NO 38 I SUMMER I 2015
EXPO Milan 2015 Start A Startup Airport In Tallinn Where Passengers Wish To Stay Eiko Ojala Luxury Lingerie You Want Everyone To See
Draws With Light
land & people I state & society I economy & business I technology & innovation I culture & entertainment I tourism
Is Silicon Valley Estonia´s second capital? Definitely YES for our tech startup community, with a nickname #estonianmafia! Even this hashtag itself was coined by Silicon Valley investor Dave McClure (500Startups). The success story of Skype has been the trigger for Enterprise Estonia, a state foundation for business support and development, to establish its office in Silicon Valley in 2007 as well as for a wave of other startups relocating from Estonia. Why Silicon Valley? Operating in Silicon Valley is like the ‘gold standard’ in the tech sector. It is the most widely-recognized, even by those who have no interest in the subject, tech innovation hot-spot in the world, providing the best opportunities for start-ups and established companies, especially for so-called ‘disruptive innovators’. And if you are visible here, you are taken much more seriously! Some Estonian startups have found Nordic investors and big clients in San Francisco, not in Europe!
COVER Sten Tamkivi Photo by Atko Januson
Executive publisher Positive Projects Pärnu mnt 69, 10134 Tallinn, Estonia firstname.lastname@example.org Editor Reet Grosberg email@example.com Translation Ingrid Hübscher Ambassador Translation Agency Language editor Andrew Whyte Design & Layout Positive Design Partner Powered by
A dedicated team of professionals at Enterprise Estonia’s Investment Agency supports companies investing and expanding in Estonia. Come experience the ease of doing business in e-Estonia – the low-risk, high quality and competitive location for your company. www.investinestonia.com
In Estonia, thinking globally has become the national mindset. And again we have to thank Skype for that as it has been something of a business academy for new rising entrepreneurs, with their latest and greatest ideas for new startups. For example, Teleport, helping people to find out for themselves where in the world is ideal for them to live and work as well as how to get there, launched in Silicon Valley by former Skypers from Estonia. And then without doubt the cause of the biggest startup headlines of the year, Transferwise, the clever new way to convert money to send abroad. Transferwise is seen as the second great Estonian founded startup (after Skype) valued at more than US$1bn. At the beginning of this year they raised US$58m led by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz with participation from existing backers including Sir Richard Branson and Peter Thiel. But it is not only entrepreneurs from Estonia who are thinking globally. The Government has also launched its own startup, the e-Residency scheme, which offers every world citizen a digital identity ‘in’ Estonia and the opportunity to use all the e-Services long available to Estonians including digitally signing and encrypting e-Documents and doing online banking. The value proposition is that one can administer and run a location independent and trusted business online. It´s no wonder then that one of the first people to take up Estonian eResidency is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Steve Jurvetson. And many other US business people have followed. As Steve has explained, the e-Residency will help US startups to easily set up their presence in Europe! As a result, some busy two-way traffic has been established between Estonia and Silicon Valley. The Latitude59 conference (May 14-15, 2015), connecting the Nordic/Baltic startup scene with the tech hot-spots of world, had more than forty foreign speakers and 1000+ participants! And 45+ people immediately applied for Estonian eResidency on site at the conference. This is all just the beginning! Andrus Viirg Enterprise Estonia, Silicon Valley
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#38_SUMMER_2015 Where to Go this Season? Life in Estonia Recommends 6_
News & Events
STATE & SOCIETY
EXPO Milan 2015
The Estonian pavilion at EXPO Milan 2015 opened its doors on 1 May. Among the 145 countries, Estonia is represented by its own pavilion - a three-floor building made of wooden boxes. Let’s look at it from the outside and inside.
Enterprise Estonia: The Eyes and Ears of Estonian Business 28_
Sten Tamkivi: Tallinn Is a Great Place for Building a Startup 14_
After eight years working in different leadership positions at Skype, Sten Tamkivi relocated to Silicon Valley and now runs his own promising new startup, Teleport. He tells Life in Estonia how his new venture will hopefully transform the world, why not everyone should move to Silicon Valley, about the confrontation between the European and American startup scenes and, of course, how Tallinn and Estonia stand out among other startup centres round the world.
Enterprise Estonia has foreign representations in 12 countries. Our export and investment advisors in those countries are the eyes and ears of Estonian business who can help you tap into co-operation opportunities. Contact our people and let’s discuss business!
Estonia Fights Against Illegal Salary Payment with Smart Employment Registry 32_
As of 1 July 2014, all employers providing work in Estonia are required to record their employment in one common register. The national employment registration has been shown to reduce the use of illegal workers and improve worker protection. New register, developed by CGI Estonia, has also increased labour tax collection by €10m.
LAND & PEOPLE
workinestonia.com Welcomes Talent to Estonia!
Work in Estonia is a programme launched by Enterprise Estonia to attract foreign specialists into Estonian companies. Starting with this issue we will portray the adventures of expats who have moved to Estonia and share their personal impressions of Estonian society. In other words, we will look at Estonia from the point of view of an outsider. In this issue, Peke Eloranta, a Finn who runs the wine company Luscher & Matiesen in Estonia, will share his story.
EDUCATION & SCIENCE
Constructing Robots Excites Kids and Dads Alike 34_
In Estonia already kindergarten kids are taught programming and the opportunity to practice robotics is broadly accessible to schoolchildren. One of the most important stages of robot construction and development are competitions where younger and older engineers go head to head. At the end of the year, the largest robotics competition Robotex will take place in Tallinn for the 15th time already. ECONOMY & BUSINESS
Prototron – a Generator of Success Stories 37_
Although it is said that there is no such thing as a free lunch, Prototron – a fund created to support good ideas – proves the opposite. ‘It is our aim to give a push to ideas which help to make the world a better place,’ explains Siim Lepisk, Head of Prototron. 4
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The Hardware Revolution Has Arrived in Estonia! 39_
Buildit hardware accelerator based in Tartu is a pre-seed accelerator ‒ meant for early phase startups, many of which have just a promising idea but not much else to show. Aleksander Tõnnisson, CEO of Buildit, is convinced that there is a hardware revolution happening right now.
Two World-Renowned Companies Chose Estonia
At the end of last year, two internationally renowned companies - Parallels and Acronis - opened their offices in Estonia. Talking to the managers of both companies, it is immediately clear that they are touched by the way they were expected and welcomed in Estonia.
Kriss Soonik: The Designer Behind the CoolBrand Six years is baby age for a lingerie company, says lingerie designer Kriss Soonik-Käärmann (31), who shares her life between London and Tallinn, returning to Estonia more or less every six weeks. She sketches her designs on stick figures in her London home office and subcontractors in Estonia produce the lingerie.
A Creative City in the Middle of the City 68_
Axinom Estonia Takes In-Flight Entertainment to the Next Stage 48_
A clear innovation in the field of airline travel, the new entertainment system now being used by Virgin Australia enables passengers to watch movies, listen to music and play games on your own device. The developer behind it is an Estonian software company Axinom Estonia.
Believe it or not, the biggest concentration of creative and cultural activity in Estonia is found in an unexpected place - a collossal, old, industrial complex where a railway factory was founded nearly 150 years ago, and which used to be an electronics plant during the Soviet occupation! This pulsating creative artery of the town is called Telliskivi Creative City!
PORTFOLIO Eiko Ojala Draws with Light 50_
Eiko Ojala, who is only now starting to make a name for himself in Estonia, has already collaborated on a variety of projects as an illustrator, with a huge number of well-known global players appearing on his resumé.
Tallinn Lennart Meri Airport: The Cosiest Airport in the World!
Tallinn Airport is the cosiest and coolest in the world – even Estonians who usually are stingy with praise - agree. But what is this special spirit floating about in the passenger terminal, which causes even Estonians to sing the praises of our airport? With the guidance of Erik Sakkov, Member of the Management Board of Tallinn Airport, Life in Estonia looked around to find out.
Practical Information for Visitors SUMMER 2015
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I WHERE TO GO THIS SEASON
w w w. e r s o . e e
Opening concert of season 2015/2016 Eesti Kontsert and Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
Operetta by Imre Kálmán
“Jonah’s Mission” Oratorio by Rudolf Tobias
Opening performance of the 2015/2016 season on 26 August Performances on 30 August; 10, 20 and 30 September
Conductor Neeme Järvi
Conductors: Lauri Sirp, Jüri Alperten, and Kaspar Mänd Stage Director: Thomas Mittmann (Germany) Designer: Gilberto Giardini(Germany)
September 13th 2015 at Estonia Concert Hall hooaja peasponsor hooaja peatoetajad Eesti Kontserdi suurtoetaja
Thomas Mittmann: ‘“Die Zirkusprinzessin” is a masterpiece of the Silver Era of the operetta. It became one of Kálmán’s most performed works that was also immensely successful on Broadway. The skilfully-crafted, colourful orchestral score and an engaging story line give you everything one needs for a relaxing evening. The music ranges from a fast polka to a slow waltz, showing a variety of emotions – love, hate, pride, vanity, intrigue, confusion and misunderstanding, but in the end… there is conciliation’ The plot revolves around a romantic intrigue mixed with circus sequences. The mysterious Mister X, a dashing circus performer, is hired by a disappointed suitor of Princess Fedora Palinska to pose as a nobleman and marry her. Through exiting plot twists, it is revealed that Mister X is in fact a nobleman, the disinherited nephew of a deceased prince and the operetta reaches a happy end!
TENOR HIGHLIGHTS 19 July, 2015 at 18.00 in Pärnu Raehoov 21 July, 2015 at 19.00 in the House of the Blackheads Luc Robert (tenor, Canada), Tarmo Eespere (piano, Estonian National Opera) perform beloved opera arias and Italian and French songs by Bizet, Verdi, Puccini, Leoncavallo, Tosti and others.
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Luc Robert is a rising star in the world of opera. He has sung the leading tenor roles in Canada as well as in Europe. In April 2015 he debuted at the Metropolitan Opera with the title role in Verdi’s opera “Ernani”.
p re s e n t s
Teatro di Milano Carlo Pesta
July 20–26 2015 www.saaremaaopera.eu
THE GOBLIN Ballet by Eduard Tubin
Premiere at the Estonian National opera on 18 September, 2015 Choreographer and Stage Director: Marina Kesler Conductors: Vello Pähn, Kaspar Mänd, and Lauri Sirp Estonian National Opera Orchestra, Female Choir, the Estonian National Ballet and Tallinn Ballet School The work is based on a mythical character from Estonian folklore, the Goblin, whose sole purpose is to serve his greedy master, the Farmer, in obtaining riches. In Marina Kesler’s rendition, in a contemporary money-hungry world the Goblin is like a voice in people’s head, finding excuses why there is never enough money. But money buys no happiness and the reward for gluttony is ruination – becoming weary of human voracity, the Goblin destroys his maker and dies as well. What is important in today’s material and racing world? Is there room for love?
Saaremaa Opera Festival July 20–26 Festival’s artistic director Arne Mikk
This year’s opera festival is hosting Teatro di Milano from Italy! As far as we know this will be the first time ever that Italy’s opera theatre is visiting Estonia. Big opera tent holding about 2000 spectators is set up in the yard of the 13th century Kuressaare Episcopal Castle. The programme includes Rigoletto by Verdi, Madama Butterfly by Puccini, The Barber of Seville by Rossini and so much more.
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“Adam’s Passion” – a Unique Cooperation of Pärt and Wilson Premiered in Tallinn Pärt commented the production: “Our cooperation with Robert Wilson was like a kinship that excluded all disturbing elements from the very start. And I am very grateful for this opportunity. I have learned a lot from him. It was good for me to look at him. I believed in him.” According to the visionary theatre director Robert Wilson, the music of Arvo Pärt creates a mental space that allows for reflection and therefore it is important that the work stays open ended. “I construct a kind of environment or space that hopefully helps the public to hear the music better. My work is not interpretative. To me interpretation is not the responsibility of the director, the author or the performers: interpretation is for the public,” says Wilson. As the world celebrates its most performed living composer Arvo Pärt’s 80th jubilee this year, an equally influential artist, Robert Wilson has payed his homage with a special production in Tallinn. American theatre visionary Robert Wilson has created a music theatre performance to Pärt’s music with the title “Adam’s Passion” that premiered in Tallinn’s Noblessner Foundry on May 12th 2015. It was produced by Eesti Kontsert and Change Performing Arts (Milan). The musical core of the production consists of three main works by Arvo Pärt: Adam’s Lament, Tabula rasa, Miserere. Pärt dedicated a new piece “Sequentia” that blended the monumental landscape into a powerful story of depths and splendour of the humankind to Robert Wilson. The live music event was performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, conductor Tõnu Kaljuste, dancers Lucinda Childs, Michael Theophanous a.o. soloists and actors, attracting an audience of nearly six thousand.
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The renowned Accentus Music in cooperation with Estonian Public Broadcasting is producing a documentary of the preparations, as well as a film of the performance, both to be distributed to many TV channels and film festivals worldwide starting from September, in connection with the birthday of Arvo Pärt. For 2016, the first international tours of “Adam’s Passion” are planned – to Europe, to the US, to South America.
Estonian Company Takes Home Reputable Design Award Estonian company Huum wins the prestigious and world-renowned RedDot: Product Design 2015 award, for its ‘Drop’ electrical heater. The ‘Drop’ electrical heater was designed by Mihkel Masso, a student of product design at the Estonian Academy of Arts. It’s winning of the Red Dot award comes as the highest possible acknowledgement of the quality of Estonian design at the biggest and most famous design competition in the world, which incidentally also celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.
unique rounded design of the heater helps to soften the angular interior of the sauna’ explained Siim Nellis, Executive Director at Huum. The RedDot design award, founded by Design Zentrum NordrheinWestfalen in Germany, is the most prestigious design award in the world and recognised as an assurance of quality.
The field was huge, as well – the competition received entries from 56 countries this year, totalling 4 928 designs. Huum’s Drop heater competed in the category of bathrooms and saunas, receiving special recognition for the masterful implementation of its design solution. ‘Huum’s heater stands out from competition for its innovative construction – the optimum use of metal and space together with a larger amount of heating stones. The electrical heater facilitates a mild and long sauna experience, resembling that of a wood-heated sauna. The
Come and Get Your e-Residency Card from the Nearest Estonian Embassy! Estonia is the first country to offer e-Residency – a transnational digital identity available to anyone in the world interested in administering a location-independent business online. By doing this Estonia is unleashing the world’s entrepreneurial potential. It is possible to apply for e-Residency at e-resident.gov.ee anywhere in the world. Once the application is approved, just one face-to-face meeting is required to collect the card from one of Estonia’s foreign representations in 34 countries or at Estonian Police and Border Guard Board service points.
e-Residents can: • Establish a company online • Administer the company from anywhere in the world • Conduct e-banking and remote money transfers • Access online payment service providers • Declare taxes online These efficient and easy-to-use e-services have been available to Estonians for over a decade. By offering e-Residents the same services, Estonia is proudly pioneering the idea of a country without borders.
e-Residents receive a digi-ID for: • Digital identification and authentication to secure services • Digital signing of documents • Digital verification of document authenticity • Document encryption
Digital signatures and authentication are legally equivalent to handwritten signatures and face-to-face identification in Estonia and between partners upon agreement anywhere around the world. The e-Resident digi-ID and e-services are built on state-of-the-art technological solutions, including 2048-bit public key encryption. The digi-ID card contains a microchip with two security certificates: one for authentication, called PIN1 (min. 4-digit number), and another for digital signing, called PIN2 (min. 5-digit number). e-Residency does not confer citizenship, tax residency, residence or right of entry to Estonia or to the EU. The work with the private sector and government agencies continues to enhance the existing and create new services for e-Residents. The Estonian government is developing e-Residency as a startup. We launched it fast and agile, and we are constantly working to improve and extend this revolutionary program. e-Residency is now in its public beta phase: everybody is invited to apply and help us cater it best to you, the new eEstonian – a new kind of digital and global citizen. e-resident.gov.ee, @e_Residents
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Photos by Raigo Pajula
A Summer Gathering of Friends In 2015 the Estonia’s Friends International Meeting will be held for the sixth time. The idea was born in 2010 in a meeting between President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, entrepreneur Margus Reinsalu and the management of Enterprise Estonia. The aim of the event is to recognize investors, politicians and artists, whose activities and advice have helped Estonia to develop into a European country with a dynamic economy and vibrant culture. Another goal is to spread the message that Estonia is successful, interesting and open to investment. When introducing Estonia, entrepreneur Margus Reinsalu has found that when someone simply talks about Estonia to foreigners they will politely listen but will soon forget: ‘However if these same people can visit Estonia and see for themselves how successful Estonia is, what great opportunities are here for investment and how beautiful the environment is, then they will remember a lot more and will be likely to return.’ Every year a slightly different selection of friends is invited to Estonia, since the organisers would like Estonia to have a variety of good and influential friends all over the world. The meeting gives those who have an interest in Estonia the possibility to meet and exchange ideas. This year’s symposiums main theme is Identity: Online and Offline. Traditionally one of the keynote speakers of the symposium will be President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who is widely recognised for his championing of e-Governance, cyber security and cloud computing. The other keynote speaker will be Balaji Srinivasan – co-founder of Teleport, Inc
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and a General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. Teleport, Inc have built software for start-up people on the move and have released Teleport for Startup Cities, Bay Area Teleport and Teleport Flock to date. Andreessen Horowitz is a Silicon Valley-based world-known venture capital firm. They invest from seed to growth. This year the symposium will be held for the first time in the premises of the Riigikogu (the Estonian Parliament). On the same day the friends of Estonia will meet the Prime Minister of Estonia Taavi Rõivas. In addition, Enterprise Estonia will organise a seminar on the topic ‘Estonia – Where Stuff Happens First’, which centres on Estonian innovation. Besides discussions about Estonia’s development, innovation and investment opportunities, the guests of the meeting will enjoy a wonderful cultural program. It has become a tradition that on the first night of the meeting there will be a concert by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra conducted by renowned maestro Neeme Järvi. This concert has become a popular cultural event in its own right. Next evening there will be a concert by loved Estonian singer Tõnis Mägi at the Oandu watermill in Lahemaa, surrounded by beautiful Estonian nature. Estonia’s Friends International Meeting is jointly organised by the Office of the President of the Republic of Estonia, Enterprise Estonia and entrepreneur Margus Reinsalu. Feedback from previous events has been very positive and surely this year’s event will be memorable for all who will attend and will instigate many new friendships and interesting discussions on the future of Estonia.
e-Estonia Hosted the Techiest Week in Europe, ICT Week 2015 Photos by Raigo Pajula
The second edition of the ICT Week 2015, held in Tallinn, Estonia in May, turned out as a huge success with close to 20 thematic events, dozens of inspiring speakers and over 3000 participants from all over the world. The ICT Week 2015 went well beyond the Nordic-Baltic dimension, attracting a number of top-tier players to Tallinn to discuss the current and future affairs of ICT. e-Governance was a central topic and during the ICT Week Estonia launched the e-Residency application portal at e-resident.gov.ee. It enables anyone in the world to participate in the revolutionary digital identity program, becoming Estonian e-Resident, to establish and administer a location-independent business online. About 50 people applied for the e-Residency in special booths in the sidelines of the ICT Week events and in total 700 people have submitted applications since the portalâ€™s launch. In addition to e-Governance and e-Residency, the focus of the ICT Week 2015 was on Green IT, Smart Industry, Fintech and the Hardware Evolution, and other exciting fields. The ICT Week 2015 was organised with the support by the European Regional Development Fund.
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See videos ≤ of the best parts of Latitude59
Startups in Europe Need to be More Proactive Robin Wauters / tech journalist (Tech.EU) from Brussels
How often does Estonia get the media coverage in European press and how can we increase it? Latitude59, held in Tallinn on 14-15 May and organized by the Enterprise Estonia Investment Agency in collaboration with #estonianmafia celebrated its 8th birthday! This year’s event made history with 1000+ guests and another 4500+ people following over live stream from 10 countries worldwide! 50 people successfully applied for their Estonian e-Residency on site, among others the most respected President of EBAN, Mrs. Candace Johnson and the President of Scaale, Mr. Kaushal Chokshi. Three top notch global investors were given e-Residencies by the Government CIO, Taavi Kotka: Paul Bragiel (i/o Ventures), Fadi Bishara (Blackbox VC) and Michael Jackson (Mangrove Partners). The winner of Global Startup Pitch Contest, CG Trader received over €30 000, including investment from EstBAN, scholarship to attend Blackbox Connect in Silicon Valley powered by Microsoft and Hedman Partners, plus great amount of service credit from Silicon Valley law firm ReedSmith. As the Nordic-Baltic startup scene continues growing rapidly, the Estonian tech community would like to welcome you again next year, in the spring of 2016. Stay tuned on www.latitude59.ee
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I have been travelling around Europe for about seven years now, but this is my first time in Estonia. But even without coming here and staying here, I have already met so many Estonian entrepreneurs who have impressed me very much. When #estonianmafia was born at Seedcamp some years ago, I was mentoring there at the same time. This how I got to see how many Estonian startups were there and how much higher standards they had (and still have!) compared with most of the other applicants. Then I started to look into Erply or Fortumo and others, which were all very early stage start-ups. But now we see a new generation of startups and they are all up to scratch at the very least. So compared with the number of people living here, the number of startups that are coming out of Estonia is amazing. Of course Estonian tech does not get as much media coverage as the big European hubs like Berlin, Paris or Stockholm. But you have to keep on trying to get in the bigger picture. One problem with European startups in general is that they rarely make much noise, even when celebrating success. In Estonia it is the same – people think that, okay, we are building something, raising money, and then, maybe, we will talk about it. But you can’t approach startups in this way, in my opinion – you should use every opportunity you can and be more proactive.
Technology Enables the Impossible Michael Jackson / investor in Mangrove Capital Partners, Estonian e-Resident (Luxembourg)
Congratulations, you have just become an Estonian e-Resident! Why is this important to you?
Think Global, but Stay Local Mate Rimac / CEO and founder of electric supercars company Rimac Automobili (Croatia)
Mate, you started your very successful business in Croatia, which is almost as small a country as Estonia is. What is the key to success when starting in smaller countries? I think it is hard to give advice from my perspective , because it seems that Estonia is light years ahead of Croatia, especially in terms of government support. But I guess for start-ups in small countries, the key is to think globally from day one. So I would say that forget about Estonia itself, don’t develop your website in Estonian, but in English first and foremost.
Thank You! I am planning to open my bank account in Estonia this very afternoon and hopefully start my company. Of course I like to try all kinds of new things and stay ahead of the curve as I am an investor who needs to seek new opportunities. e-Residency seems like a great and modern way to resolve all kinds of bureaucracy and reduce ridiculous, outworn systems. The most incredible thing is that it’s the brainchild of a governmental organisation rather than the private sector! This gives a positive signal not only about the project, but about Estonia’s attitude towards the future – that Estonia as a country has a government which is proactive.
You have a long history with Estonia – eg. you have worked with Skype in Tallinn. What could be ‘the next big thing’? As an investor I should recognise the next big thing when it comes out, not initiate it myself, so I really can’t say. But I think you should just keep up with the technology and see what it enables us to do that were impossible yesterday. e-Residency and Estonia’s digital ID system is one of those components that could easily enable something new for the entire world – we just haven’t realized that yet.
Think of the global market. But what have worked for us, Rimac Automobili, really well, is that we have a local team. We are based solely in Croatia and we don’t have offices or holding companies anywhere else. We have been really stubborn on this! Today we have 100 employees and we have trained them and built up a team. This also means that they are loyal. So in essence – think global, but stay local. The second thing is to never rely on government funding. it will only make your life harder. Also it is usually really difficult to align your plans with government’s plans perfectly. SUMMER 2015
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About Sten Sten Tamkivi founded his first digital media agency back in 1996 when he was only 18 years old. He joined Skype in 2005 and held different leadership position in the company for the following eight years. He has been one of the main IT-spokespersons in Estonia ever since then with special interests in promoting IT-education, the creation of IT-academy and easier immigration rules for skilled people. He has also served as an advisor to the President of Estonia, Mr Toomas Hendrik Ilves and sits on a number of management and advisory boards. His investment portfolio includes companies like Transferwise, Sunrise, Human, Fleep, Estelon, and Plumbr. In 2013 he founded Tamkivi Foundation for Natural Sciences that supports young Estoniansâ€™ studies and research in the field of natural sciences. The Foundation is managed by Estonian National Culture Foundation.
Sten Tamkivi: Tallinn Is a Great Place for Building a Startup By Holger Roonemaa
After eight years working in different leadership positions at Skype, Sten Tamkivi took some time out, relocated to Silicon Valley and now runs his own promising new startup, Teleport. Tamkivi tells Life in Estonia how his new venture will hopefully transform the world, why not everyone should move to Silicon Valley, about the confrontation between the European and American startup scenes and, of course, how Tallinn and Estonia stand out among other startup centres round the world.
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Teleport launched a new app just a few days before our interview in early May. Can you briefly tell me what Teleport is? At Teleport (teleport.org), we build software that helps people find out where they should live and work, and as a second step, how to get there. We started creating Teleport only last year. At first we focused on a small and known scope, the San Francisco Bay Area. There are around seven million people living here, across about 300 Zip Codes (postal codes – ed.). We wanted to find out if we could first acquire the data about the cost of living and the quality of life in this area. Furthermore, we wanted to know if we could create a user interface that wouldn’t ‘suck’! One of the first responses that we got to our idea was that it couldn’t be done, because the users would first have to fill a huge questionnaire about themselves. With the Bay Area product we proved that we really could create a user-friendly and convenient tool for finding your ideal location. Next we expanded the software to cover more locales around the world, and now our Teleport for Startup Cities mobile app lets you search across 105 cities worldwide. Teleport Flock, which we launched this week to help distributed teams decide where to meet, is a little bit of a departure from these core products. While creating Teleport we got a lot of feedback about the importance of other people’s locations in making the decision about your own base. If you are a startup founder you have to consider where the best people to hire are situated, where you can raise venture capital and where your clients are most abundant. If you are someone looking for a job, you’ll need to think about where the most interesting and best-paying jobs are, where your friends live etc. So, as we knew that our initial products would be moving towards group decisions, we created Teleport Flock as the first experiment. We already had the data and now we’ve just built a very simple app that helps people living in different parts of the world plan a more comfortable, time- and money-saving meeting anywhere in the world. Just tell us where your people are, and we’ll tell you where you should head for. And it seems to be working very well!
You said that the launch was so successful that you haven’t been able to step away from it yet. What does that mean? What happens after a launch? Well, the first couple of days you have to monitor what’s happening – how many people are using the app, how is the app doing on Product Hunt, what are the users’ remarks and questions. That way you will get a lot of direct feedback from early users and it is necessary to deal with them right away. We have a really small team and we want to interact with the users personally as much as possible. But when you build up attention, there will be questions from journalists who are constantly on deadlines. If a launch gains any traction at all, it really knocks you off balance for some days. In a good way, however.
Do you see Flock becoming a spin off? I rather see Teleport Flock as a specific tool that focuses on one very narrow use-case on top of our already-existing data sets. It works independently but clearly shows the direction where we want to head to with Teleport overall.
What’s the business model of Teleport? Where does the money come from? Our business model is currently at the stage of around 20 different ideas! (Laughs.) I think that we are in a similar stage as an early version of Google. In a way we are also creating a search engine and it takes an enormous amount of effort to make it work. This means that we can’t turn on the money-making engine right from day one. It is strategically important to keep the search facility free and open to everyone. We see our chance to earn money once the user is actually executing a move. When a person is going to spend potentially hundreds or thousands of Euros on a move from point A to point B, and our software makes this process smoother, we should be able to capture our share of that value.
So how long can you afford to wait before Teleport has to start earning money? We raised an unusually large seed investment – US$2.5m. This can happen from time to time in Silicon Valley but very rarely in Europe. It gives us a runway for a couple of years to develop our core product. We want to experiment and take risks, play with different possible business models just to be smart enough next year and decide which way to go from here.
Where did you get the idea of Teleport from? When I was working at Skype, which I did for eight years, my family had to move on many occasions. First we moved from Tallinn to London, then we moved back to Estonia, then to Singapore and finally we ended up in Stanford in the US. On top of that, even when we only had 200 employees at Skype, the staff already worked in 10 different locations. As a manager, I had to hire people who didn’t live in the same city. We had to move people or convince them to move. Based on these often painful experiences I wrote down on my next company’s ideas’ list that the migration of people needed fixing. We really hit on something with Balaji Srinivasan, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz who had been pondering similar topics for an article for Wired. He became my co-founder. As we decided to focus on the search problem first, an old Skype colleague well-versed in machine learning and complex optimizations, Silver Keskküla, joined us as the third co-founder. Teleport is a startup that was born out of necessity. Our vision is to create a world where all governments compete for all citizens. We want to create a market where people find an environment that best suits their needs and cities can lure exactly the talent they are missing.
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Teleport started by analyzing 100 cities around the world. Each one of them has its advantages and disadvantages as regards of living costs, entertainment and culture possibilities, pay levels, job opportunities etc. How does Tallinn compare among other cities? Tallinn fares pretty well! Actually we recognized quite early that there can’t be such a thing as a single list of the best cities in the world. The reason is simple: people’s needs are different. There are tens of reasons that affect your decision to move. People might move when they graduate from the university or when they get married or divorced. At Teleport, we need to figure out the unique preferences of each specific user and match the best cities based on these. There is always someone who is an ideal person for a certain city and vice versa. So I can’t give you an absolute ranking of cities but I can tell you that we have lots of users for whom Tallinn is the ideal city to live in.
So, who is Tallinn meant for? Tallinn is a pretty good place for someone who wants to found a startup. The costs are comparatively low, culturally it is an okay place to live in, the living environment is good, you can get by in English, the schools are good and the overall living environment is clean and pleasant. At the same time it also has very clear cons. If you need to travel a lot, Tallinn airport does not have enough direct flights. I’d say that if you are someone in Finland running a startup, there is a recognizable chance that you would be tempted to consider Tallinn because of lower costs, closer proximity and similar climate. If you’re running a logistics business in Brazil however, and are looking for a place where you can easily connect to all of Europe’s capitals, then probably Tallinn will not come out top.
Which are the factors that should incline investors and entrepreneurs to come to Estonia at all? You’ve been living abroad for some years now. Is Estonia talked about in your circles? I would say that thanks to the Estonian e-Residency program this question has been separated into two different questions now. The question ‘should I do business in Estonia’ used to equate to the question ‘should I come to Estonia’. Now the question of physically visiting Estonia is a separate issue. I believe that thanks to the simplicity of Estonian eServices and the smoothness of doing business here it is more and more a no-brainer – if you want to access EU markets, you should set up shop in Estonia. It is a plus on its own that you don’t have to show up physically in Estonia to conduct business any more.
It would create a good spillover effect for the country’s business and cultural environment. One of the best things about Estonia for an entrepreneur is the short decision-making chain. Two years ago I wrote a blog post about why founders don’t want to establish companies in Estonia and inside twelve months there was a package of legal changes approved in the parliament that dealt with exactly these issues. You can’t see governance agility like that anywhere else in the world!
We’ve been very eager to promote our e-Residency programme. What kind of impression does it have in Silicon Valley? I think that the concept is circulating in the heads of decision makers and people looking into the future. I meet more and more people who know about it. People clearly connect the e-Residency idea with Estonia and it seems to me that they are getting more informed about it. Sometimes I feel that I need to get deeper into it myself to be able to be an equal partner talking about it. At the same time though, we are still missing some critical use cases. You can apply for e-Residency in Estonian embassies already, but so far you still can’t open an Estonian bank account without physically showing up in the bank. So it might leave you with an impression that the e-Residency thing sounds really cool in principle, but I haven’t fully worked out a way how it could help me. For that reason I like how Estonia honestly and openly positions itself as a startup nation and says clearly and out loud that e-Residency is a governmental startup project. Otherwise we might risk seeming like some kind of ‘e-Narnia’ – a fairy tale country. We don’t want to be a fairytale country, but something that the world appreciates as a thought leader and provider of real e-Solutions. We need to keep asking for user experience, feedback and suggestions what to develop next. If we can do that, e-Estonia will continue to be a sensation in the world.
It seems to me that although you deliberately moved to Silicon Valley and have been living there for three years now, you are also quite critical about the place. How come? Silicon Valley is a unique place. If you are working in the field of consumer software on the internet, there is no other place like Valley. You can’t see that much craziness and willingness to experiment anywhere else and at the same time many experienced people who can tell you how they grew their product to 100 million or even a billion people last time. The concentration of such people is perfect in the Valley.
The question of physically moving to Estonia is affected by such factors as the climate or the tolerance level within the society here. If you can do business in the EU through Estonian tax environment and e-Services, you don’t have to put up with these other things should they bother you.
I am really critical about the fact that at the same time Silicon Valley is a very isolated place. Ninety five per cent of the world’s best programmers don’t live in the Valley and if you take a look at the US immigration system, you can see that they will never be able to move here.
I do believe that the e-Residency concept needs some hooks that would lure e-Residents from time to time to physically visit Estonia as well.
Another thing is that if you have a tremendous inflow of people into an area, the prices will inevitably go up. Yes, it is super to live here, but
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Teleport helps people to find out where they should live and work, and how to get there.
a lot of people who would gain from living in the Valley, nevertheless do not move here, because the living costs are ridiculous. For instance just a few days ago a founder from an Eastern European country told me that his rent of US$4 000 dollars per month for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is the same as his mother’s yearly salary in his home country!
But still, every new startup wants to move to the Valley as soon as possible. Silicon Valley seems to equal success. If you are a founder of a seed-stage startup in Europe with no real investments to show and no network in the Valley and you move here, you will automatically add a US$100 000 cost to your startup’s burn rate. In other words you will pay US$100 000 a year just to build something as abstract as a network. If you take a look at Silicon Valley startups, it seems that the cost for one employee is US$200 000 a year. Even if you have raised a million dollars in venture capital, that only allows you to hire five staff for just the one year and that’s it! So I am sure we will see other ways and places where startups can succeed. Maybe you won’t get all the benefits of Silicon Valley, but at least you will survive. Another topic is the way of living in the Valley. It is extremely difficult to be a good citizen here. I took my California State driver’s test 18 months ago, but I still don’t have my driving licence! It appears that they need another paper regarding my visa and they want me to send it by fax. When I faxed the paper, they said it was too dark and told me to find a better fax. I also started writing out paper cheques in the Valley and
I do it many times a month now. Can you imagine it, the irony of writing paper cheques in ‘Silicon’ Valley!! These things might be natural for people who were born here, but if you come from abroad you will inevitably start totting up all these hours you spend on bureaucracy that you could instead spend on building your startup.
Are you encouraging people not to move to Silicon Valley? All things added together, I would say that the Valley is the place to be for well-funded and networked entrepreneurs. But there are loads of people who should not live here permanently. I think it is less and less a binary question of whether to move to Silicon Valley or not, and more about asking yourself what your location strategy should be, ie. how do you split your time between the several cities around the world where you should be spending time. For a lot of software people the answer might still be that, yes, you need to have a presence in the Valley, but maybe just a week per quarter or one month in a year. Or maybe simply watch Stanford University’s video lectures online ...
If you had been able to use a service like Teleport at the time you actually started it, where would you have created it? I think it’s inevitable that I’d have been here in the Valley. It helped us raise the seed investment from the top investors in the world and lay the foundation of the company. Currently we have nine full-time employees and a few freelancers working for us in six different countries.
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My co-founder Silver Keskküla is actually living on the Galapagos Islands currently, we have one person in Bern, one in Munich, Kiev and London and some people in Estonia, of course.
such a community, it really helps you stay in contact with what’s going on in Estonia and it makes it easy to justify for yourself why you might travel back.
We have reached a phase where I have increasingly less reason to stay in the Valley. I have been living here for the last three years. This summer we will probably move back to Estonia with my family, so that I can work in a closer time zone with the rest of the team.
Let’s talk about the conflict between the US and European startup scenes. It seems to me that Europe is always lagging at least 3 steps behind the US and no one really cares about European startups in the US.
Hardi Meybaum, another successful startup founder living in the States right now, has said that he was also planning to return to Estonia and stay here longer than he has been doing lately. How do you explain this a desire to move back? Is it just homesickness? What really bothers me about the discussion about the ‘Estonian Mafia’ startup movement is that any time one of us becomes internationally more successful, some smartass will pipe up and start ranting about the startup not being really Estonian anymore.
This confrontation is actually a bit funny. I believe that it really exists, but only from a European point of view. In my experience there is no hostility towards Europe in Silicon Valley, because Europe simply does not exist in most everyday conversations and mindsets. When people talk about what’s going on outside of the Valley, they talk about either the US East Coast or maybe China. This has created something of a complex in Europe.
If no one cares about Europe within the Valley, why is the European startup scene still so hyped up about the Valley?
During my time at Skype I didn’t see a single article about Skype where some commentator didn’t bring it up. The phenomenon of the ‘Estonian Mafia’ relies exactly on that, the concept that all of the founders spread out around the world, but stick together and help each other out.
While you can really build a successful startup anywhere these days, since the semiconductor heydays and through the consumer internet era we’re still witnessing, Silicon Valley has led the way and is rightfully looked up to.
For example, we have a Skype chat for the Estonian founders where we exchange information and news about each other, recommend people to hire, help connect each others’ networks etc. I think that sticking together is our greatest strength. It also means that if you are part of
A strange side effect is that the world is full of places that call themselves a Silicon Valley of this place or that place. I always avoid that parallel when talking about Estonia, because I think it carries a false connotation.
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In order to beat Silicon Valley in some niche, you cannot be a ‘Silicon Valley of another country’, but instead you have to be at least ten times better in some other way.
a couple of weeks dealing with the bureaucracy there, will open bank accounts and rent an office and then it has a European outpost in an English speaking country.
For example, if you want to establish a startup that produces drones and deals in bitcoin, you shouldn’t do it in Palo Alto where it is prohibited to fly drones and the laws are very unclear about dealing with bitcoin!
In Estonia we should tell them not to go through all that hassle and instead just take the short walk to Page Mill Road in Palo Alto and apply for Estonian e-Residency at our honorary consul’s office. Get yourself an Estonian ID-card and you’ll instantly have a European entity!
Instead there should be a place somewhere that says ‘hey, we are the best place where to create these kinds of startups’. There are some great examples inside the States already. I visited San Diego a couple of weeks ago and looked at some local startup meetups. All of the startups in San Diego seem to be engaged in biotech, because that’s what the local university promotes, that’s where they have the best scientists and research, successful spin offs etc. They don’t call themselves the Silicon Valley of Southern California, but are clearly a San Diego biotech hub nonetheless.
Let’s also talk a bit about your time at Skype. You worked there in some high positions for eight years and then without any apparent reason just left. Why?
What do we do wrong in Europe that means no one in the States cares about what’s going on even in Berlin or London?
It was a smooth process actually. Before Skype, the longest I had worked anywhere was four years. I think that I am rather an initiator and early stage person; I like to work with small teams. In my sixth year I started to think about what to do next. We also went through some really crazy times when we had three CEOs in four months, the ownership changed frequently, and there were constant discussions about a possible IPO. It all became a bit tiresome.
I don’t think it has anything to do with doing things ‘wrong’ in Europe, just that if you’re in the hottest market on the planet, the opportunity cost of looking at and spending time outside is too high. You might miss something important in San Francisco if you get on the plane and leave for even just three days.
In the end I just wanted to take some time out. I didn’t quit Skype but just took an academic year at Stanford. When I graduated, we discussed my future once again, but the truth was that Skype had become Microsoft in the meantime, and had grown too big, in my opinion. It wasn’t quite my cup of tea anymore.
Silicon Valley VCs do invest in Europe, but you have to be already on a great trajectory conquering the world to get noticed, like Skype or Transferwise already were when Andreessen Horowitz invested in their later rounds.
What happens inside a company when it’s growing as fast as Skype did?
American VCs who actually do invest more frequently in Europe in the earlier stages tend to live either in New York or Boston. Their time zones are closer to Europe’s, flights are shorter and you don’t have layovers on your way to Europe as you do on the West Coast. In California people often talk about Europe in a leisurely context, when someone has visited Paris with his wife and wants to talk about how romantic their trip was! If you fly the other way from California, you also have to cross the ocean, but then you’ll reach China. And China is actually interesting business-wise as well.
At the same time there must still be some potential for cooperation between Europe and the States. We can talk about rising stars such as the ‘BRIC’ countries or some African countries, but Europe’s economic strength is still huge enough to be a worthy market for US tech companies.
It is funny, how you can adjust to everything. I’ve heard many ex-Skypers say how difficult it was to adjust to normal life again after their exits to the ‘real’ world outside of Skype. You’ve been involved with Skype and now, as an angel investor yourself, the most successful startup in your portfolio invites you to their 10 000-users milestone party! Your calibration gets just so off. Back at Skype we used to add 250 000 new users each day, later it grew to 400 000 per day. I remember driving to work, looking out at the streets and thinking that all of the people you could see had started using Skype just the previous day. Every day we had as many new users as there are people living in Tallinn, or let’s say Luxembourg, where we our legally registered headquarters were located. At Teleport we have graphs that measure users only in the thousands and we have to remind ourselves that this is actually also okay, if you can help make the lives of just 1 000 people better as a starting point.
Absolutely. If Uber or airBNB or one of the unicorn startups is about to boom, Europe will still be their first export market, because that’s where there are wealthy people and credit cards. That’s why you’ll have to expand to Europe first. And this is something where Estonia should position itself. Currently a Silicon Valley startup that wants to expand to Europe will most often fly to London, spend
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Tallinn Airport is the most important gateway to Estonia. Yet most people arriving at Tallinn Airport are tourists or business travelers who only stay in the country for a couple of weeks at most. Recently a novel, speciallydesigned gate Work in Estonia was opened at Tallinn Airport, which would encourage people to stay in Estonia for good rather than departing.
workinestonia.com Welcomes Talent to Estonia! Estonia, a tech-savvy and ever-globalizing country, has lately been busy developing many initiatives to help and encourage foreign talent to relocate here.
Or who can help with the relocation issues or with finding a job? How do you find an apartment? What’s the healthcare system like? What are the best upcoming events? etc.’
Work in Estonia, launched on April 28 by Enterprise Estonia, a government agency, is the most ambitious welcoming program yet, providing useful information about life in Estonia, local career opportunities as well as easy-to-understand guidelines that can help with the relocation issues.
Expats who have already relocated to Estonia cite the reasons why they decided to come, what they like, dislike or have found surprising about the local life. Work in Estonia aims to share these positive experiences with future recruits, as well as informing them about practicalities – first regarding relocating itself, and then concerning daily living and working in Estonia. To get a better impression about life in Estonia, one can also watch videos about other expats living in Estonia.
Because Estonia is a member of the European Union (EU), there are no obstacles for EU citizens wishing to move to Estonia, but the country has also recently made it easier to employ foreign specialists from non-EU/EEA countries as well. Work in Estonia is tasking itself to gather all the relevant information on one platform – both for employers and potential employees. ‘The idea is to gather good job offers suitable for foreign specialists as well as all the necessary information that comes with moving to another country on one webpage’ says Kristel Kask, the project manager of Work in Estonia. ‘For example: step-by-step instructions about what paperwork, where and when needs to be taken care of.
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The launched web portal is also a useful tool for employers interested in hiring from abroad or for foreign investors who are considering moving their teams to Estonia. Visit the page www.workinestonia.com and join the Work in Estonia newsletter to stay tuned about new career possibilities as well as life in Estonia in general. ‘Welcome aboard!’
“I do not believe in God and I have never believed in fate, but there have been so many incredible coincidences that it has really made me think about it,” says Peke Eloranta, a Finn who runs the wine company Luscher & Matiesen in Estonia. That a Finnish guy who grew up in Santa’s ‘hometown’ of Rovaniemi would end up producing wine in a similarly cold and northerly Estonia is something he himself would not have believed ten years ago. But fate had other plans.
A Finn Revives a Fine Wine Tradition in Estonia By Piret Järvis
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excitement! At that moment it struck me that the wine business needed to be brought back to life! In spring 2009, I reestablished the company. Today we bottle carefully selected French and Spanish wines but our bigger goal is to start producing wine from Estonian grapes,” says the 43-year old refounder of the Luscher & Matiesen wine label. It is also quite a story how the Lapland born and bred boy decided to move to Estonia in 2000. Estonia had only established its re-independence nine years before and at the time the attitude of the Finns towards their post-Soviet southern neighbor was not the most positive. But Peke had forged his own relationship with Estonia. In the early 1990s, he had visited the country on numerous occasions together with his uncle who was doing some business in Estonia at the time. During the same period, Peke started to study Business and Finance at the Higher School of Economics in Helsinki. “Estonia seemed like quite an exciting place to me although nobody else in Finland understood it at the time. Can you imagine that the leading school of economics in Finland did not have a single course about Estonia! Not even about the economies of the Baltic states. The Estonian language even could not be studied. All my friends asked me what was wrong with me that I would be so interested in Estonia. Really! Even the professors doubted my sanity because everyone else at the time was interested in New York, London or Germany – in places which were popular in the financial sector at that time. But I saw Estonia as a small, dynamic and developing country where things could only go upwards. I saw that there would be many opportunities here.” “I was in the office of my apartment in the Old Town of Tallinn when I got the call that three elderly gentlemen were waiting for me at the gate. At first I thought something serious must have happened, that it was the municipal police or something. Then it turned out that the guests had arrived from Sweden – Dimitri Matiesen with his 67-year old godson and his 87-year old best buddy had come to Tallinn to celebrate his hundredth birthday!” Peke recalls the first meeting with the man who gave his life an entirely unexpected and new turn in 2008. Eloranta, who until then had worked as the Finance Director of the largest Estonian bakery Leibur and as a photographer for the Estonian Playboy, dropped everything when he heard that the house on Toompea where he had lived and worked for some years, used to be one of the largest Estonian wine factories Luscher & Matiesen in the 1920s and 1930s. When Dimitri Matiesen, the last director of the wine factory, who had fled to Sweden before the Second World War, returned to his fatherland after many years in order to take a look at his former property, his life path crossed with that of Peke Eloranta. “He said that he still had photographs of those times and we agreed that he would send some to me from Sweden, so that I could show them to people and tell the story. At that moment, we joked that perhaps we should reopen the factory but none of us took it seriously at the time. Nonetheless we exchanged addresses and after about half a year the envelope arrived. I still recall the dark autumn day when I went to the postbox and found the A4 size envelope. When I tore it open at home, read his letter and looked at the photos, I was shivering with
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After graduating from university, Peke worked for a large investment bank in Helsinki for some years, after which he took a job at the biggest Finnish bakery corporation Vaasan. He took that job knowing that he would be sent to Estonia if he wanted it. That’s exactly what happened – in 2000 Peke was sent to the subsidiary company Leibur and took up the position of Finance Director. Since then he has never looked back and has never had the urge to move back to Finland. “It was relatively easy for me to become adjusted in this environment. Estonia is so close to Finland and travelling between the two countries used to cost more or less nothing back then. At the time the Finnish TV and radio were accessible here and it was very easy to keep connected to my friends and family and Finnish culture, whilst being in a totally different cultural space where two different cultures collide in turn. I mean the Estonian and the Russian ones. In this sense it was comfortable and exciting at the same time. I liked it immediately,” says Peke. Peke also liked and still likes the Estonian working mentality: “Professionally speaking, it is really positive that Estonians are flexible and open to change. Today it is extremely comfortable to be an entrepreneur in Estonia, as it is a really business-friendly society. Everything is really flexible and the Estonian e-Economy is amazingly good! It is ironic that the Finns have always claimed to be one of the most successful technology states in the world. It is a total joke today. For example a simple thing like the digital signature – I believe 90 per cent of Finns do not know what that is. Some of them think it is the contact information you include at the end of an email! In addition, in Finland, one still has to go to the public bodies to get things organized. You can wait for three or four hours at the tax office to reach the counter. In
Estonia such things disappeared a long time ago. You can do everything online and it makes life and running a business so much easier.” “At the same time, Estonians don’t really let you very close, they like to maintain a certain distance. They also often seem to dislike owningup to any mistakes. The explanatory letter is a really rare phenomenon here. Often you get the feeling that once you have written an explanatory letter, everything will be dealt with and fine. Nobody looks for the mistake itself or a way of doing things better in the future. You just explain and that’s it, everything is fine!” the businessman talks about some strange moments about working in Estonia. Peke says he sees himself in Estonia for the rest of his life. He likes living here, is married to an Estonian and wants to see their child grow up in Estonia. Last year they planted 2 100 grapevines on Muhu island off the West Coast of Estonia, and they hope to produce the first batch of local wine in the autumn of 2016. Soon the company Luscher & Matiesen plans to add berry and fruit wines to its selection of grape wines. “I already knew, as I received the letter from Dimitri Matiesen, that moving the story of Luscher & Matiesen forward and the wine business are what I will do for the rest of my life. That story really touched me and all those incredible coincidences have convinced me that I am doing the right thing. In addition I could not let Dimitri Matiesen down. I know he deliberated for a long time back in 2008 whether to send me that letter or not, but then decided that a promise was a promise. He died five years ago knowing that something is happening and he had even told his godson on his deathbed that he was happy about having sent that letter!” Peke sums up the series of incredible coincidences.
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Estonia at EXPO MILAN 2015 Photos by Andrea Forlani, Atko Januson, MARGUS JOHANSON
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The Estonian pavilion at EXPO Milan 2015 opened its doors on 1 May. Estonia’s pavilion ‘The Gallery of Estonia’ is a three-storey gallery consisting of ‘wooden nesting boxes’, which is open to the guests via two entrances, from the front as well as the back of the pavilion. The Estonian pavilion is not a form for form’s sake, but a framework for the content that brings the building to life. The building is multifunctional, with an exposition and function of its own on each floor. The authors of the idea are the architecture bureau Kadarik & Tüür and the creative agency is AKU. Incidentally, CNN has chosen the Estonian pavillion among the top 24 most interesting at the exhibition, and leading Milanese daily newspaper Correre Della Sera included it in the list of 20 buildings with the most interesting terrace. The ‘keywords’ for the Estonian pavilion are Nordic shrewdness, clean food and nature, outstanding design, world-class music fronted by legendary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, and other prominent Estonians.
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Gallery of Estonia by night. Thanks to LED screens and lighting the Estonian pavilion looks especially striking in the dark Italian night. Without a doubt the biggest attraction of the Estonian pavilion are the swings, which measure energy created by the motion of the swinger. Naturally, children can have a lot of fun there!
The pavilions are situated along Decumano, which is 1.2 km long and derives its name from the â€˜Decumanus Maximusâ€™, a major, usually east-west road in Roman city planning. The Estonian pavilion can be found on the eastern side, between the pavilions representing Oman and Russia.
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The permanent exposition on the first floor is solved via video installations concerning various aspects of Estonia. The interest of the viewer is raised by intriguing film clips and provocative keywords, which attempt to answer questions such as ‘Where is Estonia?’, ‘Who is Estonia?’ and ‘What is Estonia?’ The videos in the nesting boxes concern Estonian culture, traditions, Estonian identity, the information society and Estonian nature, as well as Estonian food. One of the main showpieces at the exposition will be the permanent exposition on the second floor called ‘Good Estonian Things’ – an installation of various Estonian products, fields of interests and topics. The third floor has a partly open roof and houses the exposition on Estonian nature. Estonian plants have been brought to Milan and it is also possible to listen to birdsong of birds nesting in Estonia and peek at them through special cameras. The exhibition in the pavilion has also received much praise. The biggest attractions are the energy swings between the boxes, the self-playing Estonia piano, the design motorcycle Renard and the Estonian nature exhibit on the third floor. The Estonian pavilion will remain open until 31 October and is open to visitors every day from 10:00 to 23:00.
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Enterprise Estonia has foreign representations in 12 countries. Our export and investment advisors in these countries are the eyes and ears of Estonian business. We strive for matching the business needs of Estonian companies with those of foreign companies. The extremely competitive business environment and skilled labour force makes Estonia a lucrative investment destination our investment team can help you tap in to these opportunities. Contact our people and let’s discuss business!
Enterprise Estonia: The Eyes and Ears of Estonian Business
Enterprise Estonia, Paris Estonian Embassy 17, rue de la Baume 75008 Paris France firstname.lastname@example.org Kristiina Kalda, Export
Enterprise Estonia, Silicon Valley 440 N.Wolfe Rd., Sunnyvale California 94085 United States email@example.com Andrus Viirg: ‘Enterprise Estonia Silicon Valley is an entry point for our tech companies and start-ups looking to scale their business and go global. We are facilitating connections with world class knowledge institutions, partners and investors. Building connections is a two way street. We are promoting Estonia as an entry point to Europe for U.S. businesses as well. Innovations coming out from Estonia, be they e-Government solutions such as e-Residency or disruptive services from our tech start-ups, are definitely on the radar screen of Silicon Valley key players. “Few factors get us as excited as Estonian founders,” Silicon Valley venture capital guru Marc Andreessen tweeted recently after his company led a US$58m funding round for TransferWise, the international money transfer company started by two Estonians.’
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Enterprise Estonia, London Estonian Embassy 16 Hyde Park Gate London SW7 5DG United Kingdom firstname.lastname@example.org Heiki Pant, Export & Investments: ‘The UK market is truly global, huge in its size and it can be rather complex at times. I have had the pleasure of working quite intensively with various companies from the timber sector – timber frame houses, post and beam, and with modular element producers and can report success stories of Estonian timber frame houses being erected in the UK. In addition there have been some rather exciting projects in the field of digitalization and software development.’
Enterprise Estonia, Tokyo Estonian Embassy 2-6-15, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku Tokyo 150-0001 Japan email@example.com Kosaku Yamaguchi: ‘Enterprise Estonia Tokyo office is an inspiring beacon for digital society - the irreversible next generation society - in Japan. The consecutive bilateral cyber consultations with Japan are something to be proud of – no other previous meeting between Japan and other Northern or Eastern European countries has attracted so many high-level officials from different ministries as the consultations between Japan and Estonia. The Japanese IT minister has mentioned at a the cabinet committee of the parliament that there are many things Japan should study from Estonia to substantially develop our advanced digital society. Unsurprisingly then, the Japanese media sees innovative Estonian services as an example of the next generation society quite often. And their concept is highlyesteemed. The Estonian platform, using public authentication and its experience for almost 15 years, has an opportunity to become a test bed and cooperation for R&D activities on platform business and on cyber-security. We are expecting the so-called “My Number Project” – the public ID platform project based on the electronic ID and related schemes – to be successful in this ‘supercountry’, and it will help building the Estonian brand image in Japan for other sectors in the market as well.’
Enterprise Estonia, Shanghai Rm 2108, Westgate Mall 1038 West NanJing Road Shanghai 200041, China firstname.lastname@example.org
Enterprise Estonia, St. Petersburg Bolshaja Monetnaja 14 St. Petersburg 197101 Russia email@example.com Jaan Heinsoo, Investments: ‘The Estonian Investment Agency has been fortunate to work with some very talented and broad-minded IT entrepreneurs from Russia. These people are true innovators, they know how to achieve synergies by combining science and business, and how to expand their companies in a global scale. During the past year, Estonia has won the trust of several global IT companies, including Parallels and Acronis, who brought here their top talent and are today among the world’s best cloud computing companies to work for.’
Priit Martinson: ‘The population of China is exactly 1 000 times bigger than Estonia. Introducing Estonia in a country of that size can be a mission impossible and the only way to make our companies successful is to think and dream big. During the past couple of years I have travelled around China, given countless speeches and presentations about our economy, and even drunk Chinese liquor with entrepreneurs and local officials to establish our relationships. The results have been inspiring: more than 50 Chinese business and government delegations have visited Estonia and Estonia is getting more and more well-known each day – no longer as a part of the former USSR, but as a modern country with a top notch technology sector and one of the most liberal economic environments in the world. Estonian IT companies have opened their offices in China and our products such as high-end loudspeakers and organic food are warmly welcomed by the local consumers.’
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I STATE AND SOCIETY
Enterprise Estonia, Stockholm
From Estonia’s side, Sweden is still among the most important trade partners. In recent years Sweden has been Estonia’s number two trade partner after Finland, and in exports Sweden been our top export partner already three years running.
HAMBURG LEKDIJK FRANKFURT NÜRNBERG
Enterprise Estonia, Helsinki Eesti Maja / Viro-keskus Sörnäisten rantatie 22 Helsinki 00540 Finland firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Finland is Estonia’s closest neighbour and EE Helsinki works towards increasing the export capability of Estonian companies to Finland. The aim is that Estonian and Finnish companies can work together to cope better with the challenges of globalization and help each other in the development of competitiveness. Valdar Liive, Investments: ‘Tallinn and Helsinki are neighbours that should join forces to make the economic zone I like to call Talsinki more attractive. My most important task is to identify those companies that will benefit from a joint economic zone. When tourists come to Helsinki from Asia, they want to visit Tallinn at the same time, and vice versa. Just like tourist marketing, the region should be seen as an entity in other sectors too. The borders don’t matter.’
Irene Surva-Lehtonen, Export: ‘In Estonia there are plenty of quality products and interesting projects to promote in Finland, such as delicious Estonian foods and organic products as well as e-Residency and the ‘Work in Estonia’ project that provide Finns great opportunities for doing business in Estonia.“
Eesti Maja / Estniska Huset Wallingatan 32, 2TR Stockholm 111 24 Sweden firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
LIFE IN ESTONIA #38 I 2015 SUMMER
Krister Kalda, Investments: ‘I consider my main goals to find new foreign investors and to help them create new jobs in Estonia, as well as to help the foreign investors already present in Estonia to expand. I have had the pleasure of helping companies such as Ericsson and Trelleborg to invest in Estonia, and there are many interesting projects in process: smaller projects which help to create a few jobs, but also large ones bringing investments of over 100m Euro.’ Christa Torm, Export: ‘Last November we arranged an innovation seminar in Stockholm together with one of Sweden’s main business magazines, Veckans Affärer, which resulted in published news about this successful innovative Estonian company CITYNTEL that offers smart street light solution. What really motivates me in this exiting profession is when I can see actual results of my contribution where clients inform me about closed deals with companies that I have introduced to them.’
Enterprise Estonia, Copenhagen Estonian Embassy Frederiksgade 19, 4th floor 1265 Copenhagen K Denmark firstname.lastname@example.org Lucie Neoralova, Export: ‘Estonian companies are strong and competitive in a wide range of industries, from metal and wood fabrication, IT and engineering to niche cleantech products that are in high demand on the Danish market. Estonian suppliers are valued in Denmark for their quality, flexibility, short lead times and easy communication. I have seen many Estonian companies being able to establish new, prosperous partnerships with Danish customers and there certainly are many more opportunities for mutual trade to be exploited.’
Enterprise Estonia, Hamburg Kleine Reichenstraße 6 Hamburg 20457 Germany email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
Enterprise Estonia, Oslo Estonian Embassy Parkveien 51A Oslo 0244 Norway firstname.lastname@example.org Margit Ihlebakke, Export: ‘I see my task in lowering the barriers between Estonian and Norwegian companies to access markets mutually. B2B is for me what it is – relations between two companies involved and I try my best to support them on their way. The other way is opening the market by field trips, events, meeting between groups, delegations, seminars which creates a new forum when 30-40 people from both countries start to think about the possibilities on Estonia– Norway direction.”
Enterprise Estonia, the Netherlands (Benelux) Lekdijk West 43 2861 ES Bergambacht The Netherlands email@example.com Thijs de Neeve, Export: ‘The Dutch are very curious and open to learning about what a country like Estonia has to offer. Take e-Governance for example. It’s difficult to say what came first: the attention from the Dutch press or the official delegations visiting Estonia to learn how this country put itself in the lead. But there are more industry sectors that convinced the Dutch that Estonia is capable of creating a sustainable competitive advantage. No matter how price-driven Dutch buyers are, they recognize that Estonian supply represents quality and innovation, for example in yacht building and construction materials. The most important message, however, is that Estonia is surprisingly Nordic – and there for the Dutch to discover.’
Riina Leminsky, Investments (Germany, Austria & Switzerland): ‘Estonians and Germans are a great business match. Strong economic ties between the two nations date back as far as the Hanseatic times. Yet they are different in many aspects. Comparing a container ship (Germany) with a yacht (Estonia) is good example: A container ship is large and powerful, but the yacht, small and agile, therefore easier to handle. Both have their pros and cons. In the ideal world, those two work together and create the greatest value for both. It is my daily challenge to find the right solution so that these ‘two ships’ work in harmony. ‘The biggest challenge and success story has been the co-organisation of the four-day state visit of President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and high level business delegation (42 Estonian company leaders) to Germany this May. The latest success stories in the investment area have been: the IT centre by Kühne + Nagel in Tallinn, the shared service centre by Danpower in Võru, the wood processing company by Hanse Equity in Kambja, Tartu county, and the production of luxury houses and yachts just outside Tallinn by Swiss Property.’ Tiina Kivikas, Export (Nürnberg): ‘Building contacts is the most important part of my job. After that entrepreneurs can already find outlets which will suit their specific needs in the large German market. Over the last two years I have consulted about 150 companies, specifically those which have visited trade fairs, for example from the furniture, electronics- and construction sectors.’ Kristian Jochen Schnack, Export (Frankfurt): ‘The Estonians I have worked with understand the need for punctuality and being well prepared. That is already half the admission price to working with a German company! I do feel some pride in being able to work for this small but very dynamic and innovative country which “punches well above its weight”. In the last few months, I have been able to help a number of companies take their first steps in this very competitive market; these include an office furniture manufacturer, a manufacturer of high quality meat snacks and a manufacturer of natural cosmetics. The fact that these companies are able to gain a foothold in the German market says a lot about their quality!’
I LIFE IN ESTONIA #38
I STATE AND SOCIETY Key benefits
As of 1 July, 2014 all employers providing work in Estonia are required to record their employment in one common register. The national employment registration has been shown to reduce the use of illegal workers and improve worker protection. New register has also increased labour tax collection by €10m.
Photo by Estonian
Tax and Customs
• Enhances surveillance related to labour taxes • Reduces administration and saves costs • Enables faster and efficient verification of employment • Helps increase tax collections • Enables digital processes and a paper-free procedure • Eliminates the need for employers to submit employee data to multiple government agencies • Allows multiple agencies to share information, eliminating duplication
Estonia Fights Against Illegal Salary Payment with Smart Employment Registry On March 26, 2014, amendments to the Estonian Taxation Act authorized the creation of a national register of employees and their employment information. The goals for the register were to reduce the use of illegal and unaccounted workers, improve the protection of workers’ social rights, better regulate citizens’ social benefits, and increase transparency for the purposes of labour tax supervision. Starting in July 1, 2014, the law has required that employers register all persons they employ or intend to employ in Estonia. The biggest challenge was creating and launching this new register within such a very tight timeframe. Software developer CGI Estonia was able quickly to deliver and integrate an employment register for the Estonian Tax and Customs Board in response to a new law, set to come into force on July 1, 2014.
The solution The solution enables employers across Estonia to register easily all employees with the Board prior to an employee starting work in Estonia. The Board chose CGI to develop the electronic register based on the company’s proven experience in developing mission-critical applications for governments and for offering the most innovative solution.
LIFE IN ESTONIA #38 I 2015 SUMMER
The electronic solution eliminates the need for in-person visits to a service bureau for registration. Registration can now occur in a variety of ways: Web registration through the e-Tax Board/e-Customs websites either by entering data manually or uploading a file; Registration via a machine-to-machine (M2M) interface, using X-Road technology (the standard for integrating public registers and information systems in Estonia); Mobile registration via a phone call or SMS message. Additionally, employers no longer have to submit employment information to the Estonian Health Insurance Fund or the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, as that information is made available and is easily accessible from the national register. Employers can also correct erroneous entries in the register within a three month period from the date of employment, suspension or termination. After the three month period is over, corrections must be made at a service bureau. Board employees now have greater visibility to check employment registrations and see whether disbursements have been declared and taxes have been paid. For CGI Estonia creating an environment for the employment register was an interesting public sector project where the company could
Photo by CGI Estonia
IT company that controls satellite missions and helps to save lives The software developer CGI Estonia (former Logica Estonia) has over 20 years of experience in the Estonian IT market and is since 2013 part of global IT and business process services provider CGI.
Estonian Tax and Customs Board controllers use optimized smart-device view to easily check employees’ data while conducting regular on-site verification procedures.
also develop its mobile application skills. CGI built a mobile app for controllers that helps to check employment status easily while conducting regular on-site verification procedures.
Connecting to X-road X-Road is the backbone of e-Estonia. It’s the invisible yet crucial environment that allows the nation’s various e-services databases, both in the public and private sector, to link up and operate in harmony. In this context, the employment register works both as an information provider as well as a consumer. It uses the following systems: the Population Registry for accessing citizen information, the Police and Border Guard Board for accessing images and the Estonian Health Insurance Fund for accessing health insurance information. X-road offers services such as providing information about employees, eg., ID, nationality, name, date of birth etc., to other government departments such as the Police and Border Guard Board, Tax and Customs Board, Labour Inspection etc.; the registration and modification of employment status in different accounting systems and departments like the Tax and Customs Board, Labour Inspection etc.
The results As of May 2015, the national employment register is being used by approximately 73 600 companies, registering nearly 585 000 employees. Due
to increased transparency regarding disbursements and tax declarations, labour tax collections are estimated to have increased to €10.3m within the first nine months of the register being live (July 2014 to March 2015). Additionally, more than 5 400 first time workers were registered sharply after the employment register was launched. This was not possible previously and these workers would have been classified as illegal. Digital registration has also enabled paper-free procedures, yielding the following benefits: • Factual verification of employment in the Social Insurance Agency has become significantly faster and more efficient, considerably reducing the risk of overpayment. • Elimination of the need to inform the Police and Border Control Agency of employment allowed for foreigners, because the information is already in the registry. • More timely arrival of health insurance policy start and completion data has reduced the Health Insurance Fund’s processing of paperbased insurance data, and reduced the likelihood of no-insurance situations due to missing or invalid employment information. • Employees can verify whether their employment has been properly registered.
Similarly to the CGI Group, operating in 40 countries, CGI Estonia is engaged in many different world leading industries such as: telecommunications, utilities, public sector and space. Having 170 talented and innovative Estonian IT specialists and using the know-how and channels of experienced global software giant, CGI Estonia has accomplished several remarkably compelling projects in the last few years: • 4 years of experience in creating software for space. Built ground control software for Estonia’s first satellite ESTCube-1. Involved in Europe’s own global navigation satellite system Galileo. • Developed and implemented GIS-112 – an innovative emergency response system for Estonian Rescue Services to dramatically speed up response times and save lives. • Developed employment register for Estonian Tax and Customs board to increase labour tax collection and fight against illegal salary. • Developed software solution for one of the largest energy companies in England. Software can be used for calculating customer’s future electricity consumption.
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I EDUCATION & SCIENCE
Excites kids and Dads Alike By Ann-mARii nERGi
‘Estonia is a strange country, but in a good sense,’” says Rain Ellermaa, leader of the largest robotics club in Estonia, based at the Tallinn University of Technology. ‘We are already teaching programming to kindergarten kids and the opportunity to practice robotics is broadly accessible to schoolchildren. If we carry on like this, we will have no shortage of engineers in the future,’ says Ellermaa with a grin.
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The Robotics Club of the Tallinn University of Technology brings together students interested in robotics, with about 40 active members and over 200 members in total. The club organises the course on robot construction, numerous training events for pupils, students and tutors, participates in robotics competitions – often bringing home prizes – and is involved in several development projects. The activities take place during the free time of the students. Rain Ellermaa himself is studying for his Masters degree in Electronics and Communication at the Department of Information Technology. The Robotics Club is financially supported by the university and by different companies. One of the most important stages of robot construction and development are competitions where younger and older engineers go head to head. Estonia is doing well in this area. At the end of the year, the largest robotics competition Robotex will take place in Tallinn for the 15th time already. The event attracts thousands of participants with about 500 robots. The Project Manager of Robotex Estonia, Karl Laasik, says that they have two large objectives: to be the leader in the field of getting young people interested in engineering, and the second goal – set for the year 2020 – to become the largest competition of robotics in Europe. ‘In terms of participant numbers, we are currently in second place, but in terms of audience numbers and the interest we attract, we have been the leaders for a long time. Last year 11 000 people came to see the event and this year we expect 15 000. The first place in terms of participant numbers is held by RobotChallenge (over 600 robots) which is organised in Vienna, but this event has more participants than viewers,’ explains Laasik who is currently about to complete his studies for a Bachelor’s degree in Product Development and Technology.
Robotex includes 17 different competitions
Robotex will include competitions in 17 different fields this year. Without doubt the most popular event with the audience is the robot football event, which has two robots and 11 balls on the field, with the best ‘striker’ is found in tournament format. Football has been part of the program of Robotex since 2009. The first Robotex took place in 2001, organised by professors and tutors. In 2008, responsibility for the organisation was handed over to the students. Other popular fields are the five different sumo classes – Mini, Micro, LEGO, iRobot and 3kg sumo. For example, the LEGO Sumo class has had over 100 robots participating, making it the most popular field with competitors. Robots made of simple LEGO blocks are perfect for first experiences in robot building, which is why this field is loved by children. The main rule of the competition resembles that of sumo proper – two competitors and the one pushing the other one out of the circle, is the winner. Line following is another competition event, which includes both a LEGO class and a regular class. Line following involves robots following a set black line and not move away from it. This year’s plans also include a line following event with obstacles. Other plans include the labyrinth competition and city orientation where robots have to understand traffic signs etc in a city-simulation environment. Robotex also includes the robot rally with an obstacle course called the Folkrace. Organisers are thinking about how to take Folkrace onto the water and to organise a water rally for the robots in a hostile environment. In cooperation with the company ICD Industries, there will be a kind of rescue event, where robots have to save survivors from the so-called shipwreck (survivors played by LEGO figures). Robots must bring all ‘people’ from the ship to a safe environment.
What exactly is robotics and the construction of robots? ‘There are three main components in building a robot – programming, mechanics and electronics. It may seem complex but it really is very logical,’ explains Marti Arak, co-Project Manager of Robotex who is a PhD student at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of Tallinn University of Technology. He quickly rejects the layman’s idea of a robot as a human-like artificial intelligence that moves its hands and legs and carries out activities characteristic of human beings. Such humanoid robots are not built by the Robotics Club for competitions, though it’s true that the university uses them in teaching. Humanoids are more the field of the Tartu University Robotics Club, which has also demonstrated playing football with ‘human robots’ at Robotex. The rest of the competitions – 12 last year and 17 planned this year – focus on the functionality of the robots, instead of appearance. ‘The design of robots is 99 per cent dependent on their functionality, in order to best complete their task,’ explains Arak. The most important thing is that robots are autonomous, in other words whilst ‘switched on’ they must be able to carry on the activities they’re programmed to do themselves.
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I EDUCATION & SCIENCE Average age 17.7 years In addition to the competitions, a large and exciting part of Robotex is the Technology Exhibition which is equally interesting to the public and companies who display their innovative products. This event offers plenty of activities to all ages, including chemistry experiments, car simulator rides, introduction to energy saving solutions and a real industrial robot. All the organisers claim that one of the best things about organising and participating in Robotex and its workshops is seeing the eyes of little boys and girls (as well as their parents!) light up when they have put some moving gadget together themselves. ‘There are great stories of fathers getting really worked up when they are building with their sons. The older generation has really missed out on such opportunities,’ says Arak.
‘This means that I am competing with ten-year-old boys and girls and I don’t stand a chance!’ says Arak. Last year the average age of participants at Robotex was 17.7. The youngest robot builder was only three years old; naturally he did not construct the robot all himself but he was the one to physically switch it on for in order to partake in the competition! Various supporters and sponsors are invaluable for Robotex and the Robotics Cub of the Tallinn University of Technology, because for example 70 per cent of the Robotex budget comes from engineering-related companies. In addition, various companies have been donating some serious awards. The Robotics Clubs is also grateful for the input of the many companies who support the event with various services, because of course building robots is not cheap.
‘It is our wish to offer a real experience to everyone visiting Robotex. Last year over 400 people participated in our workshops and if some of these children discover robotics clubs as a result, we have moved a step closer to our goal’, he continues.
The more basic robots cost around a couple of hundred Euros, but for example a football robot may set you back by 4,000 Euros. Companies understand that such events and societies may benefit them – they can advertise themselves and perhaps identify some future employees. ‘When I spoke to companies five years ago, only one company out of
As the young men are in different years of study, their own experiences of robot building vary. For example Karl Laasik says that he has never built a robot, but Rain Ellermaa took part in the construction of nine ro-
six new what Robotex is. Today perhaps one in six does not know what Robotex is,’ says Arak proudly.
bots last year because he tutored or belonged in many different teams. PhD student Marti Arak announces proudly that he participates in the LEGO Sumo category.
ESTonIA IS knoWn To HAVE MoST STARTUpS AnD SUpERMoDELS pER CApITA BUT IT ALSo HAS MoST RoBoT BUILDERS!
Photo by Vallo Kruuser
pRoToTRon A Generator of Success Stories By HoLGER RoonEmAA
Prototron and GlobalReader teams at investor demo day
Although it is said that there is no such thing as a free lunch, prototron – a fund created to support good ideas – proves the opposite. ‘It is our aim to give a push to ideas which help to make the world a better place,’ explains Siim Lepisk, Head of Prototron. Whereas investors, accelerators and incubators want a share in promising start-ups in return for their investment, Prototron simply provides funds and business mentors in order to turn an idea into a working prototype. The Prototron Fund was created three years ago as a joint initiative by Swedbank, the bank which has the largest market share in Estonia, Tallinn University of Technology (TUT) and the science- and business park, Tehnopol. ‘We carried out extensive research and found out that an idea which is raw but has great potential is unlikely to receive any funding by Enterprise Estonia, investors or banks. This means that, in Estonia, the risk of good ideas remaining just that – ideas, which are not implemented – is too great,’ Lepisk explains how Prototron was born three years ago.’ A lot of research is just doing nothing more than lying around in the corridors, departments and corners of our universities,’ he argues. ‘Prototron now offers the chance to turn those ideas into real business’. Prototron convenes three times a year in order to collect great ideas and to select those which are worthy of receiving a financial injection in order to turn the idea into a prototype of a product or a service. There are no direct limits set for funding, but mostly such grants range from €5 000-€10 000.
The teams which make it through the tough competition with their idea receive another €10 000 worth of mentoring and advisory services from the Tehnopol Startup Incubator for 6-12 months, laboratories are provided by the innovation and business centre Mektory of the TUT and Swedbank provides a financial injection. In return, Prototron wants nothing else but team spirit, initiative and success in the future. ‘In essence we are seeking, buying and generating success stories for Estonia,’ says Lepisk. Each year Prototron organises two funding rounds, to which all Estonian early-stage startup teams can apply, and an additional round which specifically targets research projects at TUT. Contrary to the saying, which has it that free lunches don’t exist, Prototron proves the opposite. But first, one has to fight one’s way to the lunch table. Competition is really intense: ‘For example, there were over 200 competing ideas in the last autumn round. Only twenty got into the next round and only ten made it to the expert committee. Only three teams in the end received the funding,’ says Lepisk. Although the teams are rewarded two to three times a year, the ideas can be submitted at any time, and they will receive free advice on how to proceed further. To date Prototron has funded 22 different projects to the total sum of €250 000. The feel for success by the Prototron committee of experts has been amazing –100 per cent of the funded teams are still active and many of them have already demonstrated success on a larger scale.
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For example, Paul Allen – a co-founder of Microsoft – recently invested into the company 3DPrintersOS, which got started with Prototron’s support and which creates operating systems for 3D printers. Another company called Flydog produces and sells globally smart buoys which measure water pollution and other parameters for assessing the condition of marine environment, in real time. Qminder offered a phone-based queue ticketing system during the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The language learning programme Lingvist, which got started with Prototron support, is one of the fastest growing early-phase startups in Estonia, which has attracted seed investments to the amount of a million euros in less than a year. These are just some examples of many success stories. ‘We are really focused on results. We are not burdening our portfolio companies with reporting, but we support teams with marketing and fundraising activities so that they can focus on creating their product and going into business,’ says Lepisk. Another pre-condition for receiving support from Prototron is that the supported team has to found its business and legal entity in Estonia. Lepisk specifically emphasises that, whilst only two to four per cent of applications from each round receive funding, that does not mean that the remainder of the ideas aren’t great ideas too. ‘Even if an idea is not funded by us, the team will still receive free mentorship and contacts which help them to proceed more effectively. Many teams starting out have said that this kind of support is invaluable and has pushed them to grow much faster and further than they initially thought they were capable of,’ he adds. Whereas the Buildit accelerator plans how to take another step and create a fund for seed funding, Prototron is essentially a private-public partnership: ‘We are not thinking about how to invest in return for a share, but about how to bring in more companies as investors and how to export our concept out of Estonia,’ says Lepisk. According to his knowledge, Prototron was the first fund of its kind in the world which expects no share in return for investment and is only interested in promoting entrepreneurial spirit and the making great ideas a reality in the form of corporate social responsibility. ‘In Estonia another company who has joined the supporters of startups is the local energy holding company Utilitas. There has been interest in our concept and brand already from Singapore, Sweden, Ireland, UK and Latvia,’ Lepisk continues.
The last funding round Prototron announced the winners of the last funding round in May. Four ideas were selected:
Team Cubehub creates the first global radio communication network of Earth stations, which offers continuous data transaction with nanosatellites orbiting the Earth, making costly satellite connections more accessible.
GlobalReader is the easiest and most cost-effective solution for production line performance monitoring. GlobalReader’s clients save thousands of euros by increasing utilization of their production lines through decreasing the downtime of the machinery.
Sensition creates hardware which will help filmmakers achieve sharper images of moving objects. Sensition helps production camera crews to keep the camera picture in focus on complex scenes where focus-pulling is beyond normal human capabilities. This enables camera crews to concentrate on the creative process and overcome technical limitations.
EdFox develops a digital learning experience, which will help to create a more individual-centered education system and produce more intelligent people for society. This autumn, eight Estonian schools will test EdFox tablet-based solution for teaching 11th grade mathematics.
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The Hardware Revolution Has Arrived in Estonia! By Holger Roonemaa In the middle of May, a crowdfunding campaign kicked off on Indiegogo where a company from Tartu – home to the oldest university in Estonia – hoped to raise the modest sum of US$15 000 in 45 days. Using this sum, the company aimed to hit the market with BOLD Knot – a top-up battery pack and mobile phone charger. The group of mostly Palestinian-born startup entrepreneurs had no idea that they would raise half of the sum needed in just one day. A week later, more than 700 supporters had helped to raise US$40 000, which exceeded the initial target almost three times. This is probably just the beginning of the real success story of this innovative accessory. Without going into complicated technical details, BOLD Knot charges your phone twice as fast as regular USB-chargers, offers an almost empty phone battery several hours of emergency support at a critical moment and, last but not least, it looks great.
hardware accelerators and incubators worldwide,’ says Aleksander Tõnnisson, CEO of Buildit. Buildit works on a simple premise – you bring a valuable idea and the team at Buildit provides up to €20 000 in return for up to a 12 per cent share in the company office space and production rooms in the Tartu Science Park and the necessary technical, legal and business consultations with top-level mentoring. ‘One of our few conditions is that the team which makes it into the accelerator also has to physically move to Tartu, because this is how we are able to offer the best added value to the team,’ explains Tõnnisson. Tõnnisson admits that establishing a hardware-specialised accelerator in Estonia, a very small country, seemed like a risky undertaking to himself and many of his collaborators.
The device is made of strong parachute cord and resembles a ball of wool, in fact looking like something from a design shop. Even if you don’t need a new battery pack or charger, just seeing the BOLD Knot will make you want to get one!
‘There were dozens of software accelerators in the world, but only a few specialised in hardware. We were not sure at all where we would be able to attract hardware startups from different countries into Estonia,’ he says.
BOLD Knot (produced by the company BOLD Gadgets) is just one of more than 20 hardware startups which has received an injection from the Buildit hardware accelerator based in Tartu. Buildit is a pre-seed accelerator – meant for early phase startups, many of which have just a promising idea but not much else to show.
However the initial investments of Buildit proved that those concerns were unfounded. The competition to get into the accelerator is fierce – every tenth candidate gets the chance to present their idea to the panel and not all of them receive an investment from Buildit. Roughly speaking every third investment goes to an Estonian team. To date there have been startups from over 40 countries which have applied for a place, investments have been made in startups from 11 countries and 26 different startups in total.
‘When we set up Buildit in Tartu, there were maybe five or six other hardware accelerators in the world. Today there are around twenty
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The next investment round takes place in the autumn and Buildit is already receiving applications. If necessary, the investment can be made at once. ‘If we see a really strong team with a great idea, we are ready to invest immediately regardless of whether our investment round happens to be open or not. We do not want that a promising startup has to wait with its development process because of the calendar. In the startup-world, waiting for six months may mean death of the company or a real breakthrough, which would mean that we would no longer be able to have the favourable conditions to enter the company,’ explains Tõnnisson.
Hardware revolution Whilst it’s true that there are dozens more software accelerators and startups in the world, Tõnnisson is convinced that there is a hardware revolution happening right now. ‘Establishing hardware startups is a rapidly growing trend. It is also the main reason why we are investing in them,’ says Tõnnisson. He points out that to date investors have tended to be sceptical when it comes to hardware startups. ‘In hardware development the scalability of the product is considered to be a problem and this is true to a certain degree, because in comparison with software – like apps – the barrier of entering the market is much higher.’
The vision of Tõnnisson and Buildit is linked to the latter. ‘We are seriously considering raising the next fund in order to make investments in the seed phase’ says Tõnnisson. Buildit has reached the phase where the first fruits of the work can be seen but this also has a sobering effect.’ We see that the companies which have gone through our accelerator are raising €500 000 and more in the second round, which of course is really positive. But being the first investors we have the feeling that we have done all the hard work and the new incoming investors can just earn a bigger profit on this basis.’ This is why Tõnnisson is putting together a fund which would be able to make seed investments in the sum of up to €200 000 in the next investment round. ‘We have about 10 such companies in our accelerator, who are about to go to the second round and who we would be interested in investing more in. We do not have the capacity at the moment but we have talked to many potential investors who are interested in joining us.’
Photo by Ra
Whilst these days 3D printing has made it much easier to create a prototype, nothing much has changed in mass production in comparison with 15-20 years ago. ‘Setting up production, investing in production lines and so on is a very capital-intense undertaking, which makes investments riskier,’ explains Tõnnisson. He says that such problems do not exist with software – all you need is a team and a server to run your software on. Server space can be rented for just a few euros per month from Amazon, for example.
to attract hundreds of thousands of euros in seed investment from new investors. The first company has created a more accurate method of measuring the surface quality of optical components such as lenses and mirrors than has been available to date. Solu is still flying under the radar but working on recreating the concept of the personal computer. Tõnnisson advises us to keep an eye on this last really ambitious project: ‘Comfee, Blindsense, GlobalReader, SLS, Arc Pendant,’ he recounts the other successful graduates of the accelerator, who have already managed to attract large seed investments or are about to do so, and which will fly them properly into the orbit.
Why then is Tõnnisson so optimistic about the hardware revolution? ‘Hardware has a very clear psychological advantage. People are prepared to pay for something which they can physically hold in their hands. If you look at the world of apps, more than 90 per cent of users have never paid for an app. But in the case of hardware, noone expects it to be available for free,’ he says. In addition he believes that the development of hardware producers has been made easier in the last few years because smartphones have become much more powerful and have now become a mass product in real terms: ‘Thanks to this it is possible to produce totally new appliances which are simple in essence but which allow the phones to do all the complicated work. All sorts of gadgets, which monitor sleep phases or your pulse, for example.’ The hardware revolution is slowly but surely permeating the Estonian startup scene. For example, four or the five finalists at the largest Estonian business idea competition Ajujaht (‘Brainhunt’ - ed.) were companies focusing on producing smart hardware. Furthermore the first graduates of the Buildit accelerator are preparing to take their next big steps. Whereas BOLD Gadgets experienced crowdfunding success, companies like Difrotec and Solu have managed
LIFE IN ESTONIA #38 I 2015 SUMMER
Two World-Renowned Companies Chose Estonia
Nick Dobrovolskiy, Max Lyadvinsky and Stanislav Protassov
By Tanel Saarmann / Photos by Raigo Pajula, Egert Kamenik, ARDO KALJUVEE
Estonia is known for its top notch IT sector. Our e-solutions and the success stories of Skype, TransferWise and GrabCad are widely recognized. However, the Estonian IT sector will need thousands more workers in a few years. One opportunity to attract such people would be to bring strong foreign companies – those willing to come with their staff – into Estonia. Another option would be to invest in Estonian IT education and to raise skilled IT specialists from an early age. Both scenarios would alleviate the problem of the lack of skilled workforce in the IT sector. Enterprise Estonia has been working actively in both directions, and at the beginning of this year two internationally renowned companies – Parallels and Acronis – opened their offices in Estonia. Talking to the managers of both companies, it is immediately clear that they are touched by the way they were expected and welcomed in Estonia. Their decision to come to Estonia is largely a result of efficient cooperation between our IT sector and the public sector – people went the extra mile and gave it their all to make it happen.
Incredible cooperation leads to success It all started when an Estonian technology entrepreneur and investor, Allan Martinson, got an email from Serguei Beloussov, CEO of Acronis. 'I knew Beloussov from earlier days. In April 2014, Serguei sent a letter saying that they were looking for a location for the new development
centre for Acronis. He asked what kind of opportunities would Estonia offer,' Martinson recalls.
Allan Martinson knew that such an opportunity will not knock twice and he connected Beloussov with the Foreign Investments Division of Enterprise Estonia. The organisation realised how important Acronis and similar enterprises, including Parallels and Acumatica, are. The project now became led by the foreign representative to Russia, Jaan Heinsoo. 'Our attitude was to prove to Acronis and Parallels that Estonia would be the best location for their development centres. The Estonian IT sector has a great reputation throughout the world. We have an efficient e-State, and companies like Skype and TransferWise were born here. Yet the IT market here is in need of some fresh global names and specialists. Being trusted by companies of such calibre is a great reference for Estonia and something which will bring top specialists into the country,' confirms Heinsoo.
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I ECONOMY AND BUSINESS Unique four hours 'As we started working on those companies, we were aware that they were also holding negotiations with our neighbours – Finland and Latvia,' says Heinsoo. As the group was in Latvia before coming to Estonia, Enterprise Estonia decided to travel to Riga and meet Beloussov and Stanislav Protassov, the co-founder of Acronis. 'Serguei Beloussov is an extremely busy person and having a longer conversation with him is almost a mission impossible. To spend four hours with him en route from Riga to Tallinn was a unique opportunity. During this time I managed to tell him a lot about Estonia, by the time we reached Tallinn we had become better acquainted and our preparatory work was done,' recalls Heinsoo. In Estonia, the leaders of Acronis met with Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas, the ICT Policy Adviser Siim Sikkut, the government CIO Taavi Kotka and with many leaders and companies in the IT sector and universities. Several Estonian IT companies were also involved. Indeed they were conscious of the salary pressure and competition for the labour force which new companies would bring, but the broader and longer-term interests of the Estonian IT sector were seen as being more important. According to Rain Laane, Microsoft General Manager Baltics, Microsoft Estonia and the Estonian unit of Skype are both interested in good specialists coming onto the Estonian IT market and a solution to the lack of skilled workers in the sector. 'When strong foreign companies enter the Estonian IT market, it is good for the Estonian economy because those companies will pay taxes here. It is equally good for the IT sector as it broadens opportunities for exchange and learning,' says Laane.
The efforts paid off, as Acronis and Parallels made a positive decision in the autumn. Parallels received support from Enterprise Estonia to the sum of €583 000, which was primarily needed for the professional training of staff. Today, several months after opening their offices, Enterprise Estonia still keeps in touch with the activities of Acronis and Parallels, assisting with advice and other services when necessary. 'It is important to be an equal partner to foreign investors. We think along with them, we introduce the opportunities which exist in Estonia, and we help to implement business goals which are related to the companies’ plans of expansion in Estonia,' explains Jaan Heinsoo.
Chance for Estonia According to Allan Martinson, nothing quite like attracting Acronis and Parallels to the country has happened in the Estonian IT sector before. For one thing, so many parties collaborated without having business interests of their own: 'Beloussov’s letter was the first, but since then there have been several similar contact-making efforts by leaders of different companies who are interested in coming to Estonia,' reveals Martinson. He calculates that, when put together, all the companies who have contacted him have a combined turnover of more than a billion dollars as well as thousands of employees. It is a huge opportunity for Estonia, he believes.
Parallels: A Huge Name in Cloud Computing Cloud services are one of the hottest and newest topics in the IT-world. Parallels is a huge player in this field. Forbes named Parallels the Second Best Cloud Computing Company in 2015 after Google. According to one of Parallels' founders, Serguei Beloussov, their developers have create a software which is needed all around the world. Their headoffice is situated in the USA and they employ approximately 1 000 staff. Subsidiary companies are located in 15 countries all over the world. Now one part of the company is based in Estonia.
Three and a half days Enterprise Estonia helped Acronis to organise a three and a half day event during late summer last year. Thirty eight software developers, middle level managers and top managers from Acronis, Parallels and Acumatica visited Estonia. Many people who came to Tallinn during this event are living and working here today.
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The most well-known product from Parallels is Parallels Desktop for Mac. This allows users to run Windows applications on Macintosh computers without rebooting. It also helps to run Windows programs on iPads. The market share of Parallels Desktop for Mac is nearly 70 per cent in its segment. More than 50 per cent of companies on the Fortune100 use the list product. However, the largest and fastest-growing part of its business is software which helps telecoms companies, hosting firms and other service providers aggregate, manage and deliver well-known cloud-based services and apps to small and medium-sized businesses. This is a large and growing business and forms about two thirds of the turnover of the company.
Who’s who in Parallels?
Examples of the company’s customers include the Latin American telecoms giant America Movil, which uses Parallels’ software and tools to offer Microsoft Office 365 as part of a broader package to its customers. Parallels’ partners include the likes of Microsoft, Google, IBM and other tech giants and software makers.
Birger Steen Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
But the main partners of Parallels are small service providers which provide services to medium and small businesses. These companies do not usually have enough funds to own servers and pay for IT specialists for the maintenance of the equipment. The software is also very expensive. To offer them via cloud is what makes it much cheaper. 'Our software allows service providers to expand their range of IT services and, consequently, increase profits quickly,' says Beloussov. 'We believe that in the near future, almost all small and medium businesses will get their IT services from the "cloud’," he adds. It means that something that today only large companies can afford, will be available for all through cloud technology. This could be a trillion dollar business. And it soon will be.
Important to Microsoft In the beginning of 2013, Cisco bought a small share in Parallels. This made the situation more complicated for Microsoft. Microsoft needs Parallels in order to find new users for its program called Office 365. Cisco does not currently have an Office-like program in its portfolio. At the same time, they are a competitor when it comes to the Microsoft’s collaboration and messaging application Lync Online, which is a part of Office 365. Lync Online is a Web conferencing service that competes with Cisco’s WebEx. Parallels has brought many former leading employees of Microsoft into the management of the company. Among others, the current CEO Birger Steen and the Marketing Director John Zanni. This however has not worsened the relations between the two companies. Years ago Parallels moved its headoffice into Washington, Seattle, near Microsoft. Parallels Mac for Desktop programme can be found in every Apple store around the world. Hence as a growing company, Parallels has tied itself to the absolute top players of the technology world.
He has been the CEO since 2009. Birger Steen has been working at Microsoft in various senior positions since 2002: he was Head of the Norwegian Branch of Corporation, Vice President of Distribution and Customer Service for small businesses, CEO of Russia office.
Serguei Beloussov Executive Chairman of the Board and Chief Architect Beloussov is a self-made entrepreneur and business executive with an outstanding 21-year track record in building, growing and leading high-performing, multi-national high tech companies in North America, Europe and Asia. Noted as an innovator and a thought leader in virtualization, datacenter automation, and cloud computing space, Serguei is a frequent speaker at industry events internationally. He has co-authored over 200 US technology patents. Serguei is currently full-time focused on Acronis, the company he has founded and now returned to as a CEO. Serguei Beloussov is also a founder, main investor and Chairman of the Board of Acumatica – a fast-growing, leading startup company in the cloud ERP space, as well as founder and investor of a string of other high-tech companies.
Nick Dobrovolskiy Vice President of Desktop Virtualization Nick Dobrovolskiy started his professional career in 1995 as a software engineer and quickly rose to become one of the founders and CEO of a software company and later, Vice President of the multi-national Parallels corporation. In 2006, Nick played a key role in the development and launch of Parallels Desktop for Mac. Nick has more than 10 years of experience in virtualization systems development and leading the Research and Development division of Parallels, overseeing more than 200 staff members.
Jack Zubarev President, Cross Platform Business
Ilmar Saabas, Delfi / Eesti
Zubarev is a founder and President of Parallels. Since the company’s founding, he has held multiple leadership roles within the company, including running the Marketing and Alliances teams, COO, Division President, sales engineering, product marketing, and business development. Jack Zubarev was also a founder of Acronis and helped establish the storage management company’s sales and marketing organizations in the USA. Serguei Beloussov
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Nick Dobrovolskiy: We Will Grow Fast if We Get Good People Nick Dobrovolskiy is one of the founders of Parallels and the company’s Vice President of Desktop Virtualization. He also heads the Moscow cross-platform and Maltese R&D offices of Parallels. Nick has been seen a lot in Estonia recently. He was part of the team that negotiated the move of Parallels to Estonia. Now an applicant for Estonian e-Residency, Nick says that Estonia did not oversell itself when they invited Parallels to open an office in Tallinn. During the last Latitude59, held in Tallinn on 14-15 May, we sat down with Nick Dobrovolskiy to discuss why they chose Estonia and what they plan to do here.
What made a big company like Parallels open an office in Estonia? We started thinking about opening a new office only last year. We evaluated Germany, Latvia, Finland and other places, weighing the pros and cons. Finally, it was a combination of many reasons. Enterprise Estonia showed us that the business environment here is good. The Estonian government is doing great things to develop the IT sector, aiming to double the local IT population of 18 000 by 2020. This is important. It means that there are a lot of people who are interested that we do well. Second, let’s face it: Estonia is geographically closer to our Moscow office. Last month I started one of my trips to Tallinn from my Moscow apartment. I flew in here, walked to the office in Ülemiste near the Tallinn Airport, worked the whole day and flew back, ending my day at my Moscow home again.
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We knew right from the start that we had to bring some of our guys from the Moscow R&D centre to Tallinn. Due to its history, Tallinn is a good place for Russian-speaking people to live and work in. There are kindergartens, schools and other things you need for a normal life.
I just checked to see who have applied for these vacancies in Estonia. A lot of them are local, but there were a couple of Swedish and Finnish developers as well as one guy from Albania and another from Peru. It looked like those people were ready to relocate to Estonia.
Was there a lot of bureaucracy involved in getting the first employees from Moscow to Tallinn?
If good candidates come, we will be able to grow the Tallinn office to 100-150 people in the next 3-5 years.
Visas and residence permits were very easy to get. All the 20 staff members got permanent residency in less than a month, which is really impressive.
The first group of 20 has arrived, then. What’s next? We already have another office ready for about 20 more employees. We have opened a number of vacancies and expect to hire 20 to 25 more people. But for us it doesn’t really matter if we hire them in Estonia, Moscow or Malta – we just need good people.
What exactly are your people doing in your Estonian office? First I thought I would bring one specific team here, but after talking to people, I realized that it would be hard to convince one group of people to move to a different country. Then we looked for volunteers among our people to move to Europe. So for example, from one team four guys out of seven decided to relocate in Tallinn. The others stayed in Moscow. They are still working together, only in different locations.
Parallels Products Parallels Desktop for Mac. The easiest, fastest, and most powerful solution for running Windows on Mac without rebooting. The #1 choice of Mac users for over eight years, with more than five million copies sold. Parallels Desktop for Mac Business Edition. The simplest and most powerful solution for delivering Windows and Windows applications to employees with Macs. Parallels 2X Remote Application Server (2X RAS) is a leading solution for delivering applications and virtual desktops to any device and operating system. Parallels Access. The fastest, easiest, and most reliable remote access to your desktop from anywhere. Access all your applications, files, and computers in one place, and use desktop applications as if they were designed for your mobile device. Parallels Mac Management for Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). This plug-in makes SCCM 2012 the most robust platform for managing Mac computers by leveraging existing business skills, processes, and systems.
Now we have here the full range of everything related to Parallels cross-platform development: code writers, designers, mobile developers, testers and so on. We have four product lines and two of them are being developed in Malta now. All surrounding Parallels Desktop and Parallels Access is spread between Tallinn and Moscow.
Let’s talk about our universities. Do you want to work with them to make our IT education better? Yes, that is my intention. Let me tell you what we are doing in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan and Novosibirsk. The first thing is, that we send our employees to teach some classes. Second, we organize and fund special research-oriented laboratories for talented, and more importantly, highly- scored students. The professor doesn’t need to be our guy. In some cases we have even funded business-classes like ‘How to create a company’. Right now we are extending this program with MOOC element sharing the knowledge of own faculty with external students. We also have lots of internships. Students work on our premises, on various projects not
directly related to our products. They work in an environment and next to where real commercial developments are being made. They learn the ways and how to use different tools. They study our processes. And the best of them get jobs here every year!
And then of course, better IT education. That’s where we will start investing our resources.
This is what we plan to do in Estonia as well. It may start as early as the next school year. I can’t see why your universities and the government wouldn’t want that.
Yes, we felt welcomed in Estonia. We saw that we are and will be supported. That also made the decision to come here easier.
We have talked about the pros of Estonia and the opportunities here. Are there any cons? Your social tax for one thing. There needs to be a ceiling here, so that salaries can rise and people have more money to spend on other things. For a country it’s much healthier – it doesn’t just suck money from people and then distribute it. And you will get more businesses that want to grow. The other thing is that if you really want to increase IT population here in Estonia, you need to get more youngsters interested in IT. So that more kids want to end up in IT industry. Seemingly your officials embark exactly on this road.
A lot of people in Estonia were involved in getting you to come to Estonia. Did you sense that?
So finally, is everything the way you were promised or did Estonia oversell itself? Business-wise it goes as smoothly as it was promised. Visas, permits, renting a space, the quality of it and establishing a company – it all went as planned. So no, Estonia was not overselling itself. We got the grant approved from Enterprise Estonia to support our move to Tallinn. Now we’re preparing the report to get the actual reimbursement and will see how smoothly it goes. We also know that whatever the problem, we can ask help from Enterprise Estonia.
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have a negative effect. We haven’t seen that yet, which is another reason for optimism. They work very well with the rest of Acronis.
How much room do you have in Ülemiste where your office is? We need more! The rooms we have now accommodate 25 to 30 people. They have just finished the new building and we are going to get new rooms there. Then we will have space for up to 50 people and we are discussing ways to get rooms for 100 people.
Cooperation with universities is important to your company. Has anything already happened?
Acronis: A Big Player in Data Protection Before Parallels decided to come to Estonia, another large player in the IT field, Acronis, had made the positive decision. Serguei Beloussov is among the circle of owners of both companies. Before making the decision, leaders of Acronis together with Beloussov and Vice-President Stanislav Protassov came to visit Estonia. Working on new-generation data protection, Acronis is an international company with its headquarters in Switzerland. The company employs nearly 700 staff and has a turnover of several hundred millions of Euros. Acronis produces software for data backup storage, disaster recovery management, secure data access, sync and share.
It takes time, we are just starting. Basically what we have planned is to work in two directions. One is cooperation in research projects. In many countries such cooperation is done in a simple way. Partly it is sponsored by government or government organizations. They give out grants to universities. Universities are doing research for a commercial entity which uses the new technologies in their new products. This is the perfect way. The second way is internship or a company funds for some groups of students to do research. I think we will do both.
What are the next steps for Acronis in Estonia? We have a hiring plan. We are trying to get good people. We are cooperating with human resource agencies. The next step is to start bringing in local people. When we see what kind of people we can get, then we will decide further. I still think during the first couple of years the ratio of local and foreign people should be roughly 50-50. Otherwise it would be difficult to build the same culture that we have in the rest of the company. One of the problems with these new offices is that you don’t want the people to feel abandoned. When you relocate part of your existing team, it’s relatively easy, because they are already part of our ecosystem. One thing that helps and gives us a lot of optimism is the tremendous support from your IT industry and Enterprise Estonia. We feel really welcome here. www.acronis.com/en-eu/#
Acronis has sub-branches in 18 countries, the last of them was opened in Estonia which is now home to one of the company’s R&D centres. Life in Estonia asked the Vice-President of Acronis Stanislav Protassov how things have gone for the company in Estonia during the first couple of months.
Has everything gone according to your plans? More or less yes. We haven’t hired anyone local yet. Partially because we are in a new country. There are different ways to hire people and we are learning ways to find good employees here. Overall things are looking quite positive. The team that moved here we call Acronis Labs, it’s a core team that is developing our technology. Many people that moved here have a long history within Acronis. The Head of the Office, Maxim Lyadvinsky, is actually one of the founders of our company. We did have a concern about whether moving a part of our core developers to Estonia would
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Stanislav Protassov, Vice-President of Acronis and Professor Jaak Vilo, Head of the Institute of Computer Science at TU met during the ICT Week to discuss further co-operation.
Acronis seeking cooperation with universities
and project the state is already running. They liked the fact that we have vision,’ says Lauringson.
When Acronis was still weighing the pros and cons of relocating to Estonia, it met with different university representatives and with the people responsible for coordinating Estonian IT-education by the state. What was their impression of Acronis and what does Estonian IT education have to offer the company today?
Study IT in Estonia
Head of the Institute of Computer Science in Tartu University professor Jaak Vilo believes that Acronis has a professional and focused management. ‘Global players in this field need and seek talent with a very good education. They need people who will be able to effectively create a global infrastructure where all necessary parts cooperate together,’ he said. ‘The best guarantee of finding that talent is the existence of great universities. This means that there needs to be a high level of scientific research and ability to provide students with a good practical education on this basis. Acronis is one of the few companies who clearly tried to assess the level of Estonian universities for their needs,’ recalls Vilo.
‘We need more higher-value-added people in our economy,’ she says. ‘There is room for thousands more ICT specialists and engineers in Estonia. In addition, these are exactly the fields which top all charts when it comes to salaries, staff satisfaction, etc.’
Ave Lauringson calls foreign students to come study in Estonia. In the last few years the numbers of foreign students at our universities has seen a significant increase, but there is room for growth. Jaak Vilo says that Estonia is valued as a study destination, which is illustrated by the recent acceptance process to masters’ studies where 110 students were accepted to study IT and software technology subjects. There were 500 applications, only 70 of whom came from Estonia. The companies’ interest in IT students is so big that often students are already employed during the first study years. This is something which worries Vilo, because acquiring an education then becomes secondary. ‘For example Facebook, Google, Spotify and other companies where our graduates go to, may contract them already earlier but work will commence once the students have graduated and gotten their diplomas. We would like to see this kind of a more strategic attitude from Estonian companies,’ says Vilo.
Ave Lauringson, ICT Skills Coordinator at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, recalls that the directness of the management of the company was mind-blowing at first. During the various meetings which took place over three summer months, the representatives of Acronis asked questions which were not easy, really direct principal questions. ‘I was stunned by the bluntness. I can especially remember the question of how many Nobel prize winners have come from Estonian universities. At that point I felt for a moment that perhaps there is nothing really to talk about. But then we made them excited by talking about what we are doing in schools,’ says Lauringson. She refers to the fact that Estonia has for years been investing in the future IT generation by teaching technology at a very early age in schools. The most common subject is robotics, but programming is also taught. Today there is a robotics club in 140 Estonian schools, which means that every fourth school has one. One of the main advantages of robotics clubs is the fact that, whereas other subjects tend to focus on individual tasks, robotics requires great teamwork and communication. ‘If we think about creating more added value, it is precisely the pupils in primary school and basic school who will be able to do this in the future,’ claims Lauringson. ‘The company representatives were also impressed about the cooperation between the Estonian state and companies in the framework of the IT Academy. This topic always gets industry people excited. We don’t have any Nobel prize winners yet, but we have a lot more to offer. The leaders of Acronis were very interested in our workforce and the plans
Ave Lauringson is convinced that the fact that Acronis decided to come to Estonia demonstrates that global players believe in what our labour market and universities have to offer. ‘It is a great acknowledgement that they approved of our workforce competence and business environment. If their decision makes news elsewhere, it helps to create the idea that Estonia is a good place to study and to work,’ says Lauringson.
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Taschen Illustration Now! #5
Eiko Ojala Draws with Light By Anneliis Aunapuu / Photo by Atko Januson
Eiko Ojala, who is only now starting to make a name for himself in Estonia, has already collaborated on a variety of projects as an illustrator, with a huge number of well-known global players appearing on his resumĂŠ.
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New York / Affina Hotel Manhattan
PORTFOLIO_EIKO OJALA 51
Maori / Field Magazine
The Duke of Burgundy
The New York Times / Sunday Review
Vertical Landscape I
Estonian President's Christmas Card I
Have you noticed that the hysterical aggressiveness, once a distinctive feature of artists and musicians, is being replaced with something much mellower? Instead of dyeing one’s hair a spotted pink and picking fights on live national television, success is attained by composure and dedication to one’s work. Natural colours, a short haircut with a soft shape and a groomed beard seem to be the trend nowadays instead of a more edgy image. (I wonder how many pony-tails get chopped off on a daily basis!) One young man whose presence conveys such a sense of serenity, as he sits with his laptop in the café where we meet him, is Eiko Ojala.
content blinking in the middle of the images really make the point. It seems that there is a place in the expanse which hides the truth; to paraphrase the famous line from the X-Files, ‘the truth is IN there’... But how did Intel find Eiko Ojala? He admits that a lot of preparatory work was involved. ‘One has to work hard in advance so to say, so that people know what to expect. It is only then that some big contracts may come your way, which of course is quite daunting at first’. Such a feeling of fear and respect seems totally natural, considering that Estonia has a complex of being ‘too small’ and also suffers from the syndrome of historical martyrdom.
An amazing grasp
Eiko Ojala has his own method of getting over the stage-fright – in his imagination, he blows up the shape of Estonia on the world map until other countries look small by comparison. The method of imagining one is bigger than in reality, is an application of the Munchausen principle (after all he pulled himself and his horse out of the ditch by his own hair!). So it seems quite normal then for Eiko to sit somewhere in the countryside and create work for global players.
Among the publications which have featured Eiko Ojala’s illustrations are The New York Times, The New Yorker, Wired and various French and German publications. He can be seen on websites like It’s Nice That, iGnant, Trendland, Fubiz, Etapes, etc. He has worked for the Victoria & Albert Museum, created the cover image of the illustration collection Taschen 2014, and developed amazing visuals for the giant US corporation Intel (see the entire list and images at www.ploom.tv). One of his more prestigious credits to date is the title ‘Young Gun 2013’ from the American Art Directors Club. We start off with talking about his series of images which really impressed us – the “#lookinside“ visual of the Intel campaign at the Las Vegas Fair of Electronics CES 2014. The spaciousness of the twilight blue background and the golden
Reinventing the wheel It turns out that his creative methods make Eiko more of a soloist than a team-player. ‘For as long as I can remember, I have been the type who sits and does something on my own,’ he says adding’ I have always religiously protected that part of my day which I can devote to my own projects. Those are really necessary moments when I can do things which noone has ordered from me. New things can only be born this way. When you work under a contract you can only continue to produce stuff you have already made.’
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Life-long learner Although Eiko claims to be a life-long self-learner, he has also received plenty of formal training. First he studied interior design at the Academy of Arts, but the ‘real’ world grabbed him early and he worked for several advertising and design agencies, refining idea generation and image design. Seven or eight years ago he decided ‘to take a break from all kinds of creative work’ in his words, and went out to the wide world, to seek his fortune ... or to find himself as they say. Having ended up in Australia, he got homesick after a while. Spurred by this longing, he decided to put on an exhibition of portraits of his good acquaintances. Giving up creative activity was not so easy to do after all.
Graspers I, II, III I
As a child Eiko played around with paper and scissors, but ever since there was a computer in the house, he has sat in front of the screen inventing and discovering opportunities in digital art. Growing up with an architect father, it is understandable that a sheet of paper was something mysterious and full of promise for the boy. Hence his works praise paper without having anything to do with paper physically – a paradox with a touch of irony. The sense of irony pervades Eiko’s ideas, which are sharp and metaphoric, ranging from the grotesque to the caricature, from the symbolic to the iconic. From contemporary Estonian artists, a similarly powerful and clear sense of meaningful imagery is only found in Kaido Ole’s works (see Life in Estonia Winter 2012/2013-ed.). At the same time, Eiko’s works often have a soft sense of flow – they don’t jump at you, which does not take away from their depth.
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First he had to create a recognizable style in order to get a good result. After he developed the style, he started to make illustrations in order to practice it. The illustrations were initially only for Estonian publications, but soon there were the first orders from other countries. ‘I like the thought that one does not have to seek recognition in life; one just has to work so well that recognition will follow,’ Eiko reveals the secret which has allowed him to remain so modest.
The process I ask about his whole work process. Although the result is a digital piece of art and there is no physical original with fingerprints or brush strokes, the creative early phase – sketching on paper or doodling in the notepad – is a very important process for Eiko. Any kind of creative process needs drafts, he says. When you are sketching a draft, your thought appears on paper, just like a photograph used to emerge in the darkroom. ‘The thought is born in your head, then it moves along your body into the heart, into the hand, into the pencil and then onto the paper,’ he explains. ‘As it moves, it develops, sometimes leaving a part of itself on the way, but mostly growing in volume and nuances. The aim is to reach a symbolic image, which is free of everything superfluous which would get in the way of conveying the idea.’
Next the artist works on the computer, combining the sketch with digital opportunities, using the options different programs allow and sometimes also fusing with photographed details. Everything serves the aim of applying the illusion. He is not so demanding when it comes to technical resources, sometimes he is able to manage without the mouse or a digital pen, manipulating only with the finger pad of the laptop… ‘On the plane, for example,’ he explains.
Captivated by nature The Australian period lasted for almost a year and a half. During this time he also managed to visit New Zealand. That was a turning point in a sense because, as he says, he fell in love with the nature there so much that upon his return to Estonia he started to study to become a nature tour guide. The former city boy became a real nature devotee! Later he enjoyed working as a nature tour guide by the RMK (State Forest Centre), thereby having the opportunity to study the forest and human beings in depth. Several of Eiko’s pictures also dwell on human beings and their relationship with their surroundings. He likes to use the symbolic human shape in positions or situations which in some wonderfully round-about way depict something important. Something which cannot be retold in words. The message is delivered by characteristic lights and shadows, clear colour surfaces which come to life through captivating spatial illusions. Eiko’s approach to shapes and colours is that of a designer, not that of a painter. The general palette of his works is like a pastel page in a textbook of colours, yet the shades which are formed as the ‘edges of the paper’ come forth, are calmly grey. The artist himself likes a comment made by an acquaintance saying that he ‘draws with light’.
Intel: Shell, Paint, and Fortune Cookie I
This is how our reality works in the broader sense – everything which exists becomes visible thanks to light – albeit in contrast to Eiko’s pictures our reality itself is physically 3D. Eiko sometimes yearns to escape into the real 3D world and a great place to take cover is the summer cottage he has set up in Palamuse together with his mother and brother. He especially likes to be there in the winter, but then he has to find a balance between survival activities, enjoying nature and being busy creating something. It seems quite natural to imagine him in the middle of white, untouched snow, like a sheet of paper soaking up the serenity of dormant nature.
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I CREATIVE ESTONIA Six years is baby age for a lingerie company, says lingerie designer Kriss Soonik-Käärmann (31), who shares her life between London and Tallinn, returning to Estonia more or less every six weeks. She sketches her designs on stick figures in her London home office and subcontractors in Estonia produce the lingerie.
The Designer Behind the CoolBrand
By Piret Järvis / Photos: private collection
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“The last time I was in Tokyo I had to spend an hour taking photos with fans of my label. They all wore my designs and bought incredible amounts of stuff on the spot. It was like a dream! I have never experienced anything like this before,” says Kriss Soonik-Käärmann, the founder of Kriss Soonik Loungerie. Kriss was describing her recent visit to Japan, one of the fifteen countries where the luxury lingerie range produced in Estonia is sold. Most items are sold in London, New York and Tokyo, and 80 per cent of the turnover comes from shops, not online sales. It is nothing sort of a miracle that Kriss Soonik-Käärmann (31) has become a lingerie designer whose creations have adorned the pages of Vogue, Elle, GQ, Esquire, Cosmopolitan and many other prestigious magazines and worn by the Bond-girl Berenice Marlohe, American soap star Mischa Barton and the pop singer Miley Cyrus. Her brand has been listed twice in the British list of “CoolBrands”. As a little girl in Tallinn, Kriss – today based in London – dreamt of becoming a tram driver! In school she excelled in maths and chemistry and went on to study business administration at university before completing her MA in fashion marketing.
that I want to create something by myself hit me in the final school years when I created a collection for a school fashion show. But at that point it was too late to think about applying to the Academy of Arts and studying design because I could not even draw at that time! But as it all clicked into place I already liked the fact that I was not purely a creative type. I like doing maths and chemistry and being creative at the same time. The one does not contradict the other and I like the balance which I can really use in my line of work today.
Why did you decide to design lingerie instead of evening gowns or jackets for example?
How did it come about that an Estonian girl with both feet on the ground and who was good at science subjects became a world famous lingerie designer?
As funny as it sounds, I haven’t got a clue. But I have my own theory: I was named after the 70s tennis star and my father’s favourite player Chris Evert. And of course I had to take tennis lessons as a kid. When I realized towards the end of my high school years that I will never be a great tennis player, I swapped that hobby for fashion, organizing small fashion shows at birthday parties for example. Years later in London I was skimming through lingerie books in the library looking for ideas, when I suddenly saw a photo of a tennis player wearing frilly undies which kind of looked like my design. Then I read it was Chris Evert. He is considered to be the first person in tennis to start wearing more cheeky clothes. In that moment I thought, it is probably true that I was not meant to be a tennis player but a lingerie designer.
I went to a so-called elite school, where there was not much emphasis on developing one’s creativity. On the contrary, it was kind of discouraged. For example, I liked to make a statement with my clothes and I was often criticized in school for my trousers being either too wide or too long. With hindsight, I realize that it was a way of self-expression for me throughout the years, when I excelled at maths. The realization
But on a more serious note, it all kind of happened intuitively, almost by chance. It felt like so many evening gowns and jackets were already being produced in Estonia. When I started there were so many good fashion designers around that nobody would have taken me seriously. Therefore I am happy that it turned out this way, as lingerie is a niche product and with outer clothes I probably would not have made it so far.
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I CREATIVE ESTONIA
Which side of you dominates at the moment? Are you more of a designer or a businesswoman? My company has been in business for six years now. For a while I was definitely concentrating more on sales and PR, but now I am more focused on designing. At the end of the day, the product is the most important thing. But I really love the fact that I can do both. Sometimes it is a hindrance to be too aware of the sales figures, to know what sells and what doesn’t. This can hamper creativity, because you start thinking in terms of designing something that will definitely sell. After all, why would you design something that does not? Large fashion houses have their separate catwalk collections which are totally different from what they sell in retail stores. But as small producers we cannot allow ourselves the extravagance of creating two separate collections. Hence we balance in between wanting to sell and wanting to be special. Finding the balance is the main challenge.
You said you cannot draw. How have you managed to make it in the design business without this skill? I am really unable to draw! For example I do not draw people in my sketches, just stick figures. But where did I get the courage and impetus to try designing without the skill of drawing? I moved to London ten years ago where, in parallel with my MA studies at the London College Of Fashion, I worked for two different lingerie companies. Back in those days, I met various designers and many of them had no fashion education whatsoever and it really surprised and shocked me to see the amazing works they were creating. Vision is the most important thing. It is essential to surround yourself with the right people, people who will help to implement your vision. Giorgio Armani is also unable to draw by the way!
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What makes Kriss Soonik’s lingerie different? First the fact that my designs are not only meant to be worn under other clothes. My designs can also be worn on top. Sometimes in the shop you look at lingerie and think ok I will go and seduce my man once, but that’s it. How many times do you do it whilst wearing the same thing? But in the case of my products you can decide to wear an item in another context, perhaps as a top or body. Hence the word “loungerie” in our brand name - an amalgam of “lingerie” and “lounge”. Another detail characteristic of Kriss Soonik Loungerie is angular bows on bras and knickers. Our tops have holes on the back and, for example, the broad band under brassieres and on the waistlines of the knickers is also something typical. I also use a lot of jersey, which is quite unexpected for a luxury label. We don’t produce uber-feminine stuff, but show things from a slightly goofier and more natural angle. The poses are not those of a sexy pinup girl, but the kind of images where the woman does not really know that she is sexy. We create stuff for ordinary women who want a little bit of a special edge in their life. But it is nothing which smoothes, shapes or pushes. Our lingerie is supposed to be comfortable. It is chique rather than sexy.
Talking of compliments, which nice words have really touched you? The biggest compliment for me is that people are willing to spend their hard-earned money on our products. The fact that they return and buy more – that they are not just one-off customers. This matters the most to me and I am unable to express it in words. I almost had a heart attack when I found out that we were listed in the British “Cool Brands” of 2013/2014. Being on the cover of “Vogue” and other fashion mags has been great but we worked really hard to get there, sending information and introducing ourselves, meeting people. So it had to happen at some point.
You are an Estonian designer and you produce in Estonia, even though you have lived in London for the last decade. To what extent are your designs a reflection of your roots? I think the same use of jersey really reflects my background as it is unusual for luxury brands to use this material. Instead they go for silk, lace and such like. But I have grown up with Marat underwear (a factory in Estonia when it was a part of the Soviet Union – ed.) and it has left its mark. And our most popular product is actually the jersey suspender top which has long sleeves and a turtleneck.
But when I received the phone call telling me that we are listed in the “CoolBrands”, I was in total shock. I remember I was in front of ‘TopShop’ on Oxford Street in London and I thought I was gonna be hit by a car. It just got all a bit blurry. Madam V and Agent Provocateur had both made this list when I used to work for them, and I remember what a huge deal it was for them. I always used to look at those books and think, if I do create my own brand in the future, I will aim to get on to the list as well some day. But I never thought it would happen in five years. I thought one has to be much bigger than that. It is interesting that we are again on the list in 2015/2016. We missed a year but now we are back which is cool, but this time I am already able to take this achievement much more calmly.
People are prepared to go through all sorts of trouble to get their hands on it. I know of all sorts of long and complicated routes people have taken before finally ending up on our website to buy that top.
What other hit products do you have? There are some hit products which have become part of our classical collection. People seem to like everything that is black. Our lace- and ribbed jersey items are the kind of products which are bought regardless of the season. At the same time when something is fashionable it does not really benefit us. One of our main products is a lace triangular bra with a broad band underneath. When we came onto the market there were no similar products around. Then suddenly these types of bras became hugely popular. And when you have to compete with H&M who sell a similar product for a few Euros, you have nothing else to do but to admit defeat. Our sales dropped significantly after that.
Did it seem that the popular giant brand stole your idea on purpose? Yes I believe it might have been the case. But there is nothing one can do about it. As long as they don’t put the angular bow on their products, it is all fine. We have to be one step ahead but it is difficult. We are too small to jump up and down and say we did it first. But we can also take it as a compliment.
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I CREATIVE ESTONIA There are a gazillion lingerie brands in the world. What do you think lies behind the success of your brand? Perhaps it was a question of timing. For example, the branding and our approach to it was quite unique six years ago. Today there are many commercial photos with the same concept, but back then the standard was a pretty woman striking a sexy pose and smiling alluringly, and this sold underwear. From early on we never wanted to sell our product through sex. We have emphasized playfulness, cuteness, and the power of women. The fact that many other brands either stopped or took out everything interesting from their collections may have also worked in our favour. After all it was 2009 and the economy was really in free fall at the time. I believe another factor is the fact that I have always thought commercially but also wanted to create something which I like myself, something special. I am the kind of customer who looks for something special and I always asked myself why there are not enough special things out there. I still believe that what I do is not meant for mass consumption. We are not creating in order to show someone what a great turnover we have. I do it because it comes from my own being, it is part of me. I design my things and sometimes I even know what I should change in order to open some doors. But I do not go down that road on principle, because I want to stay faithful to my brand.
If producing for the masses is not something you dream of, then what will be the next big step for your label? If I wanted a small and stable business, it would be a relatively good time to dedicate myself to designing. We are in the position where stores approach us and we do not have to go out of our way to introduce ourselves or offer our products. It would be enough to make a living as we are. But of course there are bigger dreams. We have not managed to break into the larger department stores in Europe and the USA. In Japan we have succeeded in breaking out of the boutiques, but this is not the case in other countries at the moment. At the same time, we really do not want to become a mass product as noted. The department stores I have in mind are like Selfridges in London â€“ they are also exclusive in the same way that boutiques are but they have different customers. Customers of boutiques are very specific types. If you go to a lingerie boutique, you are going with the purpose of buying lingerie. But many of our products are not underwear in the traditional sense, which is why I would like it to be accessible to people who visit department stores and then happen to find our products. It would bring us a new type of customer. In a sense I keep telling myself to enjoy what I have. First, it is doable with such a small group of people; we can pull it off and a larger bite does not necessarily make you happier or more content. But six years have already left their mark. I have put a lot of my youthful years into the business and there comes a point when you ask yourself am I willing to carry on like this for another six years or do I want to make some changes. It is a time of discoveries. But it is a fact that I will continue to do what I am doing!
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KRISS SOONIK KÄÄRMANN Born 26 August 1983 in Tallinn 1991–2002 Tallinn English College 2002–2005 BA in Foreign Languages and Business Administration, Estonian Business School 2006–2007 MA in Strategic Fashion Marketing, London College of Fashion 2005–2008 work for the lingerie companies Madame V and Agent Provocateur in London 2009 launch of Kriss Soonik Loungerie 2013 nominee for the Estonian fashion design award Hõbenõel 2013/14 British design award CoolBrands 2014 Winner of the Estonian fashion design award Kuldnõel 2014 BPW Estonia Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year 2015/2016 British design award CoolBrands
You were born and grew up in a very different environment to your current home. You come from a country with just 1.3 million inhabitants, which is six times less than the population of London. To what extent has your background influenced your activities? My background has definitely been to my advantage. For example, the other brands who I started together with in London and who had already been in business for a couple of years by then, had not done business outside the UK. The mere thought of succeeding with their product in another market seemed just scary to them, whereas in my case, by moving to the UK, I had already gone through the stage of adjusting to another country – for them it was something new. For them it had always been logical to go to the next street and show their collection and watch doors open. Coming from Estonia, I had to work really hard to establish myself in the UK and it has therefore subsequently been much easier to enter other markets. I never had the illusion that some doors would just magically open. And yet they did. Often some businesses tend to think that others will do their job for them. I know that whether it is London, New York or Tokyo - I have had to fight everywhere.
Is there something about living in the UK which you never get used to? Perhaps something which is really far from Estonian mentality? Yes, everything is so slow. When you open a bank account or want to sign up to an Internet service provider, it is amazing how complicated and slow things can be. That is really something I haven’t got used to even in ten years. Of course these things have also developed, but it will take a long time for the IT-state to reach the level that it is Estonia.
And although I have always liked English manners, let’s be honest, sometimes it goes way out of proportion. Although Americans hide behind their “keep smiling” attitude, there comes a point when they turn to specifics and for example if they do not want to buy your product, they will tell you why. They are open. But the Brits never say either “no” or “yes” to you. Everything is somewhere in the middle. They manage to pull you in and then honey words. There is a point where there can be too much politeness, in my opinion.
And what do the Brits think of we Estonians? Everyone believes we are very slow and I keep fighting this stereotype. I do not believe in it. Perhaps they mix us up with the Finns! And often they do not understand my sense of humour. Theirs is different. Our humour tends to be drier and more ironic. British humour is also ironic, but when we make comments they do not always understand whether we are joking or making an insult or what is going on!
You live together in London with your husband Kristo Käärmann, the founder of Transferwise. How does your family keep alive Estonian traditions in your home? There is always black bread in our household! I think even Estonians at home do not even eat as much black bread as we do in London. Since I travel to Estonia about once a month, I always take black bread back with me. But when we crave something more “typical”, we can buy things at ‘Polish’ shops. For example I go there to stock up on kohuke (Estonian sweet curds – ed.)!
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A Creative City
in the Middle of the City By Piret JĂ¤rvis
Believe it or not, the biggest concentration of creative and cultural activity in Estonia does not take place in the UNESCO heritage-listed Tallinn Old Town or the Estonian educational capital Tartu. The buzz of creativity and culture is instead found in an unexpected place â€“ a collossal, old, industrial complex where a railway factory had been founded nearly 150 years ago, and which used to be an electronics plant during the Soviet occupation! Jaanus Juss
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These days over 200 different creative companies – art and photo studios, design bureaus and handicraft workshops alongside band rehearsal rooms, shops and eateries, and even two theatres as well as a bicycle workshop, bread factory and a concert hall – are based in the former factory buildings in Tallinn. This pulsating, creative artery of the town is called the Telliskivi Creative City! ‘We are very proud of the fact that some components, although really tiny ones, were made for the Sputnik satellite in our building!’ says one of the founders and Executive Director of Telliskivi Creative City, Jaanus Juss. ‘In the early 1990s, as Estonia re-established independence, the factory was privatised. In 2006, this attractive piece of property, located just a short walk from the Tallinn Old Town as well as the sea, was bought by the real estate fund where I used to work,’ explains Juss, shedding light on the back-story. ‘The initial plan was to demolish all the old buildings and to build apartments and office spaces instead, but the plans stalled as the economy went into decline [during the global economic downturn of 2008-2010],’ he continues. ‘Around the same time I used to take part in Berlin marathons and in the evenings it was great to explore the squat houses there. This is when I began to think that we could do something similar in Estonia, but in more a controlled way. This is how I got started from scratch back in 2007,’ recalls Juss.
Black Nights Film Festival as the first tenant ‘It took quite a long time until we found our first courageous tenant. Because back then the rooms of the A-hall, which are all rented out today, were deserted. There were no windows and moss was even growing on the floor! The Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) was the first tenant to “brave” these conditions, and I will be forever grateful to them. They took a look at the third floor of the A2 building – it had an empty floor downstairs and the roof was leaking. And in the middle of this dilapidated building they took the one section which became a sort of oasis which we then renovated for them. They are still our tenants today,’ says Jaanus Juss. The Director of the Black Nights Film Festival,
Tiina Lokk, confirms that moving from a classical office building to this vastly different space did not go smoothly: ‘As the other tenants arrived much later, we paid for the electricity bills in this entire, huge building for a long time! Everything around us, the corridors and the building itself, were freezing. It was no sweet life but the offices were nicely renovated and corresponded to our needs back then. We were really very happy.’ Of course the unexpected choice of office location caused much excitement with festival partners. ‘We communicate with representatives of many countries and they often visit us at work for meetings or discussions. It was funny to see their reactions when they arrived. We did explain where we were and what used to be here, but they really had to pull themselves together to maintain a sraight face,’ laughs Tiina Lokk recalling the early years. ‘Other tenants started to come on board because they wanted to be close to the Black Nights Film Festival. Such larger and more interesting companies have so-called satellites who collaborate with them and want to be near them. So the ground floor was rented out in about half a year. We started working on the upper floors then until at one point we realised we had a catering problem – there was nowhere to eat lunch. This is how the first restaurant, F-hoone, was born! At first it seemed like a risky undertaking, but we got the same team on board who ran the popular Von Krahl bar in the Old Town. Together with them, several Von Krahl afterparties moved here and today we all know that it is sometimes very difficult to get a seat at F-hoone during lunchtime and in the evenings too,’ relates Jaanus Juss happily.
Only creative industry companies as tenants Telliskivi Creative City operates on an area of 25 000m2, which includes nine different buildings. Not all of these buildings are filled with creative tenants at the moment but not because there are not enough interested parties. On the contrary, demand for renting spaces at Telliskivi Creative City is huge, and not everyone will succeed in getting in. ‘We have several larger spaces still available and 30-40 interested parties have been here to see them. Unfortunately nobody until now has seemed perfect. It is like choosing a life
partner. With some people you just feel that everything is right. And we will not give ourselves to the wrong suitor,’ explains Jaanus Juss about the criteria in choosing tenants. He adds that today it is not enough to have the title ‘creative company’ in order to rent a space here. ‘Today eight out of ten companies who want to rent a space are creative companies. It is our mission to look which one of these will complement the existing creative city, because everyone should add something to the existing space. We prefer slightly smaller companies. Several larger companies wanted to rent the entire building in one of our red buildings which we are planning to start renovating. We would prefer to see 20 small businesses there; some musicians, some dancers, a few architects, a handful of designers. This would enrich the environment. At the end of the day we look at the people and expect them to share the same values as us. We do not have a checklist of criteria but we go by a gut feeling. They should definitely be on our wavelength. So yes we choose our tenants with great care.’ Maiken Staak, a fashion photographer who has been working in the Telliskivi Creative City for some years, is one of the lucky creative souls who have gone through the tough selection procedures. She co-rents a studio with three other photographers. ‘It is a great advantage of the creative city that today everything you need is right here. You can eat in different places during the day, you can park safely, and when you say to people that your office is there, they are impressed: “really in that hipster place?” This attitude has really changed in the last few years, as seven years ago this place was a ghetto and nobody knew anything about it,’ says Maiken. The acclaimed fashion photographer enjoys the special environment of the Creative City, the synergy with other entrepreneurs and the frequent cultural events: ‘Jazzkaar took place at the Vaba Lava (Open Space) theatre hall, which was cool. Life was totally crazy then! And the theatre known as Erinevate Tubade Klubi (The Club of Different Rooms) is great. I have also photographed there. We use their hall and wall made out of green plants. You can find very special locations here. What is great about working here is that people are really friendly and helpful. For example at the home decoration shop HomeArt, coffee is cheaper for our own people. Such small things make this place really special!’
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Places to visit at Telliskivi Creative City: Erinevate Tubade Klubi (Club of Different Rooms) Theatre performanes, live multimedia shows and special events at the Telliskivi Hall. Vaba Lava (Open Space) The theatre house Vaba Lava was established with two aims: first to provide opportunities for both established and emerging independent companies in Estonia and second to promote international cooperation organizing joint projects, co-productions, workshops, and seminars. Vaba Lava is the first theatre centre of the kind in Estonia, since the concept of a theatre without its own resident company is new to us. JOOKS Rattastuudio JOOKS is a bike shop which is no regular shop. In addition to a broad range of quality design bikes, it is a meeting place for biking enthusiasts. A workshop is opened from mid-July and it is possible to drink coffee, have a snack and participate in biking events. Les Petites Les Petites is a boutique of Estonian design and vintage. Its product selection includes a range of accessoires, design- and vintage clothes, decorative elements, Scandinavian reused furniture, crockery and other goods. The shop has a pop-up corner, which offers a different selection every season – bike sale, Estonian designer clothes, art galleries and other interesting products.
Unique in the whole world According to Jaanus Juss, a similar space for cultural industries located in a large industrial complex does not exist anywhere else in the world. ‘I am not aware of a similar place in Berlin – there tend to be more individual creative spaces there. Mostly we are talking about one building. Also in Helsinki there is the Kaapelitehdas–a former cable factory– but that is similarly just the one building where creative companies rent rooms. London has Camden Market, The Old Truman Brewery and Brick Lane. There are various buildings there which have a similar kind of style, but they are not a unified territorial entity. We have nine buildings, which is already a small city,’ says Jaanus Juss. ‘And we do kind of see ourselves as a separate city. We are sometimes jokingly suggesting that we could change the traffic direction here and introduce left-hand traffic as in the UK, in order to emphasize that we are a city within a city. That we are a separate creative city or an oasis.’ The fact that this micro city within the capital city already has a real impact on its surroundings – first and foremost on the Kalamaja area where it is located – has been proved by an MA research thesis carried out two years ago which revealed that 100 per cent of the local residents believe that the Creative City
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has positively influenced cultural events in the area; 98 per cent think that the Creative City has positively influenced the reputation of and cultural consumption in the area; 89 per cent think that the Creative City has helped raise quality of life in the area, and 76 per cent believe that the Creative City has increased security in the area! The oldest limestone walled buildings in the Creative City were built between 1869-1871, when the Baltic Railway Factory was operating there. The reconstruction works in later years took place in 1958-1962, when the railway factory was replaced by the Kalinin Electrotechnical Plant. Renovating the buildings for the creative industries today is done in a way which aims to maintain the historical and industrial environment of the area as much as possible: ‘We go to a lot of trouble in order to maintain our heritage. To make sure that the industrial environment does not disappear. One of the biggest mistakes that can be made is just to renovate everything – plaster the walls to make them straight, instead of restoring the original old walls. Our renovation style means that we paint the walls white and change the windows. And people like it that the cables are still visible on the walls and we haven’t hidden them. The overall impression is kind of raw but it is cool and it suits the location.’
Pop-up shop: Tallinn Craftory Tallinn Craftory produces unique handmade leather products – purses, mobile pockets, business card holders and so on. Artproof The Artproof fotolab is specialised on printing and refining large-scale photographs, which are of gallery quality. There is a shop called ArtPrint shop located in the Artproof rooms and open on weekdays from 10am to 6pm.
Graffity by Hopare on the wall of the restaurant Lendav Taldrik
The crazier it is, the better it fits One of the newest tenants in the Creative City, Tanel Tatter – owner of the locale Kivi Paber Käärid which offers gluten-free cuisine – confirms that he really values the approach to the renovation of the Creative City: ‘As we entered the rooms we immediately sensed the 1960s vibe. In order to maintain it, we left the original colour on the walls, we didn’t patch it all up and we also left the remaining broken tiles visible.’ Tanel Tatter says that a lot of work went into the former side facilities where the rest- and washing rooms of the production workers used to be, because the building had not been in use for years: ‘The state of this place was horrible before we moved in, the rooms had really been abused. Telliskivi Creative City had to put a lot of effort in before renting out the rooms to us. All the floors were dug out and cleaned and insulated, many walls were taken down as the room used to be divided into small sections. We also restored the windows, which had been walled in during the Soviet era and created some additional door-windows in order to make the place feel larger.’ ‘We do not use architects, only engineers. For example, if a tenant wishes to have a large window, we need to make sure that the ceiling will not fall in because of it. But we do not use an architect who
Coffee Angels coffee shop Coffee Angels coffee shop offers coffee, tea, hot chocolate, refreshing cold beverages and snacks either to be consumed in the shop or as a takeaway. The focus is on healthy products and the coffee beans are organic. would only tell us what the window would look like,’ explains Jaanus Juss, continuing to introduce the unexpected renovation policy of the Creative City. ‘For example the tenants of the black house, which has offices on two floors, wanted to have small square windows. An architect who sometimes consults us said that those will not fit the neighbouring building at all. We explained that the tenant’s wish is our command! The fact that it will not be a match with the building next door is actually good. We do not want all of it to look the same. The crazier it is, the better it fits’ he goes on. ‘It would be really great to get some more graffiti,’ says Jaanus Juss with enthusiasm. ‘It is coming along slowly, but it is not something you can order because, when you do, it would be like hunting at the zoo. It is just not right. A good example is the work of the French street artist Hopare, on the wall of our restaurant Lendav Taldrik. Hopare is currently one of the most popular graffiti artists in the world with over 50 000 Facebook fans. It is great because we did not contract this work, it just appeared there. But it would be nice to have more graffiti. At one point we thought that we have a black wall here and we could put up a sign saying you can only stencil here. Let’s see what happens. If someone writes something rude, we can always repaint and wait for a better creative outburst,’ he laughs.
Homeart Homeart is an interior decoration shop offering Nordic home design, cool kitchen accessories, crockery, lighting, furniture, plants and much more. It is also a cosy cafe and a place to just chill out. Retro Osakond (Retro Department) The shop sells stylish Scandinavian furniture from the 1950s-70s. It is possible to purchase totally renovated Scandinavian design gems and furniture still in need of renovation. Arte Kunst ja Hobi ARTE is an art supplies shop which sells paints and art supplies to artists, hobby artists and children. Products for home decoration, DIY kits and handicrafts are also available.
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EATERIES: F-hoone (F-Building) Good food, plenty of drinks, beautiful space and lovely people. Kivi Paber Käärid (Stone Paper Scissors) With its 100 per cent gluten-free cuisine, the restaurant offers a simple but fresh approach to healthy eating and pure joy in the edgy Telliskivi Creative City industrial milieu. Foody Allen Foody Allen is the first Estonian street food restaurant operating in the Open Space theatre house. In keeping with its name, it is happy to carry out cooking experiments which fit well with theatre, music and cinema. Lendav Taldrik (Flying Saucer) Good, authentic Asian cuisine in a former Soviet industrial building which has been turned into a modern city restaurant.
Home for festivals There is no lack of creativity in the Creative City. Last year 700 000 visitors came to the venue. This year is set to be even more successful. ‘We just ran the Telliskivi Dance Festival, which was really popular. We also have the Tallinn Street Food Festival, which we organise ourselves. Last year we hoped for 3 000 visitors at best, but nearly 15 000 people came to this event! And it is set to grow this year,’ says Juss adding that organising large festivals is vitally important for them.
Pudel Baar (Bottle Bar) The most intriguing, world-class beers and production from small breweries is on offer here – hand-brewed beer by brewers who are true to their craft. Beers are available on draught as well as in bottles. Frenchy Frenchy is a unique restaurant in Tallinn, dedicated to French wine culture and cuisine. Bueno Gourmet Latin-American style warm gourmet sandwiches are on the menu at Bueno. Reval Café Tasty baked goods straight out of the oven, a diverse menu and wine selection and affordable warm daily specials. More information about summer events can be found here www.telliskivi.eu
‘We do not use real estate agents or advertise ourselves. All our advertising happens through the activities which take place here. We make an effort to get many people to come here. An example of the events we have run from the very beginning, which have always brought masses of people, are flea markets. Every weekend they bring approximately 3 000-4 000 people.’ Jaanus Juss emphasises that the Creative City is really worth visiting also for tourists. It is not only meant for local artists. ‘One should really keep an eye on our events. Free Stage for example has many foreign-language plays. The work with a curated program and many groups from abroad come to perform here. And our large summer festivals like the Street Food Festival are big events, bigger for example than the one which takes place in Helsinki. Whenever you just happen to come by, there are many exciting
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restaurants, all selected to offer different kinds of food. We also have frequent exhibitions. The program is packed. Last year we held over 300 cultural events which means there was something almost on a daily basis. It is just a cool place to hang out.’
What does the future have in store for Telliskivi Creative City? ‘We have no plans for new buildings; in 15-20 years it would be nice to have the same creative city here. It is developing gradually, organically. In which direction, depends also largely on the tenants as they shape our face,’ explains Jaanus Juss. ‘We hold ourselves back on purpose, as we don’t want the space to develop too fast, because it may turn to the kind of expensive area where real creatives can no longer afford to be in or want to be in. The kind of space where artists come first, then followed by hipsters, then the artists leave and we raise rental prices. Today we keep it down by force and keep the artists here with our low renting costs. Many of them pay the same rent they paid seven years ago when they first moved in. We don’t see ourselves as real estate developers, but more as gardeners. You sit next to your plant bed and wait for the plant to grow its roots. We are the environment where a fragile but great creative idea can get rooted. We provide the soil, some water and sun and hope that it will survive. We have been lucky to see some voluptous plants grow over the last few years.’
Tallinn Lennart Meri Airport: The Cosiest Airport in the World! It’s 4am, I have just landed in Tallinn, starving … Where can I grab a bite, everything is closed for the night, isn’t it? ... Wait! What does that sign say? – ‘For late travellers! Make your own sandwich. Put the money into the jar and make the exchange. Self-service.’ This really is the sweetest touch I have ever seen in an airport – a table in the terminal with everything needed to make a sandwich should you arrive late and hungry. This might be what you think upon arrival at Tallinn Airport. Surprises are in store for first-time visitors and for those who have been here many times before alike. Our airport always has some cool surprises, whether a library, a ‘postcard aquarium’ or uplifting messages on toilet doors and mirrors such as: ‘Is it the sun or did you just smile?’ or ‘Did you check your zipper?!’ or ‘Possibly the most effective remedy for snoring is a tennis ball sewed on the back of the pyjamas top’. In fact the subheadings of this article are borrowed from the restroom doors and walls of the airport too! Tallinn Airport IS the cosiest and coolest in the world. You better believe it!
By Marika Makarova Photos by Feliks Laasme, Martin Ojala, and Mihkel Maripuu
But what is this special spirit floating about in the passenger terminal, which causes even Estonians – quite untypically one might add – to sing the praises of our airport? With the guidance of Erik Sakkov, Member of the Management Board of Tallinn Airport, Life in Estonia looked around to find out.
‘300 000 to 1 is the chances of a baseball fan being hit by a baseball at a game!’ ‘The airport is almost like a maternity clinic – people are excited and in a good mood, either because of meeting their loved ones or due to a spate of travel fever. We want to make everyone feel at home by offering a comfortable and safe space, where everyone is eagerly awaited and received with hospitality. As it is impossible for us ever to become the largest airport in the world, we can at least aim to be the cosiest,’ Erik Sakkov introduces us to the concept of ‘The Cosiest Airport’, which was born back in 2010.
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29 Summer Destinations in 21 countries Amsterdam (Estonian Air), Athens (Aegean Airlines), Barcelona (Ryanair, Vueling), Berlin (airBaltic, Estonian Air), Bremen (Ryanair), Brussels (Estonian Air), Copenhagen (Estonian Air), Dublin (Ryanair), Frankfurt (Lufthansa), Girona (Ryanair), Helsinki (Finnair), Istanbul (Turkish Airlines), Kiev (Estonian Air), London (EasyJet, Ryanair), Manchester (Ryanair), Milan (Estonian Air, Ryanair), Moscow (Aeroflot), Munich (Estonian Air), Nice (Estonian Air), Oslo (Estonian Air, Norwegian, Ryanair), Paris (airBaltic, Estonian Air), Riga (airBaltic), Split (Estonian Air), St. Petersburg (Estonian Air), Stockholm (Avies, Estonian Air), Trondheim (Estonian Air), Vienna (airBaltic, Estonian Air), Vilnius (airBaltic, Estonian Air) and Warsaw (LOT Polish Airlines) 2 Domestic Destinations: Kärdla and Kuressaare (Avies) www.tallinn-airport.ee
Last year the web portal ‘The Guide to Sleeping in Airports’ ranked Tallinn Airport among the top 10 in Europe. The airport, which services two million passengers per year, has been having a tough time competing against airports servicing 30m passengers, but we have succeeded! Why could we not become the biggest airport at least hypothetically? ‘According to size, which is measured by the annual number of passengers, we rank approximately 350th in the world. But there are tens of thousands of airports in the worldwide. As of 1 January, 2015, the population of Estonia is just over 1.3 million. So it does not matter how well we service our customers or how many flight routes we open, with just two million passengers per annum we simply cannot compete with the 30-50m passengers catered to by large European airports. To the people who ask me how we could make our airport grow, I usually respond with the joke ”go home and make four children each and then in twenty years we will get a better result, but which will still be weak”,’ laughs Sakkov.
‘High-heeled shoes boost a woman’s self-esteem and mood’ If we look at those figures in relative terms, 2m passengers for 1.3m inhabitants is by far not something to be ashamed of. According to Sakkov, this positions us somewhere in the middle of the rankings. But when it comes to direct connections, our results are low indeed. When travelling to or from Tallinn Airport one generally has to board more than one flight.
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A national airline, such as Estonian Air, is very important for an airport in terms of direct connections, size and perhaps even national pride: ‘If Riga didn’t have airBaltic, Riga Airport would be even smaller than Tallinn Airport in terms of passenger numbers. Unfortunately Estonian Air is a small airline, only flying to 17 destinations from Tallinn. Last year, 537 000 passengers travelled with the airline, forming 27 per cent of the total number of passengers of Tallinn Airport,’ comments Sakkov. Improvements at Tallinn Airport have been especially noticeable since 2012 when Tallinn Airport hosted the route development forum ‘Routes Europe’, with 900 European aviation key decision-makers from 25 different countries. ‘Our aim was to show Tallinn as an attractive destination with friendly people. The best outcome is the change in attitude towards Estonia as well as the fact that just a year later Turkish Airlines started its flights to Tallinn,’ says the marketing genius who was elected the tourism promoter of the year for the superb organization of the event. Tallinn Airport was awarded the international Routes Airport Marketing Awards For Excellence in Airport Marketing as well as the local Conference of the Year 2012 Award. By the way, to greet the participants of the forum approximately 2 000 choir singers, all volunteers, gathered at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds to give a mini-concert ‘Let’s sing ourselves off!’ – another flash of wit from Erik ‘Musician at Heart’ Sakkov!
‘Fencing is the only combat sport with no weight class ...’ Indeed, Tallinn Airport is the air gateway to a small but eager country. We cannot make an impact on size, but we can compensate with our generosity, friendliness, cosiness and hospitality and by offering a comfortable and enjoyable space.
‘In our experience nobody has abused this generosity by eating everything or taking too much with them. Sometimes it happens that someone makes a sandwich and does not leave any payment in the jar, but others contribute more than enough thanks for feeling grateful. The most important thing is that people can get something to eat even if it is 4 am,’ explains Sakkov.
‘A lady’s handbag harbours an entire world ...’ Tallinn Airport has nine eateries and 11 shops. All of them have great names: the ‘Kohver’ (Suitcase) Café, ‘Rosin’ (Raisin) Wine Bar, ‘Tuulelohe’ (Wind Dragon) sushi and Asian food bar, a shop to buy Estonian souvenirs, food, hand-made sweets, jewellery and clothes called Hää Eesti Asi (Good Estonian Stuff) or ‘Sokisahtel’ (Sockdrawer) for, as its name suggests, socks and hosiery or there’s also Riidekapp (Wardrobe) for clothing and accessories...
Did you know that there is a self-service-based, 24/7 operating Library From Passenger to Passenger at Gate 1 where you can choose any book either to pass the time while waiting for the flight or take it along on a trip and return when coming back or even fetch it home to finish reading and bring it back some other time? Cool, isn’t it? ‘Estonia is so small that we are like one big family. So why shouldn’t the family have a joint bookshelf?! We asked people to bring their books to the airport library and write inside either the signature of the owner or a wish for the next reader or names of places the book has visited. And if you really love a book, you can keep it and replace it with another one. We had no way of knowing what would happen and if people would go along with it, but we decided to try,’ says Erik Sakkov, who has been to most airports in Europe and never seen anything he would really like to copy in Tallinn, instead preferring to come up with original ideas. ‘Now the library has taken on its own momentum. Recently we received a parcel from Amazon with the letter saying “I took a book from you, but now I am in the States and will not return in the near future, so I decided to send you my favourite book”.’ Anyone can leave a book for the airport library either at the information desk in the open area of the terminal or in the basket at the library itself.
A similar feeling of trust and a sense of caring can be felt at the Nightime Sandwich Table, situated between Gates 2 and 4, which serves fresh bread, cheese, ham, lettuce, cucumber and such like, as well as water to drink.
Yet these are not the only attractions of the world’s cosiest airport. Since 2014, there has also been the airport mobile app, which provides round-the-clock information about your flight and everything else going on at the airport. Although the goal was to reach 10 000 downloads in three years, the figure already reached 7 000 in the first three months! In the same year, all seats within the Schengen zone area of the airport were covered with joyfully stripy material, usually reserved for Estonian national costume skirts, and the walls of the men’s toilets look like something out of a comic book. ‘Did you check your zipper?’ is one example of the latter! And when you take a photo of yourself in front of Gate 5, the 3D image of an Estonian marsh on the floor makes it look as if you are really walking in a natural bog … only with luggage!... The music playing in Tallinn Airport adds another special touch – it is on principle only Estonian music and played by the Estonian internet radio. ‘The fact that people like our airport translates into concrete economic results. In the six years when I have worked here, profit per passenger at the airport has doubled. People understand that beer is expensive at the airport, not because we are greedy but because it makes it easier to host new airlines and open new routes when we can bring in more revenue. The beauty of the game is in the fact that grateful passengers who enjoy the free attractions of the airport, are paradoxically more likely to also spend money,’ says our guide, light-heartedly making a serious point. ‘The airport uses the money to make it cheaper for airplanes to land here and to offer more planes and travel opportunities to people.’
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Facts and Numbers • Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport is the largest airport in Estonia. • Located 4km from Tallinn city centre. • The airport has one landing strip with the length of 3 070 m and width of 45m. • The three-storey passenger terminal has 27 ticket registration desks, 14 gates, 9 of which have passenger bridges, as well as 3 belts for arriving baggage. • In 2014, Tallinn Airport serviced 2 017 371 passengers. 46% were business passengers and 31% holiday passengers. 87% were travellers with regular airlines. 56% of passengers came from Estonia, 7% from Russia, 5% from the United Kingdom, 4% from Sweden and 4% from Norway, with 25% from all other countries. • The shareholder of Tallinna Lennujaam is the Republic of Estonia. • As of 2014 the airport employed around 600 people.
The general trend of European airports is to lower the airport fees charged to airlines. In order to avoid losses, non-aviation opportunities such as rent income, concessions paid by lessees, parking fees and sale of other airport services have to be invented. Tallinn Airport earns 40 per cent of its revenue in airport fees and the remaining 60 per cent in non-aviation income. That on its own is considered to be a very good indicator.
‘Everyone smiles in the same language’ What other exciting things are available at the airport? For the smallest travellers there is the Children´s Play Area, Leiutajateküla Lotte named after Lotte from Gadgetville, one of Estonian children’s most favourite cartoon characters, where the wall is designed with Lotte im ages, screens within a three-story playhouse running Lotte movies, and desks with Lotte colouring sheets awaiting mini artists. You, the parent, can at the same time explore the business card wall, leave a card there yourself or take away one which catches your eye. Sakkov says that the number of business cards on the wall is growing fast. People have been considerate – they often do not take cards away but photograph them, as other people may also need the same contacts.
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How many other airports in the world receive cards from travellers saying: ‘Hi, I arrived!’? The two postcard aquariums of Tallinn Airport – two huge glass boxes – exhibit cards which have arrived from all corners of the world. One box contains postcards from Europe and the other box cards from the rest of the world. You may want to send one yourself to this address: Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport, Tartu mnt 101, Tallinn 10112, ESTONIA.
The Postimees newspaper area is where you can lounge around on soft seats and read the Postimees online newspaper on a tablet, whether in Estonian or Russian. Or you can fold some paper planes and make a secret wish if you prefer! The newly-introduced specially-designed gate called Work in Estonia has a different mood, calling talented people and specialists to stay and work in Estonia. Estonia is after all a start-up country in need of more ‘brains’.
‘Jeans are the global national dress’ Everybody knows that an airport is not only a strictly closed passenger area but also an open departure area. Citizens of the European Union, European Economic Community or Schengen member countries with biometric passports and aged 15 and over can use the convenience of the automatic border control system. Kohver Café
When hunger strikes, you are welcome to visit Kohver Café, which is one of a kind in offering a cozy and unusual interior with suitcase-tables and a twisty selection of coffees and teas. Last but not least, the locallybaked fresh cinnamon buns are the best in the world! Of course there is also the business lounge, with the only sun deck terrace in the airport and an open-air smoking corner, heated in winter, as well as a small library and computer workstations. Soon, instead of just a shower you will be able to go to a sauna, the window of which will overlook the terminal. You can look out but nobody can see in. And even if you do not have a business class ticket or loyalty program card, you may visit the business lounge for an extra charge.
In order to make waiting times for people in the arrivals hall shorter and more interesting, they also have something to see. Art lovers may stroll around the open Art Gallery located on the first floor of the airport, which has a changing exhibit. The Linda Corner on the ground floor tells the story of the mother of the hero of our national epic ‘Kalevipoeg’. The ancient legend tells the story of the mourning mother, who brought large rocks to her husband Kalev’s grave, which formed the upper town of Tallinn – Toompea. But the exhausted Linda dropped one rock. She sat on it and cried about her unhappy fate, and from her tears the nearby Lake Ülemiste was formed. There are two footprints on the floor and when you step into them and look through the yellow frame on the window towards Lake Ülemiste, you can see the Linda rock described above. There is also a figure of Linda in the hall, which brings good travel fortune when touched. Or this is at least what the modern airport legend claims!
Those longing for even more privacy, comfort and a personal touch – to start or end either a vacation, business trip or honeymoon – can choose among various different possibilities offered by the VIP Service. This service is not only meant for high officials. Everyone who wishes to be pampered in the VIP section, is welcome here. And it goes without saying that there is free unlimited WiFi all over the passenger terminal– this was already here way back in 1996! –, a Skype video booth and 14 internet kiosks around the terminal in case you have left your laptop behind.
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The best place to kill some time whilst waiting for an incoming flight is the Welcome Café in the arrivals hall, where one can look through the glass wall to the baggage claim area and let the people you are waiting for know that you are already there! Enjoy the food on the colourful ethnic sofas next to some birches, either an English or an Estonian breakfast, soup or salad, the best coffee and an exciting selection of teas and pizza made in the stone oven that the hosts themselves call Ferrari because of its Ferrari-red colour.
‘A pearl necklace is a bit of luxury in every day.’ ‘We have high-flying plans for the future. In 2016, Tallinn Airport will celebrate its 80th birthday. We have a fascinating history, which you can currently get a glimpse of on the photos displayed on the wall of the Legend pub. For the jubilee we plan to open a museum-entertainment centre with a permanent exhibition, in order to introduce the history, technology and activities of the airport. In addition there will be an opportunity to hold picnics whilst planes take off and land over your head and also a platform where you can see the runway and take photographs,’ explains Sakkov with excitement.
The passenger terminal will undergo some construction works to enable even more passenger comfort, the flight paths will be expanded and there will be a tram line from city centre to the airport as well as a parking house. ‘The non-Schengen area will be turned into a forest with birdsong, an ant ‘farm’, real trees, tree stumps, rocks and bog areas. The aim is to introduce one of Estonia’s riches – the forest – from all its aspects. At the moment we are still brainstorming with partners what should be done and how. There are all sorts of thoughts: larger than life boardgames, a smoking area with tar covered logs and so on. The aim is to offer activities to grown-ups and children alike,’ Sakkov is bursting with impressive ideas. You should arrive at Tallinn Airport a few hours before your flight in fact, as there are many exciting things going on. You never know what the next surprise will be. The legend of the Old Man of Ülemiste, according to which the construction of Tallinn should never be finished, also applies to the airport! Lennart Meri
Lennujaam – Lennu’s airport In March 2009, Tallinn Airport was named after the first president of the newly independent Estonia, the late Lennart Meri, and was officially called Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport. Unofficially though it still goes by the name ‘Lennu jaam’ (two words) – a beautiful play on words as Estonians dearly called, and still do, Lennart Meri ‘Lennu’. However the word ‘lennujaam’ (one word), means ‘airport’ in English, can in Estonian be interpreted as ‘Lennu jaam’ – ‘Lennu’s Airport’. Lennart Meri was a man of wisdom and intelligence with a warm-hearted, boyish and extravagant character. In 1997, after returning from the state visit to Japan, he famously held an impromptu post-visit press conference in the public toilets at Tallinn Airport to reveal their dismal condition and highlight their being a remnant of Soviet times. How many presidents are there who, whilst in the Oval Office at the White House, dare to draw a cross on the globe belonging to President Bush Senior in order to mark a good fishing river in Kamchatka! Yet Meri did just that: ‘The President is a highly-skilled fisherman and loves to fish for salmon. He asked about great fishing spots and I made a cross with the pencil on the spot where I had caught my largest salmon. He was thrilled. The following March he started to talk about fishing again … I pointed it out that someone had carefully erased the cross from the globe. The President then gave me his pen and said: “Make a new cross, there is nobody here who would erase a cross which I have made,”’ Lennart Meri recalled. He was a scholar, writer, film director and a brilliant statesman. Born in Tallinn in 1929 to an Estonian diplomat Georg Meri and an EstonianSwedish mother Alice-Brigitta Engmann, he was educated in Berlin, London, Paris, and was fluent in Estonian, Finnish, French, German, English and Russian.
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After the Soviet Union annexed Estonia in 1940, Georg Meri was sent to a labour camp in Moscow, whilst the rest of the family was deported to Siberia where Lennart worked as a lumberman, potato peeler and rafter. In 1946, the family was reunited in Estonia, which had since become a Soviet republic. In 1953, Lennart Meri graduated cum laude from the University of Tartu as a historian and spent much of his professional life documenting the history and culture of the Finno-Ugric peoples – a lifelong affection that had already started in Siberia. In 1958 Meri wrote his first book. His most popular one ‘Hõbevalge’ (‘Silverwhite’) about the legendary land in the North, Ultima Thule, was published in 1976. His documentary ‘Linnutee tuuled’ (‘The Winds of the Milky Way’), released in 1977, was banned in the Soviet Union but won a silver medal at the New York Film Festival. Meri has also translated the works of Remarque, Greene, Vercors, Boulle and Solzhenitsyn. After the first non-communist-style multi-party election in 1990, Meri was appointed to the post of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In 1991, Estonia was declared independent again. In 1992, having been for a short period the Estonian Ambassador to Finland, Lennart Meri became the first President of the newly-independent Estonia. He was re-elected in 1996, constitutionally barred from seeking a third term, Meri left office in 2001. Lennart Meri died of a brain tumor in 2006, aged 76. The Airport passenger terminal has a bas-relief of Lennart Meri and the baggage claim area and the VIP lobby have murals of photos of him. Since 2007, the international Lennart Meri Conference, which has become the biggest security conference in the region, has been held annually in Tallinn.
Practical Information for Visitors
Visitors arriving in Estonia with visa must have national passports valid at least 3 months after their planned departure from Estonia. Children aged 7 to 15 years of age must have their own passport when travelling to Estonia or be registered in their parents’ passport, including a photo next to the name. Persons above 15 years must have a separate travel document with a photo.
Arrival By plane: The modern and user-friendly Tallinn Lennart Meri Airport is located just 3 km from the city centre and provides an easy access to most hotels and restaurants located in the city centre. Among other amenities, travellers have access to a free WiFi area in the
popular border crossing in eastern Estonia on the Russian border is Narva, located on the St. Petersburg-Tallinn road. Other border crossings with Russia include Luhamaa, Koidula and Murati. On the Estonian-Russian border, all traffic is subject to border formalities both when entering and leaving Estonia. By coach: When travelling between the Baltic states and nearby locations such as Poland and Germany, coach travel might be the most convenient option. Regular connections to Tallinn and Tartu depart from all major cities in the Baltic countries and St. Petersburg. Eurolines and Lux Express offer comfortable Riga Airport transfers from Tallinn, Pärnu, Klaipeda, Vilnius, Panevezys, and Šiauliai. Prices start from €20. By train: An overnight train service from Moscow to Tallinn is available.
For more travel details, please consult the sources below: www.visitestonia.com (Estonian Tourist Board), www.riik.ee/en. Tourist information centres are located in all larger towns. The Tallinn Tourist Information Centre in the Old Town is located at 4 Kullassepa Street - no more than 10 steps from the Town Hall Square (ph.: + 372 645 7777, e-mail: turismiinfo@ tallinnlv.ee). A wide selection of maps, brochures and publications in several languages (largest selection in English) can be found at local bookstores and tourist information centres.
Visa Estonia is part of the Schengen visa area, granting the nationals of EU and EEA member states free entry to Estonia. The required travel document for entry is a national ID card or passport. In addition to the citizens of EU and EAA states, nationals of numerous countries can extend their visit up to 90 days in any 6-month period. The required travel document for entry is a valid passport. A comprehensive list of countries is available at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website at www.vm.ee/eng. Citizens of countries not listed require a visa to enter Estonia.
transit zone. The airport’s 24-hour customer service telephone is +372 6058 888. Tartu Airport is situated near Tartu, hosting frequent flights to Helsinki. By ship: The Port of Tallinn, hosting over 6 million passengers annually, is undoubtedly the main gateway to and from Estonia. Large passenger ferries depart daily to Helsinki and Stockholm. Cruises from Tallinn to St. Petersburg depart less frequently. The 85-km TallinnHelsinki ferry journey takes approximately 2 hours, and slightly less by hydrofoils and catamarans in service from spring until late autumn. Travellers should note that different ferry lines depart from different terminals and harbours. The City Port with its four terminals is a 10-15 minute walk from Tallinn Old Town; the Paldiski-Kapellskär line uses the Port of Paldiski, about 50 km from Tallinn. By car: Visitors from Central and Western Europe can drive to Estonia via Latvia. Ikla and Valga border checkpoints greet travellers entering or departing the country. The most
Customs The limit on import of alcoholic beverages from outside the EU is one litre for beverages over 22% alcohol content, and two litres for beverages up to 22%, and four litres for wine. Import of tobacco and tobacco products from non-EU countries is limited to 40 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 50 grammes of tobacco products. Counterfeit goods, including pirated CDs, video and audio tapes, are prohibited by law. A special export permit is required for specimens of plants and animals of endangered species, protected species and hunting trophies (please contact the Nature Conservation Department, Ministry of the Environment for details). Articles of cultural value produced in Estonia more than 50 years ago also require special permits (please contact the National Heritage Board). We suggest travellers consult with the Estonian Customs Board help desk (ph.: +372 880 0814 or www.customs.ee) for details.
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Getting Around Estonia Inter-city public transportation Public buses are the easiest, cheapest and most convenient solution for visiting Tartu, Pärnu and any other larger Estonian town. Buses from Tallinn to Tartu depart in every 30 minutes and to Pärnu every hour. On weekdays, seats to these destinations are almost always available even immediately before departure (watch out for special events). For weekend travel or trips to more remote locations with fewer connections, it is advisable to buy a ticket in advance. The Tallinn Bus Terminal is located at 46 Lastekodu Street. The timetable is also available online at www.bussireisid.ee and ticket information is available by phone: +372 6800 900.
possible to rent the car in Estonia and drop it off at a rental agency in Latvia or Lithuania. The speed limit in rural areas is 90 km/h and in cities 50 km/h. In some areas the highway speed limit is increased during the summer months. Headlights and seat belts (front and back) must be on at all times. Acceptable blood alcohol limit in Estonia is up to 0.2 % BAC.
Local Transport Taxis: Taxis must clearly display their fares, driver’s taxi service licenses, and a meter. The initial charge for entering a taxi ranges from 2 to about 4 euros. Different taxi companies have different rates, but the average charge per kilometre is 0.5 euros. There is no additional charge for ordering the taxi by phone, and it usually takes the cab just five to ten minutes to arrive. All taxi drivers must give you a receipt (in Estonian, ask for “Kviitung, palun”). Locals usually give the exact fare and no tip. Public transportation: Tallinn has a public transport network of buses, trams and trolley buses. Schedules are posted at bus stops and tickets available at newsstands (the yellow and blue “R-kiosks”) and from the driver. Check the prices and timetable for Tallinn bus lines for any bus stop at www.tallinn.ee/eng.
Tickets for Visitors
Trains from Tallinn to Tartu leave 3-4 times a day, and it takes a little more than 2 hours to get to Tartu. The Balti Station is situated just outside the Tallinn Old Town and sea port, a taxi or tram No. 2 (from the port). Trains are comfortable and you can use WiFi in the first class.
Travelling by car Travellers hoping to see more of the country and the rural areas it would be best advised to travel by car. The roads are quite good and traffic is light. Crossing Estonia from north to south or west to east by car takes approximately three to four hours. All major car rental agencies have offices in Tallinn. It is also
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The Public Transport Card Ühiskaart may be purchased for a couple of euros. Smart card and e-tickets can be purchased from post offices and online at www.pilet.ee. Personalise the card for a small charge at the point of sale or for free at www.pilet.ee/yhiskaart. If you are using pay-as-you-go credit, your smart card automatically calculates the cheapest fare within the next 24 hrs (never more than one-day travel card). Validate your journey with the Ühiskaart immediately after entering the public transport vehicle. You can also buy tickets from kiosks and from the driver (single ticket €1.60 and student ticket €0.80). Try to have the exact change (cash only) when purchasing from the driver. The ticket is valid for one journey only in that specific vehicle. Discounts are available only for ISIC Scholar and Student Card holders. Holders of a validated TallinnCard are entitled to a free ride.
Accommodations All major hotels in Tallinn have been newly built or completely renovation in recent years. Despite annual additions to the number of hotels and rooms, it can nonetheless be difficult to find a hotel room on a short notice (particularly over the weekend). For the best selection, we urge visitors to Tallinn and the rest of Estonia to book hotel rooms in advance. For more details, see the Estonian Tourist Board website at www.visitestonia.ee.
Money Estonia uses Euro and Estonians are keen users of card payment facilities, with most hotels, stores and restaurants accepting Visa, MasterCard, Eurocard, Diner’s Club and American Express. Traveller’s checks can be exchanged in most banks but are less likely to be accepted in shops. Eurocheque is the most widely accepted traveller’s check, but American Express and Thomas Cook are also accepted. Banks can be found scattered around the centre of all major Estonian towns. Most banks in Tallinn are open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. on weekdays, while some offices are also open on Saturday mornings and offer currency exchange services. Exchange offices can also be found in larger hotels, the airport, harbour, railroad station and major shopping centres. ATMs are conveniently located around town with on-screen instructions in English, Russian and Estonian.
celebrate Midsummer Eve and the Victory Day in commemoration of the 1919 Battle of Võnnu, and June 24 is St. John’s Day (Midsummer). August 20 is the Day of Restoration of Independence (1991). December 24 (Christmas Eve), December 25 (Christmas Day) and December 26 (Boxing Day) are usually spent at home with families.
Saku and A. Le Coq. Saku is Tallinn-based, and its corporate colour is navy blue while A.Le Coq is brewed in Tartu and its colour is red. There are also many smaller breweries. A full list of Estonian beers is posted at www.BeerGuide.ee
The main drinks in Estonia are beer, wine and vodka. In the 1930s Estonian vodka made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the strongest vodka in the world (96º). Local brands of beer enjoy a very strong market position in Estonia. The two main breweries are
Telephones and Internet Estonian country code is 372. Dial 00 for outbound international calls. The GSM mobile phone system is available; please check compatibility with your operator. Public Internet access points have been set up all over Estonia. They are located in local libraries and post offices. There are over 100 wireless free Internet zones around the country, many of them in rather unexpected places - beaches, Old Town squares, stadiums, and concert halls.
Emergencies 112 is the emergency number for ambulance, police and fire department. The police can also be reached directly at 110. Emergency numbers can be dialled free of charge. Select pharmacies are open 24-hours-a-day in many major towns. The one in Tallinn is located at 5 Tõnismägi (opposite the Estonian National Library); the one in Tartu is located in the Town Hall building (Town Hall Square).
Traditional Estonian cuisine consists of simple peasant food, such as cottage cheese, potatoes and bread, all of which are still important components of the local diet. The Estonian dark bread is the main staple missed by Estonians abroad. Typical Estonian dishes do not feature prominently on restaurant menus, and traditional home cooking is more likely to appear at small eateries in remote areas.
Estonians celebrate January 1 as New Year’s Day, a rather slow and quiet day as people recover from the festivities. Shops open late and banks are closed. February 24, Independence Day, is celebrated with a parade of the Estonian Defence Forces at Vabaduse väljak (Freedom Square). May 1 is a bank holiday, similar to Good Friday and May Day. June 23 is the biggest holiday of the year as Estonians
Modern Estonian cuisine is based on the ageold tradition of locally sourced, pure ingredients, influenced by Scandinavian, German and Russian cuisines. Estonian culinary scene has been on the rise for about a decade now with new gourmet restaurants popping up frequently all across the country. The list of the top 50 Estonian restaurants can be found at www.flavoursofestonia.com
Spirits also include some traditional liqueurs. The famous Vana Tallinn (Old Tallinn) has a 45º alcohol content, and is coincidentally made from 45 ingredients - the recipe is known only to a handful of people. Indeed, the legendary 19th-century kristallkümmel (caraway liqueur) has made its long-awaited comeback. Estonian wines, made from currants or other local berries, are rather sweet. Wine lovers usually prefer imported wine, of which there is an ever-increasing selection at stores and vinoteks. A very popular and refreshing nonalcoholic drink is kali, made of bread, malt, rye or oats flour and yeast; it has a characteristically dark brown colour.
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Shops Quality handicrafts, designer goods and food are available at supermarkets and smaller boutiques in all larger towns. Typical opening times of supermarkets in Tallinn are from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Department stores close a few hours earlier on Sundays and, in smaller towns, may be closed on Sundays. Smaller food shops may have shorter opening hours. Some 24-hour shops can be found as well. Other shops usually open at 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.; they often close early on Saturdays and are closed on Sundays. Most shops accept credit cards, with the exception of smaller stores and stores in rural areas. Alcohol is sold from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Entertainment The entertainment scene in Estonia is vibrant year-round, providing visitors and locals alike with a long list to choose from. Concerts, festivals, theatre and parties – Estonia has it all. Opera and ballet theatres in Tallinn and Tartu offer world class plays for affordable prices starting as low as 10 euros. For more information on the concert schedule see www.concert.ee; the programme for the national opera is posted at www.opera.ee. Tickets can be bought at the box offices or via ticket agencies located in all larger supermarkets, or via Internet www. piletilevi.ee, www.piletimaailm.com and www.ticketpro.ee Even the most sceptical museum-goer is bound to find something intriguing in Estonia’s large selection of museums, which feature everything from history, art, photography to toys, chocolate, musical instruments, even wax figures and many other topics. Most museums are closed on Tuesdays and many on Mondays as well. It is advisable to have cash on hand as many museums do not accept credit cards. Tallinn is also bustling well into the night with booming and blooming club scene. Clubs are usually open and packed with energised vibes from Thursday to Sunday, with Friday and Saturday drawing the liveliest of crowds. In addition to local and resident DJs, clubs frequently present guest performers from London, the US and other club hubs. For those looking for a more mellow night on the town, Tallinn’s street are brimming with bars and pubs, many of which offer live music even on weekdays. Rather take in a movie? Films in cinemas are shown in the original language with subtitles.
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Souvenirs Souvenir and shopping preferences vary hugely but there are certain souvenir gifts that have gladdened many a heart. Estonian handicraft comes in many forms. There are woollen sweaters and mittens with local ethnic patterns, linen sheets and tablecloths, crocheted shawls and veils, colourful woven rugs, handmade jewellery and glassware, baskets, and an array of wooden spoons and butter knives made from juniper. Fine and applied art for show and purchase is on display at art galleries around the country, featuring graphics, glass, ceramics, hand-painted silk scarves and leatherwork. Various herbal teas from wild plants are available at pharmacies. Local honey – pure or flavoured, e.g. ginger, is another delicious treat. In rural areas, you may find hand-milled flour. And those who keep coming back swear by the Estonian black rye bread. To bring home local spirits, popular choices include Vana Tallinn or kristallkümmel liqueur or local beer. And there is no place better than Estonia to buy Estonian music.
Crime Although common sense is advisable in all destinations, Estonia gives no particular reason to be excessively worried. Do not walk the unlit and abandoned areas alone at night. Do not leave bags or items of value in the car, as not to tempt car thieves or robbers. Pickpockets may operate at crowded tourist destinations in Tallinn, so make sure your wallet and documents are stored safely.
Language The Estonian language is the only official language of Estonia and spoken by about a million people worldwide. Many people are fluent in English, particularly the younger urban generation. Knowledge of foreign languages is naturally a must for hotel staff and numerous other professions in the service sector. A great number of people also speak Finnish due to Finland’s close proximity and the great number of Finnish tourists. German is less widely spoken and Russian language is spoken mainly by the older generation. Estonians do not expect short-term visitors to master the local language. Still, local people are thrilled and pleased to hear a foreigner say “Tere!” (Hi!) or “Aitäh (Thank you) in Estonian.
Estonians Estonians are typical Nordic people – they are reserved, not too talkative and speak rather monotonously, with very little intonation. All this may give one the impression of coldness bordering on rudeness. But rest assured, this is not the case, and the speaker may actually be extremely well-meaning, even excited. There are several well-known Estonian sayings, such as “Think first, then speak”, “Weigh everything carefully nine times before making a move”, and “Talking is silver, silence is gold”. It is, therefore, no wonder that the people are not very good at small talk, do not waste too much time on grand introductions, and usually come straight to the point. This is why Estonians’ English may sometimes sound shockingly direct. There is, however, often a subtle irony involved in Estonians’ utterances - delivered with a serious face and just the slightest twinkle of the eye. Estonians are relatively individualistic. There is a saying that five Estonians mean six parties. Even though people agree on the final objective, they insist on reaching it in their own ways. Estonians also value their privacy. In the old days, it was said that the neighbour’s house was close enough if you could see the smoke from the chimney. Modern, tight-packed urbanites flock to remote countryside on the weekends to enjoy more space and privacy. Even though guests at birthday parties and concerts are rather quiet and subdued in the onset, they warm up eventually and turn into a direct opposite of their day-character, as you are likely to see in Tallinn’s clubs.
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