NO 41 I SPRING I 2016
Karoli Hindriks: Transforming The Future Swipe And Tap Away With Pocopay Of Work
Industry 4.0 In Practice
Wear Estonian Art
E-Vehicle Revolution Come Film In Estonia
land & people I state & society I economy & business I technology & innovation I culture & entertainment I tourism
Estonian Startup DNA Is Global In the coming decades, the world will be entering one of its most challenging and innovative eras ever. Some of the most critical questions relate to the environment and technology developments. Is the planet on a sustainable path for its survival? What will the impact of artificial intelligence on mankind be? So many great entrepreneurs and venture capitalists will have endless opportunities to work on new technologies which are able to solve the existential problems and questions.
Photo by Atko Januson
Executive publisher Positive Projects Pärnu mnt 69, 10134 Tallinn, Estonia email@example.com Editor Reet Grosberg firstname.lastname@example.org Translation Ingrid Hübscher Language editor Andrew Whyte Design & Layout Positive Design Partner
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
Where are these answers all coming from? Is it all about big or small countries, great universities or capital availability as defining factors? Estonian startups have proved that one of the most critical factors for success is an open and global mindset. You simply take the planet Earth as your market, redefining the meaning of pushing the boundaries. The Estonian startup ecosystem has developed in conditions that are traditionally considered to be very challenging for innovation and startups – our country is very small and historically there has been very little capital available for innovation. In reality, this has turned to our favour: both factors left no alternative choice for ambitious entrepreneurs than to focus on global arena as the starting point. Obviously, success stories like Skype and Transferwise have only increased the momentum for the young talent. So it is no great surprise that many of the world’s leading investors have found their way into Estonian startups, which have shown great confidence in the global village of startups and innovation. Investors such as Union Square Ventures, Bessemer, Index Ventures, Peter Thiel, Andreessen Horowitz and many others are well known for being able to spot the global talent and stellar ideas very early on. But it’s not all about the money. Photo by Tiina-Liina Uudam
COVER Karoli Hindriks
There is something more than just talent, ideas, supporting government programs, grants and venture funding that help to develop great ecosystems – there’s experience. It is something that’s hard or even impossible to accelerate, but simply takes a lot of time and patience but it’s a solid and inevitable cornerstone of any healthy ecosystem. Estonian startups have been lucky to work with global investors and strategists, bringing home the best out of it – knowledge, networks and increasingly early stage funding as well. Ernst Hemingway once wrote that ‘In every port in the world, at least two Estonians can be found.‘ So clearly a global mindset is in the DNA of Estonian entrepreneurs. Small wonder, then, if you find an Estonian entrepreneur in every tech hub! Margus Uudam Partner at karma.vc
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Where to Go this Season? Life in Estonia Recommends 9_ Events 6_
Estonian company Starship Technologies is building some revolutionary delivery robots which have already started cruising the sidewalks in Estonia, Britain and will soon the U.S. The company is relying on a number of impressive friends and fans to help with their PR.
33_ COVER STORY
Standing Out from the Crowd: Karoli Hindriks, Founder of Jobbatical 16_
Having just raised two million dollars for her company from some of the top VCs from the US and Europe, the founder and CEO of Jobbatical, Karoli Hindriks is undoubtedly one of the most successful startup entrepreneurs in Estonia.
Delivery Robots Are Transforming the World 30_
An Estonian Startup Is Building the Next LinkedIn
Communication and social media platforms are usually the first to leverage new and emerging technologies; the same is now happening with e-Residency. The first private sector startup to fully embrace the e-Residency program is eResNetwork which aims to tackle the biggest problems of the web – security and identification.
Everybody Knows Wi-Fi. But Have You Met Li-Fi? 34_
The Estonian-Indian startup Velmenni is developing technology which in the near future may turn your understanding of your home internet connection and the LED bulb on the ceiling upside down. The technology is called Li-Fi and it is based on transferring data with the help of visible light.
LAND & PEOPLE
Kelly Sildaru – Estonia’s New National Treasure Faith in winter sports has always been strong in Estonia. Kelly Sildaru, the freestyle skier who only turned 14 this February, triumphed in ski slopestyle at the X Games in Aspen and recently at European Freeski Open in Laax. As a result Estonia has been hit by total Kelly-mania.
Andakidz – Estonians Bring Joy to the Children of the Philippines 25_
Estonians have left a large footprint in the small town of Anda, the Philippines, by making it their mission to help the poverty-stricken community there. Estonians have equipped local houses with 2 000 lights made of recycled plastic bottles, building up the local community centre and creating many new jobs. EDUCATION & SCIENCE
Tartu Scientists Use Computer Games to Make Artificial Intelligence Learn
What would happen, if a computer game was played by a self-learning artificial intelligence against another artificial intelligence? Researchers at the University of Tartu have expanded the Google DeepMind experiment towards a new direction of multi-agent cooperation, opening a whole new field of research.
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coModule Brings Tesla Grade Connectivity to Light Electric Vehicles
coModule transforms any vehicle into a smart vehicle by facilitating the control and collection of data from the vehicle’s subsystems. They believe that connected vehicles will be market-changers in the coming years by revolutionizing the way that manufacturers and consumers engage with each other.
Pocopay Swipes Away the Outdated Business Model of Everyday Banking 39_
Founded by the former banker Indrek Neivelt and the IT expert Linnar Viik, Pocopay offers users simple and fast money transfers in the Eurozone, cost planning and saving. ‘Your money has to be safe, but safe does not have to be complicated,’ is the principle of the company.
ECONOMY & BUSINESS
Estonia’s Next Big Challenge: the Transition from e-State to e-Industry
Industry and IT are no longer separate and discrete sectors from one another. According to Anneli Heinsoo, there needs to be a developmental leap in industry or the fourth industrial revolution, with the key words being information and putting it into smart use.
The Estonian Film Institute launched a new cash rebate system at this year’s Berlinale to attract more international film productions to Estonia. According to Edith Sepp, the CEO of the EFI, Estonia is at last a frontrank country for film production.
e-Drive Retro Rebuilds Classic Sports Cars into Unique Electric Vehicles
e-Drive Retro is an international company backed by American capital, a Finnish university and Estonian production and management, which is converting the stylish cars produced in the 1950s-1970s into electric vehicles. CREATIVE ESTONIA
Cash Rebate – a New Boost for Estonian Film Industry
Trad.Attack! – It’s a Brand, not just a Band 72_
The hottest Estonian band Trad.Attack! is actually rather a brand than just a band. The way Trad.Attack! started and is approaching its career bears a strong resemblance to the startup mindset – readiness to risk and a very clear set of goals. Their master plan is to play in every country in the world. So, meet Trad.Attack! – Sandra, Jalmar and Tõnu.
PORTFOLIO. Wear Estonian Art Fashion brand Tallinn Dolls recently presented a special collection named ‘Wear Art’, which aims to popularise art by bringing it into our everyday clothing – in this way you can 'wear' your favourite artists each day and become nothing less than a living art gallery!
Maria Faust: I Create My Music by Staring at White Walls... 75_
Maria Faust, the most internationally-acclaimed Estonian saxophonist, currently lives in Denmark. When she thinks about Estonia she misses the calm as well as the chanterelle mushrooms. Her new piece 'Velocipede' is due to have its world premiere at Jazzkaar this May. TOURISM
The Wild Side of Estonia
Craftory Reinvents Estonian Style Worldwide
Craftory provides beautiful leather products, displaying a clear devotion to this timeless craft. However, a greater part of their growing appeal and worldwide reach come from the infusion of modernity they have put into an industry which has traditionally been filled with traditions.
What is it about Estonia that makes it such an attractive destination for tourists? We have blue skies, something which is almost non-existent in smog-filled metropolitan areas; we have thickets that almost resemble jungles, quiet bogs with bonsai-like pine trees and lakes with clean, fresh water. And in the forests you can almost by accident come across a wide range of wild animals. Read about the ways to reconnect with the nature during a visit to Estonia.
Münchhausen Productions Setting International Standards
Since founding the company three years ago, the business partners Nikolai Mihailisin and Mika Pajunen have acquired an impressive portfolio of clients. Mika and Niko consider themselves pioneers in service production for commercials in Estonia and the outlook on the international production market are good for Münchhausen. SPRING 2016
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I WHERE TO GO THIS SEASON
SWAN LAKE Ballet by Pyotr Tchaikovsky Premiere at the Estonian National Opera on April 15, 2016
Choreographer and Stage Director of the new redaction: Thomas Edur Original choreography: Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa Conductors: Vello Pähn, Lauri Sirp or Kaspar Mänd
IX Jõhvi Ballet Festival 4–8 May National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus Fri. 6 May 7 p.m. Jõhvi Concert Hall LUDWIG MINKUS. “DON QUIJOTE”
As one of the quintessential ballets of all time, “Swan Lake” offers an unforgettable experience of romance, virtuoso dancing and Tchaikovsky’s magnificent music. Despite the poor reception of the premiere in 1877, it has become one of the most loved and frequently performed pieces. The technically demanding double role of Odette/Ottilie poses a challenge for any prima ballerina. Although “Swan Lake” has been restaged in many versions throughout the ballet’s history, most companies rely on the 1985 version by Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa. Thomas Edur’s version combines beautiful dance classics with a loved story of romance, sorcery and the struggle between good and evil. Photo by Toomas Volkmann
Sat. 7 May 7 p.m. Jõhvi Concert Hall RIMSKI-KORSAKOV. “SCHEHERAZADE”
h o o a j a p e ato e t a j a
Mait Malmsten and Evelin Võigemast
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From 24 March until 24 April
Photo by Taavi Luha
ONE TIME WE RAUL MEEL
TALLINNARTSPACE GALLERY Mon-Sat 11- 18 MAAKRI 21 TALLINN FB TallinnArtSpace www.tallinnartspace.com/
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF Based on Sholem Aleichem’s stories by Arnold Perl’s special permission Libretto: Joseph Stein Music: Jerry Bock Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick Premiere at the Estonian National Opera on June 3, 2016 Conductors: Jüri Alperten, Kaspar Mänd or Lauri Sirp Stage Director: Georg Malvius (Sweden) Designer: Ellen Cairns (Scotland) Half a century ago, a musical was born that became one of the most popular musicals on Broadway. “Fiddler on the Roof” was first staged at the Estonian National Opera in 1989 by Georg Malvius, earning the title “Theatrical event of the year”. 27 years later, Georg Malvius brings it back to the Estonian National Opera, retelling the touching story of human relations, traditions, joys and worries, love and tears.
TMW is one of Europe’s leading city festivals with a carefully crafted line-up of various art forms for a curious mind music talks arts design food craft beer confernce city space
The 9 Tony Awards winning musical is filled to the brim with classic melodies, such as ‘If I Were a Rich Man’, ‘Matchmaker, Matchmaker’, ‘Sunrise Sunset’, etc.
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Photos by Pr iit
From left: Agnes Makk, Head of Development and Innovation Centre, Ben Warren, Global Head of Strategy and Planning, Michael Weinreich, CEO of aFS, and Hanno Tomberg, CEO of Enterprise Estonia
New IT Development and Innovation Centre Started in Tallinn
This February, the IT centre of the international financial enterprise arvato Financial Solutions, Europe’s third largest integrated financial service provider and part of Bertelsmann SE&Co, was opened in Tallinn. Estonia has been favoured within the community of the world’s large enterprises as a good location for support and IT units for a while now, and it seems the popularity of Estonia is only increasing.
Michael Weinreich, CEO of arvato Financial Solutions and Member of the Bertelsmann Group Management Committee, said: ‘After a detailed assessment in order to find the best location, we are happy to open the IT Development and Innovation centre in Estonia, as the country has developed into a hub for pro-active ITC services and implementing new ideas. We are looking forward to being part of this success story. We have been especially impressed by the entrepreneurial mind-set, the highly skilled IT people and the cultural fit we found here in combination with experience in the financial industry and a can-do attitude.’
to the enterprises of the group. All services will be exported; the Estonian unit is already cooperating with outfits in Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.
According to Agnes Makk, the Head of Innovation and Development Centre, the choice was made in favour of Estonia due to the developed financial services market, and success of the e-Government. The German-born enterprise also considered other CEE countries for their IT development centre, but Estonia was chosen partly due to the work of Enterprise Estonia and despite the fact that the local labour force is no longer the lowest-cost available.
The enterprise is planning to hire 100 people over three years. They are aware of the labour scarcity, yet Makk evaluates the plan of hiring 3035 highly qualified IT specialists a year as a realistic goal. ‘People tend to explore the market and look for new challenges. If we do not find a sufficient amount of people in Estonia, we are willing to hire from our neighbouring countries, where the working language is English,’ she adds. The requirements of the enterprise are relatively demanding – they are looking for experienced .NET and Java developers, team leaders and quality leaders and, first and foremost, senior specialists who possess good communication skills in addition to been skilled with IT.
‘Enterprise Estonia was contacted in order to find out what Estonia has to offer. Although other similar agencies in the CEE region were also contacted, Estonia clearly stood out among the competition: the welcome was warm, the communication fast, they exuded a cultural suitability and epitomized our Scandinavian-like thinking,’ Makk adds. As a financial solutions provider, arvato Financial Solutions manages around 10 000 customers, specializing primarily in the retail/ e-commerce, telecommunications, insurance, banking and healthcare sectors. The Estonian centre will provide IT development and innovation services
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‘The organisation in Estonia will be a partner for the existing IT departments in new development projects. We started to build the centre in mid-November 2015 and have hired 12 IT specialists. Looking at the project pipeline, we are aiming to grow to 35 employees by the end of 2016. We are hiring mainly IT developers, who will work in international projects for clients in Europe and the US,’ Makk says.
In order to ensure necessary labour force, the enterprise will follow Makk’s proposal and signed cooperation agreement with Tallinn University of Technology to offer dynamic and professional experience for students, through a series of initiatives including internships. The employees will also be giving lectures at the university, providing research areas for theses and participating in career fairs.
Estonian ICT Week takes place on 27 May-3 June, 2016 and strives to be the most eventful week, right at the heart of the sizzling Nordic-Baltic ICT powerhouse. ICT Week, packed full of high-powered conferences and special events will bring ICT experts, visionaries, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, government leaders and top officials as well as representatives of international organizations from all over the world to Tallinn. Last year over 1000 foreign guests made the time to fly in and hear the latest from the ICT world. This year Estonian ICT Week plans to go even bigger.
Estonian ICT Week Join the Tech Event of the Year www.ictweek.eu
27 May @ Rock Café (Tartu mnt 80)
27 May @ Swissôtel (Tornimäe 3)
Estonian ICT Week opening party Rock IT
Nordic Digital Day 2016 by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications
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 and timeless rock music. The party starts at eight o’ clock and goes on until the early morning hours... www.itl.ee/rockit2016/
Last year, some 350 e-Government experts and CIOs from 25 countries gathered to hear the experts from Scandinavia and Estonia who shared their visions for the digital future. In addition, Professor Carlo Ratti from MIT gave an inspirational speech about using the sensors and hand-held electronics aimed at improving the built-up environment. This year’s event is all about the data-driven society. The aim is to explore how different countries are deploying practices of data analytics, about data-driven decision making, future prediction and innovation in public sector. We are living in an era where public authorities are opening up their databases, and at the same time policy makers and public authorities are increasingly using new data sources and big data for better decision making. How will this new trend affect citizens and enterprises? Will there be new value created and smarter decisions made as hoped? The conference is for everybody who is interested in the development of e-Government. It is a place to get new ideas and meet ICT policy makers and developers from all over world. More information and registration: e-estonia.com/nordicday/ #NordicDay2016
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27.05 28.05 29.05
28.05 27-29 May @ Tartu Physicum (Ravila 14c, Tartu)
28 May @ Nordic Hotel Forum (Viru väljak 3)
IT Law Conference
For the first time in Estonia Garage48 is going to organise a hackathon to boost space technology. This will mark the beginning of further innovations and achievements in the field of SpaceTech, which includes spacecraft, satellites, space stations, and support infrastructure, equipment, and procedures. Both software and hardware projects are welcome to take part in this initiative, which will literally go beyond borders. To boost the quality of ideas even more we are organising also the idea hackathon ActInSpace Estonia on May 20-21, 2016 at Mektory, Tallinn, as a pre-event which is to be held simultaneously in 14 countries all over Europe.
Self-driving vehicles will become the normal means of transportation as early as 2020 according to experts and manufacturers. However, tests on the roads have brought up technical, ethical and legal questions. Who is considered the ‘driver’ of such a car? Who is responsible in the case of an accident? Who is the owner of the data gathered when using the vehicle? These and many other questions will be debated during the IT Law Conference, organized by the IT Law Program of the University of Tartu – a unique program providing lawyers with a comprehensive set of technical and legal skills in IT Law. The conference will map the most recent technical, legal and ethical issues on self-driving vehicles for you with speakers representing developers, legal experts and other stakeholders. It will introduce influential academic research and engage participants in an active discussion on the dilemmas of the field.
The parties coming together to promote space technologies are Garage48, TUT/Mektory Space Centre, Tehnopol Science Park, University of Tartu, Tartu Observatory, EstCube and Tartu Science Park. Engineers, developers, designers, marketers and entrepreneurs are welcome to participate in this 48-hour hackathon. If you cannot make it to the event, you can stream LIVE via our website garage48.org and the biggest online newspapers in Estonia for the grand final on 29 May. More information: garage48.org/events/spacetech facebook.com/garage48
30 May @ Radisson Blu Hotel Olümpia
ITEE 30.05 Digital Connected Economy A digitally-connected economy relies on data driven services for businesses and society, connects tens of billions of ‘smart things’ through the Internet, transforms the future healthcare and other domains. Security and trust, legal and ethical aspects must support this continuous transformation. Estonia’s top universities, University of Tartu and Tallinn University of Technology are teaming up with UK’s no 1 IT school of Edinburgh University to establish a joint ITEE Center of Excellence.
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Adequate research and training in the above areas will boost Estonia’s economy and IT capabilities to the next level. Seminar will cover the implementation of ITEE research and innovation, its impact on economy and how we foresee the cooperation between companies and ITEE. The event gives you a unique opportunity to get a detailed insight of Estonian ICT research scene and to learn about the future collaboration possibilities with one of the top universities in the world! it.ee facebook.com/ITEE.CoE
30-31 May @ Radisson Blu Hotel Olümpia
2-3 June @ SpaceX (Ülemiste City)
Industry 4.0 in Practice
Tallinn e-Governance Conference 2016 World’s leading e-Governance experts from governments, business, academia, international organisations and civil society groups will meet in Tallinn to discuss the impact e-Governance has on the economies and societies of countries and the challenges countries face when planning an impactful leap to e-Governance.
Last year we kicked off a tradition to bring together ICT companies and manufacturers in true Industry 4.0 spirit. We laid the groundwork with the help of top experts and practitioners from around Europe. This year’s conference explores the case-studies of successful implementation of Industry 4.0 principles. Companies as Festo, ABB, Siemens, Telia and many others are speaking about their practical examples how digitalisation has changed their production. The event raises awareness about Industry 4.0 in creating higher industrial efficiency. It features both useful insight and interesting networking opportunities.
Conference sessions will examine the experiences of different regions and different types of countries, such as EU Eastern Partnership countries, Western-Balkan countries and small island nations, with implementing impactful e-Governance projects (including initiatives related to cyber security).
Estonia has been known as a tech advanced and agile society that gets things done fast. If you are European manufacturing or ICT companies decision maker – come and see how to develop e-Industry.
Conference will see the launch the National Cyber Security Index, developed by eGA. The index measures countries’ capacity to ensure normal functioning of their information society and introduces a checklist for national cyber security capacity building. More information and registration: tallinnconference.ee #egov2016
The conference is organised by Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications (ITL), the German Embassy in Tallinn, Enterprise Estonia and the Estonian Electronics Industries Association. www.industry40.ee
by e-Governance Academy
Photo by Jo Michael
3 June @ Viktoria (Keevise 6, Ülemiste City)
Green IT seminar Never before has industry taken such large steps towards making production greener. Working on sustainable solutions has provided new opportunities for both the industrial and ICT sectors. Cooperation between these different sectors, as well as between countries, has been encouraged by the Green Industry Innovation programme of Norway Grants, which supports green business ideas and new environmental technologies. Norway has proudly maintained a leading role in funding such sustainable solutions, and has successfully managed to spread this knowledge, and a green way of thinking, to countries all over Europe. This year’s Green IT seminar, on June 3, will relate stories of partnership and the realization of ideas in green industry innovation. But it will not stop there. Many more new ideas await discovery by today’s brightest minds and strongest performers! www.eas.ee/greenit/en
3.06 Keynote speaker: Anita Krohn Traaseth, CEO of Innovation Norway. Anita is titled as ‘Top 20 Women in Business in Northern Europe’, ‘Top 50 Most Inspiring Women in European Tech’ and ‘Best Female Leader in the IT Industry’.
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Speakers at Latitude59:
HRH The Duke of York will give an opening speech and present his Pitch@Palace initiative. Pitch@Palace is a program founded by Prince Andrew and aimed at supporting entrepreneurs with the amplification and acceleration of their business ideas by connecting them with potential supporters including CEOs, angels, mentors and key business partners. The first Pitch@Palace event took place in St. James’s Palace, London on April 2, 2014. Pitch@Palace alumni include startups from different fields, beginning with a stem cell product that improves surgical healing to a fin-tech startup helping to combat diamond fraud.
31 May-1 June @ Kultuurikatel (Põhja pst 27a)
The Go-To Place for Tech Latitude59 is the go-to place for the Nordic and Baltic start-up scene, an annual technology conference to be held for the ninth consecutive year in 2016. This year, global speakers and startups will be discussing topics such as building successful tech companies (lessons learned and ‘war stories’), the virtual nation (the e-Residency platform, providing digital identity for everybody in the world, and thus increasing the number of people who would do business through Estonia), virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and the state of VC / business angel investing. For 2016, Latitude59 is expecting more than 1 500 participants including the top startups from Northern Europe as well as investors from Silicon Valley, Europe, and Asia. Latitude59 is organized by the Estonian startup community, Estonian Investment Agency, Startup Estonia, Startup Wise Guys, and dozens of volunteers from various different fields of life. More information about Latitude59’s tickets, highlights, the pitching competition, as well as possibilities for participating as a volunteer can be found at www.latitude59.ee. stay tuned for updates at @latitude59 Latitude59 #latitude59
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Tim Draper is the founder and CEO of Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ) and Draper University. Tim’s original suggestion of using viral marketing in web-based email to geometrically spread an Internet product to its market was instrumental to the successes of Hotmail, YahooMail, and Gmail and has been adopted as a standard marketing technique by thousands of businesses. His venture successes include Skype, Overture, Baidu, Tesla, Theranos, Parametric Technology, Hotmail, Digidesign, Twitch.tv, and hundreds of others.
Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas is without doubt an ‘e-politician’, and governmental leader of the ’New Nordic’ – Estonia. He will say a few opening words at the conference and also take part in a panel discussion focusing on different countries competing for talent in the modern world.
Ari Eisenstat is the 27-year old CEO and Founder of Draem Ventures, an idea-stage impact venture fund with a mission – namely to fund the next generation of socially-, environmentally-, and technologically-conscious entrepreneurs. Draem Ventures takes the micro-finance model and applies it to venture capital principles. With 12 startups seeded, the fund’s vision is to invest in 1000 social enterprises by 2020.
Hardi Meybaum is a classic example of a new generation of Estonian entrepreneurs – thinking out- of-the-box, having an innovative mindset etc. – and actually being successful to boot. He is a General Partner at Matrix Partners, a US-based private equity investment firm focusing on venture capital investments. He was awarded the title ‘Estonia’s Entrepreneur of the Year’ in 2014 – the year he sold his first company, GrabCad, for a record amount.
Herman Narula is the CEO of Improbable. Improbable was founded three years ago by Herman Narula and Rob Whitehead, a pair of hyperkinetic computer scientists from the University of Cambridge. More than 60 people at Improbable are writing code that could dramatically reshape not only how we play games but how large organizations make decisions. Narula has even said: ‘Improbable is trying to be the world’s “what if’’ machine.’
‘Neujahrsempfang’ Brought European Investors to Estonia At the beginning of January, 2016, German, Austrian and Swiss investors met in Tallinn at the exclusive ‘Neujahrsempfang’, organised by Enterprise Estonia. As a starter, the delegations visited the e-Estonia showroom at Technopolis Smart City, the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Estonia – an information center, where the developments and innovations of ICT are presented. The focus here is to give policy-makers, company directors, executives, investors as well as the international press a better understanding of the success story of e-Estonia. The meeting was rounded-off with a ‘Neujahrslunch’ at Kõue Manor near Tallinn. The traditional business luncheon together with the Minister of Entrepreneurship of Estonia, Ms. Liisa Oviir, the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, H.E. Mr. Christoph Eichhorn and CEO of Enterprise Estonia, Mr. Hanno Tomberg, was a great platform for
Christoph Eichhorn, German Ambassador: ‘It was a highly professional top networking event. I was honoured to share it with Minister Oviir.’ Damir Tomicic, CEO of Axinom: ‘Neujahrslunch is an event you shouldn’t miss if you’re doing business in Estonia. The guest-list was impressive, heavyweight, and credible and it was a genuine privilege to hear their insights and get a different perspective on doing business in Estonia. I felt honoured to be able to join and discuss topics that matter the most. networking and exchanging new ideas. Following our recent strong growth, Axinom has just moved to a new office in Tallinn equipped for more than 100 persons and this certainly represents our commitment to Estonia and why such an exchange make a lot of sense for us.’
Hanno Tomberg, CEO of EAS, and Riina Leminsky, Head of EAS, Hamburg Office greeting the participants of the Neujahrslunch
Timo Schulz, CEO & Co-Founder DMA Brokers: ‘Historic and modern locations, great, interesting people to network with and all together in a perfect atmosphere. I am looking forward to attending similar events as well the ICT Week in the coming months.’ Riina Leminsky, Head of Enterprise Estonia, Hamburg Office, co-founder and moderator of ‘Neujahrsempfang’: ‘It was a highly successful event with many creative incentives for better cooperation in the future. On the one hand, these kinds of events are helpful for the Estonian government for open discussions with companies and on the other, for the companies sharing their joint experiences about doing business in Estonia. As Germany is currently Estonia’s fourth trading partner there is still a lot to do regarding better business relations between the German-speaking countries and Estonia. And finally, there is so much we can do together with company leaders in promoting Estonia abroad. Foreign investors are the best ambassadors outside Estonia as well as for Estonia!’
Photos by Meeli Küttim
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Garage48 Boosts Hardware Revolution By Kristel Kont and Triin Liiv / Photos by Maido Parv
The past few years have seen the evolution of many hardware technologies, such as IoT, sensors, face recognition (in videos), machine learning, wearables, autonomous cars etc. The teams at this yearâ€™s Garage48 Hardware & Arts 2016 hackathon, devoted to physical gadgets and product design, have certainly grasped these innovations.
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The third Garage48 Hardware and Arts event in Tartu brought together a record 145 hardware enthusiasts, who between them presented 39 ideas and delivered 19 working prototypes in just 48 hours. Let’s have a look at some of the smartest inventions presented at Garage48 Hardware & Arts 2016.
Genosity – Taking Gene Testing to Schools Genosity scored the overall victory and best design prize with a genetesting kit, which allows anyone to test if they have a certain gene or not – for example, if they are one of 20 per cent of people needing only 6.5 hours of sleep or the 2 per cent people immune to HIV. The team sees as their first target schools, where students can learn about genetics by testing their own genes, but the potential future user base extends much further.
WulfCounter – Counts the Bullets, Saves Lives Four defence-related projects were built over the weekend, inspired by the real needs of participants from Estonian National Defence College. WulfCounter is a device that, when attached to a firearm, counts how many bullets are remaining in the magazine and displays it on a small screen – crucial information to a soldier under attack. In future, it could send data on ammunition usage and stock wirelessly to commanding officers.
Teasla – Siri, Please Make Me Some Tea The beauty of Garage48 lies in balancing life-saving and entertaining inventions. Teasla Model T, an automated tea-maker, makes preparing tea easy. Just as you can make coffee, the smart machine in your kitchen can prepare an ideal cup of tea - it only takes a voice command to your smartphone.
Garage48 Hardware & Arts 2016 hackathon was held at the Institute of Physics, University of Tartu in Tartu, Estonia on 5-7 February, 2016
EyeShirt – Sell Like Hell by Walking on the Streets The best marketing prize went to EyeShirt, which enables fashionable people to earn money by displaying advertisements on the LED-panel of their t-shirt. Allowing the showcasing of text and pictures via a mobile phone app, EyeShirt will bring a whole new meaning to the concept of ‘a walking advertisement’ and ‘thinking outside of the box’.
Hardware Is Hard, but Rewarding Tallinn-based Garage48 Foundation has been organising hackathons where participants create prototypes to test their business ideas in 48 hours since 2010. So far over 50 events have taken place in seventeen countries and on four continents. The format is simple: everyone can pitch their idea on Friday, the most popular ones attracting teams that will start executing them, and on Sunday evening the teams present the actual prototypes built over the weekend - no Powerpoint slides are allowed! Despite the fact that technological developments and emergence of crowdfunding have made hardware increasingly appealing for startups, very few hackathons focus on hardware or building ‘real things’ as opposed to web and mobile services. The reason – you need people with relevant knowhow as well as technical possibilities for turning ideas into physical prototypes in 48 hours. Garage48 has been lucky to have amazing co-organisers for the Hardware & Arts edition, such as the University of Tartu and Estonian Academy of Arts. The partners Elisa Estonia, Massportal, Rohde&Schwarz, Eccom and many others have provided equipment, services and mentors to help the teams throughout the weekend.
The weekend event held in Tartu continues to attract Latvian and Lithuanian participants, making it the biggest hardware hackathon in the Baltic region. At the Sunday’s grand finale, Estonia’s First Lady and the head of the National Cyber Security Policy Section at Latvia’s defence ministry, Ieva Ilves gave the opening words to show support to the bringing of young minds with different skill-sets together in order to develop ground-breaking technologies.
Though Garage48 is mostly known for its software hackathons, its Hardware & Arts hackathons are rapidly becoming the most soughtafter startup bootcamps outside of Estonia as well. At the end of 2015, the first Garage48 Hardware & Arts hackathon was organised in Tbilisi, Georgia, where prototypes including glasses for blind people and a cheaper version of a laser cutter were developed. Garage48’s ‘partnerin-crime’, the Estonian Academy of Arts, also recently organised the Garage48 (Analog) Design hackathon, which gathered students from various departments such as interior architecture, graphic design, fashion design, leather art, ceramics and textile design to find design solutions for everyday problems. For upcoming Garage48 events, see garage48.org
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Having just raised two million dollars for her company from some of the top Venture Capitalists (VCs) from the US and Europe â€” Union Square Ventures and Saul Klein with LocalGlobe â€” the founder and CEO of Jobbatical, Karoli Hindriks is undoubtedly one of the most successful startup entrepreneurs in Estonia. Estonia is thus both a stepping stone and a safe haven to always come back home to between conquering the global markets.
Standing Out from the Crowd: Karoli Hindriks, Founder of Jobbatical By Ede Schank Tamkivi
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Members of the Jobbatical team in Malaysia
Raising a round worth more than a million euros always draws a lot of attention in the local media, but the news about Jobbatical was all over international tech media outlets such as TechCrunch, Forbes and Business Insider. Jobbatical has also been endorsed by Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas and President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on Twitter and Facebook, in this way reaching their 100 000 combined followers. ‘I guess when President Ilves is sharing our news then we are officially considered to be in the #estonianmafia? Made me proud!’ Karoli tweeted in return. This is an obvious understatement since, besides getting the limelight on both old and new media while attending globally influential events like the Lean In conference at Google Asia, the word ‘jobbatical’ has already made it to Merriam Webster dictionary being defined as ‘a short-term post when between jobs in one’s career’ (‘our lawyers suggested getting it removed from the dictionary,’ Karoli comments) and has recently also made it to the pages of an international best-seller. ‘One of the first people I met was Karoli Hindriks, the CEO of Jobbatical, a company that blends the concept of a job and a sabbatical, matching employers and talent for short-term jobs that might involve sending a software developer from Sweden to Thailand for a threemonth “jobbatical”,’ Alec Ross, the former head of office for Hillary Clinton, writes in his new book, ‘The Industries of the Future’. ‘I asked Karoli why she and everybody else on the street was wearing reflective clothing, and she told me that when it gets dark, it is
Estonian law that all pedestrians wear some form of reflective clothing for safety,’ Ross continues in Chapter Six of his book. ‘She smiled and told me that she became an inventor at age 16, creating pedestrian reflectors that could be used as a part of clothing and jewelry, and she now holds several patents and international trademarks for her designs. This was very representative of what I have seen during all of my time in Estonia: extreme order combined with invention and design.’ Karoli herself did not have to worry about wearing reflective clothing in order to be visible in the slushy winter of Estonia this year since, living the life she preaches, she was on a jobbatical in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. ‘Malaysia and Singapore are the fastest growing markets for us as there are many great global companies emerging and there is not enough talent locally so we need to import it,’ she tells me over Skype. She is sitting in the shade of a tropical tree by a pool that’s teeming with little turtles, in a spacious courtyard of the house that operates as both an office and living quarters for her team. The team at Jobbatical consists of people from all over the world – Estonia, Italy, the USA, Korea, Hong Kong… ‘Almost half of the team has been found through the platform itself, I’ve hired six people before actually meeting them.’ It seems the future of the job market that Alec Ross pinpoints in his book, is already here.
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From Minnesota to Tallinn Matching talented people who want to take a break from their ordinary jobs with companies who are looking for helping hands for specific projects around the world is the shorthand description of what Jobbatical does. Over its first year, 1 200 companies across 40 countries have used Jobbatical and 7 000 job applications have yielded over 300 job matches. Behind these numbers are real people who are happy to share their user experience. I meet Björn Lapakko from Minnesota, USA, in his new office above the Kivi-Paber-Käärid restaurant in Telliskivi, the hipster-ville of Tallinn. Despite his name, denoting his roots from his Finnish grandparents, Björn does not speak any Finnish but he’s been eager to come and live in Europe ever since he was a kid. In his hometown of Minneapolis, which looks and feels very much like Tallinn – although people are far more engaging here, he claims – he had been working as a senior Digital Marketing Manager for the U.S. division of Aimia, a data-driven marketing and loyalty analytics company. ‘I wasn’t really looking for anything at the time but at the same time I wasn’t 100 per cent happy,’ he recalls. ‘One day, my intern suggested that I check out this website, Jobbatical.’ All of a sudden, his lifelong dream to come to Europe, not just as a backpacker but as someone who could contribute to the economy and sustain a lifestyle, became a more tangible possibility. Previously, he had applied for a few positions in Europe but when his US citizenship came up, he was promptly removed from the running. ‘Jobbatical offers a unique job hunting platform being from another country is never a shock to employers… they actually embrace it.’ Since the beginning of January, Björn has been working for Funderbeam, an Estonian startup. His job title is ‘Growth Hacker’ – his focus is primarily with lead generation and the digital marketing of Funderbeam’s soon to be launched, blockchain based, global startup marketplace. ‘Ultimately, my goal is to drive awareness and activation for our revolutionary technology,’ he continues. ‘I’m really loving my time in Tallinn and I can’t wait to explore the rest of Estonia,’ says Björn who has since enrolled in an Estonian language course provided by Estonian government and is happy to have found a community who share his passion in ice swimming and local craft beer. ‘I’ve been very lucky to have stumbled across Funderbeam and Jobbatical. It’s been such a remarkable and unique experience!’ he tells me.
Think big, act fast These are the kind of stories Jobbatical has made happen and what prove to Karoli that her gut feeling that the job market as it is would be shaken by the ever growing globalization and trans-nationalism, was right. The concept of Jobbatical grew out of several previous experiences. Since 2009 Karoli had been in charge of bringing FOX International
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Channels, broadcasting Fox Life, Fox Crime and National Geographic to the Baltics. At some point she felt she had learned all about localizing international TV-channels and needed some change. She left FOX and flew to Malaysia, with just her running shoes and books. Within eight days she had read through all her books and done enough running circles around the small island she was staying on to understand she needed more meaning in her time off. ‘I would have loved to find a team in Malaysia, whom to help with the skills and expertise in media business that I had been working past seven years,’ she says and adds ‘but Jobbatical did not exist back then’. She managed to find a small Estonian startup who needed her help and flew to San Francisco. ‘I worked 14-16 hours a day really exploring the startup scene in the Bay area. This was a great ‘’jobbatical’’ for me.’ She also applied to Singularity University, a global initiative founded by Dr. Ray Kurtzweil and Dr Peter Diamandis, both influential thinkers on the future of tech in Silicon Valley. ‘I had applied to the Singularity University Graduate Program last winter since a brave little optimist in me said – what the heck, go for it, you’ve got nothing to lose!’ she wrote on her blog after finding out the delightful news that she was chosen from among 3 000 candidates. ‘I will be the first person from my country and the first woman from the Baltic countries to be in the SU Graduate Program’, she revealed. Fast forward four years, and Karoli reflects that this experience gave her the courage to do really big things, and most importantly, a really good network of people that reaches much further from the sweet embrace of Silicon Valley. ‘I noticed that with the new Millennial generation, your geographic location and time zone really does not matter any more. Both friendships and work span borders. Although hardly anyone wakes up in London to think that their next big opportunity is waiting for them in Tallinn, we should open up opportunities for those who are curious and adventurous enough to want to try out new challenges elsewhere,’ she says. Jobbatical was born in the spring of 2014, when Karoli’s daughter Maya turned one, as she had promised herself to take at least a year off for the family: ‘I discovered that for a person like me, having worked for more than 10 years, there was an option to go and pick melons in Australia or take up an internship. I started to wonder that there must be a multitude of people like me who could add more value than that.’ Looking back at how Jobbatical started, she admits that they’ve made many mistakes. ‘Eat your own dog food!’ is a good saying by many entrepreneurs that also applies to Jobbatical. There was no pivot but there was a lot of experimentation. Finally, placing the focus on technology paid off: ‘It really took off in May 2015; the focus was there, the companies and the right people were on board,’ Karoli says. ‘I did not know anything about raising money and no one is likely to give you a manual on how to go about that,’ she reflects. Having pitched to hundreds of investors, she now admits that even today she cannot pinpoint a specific pattern besides the fact that the US investors will look further in the future whereas the European ones are more centered on numbers and are more keen on how the idea can be monetized.
In the latest round, Karoli managed to embrace both VC varieties, since Union Square Ventures is based in New York, while the other venture fund, LocalGlobe, is London-based. With this latest investment, Jobbatical have now raised around three million dollars. ‘I raised the angel round solely based on my presentation and by making people believe in my vision,’ she tells us in hindsight. ‘My first investors were from Finland; I still remember that day when I was running in my silk stockings from the ferry to make it to the meeting in mid-town Helsinki.’ The next people on board were the British investors, and only then were the Estonians brave enough to put their money in her venture. ‘I was the second woman in Estonia to raise money this way after Kaidi Ruusalepp,’ Karoli claims. According to the crowd sourced list of ‘Investments, Funding, Failures & Exits of Estonian Tech Startups 2006-2015’ compiled by Garage48, Funderbeam raised 500 000 euros from local investors in April 2014 and Jobbatical raised its seedround of 260 000 euros, 150 000 euros of which came from Estonian investors. The third company with a female cofounder, Kristel Viidik of Testlio, followed suit in January 2015, with 737 000 euros in international capital. Kaidi, the CEO and founder of Funderbeam, is slightly surprised to hear these statistics. ‘Whenever I get invited to an event or a conference, Karoli is already there. Either on stage or any space, she’s always visible,’ she says. Kaidi assumes it all boils down to the passion Karoli feels about things. ‘If she’s devoted to a cause, she will put her full energy into
it – either for her company, women’s rights or other politics. We both build global startups and we are women with small kids. This simple fact keeps us both motivated – if she can do it, I can do it. She has a leader’s characteristics, ability and the courage to build up a global company. We both bet on the future trends: she’s betting on the trend of changing the status of work; Funderbeam bets on the fact that raising capital will change because technology is eliminating the borders,’ Kaidi goes on.
How it all started Believing in new technologies and having the courage to tear down existing borders is what makes many successful people stand out among others. Plus it takes a lot of perseverance and, above all, a few supportive people to rely on. For Karoli it was her entrepreneurship teacher in high school. And of course her parents, who would always stand behind her crazy ideas. ‘Usually parents would encourage their kids to pay more attention to their studies but my late dad told me to go to the patent office when I told him about my idea for the student company project,’ she says. That was exactly what she did with her soft reflectors, and this was how her first company, Goodmood, took off. Liis-Katrin Avandi, a good friend from high school, admits that she’s always been amazed how Karoli can manage to do so many things at the same time while having no complexes to hold her back: ‘She has never been the “Oh, why me?”-type. She writes her own story and is really good at what she does. And while at it, she is not afraid to seem silly sometimes and that is a very strong asset. She can surprise and amaze anyone with her straightforward and brutally honest style,’ she says.
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A politician lost? To bring an example of Karoli’s determination and experimental mindset, Liis-Katrin tells a story from several years ago: ‘As a student entrepreneur, she was invited to give a speech at the European Parliament in Brussels. To get the full attention of her audience she decided to open her speech with a song. And I mean, she can carry the tune but she is no singer! For me that would be an absolute nightmare. But she, of course, pulled it off very elegantly and got 110 per cent attention. This is how she rolls: besides amazing everyone with the initial attention she can then surprise people with her craziest yet doable ideas. She has that X-factor: a specific balance between the form and the essence.’
Karoli does not even try to hide her passion for politics: ‘In Estonia I can go and tell the President what I really think about things. One couldn’t do that in Lithuania, for sure.’
Karoli admits that if she gets an idea, she will almost literally drive through a stone wall to reach her goals, as she was lucky enough to be taught to believe in herself. An exchange year as a senior in a US high school in New Hampshire probably helped in shaping her character too.
‘Another thing that she is definitely great at is rallying kids, teens and students to take a hard look at their lives and encourage them to do and be more. This is the most disenfranchised part of society, if you look at people from the perspective of electoral politics and politics would definitely win a lot from politicians like her who can speak to youngsters of all kinds and of all social backgrounds,’ adds Kaju.
‘As I decided to go back to Estonia and continue being an entrepreneur, my classmates must have thought I was completely out of my mind.’ However a few years later she had no regrets, despite having been an alumna of Pärnu City Council at the age of 25. She had been elected at the age of 19, as a member of IRL, currently a rather conservative party. She does not deny that she became disillusioned with politics: ‘You need a cooler nerve and thicker skin to be active in politics on a local level. I’m sure I’ll return some day,’ she pauses and adds with a smile, ‘once I’ve finished changing the world! I will return to politics when I’m independent enough to be dependent on public opinion. We are actually working towards the same goals with Enterprise Estonia, promoting our country abroad. In fact, I am changing policies, just in a different vertical,’ she concludes.
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Andreas Kaju, a long-time friend and a member of the editorial team at Poliitika.Guru, a platform for political analyses and managing partner of Baltic public affairs consultancy META, thinks that Karoli would need to be part of the executive arm, a government level actor who would raise an issue to the public policy agenda, mobilize her ministry and the resources available to craft a policy response and then ram it through the government and parliament.
But being a person with a cool head, as well as a warm heart, she cannot only shower praise on her homeland: ‘Having tried to attract investors I have found out how very difficult it is for US investors to open an investment account in an Estonian bank – this service is offered by a single institution and can take up to six months to process. As a security measure they can ask for home addresses of all persons who have their assets in an investment fund. These are the moments that make me wonder: do I really need to be here?!’ She can bring many examples from other countries that Estonia might be keen to follow. Among these some obvious examples like Singapore, as well as those who might sound a bit more surprising, like Canada.
‘Singapore is a perfectly engineered state: they send their best brains to study abroad with a string attached that they have to come back. If you talk to any government official from Singapore you’ll realize the positive effect of this pattern. We could consistently broaden the minds and horizons of our future generations if every student in Estonia had to go through an exchange program abroad,’ she explains. Having now lived for three months just across the border from Singapore, in Malaysia, where Islam is the predominant religion, she has learned a completely different yet valuable lesson: ‘I have thought a lot about the issues of discrimination and diversity here. Although I’m not Muslim and I don’t wear hijab, nobody would bother to give me a weird look on the street. Everyone can exist peacefully together.’ She gets really excited when she talks about the obvious dichotomy of diversity and discrimination: ‘I would love to see someone “owning” this topic in Estonia. The way we currently deal with discrimination is totally ridiculous. It’s where we could easily apply a modernized version of the simple theory of Adam Smith: if you know that there are likely be sanctions for taking your neighbour’s TV, you simply won’t take it.’ ‘I love following ‘the third culture kids’ – the ones who have moved around a lot since childhood – in our team. The way they think and do things is just completely different, they are just so smart in every aspect of life. They are the best proof that we are on the right track with what we do,’ she goes on.
‘Karoli is the most fantastic woman I could imagine who is able to combine being an entrepreneur with her role as a wife and mother’, says Allan, admitting that both of them have to adjust their expectations to the fact that not everything can be perfect in life. ‘We can support each other a lot as we understand the smallest details. Talking about our day jobs and fundraising is a shared experience, not something that will tear us apart. And I would say that if you get 3 out of 5 – that’s pretty good in mobile coverage,’ he jokes. ‘Obviously I have lost out most on the friends front,’ Karoli seconds Zuckerberg’s claim, and later admits to having recently had three-hour nights. Having been a professional dancer she no longer dares to go for the full split but tries to keep up a solid amount of physical activity although it’s a far cry from the year she ran a marathon. She claims her body starts aching if she doesn’t get enough physical activity. Going for a run can also be an excellent opportunity to learn more about the local environment: ‘One day I was running in a local park and 15-20 monkeys started following me. That was both funny and scary!’ Having escaped the monkeys, she realized that this moment was a metaphor of what Jobbatical has set out to do: encourage people to get out of their comfort zone and get new experiences across the globe which might completely transform both their own lives and the world.
In their co-working and -living space she’s been immersed to adhan, the Muslim calls for prayers five times a day as part of the local culture. And she’s really happy that her daughter Maya is there with her, so for her many of the barriers that might have held her parents back, albeit these are nothing but mere social constructs to start with, will not even be present.
Pick 3 Modern technology has already helped a lot with her family setup where both spouses are entrepreneurs and used to constant continent and time-zone hopping. While she’s in Malaysia with her daughter Maya who just turned three, her husband Allan Martinson is based in Estonia and travels back-and-forth on the other side of the world, between London and San Francisco. He’s promoting the new courier robot of Starship Technologies, the company he cofounded with Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, both founders of Skype. Despite not being able to spend much time together, Karoli is adamant that family is her rock. ‘The time with your family is when you are actually together, no compromising!’ she says. A fellow entrepreneur and mom, Randi Zuckerberg recently tweeted the ultimate entrepreneur’s dilemma: ‘Maintaining friendships. Building a great company. Spending time w/family. Staying fit. Getting sleep. Pick 3’. She was obviously implying to the fact that even the most talented and hard working of us cannot have it all and have to make their choices carefully.
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I LAND AND PEOPLE KELLY SILDARU Born on 17 February, 2002 School: 7th grade at Tallinn German Gymnasium Fields: slopestyle, Big Air, halfpipe
Photo by Peter Morning / ESPN Images
Best results: > 1st place in ski slopestyle at 2016 European Freeski Open, Laax > 4th place in Big Air at Oslo X Games 2016 > 1st place in ski slopestyle at Aspen X Games 2016 > 1st place in ski slopestyle at Dew Tour 2015 > Will be eligible to participate in the World Cup series and title championships in the 2017/18 season. www.sildaru.com
Kelly Sildaru — Estonia’s New National Treasure By Madis Kalvet / Postimees
Faith in winter sports has always been strong in Estonia. What could be better than switching on the television on a dark winter’s day to cheer on your fellow Estonians? In the right kind of weather, you might even put on the skis yourself and do a couple of circuits in the fresh air. No wonder, then, that at the height of their career you could hardly find more popular athletes in Estonia than the Nordic skiers Kristina Šmigun-Vähi, Andrus Veerpalu and Jaak Mae. Today the gap left by their retirement has been filled – Kelly Sildaru, the freestyle skier who only turned 14 this February, triumphed in ski slopestyle at the X Games in Aspen. As a result Estonia has been hit by total Kelly-mania.
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Images Morning / ESPN Photo by Matt
Will Kelly’s fame bring Big Air to Tallinn? Estonians who have converted to the freestyle skiing faith may get the chance to support Kelly Sildaru and her determined competitors next winter at Tallinn’s Freedom Square. Tõnis Sildaru admits that the idea to organise the Big Air competition in Tallinn is taking shape.
The new X Games champion is currently by far the most popular athlete in Estonia. This is especially evident on social media – Kelly Sildaru’s Facebook profile boasts about 50 000 followers. The second position in this ranking is held by the long-time leading tennis player in Estonia, Kaia Kanepi, who has half of the followers of Sildaru.
big breakthrough came this winter. Before winning the gold medal at the X Games in Aspen, Kelly triumphed in the second reputable extreme Dew Tour sports competition, also in ski slopestyle. At the end of February, she narrowly missed her second X Games medal when she came fourth in Oslo in her second field – Big Air jumps.
By now every, Estonian even remotely interested in sports must know the story about how the X Games champion got her first skis.
Extreme sports have long been the domain of youth. But Kelly’s achievements are still amazing considering her very young age. Hence it is easy to draw the conclusion that she must be extremely talented. Of course, in order to be a top professional athlete one needs certain prerequisites, but nothing comes without hard work. Observing her training days in Aspen, I can vouch that she trains a lot and she trains hard. The young Estonian was always the last one to leave the slopes and in the end she had to pack up her stuff when the slopes were closing for the day. ‘Perhaps I can still ski down once more,’ is her regular wish.
‘It all started with the spring sales at the Giacomelli sports store when Kelly was two years old,’ recalls Tõnis Sildaru, the trainer and father of the young athlete. The little girl went to test out her new equipment in the forests near Tallinn. ‘I started skiing when I was two. I got into freestyleskiing at the age of five or six,’ recalls Kelly. ‘We started to attend training camps when Kelly was nine,’ adds her father. With hindsight, Tõnis admits that discovering freestyle was a total coincidence. ‘I bought my own freestyle skis after Kelly was born. It can be said that we started out together. I did not have any prior relevant experience,’ he admits. ‘Actually there is no great sporting background in the family. None of us has done professional sports before.’
Good results demand great dedication Kelly’s name as a future star was mentioned in Estonia and abroad already some years ago. The
There is one important ingredient to her success – you have to really enjoy it, and this in clear in Kelly’s case. ‘It is cool to be up on the slopes with friends and to do the tricks,’ she admits. There are also sweeter emotions involved in any work people put all their heart into. Whereas after winning the X Games Kelly had to start giving interviews immediately, Tõnis, who had taken care of her career throughout the years, could allow himself a few tears. ‘Yes, that’s what happened. It took me some minutes to cool down,’ he admitted to the Estonian journalists on location.
Big Air is not Kelly’s first field of choice, but because Estonia has no mountains, it is impossible to build a top level ski slopestyle track, and building a halfpipe ramp is ridiculously expensive. Erecting the 60m Big Air jump tower is the most likely opportunity for seeing Kelly compete in Estonia. According to Tõnis Sildaru, they have done some preparatory work and investigated possibilities to organise the competition. At the moment the most complicated thing seems to be finding a suitable date. As the international competition calendar is very full, the date needs to be one which would bring as many top athletes as possible to Tallinn. In the future even a World Cup series event might be organised in Tallinn, but at the moment the plan is to organise an independent competition, on an invitation-only basis. Considering that Kelly’s biggest competitors are Tiril Sjåstad Christiansen and Johanne Killi from Norway and Emma Dahlström from Sweden, it could be like the good old days in Nordic skiing when Estonians triumphed over Scandinavians. According to current plans, the Big Air competition could take place in February and next to women also men would participate. There are also plans to include snowboarding event.
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Sildaru’s winning dance also infected the Americans and the Japanese Having become the youngest ever female X Games champion in Aspen and the youngest ever female champion of the winter X Games at the age of thirteen, Kelly Sildaru also melted hearts with her winning dance.
One might be forgiven for thinking that such major victories have opened the money-gates for the Sildarus, but this is also not true. To highlight this, Michael Spencer, an acclaimed sports manager who deals with Kelly’s foreign advertising deals, admitted in Aspen that at last they have managed to create a situation where costs are being covered and they can properly make ends meet. At present it is mother Lilian who is supporting the family by continuing her day job. Hence she has to stay mostly in Estonia, whilst the members of her family travel the world. Lilian, who works in sales at a roof company, was left watching the triumph at the X Games in Aspen on television at home, though during the X Games in Oslo she had been able to support her daughter in person.
Photo by Peter Morning / ESPN Images
The dance, which resembles Egyptian Pharaoh-style movements, became an instant hit in Aspen, with even the organisers realizing that ‘the Sildaru dance’ was the latest craze. As is customary with star athletes, she was asked to repeat her dance on camera over and over again and that is just what she did, always with a smile on her face. The first TV station to ask for an live-on-air dance was ESPN with various US, Japanese and Estonian stations following suit.
Regardless of everything, the Sildarus still consider themselves amateurs in comparison with other competitors, and they have nothing to match the opportunities which the teams of bigger countries enjoy. In order to compete at this level, they have to spend about six months a year away from home in training camps and competitions. As it was obvious some time ago that Kelly would have a breakthrough sooner or later, her father quit his job. ‘I no longer have a regular day job, unfortunately. Sometimes it would be nice to have that part of life too. Today I am part trainer, teacher, cook, father and cameraman,’ admits the 34year old .
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The Sildaru clan is growing Kelly is not the only one in the family dreaming of big victories. Side-by-side with his big sister, 9-year old Henry Sildaru is also on his way to the top. Just as with his sister and father, Henry spends about half a year abroad participating in all the competition- and training trips. ‘Whilst people describe Kelly as passionate about skiing and someone who enjoys the whole process, this flame burns even brighter in Henry,’ admits Tõnis. ‘It is too early to speak of him as a top athlete. There is enormous competition among men.’ Whereas Kelly reached her first big victories at the age of 13, men do not usually get to the same level younger than 15 or 16 years of age. However Henry demonstrates with every fibre in his body that his sister’s amazing results are also motivating him. He is already said to be more skilful on the ski slopestyle rails. Whilst watching the Big Air training of women at the Oslo X Games, he announced to the Estonian journalists that on such jumps he is already faster than Kelly. In addition to offering some family competition, Henry is the one who makes sure that his older sister does not get bored on competition tours. The X Games champion is a good student who took out her textbooks on the morning after her big triumph in Aspen. As an older sister she makes it her business to help her brother. ‘Usually I study independently. I read and try to understand. If there is something I don’t get, I ask dad. I help my brother all the time. It is interesting for me, as these are things which I have also learned some time ago,’ Kelly admits. The siblings look for some snow time together even in the summer, as in order to keep the right feeling, you need to be on the skis every couple of weeks. ‘In recent years we have gone to Levi in Finland to ski in the off-season, and in summer we have been high on the glacier in France. At the end of the summer, it has been New Zealand for a month or two. I cannot see any reason why it should be different this year,’ says Tõnis. The whole family admits that the priority is to have a good time together and freestyle skiing offers a great opportunity for that. As the big championships are over for Kelly this season, the family are making future plans. In addition to ski slopestyle, there are plans to achieve great results in the halfpipe with the help of the acclaimed French trainer Greg Guenet. Both of those fields are part of the Olympic Games program and Kelly wishes to participate in both fields at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang (Big Air which was part of the Oslo X Games is not part of the Olympics programme). According to the FIS age regulations, Kelly is ineligible to participate in the World Cup series next season, hence her World Cup debut will probably take place in August 2017 in New Zealand.
At first sight there seems to be nothing in common between Estonia, with its Nordic climate and population of just 1.3 million, and the tropical island state of the Philippines, having as it does a population 100 times the size. Yet Estonians have even left a large footprint in the small town of Anda, by making it their mission to help the poverty-stricken community there. In the recent years, Estonians have equipped local houses, which often have no electricity, with 2 000 lights made of recycled plastic bottles, building up the local community centre and creating many new jobs.
Estonians Bring Joy to the Children of the Philippines By Piret Järvis According to official statistics, Estonians are not the most charitable folk. The latest World Giving Index which takes into account donations, voluntary work and helping strangers, ranks Estonia in 99th position from 140 countries. It is therefore especially noteworthy that the small Philippine town of Anda has got a new breath of life thanks to the initiative of a few Estonians. ‘The Estonian footprint in Anda is disproportionally large. We haven’t done the calculations yet, but if you add up the number of volunteers who have been here and the number of people who have contributed financially, then, considering the size of Estonia and the size of here, I think it’s probably the biggest national impact in Anda. Percentage-wise it is huge!’ says the former British marketing expert Robin Gurney, who moved to Anda, Bohol, four years ago with his Estonian wife Birgit Naur and their two children. Anda seems to be a place of contradictions, a paradise lost. The white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters are breathtakingly beautiful. At the same time, over 90 per cent of the 16 000 local residents are unemployed, with women, men and children just killing time on the streets, some of their favourite pastimes being listening to the ballads of Celine
Dion or The Backstreet Boys, singing karaoke or holding rooster fights. One thing is certain – life may be hard, but you are unlikely to meet a more optimistic, smiling and friendly people anywhere else in the world. No wonder, then, that when Gurney and Naur went for a holiday in Anda four years ago, they fell in love with the town and decided to stay. That was just the beginning. ‘By the time we had been there for a month or two, we had met many local people. Our kids made friends quickly and we saw the local life very up-close. We were renting a substantial house, whereas our neighbours lived in bamboo huts with holes in the roof and no floors. Our kids went over to play and would then come home telling us how the neighbourhood kids have holes in the roofs of their houses and no toys whatsoever. It is then that we decided to first start to help our neighbours,’ Birgit Naur, a former diplomat, recalls how the non-profit organisation Andakidz – registered in Estonia and operating with funding from Estonian volunteers and the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs – was born. The initial aim of the organisation was as its name suggests, helping local kids.
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I LAND AND PEOPLE
Birgit and Robin
‘At first we brought clothes, books and school supplies to the children and took them along when we went to a beach further away. Once we took a group of girls to the cinema in the island’s capital in order to provide them with some experiences outside their daily routine, which is very limited, modest and poor,’ continues Naur. Birgit’s husband, who was born in London and lived in Estonia for eight years after meeting his wife, adds that they soon came to the realisation that providing some material assistance would not make any long-term, sustainable impact: ‘We suddenly realised that it’s all very nice and looks good, but it really doesn’t change the fundamental problem of there being no money. And what the parents need most is more money. But we don’t just want to give money, so we create jobs as well.’
Lighting up the world... one bottle at a time The first jobs created in Anda at the initiative of Andakidz were five engineer positions for the installation of solar bottle lights. But what is a solar bottle light? A large proportion of households in Anda have no electricity, which means that the dark houses offer shade from the heat of the sun but, as you can imagine, going to the bathroom or doing household chores in the dark is not so convenient. Thus Andakidz grabbed the opportunity, which was born in the capital, Manila, in 2011 and which linked the recycling of plastic bottles with ‘capturing’ light from the sun. The idea is absurdly simple. At first you need to make a hole in the house roof and then install the solar bottle light, a lamp made from a plastic bottle filled with water and bleach (in order to prevent the growth of algae), providing the same effect as a 40-60W electric bulb and lasting for up to five years.
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‘As we are fans of recycling and there is so much unused garbage in Asia, we wanted to show locals how it is possible to make something out of rubbish, so that it doesn’t just lie around in the environment,’ explains Birgit. In order to bring light into some 2 000 households in Anda, Andakidz trained five local light bottle engineers with the help of some Estonian volunteers. These engineers became the first employees of Andakidz. Today Lito Amoguis, one of the five engineers and a father of two, demonstrates how his quality of life has changed after receiving his job. He has built a terrace for his hut made of bamboo and palm leaves, bought a sofa and armchairs – the kind of luxury only very few locals can afford. In addition, there is electricity in his house now!
More jobs for the people of Anda The plan of creating more jobs then led to negotiations with the local fish chips producer TAFIAS. The company was producing tasty tilapia chips, but the product lacked proper marketing and was therefore experiencing problems with sales. Again some Estonians got involved. Andakidz brought the Estonian graphic designer Janno Siimar to Anda for three months, where he designed an ultra-modern attractive packaging for the chips, and together with Andakidz, other alternative flavours were developed, including chocolate-and-tilapia flavour. The latter has proven a real hit with the tourists. Today the snacks are on sale in the largest shopping centres and at Bohol island’s airport. Last autumn, in cooperation with TAFIAS, Birgit and Robin opened a cafe in Anda. All in all, through various projects, Andakidz has offered employment to twelve local residents. The aim is to expand the number of jobs by the spring.
How to make a 'Liter of Light' The idea of using plastic bottles for daylight was pioneered in 2001 by Alfredo Moser from Brazil. In 2011, the technology behind ‘Liter of Light’ was designed and developed by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), based on the concept of ‘Appropriate Technologies’ – a concept to provide simple and easily replicable technologies to communities in need. Using the technology as a social enterprise was first launched in the Philippines by Illac Diaz, via the My Shelter Foundation in April 2011.
Centre for the whole local community The biggest charity project from Andakidz and the dozens of Estonians in Anda, is building the local community and culture centre. ‘Building the community centre was often a very stressful and tiring process. On rainy days we were knee-deep in mud, but with hindsight it was a great project. We had many helpers among local people – the kids and parents – but also many volunteers from Estonia and elsewhere, but mainly the project was funded and implemented by Estonian supporters and the local community has greatly benefited from it. Today it is a space for different concerts and recreational groups, the children’s library and much more,’ states Birgit. In addition to traditional building materials such as bamboo, coconut wood and nipa leaves, ‘the good old’ plastic bottles, which unfortunately litter extensively the Philippines, were also put into use in the construction of the community building. Furniture was made out of old car tires. As a result, the centre became a very environmentally-friendly building. ‘There are two kinds of bottles inside these walls: the plastic 1.5 litre Coca-Cola kind of bottles and a particular kind of rum bottles, made of glass but with a little plastic thing at the top, which means that the recycling depots will not take them,’ Gurney the manager of Andakidz explains, citing the reasons behind using such non-traditional building material. ‘We filled the plastic bottles with the mud that comes from the flood rivers. Glass bottles we used to make a sort of window. You cannot see
through them, but they do let the in light. We also did this just to show that something can be done with seemingly scrap material, plus to draw attention to the fact that recycling is currently not being done correctly in Bohol,’ he goes on. Again, dozens of Estonian volunteers and donators were involved in building the community centre. The building was designed on a voluntary basis by Hanna Läkk from Tallinn, who works as a space architect at the European Space Agency and thus has special experience in designing buildings for extreme environments, bearing in mind extreme natural circumstances are not rare in the Philippines. Indeed typhoons and earthquakes are regular occurrences in the area. ‘My preparation involved spending two months in Anda before the job, in order to help take down houses which had collapsed as a result of natural catastrophes,’ explains Läkk. ‘Our goal was to demolish the houses in a manner which would enable us to reuse their materials to erect new houses. This experience provided a solid grounding for me to start designing a new building. I became familiar with the culture of the Philippines and building traditions and learned about the typical mistakes they make in construction. It provided me with a solid basis for creating the new community building in Anda,’ she goes on. Thanks to Robin, Hanna, Birgit and dozens of other Estonians who have supported the Philippines through Andakidz, it is not surprising that the joyful locals on the streets of Anda are able to talk about the tiny country in Europe sometimes even more fondly than about their own homeland! To help the children of Anda, take a look at the website of Andakidz andakidz.org.
‘Liter of Light’ is a global open source movement with the aim to provide an ecologically and economically sustainable source of light to underprivileged households that do not have access to electricity or are unable to afford it. The invention is relatively simple. It involves filling up a 1.5 litre polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle – or a plastic bottle to you and I - with purified water and bleach and installing it onto the roof of a house. The water inside the bottle refracts the sunlight during the daytime and creates the same intensity as a 55W lightbulb. With the correct installation and materials, a solar bottle can last up to five years. As the light relies on the sun, it cannot of course be used at night and is only meant to provide light to buildings and homes during daylight hours. ‘Alfredo Moser’s solution to lighting his house was simple. He filled plastic bottles with water and some bleach to stop algae from growing and fixed them in holes he had made in his thin iron roof. The sun streams in and each bottle creates the same intensity of light as a 40- or 60W bulb. Simple and brilliant. In the Philippines, the lamps are now installed in 140 000 homes. Where electricity is expensive or unavailable, the lamps mean people can have indoor light in the daytime without the expense and negative health effects of kerosene.’ Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General speaking in Tallinn, Estonia, on 16 November, 2013.
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I EDUCATION & SCIENCE Computer games usually need at least one player, normally a human being of course. But what would happen, if a game was played by a self-learning artificial intelligence against another artificial intelligence? Researchers at the University of Tartu have expanded the Google DeepMind experiment towards a new direction of multi-agent cooperation, opening a whole new field of research.
Tartu Scientists Use Computer Games to Make Artificial Intelligence Learn Text and photos by Sven Paulus / University of Tartu, Novaator
Tambet Matiisen and Ardi Tampuu
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The researchers set themselves the goal of having two artificial intelligences play against each other and to see how they behave if the rules of the game are changed. Out of many games reviewed, they selected Pong – a game which imitates tennis. The reason for the choice was that it is a well-known and easy to understand game which allows two players to compete in real time. According to Matiisen the fact that their method worked is already a notable result: ‘Successful learning is not guaranteed with several players when one player learns to play better, the other one has to catch up.’
When Google bought Deep Mind – the artificial intelligence company founded in London in 2011 – for several hundred million euros in 2014, many people in the field were excited about the things to come. The start-up has set itself the goal of ‘solving intelligence’. In December 2013, the company took a step forward in publishing an article which describes a system that ‘learns’ to play seven legendary Atari video games. To put it simply, the specially-built system uses trial and error to ‘learn’ to play the games. It receives information only from the game screen and is rewarded when the score in the game is increased. Thanks to this feedback it is able to keep playing and to improve its results. Eight members of the computational neuroscience research group at the University of Tartu decided to repeat the experiment. According to Ardi Tampuu, one of the members of the group who focuses on biological and artificial neural networks in his PhD, the approach by DeepMind was the coolest thing carried out to date in the artificial intelligence sphere. As a result the group of researchers published an article in September 2014 explaining the running mechanism of the DeepMind experiment and calling upon interested parties to repeat it. Their goal was to make this replication project publicly available, so it could benefit all interested scientists. Tambet Matiisen, one of the members of the research group and a PhD student of artificial intelligence and machine learning, says that the DeepMind experiment was only the first step towards general artificial intelligence. ‘Without any adjustments, the program was able to learn to play many different computer games, only having the screen image and information about the reward as input,’ explains Matiisen. According to Tampuu, the Tartu researchers wanting to repeat the experiment were initially familiar with neither the reward-based learning algorithms nor artificial neural networks. ‘The DeepMind solution was innovative because it brought together reward-based learning and deep neural networks,’ says Matiisen. Whilst similar programs have been created before, none of them have learned to play only by using the screen image, the exact same information that humans see. ‘Before it learns to play the game, DeepMind must learn to see and to differentiate between various objects in the game, in other words to know that this paddle down there is ‘me’ and that my goal is to hit with this ball at those items,’ Tampuu explains, outlining the program’s working principle. As at first the basic code used by DeepMind was not public, the researchers of the University of Tartu had to reverse-engineer it. Later, when the original code was finally made public by DeepMind they decided to use it in continuing their work. ‘In this field, nuances often matter and if you have a little trick somewhere, your program may work twice as well,’ explains Tampuu.
Pong has revealed many surprises. Principal amongst these was when the scientists tried to implement a cooperative strategy, where two players would learn to keep the ball in the game as long as possible. To motivate the agents to keep the ball, they were punished for losing the ball. ‘One of the strategies invented by the AI-s was to keep the ball out of the game, without serving it – without playing they never get punished. The other strategy was to move the ball into the upper corner of the screen and bounce it there in between themselves until the game crashed,’ says Matiisen. In contrast, in the competitive game the AI-s learned relatively fast to save quite complicated balls, as well as to hit the ball fast in order to make things hard for the opponent. Ultimately both sides played quite well. ‘We observed the statistics, looking at how many times on average they touched the ball, how they hit it and how long they took to serve,’ explains Matiisen. The researchers compared various strategies and rewarding schemes during the experiment, including those leading to cooperation and competition. They also studied what happens in between cooperation and competition and how the transfer from competitive behaviour to collaborative behaviour takes place. The results of the experiment can be used in daily life. Matiisen claims that reward-based learning can eventually be used to improve internet search engines: ‘If I run a Google search and click on a link in the results, then the algorithm which offered the link is rewarded.’ Hence it is possible to teach the search algorithms to offer better search results. Tampuu says that reward-based learning can also be used in robotics, which is even more likely because Google is very active in this field. Therefore robots might start to learn in a reward-based environment, which is a much more complex field than computer games. In order to survive, the machines need to learn the rules of the environment and to search for positive rewards, whilst simultaneously avoiding negative ones. After the experiment itself, Tampuu believes that the main achievement of the project was demonstrating the cooperation- and learning ability of two AI-s in the same environment: ‘What is significant about it is that when the second agent changes its behaviour, the environment changes for the first agent. Environment is no longer stable and this makes learning more difficult.’ Matiisen says that it would be exciting to study artificial intelligence which bases its strategy on internal motivation or curiosity, not just a reflexive reaction to what is going on in the environment as now. This would help artificial intelligence to function in environments which require logic and more complicated strategies.
Multiagent DeepMind: Competitive Mode and Cooperative Mode
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Delivery Robots Created by Estonian Engineers Are Transforming the World By Toivo T채navsuu / Eesti Ekspress
Estonian company Starship Technologies is building some revolutionary delivery robots which have already started cruising the sidewalks in Estonia, Britain and will soon the U.S. The company is relying on a number of impressive friends and fans to help with their PR.
Superstar: Starship has been invited to participate in a science fiction film, but this photo is taken on a commercial shoot at a studio in New York.
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Starship at the British Parliament in London winning new fans. From left: MPs Nigel Evans and Mary Robinson, Ahti Heinla and Allan Martinson from Starship Technologies and the British politician with Estonian roots, Lembit Öpik.
LET’S GET ACQUAINTED: THE STARSHIP ROBOT
Last November brought some fascinating news from Estonia: led by the co-founders of Skype Ahti Heinla and Dane Janus Friis, a team of Estonian engineers have created an autonomous delivery robot the size of a shopping basket. According to the concept, those robots will deliver everything from shopping bags to internet purchases, pizzas and many other things, freeing us from wasting time and energy on such daily chores. Over the week since the news broke on 2 November, nearly a thousand publications and more than a hundred television stations from all over the world, including CNN, BBC and The New York Times, have been talking about this Estonian miracle on wheels. Hundreds of businesses have approached the company with the question: when can we buy it? Chief Operating Officer Allan Martinson says that his inbox has come to resemble Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: letters from places as diverse as shopping centres, launderettes, bakeries, movie producers, amusement parks and golf courses. The robot has even been invited to feature in a sci fi movie. And perhaps the crowning glory, the US rapper Snoop Dogg announced online that he wants to buy one immediately. Work on the robot started in 2014 but the company managed successfully to keep it under wraps. The six-wheeled ‘shopping baskets’ may be stylish and cute, but where are they allowed to drive? And is it possible to lower the price of an autonomous robot enough that it can reach the masses (the aim is to bring the cost of delivery below $1)?
Bold vision: no more home cooking ‘I’d like to take 150-200 robots as quickly as possible with perhaps 10 000 in the future!’ says James Poulter, CEO of the London-based food delivery company Pronto.co.uk to Eesti Ekspress. ‘As fast as possible. Pronto brings fresh warm meals to London
Developed by Starship Technologies, founded by Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis. The company employs approximately fifty staff in Tallinn and London, about twenty of which are Estonian engineers.
The robot weighs 15-18 kg (it is hoped to reduce the weight to 10 kg), and drives up to 6 km/h.
homes and offices within 20 minutes. Starship would mean so much more than just cheaper home deliveries,’ says Poulter. ‘Supermarkets will run out of clients. People will no longer need kitchens at home. Nobody will need to clean their own water anymore - it will all be done centrally. In London almost nobody has their own car anymore – it is too expensive, everyone takes public transport. In the same way, it will no longer make sense to cook at home. Or to spend 100 000 pounds on building a kitchen. Starship will deliver a tasty and high-quality meal straight to your door – and much cheaper than going to the supermarket,’ envisions Poulter. Friis and Heinla, who became multi-millionaires with Skype, teamed up with serial entrepreneur Allan Martinson who runs the business side of the company. In Britain the ambassador for the delivery robot is a former MP with Estonian roots, Lembit Öpik. In autumn, Öpik took Starship to the UK Parliament at Westminster, where dozens of MPs and several government members took the chance to find out more about it. And last week the robot participated in a promotional event at the German Bundestag. Öpik says: ‘Starship gives people back the time which they currently spend on shopping.’
Legislation can both impede and support Legislation on the movement of robots on pedestrian streets varies from country to country and, in the USA alone, from one state to another. Actually in most countries there is no relevant legislation as, for example, the British traffic legislation dates back 180 years. In Germany robots will need special permission to cruise on pavements and but in neighbouring Austria they are already completely legal.
> The equipment includes 6 wheels (it can drive over curbs up to 15 cm), 9 cameras (giving it 360 degree vision), GPS, microphone, speaker and internet connection. A 1.5 metre illuminated banner makes the robots visible to cars. > Senses an approaching car from the distance of 100-200 metres. > Drives autonomously up to 99 per cent of the time, though the working area needs to be mapped carefully before. Energy-efficient and totally harmless to the environment. > Fits 2-3 shopping bags, 10-13 kg goods in total. > Makes the so-called last kilometres delivery services up to 15 times cheaper in comparison with courier services (couriers drive big diesel vehicles, stopping at every house, the robot literally puts wheels under the package itself). > The market is estimated to be huge: 20 billion packages are sent in Europe and America annually and 130 billion visits are made to a store (often a shop which is near the home).
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Ten years ago Segway was legalised on the streets, now the Segway team is helping to legalise Starship.
After three to four years of heavy lobbying, Segway was welcome in most states. Thus Starship could hardly have found itself a better advocate in America.
fly over sea and land. Starship is not meant for longer distances than five kilometres. So to bring aspirin and a beer from Tallinn to Kiisa would be better done with a drone,’ he explains.
Bass cannot rule out that various interest groups, such as people with disabilities, delivery companies or even pet owners, will be opposed to Starship on the streets. So there is a need to be prepared to do a lot of advocacy.
Starship was born after Heinla and Estonian engineers participated at the NASA moon robots competition. After returning from the competition in the USA in summer 2014, he met his old friend Friis in London and thought about how to change the world of robotics for the better. Bringing samples of rock from far away planets (a task at the NASA competition) was fun, but has no impact on ordinary people.
In just half a year, the Estonian robots have driven over a thousand test miles: in Mustamäe in Tallinn, London, Boston and San Fransisco. In Mustamäe, Starship has its own one hectare large testing polygon – an artificial city with pavements, lights and other things. It is planned to increase the test kilometre count to over 40 000 by the summer. This testing is just as intensive as Google with its self-driving cars. According to Martinson, Starship can operate freely in a market of approximately 150 million people today, in other areas two questions need to be solved: the robot has no driver inside (at best it would fit a hamster but not a human being!) and it traverses pavements, crossing streets like a pedestrian (so should cars give way, for instance?). One of the more pressing questions for the Starship team was where to look for examples in finding their way through the legislative maze. They discovered that more than ten years ago another company faced a very similar legal challenge – the well-known two-wheeled scooter Segway was similarly a new class of device with no clear regulations governing it. So the Starship team met the creator of Segway, legendary American inventor and businessman Dean Kamen, who became a big fan of Starship. In the USA, it is the same team which helped bring Segway onto the roads which is now making way for Starship. On that side of the pond, the Estonians are being supported by the former US Congressman Charles Bass. According to him, before Segway, nobody could imagine that vehicles other than bikes or wheelchairs would be able to travel on sidewalks. Officials were afraid of the new vehicles. For example, the famous New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, announced that Segways would never drive on the streets of that city. Legislators were tempted to classify Segway as a motor vehicle (which would have meant the need for airbags etc.) and to ban its use on public sidewalks.
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Robot likes a low-density town The tests observe how people relate to the robots and, surprisingly enough, most do not pay any attention to it passing. Martinson confirms that not a single case of anti-robot behaviour has been detected. On the contrary, there have been attempts to pet it, to feed it and to hug it. The impression that it is easy to steal the Starship itself or the package locked under its cover, is a false one. ‘At any precise time when a thief is trying to get to grips with the robot, he is being observed by nine cameras, his location is known and the robot operator is able to “talk” to him via the speakers,’ explains Martinson. ‘Other robots in the vicinity will then come to help, a drone will fly overhead and soon the police will arrive. Hence if anyone wants to steal something, it is easier for a would-be thief to smash in a car window.’ Ahti Heinla confirms that Starship plans to be the first autonomous vehicle in the world’s public space. Autonomous cars still have a long way to go. Not only that but delivering post by drones seems also to be questionable: if a drone falls for instance, it may injure someone. But Starship is slow, light and safe: it can even drive over your foot and nothing will happen. ‘All of us have a suitcase at home and we do not particularly consider it to be a life-threatening object,’ says Martinson by way of comparison. ‘Drones also have their advantages: they can
‘We found that robots could be much more useful in agriculture, cleaning and package delivery,’ says Heinla. ‘In the case of cleaning it seemed difficult to come up with something better than a robot vacuum cleaner. We do not know much about agriculture. But everyone has some experience of package delivery.’ Starship is not suited to drive around in every city. It would get in the way of the vast crowds in Calcutta or Mumbai. Even the city centre of Tallinn is not so robot-friendly at peak hours. The ideal town for Starship is low-density, where the robot is not passed by more than three people per minute. As the robot will just be delivering the package to the front of the address and not bring it up in an elevator or staircase, it would be pretty strange to order a pizza in a Hong Kong highrise and to then discover that the whole front of the building is full of robots. Starship robots, which still do not have a name (the name competition is ongoing, personal names rather than appliance names are being looked for), will start to offer pilot services in many countries this year. So why not have your groceries delivered home and the newspapers taken to you by a robot?!
The article was first published in the weekly Eesti Ekspress on 23 February, 2016.
What e-resident users think of eResNetwork: ‘I’ve been very impressed with the platform and the amount of detail in topics covered. You guys have done a great job accommodating all the international e-residents in such a short time, please keep it up!’ Jonathan Mark Southurst ‘The quality of discussions here is far more better than on any group on Facebook.’ Raymond Chow Toun ‘I think I can’t see properly because I’m too excited about the idea of a network that is only for e-residents!’ Muhammad Abourowaished
An Estonian Startup Is Building the Next LinkedIn Communication and social media platforms are usually the first to leverage new and emerging technologies; the same is now happening with e-Residency. The first private sector startup to fully embrace the e-Residency program is eResNetwork – the world’s safest business network, where every user is a real, governmentally-verified person with a legitimate name and legal identity. ‘We believe that in the future, every person on the Internet will be identified with their digital ID-card and will be using web services with his or her real name,’ says Erik Ehasoo, cofounder of eResNetwork. The e-Residency program is the initiative that will pave the way for this new, and inevitable, global trend. Growing in parallel, eResNetwork is aiming to tackle the biggest problems of the web – security and identification. Currently, both problems cost Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Airbnb and other web platforms billions of dollars annually. The eResNetwork team believes they are well positioned to become the next LinkedIn, as
that platform is rapidly becoming a messier marketplace for businesses. According to Ehasoo, LinkedIn suffers from too much spam and irrelevant information, as well as fake users who create fabricated and inflated interest. LinkedIn has effectively acknowledged that they don’t currently have a workable solution to this problem (according to the LinkedIn 2016 financial report). The safe and focused business environment LinkedIn once offered, which users have come to expect and demand, is now being diminished.
immediately began acquiring global users along with the data and insights they provide, in order to prove their business model and understand what this new demographic needs most.
Starting with a niche group of digital residents – global visionaries, business leaders and digital nomads – eResNetwork will work to expand into the wider business community and mainstream markets. By offering different cloud services such as a secure, universal log-in and spam-free platform messaging, eResNetwork is aiming to change the way businesses work on the web.
With healthy organic growth and highly satisfied users, eResNetwork is now set to begin building their Beta version, or ‘real’ platform, which will be built and developed based upon the insights and data gleaned from the current version.
eResNetwork was born at the first Garage48 hackathon event focused on e-Residency. Within a very short period of time the team managed to launch a simple alpha version of the platform at www.eresnetwork.eu, where they
Today eResNetwork has users from more than 35 countries, and one in three users is actively creating quality content on the platform. The current platform is based on a simple forum framework where its e-resident users have access to quality content and meaningful business contacts.
eResNetwork is a spin-off from Rubik’s Solutions – the Innovation Agency creating significant value from emerging mobile technologies. eResNetwork has opened its Seed investment round and will also be participating at the Latitude59 Conference this spring. www.eresnetwork.eu
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Everybody Knows Wi-Fi. But Have You Met Li-Fi? By Holger Roonemaa / Eesti Päevaleht
Most of us are used to having wireless internet at home. It has become a basic part of everyday life. In much the same way as when we switch on the light, we don’t think about the chain connection which takes electricity into the lightbulb inside a lamp which then lights up the room, when we use a Wi-Fi connection, we do not even think about it. The Estonian-Indian startup Velmenni is developing technology which in the near future may turn your understanding of your home internet connection and the LED bulb on the ceiling upside down. The technology is called Li-Fi (Light Fidelity) and it is based on transferring data with the help of visible light. ‘Whereas Wi-Fi sends information through air via radio waves, Li-Fi will get analogous information from light,’ explains Anders Martoja, an engineer at Velmenni. In essence it means blinking the LED bulb at a very high speed and at a certain rhythm. This blinking is so fast that it is not visible to the human eye. ‘This rhythm is what differentiates normal LED light from data. Via light we transfer a series of ones and zeroes, which the equipment can take and turn into understandable information,’ explains Martoja. Li-Fi technology was invented five years ago by Harald Haas at the University of Edinburgh. But Velmenni is the first to take the technology from lab tests to testing it under normal conditions. Li-Fi can offer up to 100 times more speed than the Wi-Fi technology currently in use.
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The Velmenni team stunned audiences for the first time in the autumn of last year at the Slush startup conference in Helsinki, where they made it to the final shortlist. Before Velmenni’s participation in Slush, nobody had heard of Li-Fi tests outside of the lab. The product, which the company hopes to take onto the market soon, looks from the outside like a normal LED bulb. ‘I wouldn’t say it’s a new kind of LED bulb; It is more of a smart-bulb. Just as phones became smart-phones, we have given the LED bulb a “brain” – it is able to do a little bit more now,’ explains Martoja. According to Martoja, Li-Fi could offer amazingly fast data connection in interiors and exterior conditions, in overcrowded mass events, but also data connection security. For example to download one 50-60 GB Blu-ray film, which takes 20 minutes right now with even the fastest Wi-Fi, would take Li-Fi only two to three seconds. With such speed there is of course the question whether your home internet service provider (ISP) can offer a high connectivity from their end.
In lab conditions, the highest theoretical Li-Fi speed reached has been 224 GBps, Velmenni’s tests in normal conditions provide the speed of 1 GBps. ‘Tests outside the lab have gone well. We have made many discoveries, our technology has positively surprised us and we have also identified a few flaws in our technology which we are now working to eliminate,’ says Martoja. For example, whereas the team initially thought they would be able to transfer data to a distance of 20 metres, the results have shown that the initial prototype can send data to 30+ metres successfully. ‘Furthermore our theoretical speed of 10Mbps has been tested in real life and it works,’ Martoja goes on. Amongst other reasons, Li-Fi technology is specialized because there is a need for a so-called eye connection between two appliances such as the LED-bulb and the user’s telephone. There must be no obstacles on the way of the light spreading. ‘This is also something we are working on, to make data transfer possible also when the light is only touching the wall and our appliance might read the necessary information from the reflection,’ says Martoja. On the one hand the need for eye-connection could be seen as a drawback, for example it cannot pass through walls and hence the connectivity area is limited. On the other hand, this still gives an advantage over Wi-Fi. This is that the need for eyeconnection means that Li-Fi is in fact hacker-proof. ‘VLC data transfers cannot be “bugged”, because this can only happen when the user lets a third appliance be installed in between the VLC lamp and their appliance,’ according to Martoja. But who should start to use Li-Fi and where? ‘Li-Fi seems to have a bright future with a broad use,’ believes Martoja, alluding to the fact that even
Apple has announced that it will try to implement it in its appliances. ‘Li-Fi offers good opportunities in industrial settings and mass events. I wouldn’t say that it is only suited to one field. Li-Fi can ideally be used in home environments. At the moment it seems that when it does come on to the market, it will complement Wi-Fi, but I would like to say that it could also replace it in the future,’ he goes on. The leader of the Velmenni team is Deepak Solanki from India. Deepak is one of only several Indians on the team, for example the CTO Saurabh Garg. Shivam Setia has also joined the hardware team and Pariskshit Dutt the software team. Martoja, who is soon to graduate in IT from the University of Tartu, is in fact the only Estonian on the team. ‘We are all engineers in spirit and this is what at the moment sets us apart from everyone else,’ he believes. Solanki and his colleagues came to Estonia thanks to the hardware accelerator Buildit, located in the university town of Tartu. The company has also been registered in Estonia. In addition to Solanki and Garg, the circle of company owners includes the Buildit accelerator. ‘We are in negotiations with other investors and now we have to finish these,’ says Martoja. In spring the entire team is set to move from Tartu to Hamburg, where they have a place at the Airbus Bizlab accelerator. The main goal of the participation in BizLab for Velmenni is linked to bringing a working product onto the market. The accelerator has given Velmenni five months to demonstrate their results. In addition to Bizlab, Velmenni is involved in a pilot project with Airbus, in order to offer Li-Fi on their airplanes in the future. ‘We also got the opportunity to participate in the Hyperloop project, which is Elon Musk’s vision about fifth type transport,’ says Martoja.
Extremely intelligent young engineers Aleksander Tõnnisson / co-founder and CEO of BuildIt hardware accelerator Buildit Hardware Accelerator is an early-stage investment fund looking for startup teams building hardware and having global focus. We have negotiated with startups from more than 50 countries and have invested into teams from 15+ different countries. Two of those investments have gone to Indian-staffed teams, including Velmenni. Velmenni founders struck us as extremely intelligent and ambitious young talented engineers. Throughout the accelerator program, they showed good progress, launched their first pilot project and were selected to the top-4 SLUSH startups out of 1500+ contestants. Their last video had more than 12 million views in just a week. Bringing visible light communication to the consumer level is extremely ambitious though. And there are still lot of mountains to climb before this technology becomes viable. Currently Velmenni is working together with AirBus on a solution to cast high quality video wirelessly in commercial airplanes. I definitely have very high hopes for their success.
LIFE IN ESTONIA #41
coModule Brings Tesla Grade Connectivity to Light Electric Vehicles coModule transforms any vehicle into a smart vehicle by facilitating the control and collection of data from the vehicleâ€™s subsystems.
By Ann-Marii Nergi
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coModule’s founders Welix Klaas, Heigo Varik, Kristjan Maruste and Teet Parks
‘We believe that connected vehicles will be market-changers in the coming years. How? By revolutionizing the way that manufacturers and consumers engage with each other,’ says Kristjan Maruste, CEO of coModule. The Berlin/Tallinn-based startup coModule has developed a connectivity platform which takes light electric vehicles from ‘dumb’ machines right into the age of technology by connecting for instance e-bikes and escooters to users and the manufacturers alike. The manufacturer is provided with data needed to support the product development and validation process. For the e-bike user, there is a smartphone app available which, among other things, provides navigation and route tracking, and also comes with the promise to ‘cure range anxiety and prevent theft’. But what does this mean? Since concerns about theft and vehicle range are usually the major issues preventing people from purchasing an ebike, coModule’s technology solves these issues with a tiny hardware module that is either integrated and hidden inside a bike’s frame or in the display. The hardware module allows GPS tracking to locate the bike if it happens to be stolen and also transmits accurate battery information to the smartphone to visualize the available range of the bike at any given moment. The coModule team came together during their studies at Tallinn University of Technology where they participated in the international product development competition called ‘Formula Student’. The main objective of the competition was to design, build and present a single-seater formula car prototype. As the team gained a lot of knowledge and information about electric vehicles, batteries, hardware and software through building the electric formula car, they wanted to put this information into good use also after graduation. All this on a much wider scale, concentrating on the future trends and technologies. As a result, the team started developing connectivity solutions for light electric vehicles and presented their technology for the first time
publicly at the 2014 Barcelona Mobile World Congress, and in the summer of the same year coModule was admitted into the Berlin business accelerator Startupbootcamp – Smart Transportation and Energy. Startupbootcamp provided the first investment for product development and helped finding initial customers. In addition, the coModule team was able to secure mentoring from leading business- and technology specialists. In the next financing round, coModule received funding from Estonian and German business angels and once the company had proven that e-bike producers were interested in their product, the German leading technology investor, High-Tech Gründerfonds, invested half a million Euros in the company! coModule is now registered in Germany but the product development takes place in Tallinn, where the company’s founders Welix Klaas, Heigo Varik, Kristjan Maruste and Teet Parks are based. Welix Klaas, the company’s CFO, points out that whilst today electric bikes tend to be associated with the elderly, such bikes are gaining more and more popularity among younger people since manufacturers have really been working hard to create modern designs and different models (eg. city bikes vs mountain bikes). Electric bikes are the future in other words. As proof of this, more than million e-bikes are sold annually in Europe today and the number is growing by as much as 20 per cent per year. There should thus be approximately 200 million light electric vehicles (LEV) on the streets globally by 2017, and by 2025, this is predicted to become the biggest vehicular industry sector. ‘In February, the e-bike manufacturer Faraday Bicycles had a successful Kickstarter campaign for their new e-bike model called Cortland, which includes our connectivity and GPS tracking technology. I think the success of the project demonstrates just how popular e-bikes are and will continue to be – in fact long before the deadline, the project had raised far more than the original goal of $100 000,’ says Klaas.
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At the Eurobike Fair in Germany, coModule created a self-riding electric bike prototype which received a good deal of attention from all over the world, since they demonstrated that self-driving technology isn’t solely the domain of cars – bikes are getting in on the act too. coModule showcased a smartphone-controlled, three-wheeled e-bike prototype. The concept is designed to stimulate dialogue about the sorts of practical applications this technology could find in the real world. The vehicle itself is based on a cargo bike by Veleon, whereas the three-wheel setup has obvious advantages in terms of stability, and can also tilt at higher speeds, allowing for more stable cornering. The company already has some ideas on how the vehicle could be utilized in the near future, such as using it as an autonomous bicycle to accompany postal service workers on deliveries, or attaching a trash can to the front to help out park cleaners.
There is even a study that shows how cycling not only reduces congestion and CO2 emissions, and improves public health, but is also a boost to economic growth and the creation of jobs. The European Cyclists’ Federation argues that if 10 per cent of transportation budgets were dedicated to biking-related infrastructure, it would result in a $205 billion boost in economic benefits for Europe through savings in health and fuel costs, reduced carbon emissions, and jobs created by tourism and bicycle sales. At present the value chain between vehicle manufacturers and customers is a one-way street from the component manufacturers to the end user. None of the parties have a real understanding of what happens in subsequent steps. The vehicle manufacturers have very little contact with the end consumer; they don’t know what they want, or how they use and enjoy their product. ‘coModule seeks to redress this: ‘What we’re doing ... is turning this one-way street into a multi-directional highway, allowing the manufacturers to gather data from the user as well as from the dealers,’ says Kristjan Maruste, adding that ‘By installing coModule tech at the manufacturing stage, we provide manufacturers the understanding of their clients.’ As coModule’s tech can monitor user data, including common journeys, battery performance, etc., it helps manufacturers to build products
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aimed directly at their clients. At the same time, it gives the dealers the possibility of substantially growing their inventory by having automatic service notifications as well as updates of new product releases for the users. But what about coModule’s competitors? Welix Klaas says that there are a couple of other companies who are trying to develop similar technologies. One of the most well-known competitors of coModule is Deutsche Telekom, who sees a huge opportunity in mobile connectivity in the bike sector. ‘But this is where the benefits of a startup versus a big corporation really show – we are faster, more flexible and so we reached the marker earlier!’ Klaas continues. Some e-bike manufacturers are also trying to develop something themselves, but the experience has already shown that they reach for coModule after realizing that building a connectivity platform is not within their core competence. coModule is currently raising their next seven-digit investment round to accelerate the technology roll-out and equip hundreds of thousand of vehicles with the most advanced connectivity platform. For more info, get in touch: email@example.com.
Founded by the former banker Indrek Neivelt and the IT expert Linnar Viik, Pocopay offers users simple and fast money transfers in the Eurozone, cost planning and saving. ‘Your money has to be safe, but safe does not have to be complicated', is the principle of the company.
Swipes Away the Outdated Business Model of Everyday Banking By Ann-Marii Nergi / Photos by Pocopay
‘As long as twenty or more years ago, Bill Gates said that the world needs banking, not banks. In other words, the services we receive from banks today do not need to be services by banks – people want to run their financial transactions comfortably, to borrow money or to save for the future. Which kind of establishments offer those services, is in fact secondary,’ says one of the founders of the new payment service and CEO of the company, Indrek Neivelt. According to him, Pocopay aims to offer a complete alternative to everyday banking. Changing bank accounts has never been easier.
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Commercial banks these days have accumulated many different products and aim to serve every kind of customer. This results in very high general running costs and a large number of staff, who are sometimes difficult to motivate. ‘To date payment and transaction services have not been seen as being particularly profitable and hence not much innovation has been seen in those areas. Whereas today we are used to a few large, but clumsy banks offering all services, the trend is that more flexible and customer-comfort orientated companies which specialise in certain banking services are coming onto the market,’ adds Linnar Viik, founder and Council member of Pocopay. ‘It is the ambition of Pocopay to be the leading and most innovative banking services provider in the Eurozone. It means that our account owners are able to do their banking faster and more comfortably than via their current bank accounts and also to use services which they haven’t dreamed of until now,’ he goes on. Pocopay is a new-generation payment bank, where the entire activity takes place in a mobile app, not even on a webpage, never mind about a physical high street bank location. The founders emphasise that in creating everyday banking services they have made user comfort and speed their top priority. Transfers to Pocopay users take place within seconds; with Pocopay you can tap and swipe to make transactions happen, you can split your bills in restaurants, and request money using email and simple QR codes. A unique account with an IBAN can be created via online identification, contact-free Pocopay Mastercard also speeds up payments in shops and even replaces things like the London Tube ticket. By managing the app, users can change their own card limits and block and reopen their cards. Although a bank card with a Near Field Communication (NFC) interface, which allows a card to connect with, say, a smartphone, may not have wide options for use right now, it is another good example of how
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Pocopay is one step ahead of the game, as more and more shops in the world are transferring to the option that customers no longer have to insert their bank cards into a terminal whilst making payments. ‘We want to use all the latest existing technologies to make it really userfriendly,’ says Neivelt. Today you can open a Pocopay account in Estonia, the Netherlands, Spain and Finland, and in the near future in other European countries. The company, which is registered in Estonia, first expanded into countries which have the most similar legislation. So if you are using Pocopay in Spain today, you can send money to a Pocopay user in the Netherlands or Estonia in an instant. There are no transaction costs, and indeed, the only cost is a monthly fee of €2.90, no matter how much you use it. Recently Pocopay released all 18-26-year-old users from the monthly fee and for them all internal bank payments and up to 30 interbank payments per month are also for free.
Target group: young people Such a special deal for young people is no coincidence. Neivelt says they aim to appeal to the people for whom using smartphones is a natural or even inseparable part of life and who view the service costs of commercial banks for transfers as being too high. These are most likely to be young people or even those who are young at heart! Pocopay is also working to enable parents to open accounts for their under 18-year-old children. ‘Parents also need our services, as sometimes it may be urgent to transfer money to your child and Pocopay transfers only take seconds even if the parent happens to be in another country at the time. In addition, children can send money requests to parents for example together with a photo of new shoes and the price tag and then the parents can make a decision as to whether to send the money or not,’ he goes on.
There are more innovations on the way with Pocopay. For example, users will soon be able to pay their communal bills by making a digital photo of the bill from which the smartphone then reads the necessary details and makes the payment for you. Neivelt also speaks of the possibilities of intermediaries of banking services coming onto the market who will accumulate the offers by different European banks for housing and consumer loans. Today, banks offer their own products to clients, whether it be insurance, mortgage, consumer loans or some other product. But to draw a parallel from shopping, would we as consumers really be happy if we could only buy the shop’s own-brand label in a supermarket? ‘In the future, people will be able to choose between savings from various different banks all over Europe and in order to deposit a saving one will not need to go to the bank in person; instead everything can be made via a computer or mobile phone. Today such a service is offered by Savings Global, now called Raisin. Additionally, with loans it is no longer the case that people are tied to their own bank – the client puts in their key data and will receive offers from many banks. In conclusion, there will be more intermediates who put these offers together and make an overview for the customer in a user-friendly way.’ Indrek Neivelt confirms that in the first month of operation, Pocopay has attracted a lot of interest and especially from finance sector specialists and designers. ‘We already have a circle of friends who support us, share experiences and introduce us to others. Our ‘’ambassadors’’ are in Helsinki, London, Paris and even Los Angeles,’ he says.
Pocopay Can Be your Primary Account for Everyday Banking Open your account by identifying yourself, by sending some photos of your ID card and a ‘selfie’. Take some time to let Pocopay people analyse your request. To activate your account, you will need to make a transaction from your (previous) bank and you are ready to use Pocopay. 1. Split bills. You were dining with your colleagues, the bill was meant to be split but somehow you all forgot. Asking about it a week later would be awkward; Pocopay takes care of such situations with an elegant ‘split’ function. It also works well with joint birthday gifts. 2. Ask for money. Asking for money is a delicate issue and sometimes it does not work out as intended. Pocopay has created a format that helps you ask for money without the awkwardness. Ask for money from your contacts, add a picture of the thing you need money for, but remember that we also have a really simple ‘no’ button in the unlikely event of needing to deny such requests. 3. Quantum speed. Almost. Between Pocopay users money moves as fast as you can say ‘hello!’ Transactions to other banks will take the same time as they usually do between banks. By the way, you can also transfer money quickly to your Pocopay account from your debit or credit cards with other banks. 4. The world is your playground. Between Pocopay users you do not have to worry about countries. The rule is simple: if you are a user, the money you send arrives instantly. 5. Set money aside. If you want to save for a trip or buy something nice you can create a special account for that with one swipe and start saving immediately. 6. Real payment cards. Our Mastercard debit cards work in shops and online and they are contactless. If you have not had an NFC card before, you will be surprised how comfortable your next trip on the London Underground will be. 7. Even if you don’t know their details… How many IBAN codes can you remember? Do you even remember your mum’s? At Pocopay you do not have to. You can start transactions even if all you know is a person’s email address or phone number. 8. Yep, it is safe. You get a real account that is audited, verified and tested constantly. Pocopay is supervised by financial supervisory bodies and does everything to keep your money safe. There are no hidden fees – Pocopay has a transparent monthly fee of €2.90. Some costs may apply to transactions that are related to other banks or partners.
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Estonia’s Next Big Challenge: the Transition from e-State to e-Industry By Marge Tubalkain / Postimees
Information technology is transforming the face of industry by creating a quiet revolution and changing the way factories function forever.
Industry and IT are no longer separate and discrete sectors from one another. ‘Just as the educational landscape is moving in the direction of interdisciplinary learning (ICT and economics in every field of study), industrial sectors are interlinked with ICT,’ says Anneli Heinsoo, Chair of the Board of the Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications (ITL) and Manager of Tieto Estonia AS. According to Anneli, there needs to be a developmental leap in industry, with the key words being information and putting it into smart use. ‘The greatest industrial nations of the world, such as Germany, the USA and China are taking positive steps in this direction. Through the integration of IT and production processes, a great volume of valuable information can be made accessible and analysable,’ explains Heinsoo. She believes that the Estonian ICT sector is of a high quality and is a valuable partner for co-operation with industrial enterprises in Estonia and abroad: ‘Through joint projects we can lead the way with the best in the world,’ she says.
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Estonia is renowned as an e-state. We have been the first to offer outsiders e-Residency as well as many other internal services – for example participating in elections without needing to get up from your desk. The state information system, called X-Road, was created by the Estonian company Cybernetica and brings together people, authorities and companies. Its decentralised nature enables a similar model to be used by industrial enterprises. Estfeed is a project from the Estonian network company Elering which links energy producers and -consumers with each other, offering innovative services.
Investments in ICT are the key to success Heinsoo says that the fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0 necessitates a radical change in thinking. First and foremost, the managers of industrial enterprises need to ask themselves if they are happy with the current state of resources, reliability of work processes, productivity and security of provision: ‘Does the market require more flexible and faster product development, are they able to compete with their products considering a personal approach to customers and rapidly changing needs; is the accessibility of raw materials rapid enough; is production quick enough within the whole supply chain and without any setbacks, and so on,’ she says, citing some examples. All of this requires investment. Whereas up to now, industrial enterprises have invested in capital equipment, Industry 4.0 requires investment in IT. This would include Information technology solutions or data management, the monitoring and surveillance of processes, a higher level of automation and integrity monitoring, all of which would enable the saving of costs on equipment. ‘The Estonian state has the opportunity to support the digitalisation of production through its industrial policy. If Estonian industrial enterprises are ready to invest in innovation and development activity and to reach their goals successfully, then Estonia could set an example right up there with other successful industrial countries in the world. It would definitely increase our visibility globally and would provide an impetus for industrial enterprises and ICT companies to increase exports,’ believes Heinsoo. It would also attract interest from large
What is Industry 4.0? Industry 4.0 or the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ is a relatively new term, having been coined in Germany, whose government used it in the sense of bringing production and IT closer together. Half a billion Euros was invested in this. The term was first used publicly at the 2011 Hannover fair. Different countries use different names for their industrial revolutions and their goals also vary. For example, the Chinese have ‘Made in China’, which aims to innovate the labour force, production, management and quality control; the Dutch have Smart Factory; the French have l’usine du futur, and the British have the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. Private enterprises have created the Industrial Internet Consortium. Whilst the names and approaches differ, they all share a similar aim. Industry 4.0 is not a new technology or a business model – it is about doing things differently, in order to raise competitiveness, productivity and the security of provision. For example, it includes Internet of Things (IoT), analytics and the automation of production. It enables us to raise the quality of management and to improve the supply chain, to produce more cheaply and to be more flexible.
corporations who would see Estonia as a viable investment environment for production and product development. The necessary spectre of change in companies is vast. Heinsoo says companies should start with analysis and bring in experienced IT companies as partners. The purpose of such collaboration is not dealing with specific concerns, but longer-term cooperation.
Estonia as a ‘smart production’ state It is vital to understand that nothing will change without the training of employees – smarter jobs require training and re-learning. What will happen to jobs is a question which receives a different answer depending who you ask. According to research by the World Economic Forum, 7.1 million jobs will disappear, mainly ‘white collar’ and management jobs. At the same time, about 2.1 million new jobs will be created, mainly in the fields of mathematics and engineering. At the same time the research company Boston Consulting Group predicts that whereas some jobs will disappear as a result of this ‘industrial revolution’, an equal number of jobs will be created in information technology and data science. Heinsoo says that jobs are declining in the processing industry even without the fourth industrial revolution. At the same time the average salary in Estonia is rising each year – the
gross monthly salary of the third quarter in 2015 was 1045 Euros, or 7 per cent higher than the year before.
Changing markets create the need for re-training As a result those industrial enterprises which need a cheap labour force as their main criteria, are moving away from Estonia anyway. ‘Estonia is not interested in being an outstanding state for its cheap labour force, but a state which stands out because of its smart production. Our aim is to increase added value in industry by creating smarter jobs, and it is our ambitious plan to retrain people according to the requirements and needs of the new market,’ Heinsoo says. This is where the state and companies have to work closely together. New smart jobs are created and relevant re-training programmes assist in this process. Many activities in the name of smarter jobs are already underway in Estonia. The Estonian ICT sector is actively investing in cooperation with universities and promoting technological education from as early as primary school age. For example in March this year, the ICT sector organised a focus month ‘Success through science subjects,’ during which they made presentations in schools about the importance of studying sciences and its links with potential future careers. In April the Estonian IT sector representatives are due to provide students with an overview of what they are looking for in their employees.
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‘Of course this is far from being the whole story, but we have made a start. We rely on universities with the capacity to accept foreign students to study ICT and we are trying to create the opportunity for those students to stay to work in Estonia for at least five years,’ says Heinsoo.
Attracting talent to Estonia The state is also supporting those moving to Estonia. Enterprise Estonia has initiated the programme Work in Estonia, which introduces Estonia and our favourable working environment in target countries. The first campaign took place in Finland, where we presented working opportunities to IT sector specialists. Another target country is Ukraine, where over 60 per cent of new residents came from in 2015. ‘It is a great initiative for foreign ICT specialists and of course for other fields for recruitment by local ICT companies,’ says Heinsoo. IT companies such as Pipedrive, Playtech and Relax Gaming as well as Tieto, managed by Heinsoo herself, have been looking for employees through this programme. According to Heinsoo the Estonian ICT sector has shown great initiative in bringing international know-how and experience into Estonia, in order to raise the awareness of industrial enterprises about the new industrial revolution. They have been working for three years on this goal. ‘Interest usually increases when you can show success stories and share the practical experiences of industrial enterprises. I believe there is interest and the industrial sector clearly sees that future success depends on an innovative approach and the courage to make investments in development work. But there is still a lack of a clear and complete picture of what the concrete activities should be,’ Heinsoo adds. In order to find answers to the question of how this is to be done, the ITL, The Estonian Union of Electronics Industry, Enterprise Estonia and the Embassy of Germany in Estonia are for the second year in a row introducing the opportunities and best practices of industrial digitalisation to industry leaders at the Industry 4.0 in Practice conference, which brings together experts from Estonia, the Nordics and Germany. The conference will take place from 2-3 June 2016 in Tallinn. www.industry40.ee
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Switch It On! Plug It In! Make It Smarter! Jaan Murdla / Industry Expert at Helmes
Industry 4.0 is a very interesting challenge and full of opportunities for the IT-sector. There are many companies in the Estonian IT-sector who are prepared for it; one such company is Helmes. The main field of activity at Helmes is the integration of business-critical information systems, which in essence is one of the main components of the Industry 4.0 concept. But it also includes bringing all industrial appliances into an integrated information system, the so-called ‘Internet of Things’, in a company. A step forward is the development of management algorithms, which an appliance can use to ‘understand’ whether it can start working on a task or whether there is an obstacle present (a missing piece of raw material, tool, etc.); it will then look for the next achievable work task on its own. Developing such algorithms can be a fascinating challenge. The preparedness of industrial enterprises to go along with the Industry 4.0 revolution is perhaps smaller, but this nevertheless should be not excluded from the longterm strategy. Information society is developing ever faster and, I believe, success in the future belongs to those companies who are prepared to open their information systems to customers in a way which enables the latter to track the status of their orders online. This requires that companies have a very strict and disciplined inner business culture.
I think that already in the near future we will see company equipment labelled ‘Industry 4.0 compatible’, although the real nature of such a label requires the development of appropriate standards. In order to integrate equipment into the system today, replacement methods and opportunities need to be used, and Estonian automatics- and electronics companies can offer relevant support. The discussion about the ‘Industry 4.0 compatible’ label has already been initiated in the world, but here we have the typical chicken vs egg dilemma – equipment producers are hesitant as to whether there should be a demand or a supply in the first instance. The ICT sector is perhaps unsurprisingly the most ready for this; equipment suppliers detect an opportunity and industrial enterprises are only just beginning to learn about the topic. The development of a standard requires input from all parties, but it is difficult to predict how long this may take. I would draw a parallel with the colourful world of mobile phone chargers before micro-USB came along, though we can hardly approach the issue of Industry 4.0 in such a black-and-white way. Industry 4.0 has yet to dramatically transform the face of industry or IT, but I see the rise in awareness and interest. The movement has begun. We can sum up the topic with three sentences: ‘Switch it on! Plug it in! Make it smarter!’ www.helmes.ee
Industry 4.0 — a Lifesaver for Estonian Industrial Enterprises Ivo Suursoo / General Manager at Columbus Eesti
How important is Industry 4.0 for Estonian industrial enterprises? The ideology of Industry 4.0 offers nothing less than a lifebelt to Estonian industrial companies – it is a key to their longevity in fact. As production is steadily moving from Europe to the South and the East at the moment, where the labour force is cheaper, we need to create a totally new level of production and supply chain. Hence high-tech, flexible production could be precisely the model Estonia needs: whereas large product volumes come from China, smaller volumes, which have a lower risk of intellectual copyright theft, could come be Estonia’s domain. One part of the ideology of Industry 4.0 is interaction between Smart Factories – it is a great opportunity to create Smart Factories for niche products in Estonia. Let’s say a German car manufacturer is selling a new car via a pre-order online and, simultaneously, an order will be placed in an Estonian steering wheel factory to make the steering wheel for the same new car according to the colour specified by the customer. The process is initiated without any direct input from human beings. This could be the key to bringing long-term orders to Estonia.
Columbus is working actively in the field of bringing IT and industry together. How have the requirements of companies changed in recent years? When we talked about the implementation of IT back in 2000, the focus was on IT technology. When we talk about the implementation of IT today, companies focus on business profit and less on the technology itself. This also applies to IT managers. This is a fundamental trend – people talking about the benefits of
IT – and where this grows, our economy will also grow concomitantly. This does not mean that technology is unimportant, quite the contrary, but technological choices are now always based on business criteria.
What kind of opportunities and challenges does Industry 4.0 bring along? What does it require? I believe that the biggest opportunity inherent in Industry 4.0 is either changing business models or creating totally new ones. This is not simply about changing ones’ own production with robots, as proven by recent news from German car manufacturers who state that, due to flexible customer configuration, robots are ironically being replaced by humans on production lines.
the customers involved, so that they themselves do something instead of being held at the whims of the producers, be it design or even configuration of the product. And this is where the challenges come from – industries need to find the people to lead the way. I firmly believe that the success stories of Industry 4.0 originate from those places where traditional production is bold enough to bring in the digital transformation ideologists of the new era. www.columbusglobal.com
Thus smart production is not all about robots, but rather about processes and the innovation of business models. For example, the car industry may soon start to sell digital designs of replacement parts instead of the parts themselves, as the required part can be printed with a 3D printer at any car repair service. I am sure that in the future the biggest seller of spare parts will not own a single physical part, but will be exchanging electronic files. Another trend which appeals to me is the massive ability of consumers to adapt products themselves. Instead of making all cooking surfaces in the same colour, each customer will be able to design their own surfaces tailored to their kitchen; in the same way we will be able to customize our credit cards with our own background picture. What is important is that the delivery time of an individual product should not be any longer than normal. When we implement this kind of thinking, there is always some aspect of each industry which lends itself to literally getting
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Nortal’s Standard Goal is to Deliver a 20 per cent Increase in Efficiency Marko Saviauk / Head of the Industry Business Unit at Nortal
What opportunities are created by Industry 4.0? By definition, Industry 4.0 means automating processes in the supply chain with technology, with the goal of reducing costs and increasing efficiency. For companies, Industry 4.0 provides new opportunities – new business models and solutions. Data, which is collected from various machines via sensors, detectors or other devices, is then put to work for a common goal. Data plays a significant role in Industry 4.0 – the aim is to extract all significant data available and put it to use in a skilful and purposeful manner. For instance, Industry 4.0 enables companies to offer end users custom-made products at wholesale prices. In fact, the opportunities are endless, but what always has to be considered is whether the investment made into the development and implementation of a solution is justified. Different production sectors have different periods of return – for example, in the food industry it is two to three years, meaning that an investment needs to ‘pay back’ within that time; in the metals industry, however, this period could be anything up to ten years. When technology changes quickly and needs to be replaced after a short period – which is often the case in the food industry – then it is more complicated to get an adequate return on investments. One global industrial sector which is largely automated today is the car industry, and this has significantly reduced car prices. Production in the field of electronics (computers, mobile phones, etc.) is also largely automated.
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Some examples to illustrate Industry 4.0 solutions are the following:
production, production monitoring, product data collection, quality assurance, manufacturing process optimization, and more.
Ordering ‘product X’ – the consumer goes online, selects product X, specifies the parameters, places the order and makes the payment. At the same time and in the background, the whole process is automated, from the receipt of the order, to production, to the delivery of the product. Human labour is used minimally or not at all. The product is produced flexibly and according to specified parameters.
Luckily, we can learn a lot from our Finnish colleagues who have been working with Scandinavian corporations – mostly in metal manufacturing, energy processing and logistics – for the last 30 years. Due to high energy prices in the last decades and high payroll costs in Scandinavia, our customers have always been one step ahead of the global competition in finding more optimal and efficient methods for production.
Ordering or changing car tyres is one example. If there is a sensor in the car tyre which measures the wear of the tread, this is especially convenient for the consumer because it enables them to automatically receive information about when to change the car tyres. On the other hand, if the car producer also receives this information, they will know when the orders are due to come in and hence they can plan production without any surplus stock. It will also create new opportunities for the service provider, the so-called preventative services, meaning that the producer can inform the consumer about the need to replace their tyres.
How is Nortal involved? In Estonia, Nortal began offering such solutions to production and industrial enterprises officially some years ago. As of now it has become a very significant and growing business area. Our principle is to achieve a 20 per cent growth in efficiency for our clients through Industry 4.0 solutions. Some of the Industry 4.0 services which we offer are the planning of automated
What is the current state of play in Estonia regarding its industry in relation to the rest of the world?
Generally speaking, production companies have always been innovative and are continuously looking for ways to increase efficiency. At the same time, the question always comes back to the return on investment (ROI) – in other words, how the investment intended to raise efficiency pays off. It can be said that in Estonia ROI is assessed critically. We have very modern production companies as well as companies where efficiency in different stages of production could be significantly increased and developed. We cannot underestimate the role and opportunities Industry 4.0 provides for Estonia. Production contributes approximately 30 per cent of the GDP, of which larger production enterprises represent about 80 per cent. Considering our benchmark of creating a 20 per cent increase in efficiency for a company through Industry 4.0 solutions, it is clear that the potential impact of the fourth
Industry 4.0 is a Way of Thinking, not Simply a Project industrial revolution on GDP is huge. In addition, we have to consider the growth that comes from new products and services which Industry 4.0 generates. Whilst it is possible to make all stages, from customer service to production, more efficient, Industry 4.0 does not just mean higher efficiency for companies. It is also about new business-, production- and service-models, business areas and products that make them stand out from competitors. For smaller companies, it brings with it the chance to develop new products and new production- and service-models to help the company become unique.
How do you improve Industry 4.0? In fact the sky is the limit and today it is also possible to create ‘self-learning’ machines. To be more precise, machines themselves do not learn or get smarter – it is the software that we can modify to enable them to ‘learn’. An example of this would be identifying a defect in wooden products. In this case the software works in such a way that if out of, say, fifty wooden boards, one board has a branch knot, this one board is identified. Without exactly showing where the branch knot is located on the board, a model of the possible nature of the branch knot is created, from which the computer can identify which boards have the knot and what the characteristics of the knot are. In a similar way, all other board defects can be ‘learned’, which results in a fully-automated defect-identification system. In a similar way, automated defect detection takes place in various other industrial sectors. www.nortal.com
General Director of Siemens Estonia, Ats Alupere, says that Industry 4.0 is not a by-numbers project, likely to run its course any time soon A good example of this phenomenon is one of Siemens’ own factories.
Siemens Estonia has partners who have taken the necessary steps towards the modernization of industry. Such examples include Siemens’ franchise partner Harju Elekter and SBA Service, which provides automated centres for pellet factories.
In Amberg, Germany, Siemens has a factory producing controllers, which is a great example of the concept of Industry 4.0. Siemens themselves have evaluated their level as ‘Industry 3.8’.
The first step for such companies is to map their existing processes. Eesti Energia is currently carrying out a state procurement which should result in doing just that. After that, the most critical issues need to be identified and ways in which to enable the data to cover the entire system also needs to be considered. Thus it can be identified where investments are needed and how to improve the organization.
This area of the factory, founded in 1989, has long remained the same size – 10 000 m2. The number of employees has also remained unchanged at 1200. Over the years there has been a lot of development in the factory, which today produces 15 million products a year – eight times more than in the first year. ‘The production is mostly totally automated. Up to 75 per cent of maintenance and management work is done by machines. People do a quarter of those tasks,’ Alupere says. Throughout the entire production, process workers get to touch the product only once – when they place the printing plate onto the line. This means that although the factory employs the same number of staff, their profile has changed significantly. Machines need to be maintained, repaired, new systems are needed etc. ‘Maintenance and repair requires much more knowledge and know-how concerning the product,’ explains Alupere. The concept places much higher demands on people – when there is a problem, it is more complicated than was the case before.
According to Alupere, the decision is simply made on the basis of whether it is considered profitable or not. At some point there is reluctance because digitalization is expensive: ‘If you take tax models or the supply chain, you cannot do without digitalization,’ says Alupere. And although the work bench may seem expensive, it will bring flexibility and increase production capacity. Thus the fact that work benches need to match with accounting- and logistics systems is taken into account too. Factory managers understand that if they fail to make changes, there will be competition. ‘If you want to be good, you have to be good. And it would be best if you were the best,’ concludes Alupere. www.siemens.com
Alupere says that Industry 4.0. requires a change in thinking – production is no longer about creating something within four walls; the process is much wider in scope and encompasses also marketing and logistics. ‘Broadly speaking the machines already exist, but the value chain still needs to be reworked,’ says Alupere, whilst stating that factory managers remain optimistic. The industry has always moved towards automation, but Industry 4.0 encompasses the entire value chain: ‘It is not a ready-made product – look, we have Industry 4.0.,’ he explains. Siemens Estonia has explained the principles to industrialists for two years already:‘ Some customers have realized that this direction is where it’s at and we try to develop in cooperation with that,’ he continues.
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We are rejuvenating classic cars, giving them potentially another life and allowing the whole next generation to enjoy them,’ Michael Richardson, the CEO of e-Drive Retro says. ‘As a business concept e-Drive Retro is about converting the stylish cars produced in the 1950s-1970s into electric vehicles.’ The same electric drive components are used for the vehicles, with options for individualisation: ‘This is possible thanks to the commonality of drivetrains and how things were manufactured [in those days]. But we, of course, vary our industrial design, so that it looks as if the car was originally built that way,’ Richardson continues. The technology used is, on the one hand, unified and, on the other hand, highly flexible. A laser 3D-scanner is used to ‘map’ the car and all the components are situated based on how they would most suit the vehicle in question; mass distribution is taken into account, original elements are preserved, if possible, and if not, new ones are 3D-printed.
e-Drive Retro Rebuilds Classic Sports Cars into Unique Electric Vehicles By Andero Kaha / Photos by e-Drive Retro
Technical specifications > > > > > > > >
Triumph GT6 ‘e-Drive Retro’ Price: approx. €75 000 (for completed EV Conversion) Engine: Asynchronous AC electric motor Power: 105 kW (140 hp) Gear-box: Fixed Single Reduction Planetary Gear (1.95:1) Top speed: 170 km/h (software controlled) 0-100 km/h in: 8.2 s Energy Storage: 19kWh (approx. 120-150 km range)
One of the companies gaining momentum from Estonia’s lively startup scene as well as its electric vehicle revolution and innovative e-services is e-Drive Retro — an international company backed by American capital, a Finnish university and Estonian production and management. 48
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What is a Triumph GT6? A Triumph GT6 is one of those cars that makes the heart of any admirer of British sports cars skip a beat. A six-cylinder, in-line engine, a cramped passenger compartment even by the standards of modern sports cars and, of course, all the British characteristics. Yet, the outer design is what will catch the attention of every enthusiast and even a layman, as it bears a striking resemblance to a smaller Jaguar E-Type. The production of the GT6 began in 1966 and was based on the super popular roadster, the Spitfire, designed by Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti. There were more than 40 000 specimens of this car produced, it underwent two facelifts and stayed in production until the end of 1973. According to the assumptions of enthusiasts, there are about 1 500 vehicles remaining today. A petrol-engine hobby vehicle in good condition will nowadays fetch around 15 000 euros.
Combining Estonia’s advantages Estonia is a true Electric Vehicle (EV)-enabled country. There are more than 1 200 electric cars on the road. This means that one car in every 1 000 is electric – more than anywhere else in the European Union. The scale of Estonia’s EV fast charging network is unmatched by any other country in Europe, with 163 chargers in place all over the country, each being able to recharge a typical electric vehicle in 20 to 30 minutes. Estonians are also known for their love of classic cars, restoring and upgrading them being a common hobby. During Soviet times, the supply of new cars was extremely limited and everything that could be restored, was restored. Arising from this phenomenon, some notably high-quality car restorers emerged. The name of e-Drive Retro’s Estonian production partner has not been officially announced yet, but Michael assures us it is a well-known one, one which has been in business for 30 years already. The business model of e-Drive Retro connects these two advantages that Estonia has, adds some specific knowledge concerning engineering, industrial and vehicle design from Finland and capital from the US.
A company run from abroad using e-Residency and digital signatures Michael Richardson is one of Estonia’s first e-residents. To run e-Drive Retro and his other company, a consulting business registered in Estonia, while not being here himself, he uses his e-Residency card and digital signatures. Michael’s connection with Estonia began in 2013. As he had worked in software development in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) for years, one of his colleagues suggested visiting the Slush technology conference in Helsinki. ‘I did just that, came to Helsinki – and what struck me most at the conference was not Finland but Estonia. From there I began to meet people and take an interest in what is going on in Tallinn and its startup community,’ Michael explains.
Richardson spent most of 2014 in Tallinn, rented an apartment in Kalamaja, met many startuppers and business people – and finally decided that it would be the right time to start the vintage electric car concept that he had had in the back of his head for as long as decade. ‘I decided that Estonia is the place in the Nordics to be – because of the support for startups, the benefits of running a startup in Estonia,’ he says. Soon Richardson visited the Geneva Motor Show to see the Biofore Concept Car project from students of the Finnish Metropolia University being exhibited there. ‘I met the team and we decided that we would do core engineering in Helsinki and production in Estonia,’ Richardson says. ‘And of course we are really interested in branching out in Western Europe and Norway in particular, because of its high demand for electric vehicles.’
Test drive Triumph GT6-Mk3 vs. Triumph GT6 ‘e-Drive Retro’ We took a traditional internal combustion engine-version of a classic British roadster, the Triumph GT6, for a spin on the streets of Helsinki and were one of the first to drive its electric version, built by the Estonian-based international company e-Drive Retro. The internal combustion (i.e. conventional petrol)-driven Triumph GT6 takes off with a roar from the Metropolia University workshop located in the Hernesaari area of Helsinki. The gear change is exceptionally imprecise – partly due to the age and partly due to the original features of the vehicle. When the windows are down, the noise is almost deafening. The early winter wind is relentless. The smell of gasoline seems to fill not only the car, but all the surrounding streets. Those used to modern cars will not be easily pleased by the combination of what has remained of the original 10 second 0-100 km/h acceleration over time and how imprecise the shifting is.
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On the other hand, there is plenty to be thrilled about when driving a classic Triumph – the sound of the engine, waves from those looking by and people giving way to the old timer even when we don’t have right of way, are all pleasing to the Finnish technical culture. Yet, it is clear the 1970’s-made British car is not for everyone as it requires some technical knowledge even when used once in a blue moon, no to mention a modicum of patience and willingness to get your hands dirty.
More modern feel with less hassle The electric Triumph GT6 is a whole other story from its petrol-driven cousin. Although one might consider turning the six cylinder sports car into an electric vehicle and, thus, stripping it of its roaring engine a so-called electric castration, then e-Drive Retro has taken a completely different approach. The feel of the drive is still there – perfect thanks to the correct placement of batteries. The 50:50 mass distribution might even make the driver feel safer compared with the original 60:40. Not to mention that with the original manual transmission, gear changes, particularly from third to forth, are prone to failing – these have now been replaced by a seemingly endless amount of torque delivered without changing gears. The power is directed to the rear wheels by a planetary gear set fixed-ratio transmission. The tested prototype changes gears to forward, neutral and reverse with a push of a button; the selector familiar from the original model only has a decorative purpose now. This will be changed in the future – however, the creators of the car will not yet reveal how exactly. The electric car is not short of power. Yet, it is not too powerful for the original brake system and tire sizes. The technical information of the car generally resembles that of the original. Yes, the initial 10 second 0-100 km/h has become 8.2 but the top speed (180 vs. 170 km/h) and even the kerb mass (918 vs. 940 kg) are very similar. The e-Drive Retro design intent is to convert these cars safely and without requiring extreme modifications to brakes, suspension or steering components of the original cars. Maintaining authenticity to the original driving experience is a key goal for the firm.
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Not like any other classic electric car It should also be said that this is not one of the ‘sterile’ electric cars known to those using a Nissan, a Mitsubishi or even a Tesla. The tyre and chassis noise still make their way to the car just as in any classic car – yet, compared with a petrol engine, the sound produced by the transmission system and the limited slip rear differential can be distinctively heard. Although the reverse of the original, a completely silent classic electric car would be more convenient, it would feel strange and too far from the concept of the original car. However, the electric classic still has its own eccentricities. The take-off seems a little peculiar. If you release the brakes, the car does not move forward but stays put. The first touch of the accelerator pedal does not make the car move either; it moves only once the neutral position of the accelerator has been exceeded. This is due to the automated regenerative braking system, which allows the driver to slow the vehicle by simply reducing pressure on the accelerator pedal – the effect feels exactly the same as when doing so with the original engine (the design intent of the engineers). This ‘Engine Braking’ effect makes for better handling and enables the car to be driven with almost never making a touch on the brake pedal being required. Brake life is expected to be up to 10x longer, too. The rapid charging standards can be selected based on which market the car is aimed at; since the test vehicle is intended for Estonian roads, it is equipped with a CHAdeMO charging connector. Rapid charging takes around 20 minutes, whereas it takes 6 hours of regular charging to fill a 17.6 kW/h battery. The autonomy of the vehicle (ie. how far it can go without needing a recharge) is about 120-150 km, depending on numerous variables, as is typical of electric cars.
What next? e-Drive Retro is now accepting orders for GT6 and Spitfire conversions as a standard product. They are also considering a MercedesBenz 190 SL or Alfa Romeo Spider for their next product development. These cars, even more highly valued among collectors, will most likely propose an even greater challenge compared with the Triumph as anyone who has ever driven a classic SL or Alfa will know how enjoyable these small open cars are for sunny weekend drives.
Photos by Siiri Kumari
WEAR ESTONIAN ART_TALLINN DOLLS
Textile artist Signe Kivi in ‘Last Snow’ by Jüri Arrak
Food entrepreneur Anni Arro and ‘Crying Bear’ by Marko Mäetamm
Food entrepreneur Anni Arro with ‘Johnny with the Broken Angel’ by Toomas Volkmann
Food entrepreneur Anni Arro in ‘Eventually Everything Connects’ by Martin Saar
Food entrepreneur Anni Arro with ‘Holy Fish’ by Toomas Kuusing
Singer-songwriter Eda-Ines Etti in â€˜Kiss from a Bunnyâ€™ by Leonhard Lapin
Actress Hele Kõrve in Maarit Murka’s ‘Position 3’, on the easel Maarit Murka’s‘ Position 1’
Actress Hele Kõrve and ‘Feel Me’ by Toomas Altnurme
Photo by Kersti Niglas
Gives a Boost to Promoting Estonian Art
By Kristi Pärn-Valdoja / magazine Mood
Mari Martin, the founder of the famous Estonian fashion brand Tallinn Dolls, is a recognised expert on the local fashion landscape, who is able to hold her own with equal elegance in business and art. Tallinn Dolls recently presented a special collection named ‘Wear Art’, which aims to popularise art by bringing it into our everyday clothing – in this way you can ‘wear’ your favourite artists each day and become nothing less than a living art gallery! We asked Mari about Tallinn Dolls.
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I CREATIVE ESTONIA Mari is wearing "Forget-me-nots" by Malle Leis
Tallinn Dolls is undoubtedly one of the best known and loved fashion brands in Estonia. Speaking personally, it feels like the brand has always existed. But in fact the history of the brand is not all that long. Funnily enough, I have the same feeling! But in reality Tallinn Dolls is only seven years old – quite young in fact.
You have designed most of the recent collections yourself. But this wasn’t so in the beginning? When I first got started, I invited the fashion designer Karolin Kuusik along and a year later designer Liisi Eesmaa joined us. The idea was to involve various fashion designers to create a kind of a spectrum, but with different angles. To have something different.
How did you arrive at fashion design — did fashion pick you or the other way around?
What was your primary mission back then?
Actually I have never really chosen things directly in my life, but things have just come to me instead. My mother is a seamstress, my grandmother also does handicrafts, so fashion has always engulfed me. My former classmates still recall laughing at the idea that I wanted to be a fashion manager as a child!
It was very important for us that the company would have a local character. This is why I had the idea to utilise various fashion designers, in order to offer local designers an outlet where to realise their ideas. But by locality, I do not mean some purely ethnic theme, but a younger and fresher approach.
Many of my girlfriends were also involved in fashion, and my best friend’s mother was also a seamstress, so it was kind of a natural choice. Since school I have really just sewn and created fashion.
It has always seemed to me that Tallinn Dolls is primarily aimed at young people.
Before Tallinn Dolls I understand you founded the company Kalamari? Yes, together with my friend Alis Kala we founded the company Kalamari, which was active in organising fashion events and marketing; we also organised the Fashion Market. The Fashion Market came to life as an outlet for our own designs. Those were really interesting times and Alis and I are still very close, although we do not really cooperate anymore as she has moved to London. But Alis is still linked with fashion and it is really interesting to exchange impressions with each other.
How was the name Tallinn Dolls born? I thought the name should be fun and easy to remember. We sat down with a few people and proposed some different ideas, but it was Karolin Kuusik’s idea to call the brand Tallinn Dolls. At the time we were with the fashion designer Oksana Tandit who said it encapsulated exactly who we are, what we are. So there was an instant recognition and when I hear the name Tallinn Dolls today and reflect on the whole local theme, it seems more fitting than ever.
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I guess it was a bit like that when we started. Even when we think of foreign designers, it is somewhat inevitable that if you are young yourself, your creations reflect that – your ideas will have a more youthful style. If I look at the first designs that Karolin Kuusik created for Tallinn Dolls, then it is obvious that they are much more youthful than the things she creates today. After all you put your whole self, your soul and your thoughts into your creations. Today I can say with certainty that the consumers of our brand are no longer so young; they tend to be women of 30 plus. Women who like to take life with a degree of fun, and not that seriously. Clothes after all should make us enjoy life, to help us release our creativity and sometimes to allow us to play different roles. Generally, people shouldn’t take fashion so seriously, what is in and what is out and what is right and what not. Serious things should be some other things in life – values, worldview, achievements.
At the moment you are mainly designing yourself? Yes, as it seems to me that I know the soul of the brand the best. But we still have guest designers and we plan to continue with that.
Does Tallinn Dolls have any ambition to break into the international fashion arena? So many brands want to get famous and make it abroad, but I think things develop the way they are supposed to. It is very often the case that you have an idea in the beginning, but then life takes you through some winding roads and in the end you still end up exactly where you wanted. Of course it is difficult to do your thing solely in Estonia as it is a small country, the volumes are small, the local customer base is similarly small… At the same time, if you want to run a global business, things become more anonymous.
Signe Kivi, artist: ‘As an artist, I really like the ‘Wear Art’ project by Tallinn Dolls. I especially like the promotion of Estonian artists, but I believe that both sides – fashion and the artist used by the fashion designer – will benefit. I predict a great future to the project.’
Europe as a whole is small in terms of the entire globe, but there are still so many different cultural spaces here that if you wanted to appeal to all of them, you would have to create only black tops, for instance, as these suit just about everyone. That’s not what I want to do. My aim is still to discover the unique nuances of local design and to go deeper. To expand and to create for example London Dolls, Riga Dolls, Budapest Dolls, etc. From the outset I have really wanted to celebrate local uniqueness. Perhaps I need to make the world a better place, but I simply do not like it when everything becomes similar and united. I like that people can be proud about who they are. To go proudly into the big world and say that they are from Estonia for example. I am disturbed when people feel ‘small’ because they come from Estonia. It is just wrong and I feel sorry for them. They should be proud that they are from Estonia as small places are so cool!
Are you already working on the Dolls in other cities? Yes, tentative steps have already been made.
Recently Tallinn Dolls presented a new and very special collection called ‘Wear Art’ please tell us more about it. It seemed like a really inspiring and interesting challenge to bring something special and unique to the collections. In reality it turned out to be a really complicated operation with the whole rights issues and everything else, which slowed us down. But it is my motto that challenges are there to be overcome, and the most pointless activity is complaining. I participated in various training programs in London, in structures meant for creative people. There were teachers and mentors who discussed and analysed the participants’ things and my art project also came up. I got the chance to talk to many artists, and this is when the idea started to develop again.
What made the project so complicated?
On what basis did you choose the artists for the collection?
The different legal aspects and IT solutions, how the printing technology should work, plus all the different design solutions. It was like a very complex spider’s web! Bringing artists along was the easiest part of it all; they were all happy that such a project was undertaken. The more so that the project undoubtedly also helps to promote Estonian artists abroad.
We carried out several surveys and also a little poll in Estonia. We also worked with the Centre of Contemporary Art, the KUMU Art Museum, Unions of Graphic Designers and Painters who all made their suggestions. Everyone could vote freely, but we offered a selection of names to also choose from, because we didn’t want people to just name the most well-known artists like Navitrolla or Viiralt.
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Anni Arro, food entrepreneur: ‘I have always been close to both fashion and art, grown up among them. It is great that now the two can be united. What is really positive about the “Wear Art” project is that, in addition to it promoting Estonian art, the artist will receive fair royalties per every piece. I am proud to wear a piece of designer clothing which brings joy and beauty.’
does things one way, then I want to do the opposite. Ideas with a little twist as well as out-of-the-box thinking are what inspire me and get my engine revving. Furthermore in terms of design I value the concept and the entire approach. Details then often just flow into place.
But you are equally interested in both fields? Yes, absolutely! If I do something, I need to approach it in depth. And I really like it when I have exhausted myself with one topic, I can take up another one. It balances things out. I think there are often dissonances between the business- and art world as the one side does not understand the other. But I do both and I will always find a compromise. I don’t consider myself to be a superb businesswoman by any means, but I do believe I can see the whole picture. It has been like that since I was a child – I will not carry out a single detail without being able to see the complete picture and where I need to get to, where the different bits have to fit and so on. But sometimes I have felt like a strange hybrid, although it seems that in the fashion world there are more and more people like me these days who are active both in business and art.
Who are your favourite designers? My biggest favourite from brands is Mark Jacobs, because he has managed to find a great balance between good design and wearability. Many designers create clothes which look gorgeous on the catwalk, but which do not have that much practical value. I have a high respect for designers like Jacobs who manage to combine successfully practicality with design. The results were surprisingly impressive. Several thousand people voted and the most votes went to the artist Toomas Kuusing. This was not really expected, so obviously a great result. When we introduced the collection, together with the artists on Estonian Independence Day, the items with his things attracted the most interest – that was really positive. Of course Viiralt is also very popular but I like it that people are also interested in contemporary art.
Where are the clothes of Tallinn Dolls made? We have our own small sewing workshop, which is where we also do private orders and develop new models. Some items are made outside as well, but always in Estonia. The fabric comes from Italy and Belgium, bamboo fabric which we used in the ‘Wear Art’ collection comes from Pärnu, in Estonia.
You are a designer, but also a businesswoman. How do you reconcile these two facets of your character? This question has long been hanging around but I do not know how to draw this dividing line anywhere precise. I am not a Gemini by horoscope sign for one thing, but an Aries – with two horns. I don’t know … I need the contrast. But I am definitely more a creative kind of entrepreneur. I am not attracted to simple solutions, and when I see that everyone
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Is there room for other things besides fashion in your life? Naturally I am a big fan of travelling – the world is such an exciting place. I really love to travel, to keep my eyes open and sense everything. I am more and more interested in human psychology, being to move around in people’s thoughts. To discover behavioural patterns and to recognise them within different cultural spaces. I can just observe people anywhere in the world. But yes, I am inspired by many things and I am also very curious. I want to try everything myself, not just to read about other people doing things, for example.
Craftory Reinvents Estonian Style Worldwide By Robyn Laider / Photos by Craftory
Just walking through the streets of Tallinnâ€™s old town, past the craft guilds situated on Katariina Passage showcase ample examples of Estoniaâ€™s long relationship with textiles, as well as leather artistry. And not too far from here, in the Solaris Centre in downtown Tallinn, Craftory also provides beautiful leather products, displaying a clear devotion to this timeless craft. However, a greater part of their growing appeal and worldwide reach come from the infusion of modernity they have put into an industry which has traditionally been filled with, well, traditions.
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Mihkel and Timo in front of Trunk in London
During the recent celebrations of Estonia’s 98th Anniversary of independence, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas gave a fantastic speech highlighting, among many other topics, the start-up scene in Estonia. On this topic, he specifically celebrated the Estonian outlook and attitude of: Our culture favours gumption and an open-eyed, curious outlook on the world to grab an opportunity when we see it. Well, perhaps he didnt know it at the time, but the words he used perfectly describe the story and authentic truth in image of Craftory, arguably the hottest new design start-up to come out of Estonia. Founded ‘accidentally’, after founder Mihkel Männik visited an old leather tannery by chance and in his own words ‘instantly fell in love with it’, Craftory was started for real in the fall of 2013. Embodying the can-do attitude and alert approach the Prime Minister alluded to, the company is described by partner-founder, Timo Vikson as being an accident of inspiration turned to profitability. It’s the perfect story, the three young Estonians founders had hit a point in their lives where what they had been doing, and where it was leading to, had become questionable. Mihkel was studying aviation, Timo – journalism and the third co-founder, Martin Saar had studied product design. They all came from different backgrounds, and were working in different industries, but after a slight hiccup caused Mihkel to be kicked out of his studies, it nevertheless seemed the best way forward. Starting their company with only a small amount of capital between them, they ‘believed that true companionship and different stories are interesting enough for people to follow our path.’ And they were right – with their first sale happening within 30 minutes of being online. Though it may seem counter-intuitive for a leather company to be founded by individuals with more inspiration than experience, it is exactly this factor which is helping move them from a simple idea to something more like a mass movement. It is also this phenomenon which is causing so much resonance with Craftory’s audience. When discussing their competition, Timo notes, and pays homage to, the fact
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that the leather trade is a very long-established industry, and many of the companies surrounding them place a great deal of weight on their heritage ‘where the tradition of making things is everything’. With Craftory however, the rule lies in being authentic, being sincere and being yourself. ‘This unpretentious design and also attitude means that we give you a simple and beautiful design, but it comes without this burden of company history, traditions, big brand stories and you having to come from a certain sector of society in order to buy our goods. We have this honest story of how and why Craftory was founded,’ Timo explains. This openness and accessibility is what is giving them a long reach to multiple fan bases across many different groups and subcultures. That said, they are quick to point out, when asked about specific styles, that Craftory has never tried to define their goods through any particular style type. Mihkel underlines this by adding that ‘we believe that our clean aesthetics leave a lot of room to suit everyone, from young urban dwellers to mature white collar types. And it is amazing to see that our users are extremely individual, from very different backgrounds.’ With such a big reach, Craftory places great importance on the ideals of their clients, however they don’t just rely on this one perspective. Craftory also places a high value on conceptual ideas for their designs. Without the emphasis on a past legacy, they have a focus on the future very much at the heart of their design process. ‘We don’t have long history, but we have great will to do things well … our ways of consuming are changing and we have to rethink what is functional and what we actually need,’ states Timo and this has been their mindset from day one. When asked about their products, Timo and Mihkel describe them as ‘simple and functional, but we also have to make sure that we stay true to our aesthetic concept and not start to make things that are already there. We try to offer something new every time we release a
new product. Design has to be in evolution, otherwise it will get boring quickly,’ they go on. Additionally, Timo states that their viewpoint as relative newcomers to leather craft has undoubtedly shaped their design influences and helped them to see things from a different angle than their competitors, perhaps even allowing them more freedom to reinvent things on their own. This has been the case with the Slim Note Sack, which Mihkel points out was designed from the get-go to deliberately be suited for our evolving technology and changing usage habits. Featuring a tighter fit forever shrinking laptops and their chargers, in fact Mihkel states that the new MacBook 12 is the first to be able to ‘show the product off 110 per cent’ Whether shopping at their bricks-and-mortar location in the Solaris Centre, checking out their products stocked at TRUNK London, or perusing their online shop, everywhere is it clear that the simplicity and functionality of each item is equalled by a beautiful aesthetic. Craftory’s most popular product, the Naked Portemonnaie, shows off a fantastic example of these features, and also highlights Craftory’s forward thinking perspective on changing consumer tendencies. With a slim fit, and smaller design tailor-made to support the idea that in the future, less will be more. Additionally, Craftory’s handsome Great Sack, embodies modern functional leathercraft. A minimalist satchel in appearance, it is large enough to accommodate a laptop – with power supply, portfolios, artistry supplies or even a full sized digital camera; making it ideal for any professional on the go. For these, as with their other products; from the more feminine Model Clutch – ‘a dignified and confident chic without any kitsch’, to the functionally purposed Slim Pouchie, the available colours serve to highlight and accentuate the natural textures of the leather. Their organic
vegetable-based stains, entitled ‘Cognac’, ‘Natural’, ‘Black’, together with a more limited line of ‘Caramel’, each differently exhibit the innate characteristics of the leather, making the decision of ‘which item to buy’ when shopping at Craftory an individual experience. Yet this is only the beginning for these young men with big plans for the future. Having been gaining more and more attention worldwide, they were recently featured by THE magazine for the trendsetting global citizen, in issue 88 Inventory pages of design magazine Monocle, AND in a recent Section D design program episode on Monocle 24 Radio. In fact, they were doubly honoured, as Craftory was the first Estonian company ever covered by Monocle. All of the new attention this is garnering is especially helping this company from Tallinn in getting recognized on the London scene. With plans for both their hometown and London, they have already started a cheeky new ad campaign to show off their ‘goods’ in a London environment. Timo also tells me that they are aiming to add more strength to their London presence by opening a pop-up shop there by the autumn of 2016. As regards Tallinn, they have plans to open their own workshop for people to become more directly involved and ‘craft things out of leather … show how we make our goods, talks about leather in general (different types of leather, history of using leather etc.) and sell our products.’ They also currently do special orders for top restaurants, their first Tallinn partnership being with Noa, and now including cooperations with Leib Resto & Aed, as well as Art Priori and Tuljak. In Moscow they are involved with the Metropolitan Hotel’s new-Nordic restaurant and have their sights set on expanding this part of the business even further. If you want to take a look at everything Craftory has to offer, their shop on the first level of the Solaris Centre is a permanent fixture in Tallinn, so go and taste for yourself what is quickly becoming a growing international brand. craftory.com
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I CREATIVE ESTONIA
The Widescreen Studios on the outskirts of Tallinn are bustling with people, many of them wired with headsets and walkie-talkies. 67 local crew members are keeping busy producing a series of commercials for a large German retailer, a first production for a new client, Markenfilm.
Münchhausen Productions Setting International Standards By Maris Hellrand / Photos by Jaanar Nikker and Kristiin Kõosalu For Nikolai Mihailisin and Mika Pajunen of Münchhausen Productions however, this isn’t by any means their biggest production so far. For another German commercial, they recently brought almost 200 people on set at the Seaplane Harbour in Tallinn. Since founding the company three years ago the business partners, from both shores of the Gulf of Finland, have acquired an impressive portfolio of clients including Audi, Kia, Siemens, Microsoft, Unilever, Withings, Jack Wolfskin, Franziskaner, Nivea, eBay etc. Niko and Mika first started working together seven years ago on different projects for the same Finnish company. By 2012 the time seemed ripe to start a business of their own. Münchhausen’s ambition was to transform the culture of film, video, photo and TV productions from one which used to focus on the location and attached resources such as equipment, logistics and crew, into an international production service as a combination of different networks, processes and competences. The film production world has always been based on relationships and recommendations – so building up trust as a new player was not easy, as even the closest neighbouring countries hadn’t brought many productions to the Baltic region.
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Says Mika: ‘We are doing pioneer work here. Three years ago we went to Sweden for the first time and were met with questions like ”do you have electricity for 24 hours a day?!” Scepticism is nothing but ignorance. We are still educating people. In a sense we are the “visit Estonia people” – the locations tell a lot about the country and we are actually selling the country to our clients.’ Mika, the strategist in Münchhausen, sees the strong idea and a great track record of international co-productions of both founders as basis for the first breakthrough: ‘This starting point helped us overcome questions of trust and pricing that can often be quite high hurdles for newcomers to jump,’ he continues. Nonetheless, Münchhausen had soon bagged its first large international productions. Niko explains that the company doesn’t depend on Baltic or Scandinavian clients any longer; it doesn’t even matter what the season is: The client decide with whom to go into production by the variety of possibilities, the selection of locations and the ability of international crews to make it happen both technically, in terms of processes and experience. It is extremely important to be able to adjust to different working habits of different cultures and integrate them into the service. The biggest breakthrough projects so far have been their first car commercials for Kia and Audi at the end of 2015. These were shot in Lapland, Finland, and Barcelona, Spain, as this kind of production requires very special equipment and conditions that are not available in Estonia.
Nikolai Mihailisin, Münchhausen Productions: ‘The film incentives that have been launched now will also be beneficial for our business, as the knowledge and experience of people working with foreign production stays in Estonia and increases the general level of knowhow.’
Why Estonia? Mika, a Finn by birth, has lived in Estonia for three years: ‘I like the organized chaos that’s going on. Everything is evolving all the time. It has a vibe like Berlin back in the day.’ Mika explains the competitive advantage of Estonia: ‘The foundation of our service is an arbitrage where doing something away from home is cheaper. The producer is an “animal” who always finds the cheapest price. Getting most bang for their buck in other words. Infrastructure, locations, the right-looking people are all important. Because of its history, Estonia offers a big variety of locations and a very interesting mix of people when it comes to European markets.’ Mika and Niko consider themselves pioneers in service production for commercials in Estonia: ‘We have changed a lot in the way the crews are working. We are not telling people from an ivory tower how things should work, but taking advantage of the fact that people are very enthusiastic and open minded and willing to learn. The flexibility of people and willingness to learn is most important. Finding these people has been our advantage. You have to have the right professional knowledge of course, but in this business it’s all about the attitude.’
studying marketing. Almost accidentally he started a video production company with a friend, focusing on heavy metal music videos for more than two years. This was a dream job for a metal music fan: ‘I am still a metal fan; of the Estonian bands probably Winny Puhh (an Estonian metal/punk band formed in 1993 which acquired international recognition when performing upside down in Paris at the Rick Owens fashion show – ed.), is the most creatively crazy and so my favourite,’ he says.
The story of Münchhausen Niko: ‘Baron von Münchhausen was a well-known German storyteller who lived for some years in Latvia, close to the Estonian border, in the mid 18th century. His war-stories were most likely somewhat coloured to start with, and as they lived on more and more colour was added over time – finally extending to being able to fly on a cannon ball! Here we have a plain fact – a man who went to the Crimean war - and then we have the stories to add to that. It’s exactly the same with commercials: we have a product and then we have a commercial that might be a million miles away from the “truth” but still based on the real product. This is the analogue between the name and our business.’
For Mika this is a business of trust: ‘We are the last link; everyone is putting their money in our basket. Our clients put their reputation on the line with the agency being in our hands, an agency geared towards the end client. It comes down to us to make it happen.’ Mika himself came to the commercial production business via quite a detour – after military service in Finland he studied to become a sea captain, but upon realizing that this would be a rather lonely job he switched to
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I CREATIVE ESTONIA quite expensive, but they have become a household name and have a strong brand and quality. The same will happen here by the time the competitive price advantage finally disappears.’ Münchhausen has recently set up an office in Spain to be prepared for all kinds of client needs: ‘There are two main aspects that we cannot provide from Estonia – the sun and the scale. We also have a third – a winter office in Finnish Lapland. We are not really location bound any more – our system works everywhere and we can shoot wherever is best. What we are really selling is competence. The business is copypaste, we can do the same in every place,’ says Niko.
So, where is Münchhausen’s cannon ball flying from here?
This year Münchhausen will see a fine-tuning of the service and the brand to meet top notch requirements.
The outlook on the international production market are good for Münchhausen. Most large European production companies outsource about half of their productions to other countries – due to plots that require a different location as well as the cost factor.
Mika: ‘It’s not that we have invented something which is never-beendone-before. It all can be replicated. It has been humbling to see how quite a few new agile companies are following in our footsteps and using the same business model. This of course forces us to keep on our toes at all times; we cannot rest because we know there are others following us on our heels. One of the key things is to stay humble - this makes your customers happy. The moment you get too confident and cocky, you’ll fall. And the higher you have climbed, the deeper the fall...’
‘Low cost, established infrastructure and interesting location are the major selling points for service production. Location and infrastructure usually develop and get better. In Estonia the price competitiveness will disappear some day. But if we look at Spain – the biggest production company there has been operating for 20 years. As of now they are
Katherine Smithson (Markenfilm) on the work experience with Münchhausen: ‘Friendly, quick, trustworthy, communicative, pro-active – I am happy beyond all expectations. Estonia offers a stress-free all-round package where everything is right: costs, cast and international standards are all being set here.’
A view from an international client: Besides international standards and open attitude, Estonia offers a wide variety of faces Katherine Smithson, the senior producer of Markenfilm, a large German production
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company that continually has 8-15 productions going on simultaneously, is heading a production in Estonia for the first time: ‘Estonia is a new interesting market for us. We have done shoot a lot in Eastern Europe already, but we have noticed that the studios and crews where we have been in Romania and Lithuania, for example, although very professional, have a weak spot, namely in casting. So if we want to cast the actors in situ, Estonia offers a much wider variety of faces. This is really important when we shoot for a client who runs their ads in Germany, Austria and Switzerland for instance. The viewer wants to see people who look like someone who could be living next door to them. So it’s a great advantage for Estonia to have been at the historical crossroads of cultures.’ Smithson is very happy with the production from Münchhausen: ‘I appreciate the very high quality here - international production standards are not only being met but I’d say Estonia is on a par with London, Hollywood and all the international production hubs. There is absolutely no difference. Another great advantage is that the entire crew – not just the heads of departments – speak such perfect English that we have never had any communication
problems. This has not always been the case in Eastern Europe,’ she explains. ‘With the cost of production being similar to that in Vilnius and Bucharest, the decisive factors are the cast, international standards and the very friendly and open attitude that we have experienced with Münchhausen. We didn’t know each other initially, but when we called it all worked immediately and seamlessly. They were very proactive, but not pushy. I immediately understood that I didn’t have to explain everything from scratch. The procedure is very familiar, so we were always a step ahead. We didn’t discover any weaknesses. We had very little time for preparation – just three weeks between the first contact until start of the shoot. This is a very short timeframe, for we had to carry out costing, casting, mood research etc. This was all done for a total of nine films. Then, one week before the start of the shoot the client realised it has some more products that need to be deliverable, so we added four more films. Although we were in the midst of production of nine quite complicated films, when suddenly four more were added, nobody said “it cannot be done”, it was more like like “sure, let’s do it”. This is what we need,’ Smithson concludes.
Estonian films in 2015: > > >
7 new full length feature films 1.4-million-euro box office from Estonian films 350 000 viewers in Estonia. Estonians go to the cinema on average 2.6 times annually – one of the highest percentages in Europe > Average ticket price 5 euros > Total box office 15.5 million euros
Cash Rebate – a New Boost for Estonian Film Industry The Estonian Film Institute (EFI) launched a new cash rebate system at this year’s Berlinale to attract more international film productions to Estonia. According to Edith Sepp, the CEO of the EFI, Estonia is at last a front-rank country for film production. The goal of the EFI’s support scheme, Film Estonia, is to attract new foreign filmmakers and crews to film in Estonia, thereby fostering the influx of foreign capital into the Estonian economy. The rebate fund will refund up to 30 per cent of local production costs depending on the degree of involvement of local professionals. The highest rate of refund applies to films where the storyline takes place in Estonia itself.
During the first year of the launch the fund will repay up to 500 000 euros; the budget for 2017 is 2 million euros.
Estonia is the last of three Baltic countries to enter the cash rebate market, so what’s the advantage? Edith Sepp explains: ‘We are offering a very non-bureaucratic system that is easy and quick. Every foreign producer can understand it, so there is no need to hire a lawyer!’ The EFI will audit the production after the costs have been made and process a rapid payment. Lithuania has had a great experience already within the first year of the cash rebate system, with several BBC productions completed and more interest from the British film industry coming in.
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I CREATIVE ESTONIA Film Estonia: The Estonian Film Institute has launched a new cash-rebate scheme – Film Estonia. The goal of the EFI’s support scheme is to attract new foreign filmmakers and crews to film in Estonia. The new fund will be open to applications from legal entities registered in Estonia whose main area of activity is the production of audiovisual works and whose partner is a foreign film production company.
The 19th Tallinn Black Night Film Festival held a special forum on the subject of 'Digital Future for Film' where the European Digital Single Market initiative, present cuttingedge products and services from the creative and tech fields were discussed.
Film Estonia will allocate support for the production or post-production of full-length feature films, full-length animation films, short animation films, animation series, quality television series or documentary films. Next deadlines for applications: 24 May 24 and 8 November 2016. www.filmestonia.ee Sepp points out that Estonia’s advantage is its long tradition of film industry: ‘Estonian film is 100 years old, and even during Soviet rule we had a very successful industry. So people have a good professional experience – and what’s also important, a very good command of English. Today of course the Baltic Film and Media School in Tallinn focuses on new technologies and grows new talent for the industry.’
Estonians are already well-known for being somewhat tech-obsessed, and film people are no exception here. The Digital Sputnik film lighting company run by brothers Kaur and Kaspar Kallas is just one bright example of this, which has launched sophisticated new LED film lighting technology successfully with big budget international productions such as ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Independence Day’.
The new cash rebate system is applicable for the production or postproduction of full-length feature films, full-length animation films, short animation films, animation series, quality television series and documentary films. The fund has established minimum limits for the budgets of projects they support – for example, a feature film must have a minimum budget of one million Euros to apply. In addition to the cash rebate there are two regional funds as well which support international productions in the Tartu and Ida-Virumaa regions.
What’s in it for Estonian film? Edith Sepp explains: ‘The more that people have experience with international co-productions, the better it is for the Estonian cinema as well – we can raise the level of our national cinema. Work keeps people competitive and keeps the national cinema alive.’ Doubtless the recent success of two Estonian co-productions has given a boost to the whole industry. ‘Tangerines’ made it to the final five nominees of both Golden Globes and Oscars in 2015. Sepp says this was just a case of being at the right place at the right time. ‘Previously we always selected a local highly artistic film to run for Oscars,’ she says. ‘This time we thought about which topic could matter for the whole world. Usually we just submitted the film and left it alone; this time we did a marketing campaign and hired an agent in the US. It was a fair amount of legwork, and for the first time we actually sent the producer to the US for two months to meet academy members. The producers were then able to explain the geographic and historical context and people started to understand the story. Global political development kept the topic very up to date as well. The major drawback was, however, that we didn’t have a distributor in the US before the Oscars.’ Estonian filmmakers have learned a lot from this experience. As Sepp puts it, it was nothing less than a jump from the 19th century to the 21st. ‘The Fencer’ – a co-production from Finland, Estonia and Germany reached the five finalists of the Golden Globes in 2015. This is also a great breakthrough for Finnish cinema, and having gone through the process last year Estonian producers could share their experience. Coming up – to celebrate the centennial of the Estonian Republic in 2018, the government has given grants and funding to five films at a level never seen before in this country. Hopes are running high for all these productions, specifically that they will reach the competition programs in both Berlinale and Cannes.
The Los Angeles-based entertainment magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, has included Estonia among the ‘five Eastern European countries to shoot your next film and save money’.
The Poll Diaries
Some examples of co-production movies filmed in Estonia The Poll Diaries (2010) Estonian-German-Austrian co-production Director: Chris Kraus Producers: Alexandra and Meike Kordes, Riina Sildos, and Danny Krausz Production companies: Kordes&Kordes GMBH, Dor Film, and Amrion OÜ Set in the early 20th century, ‘The Poll Diaries’ paints a unique picture of a Baltic German estate in Estonia on the crossroads of the German Empire and Tsarist Russia. The haunting manor house, seemingly floating on stilts above the sea, period decorations, sensitive camerawork and film music succeed in creating an enchanting world on the verge of collapse.
1944 (2015) Estonian-Finnish co-production Director: Elmo Nüganen Producers: Kristian Taska, Maria Avdjushko, and Ilkka Y.L. Matila Production companies: Taska Film and MRP Matila Röhr Productions The film deals with the World War II events in Estonia in 1944. We see the war through the eyes of Estonian soldiers who were forced to pick sides and fight on both sides in the conflict, either the German Army or the Red Army, sometimes killing fellow countrymen in the process. Choices must be made not only by the soldiers, but also by those close to them.
‘Where once Hollywood and international producers could pick low-cost territories to shoot in the region based on currency value, location and crew availability, the expansion of the European Union, economic growth and globalisation have now combined to create a more level playing field,’ the magazine said. Introducing a list comprising of Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland and Czech Republic, the Hollywood Reporter said that taking into account the incentives, tax rebates, versatile locations and experienced crews, ‘there’s never been a better time to shoot in Eastern Europe (even if your movie is set on Mars)’.
The filming took place at the Tapa Military Polygon, in Valga and in Tallinn.
The set decorations were constructed in Matsiranna, near Varbla. The location had a long boat dock which linked the estate with the sea and which was built specially for the movie.
King of Devil’s Island (2010) Norwegian-French-Polish-Swedish co-production Director: Marius Holst Producer: Karin Julsrud, Estonian production manager Pille Rünk Production companies: Opus Film, and Allfilm In the beginning of the 20th century there was a youth prison on the Bastoy island near Oslo, where socially outcast boys lived under the sadistic regime of prison guards. Instead of receiving an education, the 11-18 year old boys were forced to carry out hard labour and had no option but to adjust to the inhumane conditions. A new inmate leads the boys in a violent riot. How far is he willing to go in the name of freedom?
King of Devil’s Island
The filming mostly took place in Estonia, at the Kalvi manor house and other locations in Viru county
I CREATIVE ESTONIA
Trad.Attack! It’s a Brand, not just a Band By Maris Hellrand / Photos by Jaanar Nikker
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We meet up with Trad.Attack! – Sandra, Jalmar and Tõnu a day before their biggest concert in Tallinn yet. Trad.Attack! is a brand rather than just a band. The accolades are impressive – they have come first in several categories at three consecutive Estonian Music Awards since 2014.
Winner of Estonian Music Awards 2016 Best Band, Best Album, Best Ethno/Folk Album; Estonian Ethno Music Awards 2015 Best Band, Best Album, Best Song; Estonian Music Awards 2015 – Ethno/Folk album of the year, Music Video of the year; Estonian Ethno Music Awards 2014 Best Band, Best Album, Best Song, Best Newcomer and Radio 2 special award.
A band with great-grandma One of the ‘invisible’ band members is Jalmar’s great-grandmother Anne Vabarna, a famous singer of the Seto people, a minority group living in South-Eastern Estonia. Jalmar says, ‘We cannot copy her as such, but it’s a great link and a justification to use her influence. The recordings are part of the band. When we discovered this technique, it was a eureka moment, as if we had caught the biggest fish.’ Tõnu, the drummer explains, ‘It’s almost like making human trials – we take an archive piece and make music together with this old singer via our own instruments. Nobody has done it before. It’s incredible to listen to the recordings.’ Sandra says Trad.Attack! all began just as an experiment, ‘The first idea was to try it out just for fun for ourselves, so we had no borders because the aim was not to make someone else like us. It was so much fun. We realized quickly that we could not copy the vocal tracks, and decided to just sample them instead.’
A band or a brand? What is most striking when talking to Sandra, Jalmar and Tõnu, is how equally driven and outgoing they all are. Sandra is taking care of all the marketing and promotion herself. It’s a very conscious approach, ‘I looked at how pop bands are doing it worldwide and tried to apply it here. So the social media campaigns are thought through, the website always up-to-date and so on. We have learned a lot at showcase festivals. Nowadays social media has become like a parallel world, where fans interact with us daily even if they haven’t been to a concert yet.’
Jalmar, Sandra and Tõnu
Sandra studied in Stockholm, with marketing being part of the curriculum there. It’s increasingly important for a success of a band because, as Sandra puts it, ‘today everyone can make music, you don’t even need to play an instrument to do it. But even very good music needs a lot of promotion. As a band we need to interact with our listeners all the time.’
Sandra Sillamaa, Jalmar Vabarna and Tõnu Tubli were all well known in the Estonian folk scene long before the band was born. In late 2013 they got together to try out some new techniques and ideas without having any big plan or strategy. The first tune released, ‘Kooreke’ (Precious Cream) immediately became a hit and they decided to apply for the Tallinn Music Week (TMW) showcase festival. They didn’t even have a name yet and only five tunes were ready, but this was just enough for a showcase set and hopefully to capture the attention of an international agent. The audience was ecstatic. Now, two years later, in February 2016 Trad.Attack! has sold out the huge new ‘Black Box’ theatre at Kultuurikatel, the coolest venue in town, a transformed power plant lying between Tallinn’s Old Town and the sea shore which can accommodate 1 400 people. The audience at the late-night concert ranges from 10-year-olds to their grandparents, full of anticipation and excitement. When Sandra, Jalmar and Tõnu finally appear, it’s like a massive pop show – disco balls, light show and high energy. Turbocharged, powerful, riotous... They prove that it’s possible to do folk music with the same attitude as pop, the same hype and energy.
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I CREATIVE ESTONIA The master plan The way Trad.Attack! started and is approaching its career bears a strong resemblance to the startup mindset – readiness to risk and a very clear set of goals. A joke at the first concert has become the master plan: to play in every country in the world. So far they have played in 17 countries from Europe to South-East Asia: Estonia, Latvia, Poland, the USA, Germany, Finland, Malaysia, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Norway, Denmark, Belarus, Italy, Czech Republic, Lithuania, and the Netherlands. Having spent about 100 days on the road in 2015, they are well on track with, concert dates set for China, South Korea, Canada, Portugal and Malta in the coming months. There are only 179 countries to go! Jalmar thinks, fifty is the magic line, ‘After 50 countries everyone is going to want us. It will become a snowball after that.’ Tõnu aims even higher, ‘After that we will team up with Elon Musk and Richard Branson and shoot a video on the moon,’ he jokes. ‘For each country we try to learn some ice-breaker phrases in the local language. Our biggest hit ‘Ah’ is easy to sing along for everyone. So even in Malaysia, where we must have looked and sounded so strange for the audience at first, everyone got into it,’ Jalmar says, revealing the secret of the touring success. ‘The toughest audience was in a small town in South Germany – they didn’t understand any of our jokes,’ admits Tõnu. This might have to do with very different expectations, because to say that Trad.Attack! has turned traditional folk music on its head, would be a grave understatement.
Voices from the press The Arts Desk: ‘The same country’s Trad.Attack! were as powerful, but riotous rather than reflective. The boisterous folk-based trio sported hard drumming bridging the gap between free jazz and metal, and multi-instrumentalist Sandra Sillamaa is equally at home on wild Jew’s harp as bagpipes.’ Dave Haslam, R2 Magazine: ‘To say that Trad.Attack!’s mix of original compositions and trad. arr. tunes has turned Estonian folk music on its head is to seriously understate the case. Superb musicianship and an overt respect for an understanding of the tradition combined with an off–the-scale inventiveness and sparingly used cut-and-paste archive recordings, to create an album of startling originality.’ John Robb, Louder than War: ‘21st century Nordic turbo folk band who thrill. Reinventing the wheel Estonian band Trad.Attack! are a thrilling experience. With their roots in Estonian folk music or ‘’turbo Nordic folk’’ as they like to term it, they take the past, push it into the present and keep a very strong local folk tradition alive making it sound international instead of regional.’
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To make all this travel easier, the band has teamed up with a travel agent in … Australia! Aerotravel, founded by the Estonian travel industry wizard Aivo Takis, is making all this complicated global logistics possible. Jalmar is adamant in giving them credit and hopes to see a Trad. Air! airline taking off one day. Yet, as ambitious the trio is, in their musical foundation they have remained well grounded and true to their roots. As highly skilled instrumentalists and talented songwriters, the hearts of Trad.Attack! beat to the rhythm of ancient Estonian tunes. www.tradattack.ee
Maria Faust, the most internationally-acclaimed Estonian saxophonist, currently lives in Denmark. When she thinks about Estonia she misses the calm as well as the chanterelle mushrooms. Maria is best known as a band member of the Maria Faust Jazz Catastrophe and Maria Faust Sacrum Facere. She has won various Danish music awards. Her new piece ‘Velocipede’ for six musicians, with video and spinning cycles, is due to have its world premiere on 1 May this year at the largest jazz festival in the Baltic states — Jazzkaar.
Maria Faust: I Create My Music by Staring at WhiteWalls Photos by Kaupo Kikkas and Peter Gannushkin
This time at Jazzkaar, I am performing with the experimental electronic trio ‘Shitney Spears’, I will be in the role of the MC for the first time ever and, what is really special, I am creating a special multi-art piece for Jazzkaar titled ‘Velocipede’, or music for fast legs.
Estonian audiences have a chance to see you performing again this spring at Jazzkaar. What makes the concert this year special?
How did your love of music start?
Every concert and festival is special for me. It couldn’t be any other way. If I were bored or fed up, I would need to quickly change my profession. This might happen one day and each artist should be prepared for that. On the other hand, performing in front of a home audience and interacting with ‘my village’ people is totally different from playing at the Stockholm Jazz Festival or sweating in the 39 degrees Celsius in Valparaiso. Home is my foundation.
It is impossible to say where it came from or why. It was instinctive and an instant recognition. From what I can remember, it might have been around the time when my sister was born. I was three years old at the time and ever since then I have known that I would be a musician. At first I wanted to become Kalle Randalu, but that proved a mission impossible since there already is a Kalle Randalu (a famous Estonian pianist – ed.), hence I stayed true to my own name Maria Faust.
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I CREATIVE ESTONIA What have been the most difficult situations whilst establishing yourself on the Danish music scene? There have been complicated situations in each active period. They are part and parcel of the road I have chosen, but the joy of playing outweighs them all. Whether they are the most difficult challenges or not, certainly the most annoying situations are ones related to middle age male colleagues who feel they have to ‘tame’ me somehow or, in the best case scenarios, to give me advice together with a modest ‘pat on the head’. My frustration at this type of thing is indescribable – so I won’t try to describe it...
It very rarely happens that a woman stands in front of a bigband, leading a bunch of men. How did it feel to perform your own music with the Danish Radio Bigband? In November 2015, I wrote a piece called ‘Blessed Art Though’ especially for the Danish Radio Bigband. It premiered at the Danish Jazz Music Awards ceremony and was transmitted live over Danish National Broadcasting. I have to say it was an amazing feeling, but I did not feel that I was treated as a female conductor or a female composer. It is a top notch orchestra. It is the music that matters.
Whereas people usually begin their careers playing in smaller groups, you have preferred a large band and your own music from the start. What gave you the inspiration for creating the band?
The fact that I have always known that music is my thing, has been both a blessing and a curse. There are other things in life I know absolutely nothing about.
Like what? Like maths for instance. And even within the sphere of music I have some gaps in my knowledge, for example what it is to experience music in stereo. I have no hearing in my right ear so I am not sure if what I hear is true stereo in the way that other people hear it, or how it exactly works. I’m joking of course, because I hear stereo really. Just through a very small ‘hole’, and that affects me as a musician and also as a partner. It is easy to select which side should I turn to a person if I am not really interested – the right side of course...
How did you end up studying and living in Denmark? Again, it was an instinctive decision. Noone was waiting there for me and I didn’t speak any foreign languages. Indeed, I was somewhat stuck in a rut in terms of creative development. Typically for a young person who sees everything in black or white, it was a huge question for me. I was certain that if I didn’t leave, I would be always playing the background bossa nova accompaniment to someone’s dinner. I needed to rehearse, to hear my own voice. At that time I couldn’t really express it in words, but I understood that I am not good at being a tool in music. I am not very flexible.
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Well, funny as it may sound, I hear voices in my head, meaning I hear a powerful orchestra. A bigger orchestra does not necessarily have to be more complicated or louder, but it does offer a great opportunity to create contrasts. Up to now the central place in my sound-scheme belongs to the woodwind instruments, but this has started to change. Over the last year and a half I have used neither bass nor drums in my bands.
Your albums ‘Jazz Catastrophe’ and ‘Sacrum Facere’ have won many prizes in Denmark and Estonia. Your music is not the easiest to listen to, some might say, but you have still found your audience. Does your audience need some pre-tuning or is there something in your music which also speaks to someone who hasn’t listened to jazz before? I am not really the right person to say whether my music is easy or difficult to listen to. I avoid comparing myself with other musicians. I write simple melodies and, more and more, I avoid using dissonance. I like simple triads (three-note chords – ed.). The seventh interval (a musical interval comprising two notes ten or eleven semitones apart – ed.) barely exists. I think the so-called difficult part is a psychological combination, meaning how a piece of music influences you inside. What direction it pushes you to think. My last album ponders about death and it is logical that listeners feel this – which can really be difficult. Nobody can be prepared to listen to music as such. One has to want to and to be open to it. I do not take it personally when my music does not suit everybody. For example I don’t like not only Mozart, but also U2 and Justin Bieber.
How are your compositions born? And what time and atmosphere suit your character the best? My compositions are born by me doing nothing more than staring at white walls. I think I have spent half of my life staring at such walls. There has been so much rushing lately, which has impacted my music writing in a more stimulating way than I would have expected. I am not the type of person who is able to create in any position. For example, it is impossible for me to compose on tour, but I can still make corrections and just fiddle around with the music during those times.
Who do you consider yourself to be the first of all – a saxophonist, composer or band leader? These are all different aspects of one being; they can’t be separated. My body includes many nice and not-so-nice ‘characters’, all of whom have their different tasks.
What is your new piece ‘Velocipede’, which unites different areas of culture, about? You know that feeling when you get up in the morning and you feel strangely elated? There is no obvious reason for it. The sun need not be shining, the house is a mess, you don’t feel like working and anyway, what is there in this world to be so happy about? But you are happy nonetheless. You get on your bike and cycle around the city streets with a smile on your face. Joy knows no tempo, It has no plan it just travels around human beings just how it wants – without order, but persistently. Some things make no sense at all, but they are still so essential.
What kind of music do you listen to yourself? Absolutely everything! Pop (from Kendrick Lamar to Tame Impala), country – Town von Zendt, classical – Morton Feldman, Shostakovich, Brahms, Glass… A lot of folk music and spiritual music. Right now I was listening to the latest album by Rihanna.
What is your ideal day like? To stay in bed until whenever and to eat chicken drumsticks. Then to take to the bike to go for a winter time swim. To go and drink some wine with friends in the evening.
What are your favourite spots in Tallinn and in Estonia ? The forests in southern Estonia, in Setomaa and Võrumaa. On the island of Saaremaa I recharge my batteries around the Järve / Sõrve area.
What do you miss most when in Denmark? My mum. The sea. The island of Saaremaa. Pine forest. Cats. Dogs. Tracks made by a badger. Chanterelle mushrooms. Peace.
‘Velocipede’ is a positive piece that joins together music, video and sports. The piece is entitled in Latin and means ‘fast leg’, and has been constructed using an interactive mosaic method where each kind of art has something to say and to dictate in what direction the music is moving. Furthermore the audience can influence the direction of the music – to this end there are fifteen spinning bicycles courtesy of Estonian the fitness club MyFitness, on which people can sit and direct the pace of the performance.
‘Shitney Spears’ – the name of the band already sounds naughty. Is this female trio a welcome change for yourself and your audience, or just a one-off diversion from your main trajectory? I don’t have a main trajectory. Today I play the sax and tomorrow I might play drums. Creative freedom is really important. ‘Shitney’ came into being from the need to have a trio. One well-known festival asked me to consider if I could play in a trio instead of an octet. They probably hoped for the usual bass/drums/sax line-up, but at the time I was in an electronic mood. I played with all sorts of gadgets. I brought together the most interesting local electronic musicians and that’s how it happened. The name Shitney came without any intentionally provocative thoughts. It rhymes with Britney, obviously, and Whitney as well, and yet shows that we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
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I TOURISM Reconnect with your roots What is it about Estonia that makes it such an attractive destination for tourists? Estonia doesn’t have any mountains or even hills that would appeal to climbers – Estonia’s highest peak is Suur Munamägi (‘Great Egg Hill’) and stands at only 314 metres above sea level; nor does Estonia have any deep oceans with beautiful coral reefs to attract scuba divers… Yet the answer to this question is simple: we have blue skies, something which is almost non-existent in, for example, Asian smog-filled metropolitan areas; we have thickets that almost resemble jungles, quiet bogs with bonsai-like pine trees and lakes with clean, fresh water. And in the forests you can almost by accident come across a wide range of wild animals. In a word, Estonia boasts wildlife that cannot be found in much of the industrialized West, or for that matter East, any more.
The Wild Side of Estonia Estonia’s wild nature and traditions continue to play an important part in feeding, nurturing and inspiring locals and visitors alike. Residents of the ever-busy modern metropolises are invited to reclaim their inner peace by diving deep into Estonia’s bewitching nature. This might well be the beginning of a great new story of self-discovery, a mutual harmony between the everyday and the wild, ancient selfhood. Estonia offers a range of ways to embrace the nature without having to spend arduous amounts of time travelling. Just a half hour ride journey from the capital city Tallinn lands you in the midst of wild forest or on a sandy seashore. Estonia is one of the greenest countries in the world – about 50 per cent of Estonia’s territory is covered with forest, which is primarily about 2 million hectares of pine, birch and spruce, making this country great for hiking and exploring the well-kept wildlife which is as of now extinct in many other European countries. It is a real treat for busy city dwellers looking to stretch out their limbs and breathe in a lung-full of the world’s cleanest air (according to WHO 2011 report).
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Whether you’re looking to do a little bit of soul searching or sleep in the open under the stars, you will find plenty of paths to wander freely through Estonia’s many national parks, across deserted beaches, beside picturesque lakes and rivers, mysterious swamps and forest paths, and passing tiny rustic villages. Here you can forget all about the supermarket and get the fresh stuff on the go. In summer and early autumn, Estonia’s winding forest tracks also overflow with goodness that stimulates the tastebuds as well as the other senses. You can get a fresh mushroom stew going or stuff your face with blueberries, lingonberries, wild strawberries and raspberries straight from the plant. The Estonian landscape is as diverse as the birds and animals that call it home, with every passing season presenting the country in a new light. Estonia boasts amongst the largest density of large predators in Europe including brown bears, lynxes and wolves. If you are attentive you might find animal tracks in the forest, and if you’re extremely lucky you may even encounter one of these beasts. If luck is simply not on your side, then you can also join a group of bear trackers and spend a night in a bear watching hide. Now, that’s wild for you!
Ways to Reconnect with the Nature Forecast the weather from the movement of birds In spring and autumn, Estonia’s national parks see large flocks of migratory birds, which have inspired a range of songs and sayings. A wise way of telling a change in the weather is to carefully observe the movement of migratory birds. Once the storks leave, expect cooling weather; geese flying overhead means the frost is near, while swans’ departure is to be followed by snow.
Estonia’s national bird, the swallow, is the most accurate weather forecaster out there. Before the arrival of dark clouds, you can tell that rain is coming if you see swallows flying suspiciously close to the ground.
Estonia’s heavily-indented coastline, numerous islands, forests, bogs and other diverse cultural landscapes are all great spots for bird watching. The optimum time for birdwatching is during migration when millions of birds fill the skies.
Autumn migration tends to be more modest, but draws enthusiasts to Estonia in September and October as well. Thanks to the large forest areas and suitable habitats, six species of eagle can be seen in Estonia as well as eight of the nine European woodpecker species.
There are several ways to discover Estonia by hiking and walking – not many places in the world can boast a hiking network that intense, interesting and varied as in Estonia. The State Forest Management Centre (RMK) hiking route is a network of long trails going from border to border. These trails go through all of Estonia, through different national parks and nature reserves. You can hike the full route or pick a section you like!
Whether you are a pro bird watcher or simply want to take the most out of your nature holiday, bird watching is a perfect addition to your to-do list, with over 380 species of birds spotted in Estonia annually.
In spring, western Estonia becomes a popular bird watching destination, attracting curious binocular-equipped visitors from around the world standing around the coastline and forests observing the millions of birds who make their stopover on their journeys. Birding season begins as early as March. Spring migration culminates in mid-May and the bird-spotting season winds down by mid-June.
Hiking and walking
Pick and store natural remedies from the forest
Peraküla-Aegviidu-Ähijärve hiking route 820 km
Estonian forests and fields conceal a huge number of herbs and plants, many of which have been used for healing and invigorating the body for millennia. Best for warding off the seasonal cold is a good strong cup of primrose, wild thyme and reindeer lichen. Relaxing brew made from lime flower fights infections and soothes the pain, while heather assures a good night’s sleep.
crosses nine counties and several nature reserves, exposing many wondrous landscapes – beautiful sandy and shingle beaches in Lääne county, dark forest areas in Harju county, flowing fields in Järva county, impressive wetlands in Endla and Emajõe-Suursoo Nature Centre, sunny pine groves in Põlva county and both Estonia’s highest peak and its deepest lake, in Võru county. The trail is marked with white and green paint markings and signposts.
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Kerli: ‘There is a silence and peace in this land which I have not been able to find anywhere else’
Oandu-Aegviidu-Ikla hiking route 375 km Kerli — ambassador for the wilderness of Estonia Recounting the tales of the magic of Estonian nature is the recording artist and songwriter Kerli. At just 18, Kerli ventured to Los Angeles. Having since then spent more than 10 years travelling the world, Kerli’s music has charted on the U.S billboard 200 and her single ‘Walking On Air’ was named iTunes Store’s Single of the Week. She was also featured on Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ soundtrack with the songs ‘Tea Party’ and ’Strange’. In early 2015, Kerli left the hustle and bustle of LA and moved back to her homeland of Estonia, into the depths of the forest, to turn a new page in her way of living by embracing the wilderness and ancient beliefs of the land that has greatly influenced her artistic persona. The many months spent pursuing a simple existence has inspired her new album, filled with ethereal visuals and deeply personal moments. The music video of the single ‘Feral Hearts’ is a visually epic journey through the Estonian forests. In the forthcoming year, Kerli will share tips and advice on how to reconnect with the nature on visitestonia.com.
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is a long hiking trail that goes through the whole country, from border to border, from sea to sea. The trail is 375 km long and begins from North-Estonia’s Lahemaa National Park, goes through Kõrvemaa Landscape Reserve and Soomaa National Park – one of Europe’s biggest bog landscapes. The end of the trail goes on through the forests of Pärnu County reaching finally the small fisherman’s villages of South-Western coast and the beautiful sandy beaches of Liivi Bay. The trail is marked with white and red paint markings and information boards. See more about RMK hiking route at loodusegakoos.ee /where-to-go/hiking-route
In case you are interested in a spiritual journey you can take the Pilgrim’s route across Estonia, still called St. Mary’s Land (or Maarjamaa). In 1215 Bishop Albert of Riga dedicated these lands to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The trail begins at the Pirita Convent in Tallinn and ends at the chapel of Vana-Vastseliina Castle; the Holy Cross inside the chapel was the destination for pilgrims in the Middle Ages. En route there are places of rest and prayer for believers, who set off on a spiritual journey, but also for pilgrims curious to know about the sites, which offer a rich blend of historical, cultural and spiritual experience. See more about the Pilgrim’s route at www.palverand.ee
Bog walking has to be one of the most fun activities you can do in Estonia. Bogshoes have been used to walk on wetlands down the ages, allowing access to many places where it is difficult if not impossible to reach on foot. Bog shoeing is also one of these universal activities that you can practice all through the year, as Estonia’s wilderness sheds its coat in every coming season. Springtime is particularly peculiar in Soomaa. The snow melts, causing floods. This ‘fifth season’ is also known for romance, as according to local myths, this is the time when two old time lovers meet, the river spirit and the marsh spirit. According to these legends, the river and the marshland are a home to their many sons and daughters, wandering in the forests or hiding in the water. Soomaa’s many lakes are also perfect for a refreshing swim. While the temperatures might be slightly colder than in the rest of the country, the water is definitely purer and is known to do wonders for the skin. Out with the creams and commercial moisturisers, and in with a quick swim in the bog, said to take 10 years off your skin or physique. Known as ‘living water’, bog water is rich in organic compounds and found to tighten and soften the skin. An old Estonian beauty routine to try out this Easter goes as follows: soak an egg, willow and silver coin in fresh spring water, resulting in a face mask that will preserve your youth for many a year to come.
Lahemaa National Park Perfect for a day trip out of Tallinn, Lahemaa national park serves as an authentictaster of natural and cultural landscapes in Estonia
National parks & nature reserves
Located on the northern coast of Estonia, Lahemaa is perfect for a hiking trip and nature watching. Here you will find stony and sandy seashores, picturesque bogs, pine and cliff forests, rivers that cut into the limestone cliff as well as seemingly out-of-place rocks left over from the last Ice Age. Lahemaa is one of Europe’s most important forest conservation areas, where many large mammals live. Located south of the national park, the large forested Kõrvemaa area is a home to moose, wild boars, brown bears, lynxes, foxes and other wild animals.
A visit to one of Estonia’s many national parks should belong to any visitors’ TOP three must-sees whether staying here for a weekend or longer. The raw, ancient power of the bog landscapes in their natural beauty feed the imagination.
Soomaa National Park One of the dozen protected wilderness areas in Europe, Soomaa draws in nature holiday makers and photographers from all over the world for its ancient and raw natural mystique. Soomaa National Park pleases the eye with its endless wilderness, including large bogs, native forests and flooded meadows. Soomaa is annually visited by a considerable number of bird watching enthusiasts looking to catch a glimpse of the many species that pass through Estonia during the spring and autumn seasons.
Kõrvemaa Nature Reserve Unique landscape, beautiful nature, versatile selection of plants and wild animals make Kõrvemaa a popular nature getaway destination in northern Estonia. Most people come to Kõrvemaa for its forests, lakes and marshes. You can wander across the wooden trails in local bogs, climb the hills and go hiking on sandy roads in the wilderness here. Kõrvemaa is also a popular ski holiday destination, with well-maintained cross-country ski tracks of various lengths. Kõrvemaa is a natural habitat for many rare and protected species of birds and wild animals attracting photographers and nature enthusiasts during the autumn season. Even if you don’t capture wild lynxes, bears or wolves, colourful nature is sure to result in some amazing nature photography.
The lack of human activity makes Soomaa a sanctuary for both large and small mammals. Brown bears, wolves, moose, roe deer, wild boars and beavers are just some of the many animals living side by side with Soomaa’s large spirit population. Howling with the wolves and bear watching are both ‘must do’ experiences to tick off your ‘bucket list’ for life. Last but no least, early springtime visitors at Soomaa have an extraordinary opportunity to canoe through flooded trails and courtyards, also known as the ‘fifth season’.
Matsalu National Park Covering over 400 km2 of land and coast, Matsalu is first and foremost known as one of Europe’s best birdwatching destinations. Matsalu is a rural and laid back holiday destination, where you can find hiking trailsfor casual and serious hikers as well as several guesthouses great for relaxing in anatural environment. Visitors can explore the unique landscape of Matsalu National Park on foot, by bicycle and by boat. One of the most important autumn stopping grounds for migratory birds in Europe, over 250 bird species have been recorded in Matsalu. Over the years, several bird watching towers have been installed for nature holiday makers, the most popular ones are located at Haeska, Keemu and Kloostri.
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I TOURISM Vilsandi National Park Made up of 150 islands, Vilsandi is mostly inhabited boasting versatile wildlife and plants. Orchids, fossils and fossilised corals can be found on this most western of the Estonian islands which is dotted with juniper bushes, all making for a great hiking destination throughout the year. Those looking to learn more about natural history of Vilsandi should head over to the visitor’s centre of Vilsandi National Park displaying a collection of fossils and a permanent exhibition about the long-established park.
Did you know that? Surreal Megaphones in the Forest Three larger than life wooden megaphones amid the land of the fairies – the tranquil, mossy soft and evergreen forest in southern Estonia. Welcome to the first library of its kind in the world, not for reading in the forest but for reading the forest. Over half of Estonia’s mainland is covered in forest, its silence yet simultaneous abundance
of sounds being ancient symbols of the country. Since autumn 2015, giant megaphones installed in the thick woods have provided the opportunity to tune in to both: whether lounging, sitting or even sleeping inside the megaphones! Estonian woods now boast a new and unique library of nature. Inside the megaphones one can listen to the amplified sounds of nature, take a break, teach a school lesson in the open air and organize smaller cultural events. As the megaphones are waterproof, less serious hikers can even spend the night inside!
Estonia’s tallest pine, standing in Veriora Rural Municipality, in Põlva County, has also proven to be the tallest specimen of the Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in the entire world. The giant in Põlva county is 46.6 metres tall, topping the previous world’s tallest Scots pine, in Poland, by 1.3 metres. As the newly performed measurements by researchers of the University of Life Sciences testify, the stately tree is also of a respectable age, being at least 214 years old.
Photo by Tõnu Tunnel
* Estonia has around 1 000 herbs to improve your health. * Estonia is among the top three bird watching destinations in Europe for the number of species spotted here. * over 30 orchid species can be found in Vilsandi. Ruup facts * Ruup are three wooden megaphones 3m in diameter and length, born in 2015 in collaboration with the Estonian Academy of Arts and the Estonian Forest Management Centre RMK. The idea by Birgit Õigus. * The initial spark for Ruup came from the Estonian writer and semanticist Valdur Mikita and his dream to establish a ‘forest library’. * Located in southern Estonia, in the forest of Võru county near Pähni village. * Coordinates: Long-Lat WGS 84 x:26.75534 y:57.62998 L-EST 97 x:664578 y:6390903. www.ruup.ee/en
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