NO 37 I SPRING I 2015
Shared Services In Estonia
E-Residency Goes Global
Attracting Talent To Estonia
Estonian Film Businessman and Music Play Of The Year In The Big Aldo J채rvsoo, Leagues Ambassador Of Fashion land & people I state & society I economy & business I technology & innovation I culture & entertainment I tourism
Estonia – A Great Home to Businesses Estonia offers an unparalleled environment for doing business. The country has been eager to develop and implement new IT solutions both in public and private sectors. ‘e-Estonia’ has become the country’s new moniker, thus highlighting the broad use of IT in all fields of life. In December 2014, Estonia launched a governmental start-up, e-Residency, which both gives foreign businessmen a secure digital identity and enables them to use Estonia’s e-services, do business anywhere in the EU, and more.
COVER Hardi Meybaum Photo by Mardo Männimägi
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 Andrew Whyte Design & Layout Positive Design Partner Powered by
A dedicated team of professionals at Enterprise Estonia’s Investment Agency supports companies investing and expanding in Estonia. Come experience the ease of doing business in e-Estonia – the low-risk, high quality and competitive location for your company. www.investinestonia.com
This technological openness is a powerful catalyst for the success of Shared Service Centres (SSCs). Currently, there are over 70 SSCs operating in Estonia, primarily serving large international corporations. In contrast to many other CEE countries, Estonia offers a superb environment for the offshoring of complex operational services. Benefits include service level quality, a process improvement mindset and other new capabilities. My long career as an Enterprise Estonia representative in Germany has convinced me that Estonians and Germans are a great business match. Strong economic ties between the two nations date back as far as Hanseatic times. We share a practical approach to problems, we are ambitious and diligent in work and our business cultures are similar, including a relatively simple legal system, low levels of corruption, etc. A few years ago, Kuehne + Nagel, a global player in the logistics sector, was searching for a location for their new IT centre. Altogether, 14 European countries were compared according to various statistics, with Tallinn scoring the highest. The Tallinn IT centre has proved a win-win project for all sides. Mr. Martin Kolbe, the CIO of Kuehne + Nagel attributes this success to the expertise and resourcefulness of local IT talent. “We Germans tend to over-engineer things. Estonians, by contrast, take a more pragmatic view when it comes to solving problems. When both sides get together, great solutions emerge,” says Mr. Kolbe. In addition to Kuehne + Nagel, many other Scandinavian and Western European companies have realized the advantages of offshoring to Estonia. You can find out all about them in this issue of Life in Estonia! Estonia is an ideal location for SSCs for numerous reasons, but the key to Estonia’s vibrant and innovative financial and sharedservice export sector lies in its skilled, educated and multilingual workforce. All functions are represented, with higher-order tasks and regional or global responsibilities becoming the norm. Clearly, attracting SSCs that offer more complex services has become a considerable strength for Estonia and also one of the main focus areas for the future. Riina Leminsky, Enterprise Estonia Representative in Germany
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#37_SPRING_2015 Where To Go This Season? Life In Estonia Recommends 6_
News & Events
E-Residency Goes Global Apply for One in Your Home Country
The success story of e-Estonia is something you may have heard about. But what is e-Residency and why do people need it? In simple terms, it is a digital identity issued by the Estonian state. Kaspar Korjus, the Estonian e-Residency Programme Director, talks about the project which aims to reach 2 000 e-Residents by the end of this year.
‘WorkInEstonia’ - Attracting Talent From Around the World 28_
Highlights of 2014
Which events and achievements marked the year 2014 for Estonia? Take a look at the selection Life in Estonia made.
Recently Estonia has been busy in developing many initiatives to help and encourage foreign talent to relocate here. ‘Work In Estonia’ is one such project, due to be launched by Enterprise Estonia in May 2015.
Hardi Meybaum: Estonia is Like a Peacock – Deceptively Small in Size But Full of Impact in Appearance
Hardi Meybaum (32) typifies the new generation of Estonian entrepreneurs, combining an innovative mindset with real success. He established a company called GrabCad, raised tens of millions of dollars of venture capital money and finally sold the company to Stratasys.
ECONOMY & BUSINESS
The State Shared Service Centre (SSSC) is a public body within the administrative jurisdiction of the Estonian Ministry of Finance which provides nationwide financial, HR and payroll accounting services. Tarmo Leppoja, Director of SSSC says that the aim is to conduct all public procurement in Estonia via this organisation in the future.
STATE & SOCIETY
Building a Digital Single Market for Europe
In November 2014, the new European Commission commenced work with Andrus Ansip in the post of the European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market. Life in Estonia interviewed the former Estonian PM about the challenges in his new line of work.
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State Shared Service Centre Supports Innovation in Governance
Estonia – the Smart Choice for Shared Service Centres
Estonia is an ideal location for shared service centres for numerous reasons, such as the local working culture, openness to development, language skills, professional competences, acceptable cost level and overall efficiency, not to mention the relatively few cultural differences from Western European countries. In recent years, many Scandinavian and Western European companies have transferred their shared service centres (SSCs) to Estonia.
Orkla Group Pursues Efficiency at Every Level
At the end of 2013, Orkla announced plans to establish a shared accounting centre in Estonia, with a view to increasing the efficiency of the Group’s accounting processes. Now, after more than a year of carrying out accounting for different companies in the Orkla Group, the decision to stay in Tallinn has really paid off - Orkla has estimated their savings to total around more than €2m per year.
Samres Provides Transport Services from Tartu
From Hip-Hop, to Metal, to Classical Music Rave Tallinn Music Week Has It All! Despite her youth, Helen Sildna is already a respected old-timer in the Estonian music industry. For the seventh year running, her main project is the showcase festival ‘Tallinn Music Week’, which will be held again from 25-29 March this year. We asked Helen about how it differs from other festivals worldwide and who is expected to attend the event.
Swedish company Samres AB operates call-centres for mobility services, medical service transportation, and other call-based transportation requests. Samreis Eesti AS, a subsidiary of the Swedish company, is a callcentre operating in Tartu, where it employs over 50 people. In March 2015, Samres celebrates a decade of operations in Estonia.
OpusCapita Offers Automated Financial Services from Estonia With their Shared Service Centre in the heart of Tallinn, OpusCapita digitizes as many as 20 000 invoices every day, which largely emanate from its mother company OpusCapita Group Oy, who have a large number of clients based in neighbouring Finland.
Tartu Guitar Hero Really Tears up the Music Scene in the US
It is not commonplace for an Estonian guitar player to create waves with country music in America. Laur Joamets, the former guitarist of Dramamama, has already performed in ‘Late Show With David Letterman’ and Conan O’Brien’s talk show as part of the American country singer Sturgill Simpson’s band.
Aldo Järvsoo: Estonian Ambassador of Fashion
Aldo Järvsoo is one of the most distinctive and celebrated Estonian fashion designers and founders of the brand Embassy of Fashion. Life in Estonia talked to Aldo about his life and career.
Had anyone said a year ago that the Estonian movie ‘Tangerines’ would be nominated for the Golden Globe and an Oscar, they would probably have been laughed out of the room. And yet - little Estonia, where only five feature films were produced in 2014, is suddenly firmly on the map of the global film industry! Although ‘Tangerines’ did not win an Oscar this time, hopefully this is just the beginning.
Two Restaurants, But Just One Chef de Cuisine: the Best Restaurant in Estonia 2014
Seven years of experience in choosing the top fifty restaurants in Estonia demonstrates that local cuisine offers a great reason to visit the country. This year, to borrow an analogy from sports, a photo finish was needed to determine the NOA Chef’s Hall as the winner as no less than four restaurants received an equal score for their food!
Practical Information for Visitors
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I WHERE TO GO THIS SEASON
FESTIVAL “THE GREAT TCHAIKOVSKY” 15–19 April 2015
This year the Estonian National Opera celebrates the 175th anniversary of the great Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky has presented the world many beautiful operas and ballets, six symphonies, instrumental concerts, cantatas and romances that have thrilled several generations. Estonian National Opera will celebrate the great event with a festival that includes a selection from the composer’s diverse legacy: opera “The Queen of Spades”, ballet “The Sleeping Beauty”, Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23 as well as Symphony No. 3 in D major, Op. 29, conducted by Nikolai Aleksejev, a ballet gala and John Cranko’s ballet “Onegin” to the music of Tchaikovsky. www.opera.ee
ONEGIN Ballet by John Cranko after Alexander Pushkin Performed by the Estonian National Ballet Choreography and staging: John Cranko (Stuttgart Ballet) Music: Pyotr Tchaikovsky, arranged by Kurt-Heinz Stolze (Germany) World premiere on 13 April 1965 Stuttgart Ballet Premiere at the Estonian National Opera on 19 March 2015 Conductors Vello Pähn, Jüri Alperten, and Kaspar Mänd Staged by Jane Bourne (Stuttgart Ballet) Designer Thomas Mika (Germany) John Cranko’s “Onegin” holds a special place in the choreographic repertoire of the second half of the 20th century as one of the few original full-length ballets. The dance version was born in 1965 for the Stuttgart Ballet. The ballet tells the story of the arrogant and world weary aristocrat Onegin who rejects the love of the young and naive Tatiana only to realize – upon meeting her again ten years later – that in her he threw away the only woman who would ever have truly loved him. Cranko’s absolute mastery of the art of the Pas de Deux finds its climax in “Onegin”, where the relationship of Onegin and Tatiana is revealed in intense and passionate duets.
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VIII Jõhvi Ballet Festival May 6–10 Jõhvi Concert Hall
Bella Italia Guest star Balletto di Milano Bella May 8 Italia
VIII Jõhvi Ballet Festival May 6–10 Jõhvi Concert Hall
CARDILLAC Opera by Paul Hindemith Premiere at the Estonian National Opera on 14 May 2015 Conductors Vello Pähn, Risto Joost, and Lauri Sirp Stage Director Vilppu Kiljunen(Finland) Designer Kimmo Viskari (Finland) Lighting Designer Anton Kulagin “Cardillac”, written in 1926, is the first of Hindemith’s trilogy of operas about the relationship between the artist and society. The others being “Mathis der Maler” (1935) and “Die Harmonie der Welt” (1957). It was one of the most frequently performed operas of the 1920s and went on to become Hindemith’s most successful stage work of all. The protagonist is a goldsmith Cardillac, who fabricates wonderful things and because of his obsession with them he also retrieves them by theft and murder. The plot revolves around the dilemma of revealing to the public that the beloved artist is also the criminal who made an entire city fearful. The citizens and police fail to make any connection between the coincidence of the purchases and murders until Cardillac finally confesses. A crowd then beats him to death, but after his daughter explains that the murders were merely the consequence of his love of beauty, they sing a ravishing eulogy.
“Chansons”, “Bolero” Guest star Music Édith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Yves Montand, Jaques Brel Choreography Adriana Mortelliti
Balletto di Milano May Mai 98thth “Viva Verdi”“Bolero” “Chansons”, MusicÉdith Giuseppe Music Piaf,Verdi Charles Aznavour, Choreography AgneseBrel Omodei Sale, Yves Montand, Jaques Federico Veratti Choreography Adriana Mortelliti
th Program 9 includes films, opera and ballet Mai classes and fashion show of Estonian designers. Verdi” “Viva
Music Giuseppe Verdi concert.ee/johvi Choreography Agnese Omodei Sale, Federico Veratti Eesti Kontserdi suurtoetaja
Program includes films, opera and ballet classes and fashion show of Estonian SPRING 2015 I LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 designers. concert.ee/johvi
I NEWS Loudspeakers Made in Estonia Among the Best in the World!
The Consumer Electronics Association has announced the winners of the top global technology fair, ‘CES Best of Innovation’ and Estelon Extreme, a new set of very high-end audio speakers developed by the Estonian company Alfred & Partners, has won a CES award in the highquality sound and video equipment category. These awards are chosen by an expert group of independent designers, engineers and media representatives. Alfred & Partners is an Estonian family company which has in a short period of time achieved international recognition for producing top quality loudspeakers under the Estelon brand.
High-end Intelligent Luxury Apartments Now Being Constructed in Estonia
The sound quality of Extreme is the natural outcome of every engineering detail and design decision as a whole – the shape and the material of the cabinet, the top tier components and the engineering experience in skilfully fitting it all together. The result allows Extreme to deliver a complete and harmonious soundscape which is greater than the sum of its components. Estelon’s head-engineer, Alfred Vassilkov, who is also founder and manager of the company, has provided the Extreme with all the same innovative breakthrough technology and design principles that he has been receiving awards for several times over the years.
Simply put, the loudspeakers look as good as they sound because they are the sum of everything Estelon stand for as a leading innovator in the high-end speaker industry. According to Alfred Vassilkov, this prestigious award motivates him to continue in earnest with his work. Although most Estelon customers are based abroad, the majority of production and development work takes place in Estonia.
SWISS PROPERTY is aimed to manufacture in Estonia pre-fabricated high-quality buildings based on Cross Laminated Timber technology. In addition to the growing architectural bureau, SWISS PROPERTY is in the process of building an innovative and advanced factory for the production of house elements. The total production output of the factory, situated in the Rae Industrial Park on the outskirts of Tallinn, will be exported to Switzerland. In spring 2016, the first luxury family apartment house, replete with four apartments, are to be exported in sections to Küsnacht district, where it will then be reassembled. The apartment prices - apartments are a couple of hundred square metres in size - start from €20 000 per m2. The company expects to make a profit right from the first building. The total sales goal up to 2018 is €200m. Within the next five years, SWISS PROPERTY plans to create 300-400 new jobs in Estonia, and according to the majority holder and CEO of the company, Dr. Lutz Mieschke, the company’s goal is to become the employer of choice in Estonia.
Founded in March 2013, SWISS PROPERTY Plc is a subsidiary of SWISS PROPERTY Group AG, a residential real estate development company in Switzerland that capitalises on the development and application of an industrially prefabricated construction technology.
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SWISS PROPERTY has already got off to a great start - at a competition called ‘Dream Employer 2014’, the company won the coveted ‘Future Employer’ title. Last year the similar title was given to TransferWise.
Join the Tech Event of the Year – Estonian ICT Week
Estonian ICT Week takes place on 8–15 May 2015 and strives to be the most eventful week in the centre of the sizzling Nordic-Baltic ICT powerhouse. ICT Week brings opinion leaders, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, foreign top officials and representatives of international organisations to Tallinn and combines several conferences and special events with keynotes you wouldn’t want to miss. Last year over 1000 foreign guests made time to fly in and hear the latest. This year Estonian ICT Week plans to go even bigger. The main topics in 2015 will include e-Governance and e-Residency, Green IT, Smart Industry, Fintech (Financial Technology) and the Hardware Evolution.
8-10 May @ Tehnopol (Mäealuse 2/1)
Garage48 GreenTech Tallinn 2015 This spring’s Garage48 GreenTech event gives everybody an opportunity to make their environmental improving ideas into reality, starting with water, soil and waste improvement and ending with alternative energy possibilities. The aim is to gather together people from different fields and skill sets and unite them into well-working teams. For example, people from environmental field with experiences and knowledge about what is missing in the sector unite with IT experts who have the skills to develop the ideas into working prototypes. We are looking for different skill sets: IT developers, marketers, project managers, designers, visionary entrepreneurs, environmental specialists. See more information: garage48.org/events/tallinn Follow us on FB & Twitter: garage48, @garage48
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11 May @ Innovation and Business Center Mektory (Raja 15)
Estonian Internet ICT Week Industry 4.0 11.05 Day 2015 .05 in Practice The future narrative? 12 .05 conference 13 Where should you start a tech start-up in 2015? The answer is #Estonia!
What are the most burning topics of the Estonian Internet in spring 2015? Probably what could be our next Skype or TransferWise? Internet has become a “lubricant” for economy and is always in need for something new and innovative. So are we! Do you know where the Internet is heading? We don’t, but our aim is to get closer to knowing! The main idea of the Estonian Internet Day is to bring together our Internet and community enthusiasts to further discuss and give our contribution to the development of the Estonian Internet. Five topics, ten+1 keywords. Internet & Estonia. Privacy & Control. Skills & Awareness. Internet of Things. Internet as Economy’s lubricant. Can you imagine yourself two weeks without the Internet? Follow us on Twitter: @Eesti Internet #IPÄEV2015 * The event is in Estonian
12-13 May @ Radisson BLU Hotel Olümpia (Liivalaia 33)
The concept also known as third or fourth industrial revolution goes around with many names: Industry 4.0, Industrial Internet, Internet of Things. It boosts the efficiency of manufacturing far further by connecting the machines, enabling advanced analytics and empowering the people. But taking new concepts into practice is often time consuming and costly. The organisers of the conference believe that co-operation between advanced industries and Estonian ICT and manufacturing companies can give the implementation of Industry 4.0 principles a vital boost. After all, Estonia has been known as a tech advanced and agile society that gets things done fast. The event rises awareness about Industry 4.0 in creating higher industrial efficiency. Collaboration possibilities and benefits will be outlined together with practical case studies from ICT and manufacturing. Senior decision makers from German and Nordic manufacturing companies and top experts and decision makers of Estonian ICT and manufacturing companies are expected to benefit from the event.
11 May @ Swissôtel Tallinn, (Tornimäe 3)
Norway – Estonia ICT cooperation seminar by Innovation Norway Trustworthy cooperation – key in developing innovative solutions and conquering international markets Over the last years the cooperation between Norwegian and Estonian companies has increased especially when it comes to developing new and innovative solutions within IT. Norway Grants Green Industry Innovation Program with focus on green IT has played an important part in this development. The seminar will present best cases, competences and experiences found in Estonia and Norway to inspire new solutions and partnerships. Sub categories that the seminar will cover are green IT solutions within energy, transport and logistics, and trade. In addition the seminar also covers public-private partnership when it comes to e-Government solutions. Further on we will support the creation of new contacts, cooperation’s and networks. Registration to the event is done by sending an e-mail to Mari.Kullerkupp@innovationnorway.no Follow us on FB InnovationNorwaytheBaltics and Twitter @INBaltics
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See more information: www.industry40.ee
12-13 May @ Nordic Hotel Forum (Viru väljak 3)
Tallinn e-Governance Conference 2015 by e-Governance Academy World’s leading e-Governance experts from governments, business, academia, international organisations and civil society groups will meet in Tallinn to discuss: designing e-Governance strategies, 15 years of e-Governance experience in EU Eastern Partnership countries, coordination and communication in central e-governance implementation and cyber security and e-governance. The conference aims to serve the following interrelated communities: government decision makers and strategists from countries implementing national e-Governance strategies, focusing on the EU Eastern Partnership and Open Government Partnership countries, donor organisations supporting development of open, transparent and efficient governance practices via IT solutions and companies developing e-Governance applications and assisting governments with their implementation. More information and registration: tallinnconference.ee Follow us on Twitter: #egov2015
13 May @ Swissôtel (Tornimäe 3)
Nordic Digital Day by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications
Last year some 300 e-Government experts and CIOs from all over the world gathered to the Nordic Digital Agendas Day where Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Estonia shared their vision for and major action lines of their digital agendas. In addition, each country introduced some crazy, yet necessary ideas the realization of which is a challenge today, but could provide valuable experiences and inspirations for future cutting-edge innovation. The Nordic Digital Day this year is even more inspiring and is dedicated to the Nordic ICT innovations and reforms that every country is particularly proud of. The aim is to show the revolutionary projects that have had a big impact on the daily lives of people and businesses in the Nordic countries. They are something that every country should implement to make a new leap forward in overall information society development. More information and registration: e-estonia.com/nordicday/ Follow us on Twitter: #NordicDay2015
13.05 13 May @ National Library of Estonia (Tõnismägi 2)
FinanceEstonia International Forum 2015 This year’s Forum, jointly organised by FinanceEstonia, Estonian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association and Estonian Business Angels Network, focuses on the development of European capital markets and increasing digital possibilities. In addition excellent networking opportunities will be provided both at the Forum and the Gala Dinner which will take place in Energy Discovery Centre. Participation with invitations only! More information and registration: www.financeestonia.eu/ financeestonia-international-forum-2015/
13 May @ Tehnopol (Mäealuse 2/1)
LEAP by AIESEC LEAP prepares startups for a big jump in their journey by providing a learning space tailor-made for their own needs and the interaction with International VCs. Unlike others, LEAP is a fresh idea validated by the Estonian startup ecosystem. At LEAP, you can expect mentoring spaces, skill workshops and speeches tailored for you and your startups delivered by both International and local experts. What’s more? LEAP is partnering with Latitude59 to ensure that you get the best learning and opportunities from both of the events! More information: www.leap.aiesec.ee
“Amazed, not surprised, by the strength of tech and talent in #Tallinn @latitude59. Looks like I’ll be back!” Gil Dibner @gdibner
14-15 May @ Creative Hub Kultuurikatel (Põhja puiestee 27a)
Latitude59 networking conference Latitude59 startup and investor networking conference will celebrate already its 8th birthday! This years’ special focus will be on FinTech, Hardware Evolution and e-Residency. At Latitude59 e-Residency will undergo scrutiny by seasoned entrepreneurs to understand its real business potential. Some of the hottest Fintech startups will be present to discuss disruptive business models in the finance sector. For the first time we will offer a special insight to investing into hardware startups and will feature several kick-ass hardware showcases. Be aware, Latitude59 Startup Pitch Competition powered by Blackbox and EstBAN presents born global startups from around the globe to see who’s best. REGISTER NOW: www.latitude59.ee Follow on Twitter and Facebook @latitude59, #latitude59
15 May @ Rock Café (Tartu mnt 80)
Estonian ICT Week closing party “Rock IT” Come see and enjoy the most innovative rock party of the week. RockIT is a festival for ICT companies’ bands where 10 different groups will be playing their favourite songs. The party starts at 19:00 and goes on until the early morning hours. Tickets are available at the venue.
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COME AND DISCOVER THE GALLERY OF ESTONIA @EXPO MILANO 2015 Estonian pavilion “Gallery of_” features more than thirty Estonian companies, Estonian music and design. In addition a street food restaurant and a Rye bar with Nordic food and drinks inspired by the local nature. The pavilion is a melting pot for the high-tech and low-tech, presenting Estonia as a dynamic little country where ancient traditions and unspoilt nature fuse with technological innovation.
Have you ever wondered what it takes to recharge a phone or turn on a light? Energy swings on the first floor will give you the answer and provide a unique possibility to produce electricity by yourself.
Skype, developed by Estonians, provides a virtual guide and a virtual friend for the Estonian pavilion and its visitors. Come and have a chat with IT and learn new things about Estonia.
One of the highlights will be Estonia’s national day on the 7th of June and the attempt on the same day to set a Guinness World Record in Kiiking – swinging 360 degrees over the fulcrum with more than a 7m high swing.
WATCH THE VIDEO
HIGHLIGHTS OF 2014 High-profile speakers at the symposium included the President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves, and Mr. Andrew M. Thompson, founder and Head of Proteus Digital Health.
The Friends of Estonia International Meeting Celebrated its Fifth Anniversary in the Summer of 2014 The aim of the event is to recognise investors, politicians and artists whose activities and support have helped Estonia to develop into a progressive, fully-European country with a dynamic economy and vibrant culture. A hundred and six guests from 21 different countries participated at the meeting of 2014. The main topic of the event was e-Democracy, the e-State and the role of these institutions in contemporary society.
The Estonian Song and Dance Celebrations are a long-standing and very important tradition for Estonia and the Estonian people (the first song festival, or laulupidu, took place way back in 1869 with first dance festival or tantsupidu happening in 1934) and the major festivals are today held every five years. In 2003, this tradition of song and dance celebrations was officially added to UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The 26th Song Celebration and the 19th Dance Celebration, entitled “Touched by Time. The Time to Touch” was held in Tallinn from 4-6 July 2014, and drew a record number of participants and audience, with more than 153 000 people visiting the dance performances and concerts. Most tickets were sold for the
At a seminar entitled “Global Estonians – Contributing Towards A World Without Borders”, organised under the auspices of Enterprise Estonia, the Estonian Government CIO Taavi Kotka introduced their latest initiative to introduce e-Residence permits to anyone around the world, granting the opportunity to utilise fully all the benefits that ‘e-Estonia’ has to offer with its many business services. In addition, representatives of TransferWise, Teleport, Google, GrabCAD, Planet OS and Tolaram Group gave presentations on their own smart solutions. The next Friends of Estonia International Meeting will take place between 9-11 July 2015.
second concert of the Song Festival “The Time to Touch” on Sunday – 67 322 tickets. The audience listened to and indeed sang along with 33 025 singers joined by 10 082 dancers. The joint choir for the grand finale consisted of over 22 000 singers. Hirvo Surva, Artistic Director of the event said, “I’m extremely happy to have been born in Estonia, to be speaking Estonian. I’m grateful to be able to give my little contribution to the ‘laulupidu’ - there is nothing better that that.” 1 240 overseas participants also took part in the event. These guests were amazed to see choir conductors heartily cheered and even lauded like rock stars. The next Youth Song and Dance Celebration will take place in 2017. And, 2019 will see the Song- and Dance Festivals which will mark the 150th anniversary of the very first event.
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I HIGHLIGHTS 2014
President Barack Obama’s Visit to Estonia US president Barack Obama visited Tallinn on 3 September 2014 as part of his official trip to Estonia and Wales, UK. During the highly-anticipated one-day visit, Obama got to see the 18thcentury Kadriorg Art Museum, the Stenbock House (the seat of the Estonian Government) on Toompea and also gave a very well-received speech at the Nordea Concert Hall, during which he complimented both Estonia’s continued efforts in maintaining and cultivating democracy and the country’s notable entrepreneurial spirit. “Here in Estonia, we see the success of free markets, integration with Europe, taking on tough reforms. You’ve become one of the most wired countries on Earth, a global leader in e-government and high-tech startups. The entrepreneurial spirit of the Estonian people has been unleashed. And your innovations, like Skype, are transforming the world,” the US President said. With the NATO Summit Session in Wales his next destination, Mr Obama also emphasised the dedication the US has demonstrated towards recognising and collaborating with its NATO allies now and in the future. In the joint press conference with Estonian President Ilves which followed, Mr. Obama went on to say that: “Estonia is one of the great success stories among the nations that reclaimed their independence after the Cold War. You’ve built a vibrant democracy and new prosperity, and you’ve become a model for how citizens can interact with their government in the 21st century, something President Ilves has championed. With their digital IDs, Estonians can use their smart phones to get just about anything done online – from their children’s grades to their health records. I should have called the Estonians when we were setting up our health-care website!”
PM Taavi Rõivas’ and Business Delegates’ Visit to the USA In December 2014, Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas made an official visit to the United States, with the focus on three primary fields: economic cooperation, bilateral relations between Estonia and the USA, and security. The business delegation accompanying the Prime Minister included representatives of over 40 Estonian companies. The visit began in Silicon Valley, where the delegation visited renowned technology enterprises like Google, Tesla, Microsoft and GrabCAD (which also has Estonian roots), Twilio, Yammer, and others. At a business forum called ‘e-Estonia and the Digital Society’, held at the University of Draper in California, Steve Jürvetson and his business partner Tim Draper were presented with the first Estonian e-Resident cards to be issued in the United States.
Prime Minister Rõivas called upon companies based in Silicon Valley and in the rest of the world to make full use of e-Residency to simplify their online activities and to bring new services onto the world market: ‘Estonian e-Residency has already received a lot of attention, even though we are in the initial phases and just discovering the potential of this undertaking,’ Rõivas said. Prime Minister Rõivas also gave a public talk at the University of Stanford, Connecticut, in which he emphasised the importance of the US as Estonia’s key ally in security policy, including cyber-security. The Estonian Prime Minister remarked that the primary security challenge for Estonia comes from the East. However the country has to be prepared for attacks from other directions as well, principally cyberattacks, and Estonia’s preparedness to implement new technologies and IT solutions in fighting cyber attacks is paramount. “Cyber-security is an aspect of security which needs constant national and international attention,” said Rõivas. In Washington, the delegation met with the US high-ranking state officials and with organisations of interest for the defence industry. The visit ended in New York with the opening of the NASDAQ stock exchange day and meeting with representatives of investment companies.
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Samsung Sourcing in the Nordics At the end of August, Samsung Electronics and the Estonian Investment Agency jointly hosted a pitching event ‘Get Global with Samsung’ in Tallinn, for connecting tech companies from the Nordic-Baltic region with the global big hitter Samsung. The team from Samsung Electronics had come to search for innovative technologies that might be integrated into Samsung’s future products. Altogether, 14 tech companies from Estonia, Finland and Norway were pre-selected by Samsung and got the chance to introduce their technology. The Samsung representatives were pleasantly surprised about the great way they seemed to click with local companies. They emphasised that they see a lot of great innovation happening in Europe and assured everyone that they would take that message back home to Samsung Headquarters in Korea.
#estonianmafia at SLUSH Estonian entrepreneurs participated enthusiastically in the Finnish startup-investor conference ‘Slush’, with a delegation led by the Prime Minister of Estonia, Taavi Rõivas. Several promising Estonian start-ups made the short trip to Helsinki to meet with investors at Slush including startups Heelosophy, Fleep, Jobbatical, GoWorkaBit, WellBiome, VTT-TNM, Comfee and Hyperion Tech. ‘I always thought Silicon Valley was the epicenter of global innovation. After Slush, I changed my mind,’ said Wang Jian, CTO at Alibaba after visiting the startup conference in Helsinki, Finland last November. Estonians and Finns are uniting to grow the Nordic startup scene more powerful. Also the governments are cooperating to innovate the countries.
Become an e-Estonian Now! This Fantastic Governmental Start-up is Taking the World by Storm. E-Residency is a state-issued secure digital identity for non-residents of Estonia. This may sound counter-intuitive, so let’s explain how it works. Estonian e-Residency is issued by the Government of the Republic of Estonia only, though it does not bring physical residency or rights of entry to Estonia or the EU in and of itself. Estonian e-Residency does however facilitate the digital authentication and digital signing of many different documents. E-Residency does not entail any residential or citizenship rights as such, and it cannot be used as a physical identification card or travel document. Its main purpose is to make life easier for anybody by giving them access to various secure e-Services which have already been available to Estonians for years. By providing e-Residency rights, we in Estonia are moving towards the idea of a country without borders. Ever since Estonia announced its eResidency program in October 2014, the potential implications and benefits of this innovation have been debated. The program’s detractors have dismissed it as anything from a mere PR stunt to a real security threat, but in the meantime the Estonian government has been positioning eResidency as a ‘governmental start-up’, giving the unvarnished truth and so pointing out that every innovation comes with an upside as well as a downside. In this way they have more than answered the critics. But what is the correct response to those who criticise e-Residency on the grounds that Estonia itself doesn’t stand to gain anything out of it? In fact we are helping the whole world with this project, and the benefits will be long-term and not just short-term. While the country will not be directly profiting from those who enrol as e-Residents any time soon, with the services available to be utilised by e-Residents only just starting to unfold, the very fact of having what are effectively Estonian ‘ambassadors’ all over the world means the venture is already paying off.
The strongest message to come from the stage was expressed by the Prime Minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, when he announced that Finland is about to commence integrating the e-Governance and e-Services in Estonia into Finland as well.
Estonia Ranks First in the Tax Competitiveness Index According to a survey conducted by the Tax Foundation (based in Washington DC) Estonia has the most competitive tax system in the OECD. The foundation analysed over 40 variables related to tax policy, divided them into five categories and ranked all the OECD member states according to their scores in each category. Estonia ranked no less than in first place in the Corporate Tax Rank and Property Taxes Rank, as well as second in Individual Taxes Rank!
The very first two e-Estonian ID cards were issued to the prominent Economist journalist Edward Lucas together with the Estonian-American investor Steve Jürvetson. The reasons for these choices are simple. Lucas has been one of the most significant international messengers of the Estonian story for several years now, and he has also done some great work in contributing to the country’s reputation in the electronic and technological spheres. As stated, Jürvetson has Estonian roots, and he is a very well-known Venture Capital investor in the US.
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The start-up will use these funds for its global expansion. It will open its US office next month and is set to open offices in Germany and in Australia in the next few months as well. The company plans to open 300 further currency routes over the next year. The funding round is thought to value the company at almost US$1bn. TransferWise was launched in London in early 2011 by two Estonians: Taavet Hinrikus, Skype’s first employee, and Kristo Käärmann. The firm started with making transfers between the British pound and the Euro. It now has 250 members of staff, 292 currency routes and continues to grow between 15-20% a month. The company says that customers have transferred £3bn using its platform. In 2014, Estonian-founded, US-based startup GrabCAD was acquired by the US-Israeli provider of 3D printing solutions, Stratasys Ltd, for around US$100m.This was the second biggest exit for an Estonian startup to date and the biggest for Estonian seed investors.
#estonianmafia amongst greatest success stories in 2014 The Estonian-founded, London-based, money transfer giant TransferWise has received US$58m in investment from the investors led by the Silicon Valley-based American venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. TransferWise’s existing investors, including Sir Richard Branson, Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures, Index Ventures, IA Ventures and Seedcamp, also participated in the investment round. Ben Horowitz, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, joins the board of TransferWise to help accelerate the company’s global roll-out. His firm’s previous notable investments include Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, GitHub and Pinterest.
Founded in 2010, GrabCAD is helping engineers get products to market faster by connecting people, content and technology. “GrabCAD was founded to bring the world’s engineers together and help them collaborate to bring better products to market faster,” said Hardi Meybaum, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of GrabCAD. “By joining forces with Stratasys, a global leader in 3D printing and additive manufacturing, we believe we can extend the reach of one of the most exciting and innovative design collaboration technologies available.” In January 2015, it was announced that NASA uses online engineering platform GrabCAD to design a handrail clamp assembly (HCA) for the International Space Station (ISS) that can be printed on the ISS 3D printer. Read more about GrabCad >
Richard Branson Promotes Tallinn as New Tech City The website virgin.com is of course the homepage of the world-famous entrepreneur Richard Branson, and it now promotes the capital of Estonia as one of the four new destinations for founding your seed company. If the rental prices for a decent pad in London and San Francisco are beyond the pocket of a young entrepreneur, and if the creativity in those cities also comes at a premium, where should a technology start-up look next?
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Eleanor Ross, the author of the article in question, has ranked Tallinn as THE top destination for new and budding technology entrepreneurs to locate and grow. Tallinn is followed by Malmö in Sweden, Eindhoven in Holland and Brno in the Czech Republic. “Unsurprisingly, Tallinn has its own version of Silicon Valley in the form of Technopolis, which is located near to the airport. It hosts a large number of tech enterprises, with both SMEs and more established companies,” writes Ross. “Tallinn has over 30 WiFi hotspots for its citizens and visitors, most of which are in the city centre and the Old Town, and many are near
popular tourist attractions. The network, TallinnWifi, may be connected to for free and its has a download speed of 15Mbps per hotspot.” Amongst other things, Ross praises the public transport of Tallinn as an innovative and smart solution. ‘From getting a free bus ride by swiping a smart card that then tracks your movements (all public transport here is free if you’re a Tallinn resident) to using a special code to mail a package from one locker to another, Tallinn residents use advanced technology every day. All ID cards have chips in them, and parking is paid electronically using a mobile phone code,’ explains Ross on the website.
COVER STORY I
Hardi Meybaum: Estonia is Like a Peacock – Deceptively Small in Size But Full of Impact in Appearance By Holger Roonemaa / Photos by Mardo Männimägi Hardi Meybaum (32) is just one example of a new generation of Estonian entrepreneurs – thinking out-of-the-box, having an innovative mindset and most important – actually being successful.
Soon after graduating from Tallinn University of Technology he established a company called GrabCAD, relocated to Boston to continue its development there, raised tens of millions of dollars of venture capital money and finally sold the company – allegedly for USD100m – to the world’s largest 3D printing company Stratasys. Nowadays, Hardi is working at Stratasys’ and heads GrabCAD development there. For those of you not familiar with GrabCAD, the easiest way to describe it is to say it is a collaboration platform that brings together some 1.8m engineers (that’s greater than the population of Estonia incidentally) and presents them with the tools to collaborate on both open and private projects. GrabCAD’s clients include such august institutions as NASA and General Electric among others. We asked Hardi about what has been happening with GrabCAD lately.
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Tell us what has been happening with GrabCAD during the five months since you sold the company to Stratasys? For one thing, we just announced that GrabCad Workbench is now free for all users. This is really great and positive news for our customers, because prior to that you needed to pay USD70 US per user, per month, in subscription fees. But that system is no more, and every designer, engineer and manufacturer can now start using GrabCAD for free. Looking at the bigger picture, our team has multiplied in size, and though we do everything as we used to do before, we do it much faster now. We have launched a couple of very interesting challenges in recent weeks; one of them was initiated by NASA and another by General Electric.
What does it mean when you say that you’ve launched a NASA challenge?
This means that as a startup you keep working on short-term goals only. Now we can look considerably further up the road and make decisions that will affect the company maybe as far ahead as 5 or 6 years from now.
Tell us a bit about the deal with Stratasys. Why did you decide to sell GrabCAD? There had been interest to buy us since basically day 1. GrabCAD’s community has always been neutral towards different software producers. We are almost like the ‘Switzerland’ of companies in that sense! It doesn’t matter what kind of software you use or in which industry you work in - there’s always a place for you in GrabCAD.
Our concept incorporates a challenge-oriented environment, where different companies can ask for our users to come up with their solutions for design problems posed. We have nearly two million users, who can all contribute to solving these challenges. Over the last couple of years we have launched many such challenges.
Now, if we had sold to a strictly CAD company, we would have lost that neutrality. For this reason I was never really interested to sell GrabCAD to a pure software company. But ever since we first met with Stratasys, we understood that we shared very similar visions.
Now NASA have approached us and asked for help regarding a specific detail in a space station. Our users have already provided them with nearly 500 designs!
This was a really cool thing to discover. GrabCAD’s main vision was to help our clients get their products to the market faster. So was Stratasys’. Their 3D printing is neutral in exactly the same way as we are.
How does it work? Did NASA find you or the other way round?
How did you and Stratasys find each other?
We have never had a classical outbound sales team – usually people approach us and sign up without us directly talking with them. With larger customers it is sometimes necessary to talk a couple of times on the phone and agree on the details, before they sign up. It is very similar with the challenges. Companies contact us and then we help them set up the challenge.
You stated that the Workbench is now available for free. What is the business logic behind that? On the surface it seems you could potentially lose revenue by following this step That’s true, but this is part of the charm in being part of a large corporation. GrabCAD’s vision has always been to reach every engineer’s desk. We have effectively achieved this goal through our community. We have 1.8m users now as I said. The other part of our vision is that every engineer will store their files on our Workbench. The hefty price that we used to charge made this difficult to achieve. But now that we made it free, potentially everyone can access the Workbench. In the future we plan to combine the Workbench with Stratasys’ products and see how such synergy will work out. But today we keep focusing on developing a really good product. There is also another huge difference between being an independent company as against being part of a large corporation.
As a startup we used to operate in an 18-month cycle. Startups have to raise new venture capital on average every 18 months until one day you’d ideally make an IPO and then get to factor public money raised on the stock exchange into the equation.
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A year before our deal, Stratasys bought a company named MakerBot. MakerBot has sold the highest number of 3D printer units worldwide, although Stratasys’ revenue has been larger. As it happened, the founder and CEO of MakerBot went on to become a really good friend of mine when I built GrabCAD. So a little the MakerBot deal I was having dinner with him and he said “you know, Hardi, I think you should also sell to Stratasys, so we can work together”. He introduced me to the right people, we had negotiations for six months and then concluded the deal.
Can you tell us how many interested parties you effectively snubbed before you made the deal with Stratays? From what I understand, it wasn’t the pricetag Stratays offered but more their overriding philosophy that you found appealing? That was exactly the case. So I have never really worried about what would happen with GrabCAD since the Stratays takeover. The question had always been more whether to sell at all. But we have been lucky to have attracted a lot of users and attention since the very beginnings of GrabCAD. So, whilst I can’t give you a precise figure, I can say that there were plenty of meetings with people interested in buying us up. In the end, though, it is one thing to meet and talk, but another thing to actually reach a deal. Only that matters.
It has been reported that the deal with Stratasys came to a cool USD100m. Is this true? Sorry but I can’t comment on the specifics of the deal.
After selling GrabCAD you didn’t leave, but instead were retained by Stratasys. How do you see your own future at the company? To be honest, I don’t set long range plans for myself. As long as it is still interesting to me, I’ll stay. And so far it has been really interesting!
But still, how can you motivate yourself now that you don’t own the company anymore? I like new challenges. As long as I have them and I still feel like I’m learning something new, then I don’t mind if the company no longer belongs to me. Stratasys’ turnover was around USD780m last year and it keeps growing by 35 per cent a year! That is an amazing statistic! Furthermore, the entire market sector is growing by an estimated 35-40 per cent a year. It doesn’t happen too often that someone can work for a market leading company in a field that itself is growing at an incredible pace, AND you can affect the company’s direction every day! This on its own thrills me and that’s the reason why I’m staying here for the meantime.
What will the relationship between GrabCad/ Stratasys and your native Estonia be? We are still hiring in Estonia, and even faster than before. Estonia is, and will be, a very important place for both GrabCAD and Stratasys. We are very positive about the different projects regarding our Estonian office.
Could you elaborate on that? Do I understand correctly you correct that it’s not only GrabCAD that’s expanding in Estonia, but also some of Stratasys’ other activities? Yes. An important change that has already taken place is that GrabCAD’s team is nowadays also Stratasys’ development team. We have already integrated the software development teams and our engineers work for both GrabCAD and Stratasys in Tallinn as well as in our other offices in other countries.
Your Tallinn office is close neighbours with another Estonian-born startup that is making headlines around the world, TransferWise. Both of you are expanding. Is there a hiring ‘war’ going on? I don’t believe in doing that. I think that the time when people joined software development companies purely because of the money are long gone. There must be something really wrong when a person chooses between us and TransferWise based solely on the wage we offer. We are just such different companies, with radically different engineering challenges.
Still, are there enough people to hire? There is yourselves, then TransferWise, then there are other local IT-companies and startups, finally Russian IT-giant Acronis is establishing its development centre in Tallinn. True, in an ideal world we would like to hire faster. There is a need for significantly more people with a technical background in Estonia. But at GrabCAD we are used to such an environment. We are also competing for IT talent in Boston, which is a ten times crazier scene than Estonia’s. In other words, there are a lot more IT people in Boston, but the competition to hire is also much higher. Or take Cambridge, England, which is a well-known development hub for lots of large companies solving extremely challenging engineering problems. We are used to competing for the best talents and we have always been able to hire exactly the people we want.
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What are your own plans regarding Estonia? Are you thinking of giving something back to the community here after your deal with Stratasys? Yes I am thinking about that a lot. As a matter of fact I’m set to launch a project in Estonia, probably in April this year. Without giving too much away, I can say it is connected with education, and the goal is to help provoke interest in a technical education amongst young people. I know I am being vague, and I must apologise but I’m not in a position to give more detail than that just yet. There are still a lot of ‘Is’ to dot and ‘Ts’ to cross before I can go public with the plan, so please sit tight!
Can you at least drop a couple of hints? (Laughs) I really wouldn’t like to say anything more yet. Let’s wait for the public launch, then we can talk again!
How often do you come to Tallinn these days? Over the last five months there have been just two weeks when I haven’t had to get on a plane to somewhere. As a result I unfortunately haven’t been able to visit Estonia for a while. But I plan to stay in Estonia for three months this summer. And that’s something I haven’t been able to do for the last five years!
How will you find the time for that now? Well, instead of Boston being my adopted home town and Boston Logan airport my home airport, it will be Tallinn and Lennart Meri airport instead. I will still have to travel a lot, though.
GrabCAD came about through the use of tech accelerators, but as I’ve gathered from talking with various people, you yourself are quite critical of accelerators. Why is that? I am critical of certain accelerators and also perhaps of certain companies joining accelerators. Some companies, because of their nature, simply shouldn’t join accelerators and others should at least ask themselves which is the best accelerator to join. Actually that said I just made my first ever investment - and it was into an accelerator - Bolt! Bolt is a Boston and San Francisco-based hardware accelerator. Bolt doesn’t teach you how to build a team, because you can find advice on that online or simply ask your investors. Instead they provide you with space where you can build your prototype, and then help find the best manufacturer in China, that can make you as many as 100 000 of your first units.
Do you mean that some accelerators have basically turned into chatrooms? Yes, exactly! Problem number one is that they’re completely over-hyped. People tend to think that if you join an accelerator, miracles will start to happen. That is simply not the case. The company still belongs to you and it is you and you alone who has to fight for it and push it further. Problem number two is that people tend to think that once you get into an accelerator, you’ve made it – you’re successful! That is not a good indicator of success though. Real success is when you find clients who love your product, who are prepared to pay for it, not to mention when you see consistent, month-on-month growth.
So with your views on accelerators in mind, do you have regrets about entering accelerators with GrabCAD? I do regret entering Seedcamp [a popular London-based accelerator – ed.]. When you join an accelerator, you lose a significant part of your share of the company. So you have to calculate things carefully, to be sure the accelerator are giving you enough value in exchange. We definitely didn’t gain enough from our participation in Seedcamp. In Techstars [GrabCADd entered Techstars Boston in 2011] however, the share was 50/50. They didn’t directly give us much new, but membership did help our brand development. Thanks to Techstars we weren’t just an Estonian company in the US any more. Back in those days being an Estonian startup didn’t mean nearly as much as it does now. Furthermore, being part of Techstars made investors fight over us, because they knew that we were likely t be exposed to plenty of investors at the Demoday. In other words everyone was afraid that they’d lose out on their chance to invest in us.
Is being an Estonian startup really a brand of it’s own nowadays or does hype also come into play? Estonia is fast turning into a place that people know all about. One of our investors has compared Estonian startups with Swiss Army knives ‒ because they guarantee quality. I agree with him and this is also an image that is taking shape in Silicon Valley, as well as Boston and New York.
I like such types of accelerators, because they give you a very clear idea of what you can expect from them.
When an Estonian founder is able to enter the US market and make appointments with VCs, that’s impressive on its own. Second, Estonians have a tendency to over-engineer their products, in my view. What I mean is, first we make the perfect product and only then do we start thinking about selling it.
Then there are accelerators that offer you the same know-how that you can also find online. So if you have a startup that’s already making some money and you can find a seed investment on your own, you really don’t need an accelerator in fact.
The approach in Silicon Valley is completely the other way round. When you add the eEstonian concept and the PR that president Toomas Hendrik Ilves brings to the Estonian IT-brand into the mix, we end up with a very good result.
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What more can we do here to improve our brand even further? The next step should be to take a deeper look inside. Estonia reminds me somewhat of a peacock. If you take a close look at it, you can see that it is a really small bird. Its body is often little more than the size of a man’s fist, but when it spreads its wings it gives the impression of being a big, powerful bird.
The cool thing about the book is that it was published by Wiley, which is the number one business books publisher in the US. We noticed that The Internet had transformed a lot of different industries. For instance we don’t need walk-in travel agents any more, we can order taxis with an app etc.
Similarly, Estonia appears to be a major dynamic IT-focussed country boasting lots of startups, but in actual fact we have had just a few real success stories to our name so far. So we must do everything we can to ensure we get more GrabCADs and TransferWises in future.
This effect was spreading to the production industry as well. This is also the reason we created GrabCAD. We saw that there were a few hundred companies that were approaching production in a new way.
Do you plan to cast your eye around as a potential investor yourself now? I do indeed. I have just invested in a Boston-based startup Dunwello. Dunwello is a community for professionals inside existing organizations. They occupy the gap between Linkedin recommendations and Yelp. The community is definitely ahead of the curve, but I believe in the vision and the team. I plan to invest more in the future as well. Investing is a great way to give back what you’ve learned and help other starting businesses into the bargain. This also helps you to get to know new industries. I have experience in production, design and engineering, but it’s really cool to be learning about other industries now.
So is investing a business, a method of education or, alternatively, a charity? I hope it’s not entirely a charity! I do plan to get a return from my investments! But I don’t do it just for the money, but more to educate myself and help young entrepreneurs as well.
You’ve also published a book. How was that even possible with all your work in developing GrabCAD? Yes, the name of the book is “The Art of Product Design - Changing How Things Get Made”.
As it turned out, they were all clients of GrabCAD! So with the book we wanted to inspire the other 99.99% of companies also to do things in a new, more creative and more efficient way. Writing a book isn’t exactly the easiest thing I’ve done in my life. And writing a book at the same time as running a fast-growing company is really difficult. Luckily we had a great research team and we expressed our vision and story through our clients. In fact the second part of the book is about our vision on how to move on in the future.
And how has the book been doing? Very well, thanks it has fulfilled all of its goals in fact. I still receive emails from people saying telling me the book was exactly the thing they needed to inject new breath into their work. It has also gained a lot of attention for GrabCAD. We’ve been invited to attend many conferences, whereas we couldn’t have got an entrée to them without having published the book.
Finally, what do you plan to do after GrabCAD? I probably won’t work out my entire career down to retirement at Stratasys. When it’s time to move on, I will be sure to let you know!
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STATE AND SOCIETY
Andrus Ansip Andrus Ansip was appointed Vice-President of the European Commission with responsibility for the Digital Single Market in November 2014. Before moving to Brussels, he was a member of both the Estonian and European Parliaments. This followed almost nine years in Tallinn spent as Estonia’s longest-serving Prime Minister, when Ansip worked with both centreright and centre-left parties to lead three different coalition governments. During his time as Prime Minister, he also acted as chairman of Estonia’s liberal Reform Party. Ansip first entered national politics in September 2004 when he became Minister of the Economy. Up to this point, his career was spent in Estonia’s second largest city of Tartu where he was born in 1956. Ansip was Mayor of Tartu for six years after working in banking and business. A chemistry graduate from the city’s university, Andrus Ansip is married with three children.
Building a Digital Single Market for Europe By Andrus Ansip / European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market
Estonia is no stranger to the digital world. As long ago as 2005, it became the first country to hold an election where people could vote online. I was one of the first people to try out the new system. Now, in February 2015, the number of Estonians to cast an e-vote in parliamentary elections rose to a record number – 31 per cent of those who voted. I am immensely proud to have been at the forefront of the digital transformation of my country, which today has probably the most joined-up digital government anywhere. Estonia has managed to create a true e-Society that has improved peoples’ lives in many different ways. Take digital signatures, where we have more than a decade of experience. They allow people to vote electronically, do their banking, declare taxes, fix contracts – all without leaving either home or the office. When Estonians started to use digital signatures, it was like a social and commercial explosion. Since the system became available, more than 100m digital signatures have been made in Estonia.
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I would like to see digital signatures mutually recognised across the EU’s 28 countries. Every Estonian citizen now has an ID card, which contains biometric information about them as well as digital signing capabilities. Again, I was one of the first people to start using these. That said, I don’t always want to point to my own country as a shining example. However, what is now normal for Estonians in their daily lives is not yet the same for people in much of the rest of Europe. During my nine years as Prime Minister, I supported the goal of creating a digital single market for the European Union that really works. Digital issues are close to my heart, which is why I was pleased to be nominated as Vice-President for the Digital Single Market at the European Commission in Brussels.
Digital activity is everywhere. Every economic pursuit, every sector of society uses digital tools and online networks. With the power of cloud computing, the growing reach of social networking, the rise of big data, all manner of mobile devices available, technology is developing at lightning speed. Europeans want the best that the Internet can offer; they want safe, accessible and fast online services; they want more choice and competitive prices that the world’s largest marketplace should be able to provide. They want to be able to enjoy online films, music, books bought anywhere in the EU. No price discrimination, website blocking or re-routing because of where they happen to live. Unjustified geo-blocking is unfortunately still a reality, with messages like ‘This service is not available in your country’ that can appear on screen. For me, this is a form of discrimination – and something we fought hard to remove in the physical world. People do not understand why they cannot access content they have paid for when they travel abroad. In the same way, they cannot understand why they cannot access content they are willing to pay for in the first place. This should all be possible in the 21st century, the digital age. But it is not yet a reality across Europe. There is still a lot of work to do to achieve a truly connected digital single market. A market where every consumer can enjoy digital content and services – wherever they are in Europe, including government services. It means every company should be able to share and sell its wares online to a market of 500m consumers, with ease.
proposals for new legislation and the updating of existing laws so that we have better regulation – rules that are ‘fit for purpose’ – in the digital age. For people, the Digital Single Market will be a digital space where users’ electronic data can easily be carried or transferred across platforms and systems in all EU countries, without discrimination based on nationality or unjustified geo-blocking. For businesses, it will allow them to reach new EU markets easily, backed by a clear set of rules. Companies, particularly small and/or online businesses, should be able to start operating across the EU with just one click of the mouse, without burdens or restrictions. This will allow them to grow, scale up quickly and transform their business and industrial models to include digital technologies. This means moving further on consumer rights, and simplifying and modernising rules for online purchases and digital products, for both buyers and sellers. It will mean concluding negotiations on data protection and cyber-security. It will also involve reforming and modernising EU copyright rules. We have a great opportunity and should make the best of it. My aim is to make sure that Europe, its citizens and businesses, get the best of the online world in the safest and most open environment possible. Openness and opportunity: not obstacles.
Today, a small business trying to spread across the EU faces no less than 28 regulations concerning consumer protection, data protection, contract law and tax rates. People trying to buy online in Europe today face endless barriers. It also costs too much, both for consumers and businesses. Take the cost of getting delivery of a parcel of goods that you have bought online, but from a retail website based in another EU country. The charge for delivering across an EU border can be five times – even more, sometimes the national equivalent. We are working hard to remove the obstacles to create a connected Digital Single Market for Europe. Bringing down barriers is what Europe is about, to give all Europeans more opportunities so that they can enjoy competition, convenience and choice online. At the same time, we have to set about building, improving and connecting digital Europe. Building trust and confidence, for example, so that people are confident about using the Internet and online services. Or improving areas like technical interoperability and standards across the EU, which will also help to improve access to networks between countries. Connecting everyone, everywhere, by investing in modern and joinedup broadband infrastructure, so that people in the remotest areas can also enjoy high-speed Internet access. Fast, reliable, secure connectivity – everywhere. These main principles will form the basis of a long-term digital strategy that the European Commission will present in May. It will contain
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STATE & SOCIETY
Perhaps you have heard the success story that is e-Estonia? That you can start a company in Estonia in just a few minutes, whilst sipping a cappuccino in a café; that it takes just a few minutes at worst and sometimes just a few seconds, to submit online tax declarations; that contracts are mostly signed with digital signatures and you can be thousands of miles away from the co-signatory to the contract? Well if you didn’t know all that before, you do now! And there’s even more great news – from now on anybody, anywhere in the world can benefit from many of the services e-Estonia offers, whether it be simplifying one’s business-related activities, starting a new company or just trying out something innovative and cool which is not available anywhere else.
E-Residency Goes Global - Apply for One in Your Home Country
LIFE IN ESTONIA #37 I 2015 SPRING
By Holger Roonemaa
Kaspar Korjus is the e-Residency Program Director, which means that he is the person in charge of the first ever Estonian governmental start-up. But what is e-Residency and why should people need it? In very simple terms, it is a digital identity issued by the Estonian state. To put it even more simply, it is a plastic card with a micro-chip. This card provides two options: the ultra-secure authentication option and the opportunity to digitally sign all manner of documents. In other words, this card opens the doors to the Estonian e-Services to everybody who is not an Estonian resident, and perhaps has never had any contact with Estonia before. The purpose of e-Residency is to make life easier by using secure eServices that have been accessible to Estonians themselves for quite a few years already. By providing e-Residency, we are moving towards the idea of a nation without borders. The e-Residency project which started in its beta-version during the last months of last year, is now ready to take the next giant leap. ‘What we aim to do is to create a worldwide virtual business environment, where people from both the developed and developing countries can easily become entrepreneurs and start doing business anywhere in the world. Physical national borders and restrictions will no longer present an obstacle. You can start a business, open bank accounts, make transactions, sign contracts and even declare taxes, all on your computer,’ says Korjus. More than that, the opportunity to use mobile-ID for e-Residents to sign and get authentication for their documents is also in the pipeline.
Four big goals ‘When we went live with the e-estonia.com/e-residents page some months ago, we received over 4 000 applications in 24 hours from people who wished to be kept informed about the e-Residency launch. Those contacts came from 140 different countries,’ says Korjus. At the end of last year, the opportunity to apply for e-Residency was launched and, to date, 900 people have applied. The aim is to reach 2 000 e-Residents this year. ‘Until now e-residency has been able to sell its own concept without us pushing it, rather the opposite - in the beta phase, it has been a struggle sometimes to meet the excessive demand,’ explains Korjus. Actually it seems the whole e-Residency project had been without a team until recently: ‘Everything we have done up to this point has been at a beta-level. Now we are gradually beginning to develop the service in order to make it into a finished product,’ Korjus explains. Korjus has the task of putting together a seven-member team by April 2015, which will concentrate on developing, marketing and packaging e-Residency to the world. From this moment the clock will be ticking for a year and a half, during which his team will need to demonstrate real results. ‘Within this period, e-Residency must become a finished, saleable product. It must be totally user-friendly and offer enough important and comfortable services and it has to attract mass users,’ says Korjus, summing up the challenge ahead.
Apply at home, receive without needing to travel to Estonia Korjus is confident that things will start happening fast. Whereas until now it has only been possible to apply for and receive e-Residency in person in Estonia, the whole procedure will be available online from April onwards. ‘Applicants can fill out an online application form and select a location where they wish to receive the card,’ he explains. The list of places issuing e-Residency cards comprises currently 38 Estonian embassies and consulates all around the world. For example you can choose the Estonian embassy in Beijing, Washington or Moscow to receive your card. Upon going to collect the card, the applicant needs to present a valid passport and be prepared to give some biometric data (ie. fingerprints); once this data has been processed, the card is ready for immediate use. The second task for Korjus’ team is to push through some legislative changes in order to make more e-Services available for easy use by eResidents. For example, until now it has not been possible to open a bank account in Estonia without turning up at a bank in person. ‘Our research shows that 65 per cent of people wishing to apply for e-Residency wish to do so for business reasons. The e-Residency will give them the opportunity to digitally sign payment documents via Internet banks, but in order to open an account they would have to travel to Estonia,’ explains Korjus.
LHV, Stripe and PayPal enter the game LHV Pank is one Estonian bank willing to offer the option to open a bank account on the basis of a digital application. ‘I really hope that this opportunity will be given to us by law, because at the moment we are unable to offer non-residents a comfortable way of communicating with our bank,’ says Andres Kitter, Head of Retail Banking at LHV Pank. It is technically possible to open a bank account from a distance, but this option is only available to Estonian residents, and even then quite complicated limits apply. ‘For example transactions can only be made within Estonia, and one cannot even pay one’s monthly Spotify bill,’ says Kitter. Kitter explains that a lot of preparatory work, including technical and legal analyses, has gone into opening bank accounts for e-Residents at LHV. ‘We are really waiting for legislation to catch up with this great application,’ he says. Kaspar Korjus explains further that e-Residency services will not only be limited to services offered by the Estonian state. ‘On the contrary, it is our wish and expectation that the private sector will start to develop new services. We can create great conditions for it’, he states. The first steps in this direction have already been taken. For example the influential Stripe who also offer an online payment environment to Kickstarter, Twitter and Facebook are developing a solution to offer authentication with the extremely secure Estonian ID-card. This development should reach the testing phase by summer. Similar ideas have been discussed with the secure credit card payment service PayPal.
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Taavi Rõivas Steve Jurvetson
First e-Residents Based in the U.S. During the business visit to the U.S. last December, Prime Minister of Estonia, Taavi Rõivas handed out e-Residency cards to three men who all have special merits. The first American to get an e-Residency card is a world-famous venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson (DraperFisherJurvetson - DFJ). Steve was born in the US but both of his parents are Estonians! Steve recommends e-Residency to Americans saying: “With Estonian e-Residency it will be easy for U.S. startups to set up their European presence”. The second U.S. citizen to become e-Resident of Estonia is Tim Draper (DFJ & Draper University). Both Steve and Tim were amongst the first investors in Skype! Third was Balaji Srinivasan, who in addition to being a partner at AndreesenHorowitz (a16z) is a co-founder of Teleport together with two Estonian ex-Skypers, Sten Tamkivi and Silver Keskküla. Balaji’s quote on e-Residency went viral: ”This is so freaking huge man, it´s insane! The plan to let anyone become European – digitally!”
Japanese entrepreneur: a world-changing idea The task of Korjus’s team is to give a push to creating an e-Residency community. ‘It is clear that once e-Residency takes off into the masses, we will be physically unable to deal with all questions, requests, concerns. We wish to create a separate e-Residency community, which would help each other and also support our marketing efforts,’ says Korjus. One person who could be a potential voluntary leader of the e-Residency community is the Japanese IT entrepreneur Tsutomu Komari. Just a year ago, Komari knew little about Estonia, when he accidentally stumbled upon the e-Residency topic on the Internet and started to follow the developments of the project with great interest. Of course he already has an e-Residency card in his pocket! ‘It is a globally totally new idea, it is cheap and ultra-comfortable to use,’ says Komari who sees both business and private opportunities in being an e-Resident. ‘I just received my card, so I have only used it on a few occasions,’ he states. He explains how he wanted to test the card and so took a look at the Estonian business registry and almost literally drowned in the possibilities on offer. ‘It took me a while to sort out which are the most important services, which I can use. You should quickly develop a user-manual for beginners,’ he says and adds that the Japanese are very strong at creating manuals. Until such a time as a manual exists, however, Komari is relying on Estonian friends who have been helping him to orientate himself to the number of services on offer.
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The idea of having Komari as a leader of the e-Residency community is not arbitrary, it has to be said. He fulfils all prerequisites you could imagine for an e-Residency booster in Japan. He is the first Japanese person to receive the e-Residency card and he is hugely interested in the project too. He even promises to make a note of all his thoughts, comments, recommendations and ideas and to submit them to Korjus’ team.
Global Cities Where You Can Obtain Your e-Residency Card At An Estonian Representation • London, UK
• Berlin, Germany
• Ankara, Turkey
• The Hague, Netherlands
• Sydney, Australia
• Kiev, Ukraine
• Copenhagen, Denmark
• Cairo, Egypt
• Minsk, Belarus
• Lisbon, Portugal
• Tbilisi, Georgia
• Moscow, Pskov and
• New York City and Washington DC, USA
• Beijing and Shanghai, China
St Petersburg, Russian
• Dublin, Ireland
• Madrid, Spain
• Oslo, Norway • Prague, Czech Republic
• New Delhi, India
• Riga, Latvia
• Rome, Italy
• Tel Aviv, Israel
• Helsinki, Finland
• Warsaw, Poland
• Tokyo, Japan
• Stockholm, Sweden
• Vienna, Austria
• Ottawa, Canada
• Paris, France
• Vilnius, Lithuania
• Astana, Kazakhstan
• Athens, Greece
• Brasilia, Brazil
As early as March 2015 he is set to organise a conference in Japan introducing Estonia and its local business opportunities to Japanese entrepreneurs. The proponents of e-Residency will have their own designated area at the conference. The Estonian Ambassador to Japan, Jaak Lensment, and by far the most famous Estonian in Japan the retired sumo wrestler ‘Baruto’ (Kaido Höövelson) will assist Komari in this undertaking.
One of the Many ‘First’ e-Residents While Edward Lucas, senior editor at The Economist was presented the first e-Residency card by Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Hamid Tahsildoost is the first person to receive e-Residency through the regular application procedure. Hamid works for Skype in the US and regularly travels to Estonia to meet with his colleagues here. We asked him about his expectations for e-Residency.
How did you hear about e-Residency? I heard about eResidency from multiple people at Skype and outside of Skype, including our HR Department. With the current and upcoming functionality being built into this, e-Residency really has the potential to change the world.
Why did you decide to apply for it? Was it for the sheer innovativeness of it or some real benefits that you saw coming from it? Tsutomu Komari Komari has already created a Japanese language Facebook page introducing the concept of Estonian e-Residency, and will soon be developing another one for Asia on the whole. Until now most people who have applied for the beta-level e-Residency card have come from Estonia’s neighbouring countries of Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Russia. This is understandable as up to now an applicant has had to come to Estonia, not once, but twice, in order to get a card, and most benefits of the card have been felt by people who have had some connections to Estonia already – for example they either work or study here or have business relations with Estonians. Once applying for e-Residency becomes simpler from April and more and more comfortable services and user options will be created, potential users will grow more diverse. Kaspar Korjus says, ‘I am sure that the largest interest in the service will be where the level of pain is the highest.’ Signs show that this is the case in countries outside the European Union such as Ukraine, but also Asian countries where business regulations, bureaucracy and relations with European countries have been very complex up to now.
I applied for it because it’s the type of project that can change the world, and I wanted to be among the first to use it. Seriously, I think anything that can be done digitally should be, but not without adequate security. The security of this card sets the standard for the world. Keep in mind, I’m from the US, where we predominantly still use magnetic strip credit cards.
How (if at all) have you already benefited from being an e-resident? I’ve been mostly experimenting with document signing. Digital document signing is gaining popularity in the world, but I haven’t seen any place doing it as securely (and openly) as Estonia.
How do you expect to benefit from it in the near future? I have a few things I still want to do, and I strongly suspect I’ll be able to. In the near future I want to personalize my Ühiskaart [a smartcard used for public transportation in Tallinn – ed.] so I can top-off online, conduct online banking with an Estonian bank account, enjoy some of the mobile ID benefits that Estonian citizens have, and see if I’m able to access other electronic services in Europe using e-Residency.
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‘WorkInEstonia’ Attracting Talent from Around the World
Estonia has been getting busy recently, developing many initiatives to help and encourage foreign talent relocate here. ‘WorkInEstonia’ is one such programme, and is due to be launched by Enterprise Estonia in May 2015. The goal of ‘WorkInEstonia’ is to simplify the process for local companies to employ overseas experts. The programme will also introduce Estonia as a destination for living, to potential, talented would-be employees worldwide. Estonia is often referred to as a pioneer and innovator in ICT. It therefore comes as no surprise that this is the sector which is doing the most hiring. Companies like TransferWise, Skype and Kuehne + Nagel are just a few examples of employers who are already actively recruiting globally. The demand for top specialists is expected to grow in the future as well, in line with the growth of ‘ e-Estonia’ and its ICT sector. ‘WorkInEstonia’s’ raison d’être is to make international recruitment easier not just for ICT companies, but also for companies hiring in other sectors such as mechanics and electronics industry, finance, etc.
Competing for talent In May 2015, the web page www.workinestonia.com is due to go live. This website will advertise international jobs available in Estonia and also gather relevant information necessary about relocation from another country.
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Frequently asked questions such as ‘where to live?’ ‘How to cope the necessary paperwork?’ ‘Where to find a doctor?’ ‘Where to go out and how to get by in general?’ will be listed and answered on the site. ‘At first glance, it may seem ridiculous that one small Nordic country could compete for talent alongside places like London, Berlin or Silicon Valley,’ says Kristel Kask, Project Manager of ‘WorkInEstonia’. ‘In reality, Estonia has several advantages that make this country an attractive place for many future-orientated, high-achieving talent from all over the world.’ Kask gives some examples of these, including the possibility of rapid professional growth. Because of the low hierarchies in Estonian companies and the over-all working mentality and business culture, it is highly likely that a young professional with enough ambition might climb up the corporate ladder quite quickly and be part of the strategic decisionmaking processes at a young age. ‘Compared with “old-Europe“ where the professional career after graduating is often slow to progress, Estonia can be described as a place that believes in the capabilities of motivated youth, and age on its own is not understood to be the measure of skills,’ says Kask. Executive positions for persons under 30 are not uncommon here. Furthermore, the scope of effect that one can implement on a national (and sometimes even global) level, due to the fast reactions and easy access to decision-makers, is rather impressive compared with many other, larger countries.
“Destination Estonia – Relocation Guide”
Not only for employees One of the reasons behind this phenomenon is likely to be the fact that Estonia itself is relatively both small and young. Therefore the nation is prone to adapting to fresh ideas and change much faster than other, more-established countries, as proven by the extensive use of e-Services, Internet voting and the recently launched e-Residency program.
“Destination Estonia – Relocation Guide” is the first material already published under the ’WorkInEstonia’ programme and is currently available as an online handbook that provides a useful overview on housing, taxes, transportation, education and everyday life and key figures. The online manual is currently available in English, Finnish and Russian.
‘The web page will also provide relevant information about international recruitment for employers, in order to help the hiring process go smoothly,’ says Kristel Kask adding that ‘WorkInEstonia’ is also a good channel for companies in Estonia to promote themselves and make it easier to be seen by the international talent pool – through the web site, online marketing as well as campaigning and special events that ‘WorkInEstonia’ will organise overseas. Finland is the first country where ‘WorkInEstonia’ will focus its marketing efforts – one of many good examples Finnish-Estonian cooperation. The transition for talent coming from Finland is obviously much easier than it is in the case of those relocating from more distant destinations. It is also good for the region in general not to lose the local talent to further afield.
Why come to Estonia? Self-realisation People moving to Estonia from western countries consider the main motivator and attraction of Estonia to be its compact organisational hierarchy, which enables people to climb up the career ladder more rapidly that in other countries. Whereas in the USA, Germany, Spain and Scandinavian countries, employees typically reach a certain career level in their forties, this is possible significantly earlier in Estonia. Teams are smaller and everyone has the chance to have their say in decision-making. Young employees have opportunities to lead. Staff members and their contributions are noticed and rewarded.
Language level The high level of English language skills is considered a very positive thing. Non-Estonian speakers do not generally feel helpless in
In the recent Global Talent Competitiveness Index, created by INSEAD, which measures a country’s ability to attract and incubate talent, Estonia placed 19th out of 93 countries. The European countries still continue to dominate this year’s list, with 16 of them in the top 25. This alone shows that Estonia is in good and respectable company and is a viable alternative to more well-known competitiveness leaders like Switzerland, Luxembourg or Singapore!
Research conducted for ‘WorkInEstonia’ among highly-skilled expats during autumn 2014 provided some interesting insight about what individuals who have moved to Estonia have found positively surprising about local life. In short, Estonia is easy and affordable, open-minded and straightforward.
Estonia. Whether at the doctor’s, on the street, at the shops or official institutions, it is usually possible to at least get by in English.
Living environment The Estonian living environment is considered to be notably safe. Life is not over-regulated. The streets are safe. The pace of life is not as hectic or stressful as in larger cities. In just half an hour one can be out of the city and surrounded by unspoilt nature, and even in the towns, the level of pollution is very low. There is plenty of both fresh air and fresh food. People from a variety of different cultural backgrounds admit that they feel comfortable living here. Although recognizably ethnically different people may stand out or be noticed happily they generally do not report experiencing significant prejudice, and indeed sometimes attain positions within the public sphere.
Effectiveness in dealings with both the state and with business As services are digitalised, everything here takes place quickly and painlessly. Expats reported they particularly appreciated the opportunity to directly interact with officials – you always knows who is dealing with your case and what is the status of the case is (since officials pro-actively contact you via telephone or email). The tax system is transparent and simple. Yet at the same time it’s important to state that Estonia cannot be advertised as a tax haven as such. Several other countries have done much more in this area (eg. Singapore, Luxembourg, and the Republic of Ireland).
Cultural opportunities Despite the small size of the country, it is possible to visit great concerts and exhibitions here.
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The State Shared Service Centre (SSSC) is a public body within the administrative jurisdiction of the Estonian Ministry of Finance, and which provides nationwide financial, HR and payroll accounting services. Tarmo Leppoja, Director of the SSSC says that besides the services on offer already, their future aim is to conduct all public procurement in Estonia via their organisation. â€œI am convinced that centralising competence gives us a better result.â€? This is in addition to the benefits that economic effectiveness will have on the state budget. Life in Estonia asked Mr. Leppoja about the SSSC, its role, and how he sees things panning out in the future.
State Shared Service Centre Supports Innovation in Governance What kind of services does the SSSC offer and who are the beneficiaries? Tarmo Leppoja: Currently the SSSC offers financial, HR and payroll accounting services to four ministries out of the total 11 (namely the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Economics and Communications, Ministry of Justice). These also happen to be the four largest ministries in the country, which between them are responsible for 80% of the state budget. At present we at he SSSC only offer our services to state institutions like these,
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but not to local government or state administered companies, though we are considering a step in this direction and taking steps to broaden our remit. The SSSC has been in existence for two years and in that time we have become convinced that our centralised model of support services is well-suited to Estonian state institutions. At the same time, we have also downsized our workforce by 20% and today employ around 100 people.
This streamlining of staff numbers has not led to a decline in quality – on the contrary, research from the two years the SSSC has been operating demonstrates that satisfaction with our services is in fact growing. The SSSC has proven that its model suits the specific characteristics of the public sector in Estonia. We have some ambitious future plans as well, as we aim to increase the number of ministries which we serve, as well as to bring the administration of all procurements and the training of public institutions under our own jurisdiction. That being said, we at the SSSC are taking a gradual approach with our procurement and are currently negotiating with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Finance, in order to better set out the division of tasks. I am convinced that by centralising competence the SSSC will get better results, employees will gain more skills and the SSSC can ask for better prices for the larger procurements and for those which cover more than one field of jurisdiction.
Just how much have state costs been reduced? The SSSC is experiencing two parallel processes in Estonia. The first is standardisation next year all state institutions will start using a unified accounting program. As it stands, two thirds of all institutions are already using this software. In parallel, the transfer to a centralised provision of services is also taking place. Both processes will help to cut costs. In just two years, the number of accountants and HR staff has been streamlined by a reported 20%, under the auspices of the SSSC. Today, Estonian state institutions employ 230 accountants (just 40 of whom work for the SSSC). If this number falls in state institutions across the board as quickly as it has done in the SSSC, it would mean as many as 50 accountants fewer in the sector in another two years. The same would apply for HR personnel. The upshot is that the state will make a saving of 2m a year on payroll costs alone, I believe that a 20% greater efficiency is by no means the ceiling, and that the SSSC could progress even further.
Can the SSSC also use its experience in the public sector to demonstrate the efficiency of centralised support services to companies? I am convinced that this method of organising services is equally beneficial for the public and the private sector. He stated that he thought that international companies establishing their Support Service Centres (SSCs + not to be confused with the state-run SSSC) on Estonian soil are on the right track, due to his firm belief in the cluster-based development of businesses here. In other words there are benefits for all in having many companies with a similar profile and operational logic concentrated in the one area. In this way, they can influence the development of the employment market. The state and legislators will be able to better understand the needs of this specific field when the public sector has the experience already. The SSSC will also apparently be able to develop in the right direction when it comes to the educational cluster. Several private sector SSCs in the financial field can already be found in Estonia, and their development plans amply demonstrate that they are more than satisfied with their decision to come here.
How do you find staff? The SSSC model, in assuming responsibility for activities from existing state institutions, has involved reemploying the same staff who were already doing the same job in those institutions. In order to increase efficiency, however, the SSSC has had to cut staff numbers. Where employment contracts have been terminated, the SSSC have helped their now-former employees to find new jobs in other institutions with a similar profile. This has shown that SSSC ex-staff are highly valued by the private sector because of their professional know-how and service skills. The SSSC staff’s software skills are also appreciated, because they use SAP, which is also used in many international corporations. All SSSC staff members are highly educated specialists.
Which software solutions has the SSSC developed? The SSSC’s range of services is actually broader than just accounting and HR. For example, they also administer state claims. Another large section of services is in administering and developing various accounting software. Hence they also offer consultations to public sector accountants working outside their organisation. The SSSC has also developed a self-service portal for public employees, which helps to enlarge automatic data input into the accounting software. As at the beginning of 2015 the staff of over a hundred (123 to be precise) public organisations have been using the Public Official’s Self-Service Portal to administer their vacations, assets and formalise their business trips. The portal operates on a simple logic: whereas when an employee wants to take a holiday, this usually means writing an application on paper or in a document administration system, getting it approved by superiors and finally having another person input this data into the accounting system, in the self-service portal the employee inputs the data him/herself. The data is then automatically sent to the supervisor and the replacement staff member and, once the holiday application is approved, the data is automatically inserted into the accounting system. The SSSC developed the portal in collaboration with the Estonian software developing company Helmes. Such developments really help to increase efficiency.
How can the SSSC help to bring more SSCs from international companies to Estonia? The specialists in SSSC are always prepared to talk about their experiences, the situation in the labour market and other appropriate issues to companies who are thinking about bringing their services to Estonia. We are active participants at collaboration seminars for SSCs organised by Enterprise Estonia, for instance. Whereas it is never easy to gather information from other private companies, we, the SSSC, see our role as a public sector organisation as broader than just that of offering accounting services. It is important for the SSSC that the state develops, and we are therefore keen to share our experiences and information.
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Estonia â€“ the Smart Choice for Shared Service Centres Why Estonia? By Ann-Marii Nergi
HIGH QUALITY HUMAN CAPITAL Estonians receive a strong education, especially in core subjects such as maths, foreign languages and IT.
LANGUAGE MIX & PROFICIENCY English, Finnish and Russian are widely spoken, with German and Nordic languages also increasingly used.
ADVANCED IT PLATFORM Ultra high e-commerce usage, with most business transactions and government returns conducted online.
NORDIC BUSINESS CULTURE SIMPLE TAXATION STRUCTURE Corporation and Capital Gains taxes are payable only on distribution and zero at all other times, encouraging re-investment.
LOW RED TAPE Business formation and licensing are simple and there is no complex regulation or accounting on an ongoing basis. 32
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Estonia has long-standing links with the Nordic region and modern day integrated economic, energy, financial and transport systems.
COMPETITIVE BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT Modern business infrastructure is supported by the commitment to competitiveness, the rule of law and low corruption.
Kristiina Himma Shared Services Sector Manager at Estonian Investment Agency at Enterprise Estonia
The key to Estonia’s vibrant and innovative financial and shared service export sector lies in its skilled, educated and multilingual workforce. Every company aspires to run at maximum efficiency, whilst keeping costs under control. This applies especially to internal administration. So it comes as no surprise that in recent years more organisations have opted to base their back office operations in countries which combine high standards with lower costs – countries like Estonia. Estonia’s journey as the nearshoring location of choice for Nordic companies began in the 1990s almost immediately after re-establishing its independence. Since joining the EU in 2004 and adopting the Euro in 2011, Estonia has attracted further primary and secondary investments, diversifying the breadth of functions in the process. In recent years, many Scandinavian and Western European companies have transferred their shared service centres (SSCs) to Estonia. Numerous factors make Estonia an ideal location for SSCs: its strategic location at the intersection of the continental European, Nordic and Russian markets, a growing economy, a smart workforce with outstanding language-, finance- and IT skills, a great business environment with a simple and transparent flat-rate tax system and a technologically-advanced business platform, with its exceptional world class solutions.
Complex processes and more specific know-how Kristiina Himma, Shared Services Sector Manager at Estonian Investment Agency at Enterprise Estonia (EAS), a body tasked with boosting and supporting business and entrepreneurship in Estonia and raising the profile of the country as a business destination, says that they have mapped over 70 shared service centres in Estonia, which together employ nearly 5 200 people. “It is quite common that at first the foreign investor sets up a small centre which then starts to grow year by year, from, say, five persons to 50. So in the coming years, we want to pay more attention to the centres that are already here, so they will be satisfied with the overall environment and increase their activities in our country,” she explains. Estonia aims to offer the management of more complex processes and to bring in to the country those SSCs which require more specific know-how. The latter might include fund management, custody-services or IT-solutions, where the service centre develops specific aspects of the process and carries out development work for the parent company. In addition to this, product development services for the banking sector can be made available.
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I ECONOMY AND BUSINESS Estonia as a Fund Administration Centre – the Stars May Be Aligning! Fund management is one type of service which Estonia is already in a position to offer successfully in the near future. The cluster organisation FinanceEstonia focuses its activities on helping its members – companies already operating on the Estonian market. Additionally, FinanceEstonia mediates contacts between members and foreign companies and helps to find contacts for potential investors and companies interested in relocating to Estonia. FinanceEstonia aims to offer the management of more complex processes in Estonia and to bring in those SSCs which require more specific know-how. For example, the banking sector could really benefit from relocating here, since outsourcing is an increasing trend in fund management. The ‘fund hotel services’ enable the divesting of investment management from all associated back office work, allowing investment managers to focus on performance and giving unit holders the benefit of better services for lower fees. According to Paavo Põld, the Funds Area Head at FinanceEstonia and partner at Limestone, fund administration outsourcing is on the rise. The message is clear - those funds which have survived the crisis or are starting up right now must cope with more institutional risk controls and best practices.
Paavo Põld "Working with an independent administration firm is nothing new within the industry - many companies have been using them for years; what’s new is that now smaller funds are also being asked to use administration firms by their investors, boards and advisors," says Põld.
According to Põld, the most important is the implementation of UCITS IV and the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFMD), which allows asset managers to set up management structures using a passport, making it possible for fund managers to manage funds across the EU region.
By the same token, fund managers have recognised that in order to remain competitive they have to place an increasing focus on core businesses, which means managing money and not running in-house fund administration operations.
This in turn allows the establishment of fund platforms, with funds registered in Luxembourg, while the management company can be licensed and supervised in Estonia with all central administration duties performed here too.
“Additionally, we have to consider the growing dominance of fund domiciles like Luxembourg which have become leading crossborder fund distribution hubs, as investors in continental Europe and Scandinavia continue to have a strong preference for funds based in those types of locales,” says Põld.
Finance Estonia members Swedbank and Limestone Fund Platform are currently providing fund administration services along these lines.
Estonia is naturally not in a position to compete on a level playing field with countries with a much larger population, where various services are offered at a much lower labour cost in comparison with the larger and more developed Western and Northern European countries. Instead, Estonia’s opportunities lie in those SSCs which require a smart workforce in the IT- or financial services fields, rather than a sprawling and more generalized labour force. According to Himma, Estonia boasts this kind of competence already. As demonstrated by our here experience to date, it is likely that once smart jobs have been created in Estonia, many related management processes will follow. The Norwegian corporation Orkla is a good example of a company which has successfully brought its financial management to Estonia.
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Almost the entire accounting component of Orkla Group is concentrated in Estonia, and they are continuing to bring more segments of the company into the country. We also have to mention Kuehne+Nagel, who have brought their IT development unit to Estonia.
Honesty is appreciated FDI Area Manager at the Estonian Investment Agency, Märt Helmja, says that one mission for Enterprise Estonia is to establish and exchange contacts with international corporations who might be interested in moving their SSCs here. “We enlighten them [ie. overseas companies] about the advantages of Estonia and at the same time we also tell it like it is and with a high degree of transparency. People appreciate it when we honestly say that you can’t build up a centre with 200 employees all at once. But we add that you could have 20 people in the first instance and with time you grow and eventually find the personnel you need for a higher number of staff.” Helmja assures us that Estonian employees are still more effective than those of some of the neighbouring countries, not as a boast but simply because the overseas companies locating here themselves have said so. Märt Helmja “In fact we see already that some companies move the simpler tasks away from Estonia and focus here on more complex processes: for example vast proportion of StoraEnso’s acThus, e-Residents will have access to all solutions normally accessible counting is serviced from here and Statoil moved their financial centre with an Estonian IDcard but without having to physically be in the counto Estonia because of our highly developed IT-infrastructure and favourtry. For example, e-Residents will be able to make digitally encrypted able tax and business environment.” signatures on electronic documents, have access to the Estonian business registry, Estonian medical services and other services to interact When a company’s representatives have decided to travel to Estonia to with the Estonian state. explore available options, EAS is already in the picture. Helmja says that first impressions are important. So for instance if a large financial corporation decides to change their internal processes and implement a digital ID system, they could bring “Our aim is to help the company with all its contacts – where do you that component of the process to Estonia. find HR firms for employees? Or rooms for rent? Or maybe someone who has already gone through that the process and can share their It is therefore highly likely that jobs will be created in Estonia as a result experiences?” of the e-Residency initiative and certain company activities or processes will be transferred here in the future.
Higher value with a smaller labour force Another of Estonia’s strengths lies in its ability to offer higher added value services but with a smaller labour force. For example, the management of a particular department could be located in Estonia - which does not necessarily mean that the rest of the workforce of that department has to be here. As a result, it is not rare these days to have the management of a department based in Estonia, but for example, its programmers based in Shanghai! Yes, Estonia is a small market, but it has the capacity to offer a smart workforce in the field of IT and financial services with an effectiveness far out of proportion to its size. At the end of 2014, Estonia started to offer a unique service in the world: e-Residency to foreigners, which will add significant value to the business environment. This is essentially a platform which will allow non-residents access to the IT-platform which operates in Estonia.
E-Residency significantly enlarges our virtual state borders, in other words. Furthermore, whereas at the moment one can only open a bank account by providing proof of the physical person, but if and when this requirement disappears in the future and banks start to accept biometric detection, e-Residents will have the opportunity to open bank accounts in Estonia from a distance as well. This will provide yet more opportunities for outsiders to carry out their business activities in Estonia. Furthermore, high street banks in Estonia may be able to start to offer services which are no longer confined to the national borders of Estonia. So, on the basis of e-Residency alone, Estonia is ready to offer special solutions which do not as yet exist anywhere else in the world! Thanks to the relatively small size of Estonia, it is simpler and faster for us to implement changes and to test out various solutions than is the case in many other places.
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I ECONOMY AND BUSINESS Kuehne + Nagel is Boosting its Staff in Tallinn IT Centre Kuehne + Nagel’s 63 000 logistics professionals are spread across over 100 countries. One of Kuehne + Nagel’s strengths when compared with their competitors is their long tradition of developing IT solutions in-house, rather than purchasing from external suppliers. Most of Kuehne + Nagel’s industry-leading logistics software was originally developed in Hamburg, Germany. However, in 2012 Kuehne + Nagel took the strategic decision to invest in a second IT centre in Tallinn to meet their need for further capacity. Kuehne + Nagel started their operations in Estonia back in 2006, and in 2012 they achieved something that no other company has done so far. Drawing on the pool of abundant local talent, they have fully staffed the centre with more than 200 highly qualified IT experts, about half of whom work in developing new applications. The other half meanwhile provide global support for Kuehne + Nagel’s existing systems, on a 24/7 basis. Kuehne + Nagel creates smart jobs with a high added value, and won the Estonian Entrepreneurship Award 2013 as well as being named Foreign Investor of the Year in the same year. Both of these accolades underline the fact that the Tallinn IT centre is a win-win project for all sides. Although Estonia was up against 14 Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries such as Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Serbia, Estonia was chosen as the new location for Kuehne + Nagel’s new office. The major draws in choosing Estonia were the fact that at the time, Estonia was the only CEE country which was both in the Eurozone and which boasted a highly educated workforce, fluent in English: “Naturally other countries also have capability when it comes to IT, but their people are more to be found in support units - they usually work on a very specific program and so don’t develop anything they can call their own, which is what we see here,” said Martin Kolbe, the group’s CIO at the time of the move to Estonia. Mart Ambur, Head of the Kuehne + Nagel Tallinn IT centre, explains that the department was built up from scratch: “The creation of a
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successful IT centre and the increased demand for labour in the Kuehne + Nagel group has resulted in the creation of hundreds of high value-added jobs in Tallinn between 2012 and today. In little more than 2 years, Kuehne + Nagel’s Tallinn IT centre has come to number 200 highly skilled staff members, and plans to grow further in the future by adding at least 30 high value-added jobs each year over the coming years.”
Tieto Already in Estonia for 20 Years Tieto is an international IT services company with representation in 25 different countries. In addition to the Nordics and the Baltic states, Tieto is present in some other European countries as well as Asia. “We have continuously improved the efficiency of our service processes at Tieto and have searched for opportunities to improve the cost-quality ratio in order to raise customer satisfaction. The corporation has taken notice of Estonia as a highly competitive country with a stable economic environment and a highly-educated and technologically savvy workforce,” said Executive Manager at Tieto, Anneli Heinsoo, who is also President of the Estonian Association of Information and Telecommunication Technology (ITL). Tieto has had a presence in Estonia for over 20 years, offering business consultation and analysis services, software development and IT infrastructure services. The company is also developing its international basic banking product, called Banksy, in Estonia: “In 2013, we decided to create our support services centre in Estonia, which serves customers in Finland, Sweden and Norway in the first instance. There are also plans to offer services to customers based in Latvia, Lithuania and Russia. In addition, we will be offering employment for up to a hundred specialists in the international Shared Services team at Tieto,” explained Heinsoo. Tieto’s Estonian offices employed 135 staff at year’s end 2014. However, there are plans to have expanded the number of employees to 200 people by the end of 2015. Estonia is an important country for Tieto, since there are many talented and hard-working
people here who both speak the languages of some of Estonia’s neighbouring countries and are able to offer top quality services. “It is very important for Tieto and for other foreign corporations that Estonia has a high level of applied and higher ICT education, which offers security for making long-term investments,” added Heinsoo. As a responsible employer, Tieto is investing in the training and development of its workforce. According to Heinsoo, the company organizes competence groups who take responsibility for the skills development of analysts, developers, testers and project managers. “We always prefer to fill any open positions with our own staff members, thus offering them opportunities to develop. Last year we initiated the ‘Tieto Geek-off Camp’, which is an international apprenticeship and work program for young people interested in the field of software development”, she explained.
Arvato Offers Services from Estonia in ... Mandarin Chinese Arvato is a leading international service provider which thrives on digital technology. Every day, over 66 400 Arvato employees in more than 35 countries are at work helping customers achieve success in the market. Arvato designs and implements solutions for a wide variety of business processes throughout integrated service chains. Arvato, or Arvato Services Estonia OÜ to give it is full name, was founded on 21 January 2006 with the company not wasting any time in starting their activities in effect at the same time – just two days later on 23 January 2006! Site manager Matthias Müller states that the main focus of the company is on providing communication and contact services to its partners: “Activities in Tallinn currently supported include customer care, technical support, contract management, customer retention, back-office services, and outbound- and telemarketing in various languages, starting with the languages spoken in the Baltics and Scandinavia and even stretching as far as Mandarin Chinese!” Müller outlined.
Estonia was chosen because of its strategic location at the interface of the Western European, Nordic and Russian markets, which helps Arvato to provide support in German and all languages of this region, as well as offering lower infrastructure and operating costs than would be the case in some other locations. Arvato currently benefits from the cost savings, high level of education and good communication skills that having a shared service centre in Estonia offers. This is of course augmented by the staff themselves, plus the capacity to offer otherwise unsustainable services (such as supporting the Russian consumer market while simultaneously maintaining the stability of operating within the EU). These solutions include digital marketing, financial services, customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain management and IT services, as well as all services related to the creation and distribution of printed products and digital storage media. Arvato is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bertelsmann SE & Co. KGaA.
Stora Enso – Pioneers in Accounting Shared Services Stora Enso is the global rethinker of the packaging, paper, biomaterials and wood products industry. The company employs some 27,000 people worldwide, its global sales in 2014 amounted to €10.2 billion and operational EBIT to €810 million. In 2010, Stora Enso set up a shared services centre in Tallinn to help achieve greater efficiency for its accounting services. As of today, Tallinn has been successfully established as a key location for the group’s Finance Delivery function. Their shared services centre incorporates a range of supporting functions delivered to the whole group, including Finance Delivery help desk and a number of process support competencies.
Tallinn was chosen as the location for the Stora Enso shared services centre after an extensive search. Tallinn stood out from the crowd for numerous key features, such as the high quality of the local labour force, the availability of foreign language skills, particularly Nordic languages and English. The great ICT infrastructure and Tallinn’s close connections with Helsinki were also considered big advantages.
Finnair Appreciates Tartu, Intellectual Centre of Estonia The Finnish National air carrier Finnair has moved its accounting tasks to Tartu as the Estonian university town has many specialists which enables the company to find staff more easily. At the same time, running operations from Tartu saves on costs. The activities of Backoffice Services Estonia OÜ (BOSE), which is completely owned by Finnair, is set to offer data management, data processing and accounting services within the group. BOSE has created 100 new jobs in Estonia during the past five years and today it already employs 140 members of staff. According to Leela Lepik, Head of Shared Services at Finnair, the goal of the company this year is to develop its service package and increase efficiency. In 2013, the turnover of BOSE was €2.7 million. The turnover of the whole of Finnair in 2013 was over €2.4 billion.
With a combined team of digital strategists, interactive designers, leading-edge technologies and dedicated managed service specialists, Axinom is delivering amazing digital experience across all forms of digital media. Axinom provides software development services in the following areas: • Content delivery, protection and Digital Rights Management (DRM); • Cross-Platform Media solutions; • Airline Media solutions – In-Flight Entertainment (IFE); • Media solutions for Microsoft’s Xbox Live multiplayer gaming system. Originating in Germany, Axinom expanded to Estonia back in 2004 and has expanded in that time from just one employee to 60. Over the course of those 10 years, Axinom Estonia has become a technological centre of its parent company. “Estonia is an innovative country and very rapidly developing in areas we need. You can almost breathe in IT in the air in Estonia, and this is very important for Axinom because of our innovative nature, where we have to solve problems that no one has ever tried to solve before. Our area experts work on designing, architecturing, developing and testing innovative products each and every day. We find that Estonia is important for us because of the highly motivated and skilled professionals who work with us. In other words because the people are the real value!” states Oleg Knut, the Managing Director of Axinom Estonia.
Axinom Develops Wireless In-Flight Entertainment Axinom is one of the leading European technology vendors, with subsidiaries in Europe and North America. Axinom’s solutions serve major European brands in the aerospace, IT, telecoms, retail, and media & entertainment sectors. Axinom creates value for its customers by leveraging all the newest technologies to design, build, and deploy cutting-edge digital products and services. These solutions help customers to increase profitability, improve their speed-to-market, and accelerate growth.
Photo by Kalev Lilleorg
Right now, 250 full-time employees work for Arvato in Tallinn. During the seasonal higheremployment period, this number will increase by 100-150.
According to Oleg Knut, Managing Director of Axinom Estonia, a new trend in IFE is the so-called hybrid systems, which enable the use of the plane’s own built-in screens form passenger entertainment in conjunction with the passengers’ own devices.
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From getting a free bus ride by swiping a smart card that then tracks your movements (all public transport here is free if youâ€™re a Tallinn resident) to using a special code to mail a package from locker to locker, Tallinn residents use advanced technology every day. All ID cards have chips in them, and parking is paid electronically using a mobile phone code. Unsurprisingly, Tallinn has its own version of Silicon Valley in the form of Ăœlemiste City, which is located near to the airport. It hosts a large number of tech enterprises, with both SMEs and more established companies. Eleanor Ross, virgin.com
Rentalwise Opens Office in Tallinn Rentalwise, whose headquarters are in London, opened its second office in Tallinn in 2014. As at the start of 2015, the office employs 12 staff members from different countries – the UK, Russia, Lithuania, Italy, France, Japan, Korea, China and Estonia. A team with so many different languages spoken by its staff members really understands the needs of its international clientele. Rentalwise have plans to employ a further 20 people by the end of 2015, with a view to expanding to as many as 60 within a couple of years of that.
JELD-WEN chooses Tallinn to house its Shared Service Centre JELD-WEN, one of the worlds leading producers of windows and doors, has recently opened a new office in the Ülemiste City complex in Tallinn, in order to take advantage of the local available talent pool as well as the favourable economic climate. JELD-WEN chose Tallinn above all the other candidates due to Tallinn’s greater availability of required competences in the local workforce market, the similarity of its business culture to other locations where JELD-WEN operate, and the potential Tallinn offers for scaling its operations in a flexible way.
Today, the JELD-WEN Shared Services Centre (SSC) primarily focuses on sales-related admin support to JELD-WEN Northern European units, but it also offers other centralized services such as finance and communication management. By creating shared service centres which serve the entire region, JELD-WEN is able to concentrate its operational tasks into clear geographic locations, with higher efficiency, lower costs and better productivity. JELD-WEN’s Tallinn SSC serves as a paragon of this approach.
Perfect Home AS, one of the largest
Founded in Norway 20 years ago, the company is also active in Sweden and Finland. Thanks to its wide network of distributors – over a thousand in total – designs unique to Perfect Home can be found in many homes all over the Nordic countries.
The warehouse, which serves the entire Scandinavian market, was brought wholesale to Estonia and reconstructed here, as were all support services – finance, IT, customer service and design! The reasons behind Perfect Home widening their activities to include Estonia were the company’s plans to move into the EU zone and at the same time benefit from Estonia’s innovative economic environment.
The company’s IT partner, Triptec, has also boosted innovation, which has helped Rentalwise to take their sales software to a totally new level. In comparison with other car rental companies, this novel approach to car rental and the associated customer services makes Rentalwise really stand out among their competitors.
“Homeparty” companies in the Scandinavian region, provides a variety of home decoration products and gift items.
Since spring 2014, Tallinn has been the location for Perfect Home Logistics OÜ, a subsidiary of the Perfect Home Group.
Estonia was selected as the location for the office because some of the core investors had already been living and working here and were thus familiar with the local business climate and Estonia’s flexible opportunities. In comparison with the rest of Europe, Estonia has a very rapid and innovative banking system and the same can be said of its business register. For example, the versatility of Rentalwise’s partner LHV Bank has enabled them to develop their e-Commerce function, so they can quote their prices and accept payment in various different currencies.
Tallinn is also logistically ideally based for the company, as all freight can be carried by sea. Goods reach Estonia from Asia via Muuga Harbour just outside Tallinn, move on to Finland and Sweden and then overland to Norway. Perfect Home consider their experience in Estonia to date to have been a resounding success, and are now preparing to make the move into e-trade. This will mean that the Perfect Home collections can soon be purchased in the Baltic states as well.
Kaie Trump, CEO of Rentalwise Estonia, explains: “In recent years, car rental companies have been adding helpful extras to their services, including GPS, mobile phone and tablet computers, which all help to deal with the fear of travelling alone; but the car booking procedure can still be a bit daunting for many customers. Most car rental brokers are not providing sufficient customer services to meet customer expectations, and there are also problems related with the lack of innovative car rental software providers operating in the market.” However Rentalwise is only just beginning with its first expansion, the company is already looking towards Asian markets. The travel sector in Asia is growing rapidly and Rentalwise’s focus on developing local language customer services will naturally help greatly in entering this market!
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Orkla is a leading supplier of branded consumer goods and concept solutions, directly to the grocery and out-of-home sectors in the Nordic and Baltic regions.
Orkla Group Pursues Efficiency at Every Level 40
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At the end of 2013, Orkla announced plans to establish a shared accounting centre in Tallinn, Estonia, with a view to increasing the efficiency of the Group’s accounting processes. In previous years, Orkla had already acquired Estonia’s most well-known chocolate producers, Kalev, as well as the food manufacturer Põltsamaa Felix. In fact, the manager of the accounting centre, Kristiina Koel, says that the Tallinn office had already effectively been established a year earlier by another Norwegian company, Riber & Søn, which Orkla had just acquired, a week before Kristiina and her eight co-workers started in their positions. The functions which were transferred to Estonia are accounting services such as supplier invoice processing, follow-ups of receivables and other transaction-based tasks. Now, after more than a year of carrying out accounting for different companies in the Orkla Group, the decision to stay in Tallinn has really paid off – in fact Orkla has estimated their savings to total around more than €2m per year. According to Kristiina Koel, the accounting centre has taken over more and more businesses, step-by-step. Orkla concentrates on four different business areas: Food, Confectionery and Snacks, Home and Personal and Food Ingredients, and the goal is that by 2016, all the accounting being done by these companies and which use SAP accounting software will be taken over by the Tallinn centre. Hence the year 2015 is very significant for the centre. For example since the beginning of March, Koel has been responsible for relocating to Estonia yet another five companies’ accounting functions from Norway and Denmark. All together, Orkla now services 13 companies, with 27 employees in Tallinn. “Usually, when accountants apply for a job at Orkla, they have never seen accounting on such a massive scale when it comes to information that has to be worked through. For example, we provide accounting services for Orkla Food Norge, which alone has 13 factories. We train our employees ourselves because the processes are company-specific,”
says Kristiina. She adds that the ideal candidate to qualify for the job is someone who has experience in accounting and SAP software and who also knows some of the Nordic languages. “As it is quite hard – though not impossible – to find employees with all these qualifications, then we have to choose people with at least one of these skills. In addition, they can take Norwegian language courses in the office and/or extra training to use SAP software.” Language courses for both beginners and advanced students are common in the centre and take place all year round. “Norwegian is mostly needed in our customer team, but for an accountant it is good to understand in general what invoices concern, or to answer a colleague from Norway in their mother tongue,” Koel goes on. She also describes knowing Norwegian as a mark of appreciation towards the employer since Orkla is one of Norway’s oldest business conglomerates having started off as a very local family business (in fact, the company’s history dates back over 350 years!). Orkla’s accounting centre is also a good example of Estonians’ innovative and fresh way of thinking and approach to company management, Koel says. She explains that at the very beginning, the first thing they changed in order to make the process more effective, was archiving all documents. Previously within local accounting teams it had been standard practice to print out all documents and archive them in boxes. But SAP is a very efficient software and can store all the documents and attachments electronically. “Centralising shared services are usually all about cost effectiveness, but frequently they also entail innovative thinking to simplify and accelerate the processes. It is also important to pick up and tie together the best practices from every company,” Koel concludes. Orkla ASA is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange and their headquarters are in Oslo, Norway. Orkla’s operating revenues for the full year totalled €3.3bn, compared with €3.2bn in 2013. Operating profit amounted to €348m in 2014.
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Swedish company Samres AB operates call-centres for mobility services, medical service transportation, and other callbased transportation requests. Samres focuses on coordinating and planning trips for those in need, often between home and work or school.
Samres Provides Transport Services from Tartu
Samreis Eesti AS, a subsidiary of the Swedish company, is a call-centre operating in the South Estonian university town of Tartu, where it employs over 50 people. In March 2015, Samres celebrates a decade of operations in Estonia.
It is through the call-centre in Tartu that residents of various different Swedish towns and smaller settlements are able to order transport for themselves, if they are unable to move around on their own or to use public transport. Agnes Salundi, Head of Samreis Eesti, says that about 4 per cent of the roughly 9m inhabitants of Sweden need such transport service (so approaching 400 000 people), many of them on a daily basis. Customers include not only people with disabilities and the elderly, but also children with ADHD or over-active children who need to be transported to school and back whilst their parents are at work. Drivers of such transport solutions naturally have a high-responsibility job as they have to keep an caring eye on the customers more than is the case with, say, regular taxi services. From its Tartu centre, Samreis services 12 areas in Sweden – four counties and eight local governments – as well as the Norwegian capital
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Oslo. The transport required can then be ordered on the basis of a certificate issued to the individual by their local authority where they live in Sweden or Norway. Users can then book a trip via the call-centre by providing information about the addresses they need transport to and from, the time they need to arrive and whether or not they have any other equipment which needs to be transported, in much the same way as you might do with a taxi. Proceeding on this basis, a Samreis employee then confirms the booking on the computer system which is subsequently sent automatically to the company providing the transport service. The Swedish system budgets for that individual paying a fare for social transport which is the equivalent to the same trip by public transport, with the rest being subsidised by the state. Such a service is typical of Scandinavian welfare states, where the state plays a big role in helping people. The logo of Samres AB itself states “we help people live worthy lives”.
Modern technology to the rescue But how do Samreis employees in Tartu know the local conditions of Swedish towns or have the knowledge to describe their specific location to drivers? Salundi explains that as you might expect, much use is made of existing technology and the internet with its variety of maps and location services, such as Google Maps, which nowadays provides a street view, so in fact the employees do not need an intimate personal knowledge of local conditions, nor even need to have heard of the locale in question before the request has been made. In addition, Samreis holds detailed maps of hospital complexes in their catchment area, which enables them to direct the drivers to precisely the right entrance to pick up a customer. “We receive about 2 000 calls daily – these are not all orders by customers; Samreis also provides public transport information service in one county for example. But the work can be quite stressful and we need to provide operative information to people fast as well as to be responsible.” In addition this all takes place in Swedish or Norwegian!
Language skills include regional accents and dialects Salundi explains that, perhaps unsurprisingly, language skills are the most important quality needed to work for Samreis, with planning and computer skills secondary. Samres thus decided to bring their call-centre to Tartu for the very reason that the university town is home to more qualified people with the necessary language skills than some other locations in Estonia. However, as the offices expanded, it was no longer easy to find good quality staff: “Today we offer language training to our staff members on a 6-month language course which takes them to [Common European Framework from, A1-C2] B2 level. This is already a higher intermediate or pre-advanced level, where employees are able to understand the concerns of customers and to offer solutions and make themselves understood appropriately. But it certainly is not easy to speak a foreign language throughout the entire working day.”
“It was quite difficult to explain to staff from the family-oriented culture of Senegal the cultural difference, and the guiding principle at Samres, that strangers take care of one’s family members. The first question they asked was ‘why don’t the person’s relatives just drive people when and where needed?’” Salundi explains, illustrating just one of the cultural differences and considerations in Samres/Samreis’ interacting with the Senegalese employees.
A young and educated workforce Although employee backgrounds are not the most important factor for Samreis, language skills require a rapid learning ability which means in practice that most Samreis employees are relatively young and have university degrees. Salundi explains that their experience demonstrates that it is more difficult for older people to master a new language than younger ones. Furthermore, as Samreis also offers higher than average salaries, the turnover of staff is very low. This is why it pays to train people. “Of course we learned the hard way at first by offering language courses to people who then decided to not come work for us, and our training was wasted. Then we made the language study a part of the job, in other words whilst they are studying we are already paying a part salary to employees.” Salundi says that unfortunately as a result of the training Samreis employees are highly valued by competitors, which makes the company somewhat vulnerable to headhunting and poaching. There are several other call-centres in Tartu where people with Swedish skills are also highly sought after. But as mentioned already, Samreis has managed to retain Samreis employees mostly because of the great working conditions including amenable workmates, and by being a reliable employer which offers better opportunities.
Salundi adds that in the case of Sweden, since the service is provided nationwide and not just in the capital, one also has to take the quite significantly different regional accents and dialects into account there, so call-centre workers need to learn something about those as well. Whilst Samres headquarters are based in Lund, Sweden and one call centre is located in Tartu, there are seven more call centres worldwide in locations as diverse as Chisinau, Moldova and Dakar, Senegal, employing 300 people in total! One of the founding members of the call-centre in Senegal is in fact a former assistant to Agnes Salundi, who was previously based in Tartu! Whereas Estonia’s main advantage lies in its vicinity to Sweden and thus the similar cultural and linguistic space, it is the very low labour costs which make Senegal an attractive location. But the Senegalese employees, who usually speak French as a lingua franca (quite literally in this case!) in addition to their native language(s) have also proven successful in learning Swedish.
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OpusCapita Offers Automated Financial Services From Estonia Starting from fairly humble beginnings as Itella Information, and specialising primarily in billing solutions during the first decade of its existence, today OpusCapita offers a complete package of financial management solutions.
‘’Hence we aim to hire 60 employees every year, in addition to the 220 employees already working for OpusCapita AS today. I also think there is no need to shy away from the fact that doing this work in Estonia costs less than it would be in Finland,” he continues.
In addition to verifying and digitizing documents, accounting is a growing area for OpusCapita. Cash management, payroll, travel expenses and sales and purchase invoices are all within OpusCapita’s areas of expertise, and what’s more they are all offered by OpusCapita’s Estonian office.
Schneider points out that since OpusCapita mostly train their own employees and need people who simply “like and understand numbers”, they haven’t experienced any lack of potential employees. But the plan for next few years is principally to increase the number of serviced clients rather than to expand OpusCapita’s process areas.
With their Shared Service Centre (SSC) lying in the heart of Tallinn, OpusCapita digitizes as many as 20 000 invoices every day, which largely emanate from its mother company, OpusCapita Group Oy – who have a large number of clients based in neighbouring Finland.
Marion Hein, SSC manager at OpusCapita is convinced that Estonians are very effective and diligent in both digitizing and in accounting.
Karl-Eric Schneider, the CEO of OpusCapita AS, states that even if a client sends their invoices on paper and in the land mail one evening, they can be sure that they will be digitized and electronically stored by the following evening.
“We have proven our effectiveness during six years of working here in Tallinn. We also acknowledge that whilst digitizing is a simpler line of work, relatively speaking, payroll accounting services for Finnish clients is much more complicated area. This also means having a good knowledge of the Finnish language and being able to communicate directly with the clients,” says Hein.
The whole system is actually highly automated, and computers can verify over 70% of documentation, so the relevant employees only need to double-check the remaining 30% of the data. All told, OpusCapita Group handles almost one BILLION invoices every year, a third of which are held electronically. To show just how effective OpusCapita can be, Schneider gives an impressive concrete example: “We could digitize all invoices sent within Estonia per day, within one day!” However, the OpusCapita office is not working at full capacity yet, though plans are to increase its productivity and to carry this out quite rapidly: “We have the output, which allows us to manage more clients’ financial processes and to grow rapidly,’’ continues Schneider.
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Karl-Eric Schneider adds that one of the biggest mistakes companies still make is simply not paying adequate attention to their financial management costs. That is exactly where OpusCapita can come in, and help out by automating many formerly time-consuming processes. OpusCapita Group has operations in nine countries and a vast experience accumulated with over 10 000 customers, with end-users in more than 50 countries. In 2014, OpusCapita’s net sales totalled €260m. OpusCapita is part of Posti Group Corporation and has its head office in Finland.
Estonian Ambassador of Fashion Text by Kristi Pärn-Valdoja, Mood magazine / Photos by Tanel Veenre
Photo by Magnus Heinmets
“A good mood makes me get busy and start creating,” announces Aldo Järvsoo, one of the most distinctive and celebrated Estonian fashion designers and founders of the brand Embassy of Fashion. It really is as simple as that! Having known Aldo for years, I have never seen him either upset or indeed posing as a tortured genius searching for inspiration. But that doesn’t mean the creative spark doesn’t burn brighter with Aldo than most... It may sound like a cliché, but without people like Aldo this world would be a much duller place. Life in Estonia asked Aldo about his career and life.
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Many male fashion designers recall how they used to sew dresses for their sisters’ dolls during childhood. You also come from a large family. Did you also discover your passion for fashion in this way? I think I did sew something for dolls when I was very young (my sister’s, not mine). When I went to art school, I did not have any particular artistic talent and my interests were all over the place in fact. I liked sculpture the most, then drawing, with architecture in third place. So up until the final year in high school, I was sure that I would go to study either architecture or interior design. But there were several fashion contests held that year and I took part just for fun and won. I was just doing my thing, never thinking that someone might actually want to wear my designs or like them. It was my tutor who prompted me to pursue fashion design in fact.
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Did studying fashion at the Estonian Academy of Arts meet up to your expectations?
new, young designers will constrain themselves in designing, say a top or a blouse, rather than just letting their imagination run riot.
I believe I got a world-level general arts education there. The Estonian Academy of Arts is a really special school: No other Estonian university has graduates who exhibit all over the world whilst being professors of the school at the same time. The concentration of excellent tutors was and still is amazing. That said, I found studying to be fairly automatic and did not fret about it too much.
So would you prefer clothes made of paper or plastic bags?
How did you find your very first customers? I was so wrapped up in what I was doing that I was totally surprised when two women came by after a show and asked to buy a dress of mine ‘or vest or whatever it is ...’ Actually my designs were a bit ambiguous back then. It never ceases to surprise me how
Actually, yes, because that also gives you freedom. No major designer has started out by making a standard item with his or her own ready-made label. Not ones who I find interesting anyway.
Many designers in Estonia dream about making it to Paris. Do you have any similar ambitions? I have always said to people, I am doing well here, so why are you prompting me to go? If you are good at what you do, your work will find its way to different countries through the Internet anyway. You don’t need to participate in trade fairs - it is so yesterday! What matters today are contacts and whether you are any good.
Aldo Järvsoo Born on 5 December, 1976 in Tallinn. Studied fashion design at the Estonian Academy of Arts. In 2009, founded the Embassy of Fashion together with Estonian fashion designers Ketlin Bachmann and Riina Põldroos www.embassyoffashion.com Founder and board member of Estonian Union of Fashion Design. Creative director at Tallinn Fashion Week.
That said, I don’t fear I wouldn’t get work if I relocated to, say, Milan. But I’m doing well here and would only move if my partner Tanel Veenre, an internationally acclaimed jewellery designer, were to get an offer elsewhere.
There are many overseas designers who have created great collections which were then promptly bought up by the big houses, so they never really developed their own brand. Where do you stand on this? I would never sell my soul to a big company! For example when the ‘Supernoova’ fashion competition took place here, there were many talent scouts representing big labels looking for young designers. I got some good offers. But that would have meant moving away from Estonia, which I didn’t want. Selling out on the things I really value in life, all of which are free (for instance love and good friends) is not for me – I realised this when I was very young!
But if you got an offer from Saint Laurent for example? I would of course at least consider it. But working as a designer for YSL is much tougher than my own working life right now. OK, I would be able to buy myself a summer house in Capri and go there…. like, once a year. Today I can rent a villa there for a week once a year as it is! That situation doesn’t improve with retirement, either. Rifat Ozbek, one of Turkey’s top designers, quit just like that when he realised that he would rather enjoy life with his partner instead of going to fashion meetings every morning to discuss what colour is going to be ‘in’ next season.
So you don’t attend those types of meetings? Sometimes I have to, but I also have those conversations with myself. I design collections and private orders - I don’t have my own fashion line as such. And f even if I were to work abroad, I would still do private orders rather than large collections several times a year.
Has participated in about 50 fashion shows and exhibitions in Estonia, Finland, Sweden Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland, Germany, France, Portugal, Russia, Latvia and Lithuania. Most significant awards: Annual award of the Estonian Union of Folk Arts and Handicrafts (2010), Kuldnõel award for Best Estonian Fashion Designer 2008 (2009), Grand Prix at fashion design competition ‘Supernoova’ (2005 and 2006), 1st place at Smirnoff Fashion Awards 98 Estonian preround (1998), best young fashion designer - Väike Nõel (1998), 1st place at competitions for young fashion designers in 1994-1995.
I recently interviewed the supermodel and actress Laetitia Casta, who said that fashion is no longer what it used to be — there are too many trends and collections, too much commerce. Yes, the frantic pace and the money have really infiltrated the world of fashion and each collection is expected to create a ‘wow’ effect and really sell. But it is still a fact that there has been nothing really new in the last three years. With the exception of Miuccia Prada, everyone keeps repeating what has been already successful in my opinion. Alexander McQueen was the last true artist - after his death there has been nothing new in my opinion.
What about 3D printing and new technologies? Does fashion really have to be so high tech as well? Well, if high tech improves some practical quality of clothes, then it is a good thing. But the main trend in the fashion world mirrors that of the food industry – moving towards using natural, organic materials. 3D printing hardly measures up to this criterion, though in future there may be ‘smart’ materials which do fit the bill.
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I CULTURE Do you sometimes catch yourself thinking that there are so many problems in the world: wars, starvation etc. and here am I working on something not perhaps so essential… Of course! But I have also seen a woman overcome some form of depression when she gets a beautiful dress. I think that in our society today, beauty really plays a helping role. But I never liked large statement collections.
Ketlin Bachmann: Aldo is an extraordinary person. He is joyful and energetic and is able to infect anybody with his good mood, being nice even on the worst days. He has mastered the art of living. As a colleague I cannot appreciate Aldo enough. He is very supportive. He has a good eye, a flawless sense of composition and whenever there is an argument, he is usually right … Actually he is always right! You could fill a very thick book about Aldo’s influence and role in Estonian fashion design. Aldo is such a florid and active character that it is impossible to sum him up in a few sentences. There is that age-old rhetorical question: ‘Who would you take with you on a desert island?’ I would take Aldo. Really, I think all of Aldo’s friends would do the same. You can always rely on Aldo; with some trick he would get us off that island. Building a raft is not a big deal, he would win the hearts of the natives, tame all the wild beasts and equip us with everything necessary for life. He would also transform our time on the island into a fun and memorable adventure. As always...
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Karl Lagerfeld has said, “Criticism? If someone says something negative about my work, I either learn something or think that the person has a double chin and fat legs … it is natural that someone ugly would criticize someone successful.” What do you think about his comments?
In the past when designers created some wartheme collections, it even seemed quite exciting. But now the threat of war seems somewhat closer to home, it is no longer a topic to play with. But even in Ukraine, life goes on in some sense – there has been a fashion week there recently!
Yes I totally agree! I have been doing this job for over 20 years now and if I read comments as I did in the past, I would probably notice that it is the same envious and bitter people now who were writing the negative comments back then. Of course I think what I do is good, because I would not knowingly create something which I thought was bad and then put it on the catwalk! At the end of the day the only opinions I care about are those of my friends.
So you wouldn’t send models on to the catwalk in provocative political T-shirts á la Vivienne Westwood?
How do fashion designers in Estonia get on with each other? After all, you are each other’s competition!
No, because those are two totally different things. If I wanted to make a difference in the world or do something personally to help, say, Ukraine, I would become a volunteer and not create a fashion collection which has no real input. This is the ‘Facebook’ phenomenon - it does no real help to like or share a photo of a starving child. But money transfers and real action are what really helps.
I don’t think of it as competition. We all have our unique signature, our own customers, so we really do get along in fact. There are those customers who want variety, so they do order from all the different Estonian designers. So I see no reason to be jealous of someone else. Jealousy gets you nowhere.
To that end, Vivienne Westwood’s charity campaigns and work as a spokesperson definitely help more than statements limited to the catwalk.
After all, if someone is doing well, they are probably working from early morning till late, they have created jobs and hired good people, put in all their savings to the project and so on.
Taivo Piller You emphasize the importance of being from Estonia quite a lot. What do you like most about this country? Home, family, friends. The nature and the people. I find it appealing that Estonia is so compact. It has helped me create my own cosy world here which I love. Of course that doesn’t mean that I don’t like to travel and meet people as well!
On that note, what is your travelling situation nowadays? I used to travel a lot before in any case, but at the moment I am really going for it. This is partly because my partner travels due to work, I like to tag along to spend time together. Second, in the old days, I couldn’t plan my time properly and was so buys with the company I had less opportunity to take a trip. I also travel alone more, which I didn’t use to like. I even plan to do a tour of some of the Latin American countries.
Do these trips also influence your designs? Very much so. At the very least I’ll get inspiration for materials when I discover interesting fabric shops. Lately I have really found inspiration in Istanbul, it is just such a cacophony of cultures there! I always take my notebook with when I travel, with the aim of making sketches like ‘real’ fashion designers, but I never do!
Do you like to watch what people are wearing? I do when I’m abroad, where people are often more relaxed about what they wear than they
Founder and designer of interior design company Shishi: are at home in Estonia. For instance in Northern Italy, where people are surrounded by fashion of course, bright colours are the thing. Even the old people wear strident clothes like green trousers and pink sweaters – things which older people in Estonia wouldn’t wear in a million years!
So what do you think about the fashion world’s seeming love affair with the colour black?
Aldo has a real sense of lightness and freedom − it emanates from his personality and his designs. The dresses designed by Aldo have an organic and natural feel and he is just like that as a person as well
Some people do just look really good in black. Theoretically I am one of them, but besides two suits, I don’t have actually have anything black in my wardrobe!
[Vogue International Editor] Suzy Menkes wrote a couple of years ago that fashion journalists seemed then to have an unwritten pact to wear black, Giving the impression that they were going to a funeral, but nowadays it’s quite normal to see fashion journalists who almost preen and parade themselves at a show rather than covering the collection. Have you noticed this? Yes that is true! On the one hand it is fun to have young, fresh blood on the scene, but on the other if it means people are wearing a uniform of über-trendy clothes just as much as black used to be. Personally I can’t stand uniforms, which destroy any personality the person might have! The coolest dressers it has to be said are models, perhaps unsurprisingly as they are surrounded by style on their day job, though they tend to relax and where more casual stuff when they’re not working – but they still look great!
Mart Haber Executive Director of Shishi: I have known Aldo for 17 years. He is my best friend, a person with a genuine heart and amazing energy. When you see Aldo’s designs, you sense that he has a connection to the universe. He is always able to surprise and come up with the most diverse stuff, whether it is collections influenced by ethnic things or some dresses made out of crazy ribbons. We have partied hard together, travelled together, and I hope we continue to do so. He has a gift of sensing, doing and seeing things in his own way.
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I ECONOMY AND BUSINESS
Do you ever get fed up with the fashion world? No I don’t! Really!! But at the same time I am not totally consumed by it; for example I don’t follow style.com. I do buy the Italian Vogue, but I generally like what I do and I am afraid that it would spoil my taste if I saw other people’s collections too much and even subconsciously let them influence my designs. But of course trends are still in the air even if you don’t visit fairs or shows – colours are either in or they aren’t and tend to predominate in everyone’s collections anyway.
Jean Paul Gaultier has said that there is nothing more interesting than bad taste. Do you agree with him? No, not really. People tuned into good taste are very interesting. The role of the designer is to make a person look and feel fabulous – this is something more based on emotions than anything else. Thanks to Tanel I am heavily involved in the world of jewellery which is ironically where I see the most interesting fashion designs. People at these shows see their clothes as a backdrop to either their personality or the jewellery being modelled – pretty much the inverse of the fashion world, and I don’t really like the latter approach.
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Yves Saint Laurent put ladies into tuxedos, Coco Chanel freed them from the corset. Are there any more fashion revolutions on the horizon? Nothing new has been invented for a long time. That said, I think that the development of materials mimics that of smartphones. If this trend continues we may reach a situation where winter jackets vary their thickness with the temperature, things like that.
But will these garments then transform into an evening gown, for instance? No, probably not! But an evening gown which changes colour − that may be feasible in future.
What motivates you at work? A good mood. Really – don’t laugh! I have not always been such a jolly person, but due to one chronic inherited illness, which manifests itself in depression, I know what pain it is, and so I have learned to avoid depression. I just block it out altogether.
it to our summer house. And spending time with my friends of course. That is one of the most important things, I trust and confide in my friends and they return the favour.
Can you name one star of stage and screen who you would love to design a Red Carpet outfit for? I have always really liked the British actress Tilda Swinton - making something for her would be awesome. But here in Estonia … I have already designed for most celebrities actually. And whenever there are new cool musicians, actors etc. breaking on to the scene and who you want to meet, you end up meeting them the week after in any case! Just another advantage to Estonia’s compact size!
Finally, is there anything in fashion history which you would like to have invented yourself? No, really not. As I implied, I don’t have the jealousy gene at all.
What about life beyond the fashion world?
OK let’s put it this way, has anything already been invented by someone else which you couldn’t live without?
I like interior design. I also used to love gardening but we never really get the chance to make
Pins! Honestly! Without them the world would be a much less convenient place...
Collection: Lost Couture I 2010 I Model: Kadri Nurmsoo (E.M.A.)
Collection: Nocturne I 2012 I Model: Nelery R채stas (E.M.A.)
Collection: Red Queen I 2013 I Jewellery : Tanel Veenre I Model: Hedvig Maigre
Collection: Nocturne I 2012 I Model: Susanna Kuu (E.M.A.)
Collection: Folk Couture I 2008 I Model: Merilin Perli (E.M.A.)
Collection: Folk Couture I 2008 I Model: Merilin Perli (E.M.A.)
Collection: Folk Couture I 2008 I Jewellery : Tanel Veenre I Model: Merilin Perli (E.M.A.)
Collection: Botanic Poetry I 2010 I Model: Karin Touart
Had anyone said just a year ago that the Estonian movie ‘Tangerines’ (Estonian: Mandariinid) would be nominated for an Oscar, they would probably have been laughed out of the room. Placing somewhere between 10th and 20th, of the 83 shortlisted foreign language films, as was predicted by most overseas experts, was considered respectable.
Mission Impossible By Tiit Tuumalu / Photos by Allfilm
Making it to the shortlist of nine films was seen as the best of all possible outcomes, but making it into the top five − no chance! But still miracles do sometimes happen…
But then something strange happens ... the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces the pre-selection of films for the Academy Awards − and ‘Tangerines’ is on the list again!
At first the Hollywood Foreign Press Association nominated ‘Tangerines’ for a Golden Globe. But this choice created confusion. ‘The most unexpected film to get shortlisted was Estonia’s “Tangerines” − which absolutely no one saw coming’, wrote the respected independent film journal Indiewire. This was even more the case given that the Canadian film ‘Mommy’, the Belgian movie ‘Two Days, One Night’, and ‘Winter Sleep’ and ‘Wild Tales’ (Turkey) − all considered favourites which had already won prestigious awards − did not make it onto the shortlist.
From this moment on, people keep an eye on the Estonian film, even though most publications still see its chances of making it onto the shortlist proper as being next to non-existent. Only three of the 17 experts from the popular US Internet predictions page ‘Gold Derby’ predict that ‘Tangerines’ will be among the five nominees, in fifth place.
‘I’m stunned!’ announced producer Ivo Felt, adding after a pause, ‘Let’s be honest, the hopes of making it to the Oscar shortlist are very modest, but thanks to the Golden Globes nomination, they are surely higher than they were.’
Some hope springs from the fact that one of the critics is Scott Feinberg, one of the greatest authorities in the business, and analyst on the Hollywood Reporter. ‘Whatever happens next will just be a bonus,’ reports Felt who is naturally over the moon. The goal, to make it onto the shortlist has been reached!
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Estonian Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak) and Chechen fighter Ahmed (Giorgi Nakashidze) – the main protagonists of the movie ’Tangerines’
And this bonus does indeed follow. On 15 January, the Academy announces in Los Angles that the other films on the shortlist with ‘Tangerines’ are ‘Leviathan’ (Russia), ‘Ida’ (Poland), ‘Wild Tales’ (Argentina) and ‘Timbuktu’ (Mauritania). Little Estonia, where only five feature films were produced in the whole of 2014, is suddenly firmly on the map of the global film industry! ‘It is like a fairy-tale,’ exclaims Georgian director of the movie, Zaza Urushadze, who doesn’t make it onto the plane in Tbilisi − his emotions are running so high that he cannot fly! In Estonia people follow the fate of ‘Tangerines’ with a similar passion usually reserved for the exploits of the Olympic gold medallist Gerd Kanter or the world’s most-performed living composer Arvo Pärt! People really believe in the film. Cinemas start to screen it again more than a year after its original release. The fashion retailer Baltika decides to offer the producer Ivo Felt, director Zaza Urushadze, Director of
Photography Rein Kotov and the leading actor Lembit Ulfsak the clothing to make them look suitably distinguished whilst representing ‘Tangerines’ on the other side of the world, free of charge. Recognising the potential of promoting Estonia abroad, Enterprise Estonia decides to support the film campaign with an additional €50 000. Felt has really drawn a trump card! Yet the story of how this film was born is not an easy one. The screenplay sat gathering dust for a couple of years as there was trouble finding a reliable producer; the whole project seemed too risky. It actually barely made it as the film representing Estonia at the Academy Awards at all, only garnering a few more votes than Martti Helde’s film ‘In the Crosswind’ (original title “Risttuules” − ed), which tells the story of the Estonian national tragedy, the deportations of 1941 when nearly 10 000 people were deported to Russia. The story of ‘Tangerines’ takes place in Abkhazia, a region on the shores of the Black Sea close to Georgia, in villages founded by Estonian migrants to the area some 130 years ago. It is 1992 and there’s a bloody war. Supported by Russia, Abkhazia wants to break away from Georgia under whose rule it lies. An ethnic Estonian villager, Ivo, takes in two wounded soldiers into his house in a deserted village: one Georgian and one Chechen fighting for Abkhazia. At the same time, he helps his neighbour Markus to pick the tangerines in his orchard before the predations of war ruin the harvest. ‘It is not a war film. It is a film about people who happen to live in the wrong place at the wrong time but, regardless of this, they try to remain human,’ says director Zaza Urushadze.
Estonian actor, Lembit Ulfsak, and Georgian director, Zaza Urushadze, during the shooting period
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As Abkhazia has since declared its independence, albeit an independence which states recognize being countable on the fingers of one hand, and has closed its borders to Georgia, the film was shot in Georgia.
Estonian film in numbers in 2014
Markus (Elmo Nüganen) and Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak)
The appropriate location was found about 20km from the border, near the Natanebi village between Photh and Batumi. The tangerine orchard was already there, the ‘village’, consisting of a few farmhouses, was built as part of the production. The result is a great example of cooperation between Estonia and Georgia − two countries sympathetic to each other’s developments − and the great symbiosis of the two film cultures. The author of the screenplay and the director is Georgian (Zaza Urushadze), the Director of Photography Estonian (Rein Kotov), the main roles are played by Estonian actors (Lembit Ulfsak and Elmo Nüganen) and Georgians (Mikheil Meskhi and Giorgi Nakashidze), and the producer is Estonian (Ivo Felt). The budget of €680 000 was supported by the Estonian state 58 per cent with the Georgian state stumping up the remaining 42 per cent. This on its own is what gave Estonia the right to nominate the film for the Academy Awards, notwithstanding the fact that the Georgians consider it equally their film. The fact that a film is put forward to the Academy does not mean anything on its own. To make it stand out, especially in the case of smaller countries like Estonia, there needs to be an energetic promotional campaign, which mostly means special screenings just for the Hollywood press, guilds and members of the Film Academy as well as commercials placed in influential publications like Variety and Hollywood Reporter.
State support: €7.3m Premieres: 49, including 5 feature films Market share: 4.7% Permanent cinemas: 12 Cinema visits: 1.97 per capita Average ticket price: €4.90
the first film with an organised campaign behind it, which was run by the agency MediaplanPR. MediaplanPR’s manager Tatiana Detlofson is an experienced publicist who has taken several films to Oscar nominations in the recent years, among them the Belgian movies ‘Bullhead’ and ‘Broken Circle Breakdown’. ‘50 per cent of the success story of “Tangerines” is due to her work,’ confirms Felt. Naturally a campaign like this costs a lot whilst providing no guarantees. The promotional campaign for ‘Tangerines’, including the long trips of the primary crew members across the Atlantic, totalled just over €100 000! Whilst this may sound extravagant, it’s worth considering that the promotional campaign of one of the original favourites − the Belgian movie ‘Two Days, One Night’ − is claimed to have come to nearly a million dollars, and this movie did not even make it to the pre-selection round! (Marion Cotillard was nominated for the best leading actress). The situation is most unusual even for Ivo Felt, not to mention Zaza Urushadze. The guys feel like rock-stars, although they would really just like to make more films. Since the end of October 2014 they have been on tour in the USA, screening the film and ‘creating a stir’ as Felt puts it.
In addition, all publicists have their own personal strategies for attracting the attention of the Academy members. Since regaining its independence in 1992, Estonia has put forward no less than 12 films for the Academy Awards. But ‘Tangerines’ is
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Furthermore, the critics started to warm to the film, albeit gradually. ‘The deep humanity of the film. The universality of its message: no matter what is the reason for war, do not sink into becoming an animal. Great acting by Lembit Ulfsak. Very well written screenplay and tactful direction by Zaza Urushadze,’ gushes Serge Rakhlin, chairman of the foreign-language film committee of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association on the phenomenon of ‘Tangerines’. A film needs to reflect the times. ‘The anti-war theme is current in the world today, when weapons are being used in so many places,’ said Stephen Farber, President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
Lembit Ulfsak, Zaza Urushadze and Ivo Felt getting ready for representing ’Tangerines’ on the other side of the world.
But, in the end, ‘Tangerines’ did not win an Oscar this time, with the honour going to the Polish movie ‘Ida’. The Estonians and Georgians are not sad, though. Or if they are, they don’t let it show. ‘We get to go home,’ says Lembit Ulfsak happily, if cryptically, after the Oscars ceremony. Hopefully this is just the beginning. The illustrious Samuel Goldwyn Films have acquired the U.S. rights to ‘Tangerines’. And there have already been queries from Hollywood about the newly-released Estonian film ‘1944’ which details another tragic year in Estonian history when brother was pitched against brother during war. It is no surprise then, that the expectations surrounding Estonians films have been raised. This is the lasting service done by ‘Tangerines’.
Photo by Mihkel Maripuu, Scanpix
The guys don’t have an attitude of ‘wait and see’, it has to be said. The fantastic response from the audience at various, festivals and the 2nd Runner-up prize and standing ovations at Palm Springs led to Felt getting the idea of trying a shot at the Oscars.
‘Tangerines’ is the first Estonian feature film to be nominated for an Oscar, but the Estonians Ivo Felt, Rein Kotov and Lembit Ulfsak are not the first Estonians to get on the Oscars list in some way. In fact the first and, to date, only Estonian who has been personally nominated for an Oscar is Tanel Toom with his film ‘Confession’, in the live action short film category in 2011. In fact, he did not represent Estonia but the UK, since the film was his graduation film from the National Film and Television School there. The same film brought Toom a student Oscar. Tanel Toom is currently in pre-production with his first feature film ‘Truth and Justice’ (Estonian: ‘Tõde ja õigus’) which is based on the classic Estonian novel by A. H. Tammsaare, first published in 1926.
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Other interesting films from recent years ‘1944’, director Elmo Nüganen – Estonians fighting in both German and Soviet uniforms meet on the battlefield during the Second World War. ‘Kertu’, director Ilmar Raag – an unusual love story in a small village which brings out the hidden relations of a family and a community. ‘Living Pictures’, director Hardi Volmer – the tragic history of Estonia in the 20th century is told through the eyes of the inhabitants of just one apartment. ‘Mushrooming’, director Toomas Hussar – a high level public official gets lost in the forest. where civilisation becomes just a comforting memory The new Estonian-German-Finnish co-production ‘The Fencer’ (Estonian: ‘Vehkleja’) – partly based on the real life of Estonian sportsman and coach Endel Nelis – will premiere in Estonian cinemas in spring 2015. In 1952, a young fencing champion Endel arrives in Haapsalu to work as a physical education teacher. But he is an introvert and finds it difficult to communicate with his young pupils. Soon, fencing turns out to be a form of therapy both for the children, all of who are dealing with a grim everyday post-war reality, and Endel himself. But the vindictive headmaster holds a grudge against Endel, and decides to find out the real reasons for his coming to town. The film is directed by Finnish director Klaus Härö, in leading roles Märt Avandi and Lembit Ulfsak (Ivo in ‘Tangerines’ ed.). Märt Avandi in the leading role in ’The Fencer’
IN THE CROSSWIND (RISTTUULES)
‘In the Crosswind’ will reach more than 50 French theatres this March
14 June 1941. Without warning, tens of thousands of people in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were removed from their homes. Without any sort of trial, men faced being sent to prison camps and women and children were deported to Siberia. The aim of this extraordinary operation – carried out on the express orders of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin – was nothing less than to purge the Baltic countries of their native inhabitants. The film is based on a true story, and uses extraordinary visual techniques and language to tell the heart-wrenching tale of the fate of thousands of Estonians. Erna, happily married and the mother of a young daughter, is sent to Siberia. For her, time takes on another dimension. Fighting starvation and humiliation in inhuman conditions, her soul seeks and finds freedom in the letters she sends to her husband who has also been sentenced to a prison camp. Awards at Gothenburg Film Festival (Sweden), Premiers Plans (France), Warsaw Film Festival (Poland), Thessaloniki International Film Festival (Greece), Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival (Germany), Black Nights Film Festival (Estonia).
In the Crosswind
DIrectOr OF pHOtOGrApHy
ALLFILM presents A FILMby MArttI HeLDe cAst LAUrA petersOn, tArMO sOnG, InGrID IsOtAMM erIK cOstUMe pÕLLUMAA e.s.c. OrIGInAL MUsIcby pÄrt UUsberG prODUctIOn MAKe-Up DesIGner reet brAnDt DesIGner AnnA-LI eDIteD IsA LIIVer ArtIst LIIsI rOHt sOUnD prODUceD by LIIs nIMIK DesIGner JAnne LAIne wrItten AnD by pILLe rÜnK & pIret tIbbO-HUDGIns DIrecteD by MArttI HeLDe www.allfilm.ee/risttuules Risttuules
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Despite her youth, Helen Sildna is already respected old-timer in the Estonian music industry. Having worked for the largest concert organizer in the Baltic states, she became an independent promoter some years ago. For the seventh year running, Sildna’s main project right now is the showcase festival ‘Tallinn Music Week’, (TMW) which this year will be held from 25-29 March, 2015. We asked Helen about TMW, how it differs from other festivals worldwide and what attendees can we expect from the event.
From Hip-Hop, to Metal, to Classical Music Rave -
Tallinn Music Week Has It All! Photo By Laura Kallasvee
By Siim Nestor
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Tallinn Music Week takes place for the seventh time this spring. So how much has the Festival grown over this time? Helen Sildna: Whereas in the first year of the festival, there were 68 bands from three countries, this year we have about 200 artistes from 22 countries. We had about 4 000 visitors to the festival in the first year but this had grown to 23 000 visitors last year, with about 2 000 of them coming from our neighbouring countries - Latvia, Finland, Russia. If these figures aren’t substantial growth, we’re at a loss to know what is!
During every TMW the Estonian capital develops its own unique sense of time. Most rock clubs and nightclubs in Tallinn put on a diverse and lively music program during TMW, showcasing the most exciting current Estonian artistes and a growing number of performers from elsewhere as well. Tallinn Music Week effectively takes over galleries, restaurants, record shops, theatres and cinemas − even some churches. By the standards of most music festivals, the timing at TMW is immaculate − all the live performances in dozens of venues in the city take place exactly according to schedule. You can even set your watch by it! Helen Sildna and TMW have already received numerous important awards and recognition in Estonia. It seems that her efforts are now also being recognized further afield. The Guardian and The Observer in the UK have chosen TMW among the top five recommended festivals in the world to visit this winter and spring. In autumn 2014, Sildna was rewarded for her efforts at the Tampere Music Awards, which is part of the Finnish showcase festival ‘Musiikki & Media’, for her outstanding contribution to introducing Finnish music to audiences outside Finland. To highlight the importance of this award, it should be noted that the five previous recipients of this award have all been gentlemen in their ‘60s and ‘70s.
Have the underlying concept and direction of the festival also changed during this time? We started very specifically with a festival which focused on the music business − we talked a lot about the export of Estonian music, explained the meaning of showcasing. Today we have made great steps towards TMW becoming a top city festival. We still have the conference and the showcases, the business side of things in other words, but our aim is to become a real city festival with a lot of music as the core focus. As our festival concept is not based on showcasing headliners as such, which can work to the detriment of other performers; we focus on new and exciting things instead. We want people to come to discover something new, not to see an old and favourite performer. This also applies to fields which are more distantly-related to music.
So what will be the musical highlights of TMW 2015? A new phenomenon for this year, which is a personal favourite of mine, is the ‘classical music rave’ which will take place on Friday, 27 March, 2015 in the newly opened venue Kultuurikatel (Tallinn Creative Hub − ed.). As one might suspect, this will be an event where DJs combine classical music together to great effect. They will mostly be playing the works of Estonian composers. It is not something you can necessarily dance to, perhaps it is more about listening, but that actually depends on the personal approach of every DJ. If this sounds a bit ambitious or unpromising, you need only take a look on YouTube to find plenty of clips demonstrating how some DJs are more than able to play classical music in a way which really makes people want to dance. Perhaps as many as 80 per cent if not more!
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I CULTURE The DJs performing at this year’s ‘classical music rave’ are Nick Luscombe from the UK and Valgeir Sigurðsson from Iceland, who is also the founder of the record company Bedroom Community. Luscombe and Sigurðsson will be joining local stars Sander Mölder and Aivar Tõnso. As well as this, Brendan Walsh, someone who himself has a classical music background and has initiated the organization of classical music raves, is attending. He has already led ‘classical raves’ in places as diverse as Amsterdam, London, Sao Paolo and more. I am personally really happy about an evening, organized by the British record label Fat Cat Records, where the main performer is set to be the legendary folk musician Vashti Bunyan, probably the biggest name at the festival this year.
future. They should be great performers at festivals abroad and not just festivals which specialize in world music, but also rock and jazz festivals. Things are also getting exciting on the Estonian jazz scene − including the activities of Kadri Voorand, Peedu Kass with their different projects. It has to be said that there is no showcasefestival in the world which mixes absolutely all music genres. Up to now we have been unable to include any Electronic Dance Music (EDM) in the program, but even so I am not aware of any other showcase events in the world which run the gamut from hip-hop to metal and all the way to classical music, as TMW does.
This time we have quite a few artists from Denmark. This year Music Export Denmark chose Tallinn for their ‘SPOT on Denmark’ series, which travels music festivals around the world. 50 bands from Denmark wanted to come and perform at the festival. Of those, eight bands actually are coming, and they are all very different. I have the feeling that Denmark is where the most interesting stuff is happening currently in the Nordics. When talking about the Nordics specifically, it is quite difficult to get Swedish artists as they tend to be internationally successful already. But this year we also have really many Swedish performers. Kate Boy will be performing as will Jennie Abrahamson, who is already quite a big name outside Sweden.
Fat Cat will bring along C Duncan as well, and the event will take place in cooperation with the local record company Õunaviks. The latter are due to present performers such as Mari Kalkun, cirkl, Kago and many others.
Apparently foreign artists are increasingly interested in coming to perform at TMW?
What style of music should atendees really pay attention to at this year’s TMW?
Overseas bands are really more and more interested in participating, which is great. So their share in comparison with local artists is on the rise, which is also desirable. We do not necessarily want Estonian artists to have a higher concentration at the festival; we are interested in raising the overall quality regardless of where performers are from.
It is very interesting to observe how Estonian folk- and traditional music artists are starting to attract serious attention. In addition to Nuudi and Mari Kalkun, these are Trad. Attack and Aparaat. I think that artists representing this style of music will do very well in the near
Whilst we want attendees to see something different, TMW should not be solely about introducing newcomers or amateurs to the music business itself; in other words everything in our program needs to be of the highest standard and tried and tested elsewhere.
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In the last couple of years, TMW has included the best restaurants of Tallinn in its programme. So will the collaboration with restaurants continue? Yes, we are cooperating with 15 restaurants under the slogan ‘Tallinn Music Tastes’. The choice of restaurants it has to be said is totally subjective − they are the favourite Tallinn restaurants of our own organizing team! We are not introducing the restaurants themselves, so much as their Head Chefs. Over the course of TMW, each of these restaurants will produce a one-off fantasy menu using their favourite ingredients. It is natural that people who visit Tallinn will also want to know where the best places to eat here are, and we are essentially helping them to avoid the tourist traps and to find the really good places instead.
Are there any other additional programmes this year?
If you are interested in classical music, go to Rotermann Salt Storage (Thu 26 March) and Niguliste kirik (St. Nicholas’ Church) (Fri 27March)
In collaboration with the gallery Temnikova & Kasela and with the Development Centre of Estonian Contemporary Art we are initiating the project ‘TMW Arts’. The main emphasis of the arts program falls on the Tuesday of festival week, when ten galleries open exhibitions and the Tallinn Arts Hall screens art films.
If you are interested in folkmusic, go to Klootsri Ait (Thu 26 March /Fri 27 March) and Mustpeade maja (House of Blackheads) (Fri 27 March) in the Old Town, and Vaba Lava (Sat 28 March) in Telliskivi Loomelinnak (Telliskivi Creative City)
This sub-program follows a similar logic to that of TMW. Whereas the main festival showcases the coolest music in Estonia and the region, TMW Arts will focus on the most important current Estonian artists who work internationally. Another new thing this year is our collaboration with the Põhjala Brewery, which will for the first time ever organize the Tallinn Craft Beer Weekend during the festival week. This is a festival of handmade beers, showcasing small breweries from Estonia and elsewhere. There will be a TMW stand there. The idea is that people who come to discover new music in Estonia to also have access to the most interesting breweries from around the world. It is our desire to provide only the best to our festival guests, be it what they listen to, watch, eat or drink. In other words the total experience should have no downsides or even lesser attractions. Music will always be the heart of TMW, but we are working towards fulfilling the goal of becoming a true city festival where you can experience everything that is fresh and cool in Europe at the moment. We hope that only a couple of years from now as many as 5 000 guests from abroad will visit the festival.
If you are interested in metal and hard rock, go to clubs Woodstock/Rockstars’s (Thu 26 March / Fri 27 March) and Protest (Fri 27 March)
But if TMW were to become less centred on the music business and on facilitating contacts and experiences between people within the music business, isn’t there a danger that it could become more about ‘sex n’drugs’ than ‘rock n’roll’?
If you are interested in jazz, go to NO99-teater (Fri 27 March)
Well, at the end of the day everybody wants to have a bit of fun and let their hair down! Most showcase festivals around the world take place over weekends and many people in the industry are kind of fed up with that state of affairs. This is because they, like most people, might want to do something over the weekend which is not directly linked to work! So yes I hope that we have more crazy and cool parties and fewer Powerpoint presentations! There are many industry get-togethers all over the world with more and more being created every day. But our decision to not confine ourselves to being just a narrow industry event, but rather to boast a festival which is fun for everyone, has ironically been successful in becoming more interesting for the music industry people themselves, too.
If you are interested in indie and/or more experimental musi, go to Sinilind (Thu 26 March), Von Krahl (Sat 28 March), and cinema Sõprus (Fri 27 March/ Sat 28 March) If you are interested in pop, go to Rock Cafe (Fri 27 March/ Sat 28 March) and Von Krahl (Fri 27 March) If you are interested in electronic music, go to Paar Veini (Fri 27 March) in the Old Town, and Erinevate Tubade Klubi (Thu 26 March / Sat 28 March) and F-hoone (Sat 28 March) in Telliskivi Loomelinnak (Telliskivi Creative City)
In terms of the emotion generated we have been compared with Iceland Airwaves, which does not feature conferences and the industry sector at all. Alternatively TMW being compared more and more with SXSW (‘South by Southwest’, the world’s most important showcase festival in Austin, Texas − ed.) in its early years. In other words people were no longer inclined to visit that festival simply because it had grown out of all proportion. SXSW also takes place almost at the same time as TMW, and I have even heard people say they would rather travel to Tallinn than to Texas!
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“So gentlemen, you have been nominated for a Grammy, by the way.” This is the text message Laur Joamets found on his mobile one November morning last year! The 26-year-old Estonian is the lead guitarist in the American country artist Sturgill Simpson’s band, whose much-lauded second studio album “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music”, was nominated for “Americana Album of The Year” at the Grammy Awards. “I wasn’t exactly doing somersaults, but I was definitely happy,’’ says Laur. Born and raised in Tartu, a town with only around 100 000 inhabitants, Laur is talking to Life in Estonia from his new hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.
Estonian Guitar Hero Really Tearing up the Music Scene in the US By Piret Järvis / Photos by Andy Sapp
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‘’When we recorded the album, I mentioned a couple of times to the band that ‘this is going to be some Grammy shit.’ I wasn’t actually saying that we were going to win a Grammy, I just understood that the album sounded different from anything else I’d ever heard,” recalls Laur confidently, when asked about the type of emotions which seize someone who has just been nominated for a Grammy. Although as it turned out the band did not win the Grammy this year, Laur says that he was confident about their success: “As a musician I am overly critical. I know what moves me, and with the passing of time that is fewer and fewer things. But when we were recording this album in December 2013, I felt really touched by it. So I was totally convinced that we would be nominated for a Grammy,” says the musician. “The most important talisman I have from Estonia is the Estonian language itself,” Laur goes on. ‘’I came to the States as a 24-year-old and I am 26 now ‒but I only realised that I really was an Estonian when I was 25. I became aware of it when I saw that the English I spoke – which was always praised by Americans or Brits visiting Estonia – was actually all wrong. Language is, to a large extent, made up of slang and so it was very difficult for me to communicate with people when I came here,’’ Laur explains. ‘’Especially when you come from another part of the world with your stiff British English which you have learned in Estonia. Fortunately things have changed and I can already crack jokes which are as equally crazy as my band mates’ ones!” he laughs.
Laur, better known in the States as Lil’ Joe, was invited to join Sturgill Simpson’s band in August 2013 and since then things have turned out quite surreal for the young guitarist. In addition to the Grammy nomination, he has performed on both David Letterman and Conan O’Brien’s shows, and his talent has been praised in both the New York Times and Rolling Stone! “Mr. Joamets is vicious, an ostentatious talent given to filling small holes with outsize filigree. He’s almost as able a narrator as Mr. Simpson, as on the opening of “It Ain’t All Flowers,” which flirts with ZZ Top-esque swamp-blues rock, or on “Long White Line,” which opens with four different guitar approaches in four consecutive passages,” gushed the New York Times in an album review. Laur, who has also studied cello in his youth, started out in bar bands when he was 13, filling in for gigs for his dad. Today he is considered one of the most genial and able guitarists in Estonia, who orientates between very different music styles with playful ease. Before travelling to the US, he played in the Estonian rock band Dramamama and earned his living by playing in the house band on the Estonian version of “Pop Idol” as well as on the Tallinn-Helsinki ferries. His repertoire as a guitarist had consisted mostly of rock, blues and pop, prior to joining the band, and cowboy boots, line dancing and country music was not part of his day-to-day life up to then.
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Sturgill Simpson himself, however, had seen videos of the Estonian guitar wizard and he was amazed by what he saw. He decided to take the plunge and invite a musician who hitherto had had nothing to do with country music into his indie-country group (indie-country differs from mainstream country and popular country, in that, as its name suggests, it takes influences from rock, blues, indie and even punk). But before recording the album, Laur experienced conflicting emotions: “I was extremely on edge ... I was really, really scared. There were moments when I felt, okay I have done my best, but it was not good or cool enough. I thought I would have to return to my old life in Estonia and, of course, I wasn’t so happy about that. But fortunately the producer of our album, Dave Cobb, gave me some really great motifs, which led to new ideas and fortunately I am still here in the United States! So today I am able to say for the first time in my life that I am proud of the album which we have recorded,” says Laur. He goes on to explain that country-style guitar playing is a bit like sports.“Technically it is very demanding, interesting and exciting. Often the tempo of the songs is so fast that one just has to achieve things which one would otherwise be too lazy to do.” Laur admits that the life of a musician in one of the most exciting bands in the US today – in January they signed a deal with the Atlantic Records – is not “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” by any means.
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“When you are performing every day for four to six weeks in a row, you have to save your energy. It is different in Estonia. There bands perform mostly on weekends which means you can take it easier, and drinking and partying before and after performances is fine. But here it was made clear to me from the start that we are working. You have to be professional. And I have followed that rule. So young musicians take note: the ‘60s and ‘70s are over!’’ “While you are just busy getting drunk and doing illegal stuff, you have two options facing you: one of them is that you sober up and then will not get anything done at all. The second option is that you die. There is actually no glamour at all in the life of touring musicians today!” However, Laur would not change his life today for anything else and, whilst he does feel homesick every now and then, coming back to Estonia once a year helps to alleviate that. In addition the US ‘mentality’ is becoming increasingly dear to his heart. “About a year ago a journalist asked me if I get fed up with the American ‘keep smiling’ attitude. Back then I admitted I did. But the real reason was that in Estonia there is no equivalent to ‘keep smiling’ – we are not used to it. It is true that people in the USA smile a lot, and most of the time it is a matter of politeness. But if you compare it with people staring at each other with grumpy faces, then which do you prefer? Do you prefer the ‘honest’ grumpiness or the ‘fake’ smile?’’ he asks.
Excerpts from the following US publications:
Rolling Stone “Watch Sturgill Simpson Cut Live Song in Historic Nashville Studio” Watch the clip above, and stay tuned all the way until the outro, where lead guitarist Laur Joamets – a native of Estonia − cranks up the reverb, slips on a glass slide and catapults the whole thing into outer space.
The New York Times “A Kentucky Singer Faces Down a Manhattan Crowd” Part of honky-tonk singing is an acceptance that you are not always the , did not settle for that. He and his band − Miles Miller on drums, Kevin Black on bass and the outstanding Lil’ Joe (Laur’s nickname in America − ed.) on guitar, who extracted tremendous meaning from some subtle moves − were resilient and forceful, toying around with bluegrass and Southern rock in addition to the hard country of the 1970s.
The Fader “Estonian Guitarist Sets Country Music Ablaze” After the revelation that is discovering Sturgill Simpson, there’s the delight of learning that his guitarist, Laur Joamets − a sensational player who flashes winks of hard rock between fallen-from-heaven slides and growling blues − cut his teeth not in some Austin back room but in the postSoviet state of Estonia.
“But today I prefer it when someone at least attempts to smile at me, instead of being grumpy. Estonians simply are much more introverted as a people and this has its charm; but I have really become quite used to American optimism now,” Laur explains. Yet some things will never be good enough in America, says Laur, including: Põltsamaa strong mustard! And black bread. It is also unbearable not to see your family and relatives. OK, you might not see them so often in the first place, but when you are in a more complex situation then you realise that blood is blood and this is missing here. If things should go wrong, then the only people you can really rely on is your own family. Thank God I have a very caring family. I can always depend on them.”
homeland’, went the slogan. And you could be actually jailed for having western LPs at home in the 60s and 70s,” he goes on. “For me the most important thing is going on stage and being able to play music which I like myself – to audiences who enjoy it. I learned to speak this language – the language of the guitar – every day in Estonia, but I was not able to follow my heart on a daily basis. A well-paid boat or TV studio job is one thing, but touring the world with your band is something totally different,’’ he continues.
But what are the stories and tales about Estonia and Estonians which the musician tells people on the other side of the world?
“In Estonia the offers I got only came from TV shows. But here I understand that I can now do what I have prepared my whole life for. I have a place in the world and this is all I want to do in life. Every person should find what they are good at in this life and to concentrate on it. We live once and we are surrounded by uncaring shit. So teach yourself to be good at something,’’ he advises.
“For example I tell them that in the 1940s-50s the saxophone was a forbidden instrument in the Soviet Union,’’ Laur explains. “According to Soviet propaganda, there was just one step from the saxophone to treason: ‘Today you play the saxophone, tomorrow you betray your
“This is where I am today. This life is not easy. It is fucking complicated. But my parents raised me to be an honest person. I need things to be honest. To be honest to yourself and to others. I could not do that in Estonia and this is why I am here today.”
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Two Restaurants, But Just One Chef de Cuisine: the Best Restaurant in Estonia 2014
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By Ene Kaasik, KÖÖK magazine / Photos by Lauri Laan
The modest façade, melting into the surrounding environment, in no way hints that the Best Estonian Restaurant 2014 is hidden just behind it.
It was NOA Chef’s Hall which received the title of the best restaurant in Estonia. This establishment is the signature restaurant of Head Chef Tõnis Siigur, who has a very free rein to do whatever he wishes.
It was the aim of the creators of the restaurant in question to face on to the Bay of Tallinn rather than onto any street or road. And anyone who enters this establishment is in for a real treat − only when you enter do you discover the view to the sea and the real essence of the restaurant that is NOA...
NOA Chef’s Hall has no regular menu and visitors can choose between five or six courses created by the Head Chef for this evening. Each course is accompanied by an appropriate beverage selected by the sommelier.
Everybody behind the creation of this development got along perfectly with each other, and that shows. It is due to this great collaboration between interior designers, architects, builders and the owners of NOA that the best restaurant in Estonia was born. Actually the building hides not one but two restaurants, but only one Chef de Cuisine. Creating two restaurants was also the original intention of the owners. With its Scandinavian style, the colourful NOA is on the right when you enter, and offers a simpler everyday menu − a good place for lunch or to enjoy dinner with the family. On the left, behind a mysterious door, is the other restaurant, the NOA Chef’s Hall (or NOA Peakoka Pool) which is only open for dinner and boasts a more refined decor and style. Interior architect Tarmo Piirmets had a clear vision when creating the interior design for both NOA restaurants. He imagined two brothers, one a village fisherman with a simple lifestyle who goes out to fish on the Baltic Sea, the other, elder brother meanwhile enjoying a wealthier lifestyle, travel on the far-flung seas and consequently bringing back more exotic, refined tastes and ingredients.
The Head Chef’s menu does not change wholesale, but step by step. In one week one course may change, but perhaps the name of the dish will stay the same and only its look and content will be somewhat different. Over the course of one month, Tõnis Siigur will change about half of his menu. In other words this is the culinary laboratory of NOA, where in the perfect moment new ideas and thoughts are born, and as the working environment on this side of the restaurant is calmer, the team has the necessary time needed to test out and implement new ideas. NOA Chef’s Hall is the height of culinary arts. The dishes are by no means run-of-the-mill. It is a game of raw ingredients, textures and tastes but also in terms of the presentation − the food here is art. The Chef de Cuisine himself presents the dishes each evening, offering comments as he does so. It is a kind of a culinary journey where the limits of tastes and the cooperation of the senses are put onto the test. NOA fits perfectly onto this far outpost on the border of Tallinn’s municipality, and seems as if it has always been there. It is worth a visit even if only to enjoy the amazing view of the sea (though we recommend you try at least something from the menu too!).
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The story of NOA NOA is the brainchild of Tõnis Siigur, Martti Siimann and Marko Zukker, who met whilst developing another top restaurant, OKO, located at the Kaberneeme marina, 30 minutes from the centre of Tallinn. Since OKO was a seasonal summer project, the three needed a more permanent establishment to make things work for them in the longterm. It didn’t occur to any of them to create the best restaurant in Estonia. We asked two of this triumvirate, Martti Siimann and Tõnis Siigur, about the NOA concept.
Were there always plans to have two restaurants at NOA? Martti Siimann: Yes there were, simply because at NOA we cannot offer the same kind of dishes as at NOA Chef’s Hall. First, we would not be able find so many customers and second, it would not be technically possible to create such gourmet foods for the larger crowds. When you want to have a quick lunch or enjoy a meal with children, NOA is the right place. If you want to enjoy a more distinguished dinner, you should go to NOA Chef’s Hall.
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NOA has a time limit of three hours (in other words you have to be out of there, in the nicest possible way, within three hours − which is more than enough time for the type of meal we offer there). The Chef’s Hall on the other hand has no time limit − you can book a table for the whole evening, come and sit as long as you want to enjoy your meal and the environment.
Do NOA and Chef’s Hall share a kitchen? No, both have separate kitchens; only the storage area is shared. The preparations for NOA Chef’s Hall take place in a separate kitchen with its own ovens, stoves, and display counter. The kitchens are in general very different from each other. If someone should make the claim that the food is not being prepared at the facilities at the side of Chef’s Hall, with this only being for display, then he or she is mistaken. Admittedly, we do not actually fry the food when the guests are present. As well as safety implications, it is not pleasant to have people in their fancy clothes smelling of fried fat! The preparations start early − at 8am. The team visits the market, even the forest; wherever ingredients are to be found. Only the final touches are made in front of the customers. The kitchen team has very long working days, lasting until midnight or later.
NOA Chef’s Hall was named the Best Restaurant in Estonia, whilst NOA only came in 20th. How can two restaurants in the same location and with the same ownership place so differently? At first, it seemed surprising to us too, but when we thought about it, it made sense. It was our aim from the get-go to keep the Chef’s Hall as a so-called development centre and NOA as the more mainstream eatery.
The 50 Best Restaurants Seven years of experience in choosing the top fifty restaurants in Estonia demonstrates that the local cuisine on its own offers a great reason to visit the country. Each year, about a third of the restaurants in the rankings are new, and there are eateries ranging from farm-restaurants, with just the one staff member, to top gourmet establishments. How Are the Restaurants Ranked?
We never set out to create a restaurant just for the ranking tables. When we compare the two aspects of NOA, for one thing Chef’s Hall is only open from Wednesday to Saturday, but NOA is open every day. This naturally establishes one big difference between the two places.
In spring, the 50 best restaurants in Estonia are chosen from among approximately 1 300 entrants, with the selection based on the votes of the key workers at the restaurants in question.
Are you happy to be named the best restaurant in the country?
The final positions are determined by an international jury made up of 30 representatives of the food and drink media − 12 from Estonia and 18 from abroad.
Of course we are! We are also delighted that NOA is anything but traditional. The restaurant just turned out so well and we are very pleased with it. Actually we would have been equally happy with third or fourth place for the Chef’s Hall. We cannot really claim that it is heads and shoulders above the other top restaurants. We are just different, that’s all. The standard of restaurants here has gone up so much in the last five to seven years that it is really difficult to get to the top now. There has been a big leap forward in the last year in particular. Many restaurants either have already caught up, or are about to catch up, with the best restaurants as of now. I am only too pleased about these developments. It is much more fun to go out to eat in Tallinn and in Estonia in general these days, when there are so many great places and you don’t have to choose between the same five restaurants as was the case a bit before.
Each restaurant is visited covertly by six to eight jury members at different times. The judging is conducted by the method developed by the Swedish restaurant guide ‘White Guide’, with a 100-point system, and each judge fills out an evaluation sheet, in which a restaurant can achieve up to 100 points maximum (up to 40 points for food, up to 20 points for beverages, up to 25 points for service and up to 15 points for the overall atmosphere). This year, to borrow a sports term, a photo finish was needed to determine the NOA Chef’s Hall as the winner as no less than four restaurants received equal score for their food! The TOP 50 Estonian restaurants can be found at www.flavoursofestonia.com. The TOP 10 in 2014 were: Noa Chef’s Hall (Tallinn) Alexander (Pädaste Manor, Muhu island) Horisont (Tallinn) Tchaikovsky (Tallinn) Põhjaka (Mäeküla, Paide, Järvamaa county) Ö (Tallinn) Oko (Kaberneeme, Harjumaa) Moon (Tallinn) Ribe (Tallinn) Leib Resto & Aed (Tallinn)
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I TOURISM There is a distant sense of grandeur about him, which some people may take for arrogance. This in fact is not the case. He is just extremely demanding both of himself and of others. With his thorough, hard-working and determined manner, Tõnis would probably already have the desired Michelin star if he lived in, for instance, Sweden.
How did you develop the menu at NOA? Tõnis Siigur: We had a big list of all the various things which could be included on the menu. The first real choices arose from the initial idea of having a vegetarian section. We then had the main divisions of the menu: plants, fish, meat − plus of course desserts. Things took their own course from then on. As we had never made a distinction between starters, soups and main courses, it was logical to have at least some starters and soups.
Tõnis Siigur, Chef de Cuisine of NOA Tõnis needs no introduction in the Estonian culinary circles. Ten years working as the Chef de Cuisine at Stenhus restaurant proved that he has a strong will, steadiness and the ability to work hard from day to day and season to season in the same single kitchen. The food created by Tõnis has always borne its own clear signature, but it has changed with time and fashion. What was always certain, though, was the fact that Tõnis was ahead of his time – he always thought at least two steps ahead and did not follow what others were doing at the same time or even what they were doing before him. He received his first international recognition whilst working at the restaurant Bordoo, when Relais & Chateaux presented him with the ‘Rising Chef Trophy 2013’ award. After Bordoo came OKO, which was a big hit simply due to Tõnis’ name even before it opened. There were always more customers than seats at OKO, and there was so much positive feedback that the team decided to create NOA in Tallinn. Tõnis Siigur thus got ‘his own restaurant’ − NOA Chef’s Hall − where he can, within reasonable limits, test out his culinary ideas. His style has become bolder, stronger, more robust (in a good sense) and more earthy. Once again Tõnis is ahead of the curve.
When the main menu plan was set, we started to discuss which foods should definitely be on the menu and which items we definitely did not want there. We do not follow a set style in NOA. We have a wide range of foods, and therefore there is no set regional, forest- or seafood-theme, for instance.
What is the most popular dish at NOA? At the moment the most frequently sold dish is veal, even though we are located by the sea so one might assume it was fish. That is the biggest surprise for us − we created a seaside restaurant but people still want meat. I guess the dry age cabinet in the restaurant foyer gives us a boost too. This was a great idea, but in practice we could have ten of them. It was clear within the first week that one cabinet would not suffice with all the customers. Today it looks more like a show… at the same time it is sufficient for NOA Chef’s Hall.
Did you believe that you would make the best restaurant in Estonia? The more time passes, the less I am interested in such rankings. Really! Of course it is a good feeling to win and the moment when it is made public is great, but it is not massively important for me.
The culinary masterpieces created at the NOA ‘lab’ if you will, combine simple but high-quality ingredients with modern technology, high-flying ideas and more down-to-earth rustic touches as well. But Tõnis Siigur’s long range ambitions are higher still – he plans to ‘set sail’ with his NOA restaurant, out of Estonia altogether.
It is good for the restaurant and raises our profile, but I have higher ambitions. I am more interested in international awards than those presented nationally.
At one point Siigur had many followers. Many young people came to gain experience under his supervision, and subsequently learned everything from their master. Getting a place in Tõnis’ kitchen came to equal winning the lottery. Nonetheless he has never liked to advertise himself.
One is able to realise their full potential only if they have no restrictions whatsoever. NOA is not a hobby project; the restaurant has to function as well as make an income. But I can certainly do more things and work more freely now than ever before. And so I am very happy at NOA.
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Are you able to realise your full potential at NOA?
Practical Information For Visitors
Visitors arriving in Estonia with visa must have national passports valid at least 3 months after their planned departure from Estonia. Children aged 7 to 15 years of age must have their own passport when travelling to Estonia or be registered in their parents’ passport, including a photo next to the name. Persons above 15 years must have a separate travel document with a photo.
Arrival By plane: The modern and user-friendly Tallinn Lennart Meri Airport is located just 3 km from the city centre and provides an easy access to most hotels and restaurants located in the city centre. Among other amenities, travellers have access to a free WiFi area in the
popular border crossing in eastern Estonia on the Russian border is Narva, located on the St. Petersburg-Tallinn road. Other border crossings with Russia include Luhamaa, Koidula and Murati. On the Estonian-Russian border, all traffic is subject to border formalities both when entering and leaving Estonia. By coach: When travelling between the Baltic states and nearby locations such as Poland and Germany, coach travel might be the most convenient option. Regular connections to Tallinn and Tartu depart from all major cities in the Baltic countries and St. Petersburg. Eurolines and Lux Express offer comfortable Riga Airport transfers from Tallinn, Pärnu, Klaipeda, Vilnius, Panevezys, and Šiauliai. Prices start from €20. By train: An overnight train service from Moscow to Tallinn is available.
For more travel details, please consult the sources below: www.visitestonia.com (Estonian Tourist Board), www.riik.ee/en. Tourist information centres are located in all larger towns. The Tallinn Tourist Information Centre in the Old Town is located at 4 Kullassepa Street - no more than 10 steps from the Town Hall Square (ph.: + 372 645 7777, e-mail: turismiinfo@ tallinnlv.ee). A wide selection of maps, brochures and publications in several languages (largest selection in English) can be found at local bookstores and tourist information centres.
Visa Estonia is part of the Schengen visa area, granting the nationals of EU and EEA member states free entry to Estonia. The required travel document for entry is a national ID card or passport. In addition to the citizens of EU and EAA states, nationals of numerous countries can extend their visit up to 90 days in any 6-month period. The required travel document for entry is a valid passport. A comprehensive list of countries is available at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website at www.vm.ee/eng. Citizens of countries not listed require a visa to enter Estonia.
transit zone. The airport’s 24-hour customer service telephone is +372 6058 888. Tartu Airport is situated near Tartu, hosting frequent flights to Helsinki. By ship: The Port of Tallinn, hosting over 6 million passengers annually, is undoubtedly the main gateway to and from Estonia. Large passenger ferries depart daily to Helsinki and Stockholm. Cruises from Tallinn to St. Petersburg depart less frequently. The 85-km TallinnHelsinki ferry journey takes approximately 2 hours, and slightly less by hydrofoils and catamarans in service from spring until late autumn. Travellers should note that different ferry lines depart from different terminals and harbours. The City Port with its four terminals is a 10-15 minute walk from Tallinn Old Town; the Paldiski-Kapellskär line uses the Port of Paldiski, about 50 km from Tallinn. By car: Visitors from Central and Western Europe can drive to Estonia via Latvia. Ikla and Valga border checkpoints greet travellers entering or departing the country. The most
Customs The limit on import of alcoholic beverages from outside the EU is one litre for beverages over 22% alcohol content, and two litres for beverages up to 22%, and four litres for wine. Import of tobacco and tobacco products from non-EU countries is limited to 40 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 50 grammes of tobacco products. Counterfeit goods, including pirated CDs, video and audio tapes, are prohibited by law. A special export permit is required for specimens of plants and animals of endangered species, protected species and hunting trophies (please contact the Nature Conservation Department, Ministry of the Environment for details). Articles of cultural value produced in Estonia more than 50 years ago also require special permits (please contact the National Heritage Board). We suggest travellers consult with the Estonian Customs Board help desk (ph.: +372 880 0814 or www.customs.ee) for details.
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Getting Around Estonia Inter-city public transportation Public buses are the easiest, cheapest and most convenient solution for visiting Tartu, Pärnu and any other larger Estonian town. Buses from Tallinn to Tartu depart in every 30 minutes and to Pärnu every hour. On weekdays, seats to these destinations are almost always available even immediately before departure (watch out for special events). For weekend travel or trips to more remote locations with fewer connections, it is advisable to buy a ticket in advance. The Tallinn Bus Terminal is located at 46 Lastekodu Street. The timetable is also available online at www.bussireisid.ee and ticket information is available by phone: +372 6800 900.
possible to rent the car in Estonia and drop it off at a rental agency in Latvia or Lithuania. The speed limit in rural areas is 90 km/h and in cities 50 km/h. In some areas the highway speed limit is increased during the summer months. Headlights and seat belts (front and back) must be on at all times. Acceptable blood alcohol limit in Estonia is up to 0.2 % BAC.
Local Transport Taxis: Taxis must clearly display their fares, driver’s taxi service licenses, and a meter. The initial charge for entering a taxi ranges from 2 to about 4 euros. Different taxi companies have different rates, but the average charge per kilometre is 0.5 euros. There is no additional charge for ordering the taxi by phone, and it usually takes the cab just five to ten minutes to arrive. All taxi drivers must give you a receipt (in Estonian, ask for “Kviitung, palun”). Locals usually give the exact fare and no tip. Public transportation: Tallinn has a public transport network of buses, trams and trolley buses. Schedules are posted at bus stops and tickets available at newsstands (the yellow and blue “R-kiosks”) and from the driver. Check the prices and timetable for Tallinn bus lines for any bus stop at www.tallinn.ee/eng.
Tickets for visitors
Trains from Tallinn to Tartu leave 3-4 times a day, and it takes a little more than 2 hours to get to Tartu. The Balti Station is situated just outside the Tallinn Old Town and sea port, a taxi or tram No. 2 (from the port). Trains are comfortable and you can use WiFi in the first class.
Travelling by car Travellers hoping to see more of the country and the rural areas it would be best advised to travel by car. The roads are quite good and traffic is light. Crossing Estonia from north to south or west to east by car takes approximately three to four hours. All major car rental agencies have offices in Tallinn. It is also
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The Public Transport Card Ühiskaart may be purchased for a couple of euros. Smart card and e-tickets can be purchased from post offices and online at www.pilet.ee. Personalise the card for a small charge 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 the Ühiskaart immediately after entering the public transport vehicle. You can also buy tickets from kiosks and from the driver (single ticket €1.60 and student ticket €0.80). Try to have the exact change (cash only) when purchasing from the driver. The ticket is valid for one journey only in that specific vehicle. Discounts are available only for ISIC Scholar and Student Card holders. Holders of a validated TallinnCard are entitled to a free ride.
Accommodations All major hotels in Tallinn have been newly built or completely renovation in recent years. Despite annual additions to the number of hotels and rooms, it can nonetheless be difficult to find a hotel room on a short notice (particularly over the weekend). For the best selection, we urge visitors to Tallinn and the rest of Estonia to book hotel rooms in advance. For more details, see the Estonian Tourist Board website at www.visitestonia.ee.
Money Estonia uses Euro and Estonians are keen users of card payment facilities, with most hotels, stores and restaurants accepting Visa, MasterCard, Eurocard, Diner’s Club and American Express. Traveller’s checks can be exchanged in most banks but are less likely to be accepted in shops. Eurocheque is the most widely accepted traveller’s check, but American Express and Thomas Cook are also accepted. Banks can be found scattered around the centre of all major Estonian towns. Most banks in Tallinn are open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. on weekdays, while some offices are also open on Saturday mornings and offer currency exchange services. Exchange offices can also be found in larger hotels, the airport, harbour, railroad station and major shopping centres. ATMs are conveniently located around town with on-screen instructions in English, Russian and Estonian.
celebrate Midsummer Eve and the Victory Day in commemoration of the 1919 Battle of Võnnu, and June 24 is St. John’s Day (Midsummer). August 20 is the Day of Restoration of Independence (1991). December 24 (Christmas Eve), December 25 (Christmas Day) and December 26 (Boxing Day) are usually spent at home with families.
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
The main drinks in Estonia are beer, wine and vodka. In the 1930s Estonian vodka made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the strongest vodka in the world (96º). Local brands of beer enjoy a very strong market position in Estonia. The two main breweries are Saku and A. Le
Telephones and Internet Estonian country code is 372. Dial 00 for outbound international calls. The GSM mobile phone system is available; please check compatibility with your operator. Public Internet access points have been set up all over Estonia. They are located in local libraries and post offices. There are over 100 wireless free Internet zones around the country, many of them in rather unexpected places - beaches, Old Town squares, stadiums, and concert halls.
Emergencies 112 is the emergency number for ambulance, police and fire department. The police can also be reached directly at 110. Emergency numbers can be dialled free of charge. Select pharmacies are open 24-hours-a-day in many major towns. The one in Tallinn is located at 10 Pärnu Road (opposite the Estonian Drama Theatre); the one in Tartu is located in the Town Hall building (Town Hall Square).
Traditional Estonian cuisine consists of simple peasant food, such as cottage cheese, potatoes and bread, all of which are still important components of the local diet. The Estonian dark bread is the main staple missed by Estonians abroad. Typical Estonian dishes do not feature prominently on restaurant menus, and traditional home cooking is more likely to appear at small eateries in remote areas.
Estonians celebrate January 1 as New Year’s Day, a rather slow and quiet day as people recover from the festivities. Shops open late and banks are closed. February 24, Independence Day, is celebrated with a parade of the Estonian Defence Forces at Vabaduse väljak (Freedom Square). May 1 is a bank holiday, similar to Good Friday and May Day. June 23 is the biggest holiday of the year as Estonians
Modern Estonian cuisine is based on the ageold tradition of locally sourced, pure ingredients, influenced by Scandinavian, German and Russian cuisines. Estonian culinary scene has been on the rise for about a decade now with new gourmet restaurants popping up frequently all across the country. The list of the top 50 Estonian restaurants can be found at www.flavoursofestonia.com
Spirits also include some traditional liqueurs. The famous Vana Tallinn (Old Tallinn) has a 45º alcohol content, and is coincidentally made from 45 ingredients - the recipe is known only to a handful of people. Indeed, the legendary 19th-century kristallkümmel (caraway liqueur) has made its long-awaited comeback. Estonian wines, made from currants or other local berries, are rather sweet. Wine lovers usually prefer imported wine, of which there is an ever-increasing selection at stores and vinoteks. A very popular and refreshing nonalcoholic drink is kali, made of bread, malt, rye or oats flour and yeast; it has a characteristically dark brown colour.
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Shops Quality handicrafts, designer goods and food are available at supermarkets and smaller boutiques in all larger towns. Typical opening times of supermarkets in Tallinn are from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Department stores close a few hours earlier on Sundays and, in smaller towns, may be closed on Sundays. Smaller food shops may have shorter opening hours. Some 24-hour shops can be found as well. Other shops usually open at 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.; they often close early on Saturdays and are closed on Sundays. Most shops accept credit cards, with the exception of smaller stores and stores in rural areas. Alcohol is sold from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Entertainment The entertainment scene in Estonia is vibrant year-round, providing visitors and locals alike with a long list to choose from. Concerts, festivals, theatre and parties – Estonia has it all. Opera and ballet theatres in Tallinn and Tartu offer world class plays for affordable prices starting as low as 10 euros. For more information on the concert schedule see 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 Even the most sceptical museum-goer is bound to find something intriguing in Estonia’s large selection of museums, which feature everything from history, art, photography to toys, chocolate, musical instruments, even wax figures and many other topics. Most museums are closed on Tuesdays and many on Mondays as well. It is advisable to have cash on hand as many museums do not accept credit cards. Tallinn is also bustling well into the night with booming and blooming club scene. Clubs are usually open and packed with energised vibes from Thursday to Sunday, with Friday and Saturday drawing the liveliest of crowds. In addition to local and resident DJs, clubs frequently present guest performers from London, the US and other club hubs. For those looking for a more mellow night on the town, Tallinn’s street are brimming with bars and pubs, many of which offer live music even on weekdays. Rather take in a movie? Films in cinemas are shown in the original language with subtitles.
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Souvenirs Souvenir and shopping preferences vary hugely but there are certain souvenir gifts that have gladdened many a heart. Estonian handicraft comes in many forms. There are woollen sweaters and mittens with local ethnic patterns, linen sheets and tablecloths, crocheted shawls and veils, colourful woven rugs, handmade jewellery and glassware, baskets, and an array of wooden spoons and butter knives made from juniper. Fine and applied art for show and purchase is on display at art galleries around the country, featuring graphics, glass, ceramics, hand-painted silk scarves and leatherwork. Various herbal teas from wild plants are available at pharmacies. Local honey – pure or flavoured, e.g. ginger, is another delicious treat. In rural areas, you may find hand-milled flour. And those who keep coming back swear by the Estonian black rye bread. To bring home local spirits, popular choices include Vana Tallinn or kristallkümmel liqueur or local beer. And there is no place better than Estonia to buy Estonian music.
Crime Although common sense is advisable in all destinations, Estonia gives no particular reason to be excessively worried. Do not walk the unlit and abandoned areas alone at night. Do not leave bags or items of value in the car, as not to tempt car thieves or robbers. Pickpockets may operate at crowded tourist destinations in Tallinn, so make sure your wallet and documents are stored safely.
Language The Estonian language is the only official language of Estonia and spoken by about a million people worldwide. Many people are fluent in English, particularly the younger urban generation. Knowledge of foreign languages is naturally a must for hotel staff and numerous other professions in the service sector. A great number of people also speak Finnish due to Finland’s close proximity and the great number of Finnish tourists. German is less widely spoken and Russian language is spoken mainly by the older generation. Estonians do not expect short-term visitors to master the local language. Still, local people are thrilled and pleased to hear a foreigner say “Tere!” (Hi!) or “Aitäh (Thank you) in Estonian.
Estonians Estonians are typical Nordic people – they are reserved, not too talkative and speak rather monotonously, with very little intonation. All this may give one the impression of coldness bordering on rudeness. But rest assured, this is not the case, and the speaker may actually be extremely well-meaning, even excited. There are several well-known Estonian sayings, such as “Think first, then speak”, “Weigh everything carefully nine times before making a move”, and “Talking is silver, silence is gold”. It is, therefore, no wonder that the people are not very good at small talk, do not waste too much time on grand introductions, and usually come straight to the point. This is why Estonians’ English may sometimes sound shockingly direct. There is, however, often a subtle irony involved in Estonians’ utterances - delivered with a serious face and just the slightest twinkle of the eye. Estonians are relatively individualistic. There is a saying that five Estonians mean six parties. Even though people agree on the final objective, they insist on reaching it in their own ways. Estonians also value their privacy. In the old days, it was said that the neighbour’s house was close enough if you could see the smoke from the chimney. Modern, tight-packed urbanites flock to remote countryside on the weekends to enjoy more space and privacy. Even though guests at birthday parties and concerts are rather quiet and subdued in the onset, they warm up eventually and turn into a direct opposite of their day-character, as you are likely to see in Tallinn’s clubs.
Jazzkaar is the biggest jazz festival in the Baltic states, which has been held since 1990. This year’s headliners are David Sanborn, Gregory Porter, John Scofield and Ester Rada. www.jazzkaar.ee
MARCH-APRIL March 26-29 Tallinn Music Week 2015 Tallinn Music Week is the biggest musical talent showcase in the Nordic and Baltic area. The largest indoor music festival attracts over 15,000 music lovers from Estonia and neighbouring countries. It is a meeting point for the audience, musicians and music industry professionals. tmw.ee
5 April The Great Towers Vertical Challenge Tallinn TV Tower and the World Federation of Great Towers will organise a popular international running contest which will conquer the Tallinn TV Tower as well. Registration for the TV Tower stage is open for English speakers at www.towerrun.eu 10-19 April, in Tallinn and Tartu 9th Japanese Animation Festival JAFF offers screenings of over 20 animations in different genres - for adults, adolescents and children. www.animefest.eu
March 27-28 Tallinn Craft Beer Weekend 2015 TCBW is Estonia’s first international craft beer event organised by Põhjala Brewery. It takes place at the Telliskivi Creative City – a meeting point for the creative industries in the bohemian part of the town. The lineup of about twenty breweries includes the best of Baltic craft breweries as well as participants from other European countries and the US. The festival will be held in cooperation with Tallinn Music Week. 4-12 April Pärnu Restaurant Week will take place for the first time. During the Restaurant Week, participating restaurants offer a twocourse lunch menu for 10 euros and a three-course dinner for 15 euros. The menu will be available on the website www.parnurestaurantweek.ee.
15-17 April, In Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu Diverse Universe Performance Festival 2015 is an annual festival born in Pärnu. It is one of the biggest festivals in Europe dedicated to performance art. The festival travels through Europe, bringing together over 200 artists and offering visitors exciting performances and workshops. diverse2014.tumblr.com
17-16 April 26th Tallinn International Festival “Jazzkaar 2015” Tallinn International Festival
18-19 April, at Tallinn Tondiraba Ice Rink Simple Session 15 Simple Session is a world-renowned BMX and skateboarding contest with 14 years of history, bringing together the globe’s greatest BMX riders and skaters for a weekend of incredible action. Best contenders, hottest new names, a dazzling show and mind-blowing energy! session.ee/2015/home/ 23-26 April 10th Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival “HÕFF” HÕFF is an independent festival focusing of screening best films from the darker side of cinema - fantasy and horror, forgotten classics, filmmaker and country retrospectives, extreme films and celebrated guests. 2015.hoff.ee
6-10 May 8th International Jõhvi Ballet Festival Jõhvi International Ballet Festival was founded in 2006 and it is the only ballet festival in Estonia. The main guest of the 2015 festival is Teatri di Milano. www.concert.ee/ johvi-ballet-festival 10 May SEB Tartu Marathon (23/10 km running and Nordic walking) The main event, the 23 km distance is the most popular of its kind in Estonia. You can also run the 10 km course, or cover either distance by Nordic walking. The finish line is at the Tartu County Sports Centre in Elva. Children’s races are also held as part of the event in Tartu, Otepää and Elva. www.tartumaraton.ee
MAY 1 May 85th Grand Race around Lake Viljandi This event is popular among runners and Nordic walking enthusiasts throughout the country. The 11.5 km race offers a stunning course with diverse scenery that makes the fun run even more memorable. Participants must complete a circuit of Lake Viljandi - choosing their own route around it. viljandijarvejooks.ee 6-9 May, in Tartu Prima Vista Literary Festival The theme of the festival in 2015 is “Wild word”. The festival patron is Valdur Mikita. As always, Prima Vista takes place in another Estonian town as well - this time in Põlva. kirjandusfestival.tartu.ee
15-17 May 38th Türi Flower Fair The Türi Flower Fair presents gardening firms, forestry schools and private gardens, who have special offers designed to help hobby gardeners improve their gardens. www.tyrilillelaat.ee 22-24 May, in Viljandi 19th International puppet theatre festival “Theatre in a Suitcase” The programme consists of shows, followed by discussions led by stage directors. At the end of each day, Surprise Act of the Day is nominated by the audiences. Street performances and workshops are free for the participants. www.viljandinukuteater.ee/media/ festival2014/KAVA.pdf
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22-27 May Pärnu international opera music festival “PromFest” “PromFest” is a festival for lovers of opera music. The festival was launched in 2005. The programme mainly focuses on young singers and audiences. www.promfest.ee 23 May, in Tallinn SEB May Fun Run The SEB May Fun Run is a spring sports event for women. The event comprises a 7 km timed race, an untimed race and a walking/Nordic walking event. The day culminates in a spring concert. Everybody taking part receives a memento of the race, plus surprises. Everyone who completes the main distance will receive a special Viking Line voucher for a free return ferry trip to Finland. www.jooks.ee 27-31 May, in Tallinn 7th Tallinn Literature Festival “HeadRead” HeadRead brings together writers from Estonia and abroad to spreading the message of the written word. Workshops, literary walks in different Tallinn districts, children’s mornings, poetry cafes and lots of other exciting events. headread.ee
and villages of Estonia. It consist of three stages: * 30 May 1st stage: Tallinn-Tartu 190 km * 31 May 2nd stage: Tartu GP 150 km * 1 June 3rd stage: SEB Tartu Cycling Rally (road cycling, 133/71 km www.tourogestonia.ee/en 30-31 May, in Narva “Baroque Ironwork“ The summer season at Narva Fortress’ Northern Yard opens with the international blacksmiths’ festival “Baroque Ironwork” where blacksmiths from Estonia, Finland, Russia, Lithuania, and Latvia show different products and methods and share their expertise.
30 May-6 June Tallinn Old Town Days aim to introduce and value the Old Town’s history and cultural legacy. The festival is free for the public. This year’s slogan time is “Masters through centuries” - the 2015 festival welcomes blacksmiths, wood sculptors, basket weavers, stone sculptors, but also bakers, glassblowers and other masters who have given Tallinn its reputation as a home of masters.
30 May-1 June, Tour of Estonia 2015 Tour of Estonia is an international cycling event belonging to the UCI calendar of tours and passing through the beautiful towns
4-7 June 35th Viljandi International Hanseatic Days European Hanseatic cities will convene to their annual festivity in Viljandi. Over 80 representations from all over Europe will attend. The town will be buzzing
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with concerts, performances, workshops and lots of other fun activities. www.hanse.org/en/ international-hanse-days/ hanseatic-day-2015-in-viljandi/ 4-7 June Tallinn Treff Festival 2015 Tallinn Treff Festival is an international festival of visual theatre with the goal of introducing and popularising modern puppet arts, preserving and continuing puppetry traditions and surprising with art forms we never even knew existed. The festival is organised by NUKU puppet theatre from Tallinn, Estonia. www.nuku.ee 6-7 June, in Rakvere Male Dance Festival THREE – THREE TIMES MORE A MAN THREE signifies these elements as aspects of the essence of humanity, and when turned on end, this becomes the letter M representing the initial letter of the word man. Approximately 3,500 men will perform 32 dances specially choreographed for the third instalment of the Estonian Male Dance Festival. meestetantsupidu.ee 8-12 June Tallinn Guitar Festival The festival offers an irresistible selection of music and meetings with the brightest stars and top guitar players from Spain, Brazil and elsewhere. www.kitarrifestival.ee 12 June The food culture festival Good Food Festival – Grillfest For two days, 200 caterers from Estonia and abroad serve their best fare. We have outdoor restaurants, cafés and even a pet restaurant. You can enjoy good food, national fishing championships and food competitions. The festival has performances by excellent artists on various stages; music styles offer something to
every taste. Both days of the festival end with magnificent fireworks. Everyone is welcome to the Grillfest: the entrance is free of charge! www.grillfest.com.ee
13 June Narva Energy Run includes a 7 km run, walking/Nordic walking and a 21.1 km run. The running trail goes along the streets of Narva, passing historic bastions, fortifications, the Alexander’s Cathedral and many other exciting buildings. It is a unique possibility to run on the most eastward track of the European Union, on the beautiful shore of River Narva. www.jooks.ee/narva/ 19-21 June, in Pärnu The WATERGATE Festival The festival features large and small concerts, top sports events and fun activities both for the young and old. The festival has venues all across the town. 22 June, in Eidapere, Rapla County 8th Estonian Wife-Carrying Championships and Rapla County Tug-of-War Open The wife-carrying competition has become something of a national festival over the years. Taking place alongside it is the Rapla County Tug-of-War Open, as well as the Eidapere Strong Man contest and the 3rd Eidapere Swing competition to see who can make it all the way over the top and down again on the traditional village swing. There is a bonfire in the evening and live music.
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