applicable to hard questions across many contexts. Real-life mathematics has been transformed by computer-based calculation; now mainstream maths education needs this fundamental change too. “We have an opportunity to reform maths education so it’s both more practical and more conceptual”, says Wolfram. “We can simultaneously improve the vocational and the intellectual. And because mathematics itself as a subject has so fundamentally changed in the outside world with new computing technology, we have this opportunity in education.
Computer-Based Math: a critical reform Wolfram initiated the project called Computer-Based Math, which aims to reset the subject matter of maths beyond hand-calculating to wider problem-solving, using modern computing. Statistics and probability theory, or Data Science, is a key area that totally transforms the subject, providing a crucial general education for young people, offering the skills needed to understand, analyse and utilise big data. Education can no longer ignore the fact that information is mostly analysed on computers. Rather than such topics as solving quadratic equations or factoring polynomials, Computer-Based Math™ focuses on using the power of mathematics to solve real-world problems, such as “should I insure my mobile?”, “how long will I live?”, or “what makes a beautiful shape?” The core mission of the project is to create new curricula and study materials which reflect fundamental changes in the application of mathematics outside education, changes brought about by computers doing most of the calculations, not humans. “Computers have the power to liberate mathematics from calculating, raising its use to new levels—exactly what’s happened outside education,” says Wolfram. “Mimic this real world of mathematics, and your education will become more conceptual, more practical and more motivational.” “I believe Computer-Based Math is a critical reform, and it’s not optional,” says Wolfram. “However difficult, it is vital. It’s a critical part of moving economies forward. I think it can take us from a knowledge economy to what I call a computational knowledge economy, where high-level mathematical thinking is widespread—for many, not just the few—and those abilities, rather than just basic knowledge, which one would term knowledge economies, are driving the economy forward. The country to do this first will leapfrog others.”
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I EDUCATION & SCIENCE Project partners Conrad Wolfram, British technology entrepreneur and maths education visionary, studied mathematics and natural sciences at the University of Cambridge. He is the European founder of the consortium of software companies Wolfram Research. He has developed various technological applications, including Mathematica, Wolfram Alpha and the computable document format CDF, and founded the company computerbasedmath.org.Ltd. Ülle Kikas is the project coordinator at the Ministry of Education and Research (MoER). She holds a degree in physics from the University of Tartu. She currently works as an adviser of STEM education at the MoER. She worked for a long time as a researcher at the University of Tartu, where she taught methods of statistical data analysis, among other subjects. She has been the national coordinator of the global school environmental education programme GLOBE. Kristjan Korjus is the Project Manager at the University of Tartu, and holds an MSc in Mathematics from the University of Manchester in the UK. He is currently doing his doctorate in Informatics at the University of Tartu. He works on the methods of brain science and machine learning and teaches pure maths to first-year Informatics students. His multifaceted working background includes teaching maths to basic school children with learning difficulties and organising a popular science lecture series at the University of Manchester. Kristjan Korjus is also a co-author of “Evening Course in Maths”, one the best-selling books in Estonia at the moment.
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First Computer-Based Math Education Country is Estonia In February 2013, it was announced that Estonia would be the first country to make use of its revolutionary re-thinking of maths education in a project to build a new school statistics course. The announcement was made at a meeting in one of the oldest secondary schools in the country: the Gustav Adolf Gymnasium, founded in 1631 in Tallinn by the Swedish King Gustav II Adolf. “Since the start of computerbasedmath.org, I’ve been asking which country will be first?’” said Wolfram. He searched for a country that was small enough, with strong education in mathematics and ICT, and interested in testing new forms of education. “Now we have the answer: it’s Estonia.” Jaak Aaviksoo, a physicist and the Estonian Minister of Education at the time, stressed that computer-based learning would only succeed when it interested and challenged students, when they saw that they could learn something very useful with the help of the new technology. Aaviksoo, who initiated the Tiger Leap programme in 1996, said that in the last century Estonia was a leading country in terms of Internet connections available in classrooms. Now Estonia wants to lead in innovating educational technology. “We believe in the enthusiasm and potential of the Internet generation: they are ready for computer-based mathematics. It will also give them a competitive advantage in the labour market,” he said.
31 volunteer schools testing computer-based statistics Estonia has been blazing a trail of world-leading technical educational reform, notably its integration of programming as a central part of the primary curriculum from age seven on. With leadership from the University of Tartu, many schools are keen to volunteer for the pilot projects. Computer-based mathematics will be taught in Estonia in a distinct branch of maths: statistics. “Statistics is by its nature closest to computers, as a statistician almost always works on a computer. Statistical calculations cannot be done in your head,” said Kristjan Korjus, the Estonian manager for Computer-Based Math. He states that similar innovations have been implemented before: “About sixty years ago, calculations in maths lessons were done with the help of the slide rule. Then calculators were invented and gradually taken into use in maths lessons,” said Korjus.
A contemporary approach to teaching statistics and probability theory was developed as the first test project in the framework of computer-based math. In this first phase of the project, “curriculum mapping”, the task of Estonian and British experts was to try to forget everything they knew about how maths was being taught. The idea was to come up with 20 story-lines that described real-life situations where you needed to apply maths concepts. Each story-line posed a main question that students would attempt to solve. Computers, which are an organic part of the process, allow for quick searches of numerical information, visualising data, and fast performance of statistical procedures. The aim is to broaden and deepen problem-solving without simultaneously increasing the time spent studying. In addition, interactive lesson materials are developed methodically, with the aim of helping students and teachers tackle complex real life problems with the help of computers. The new lesson materials will also simplify the life of teachers since they require less time for preparation. After the teaching resources – handbooks for teachers, textbooks for students, problems to solve in classes, tests and exams – are completed, the new curriculum will be tested in the real world. “Teachers are the key people for successful educational implementation of this innovative approach. Altogether 45 volunteer maths teachers are involved in the project,“ says Ülle Kikas, the project coordinator at the Ministry of Education and Research. “In 2013, they were trained to embrace the new concept of computer-based statistics and to cope with teaching in a technology-rich environment, “ she adds. In order to carry out the lessons, teachers do not need in-depth knowledge of programming or computing. The new teaching concept and lesson materials will be tested in 31 basic and secondary schools all over Estonia in spring 2014. All aspects of the pilot project will be thoroughly analysed and published by scientists of the University of Tartu. Teachers will reflect on their teaching processes and act as an analytical group for up-scaling the project. This project is the start of what is predicted to be a complete shift in the world’s maths education over the coming decades to a computer-based approach. The change promises to empower students with abilities to do high-level problem-solving, apply mathematics, and gain experience far beyond what traditional STEM education has delivered: crucial both to twenty-first century economies and the enrichment of each and every student’s life.
“We need a smarter workforce,” says Ave Lauringson, ICT skills coordinator at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications. Lauringson is responsible for introducing the various forms of ICT education into Estonian schools, in order to equip basic school leavers with the necessary minimum skills to cope in the information society or, better yet, to make them continue their education in the fields of ICT, engineering or such like. Life in Estonia asked Lauringson to give us an overview of smart initiatives in Estonian schools.
to create and keep the children’s interest in ICT. For example, we can show them which programming languages can be used to create simple computer games,” she explains Programming is only taught after primary school.
A clear need for a programme like ProgeTiger was noticed in 2011 when informatics was no longer a compulsory subject in the curriculum, as it was thought that it should be integrated into different subjects. This, however, led to many schools making informatics teachers redundant. “We had a choice of whether to restore informatics as a compulsory subject or to create demand for the subject by raising the awareness of schools and parents,” says Lauringson. They chose the second option and it
By Holger Roonemaa
was a good choice as was evident from the first day that ProgeTiger was announced. “I started to receive phone calls from parents trying to find out which school they should put their children into. Parents were clearly interested in this,” she recalls. This demonstrates that technology and ICT-centred learning is a great marketing tactic which can help many smaller Estonian schools stand out and survive on the educational landscape. It should also be considered that running the ProgeTiger programme is a low-cost enterprise for the Estonian state. The state offers the programme and trains teachers for free. In the first six months, over 100 primary school teachers participated in the training sessions. Even today the training positions are filled in just a couple of days.
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I EDUCATION & SCIENCE
Mozart learned to code at the age of four,
we do too!
The next phase is to create some competitive moments and applications for the programme. In other words ProgeTiger will be even more attractive for schools and students. “For example, companies could offer their services or ask children to come up with ideas to solve problems. This helps to maintain teachers’ sense of mission and the children will be even more motivated to participate,” claims Lauringson. Wolfram Alpha’s computer-based math programme is also linked to the ProgeTiger programme and the first 31 Estonian schools are testing it. This is also something which makes Estonia unique in the world: nowhere else has Wolfram Alpha been incorporated into school lessons.
Robotics in every fourth school The opportunity to build something on one’s own and to develop various new smart solutions is what brings children into robotics clubs. Children are very smart: one fifth-grader was approached by a teacher with the proposal to be the assistant teacher in a starting
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robotics club. Today there is a robotics club in 140 Estonian schools, which means that every fourth school has one.
other subjects tend to focus on individual tasks, robotics requires great teamwork and communication.
The robotics club has a simple concept, says Lauringson. As Estonia will participate in the international First Lego League (FLL) competition, children start working on a new FLL task from autumn. A robot will be built, using Lego Mindstorms, which should be best able to solve tasks. The programme will lead to participation in the international final competition in spring. For example, this year the topic of FLL was nature fury. Hundreds of supporters gathered in March for the national final between two teams in the Tallinn Sea Plane Harbour. Last year pupils had to come up with ideas on how to help elderly people. “For example, there was the idea of a smart board next to the front door which tells you if you’ve left the iron plugged in before you leave the house, and another one reminding elderly people when to take their medication and giving the accurate dosage,” says Lauringson. One of the main advantages of robotics clubs is the fact that, whereas
What is the use of it all? Learning programming from an early age and playing around with robots may be great fun for children, but why is it necessary? Lauringson replies: “We need more higher valueadded people in our economy,” she says. “We do not need hundreds of new lawyers or public administrators, as there are more than enough in our labour market,” she says and gives the example of her employer – the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications – where there are 27 applicants per post. In contrast, there is room for thousands more ICT specialists and engineers in Estonia. In addition, these are exactly the fields which top all charts when it comes to salaries, staff satisfaction etc. “If we think about creating more added value, then it is precisely the pupils in primary school and basic school who will be able to do this in the future,” claims Lauringson.
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Of Course I
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In the Cafe
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How To Visualise A Narrative? Marko Mäetamm By Anneliis Aunapuu From the moment he entered the Estonian arts scene, Marko Mäetamm has amazed audiences with his productivity and overflowing sense of fun, which may border on the provocative or reach painful integrity. He never tires of surprising the audience and, quite possibly, himself. Marko Mäetamm (born in 1965 in Viljandi) has been selected twice to represent Estonia at the Venice Biennale (where nothing short of a shocking idea is even considered). In one exhibition after another—and there have been several dozen since the 1990s—he has managed to create excitement in Estonia and abroad, presenting fresh and unexpected collections, each new one seemingly having nothing in common with the one before, except for vibrant energy.
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I CULTURE Who would guess that he came from those beginnings to his disturbing installations or houses filling up with blood? The tough life of an artist and a man? But perhaps his lack of success in childhood provided him with a tough core and the burning ambition to stand out, to be seen and heard. The desire to play by his own rules.
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The artist admits that there is always a narrative underlying his creations, and the narrative is always new. This issue focuses on his last comic-book-like works, which have a narrative as their essence. But his earlier works, where just shapes and blots of colour interact with each other, also have a changeable situation embodied in them. This characteristic, which probably explains his huge popularity, has been quite rare in the Estonian arts scene since about the 1980s. “Explaining the painting” was considered bad form in Estonian art circles. This attitude was probably created by the pressure exerted by the Soviet regime, i.e. the predetermined propagandist content prescribed by socialist realism was so unpleasant for artists that later when the control became more relaxed, the only possible way forward seemed to be to give up on anything literary. Mäetamm, however, went against the current. When he was studying graphic art, Mäetamm created one hundred and fifty colourful lithographs with pure joy. At our meeting in his studio at the Tallinn Art Hall, he showed them to me, joking about them being a kind of pension which he keeps neatly stowed away in a drawer. After he exhausted this conservative technique of lithography, he continued to come up with technical surprises, working with materials or formats which have not yet been accepted by the general public. During an earlier period, his works of pure patches
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of colour were transferred onto the back surface of unframed organic glass. He is often attracted to the style of animation: either cutout animation technique or collage, where you see characters in the background with “speech bubbles”. Then again, he presents installations which seem to come out of puppet animation, each one neatly tucked into a hamster cage. Once he decided to try porcelain painting (2010). At the same time, one of his more traditionally painted canvases is 24 metres long (2005). Well, he cut it into pieces later and uses those today to paint new works on. People used to call the laconic motifs of his earlier works “hippy-like” or “poster-style”. As a key stylistic element, he used to sign his name on the surface of the painting and make it as significant as the main images. In contrast to this kind of self-advertising, Mäetamm admits that he used to be a shy child, not an easy communicator, popular or successful in school. He grew up near Viljandi and his seafaring father spent a lot of time away from home. Instead of hanging out with other kids, he used to admire the illustrations in a school textbook, the colours and the design of it. He still keeps this yellow book within easy reach. He holds it gently and admits that it is this book with its pure colours and sensitive illustrations by Silvi Väljal which more than anything has shaped his view of the world. This book continues to influence him strongly.
The rules kept growing, just like an oak tree on a hill, which is what the artist’s name, Mäetamm, literally means. In time, the language of pure colours became more schematic, making way for the concreteness of blacks, reds and whites. The shapes themselves reached for more existential topics, circling around the mysteries of sex, birth and death, moving surely and clearly in the direction of pictograms (ca 2000). “Until suddenly I realised that nobody understood them any longer. Then I got the idea of creating a line of cartographic signs under the picture which explain what each shape in the picture stands for. The texts became longer and longer. Then I started to write down little stories; the role of the images became smaller and smaller. At exhibitions, I also tried to increase the role of text: I started to write text on the wall next to the pictures,” the artist says, describing his changes in approach. Then came the point when Mäetamm’s exhibitions showed a picture or an object on the wall which would be completely surrounded by long stories written in the artist’s handwriting. Many people consider his fantasies that peek into the private sphere to be “terrible” and “threatening”, but Mäetamm says his aim is not to shock the audience. “I don’t often know myself how other people should BAR 31 X 35 I
understand my works. I don’t always think in the same way. It is not important if the work creates a positive or a negative emotion; it is important that it creates something. That I have managed to address someone,” he explains. At the same time, his pictures of hunters have been turned into wallpaper, with help from a designer friend, and they now seem like a Dutch fireplace made of blue and white tiles. In contrast, this naturally warm and safe symbol turns the impact of the pictures upside down, creating kind of a fun surprise. Indeed, Mäetamm is not the kind of artist to create something in the isolated and still environment of a studio and then quietly bring it out to an exhibition. The opposite is true. There was a time when he teamed up with the artist Kaido Ole in a tandem called “Group of Artists known as John Smith”, which represented Estonia at the Venice Biennale in 2003. Together they created works which brought together images, stories and motifs from their memories in a fun way. The image language, graphics and colour of those large format paintings were quite subdued when you consider the two artists, but the idea of the work was deeply funny, playful, absurd and memorable. The creative personalities of the two artists seem to fit perfectly together, to intertwine with each other.
However the bits which didn’t intertwine continued to grow and develop and demand their own freedom. Once again, Mäetamm started to glance towards his own canvas with yearning and comic book windows began to emerge. The story which keeps being reborn found a new form of expression. Mostly it involves the never-ending subject of the relationship between a man and a woman (“... every story could be solved in this key of a man-woman relationship,” says Mäetamm), but one can never say that this is how it will always be. Nobody—and that includes Marko Mäetamm—knows what will emerge on the next canvas. What is clear is that he will continue with the series he has started, with the technique and the colouring. Until a collection is ready which can be shown at an exhibition. In fact, he says that he is just half-way there and it is all just starting to take shape.
Facts about Marko Mäetamm He paints his comic book series in acrylic onto 3-meter-high canvases. He paints with a free hand and brush, without using a ruler. He is a very orderly person, a serious perfectionist. He collaborates with the Temnikova-Kasela Gallery. He has represented Estonia twice at the Venice Biennale, in 2003 and in 2007. He once formed one half of the creative group called John Smith. He has a wife and three children. Sometimes he practices playing drums in his studio. He shares the drum kit with his 8-year-old son. He is currently setting up an exhibition in Moscow. He has held exhibitions in many countries. He is painfully sincere in his works. He likes to meet his audiences as it helps him to understand his works better. He uses clean, bright colours. Or not. He has created a painting on a canvas measuring 24 x 3 metres (the work was amazing for more than its measurements) He has published two books with text and pictures. He is a warm-hearted person who likes to test the boundaries. His topics include death, abuse in the family and other relationships. His favourite book is the reading textbook he had in first grade.
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ARVO PÄRT / Photo: Kaupo Kikkas
Sounds Emanating Love By Immo Mihkelson
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Photo: Priit Grepp
In 2010, a sculpture dedicated to Pärt, “Young lad on a bicycle listening to music” by Seaküla Simson, was opened on the main square of Rakvere, the childhood hometown of Arvo Pärt.
In the final days of May and in early June, four concerts of Arvo Pärt’s music will be performed in Washington D.C. and New York. The choir and orchestra will fly over the ocean, the recent Grammy-winner Tõnu Kaljuste will conduct and the composer himself has helped to put the programme together. Health permitting, the 78-year-old maestro will attend. It is reminiscent of Arvo Pärt’s first authorial concert, which took place almost thirty years ago in New York and was organised with great enthusiasm by the ensemble Continuum and Joel Sachs. The composer was present and helped the performers to fine-tune their performance. In the years in between, Arvo Pärt’s name has become very influential. It stands for music which many people love. Tranquillity, sadness and selfless love emanate from the sounds of that music. It consoles and gives strength. Estonians are proud of Arvo Pärt because he is a world-famous Estonian. Fame creates respect. But when we look more closely, his compositions address everyone, attempting to appeal to that shared aspect of humankind which rises above nationality, skin colour and culture. It is as if the music wishes to say that we are all in it together.
The road to music Arvo Pärt was born in 1935, in the Estonian provincial town of Paide, but his parents separated and, before the onset of the war, mother and son moved to Rakvere. The childhood and early youth of the future composer were spent in the tranquil milieu of that small town. When he started school, the Germans were still in charge in Estonia, but when he commenced his piano lessons at the age of nine, life was lived according to the directions set by the Soviet occupation regime. Those were restless and anxious times, and left a stamp on many people. When, on Stalin’s command, tens of thousands of people were deported from Estonia to Siberia, Pärt’s close relatives were among them. This left a thorn in his soul and a strong sense of revulsion towards the foreign powers. The young lad attended school, fooled around with his friends, and became fixated on films screened in the local cinema. Music entered his life bit by bit, but from a certain point onwards it overshadowed everything else. The radio became the focal point of his life: after all it played classical music. On Fridays live concerts were transmitted and the boy biked to the central square of the town, which had a loudspeaker attached to a post. He used to circle around that post until the end of the concerts. Today the sculpture of a boy with a bicycle on the central square in Rakvere is reminiscent of those occasions.
In fact, this tale is of a person who merged with music from the word go. It is a story of the kind of love and yearning for what’s beyond the horizon, which is often much more emotionally expressed by music than by other arts. And it is also the story of Arvo Pärt’s music, music which many people all over the world feel an affinity with. The patterns of those melodies call people back into themselves, announce a sense of inexplicable harmony, and enable them to be part of or to hope for contact with something much larger. People need it. And this is what Arvo Pärt needed as he followed the call of music throughout his life. This path was, from the start, full of joy but also twists and obstacles, temptations and suffering. The composer has said in interviews that he does not think his life has differed much from the lives of many others. We share so much with each other: our main needs and our goals are the same. In one way or another, this is what his music is about.
In the draughts of power and spirit After graduating from school, Pärt went to Tallinn, where the best Estonian musicians and teachers worked. His wish was to become a composer. By then the city had been cleaned up of war ruins, Stalin was dead and a whiff of newborn hope was floating in the air. In the late 1950s, Pärt’s early works first attracted attention in Tallinn, where they were approved of by older colleagues in the Union of Composers, and subsequently in Moscow. The times favoured young energy and the socialist society tried to guide it in the “right” direction. Culture also played a role in the bloodless battles of the Cold War, where competing ideologies tried to prove their supremacy to the masses on the other side. Sometimes it worked.
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The premiere of “Adam’s Lament” at the Hagia Irene Church in Istanbul on 7 June 2010. The piece was written under the joint contract for the cultural capitals Istanbul 2010 and Tallinn 2011. On stage: Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, ensemble Vox Clamantis, Borusan Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Tõnu Kaljuste.
In this confrontation, every talent was seen as a future warrior and Pärt was favoured. But in Estonia, on the border of the huge red empire, the Iron Curtain was weaker and thus the echoes of modern Western composition techniques could be heard. Pärt became fascinated by them, the more so as they provided the opportunity to express his defiance of the regime. Problems soon developed, as the environment in which Pärt lived considered Western influences to be enemies. Defiance was unacceptable.
Photo: Mahmut Ceylan / Arvo Pärt Centre
Ever since his student-time orchestral work “Nekrolog” (1960), strong pro and contra draughts had been blowing across his path as a Soviet composer. He was praised, only to be criticised later, persecuted and favoured. Audiences were keen on his music, but the officials had their doubts. Working as the recording director at Estonian Radio in the 1960s taught him to listen to the fine nuances of sounds. This job probably also gave him a crash course in the psychology of musicians, which later helped him significantly in making his own special world of sound audible. Years later Arvo Pärt said that his crooked road of searching for beauty, purity and truth—of seeking God—began in the 1960s. It was the course he chose. Even as a young man, he had high ideals and the intuitive sense that making compromises could lead to losing everything.
A new breath of life Around 1968, when there was anxiety throughout the world, Pärt lost faith in the contrasts and oppositions of his music. He began to look for a new shape and expression for sounds. This was a situation in which Pärt had a general sense of what he wanted to say, but he had not yet found the right words, the shapes of sentences and rhythms of speech to express it. Pärt turned to music from earlier centuries and tried to find a way to translate the tranquillity and clarity of that old music into his own language.
Manuscript of “Adam's Lament” by Pärt
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This was the great turn which changed his life, both internally and externally. He married for the second time and moved, living a modest life in a dismal housing estate on the outskirts of Tallinn. The searching years were difficult and those solitary attempts often brought only disappointments. His wife, Nora Pärt, has recalled witnessing Arvo almost losing faith and seemingly considering the idea of giving up trying to be a composer.
Photo: Kaupo Kikkas / Arvo Pärt Centre
Then came the spark which changed it all. Born one February morning in 1976, the piano piece “Für Alina” opened a new door and light poured in. Discovering tintinnabuli was a new start for Arvo Pärt in music, but the direction of his search remained the same. Tintinnabuli is often mentioned when talking about Arvo Pärt’s music. It has been called a method of composing, a unique style and a way of thinking. There is no simple and clear definition, but many explanations have been offered. Interest in those explanations has grown in parallel with the interest in Pärt’s music all around the world. We do not know if this interest has reached its peak, but we do know for a fact that the music of this Estonian composer has been the most performed contemporary music in the world for several years running. The call in his music has been slow to reach people, just as the music itself has a slow tempo. When Arvo Pärt left the Soviet Union in 1980 and moved to Vienna with his family, there was nothing positive waiting for him there. The foreign environment made him withdraw ever more into himself and the spiritual world of his music was just as ill-suited for that environment as for the one he had left behind. He wasn’t aware of the fact that a particular German had listened to his music on a car radio and become so excited by it that he wanted to release an album. When Manfred Eicher and ECM released “Tabula rasa” in the autumn of 1984, it was a real statement and marked another significant turning point. Eicher later said that he believed the main piece on the album changed the awareness of music throughout the world in the late 1980s. This may sound a bit pretentious, but many people agree. The story released by the American press, which has been cited on many occasions, tells of a journalist seeing young men with AIDS, waiting for death in a refugee centre, who listened to Pärt’s “Tabula rasa” again and again. The sounds must have incorporated something very significant for people dealing with such a serious situation.
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Photo: Mahmut Ceylan / Arvo Pärt Centre
Arvo Pärt and Manfred Eicher before the premiere of “Adam’s Lament” at the Hagia Irene Church in Istanbul.
All is one Later many articles asked what it was which pulled people from different parts of the world, people with different skin colours, who spoke different languages and had diverse world-views, towards the music composed by Arvo Pärt. Many answers have been proposed and, at the same time, his music has been criticised for being light and flirting with listeners. Such comments have come from representatives of modernist music. Such reactions may have been caused by the composer’s clear desire to be on the same wavelength as his listeners, not to tire their perception with sound tangles and structures pushing their limits.
Photo: Priit Grepp / Arvo Pärt Centre
On the cover notes of the album “Tabula rasa”, there is a beautiful comment by the composer in which he compares his music to white light, which after piercing the prism of the listener acquires different shades.
The composer taught pupils of the Old Town Music School as part of the collaborative project “Playing Pärt” between the Arvo Pärt Centre and the Old Town Educational College. The young cellist Johannes Sarapuu rehearses for his performance of “Spiegel im Spiegel”. The rehearsals and the concert which took place in May-June 2011 have been released on DVD.
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From this angle, all of the elements in this music meet each other: the composer, the musicians and the audience. “Me” and “they” become “us” and things find their natural place. There is balance and order. At least in the ideal world. Arvo Pärt has said very little to explain his clear and simple music, which aims for unity. The fewer the words, the larger the space to interpret the music. “All is one” and “one and one makes one” are two of the most typical descriptions. The first sums up his world-view generally, and the second describes the unity of the polarities of tintinnabuli.
Music crossing borders The universe of this music is spiritual and the sounds can be seen as “religious” in a way. People often wonder why Pärt’s music communicates with people regardless of their religious confession or lack of it, regardless of age or ethnicity. Perhaps he has been able to translate something very human into sound which crosses the borders that normally separate people. We do not know; we can only accept this explanation or offer our own answers. The Arvo Pärt Centre has been active for some years in Laulasmaa, near Tallinn, close to where Arvo and Nora Pärt reside. The Centre collects and systematises materials related to the composer. Once the Centre opens its doors to the public, researchers will be looking for answers to such questions. St. Vladimir’s Seminary in the USA has founded a research field called the Arvo Pärt Project and, on their website, they claim to attempt to uncover the part of Arvo Pärt’s compositions which have been most in the shadow: everything linked to the Orthodox tradition. The seminary is also the organiser of the concerts of Arvo Pärt’s music taking place in Washington and New York this year. Pärt’s latest piece, “Adam’s Lament”, has drawn inspiration from the Orthodox spiritual tradition. Written for choir and orchestra, the piece received acclaim at the Grammy Awards this year, and the BBC Music Magazine has nominated the album containing this piece for its own award ceremony to be held this year.
Architectural competition for the Arvo Pärt Centre’s new building
Photo: Evelin Ilves
The Arvo Pärt Centre (APC), in cooperation with the Estonian Union of Architects, recently organised an international idea competition in order to find the best architectural solution for its building in Laulasmaa, near Tallinn.
Arvo Pärt and President Ilves on 5 April 2011 at the Arvo Pärt Centre.
Having been kicked out of Paradise, because of sin, the story of Adam is the story of humankind, according to the composer. Pärt uses his music to tell a story which was once written down by Saint Silouan the Athonite. Actually it was made public by one of his disciples, Archimandrite Sophrony, who Arvo Pärt met in the 1980s in Essex, UK, and who became an important guide for Pärt, perhaps even the most important source of support at that time in his life. The words of encouragement and teachings of Fr. Sophrony helped the composer who had relocated to the West to keep up his spirits in the foreign environment and this resulted in a lot of wonderful music. Pärt started to write the music for “Adam’s Lament” in the early 1990s and Fr. Sophrony managed to share his thoughts with the composer before his passing. But then the rough drafts remained in a drawer until a few years ago, when Pärt finalised the work and made it public. He had matured and become wiser by twenty years; he was more experienced as a composer and his sense for life was much deeper. Whoever listens to the music and tries to touch the sounds and words with his heart, may find a hopeful message in “Adam’s Lament”. This message says that, although many things have turned out badly, each person and humankind as a whole may find their way with the help of love. This is not the end of the road but just a signpost. A signpost to Arvo Pärt’s music.
Seventy-one applications from all over the world were submitted to the first round of the competition. Twenty participants were selected to continue in the second round. Among them is the bureau of the world famous architect Zaha Hadid, who has designed various arts venues and opera houses. In four years, when the Republic of Estonia celebrates its hundredth birthday, the new APC will open its doors to the public in Laulasmaa, surrounded by the magnificent pine trees of the Lohusalu peninsula. The centre will be located near the former summer house of Arvo Pärt’s beloved teacher Heino Eller. The plot of land in the forest has been given the name Kellasalu (grove of bells – ed.). Anu Kivilo, Executive Manager of the APC, said: “Laulasmaa has always been a very special place for Arvo Pärt and his music. It was his wish that the centre be located away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. People would then come to visit the centre on purpose and not just drop by on the spur of the moment. Thus the journey will take some time and visitors will be in the right frame of mind.” The APC architectural competition was the first of its kind in Estonia. In the first round of the competition, the quality of the architects was assessed. Applicants had to submit portfolios with four photos of their previous works. According to Peeter Pere, Head of the Estonian Union of Architects, the level of participants at a competition
organised in Estonia has never been as high. “Just as Arvo Pärt’s music is special, it is our wish that the centre be designed to be a top architectural piece by world standards. The international level is demonstrated by us having a Fritzger winner—the Nobel Prize of architecture—among us,” said Pere. All of the twenty participants to make it past the first round are very well-known and will continue to compete anonymously and from the same starting position. “It is a paradox that special Estonian music and a special composer are about to bring special architecture into being. This is happening away from main centres and, as a result, the pine forest we have selected for the site of the building will become especially attractive,” added Pere. Michael Pärt, Head of the Selection Committee, said that their goal was to select those architects whose previous work best fit the concept and needs of the APC. “I am really looking forward to the next stop on this journey, when we see the building designs of the future Kellasalu venue,” said Michael Pärt. It is planned to select the winning design by 20 June. The future building will guarantee appropriate storage for archive materials. The new building will enable the APC to enlarge its activities, for example to cooperate with researchers, and organise educational programmes, conferences, exhibitions, and music and film evenings. This will enable the centre to be more appealing to visitors. Visit the competition homepage at www.arhliit.ee/apc The APC homepage: www.arvopart.ee
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I CULTURE Tõnu Kaljuste and Arvo Pärt during the recording of “Adam’s Lament” in the St Nicholas Church in Tallinn, November 2011. In 2014, conductor Tõnu Kaljuste won a Grammy for the album (released by ECM) in the Best Choral Performance category.
At the end of January, the conductor Tõnu Kaljuste won a Grammy for recording Arvo Pärt’s “Adam’s Lament”. The high recognition was at the same time a tribute to Pärt’s music. Released by ECM, this particular album is Pärt’s latest. In just a few decades, Tõnu Kaljuste has undoubtedly become the most outstanding interpreter of Arvo Pärt’s music. ECM, the reputable Munich-based record company which has for decades worked closely with the composer in publishing his newest works, has released seven albums in which Kaljuste conducts Pärt’s music. Released in 1993, the first of those albums – “Te Deum”– was nominated for the Grammy Award in the Best Choral Performance category for the conductor, who back then was not well-known in the rest of the world. For several months, the album topped the classical charts in Billboard and received many positive reviews. Hence, their collaboration began at almost the very top. “Te Deum” was also the first record that Arvo Pärt made together with Estonian musicians since his move to the West. He later said that it was all Kaljuste’s “fault”. In the early 1980s, Arvo Pärt dedicated himself entirely to writing the choral and orchestral piece “Te Deum”, but the work didn’t find its right shape until the score somehow found its way to Estonia, and Tõnu Kaljuste managed to make the music come to life in a way which impressed the composer. Pärt decided to record “Te Deum” with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Kaljuste. The conductor brought the orchestra together precisely for that piece of music. Kaljuste’s chamber choir has a history. His father, Heino Kaljuste, founded the renowned children’s choir “Ellerhein” in the early 1950s. Throughout the years, many young singers grew up in the choir and Tõnu
Tõnu Kaljuste & THE ESTONIAN PHILARMONIC CHAMBER CHOIR 68
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Photos: Kaupo Kikkas
Kaljuste himself received his first experiences as a musician with the choir. In 1970, Tõnu Kaljuste gathered a group of former “Ellerhein” singers of his own age and founded the chamber choir. They were united by friendship, a shared history as singers and their desire to discover new perspectives in music. The sound aesthetics which the young conductor aimed for came from the chamber choir movement in Western Europe. Their repertoire included works by Bach, but also by Veljo Tormis: they connected sounds reaching to the sky with music which got its strength from its roots.
Arvo Pärt concerts in Washington D.C. and New York
They manoeuvred between the restrictions established by the Soviet regime, and succeeded in spite of them. As more and more information about Arvo Pärt’s success as a composer abroad reached Estonia during the time when the Soviet Union was disintegrating and Estonia was becoming independent again, it was obvious that interest in Pärt’s music—which had been forbidden before—was starting to grow.
May 27 Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington
Tõnu Kaljuste points out that, after many years, it was the first opportunity for the composer to explain his wishes to musicians in his mother tongue. This was extremely significant, because the soundscape of Pärt’s music has a fragile and special essence, crystal-clear and yet pulsating like a living organism. The musical score often fails to describe this kind of sound precisely. The conductor recalls that the composer’s recommendations to confused musicians tended to be in the style of: “lean gently on the sound”. It seemed impossible to do. Yet such imaginary shapes have an unexplainable impact on musicians and they did indeed play with another kind of feeling.
May 29 Phillips Collection, Washington
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste
musicians from the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra
May 31 Carnegie Hall, New York Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste
June 2 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste
Now sixty, Tõnu Kaljuste has, together with the composer, painted the “typical Pärt soundscape” for a couple of decades. During this time, the experiences have ranged from disappointments and setbacks, and the stresses of trying something out, to exhilaration at music that reaches the skies. Arvo Pärt has called Kaljuste the closest interpreter of his music.
Arvo Pärt will be in attendance at all concerts. As Arvo Pärt is going to the US in conjunction with New York’s St. Vladimir’s Seminary’s decision to grant him an honorary degree, the New York concerts and the Phillips Collection concert will be organised by the Arvo Pärt Project at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. arvopartproject.com The concert in the Kennedy Center will be organised by the Embassy of Estonia in Washington on May 27. The event is free of charge and the Concert Hall seats 2,442 people. The event is supported by the Estonian Ministry of Culture, Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Estonian
organisations, Honorary Consuls and individuals in the U.S. www.estemb.org/arvopart This event will be the highlight of Estonian culture in Washington, a unique opportunity to experience a world-class performance by Estonian musicians in the busiest concert venue in the United States. The concert is also the finale of European Month of Culture, a festival organised by the Delegation of the EU to the U.S. A reception in the presence of President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Maestro Pärt will follow the concert. Funded by Enterprise Estonia, the event aims to promote the Estonian ICT sector, e-solutions and tourism.
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I I CULTURE CULTURE& ENTERTAINMENT Outloudz
Anne with Al Jarreau and
It is all in the name: years ago the festival received its name from blending the Estonian words “jaskar” (party – ed.) and the jazzy “vikerkaar” (rainbow – ed.), combining different colourful music styles. It has always carried a very positive message.
The biggest artists who have visited Jazzkaar are: Bobby McFerrin (2011) Angie Stone (2009) Chick Corea (2012 and 1994) Dianne Reeves (2010) Jan Garbarek (2012, 2003 and 1997) Mike Stern (2001) Richard Bona (2011, 2003 and 2002) John Scofield (2004) Charles Lloyd (2013, 2005, 1997 and 1967) New York Voices (2013, 2000 and 1996) and many others
When Anne Erm, the organiser of Jazzkaar, managed to pull off the very first festival as a complete beginner in 1990, she said that she wanted to introduce local audiences to the best jazz music from abroad and to give an overview of local music achievements, hoping that people beyond the borders would hear about it. For twentyfive years Jazzkaar has generally followed in the same spirit. For audiences it has been educational to have direct contact with leading world musicians and creative vibes. The expectations of the audience have in turn spurred on local musicians, making everyone a winner in the end. It is a story of growth. Jazzkaar has grown into the largest jazz festival in the Baltic states and one of the largest in northern Europe. It is also a significant highlight on the European festival map. It is the only music festival in Estonia with such a broad scope and high professional level. s Lloyd
Anne Erm with Charles Lloyd
More Than Just A Festival
By Immo Mihkelson
The biggest Estonian jazz festival – Jazzkaar - will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year, marking an important cultural milestone. The highlights of the celebration will be world-renowned artistes: the guitarist Pat Metheny with his Unity Band and the vocalist Cassandra Wilson from the USA. Bobby McFerrin 70
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Joe Zawinul Band
Itâ€™s especially surprising that behind this reputable jazz festival is one personâ€™s perseverance and love of music. The road to success has not been smooth. But the sound of the music has always been audible and the sum of positive experiences and the warm spirit of festival days overshadow anything negative. Anne Erm says that in the early days things happened randomly. In 1990, she was working as the music editor of Estonian Radio, when a Georgian blues band asked if they could organise a concert in Tallinn. She said she would give it a go. Back in those days, the Soviet Union was ripping apart at the seams due to perestroika and glasnost, and the rays of hope shining through the gaps spurred the desire to act, which had been frozen for a long time. Older jazz fans discussed the possibility of renewing the International Tallinn Jazz Festival tradition, which had been abruptly interrupted after the legendary festival of 1967, which had featured the Charles Lloyd quartet. The festival was called off by officials from the Communist Party.
Avishai Cohen Trio
At the end of the 1940s, the same regime had banned jazz as being music of the West and saxophones were claimed to be instruments of traitors. Although later the barriers were lowered, jazz music barely survived during the entire Soviet era. The reason was that the idols of this music were located on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Would-be restorers of the old festival tradition talked a lot, but became very cautious when action was called for. Anne Erm just got on with the work and did it. She invited performers and convinced sponsors. The blues concert was followed by a second one and a third one... In the end, the first festival included approximately fifty concerts and the main attraction was the Ray Anderson Alligatory Band from the USA.
Once the curtain fell and the sounds had faded, all of the sponsors pulled back and the debt was left for Anne Erm to pay. It was an astonishing and painful fall. But after having shed some tears, Anne pulled herself together, kept persuading sponsors, paid off the debts and organised another festival the following year. She fell hard once again and the year after that as well. The fourth time out, she managed to remain standing, although wobbly, and by the tenth festival she could call herself a winner. Today the festival (run by Anne and her small all-female team) can feel victorious when looking at its track record: the numbers are impressive as is the list of celebrities who have performed at the festival. But the numbers tell only a part of the story. It happens every now and then in various places that a sequence of events becomes a beacon in the eyes of the people, and continues to inspire people. Jazzkaar has pushed Estonian culture upwards, it has introduced Estonia all around the world and, transcending all borders, it has made its contribution to the creation of amazing experiences in the world of music. Long live Jazzkaar!
Ain Agan & Dennis Rowland SPRING 2014
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Estonian Song And Dance Celebration Touches Hearts By Maris Hellrand / Internal Communications, Estonian Song and Dance Celebration Foundation
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The Estonian Song and Dance Celebration is a unique event that brings together a giant choir of 25,000 people every five years for a weekend in July. More than 100,000 people enjoy the concerts and sing along with the most popular songs. The song celebrations have been held since 1869 and have become the main anchor of Estonian identity. Twice the song celebrations have led to Estonian independence. In the 19th century the choirs and song celebrations were at the core of the national awakening of a formerly peasant people who discovered the value of their own language and cultural heritage through singing. The national awakening and establishment of identity led to Estonian independence in 1918. After WW II, during the Soviet occupation, the song celebrations helped to keep the national identity alive. The Soviet powers understood the propaganda potential of the celebrations and added Soviet songs to the repertoire; however, people still sang their favourite national songs. In 1988 several hundred thousand people gathered at the song festival grounds and sang for days and nights for freedom. The Singing Revolution ended the Soviet rule and led to Estonian independence once again in 1991.
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More than 20 years after regaining independence, the Song Celebrations are still as popular as ever. Estonians from all over the world come home for the celebration, like for a family gathering. The prospect of participating in the Song and Dance Celebration motivates Estonians at home and abroad to join choirs and dance groups and helps to keep the traditions and language alive in the globalized world. The repertoire is challenging and choirs practice for two years in order to pass the selection auditions.
This summer the theme of the Song and Dance Celebration on 4-6 July is “Touched by Time. The Time to Touch.” What are the real things that have touched us and changed our lives? The Song and Dance Celebration is always touching. It is not just a few choirs singing but a powerful emotional experience. The strong positive energy spreads to the audience. The otherwise cool and reserved Estonians show and share their emotions among each other and with guests.
According to a recent study, 90% of Estonians have personal experience with the Song and Dance Celebration as performers or audience members. The Song and Dance Celebration has been listed by UNESCO as oral and intangible heritage since 2003.
Together with the song celebration, a dance celebration is held, and in three performances 8,600 dancers aged 8 to 80 form complicated patterns on a stadium lawn to live music.
Quite a few foreign choirs have participated in the Song Celebration in recent years. The artistic director of the Piedmont children’s choir, Robert Geary, said: “It’s a completely different and overwhelming experience. It’s not so much that it was loud, although it was a very full sound, an amazing sound. It created an environment that somehow felt like you were a battery plugged into a battery charger; your soul is plugged into a battery charger.”
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On Saturday all participants join in a colourful procession from the city centre to the Song Festival Grounds, singing and dancing during the five km journey to the cheers of the public. All concerts and performances take place in the open air. Tickets are on sale for 4-50 Euros. www.laulupidu.ee
Lottemaa Welcomes Visitors Beginning In July There is Walt Disney’s original theme park Disneyland in southern California in the USA, and in Paris in Europe, and Astrid Lindgren’s World—a theme park where children can meet Pippi Longstocking, Emil and Karlsson from the Roof—in Sweden. Finland, our neighbour, has Moomin World, based on the Moomin books by Tove Jansson. In July, Lotte, a cartoon character cherished by Estonian children, will spring to life in the theme park Lottemaa, built at the site of a former Soviet missile base near Pärnu.
Lottemaa (Lotte’s land – ed.) will open on a 18-hectare seaside land plot near the summer resort of Pärnu in July 2014. It will be the largest family theme park in the Baltic states. Lottemaa is an original family leisure park based on the dream world of Janno Põldma and Heiki Ernits, and will offer both children and adults exciting activities and playful forms of participation. Popular animation films, theatrical productions and books by Põldma and Ernits introduce Gadgetville, home to the friendly and ever helpful girl-dog Lotte, with her faithful friends: the cat Bruno, the rabbit Albert, the old traveller dog Klaus, a fly called Jaak and other fun village inhabitants.
Children can play with Lotte and her friends, visit Lotte’s home, build some inventions with Lotte’s father Oskar, have fun on the adventure trails and work out with the cat Mati in a stadium. Kids can discover the house of the rabbits, with its mysterious attic and surprising planetarium, and also visit the cat Bruno’s house, with its fantastic scale models of Lotte’s trip to the South. Over a hundred different attractions and games wait to be discovered. There are exciting activities, and opportunities to make things on your own and to test your nerves on the adventure trails, for both small and big visitors. In the fox Giovanni’s home, you will find a 500-seat theatre, where the in-house troupe will perform a funny play about life in Gadgetville several times a day. There are also performances by singers, dancers and circus artistes. In the evenings, there are plays and concerts for adults.
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Gadgetville has eleven large buildings and over a hundred different attractions. Almost 90 staff members are at work on a daily basis taking care of visitors.
As one must have a proper meal during an active day, there is a food street with seating for 250 in Lottemaa. Even the best Tallinn restaurants would be proud of the menu. For a light meal, there are also various pancake kiosks around Lottemaa. On hot summer days, one can visit the beach, which has a play area for children and opportunities to cool down by going for a swim or enjoying an ice-cream shake. Lottemaa is the place to be if you have the urge to discover things, and to find joy and playfulness. It is a place for all age groups, and positive emotions are guaranteed. The programme of the amusement park also caters to Latvian-, Russian-, Finnish- and English-speaking visitors. As Lotte says: “GOODNESS MAKES LIFE INTERESTING” The tandem Põldma and Ernits have made two feature-length animated Lotte films: “Lotte from Gadgetville” (Leiutajateküla Lotte) in 2006, and “Lotte and the Moonstone Secret” (Lotte ja kuukivi saladus) in 2011, which have both been dubbed into English.
Watch the trailer of "Lotte and the Moonstone Secret" here:
LIFE IN ESTONIA I 2014 SPRING
Estonia In Brief Official name: Republic of Estonia State order: Parliamentary republic Area: 45,227 sq kilometres (17,500 sq miles) Population: 1,294,236 inhabitants: 67.9% Estonians, 25.6% Russians and 6.5% others Population density: 28.6 people per square kilometre. Over 70% reside in urban centres Capital: Tallinn with 427,894 inhabitants (as of 1 Sep 2013) Other major towns: Tartu (98,522), Narva (64,041), Pärnu (42,433), Kohtla-Järve (40,032) Administrative divisions: 15 counties (maakond), divided further into 226 local municipalities, incl 33 towns and 193 rural municipaliites (vald) Islands: 1521, the biggest being Saaremaa 2,671 sq km, Hiiumaa 989 sq km, and Muhu 198 sq km Biggest lakes: Lake Peipsi 3,555 sq km (1,529 belong to Estonia), Lake Võrtsjärv 271 sq km Longest rivers: the Võhandu River 162 km, the Pärnu River 144 km, and the Põltsamaa River 135 km Highest point: Suur Munamägi (Great Egg Hill) 318 m Air temperature: annual average +7ºC; March +6.3ºC; July +17.7ºC (2013) Official language: Estonian, a member of the Finno-Ugric group. Russian is widely spoken. Many Estonians speak English, German, and Finnish Alphabet: Latin Religion: Predominantly Protestant (Lutheran) Currency: euro (EUR) since 2011 Average salary: 887 EUR (as of 2012) Driving: Right hand side of the road. Speed limits in town 50 km/h, out of town 90 km/h. International driving licence required Weights and measures: Metric system Electricity: 220 volts, 50 Hz Country calling code: 372 Emergency number: 112 (free of charge) National flag: Blue-black-and-white National holiday: 24 February (Independence Day) National anthem: Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm (My fatherland, my joy and happiness) National flower: Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) National bird: Chimney swallow (Hirundo rustica) Member of EU, NATO, OECD, WTO, and Schengen area
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Practical Information For Visitors
San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, USA, Uruguay, Venezuela. The required travel document for entry is a valid passport. Citizens of countries not mentioned above require a visa to enter Estonia. 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 must have their own passport when travelling to Estonia or, if they are registered in their parent’s passport, must have their photo next to the name. Children under 7 years need not have a photo if they are registered in their parents’ passports. Persons above 15 years must have a separate travel document with photo.
For more travel details, please consult the sources below: www.visitestonia.com (Estonian Tourist Board), www.riik.ee/en. Tourist information centres are located in all larger towns.
For detailed information on visa requirements and entry rules, please consult the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website at www.vm.ee/eng.
By ship: With over 6 million passengers annually, the Port of Tallinn is undoubtedly Estonia’s main gateway. Large passenger ferries arrive from and depart for Helsinki and Stockholm regularly. The 85-km Tallinn-Helsinki line is served by ferries that make the journey in 2 hours; hydrofoils and catamarans make the trip on 1.5 hours and operate between April to November-December, depending on weather conditions. 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: Border checkpoints greet travellers entering or departing the country by way of the Estonian-Latvian border points at Ikla (the Tallinn-Riga highway) and Valga, as well as on the Estonian-Russian border at Narva (the Tallinn-St. Petersburg highway), Luhamaa, Koidula and Murati. On the Estonian-Russian border, all traffic is subject to border formalities both when entering and leaving Estonia.
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@ tallinnlv.ee). The Tallinn Tourist Information Centre in Viru Keskus (ph: + 372 610 1557, 610 1558), open every day 9 am - 9 pm, is located in the centre of the city. 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 As of 21 December 2007, Estonia is a part of the Schengen visa area. Nationals of EU and EEA member states are free to enter Estonia. The required travel document for entry is a national ID card or passport. Nationals of the following countries do not need visa to enter Estonia, and can stay for up to 90 days in any 6-month period: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Holy See, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Macao, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay,
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Arrival By plane: Recently renovated, the Tallinn Lennart Meri Airport, just 3 km from the city centre, is welcoming, modern and user-friendly. Among other amenities, travellers have access to a free WiFi area in the transit zone. The airport’s 24-hour customer service telephone is +372 6058 888. Tartu Airport is situated at Ülenurme, near Tartu. Flights from Tartu to Helsinki depart six times a week. Regional airports are located in Kuressaare (Saaremaa), Kärdla (Hiiumaa), and Pärnu; these provide no regular international connections.
By bus: Not only is travel by bus the fastest and most convenient mode of international public transportation in the Baltic states, it also offers excellent value for your money. Regular connections service all major cities in the Baltic countries and St. Petersburg. Eurolines Lux Express and Hansabuss offer comfortable Riga Airport transfers from Tallinn, Pärnu, Klaipeda, Vilnius, Panevezys, and Šiauliai. Prices start from €20.00. A useful tip: Regular passenger buses have priority at the border checkpoints, so travel is smooth. By train: There is only one international overnight train to Moscow.
www.bussireisid.ee and ticket information is available at telephone +372 6800 900.
We suggest travellers consult with the Estonian Customs Board help desk (ph.: +372 880 0814 or www.customs.ee) for details. 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 g 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).
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 possible to rent the car in Estonia and drop it off at a rental agency in Latvia or Lithuania, or vice versa. 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 seatbelts (front and back) must be on at all times. Driving under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances is punishable by law.
Free public transport: As of 2013, all residents of Tallinn, students and passengers 65 years and over are entitled to free travel on Tallinn public transport. Tickets for visitors: The Public Transport Card Ühiskaart may be purchased for the price of €2. This smart card, onto which you can load money, or e-tickets can be purchased from post offices and online at www.pilet.ee. Personalise the card for €1 at the point of sale or for free at www.pilet.ee/yhiskaart.
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 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 precise change (cash only) for the driver. The ticket is valid for one journey only in that specific vehicle. Discounts only for ISIC Scholar and Student Card holders. Holders of a validated TallinnCard are entitled to a free ride.
Local Transport Getting Around Estonia Inter-city public transportation Public buses are the easiest, cheapest and most convenient solution for visiting Tartu, Pärnu or any other of the larger towns. Buses from Tallinn to Tartu depart every 15-30 minutes, 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 tickets in advance. The Tallinn Bus Terminal is located at Lastekodu 46. The timetable is also available online at
Taxis: Taxis must clearly display their fares, driver’s taxi service licenses, and a meter. The initial charge for entering a cab ranges from 2 to 3.5 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. As in most major cities, some dishonest drivers attempt to overcharge unsuspecting passengers. If in doubt, note the taxi company and license plate number. Public transportation: Tallinn has a public transport network of buses, trams and trolley-buses. Other Estonian towns have buses. Check the time schedule for Tallinn bus lines for any bus stop at www.tallinn.ee/eng.
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 short notice (particularly over the week-end). 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 www.visitestonia.ee.
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Money On 1 Jan 2011, Estonia adopted euro as its currency thus replacing the Estonian kroon which had been the only valid currency in Estonia since 1992. Most larger hotels, stores and restaurants accept Visa, MasterCard, Eurocard, Diner’s Club and American Express. However, it is advisable to carry some cash with you. 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 are plentiful and easy to find in Tallinn. Most are open from 9:00 to 18:00 on weekdays, while some offices are also open on Saturday mornings. All banks 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; instructions are in English, Russian and Estonian.
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 10 Pärnu Road (opposite the Estonian Drama Theatre); the one in Tartu is located in the Town Hall building (Town Hall Square).
Telephones and Internet The country code of Estonia 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
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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 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.
Food 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. Still, a few establishments have made Estonian specialities their niche; to sample Estonian cuisine, try the Vanaema juures, Kaerajaan and Kolu Tavern (Open Air Museum) in Tallinn, and the highly recommended Muhu Kalakohvik and Lümanda söögimaja on the Island of Saaremaa. The list of the top 50 Estonian restaurants can be found at www.flavoursofestonia.com
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
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 fig-
Drinks The main drinks in Estonia are beer, wine and vodka. While many young city residents opt for beer or wine, the older generation and rural folk tend to prefer 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 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 www.BeerGuide.ee
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. It was with this drink that the Estonians forced the Coca-Cola company into submission, or at least into a business deal. Kali was enjoying phenomenal sales, while Coke was not selling up to expectations. It was then that Coca-Cola decided to broaden its horizons by buying one of the local kali trademarks in order to make a profit on the stubborn Estonians.
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
The entertainment scene in Estonia is vibrant year-round, providing visitors and locals alike with a long list to choose from. Concerts, festivals theatre, street raves, DJ competitions – Estonia has it all. It is not by chance that both Tallinn and Tartu have their own opera and ballet theatre. Tickets are an excellent value for the money; concert tickets cost around 10 euros, and best seats at the opera are yours for about 25 euros. For more information on the concert schedule see www.concert.ee; the programme for the national opera is posted at www.opera.ee. Tickets can be bought at the box offices or via ticket agencies located in all larger supermarkets, or via Internet www.piletilevi.ee, www. piletimaailm.com and www.ticketpro.ee
ures 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 pubs, vinoteks and bar-restaurants, 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.
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Shops Souvenir shops in Tallinn and most other tourist locations are open seven days a week, 10:00-18:00 or 19:00. Big supermarkets and hypermarkets are open seven days a week from 9:00-21:00 or 10:00-22:00. Department stores close a few hours earlier on Sundays or, 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 9:00 or 10:00 and close at 18:00 or 19:00; they often close early on Saturdays and are closed on Sundays. The majority of shops accept credit cards, with the exception of smaller stores and stores in rural areas.
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 butterknives 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.
An English-Estonian dictionary is available online at www.ibs.ee/dict.
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.
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
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Estonian is not widely spoken in the world, so 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. Knowledge of foreign languages is naturally a must for hotel staff and numerous other professions in the service sector. Many people are fluent in English, particularly the younger urban generation, and a great number of people also speak Finnish, due to Finnish TV, Finland’s close proximity to Estonia and the great number of Finnish tourists. German is less widely spoken in Estonia, although previous generations have often studied German, not English, at school. Russian-language use has dropped to a point where older people no longer speak the language well and the younger generation have already chosen other languages to learn at school. Studying French has become more popular over the last few years but the number of people who speak French is still quite small.
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.
ESTONIA - AIMING HIGH Meet the Land of Inventive People and an Innovative Government investinestonia.com