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NO 44 I WINTER I 2017

SPECIAL!

From Local To Global

Steve Jurvetson: Era Of Mental Horsepower

Taavi Kotka, A Man Who Thinks Outside The Box

Rainer Sternfeld Epitome Of The Global Estonian

Estonian Cuisine Delicate Signature Through The Palate of Lilli Jahilo of International Chefs

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


Taking the Leap Towards a New Global Nation The Estonian e-Residency program has seen remarkable success over the last year. How have we achieved this? Put simply, by operating like a startup – we work together with e-residents, we find out what their needs are and in this way can pinpoint the changes that are needed in legislation, processes and services. We are in the process of building the e-Residency ecosystem together with our clients.

COVER Rainer Sternfeld Photo by Atko Januson

Executive publisher Positive Projects Pärnu mnt 69, 10134 Tallinn, Estonia think@positive.ee Editor Reet Grosberg reet.grosberg@ambassador.ee Translation Ingrid Hübscher Language editor Andrew Whyte Design & Layout Positive Design Partner

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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

One of the biggest developments of this year is that e-residents (and also the physical residents in Estonia) do not need to visit a bank office in order to open a bank account in Estonia; as of spring 2017, opening a bank account via a video call will become a reality! This means that one will be able to open a bank account from a foreign country, or from their living room, without the need to travel to Estonia itself and wait in line at the bank. The goal of all this is to make things faster and more convenient for e-residents, but also maintain the necessary security. Through cooperation with the private sector, in 2017 we are due to start opening new foreign representations around the world, where individuals can apply to become an e-resident. This means that e-residents will be able to collect their e-Residency cards from more locations around the world than previously had been the case. One of the main benefits that e-Residency offers is the ability to sign documents digitally and authenticate oneself online. Estonians use digital signatures on a daily basis; in fact digital signatures have been around for over a decade. Now as a result of the eIDAS regulations, electronic signatures are to be accepted across the EU and will have the same legal weight as their physical counterparts. So an Estonian e-resident is also an e-resident of the EU! We have also added a number of new services for existing e-residents. Thanks to the company registration API, it is now possible to open a company through a service provider’s website via a much more simplified procedure. The first company to have launched this is www.leapin.eu – try it out yourself! According to the noted venture capitalist and one of the first e-residents Steve Jurvetson, in the information age, small countries such as Estonia have advantages they have never had before. Being a small and relatively new country has enabled us to create ground-breaking innovations such as digital signatures, e-voting, e-prescriptions and so on. It has also allowed us to experiment with initiatives such as e-Residency, which currently enables other people and countries to follow Estonia’s course and use the systems and services that that we have developed. Dear e-residents, we hope that after the work we have done within the two years of launching the program, we have proven to you that we care about you, listen to you, and as a result make your digital lives better. Therefore, we hope that you will stay with us and help us to build together a new global nation for all our global citizens! Kaspar Korjus e-Residency Program Director

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Where to Go This Season? Life in Estonia Recommends

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News & Events

What were the reasons behind the decision made by Taïg Khris, a former French extreme sports star, to come to Estonia and establish his company Onoff Telecom here?

COVER STORY

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French Extreme Sports Star Revolutionizes INNOVATION the Mobile World 30_

The Global Estonian

‘There’s not enough of us to have the luxury of being just local Estonians,’ claims entrepreneur Rainer Sternfeld, himself an epitome of a global Estonian. For this reason he started the eponymous podcast ‘Global Estonians’ last summer, with the ambitious aim of interviewing one hundred transnational Estonians across the globe as a contribution to the 100th Anniversary of the Republic of Estonia in 2018. LAND & PEOPLE Taavi Kotka: EU Needs to Think Out-of-the-Box With a New Discipline to Remain Competitive

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Forgot Your Glasses?

Glens ‘backup’ reading glasses designed in Estonia fit anywhere, are practically unbreakable and cost so little that you can own as many pairs as you need. SCIENCE & EDUCATION

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Meet Estonia: A Robotically Transformative Nation!

Just as Skype revolutionized the way we communicate and TransferWise found a way to break worn patterns in the financial world, Estonia is about to make a transforming difference in the dynamic field of robotics too: more and more Estonians are thrusting their hands deep into the wiring and metal of robots.

One month before he is set to leave office and return to the business world, Taavi Kotka − the Estonian Government’s CIO and one of the initiators of e-Residency − talked to Life in Estonia about the need for the European Union to invent an entirely new discipline in order to stay competitive.

ECONOMY & BUSINESS Proekspert’s Amazing Journey: From Software to Design

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STATE AND SOCIETY

‘We Are Entering A Time of Mental Horsepower.’ 25_

Interview with venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, the first VC investor in Baidu, Hotmail, Skype and NeoPhotonics, is convinced that we are entering an era of mental horsepower. Everything which helps startups to prosper, helps a small country to prosper.

Leonardo Ortega: Work in Estonia Experienced 27_

Albeit Work in Estonia is a relatively new program, it has already managed to establish itself as one of the main promotional tools for working and living in Estonia. It’s not just words and a website though and with one of their most recent hires – Leonardo Ortega – Work in Estonia is showcasing just how firmly they stand behind their message. 4

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Proekspert came away from this year’s Enterprise Estonia Entrepreneurship Awards as Design Applier of the Year, and was shortlisted for Company of the Year. Life in Estonia looks into how Proekspert arrived at these laurels with the help of Kaja Kruus, user experience designer, and Taavi Aher, designer at Proekspert.

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Alunaut Expands its Product Range, Increasing its Share of Working Boats

For Alunaut, the year 2016 was a difficult one, but now luck has turned. In 2017, new boat models AC-18CC, AC-18XC and Alunaut A6 RIB are due to complement their product range. These new boats will be exhibited at the Düsseldorf, Helsinki and Tallinn maritime trade fairs.


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Saare Yachts Continues Under German Ownership

Last summer the company Saare Yachts went under German ownership and put its biggest model to date − 46-foot Saare SC − on to the sea. The new model will also be exhibited in Düsseldorf and the company hopes it will be their new success story.

TOURISM

German Michelin Star Chef Exploring Nordic Islands’ Cuisine in Tallinn 68_

Tucked away in a secluded medieval courtyard, is the latest best-kept secret in gourmet Tallinn, Alexander Chef’s Table – the winter home of Alexander Restaurant of Pädaste Manor, on Muhu island. Chef de Cuisine is the eight-Michelin-star chef Matthias Diether who has managed gourmet kitchens in Dubai and Scotland before moving to Berlin, where he founded his signature restaurant, First Floor, in 2010. Since January 2016, he is Chef de Cuisine of Alexander Restaurant.

The Role Model for the Estonian Wooden House Industry 48_

There are currently 140 companies in Estonia producing and exporting wooden houses, mainly to Scandinavia and Central Europe. Nordic Houses was one of the first to spot the endless demand of Nordic countries for holiday cabins and to bring together two things − high quality Estonian timber and its export to comfort-loving Norwegians.

Estonia’s 30 Best Restaurants Are Listed in White Guide Nordic 72_

Boasting strong traditions from different regions, the Estonian gastronomy scene is remarkably colourful. Estonia has also enjoyed recognition on the European high-end gastronomic chart. As of October 2016, Estonia’s 30 best restaurants have been listed in White Guide Nordic. Get acquainted with the TOP 10. CREATIVE ESTONIA

PORTFOLIO Lilli Jahilo: Feminine Strength in Estonian Design 50_

Lilli Jahilo, this year’s winner of the most reputable fashion award in Estonia, Kuldnõel, is living proof that it is possible to practice haute couture in Estonia. Exclusive custom-made clothing is made from start to finish in house, under the watchful eye of the designer. Experienced and highly skilful tailors give special attention to hand-made details and the quality of the finished garment.

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Outdoor Winter Adventures

When temperatures plummet and Estonian landscapes transform themselves, with ice and snow abounding, unique sporting conditions appear. As Estonians have done for centuries, visitors can also experience skiing, skating, sledging and snowshoeing across the sparkling winter scenery. Whether you are a traditionalist, an adventurer or a discoverer, you can explore the diverse regions and untouched wilderness of the country.

Kaspars Putnins − a Blessing for Estonian Contemporary Composers in an Era of the Individual Voice 64_

The double Grammy-awarded Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir has been the beacon and benchmark of Estonian professional choir music since its founding 35 years ago in 1981. Since the 2014/2015 season, Latvian conductor Kaspars Putnins has joined the creative journey of the choir, putting a strong emphasis on new repertoire especially by Estonian composers.

Events in Estonia: Highlights from January to March 81_

The late winter and early spring season in Estonia is the perfect time to enjoy not only world class sports events but also big international music events. Take a look at the highlights in the following months.

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I WHERE TO GO THIS SEASON

Chief Conductors Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir 35

Paul Hillier Night Songs Galina Grigorjeva Nino Janjgava Sofia Gubaidulina Roxanna Panufnik

GISELLE 24.03 at 7 pm St. John's Church, Tartu 25.03 at 7 pm St. Nicholas' Church, Tallinn

Ballet by Adolphe Adam Premiere at the Estonian National Opera on April 7, 2017

www.epcc.ee, www.concert.ee

Choreography: Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot Choreographer and Stage Director: Mary Skeaping (England) Staged by Marilyn Vella-Gatt (England) Conductors: Vello Pähn, Lauri Sirp, Kaspar Mänd Original Designs:  David Walker (England) Designs recreated by Alex Lowde (England) Since its premiere, “Giselle” has inspired generations of choreographers and has become the epitome of romantic ballet. It was immediately declared not only a worthy successor to the ballet “La Sylphide” but also “the greatest ballet of its time”, wonderfully fusing music, movement and drama. Inspiration for the ballet came from two ghost stories – Victor Hugo’s poem “Phantoms” and Heinrich Heine’s “On Germany” that were integrated into a mysterious and sublime plot. A betrayed and broken heart drives the virtuous village girl Giselle to her untimely death. In the moonlit forest, she joins the world of the vengeful spirits of abandoned brides, the Wilis.

The ballet’s lively colourful first act and the following “white” act captivate the audiences for over 170 years. Its charms can be summarised with the words of a great 20thcentury choreographer George Balanchine: “Like “Hamlet”, “Giselle” is a classic… people go to see “Giselle” and to see ballerinas dance it for the same reason we go to see new interpretations of “Hamlet”… we always discover something in it we had not seen before.” www.opera.ee

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Photo by Liina Viru

When Giselle’s repentant lover Albrecht visits her grave, only her undying love can save him from the Wilis’ bewitching, deathly dance.


LE NOZZE DI FIGARO Comic opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Premiere at the Estonian National Opera on February 3, 2017

Conductors: Risto Joost, Vello Pähn, Lauri Sirp Stage Director: Marco Gandini (Italy) Set Designers: Maria Rossi Franchi (Italy), Andrea Tocchio (Italy) Costume Designer: Simona Morresi (Italy) “Le nozze di Figaro” follows the Almaviva household through a single turbulent day as the Count’s page Cherubino fools around with the gardener’s daughter Barbarina, but adores the Countess, who loves the Count, who goes after Susanna, who is engaged to Figaro, who has promised to marry Doctor Bartolo’s wife Marcellina, who is old enough to be his mother… and all this on the eve of Figaro’s marriage! “Le nozze di Figaro” was Mozart’s first collaboration with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. They would soon create “Don Giovanni” and “Così fan tutte”. Lorenzo Da Ponte adapted Pierre Beaumarchais’ controversial play that at the time was banned in Vienna due to its scandalous portrayal of servants outwitting their aristocratic masters. But Da Ponte focuses less on the original satire and more on the timeless issues of the comedy genre. Following its successful Viennese premiere, the opera became a major success when produced in Prague a few months later – a triumph for Mozart that led to the commission to write “Don Giovanni”. Mozart’s score is sunny and sublime with a bubbling overture, brilliantly crafted arias and animated ensemble scenes that won the hearts of its early audiences. Encores became so numerous that after the work’s third performance the emperor allowed encores only for arias to keep the performance to a sensible length.

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A former state official from Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, was elected the first female president of Estonia in the Riigikogu (parliament), resolving a political stalemate that had seen six previous candidates unable to garner the required support. Kaljulaid was a non-partisan candidate endorsed by all six parties represented in the Estonian parliament. Being the sole remaining candidate, 81 MPs out of 101 cast their votes in her support. The 46-year old is the fifth president of Estonia since the position was inaugurated in 1938.

Former European Auditor Kersti Kaljulaid Becomes First Female President of Estonia Born in Tartu, the second largest town in Estonia, in 1969, Kaljulaid graduated from high school in Tallinn, where she was a member of the students’ scientific association, specialising in ornithology. She got her degree from the University of Tartu in biology and later supplemented her education by obtaining MBA in business management at the same university.

Politically, Kaljulaid has defined herself as a liberal conservative – she has spoken in favour of conservative economic policies, but at the same time has liberal ethical agenda on many social matters, such as LGBT rights and immigration. Kaljulaid has promised to ‘talk to people’ across Estonia. ‘I want to listen to the people who live in different corners [of Estonia], and are disappointed in the political parties and political and public affairs in general,’ says Kaljulaid. Kaljulaid has said that the role of the Estonian president was to ‘be present wherever things are getting complicated.’ ‘The president will not be able to provide a solution to every issue in Estonia, but to be able to recognise, understand and communicate the problem is already a huge step toward a solution. This can be done and the president needs to do this, responsibly and impartially,’ she says.

Kaljulaid worked as a sales manager at the state-owned telecom company, Eesti Telefon, before moving into investment banking, and ended up as an economic adviser to Mart Laar’s administration in 1999. In 2002 she was appointed the director of the state-owned Iru Power Plant, before moving to Luxembourg in 2004 as Estonia’s representative in the European Court of Auditors. She held that post for more than a decade.

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Photos by: SCANPIX

Kersti Kaljulaid is married and has four children, two from her first marriage, and two from her second. She is also a grandmother.


Anita Krohn Traaseth, CEO of Innovation Norway, pointed out at the official opening that Norway has a lot to learn from Estonia

New Enterprise Estonia Office in Oslo to Strengthen Business Ties between Estonia and Norway With Estonian companies’ growing interest in the Norwegian market, Enterprise Estonia opened a new office in Oslo, where a team of two export advisers and an investment representative will advise Estonian companies on entering the Norwegian market as well as raising the Estonian business scene’s profile with Norwegian investors.

Estonia as an example for Norway in IT innovation The oil industry has reached its peak and Norway must find new sustainable industries to pursue. Anita Krohn Traaseth, CEO of Innovation Norway, pointed out at the official opening that Norway has a lot to learn from Estonia and should follow Estonia’s lead in developing new technology for both private and public sectors.

Head of Enterprise Estonia foreign representation, Kristel Oitmaa (on the right) is convinced that the new office in Oslo will create a strong link between the two countries

Innovation Norway, the Norwegian counterpart of Enterprise Estonia, has similar ambitions for Norway’s development to those which Enterprise Estonia has for Estonia. The support and recognition Innovation Norway has demonstrated towards Estonia is how all Norwegian companies should see Estonia: as one of the most modern, innovative and technologically advanced countries in the Nordic region.

‘So far, the Estonian construction sector has seen the most success in exporting to Norway, but we are now seeing a growing market for Estonian products and services from other sectors as well. The new office in Oslo will create a strong link between the two countries and allow us to provide top quality service for both Estonian and Norwegian businesses,’ says Kristel Oitmaa, head of Enterprise Estonia foreign representations. According to Geir Eckmann, investment representative in the newly opened office, Oslo is one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe, welcoming 15 000 new companies a year, many of which are involved in new technologies and innovation. The key to Norway’s partnership with Estonia lies in Estonian companies entering the local B2B arenas in Oslo and all over Norway.

According to investment representative Geir Eckmann (in the middle), the key to Norway’s partnership with Estonia lies in Estonian companies entering the local B2B arenas in Oslo and all over Norway.

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Enterprise Estonia, e-Residency and Tallinn Music Week hosted the official opening party, ‘Enter e-Estonia’, at the international technology conference Slush in Helsinki, Finland. The event featured thrilling live acts and DJs from both sides of the Gulf of Finland, the most innovative Estonian tech companies, and the best of Estonian cuisine.

Estonia kicks off the international tech conference Slush, with the Estonian President inviting all participants to become an e-resident

Estonian President Ms Kersti Kaljulaid’s opening speech

The President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid addressed guests at the opening ceremony, calling on business people around the world to take advantage of Estonia’s e-Residency program, a program which enables everyone in the world to securely identify themselves online, open and run location-independent businesses, and take advantage of a marketplace of services specifically for e-residents. ‘Even though there are only a little over a million of us, thanks to Estonia’s capabilities, we can make ten million payments, perform ten million requests and sign ten million contracts in just ten minutes. Even countries ten times our size cannot beat us,’ Kaljulaid said.

‘But the good news is that it is possible to join our exclusive club of digitally empowered citizens. Each of us has been given up to 100 years to live on this planet – why not use that time more efficiently?’ she asked, inviting everyone to become an e-resident of her country.

Estonian President Ms Kersti Kaljulaid at the e-Estonia stand

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Slush participants were able to apply for e-Residency on the spot

Founder and CEO of startup funding and trading engine Funderbeam, Kaidi Ruusalepp, discussing the Estonian startup ecosystem with Herty Tammo, founder of the region’s leading startup accelerator, Startup Wise Guys.

According to e-Residency Program Manager Kaspar Korjus, the opening party was nothing short of awesome. ‘This party is already a legend at Slush. It feels good for a country to offer something beneficial to the citizens of other regions. This event was something bigger than just another party. It was a loud and clear statement, made at one of the mightiest tech events in the world to keep your eye on Estonia!’ Korjus enthused.

The opening event drew nearly 1 500 visitors. The international crowd, represented mainly by Slush conference delegates – investors, speakers, journalists, startup- and music entrepreneurs – included several global Estonians, such as venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, supermodel Carmen Kass and conductor Kristjan Järvi. Jurvetson, the US venture capitalist of Estonian descent, and the first non-European citizen to become an Estonian e-resident, said he was a proud son of Estonian parents:‘e-Residency makes it easy for anyone in the world to invest in the innovative startup ecosystem in Estonia.’

Estonian President Ms Kersti Kaljulaid and venture capitalist and e-resident Steve Jurvetson cutting the e-Residency’s 2nd-birthday cake

The night’s music program featured exciting live acts from both sides of the Gulf of Finland – godfathers of Estonian indie, Röövel Ööbik, post-pop producer Mart Avi and electropop act NOËP from Estonia; the reverend of Finnish underground, Timo Kaukolampi, rapper Noah Kin and one-man indie-cabaret ‘Melting Hearts’ from the Finnish side. The rhythm of the night was also boosted by the central characters in Helsinki’s club scene – Lil’ Tony, Joose Berglund, Sirkku Haikonen, Feniks Willamo, complemented by Estonia’s finest DJs Raul Saaremets, Sander Mölder, Liisi Voolaid, Alari Orav and Jan Tomson. In addition to hosting the official opening party, Estonia showcased its e-solutions and startup community at the ‘Enter e-Estonia’ stand, where all Slushers were invited to learn about the world leading Estonian esolutions, apply for e-Residency and explore the endless possibilities of the Estonian startup scene.

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’Recognising entrepreneurs for their contribution into the society has always been important for the Chamber,’ said Toomas Luman, President of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. ‘With giving these awards we recognise the best and set them apart as role models, but on the other hand this is our way of expressing our respect towards all entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial people, irrespective of their scope or area of activity,’ Luman went on. ‘We have always supported promoting entrepreneurial thinking among young people and we hope that the tradition of the Young Entrepreneur Award will help us in fulfilling that aim even better,’ he concluded.

Best Estonian Companies 2016 Revealed The title of the Company of the Year 2016 was awarded to engineering industry company Hekotek AS. The Company of the Year was selected from among the winners of the Entrepreneurship Award, organised by Enterprise Estonia (EAS) and from the Estonian Companies’ Competitiveness Ranking organised by the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The nominees for the Company of the Year title were Eastman Specialties OÜ, Hekotek AS, Proekspert AS, Estonian Cell AS, SPS Grupp OÜ, Adcash OÜ, Tallink Grupp AS and Kohila Vineer OÜ. ‘Enterprise Estonia is heartened by the fact that the circle of candidates has widened with the companies of different areas of activity. This year’s Company of the Year is the flagship of the engineering industry – Hekotek, whose equipment is used by the biggest wood pellet factories and wood processing industries in the Baltic states. Additionally, the company has been investing several million euros into the expansion of production,’ stated Hanno Tomberg, former Chairman of the Board of Enterprise Estonia (EAS).

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Tiit Kuuli, President of the Council of the Employers’ Confederation: ‘The contribution of companies into the development of the society is worthy of recognition every day of the year.  Anyone who creates even one job is helping to improve the welfare of the people living in Estonia. But the best stand out from the rest for thinking and dreaming big while executing with precision and acting as agreed.’


Estonia to Host Startup Nations Summit 2017! Startup Nations Summit 2017 is to be hosted in Estonia, jointly by the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and Startup Estonia. Startup Nations, an initiative run by the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), aims to connect policymakers, advisers and startup community leaders, to help enable high impact entrepreneurship and stimulate entrepreneurial growth around the world. The annual event will continue to explore rapidly growing European startup hubs and discuss the effects of digital disruption in the world.

The Summit will serve as the official conclusion of the Global Entrepreneurship Week 2017, a weeklong celebration of entrepreneurship, with more than 30 000 events and roughly 10 million participants in 160 countries. It will also serve as a bridge to European SME Week, a panEuropean campaign which aims to promote entrepreneurship in Europe. Previously, the Startup Nations Summit had been held in Toronto (Canada), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Seoul (Korea), Monterrey (Mexico) and Cork (Ireland). The 2017 Startup Nations Summit will be held in Tallinn from November 20-22, 2017.

Photo by Startup Nations Summit

‘Over the past several years, policymakers on every continent have begun to truly understand the power of entrepreneurship in growing their economies and improving the lives of their citizens,’ said Jonathan Ortmans, president of GEN. ‘Estonia is a thriving digital hub and there is much to learn from its tech-savvy government and economic growth over the past ten years,’ he went on.

Startup Estonia, a governmental initiative aimed at developing the Estonian startup ecosystem, is a proud member of Startup Nations, inviting all parties to use the opportunity given by the Summit: ‘The Estonian startup community is delighted to be hosting the startup ecosystem key players from around the world in Estonia. We hope to show how truly global a small country such as Estonia can be in its mindset, and how exciting and impressive startups are grown here.’ The Summit will be an entrepreneurial highlight during the Estonian Presidency of the EU Council, bringing together policymakers and entrepreneurs into a single eventful conference. Awarding the 2017 Startup Nations Summit to Estonia is part of an effort by GEN to examine effective policy efforts underway in strong entrepreneurial economies – and to share best practices with startup-savvy policymakers around the world.

Winners of Enterprise Estonia’s (EAS) Entrepreneur of the Year 2016: Innovator of the Year – Estonian Cell AS Exporter of the Year – Hekotek AS Regional Company of the Year – Eastman Specialties OÜ Foreign Investor of the Year – Kohila Vineer OÜ Design Applier of the Year – Proekspert AS

Winners of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Competitiveness Ranking 2016: The Most Competitive Micro Company 2016 – SPS Grupp OÜ The Most Competitive Small and Medium-sized Company 2016 – AdCash OÜ The Most Competitive Large-Scale Company 2016 – Tallink Grupp AS

The Most Competitive Companies 2016 by areas of activity: Stora Enso Eesti AS, industry and energy A. Le Coq AS, food industry Swedbank AS, financial brokerage Baltic Agro AS, wholesale Telia Eesti AS, communications and IT services Tallink Grupp AS, tourism Tallinna Kaubamaja Grupp AS, retail E.L.L. Kinnisvara AS, real estate Sillamäe Sadam ASB, transport and logistics Merko Ehitus AS, construction Olympic Entertainment Group AS, service

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A Look Back at the Highly Successful Debut Startup Week in Estonia Startup Week’s goal is to strengthen the local startup culture, involve wider audiences and open up new opportunities. The popularity of the events proved that our startup community is particularly lively and eager to collaborate. The organizers of the Pipedrive office tour, for instance, were pleased to attract successfully people from so many different areas and in so doing got to spread the word about what Pipedrive really does. The same goes for popular taxi app, Taxify: ‘Many people were not aware that we already operate in over 20 cities around the world, recently expanding to parts of Africa and Mexico,’ said Nikolai Kabatsikov, the Recruitment Manager at Taxify.

Lauren Proctor, the Head of Marketing at Jobbatical and mentor of Startup Week’s 1-on-1s, said that she was inspired by all the energy and ambition on offer, as well as being impressed by people’s ideas and questions. Besides mentoring sessions, Jobbatical hosted two more events during the Startup Week − one for hiring globally and the other to encourage more women to join the tech world. TransferWise has realised the value of initiating discussions and has already inaugurated a tradition of organising regular panels. ‘With public events like this we want to engage with the local startup community - to get people together in the same room, discussing things that matter to them and initiating an exchange of ideas,’ said Marek Unt, Head of European PR at TransferWise.

Since Taxify and foreign language learning app Lingvist joined forces for the Startup Week by setting up a 2-in-1 office tour, people visiting Taxify also got to see the latter’s workspace. While Lingvist were delighted to find new passionate users for their product, Shipitwise scored even higher, starting job interviews with some of the attendees of their tech talk evening, on the back of the Startup Week. Funderbeam and Jobbatical stood out from the pack as well, by offering 1-on-1 mentoring sessions. ‘We hope the individuals who visited us during the week will now feel more knowledgeable and prepared to develop their projects further,’ said Björn Lapakko, marketer at Funderbeam. Discussion panel at Transferwise.

Startup Week is initiated by Techstars, the global ecosystem which helps entrepreneurs build great businesses. Lauren Proctor from Jobbatical explains that by being a part of the Startup Week, they are also a part of a global movement which participates in forming the future of the startup world: ‘We were so excited to join the companies sharing their knowledge and wisdom on the same week in 24 cities across the world,’ she added − if tech hubs around the world want to survive and get noticed, working together on a local scale is essential. The event was brought to Estonia by Startup Estonia, an organisation dedicated to building and strengthening the startup ecosystem in Estonia, and creating a solid ground for local startups to take off to global success. The next Startup Week in Estonia will take place in November 2017. Lauren Proctor, Head of Marketing at Jobbatical

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Photo by Johan-Paul Hion

In the week of 14-20 November 2016, seven top Estonian startups opened their offices, in order to celebrate the very first Startup Week in Estonia.


By Ede Schank Tamkivi

‘There’s not enough of us to have the luxury of being just local Estonians,’ claims Rainer Sternfeld, a founder and an entrepreneur, himself an epitome of a Global Estonian.

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As if running an international company that works cross-border, and having homes on two different continents wasn’t enough hard work, Sternfeld started the eponymous podcast ‘Global Estonians’ this past summer, with the ambitious idea of interviewing one hundred transnational Estonians living across the globe as a contribution for the 100th Anniversary of the Republic of Estonia in 2018. ‘I can never sleep on a plane,’ claims Rainer, who’s just had four flights in the past two days, including a long haul across two continents, and is about to embark on a trip back the day after. He tends to be extremely productive while on a long flight: ‘I can do a full week’s work and edit a few episodes of the podcast,’ he explains. Rainer first introduced the idea of a podcast (a web-based radio series – ed.) to a circle of friends at the time of the 98th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, in February 2016. Friends contributed the names of potential interviewees, all of whom live in various locations around the world and are all exceptional in the field they have chosen to work on in their lives, until that list far exceeded a hundred people. As of early December 2016, he has aired 10 episodes, including talks with Boston-based VC and Eesti 2.0 founder Hardi Meybaum, European Commission press attaché Irma Kaljulaid, who lives in Paris, and eclectic electronic musician Maria Juur in Los Angeles. A few people Rainer has interviewed over Skype, but most he actually tries to meet face-to-face, wherever in the world they might be. For those who might wonder if Rainer, an engineer by training, is considering a new career in the media, he wryly responds that he does not see it as a journalistic project, but rather as an opportunity to make people think (both those he interviews as well as the listeners) and learn from each other’s experiences.

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‘Never stop being curious!’ is one of his personal mottos − because life tends to offer unexpected challenges, he goes on to explain.

Being Always Occupied yet Highly Productive As co-founder and CEO of Planet OS, a data intelligence provider for renewable energy producers, Rainer is already building his 8th organization, despite being only 34. But the achievement he’s still probably best known for is being the originator of the cross-shaped Liberty Statue on Freedom Square, the central plaza in downtown Tallinn. He was just 24 when the statue was completed, amidst a lot of controversy surrounding it. At the time he had just graduated from Tallinn Technical University (cum laude, of course) and was already running the Baltic business development branch for the Swiss-Swedish electrical manufacturing giant ABB. He was later in charge of designing the fast-charging infrastructure of electric cars, making Estonia the first country in the world to get to nationwide charger coverage as early as 2013. ‘I remember first meeting Rainer in Tallinn as Hardi introduced us over lunch,’ recalls Rain Rannu, the founder of Fortumo and another global Estonian. ‘He had no clue about startup life as he was fresh out of the corporate world but he was very eager to learn. He was asking a lot of questions. The next time I saw him he was already in Silicon Valley as he had managed to raise a round of investments from angel investors. He had learned tremendously in this one year, having reached a clear vision of what he wants to become and he was oozing the willpower to make it happen.’


The corporate background turned out to be a good thing: the contacts Rainer made at ABB led him to his first round of investors for a startup then called Marinexplore. They scaled up from small prototypes into big data pretty fast, and raised $1.3 million in seed capital, yet by January 2014 they were almost on the verge of closing down, after one industry giant pulled out of an investment deal on the day of signing. Despite being out of money, he declined the three fast-sale opportunities, and raised the $1 million necessary in a month, and got back to work. ‘This is what makes you humble,’ Rainer summarizes with hindsight. Humble, however, need not mean hopeless. The harsh experience gave him a good lesson that you need to take every challenge as an opportunity to train yourself to get better. ‘If there is a problem, you need to communicate it. Either to the Tax and Customs Board as the tax bills start piling up – and until this day they know us well and we are on very good terms – or to your employees, who will start sensing the angst,’ he notes, claiming to be a much more effective as a ’war-time CEO’ than a manager during placid, uneventful times.

Pilots and Pivots In the summer of 2014 Rainer and his colleagues completely revamped the company as Planet OS. Fast forward two more years, and they are going through the second big pivot into renewable energy. ‘If we had not gone through the first transformation we would not had the premise for growth,’ he says in a very content manner, not shying away from mentioning that this year has been the best year for the company.

Having signed a strategic partnership agreement to build a large-scale data infrastructure for the German power company RWE at the beginning of this year, Planet OS have now secured a five-year deal with the second biggest wind farm in the world, Gwynt Y Mor, in Wales. By April 2017, all 150 of the wind farms of Europe’s 5th biggest energy giant will be running their Powerboard product to improve operational efficiency and economics of their wind business. Renewable energy like wind and solar power are booming and since there’s so much volatility in the surrounding environment the farms operate in, there’s enormous amount of data that needs to be processed, analysed and visualised in order to make the best decisions. ‘The energy sector is not exactly comprised of early adopters of new technology,’ Rainer says, summarizing their earlier excursions into the areas of oil & gas and marine businesses. ‘But now we can help the world transition to renewable energy and make it competitive with conventional energy sources,’ he goes on. During the past two years they have run pilots and implementation projects in such a way as to net a little over €1 million in orders. Yet the company that has so far raised almost €8 million in strategic investments says it will need to take onboard additional working capital to fund its’ growth. ‘Raising a new round will buy us extra time for long-term innovation, instead of just fulfilling someone else’s immediate project orders. Money is time that you can use wisely. To be a good CEO you need to be great at one thing: allocating capital for best long-term returns across the endless options competing for it,’ he goes on.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves visited Planet OS development offices in Tallinn in June and got a data visualization of Estonian populations around the globe as a gift.

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Yet he defies every myth of the startup lifestyle of perks in the office, endless parties and unnecessary trips. Notwithstanding the almost-inhuman amount of travel he undergoes, he only flies coach class; on the ground he drives a Prius (expecting at least every second car to be self-driving by 2030) and leads an otherwise frugal lifestyle. ‘Every time I visit Rainer and his family’s home, I take a mental note of their “as little as possible and as much as necessary”-lifestyle,’ gushes Monica Kaukver, a family friend in Palo Alto, California, where his family now lives.

Closet Buddhist ‘I know I have a light case of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder),’ Rainer says while casually shuffling napkins on the dinner table into neat piles. ‘And I’m dealing with it,’ he notes, while giving the stack of tissue paper one final pat. There is no doubt that he is a very systematic person. He himself stresses that there is a difference between being systematic and being overly in ordnung.’When your table is empty, it will not even get out of order,’ he states, sharing one secret of creating a system. ‘Also, there needs to be a system which complements your habits, so you can focus on things that matter; your life shouldn’t comprise of high maintenance low-value activities.’ And yes, since having the Germans on board, having to go to Germany regularly and because of getting constantly mistaken for a German because of his name, he’s actually started learning German on Duolingo. That will be an almost expected addition to his fluent command of

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English, Russian and Finnish. Not to mention his native Estonian, and a knack for languages thanks to being brought up in a bilingual family (his mother is an Estonian-born Ukrainian). Rainer is also very systematic about food, knowing the exact amount of proteins, fats and carbohydrates he needs to consume daily. Once a week he will allow himself to have a ‘cheat day’ and eat anything he craves and as much as he likes: ‘Your body needs a little shock every once in a while in order to not start to feel too comfortable, which can stifle metabolism,’ he explains. Rainer calls himself a ‘closet Buddhist’, though there is no hiding of his obvious desire for the balance of mind and body. The skills he learned from boxing, which he did for six years, come in handy in business too: ‘If you lose your focus and nerve, you will lose the match. It’s all about psychology and being able to contain yourself. The way I see it is that no one else has the right to get me worked up; this can only be myself if I let it,’ he goes on. Following the famous quote from George Bernard Shaw: ‘Never wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it’, Rainer is much more eager to have a meaningful conversation with a person different from himself, in order to keep up the motivation to learn new things. Besides updating the list of the persons he wants to get for an episode of ‘Global Estonians’, he has started a file called the ‘Book of Ethos’, comprising quotes that have affected or changed his life. ‘Every quote has a backstory as to why it was important for me. I’m guessing that I will publish them as a book some day. At least for my kids,’ he concludes.


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One month before he is set to leave office and return to the business world, and incidentally on the second birthday of the Estonian e-Residency programme, Taavi Kotka − the Estonian Government’s CIO and one of the initiators of e-Residency − talked to Life in Estonia about the need for the European Union to invent an entirely new discipline in order to stay competitive. For example, it would be beneficial to the European Union to implement a data revolution, and give the people themselves the right to decide with whom they share their personal data or to whom they want to sell such data.

Taavi Kotka:

EU Needs to Think Out-of-the-Box With a New Discipline to Remain Competitive 20

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You’re about to finish your four-year career as Estonian Government’s Chief Information Officer. In this time, have you really grasped what it is that makes e-Estonia so special? The most important thing which differentiates us from other countries is that we have the basic architecture in place, plus the society has a modern attitude when it comes to privacy and data protection. This has enabled us to develop a fully digital society, creating services for people’s daily life, such as digital signature and digital medical prescriptions, and also experimenting with future solutions such as electronic voting and e-Residency.

We started using digital signature in 2002. Why are we now — 14 years later — still the only ones using it? The main reason is that there are not many countries in the world which can know with conviction that it is you sitting at your computer and not someone else. It is not enough to know a person’s name − there are many ‘John Smiths’, which is why we need to provide them with a unique feature in order to differentiate between them all. The common solution is the ID code but, as funny as it sounds, there are no other larger countries in the world besides India where this exists as it does in the Nordics. Some similar solutions have been implemented in the medical field or in taxation systems, but there is no universal solution which is equally accepted by the private- and the public sector. But when the private sector and public institutions see the ‘John Smith’ in different categories, not as one and the same person, they can never start sharing information amongst themselves, never mind about digital signatures or e-elections. The Nordic case is different. They have a similar basic infrastructure, but most of these systems were built in the 1970s and hence they should be built from scratch − in other words, they have a legacy problem. Finland has started to make changes to the infrastructure gradually and, for example, taken our X-road system on board.

When former Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas and President Toomas Hendrik Ilves talked about e-Estonia on their foreign trips, their audiences got the message. But what about the broader public — do they really understand what it is that we do here in e-Estonia? I recently spoke at one of the largest marketing conferences in Berlin and showed them a demo of e-elections. People jumped out of their seats! This is how you vote there?! But that’s impossible! We want some of that too! People are really slaves to their habits and so often remain unaware that there is another way. There are over 20 state delegations visiting Estonia on a weekly basis that want to do what we have done. But they tend to lose their initial enthusiasm immediately when they realise that there is no easy-fix and they need to start by implementing basic principles and -architecture.

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Who should demonstrate the interest and need in order for things to start moving?

more than those who continue to operate in an analogue economy. There needs to be a change in the mindset and this needs radical action.

In our case the initial interest came from the private sector. With a market of 1.3 million inhabitants, banks cannot open a branch in every city or village − it is expensive enough to have an ATM. Hence it makes economic sense to make people go digital − use self-service portals or bank cards instead of cash.

Is it in our interest to change the mindset of other nations?

In order to use e-solutions, one needs a digital identity, and it would have been too expensive for each bank to create their own. It was more optimal to create one solution for the entire country. There is always a real need behind innovation, which mostly comes from the private sector or from top specialists. It is the role of politicians to trust those ideas and to find societal support.

So it boils down to whether a minister is smart enough to accept a good idea. Indeed. And, fortunately, our ministers have been.

So what should our message be and who should we target — who needs to demand such services? The private sector needs to be on board and understand the need. We were lucky that we could create our innovations before the issue of privacy and data protection came strongly onto the agenda. Let’s go back to the year 1999 when we started with creating e-Estonia. The internet was still in its infancy. Google practically didn’t exist back then. We were able to implement our reforms before the data protection and privacy issues grew critical. This does not mean that we didn’t pay any attention to those issues, to the contrary. Today it is clear that those who have made their services digital are able to protect their privacy much

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I wasted a lot of time trying to explain to the Germans that their systems are totally out-of-date. Their understanding of data protection belongs to the last century. You think you are private, but this has not been the case for a long time already. At one point I realised that the whole emphasis on privacy and data protection is an excuse to divert the focus away from the real fear, which is that of changing the existing system and losing jobs in the process. But of course it is in our interest to change the mindset. For example, we are currently developing X-road together with the Finnish authorities. We are using similar elements, thinking along the same lines. As we are able to cooperate on development, we can also cut costs. If we think along the same lines, we can make our voice heard in the European Union. For example, developing cyber security together. This is what takes us forward. At the moment we are pushing for the fifth freedom − making people the owners of their own data. We are really into it, so is Finland. But Germany says ‘no’. Their automotive industry is averse to it, for one thing.

Why is that? For example, Google would be able to buy Mercedes user data from people. Google makes an offer by which they will pay all Mercedes owners, say a thousand euros, for the statistics from the last six months − for example how the brakes are working or what data the sensors have collected. That is what the industry fears. Why should they give up the data which currently only belongs to them?


In other words, you can talk about e-Estonia to people but getting the message across is actually more complicated than that?

Europe will at some point realise what’s going on in the world. What will happen then?

Well, if you ask people ‘who wants change?’, everybody will raise their hand of course. But when you ask people ‘who wants to change?’, nobody raises their hand. We are such a small country − we cannot influence anyone directly. But at one point the change will come, most likely from a painful lesson. This will be the time when India surpasses everyone. This will make them wonder: if India managed to do it, how come we did not.

The real question is how Europe might become competitive at all. We see how well in the USA they capitalize on new enterprises: ‘Oh, let’s also invest in start-ups’ is the temptation then. But if you are running behind other people in a 100-metre sprint now, then you will always be running behind. You should pick a new field, in other words.

What drives India? One of my presentations is entitled ‘Trust your Engineers’. The things we are talking about may seem like political decisions, but in fact they’re not. These are really engineering decisions. India has realised this and invited its people to return from Silicon Valley and given them the freedom to act.

What is the problem with India surpassing us? Why should Europe care? India is vast and experiencing rapid economic growth as well. If it becomes efficient as a state, the loss of Europe’s competitiveness will be immense.

Is Estonia too small as a test ground to change the European mindset? I have participated at conferences in the USA where the conference host has been unable to pronounce the word ‘Estonia’. In other words, we are not really on the map and taken seriously because of our small size, even though in the digital world, all states are equal.

As early as two years ago, we said let’s think totally out-of-the-box. What if in the EU a person would be the owner of his or her data and able to decide what to do with the raw data which belongs to him or her − to sell it perhaps. It does not matter who collected the data: Apple, Lexus, Telia. With what right? Because raw data only exists because you exist, and you live. Without you, that data would not exist. And in most cases you just give away that data for free. In today’s world, data gives a competitive edge. If you have the data monopoly, it forms a significant share of the company value. But we should say, no, in Europe raw data also belongs to that person. Apple can use the data, but the private person may also do so. The same data could be sold many times. What would happen? Let’s assume I create a start-up and I need to track the movements of 1 000 people. You will never find a thousand friends who are willing to have a GPS attached to them. If I tell my friend, please give me your data so that the broker can clean it of all personal data and I can only just get the bit which interests me – let’s say 35-year old men who are moving around the city centre area in the hours of 2pm and 5pm − and pay you 100 euros for it, many people might agree to cooperate. Even many established companies can innovate very cheaply in that way.

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The brains and initiative will thereby return to Europe. Innovation needs to be tested in the same environment where the initial data was collected. If the data was collected in Paris, there’s no sense testing it in Houston, for instance. Europeans can grow wealthier, because they have assets which they control and can sell repeatedly. Innovation would become cheaper, hence Europe would become an innovation centre. Talent would then be attracted here. Capital will follow in their wake. And we will have created a new branch of the economy.

Are you having difficulties selling the idea? The ‘ice’ is beginning to melt. The Finns and some others understand this. Let’s be open, they say. Google at first was totally opposed. I talked to them. They said, forget it. But a month later they called me at work and said it is a brilliant idea. When I introduced the idea to them, they got the impression that they would lose data. They did not at first understand that they could also sell or mediate data. This would amount to at least a 100 billion-a year business.

After our interview you will head off to the second birthday celebrations of e-Residency. What perspective do you see there? It may seem that 10 million e-residents is such a distant goal. But the number of freelancers is growing globally. In a couple of years, 40 percent of the labour force in the USA will be freelancers. This is a growing trend. The mass of people who can work independently from their geographical location, control 20 trillion dollars a year. That is a massive sum. To date, 1 000 companies have been created in Estonia thanks to e-Residency. The cashflow of our product is positive already, even though the product itself is not ready. Those 1 000 companies will contribute 3 million euros to our economy annually. Hence 10 000 companies would contribute around 30 million euros and the corresponding amount in the case of ten million companies registering would be 30 billion euros! Estonia’s GDP is 20 billion euros. Do you know of any other idea which would create 150 percent growth in the Estonian GDP? No? So perhaps we should invest more in this one (he smiles).

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What other services could we provide for e-residents? The Guardian recently ran a piece on e-Residency which resulted in huge traffic on the e-Residency homepage. We started to investigate and it turned out that the article had been translated incorrectly into Arabic. E-Residency had just been rendered as ‘residency’, and readers thought that there is a country in the European Union where they can buy a living permit. When they got to the homepage, they realised they were mistaken of course. But why not offer this too? Managed immigration is an increasingly important topic in the world. Theresa May, the current UK Prime Minister, has said that the UK will cut its annual immigration down from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands per year, for instance. In other words, they want to hand-pick people. In every country there is the problem that you cannot hand-pick people with mass immigration. Why should we not sell our services to the UK? For example, make an offer to people moving from South Africa to London for them to become Estonian e-residents, create a company, find clients in Europe and service them. At that point when you are ready and in agreement, Estonia can send a report to the UK that this person is already active in Europe, has clients available, a turnover of x amount, and they are independent enough to meet the requirements. We would automatically have all the data in one place; we would only need to generate the report. Whereas a company belonging to an e-resident today brings about 350 euros per month for Estonia, if a software developer earning an average wage moved, it would bring Estonia 6 000 euros per month. Amazing figures. When you pick a good person, the input into the economy provides a real advantage. We could offer the soft-landing service to other countries − a smart immigration service in other words.


Steve Jurvetson Photo by ERIC MILLETE

Lives in Los Altos Hills in Silicon Valley Graduated from Stanford in two and a half years, at the top of his class. Known as a tech pioneer and a courageous investor. Listed on the Forbes Midas list of the world’s leading technology investors, and Deloitte’s ‘VC of the Year’ Sits on the Board of Directors of Synthetic Genomics, Tesla, SpaceX, Planet, Flux and D-Wave. First VC investor in Baidu, Hotmail, Skype and NeoPhotonics. Career: Bain and Company, Apple, Next, and since 1995, Draper Fisher Jurvetson. DFJ has invested $ 7 bn in 400 companies, including 22 all-time most successful startups.

‘We Are Entering A Time of Mental Horsepower’ Interview with Steve Jurvetson By Senja Larsen

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‘Everything that makes startups thrive, makes a small country thrive too,’ says venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson.

Currently there seems to be so little happening in Europe, apart from the Nordic countries and the UK. Plus maybe a little bit of activity in Germany, laments Jurvetson. ‘The world is full of budding technology centres, who talk the talk, but with little chance of success. Most of the “venture capitalists” there are actually risk-averse bankers. They do not have the necessary critical mass to prosper,’ he goes on. ‘Places such as Skolkovo, Chicago and Salt Lake City,’ Jurvetson expounds. ‘None of these are likely to break through.’ ‘Location is important because the core team of a budding startup needs to be in the one place. Sure, distributed companies have been successful, and you can always work from somewhere in a more remote location like the countryside, but you will not benefit from the teamwork dynamic or being connected to a network if you do that,’ he explains. Technology centres are now thought of in terms of cities rather than countries as Jurvetson gives an example: ‘build some kind of an incredible inter-city connection, such as a Hyperloop between Helsinki and Tallinn. This will create a centre similar to Silicon Valley, which links San Francisco and the San Jose.‘ An easy commute between Tallinn and Helsinki might make all the difference for finding the necessary talent. ‘Think of a situation where you have a fantastic team but you need an experienced VP of sales. If Helsinki were within easy access, they could shuttle to Tallinn in half an hour,’ he goes on. The economic prospects for small countries such as Estonia has never been better, Jurvetson emphasizes: ‘We are moving into a time when smaller teams can have greater impact than ever’. This is the opposite of the industrial revolution where economies of scale allowed the large get still larger. In the information age, a small country with a well-educated workforce now has an advantage in a way it did not before.

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Success during the industrial revolution demanded a huge amount of capital, in order to invest in facilities, equipment and workers. The level of education was not of much importance. No longer are manufacturing and foreign trade the future. ‘We are entering the time of mental horsepower. Everything that gets startups to prosper, gets a small country to prosper,’ Jurvetson continues. The largest Nordic Achilles-heel is the lack of early-stage investors, however. ‘They think too much like bankers, are not entrepreneurial and do not take risks’, Steve says. The likes of the Swedish Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström are truly an exception. Others try to protect themselves too much and are afraid of losing their reputation by making a bad investment. ‘I’m like a kid in a candy store,’ says Jurvetson, who continually hears pitches from some of the most utopian entrepreneurs in the world. But if you are planning yet another ‘me too’ solution, do not bother. Jurvetson is only interested in innovation on the frontier, the most difficult and impossible challenges, such as deep learning, sustainable transport systems and synthetic biology. Computers will very soon operate much the same way as the human brain, but they are capable of so much more, he says. ‘I am most excited by things that have not been done before. I strive for the new,’ he goes on. Venture capitalists are the hub of Silicon Valley. They ensure that the best ideas can receive the funds needed, and draw together talent and other resources. With their finger on the pulse, they often coach their companies and don’t simply fling money at them. The Nordic countries are great at building distributed systems and are effective with smallscale resources, Jurvetson says. ‘Soon the whole world will be online via new satellite broadband technology, creating a service which can be used in the most inexpensive mobile phones, with a voice interface. This will gain a huge new market in five years,’ he predicts.


Work in Estonia is still a relatively new program; however, it has already managed to establish itself as one of the main promotional tools for working and living in Estonia. You’d be hard pressed to find a newcomer to Estonia who hasn’t spent a fair amount of time surfing the website’s vast array of information, or an employer looking to hire someone from abroad themselves. It’s not just words and a website for Work in Estonia though, and with one of their most recent hires – Leonardo Ortega, Work in Estonia is showcasing just how firmly they stand behind their message.

Leonardo Ortega: Work in Estonia Experienced By Robyn Laider

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An Education Matched by Experience An expat himself, Leonardo Ortega is no newbie to Estonia. Originally from Mexico, having spent most of his life in Guadalajara, he first arrived over four years ago to complete his Masters at Tartu University. Before he even arrived though, he first learned about Estonia thanks to a year studying abroad in the Czech Republic where he met the Estonian girlfriend he is still with today. Throughout the four years that Leonardo has been in Estonia, he’s had a variety of positions, including a previous position at Playtech. Having now graduated from his Masters’ program, he’s recently been brought on board by Work in Estonia as their newest Project Manager. This represents fantastic and almost serendipitous opportunity, which allows him to bring his unique wealth of knowledge about the process of moving to Estonia to the organisation. While we are speaking, Leonardo warmly jokes that he gets to appreciate the value of such a knowledge-base from all sides, as he’s been through all of it himself. He acknowledges that, even in such a short

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time, so much has changed since he got here. ‘I would have loved it if Work in Estonia existed when I first came here … for example, there is now this, the website, the information guides, so there is way more now than when there was when I arrived even four years ago.’

Tackling Growth and Challenges Leonardo tells me a little bit about the program itself: ‘Well the whole program is fairly new. It’s about a year and a half old … but we are constantly doing public relations campaigns, online media campaigns, and we are in the process of planning our next year’s action plan, which we are hoping to be a bit more focused on the internal process – how to improve an employer’s knowledge in the sense that they can actually hire people from abroad, and how to raise awareness of the topic … before that the focus was more external. On presenting Estonia abroad and promoting it as a great place for living and working. Now, I think that Work in Estonia as a brand is quite developed, and … we are also deciding on what to do, and in which regions and in which countries we want to focus, because we take a lot of factors into account.’


Teleporting Digital Nomads here Finally, as another part of their next phase of growth, Work in Estonia is developing a more focused approach to finding the right target markets for success. Together with ‘Teleport’, a company that gathers data on ‘Digital Nomads’, Work in Estonia is diligently working to find out who wants to come here the most – and why. In addition, they are also looking at how these trends are evolving and changing as Estonia’s image is developing in the world market.

Leonardo Ortega at the Tallinn Aiport special Work in Estonia lounge

In his own experience, a balance of these focuses are still needed as Leonardo himself has noticed that the atmosphere, outside of the IT or other technical sectors, can still occasionally prove challenging to job seekers – if you don’t speak Estonian. However, this is less because of actual barriers as it is due to some employers’ fears of change. Leonardo tells me that ‘They think that the challenges are all concerning money [the cost of bringing people over – ed.] and culture. In other words, that they would have to change all their work culture.’ However, while Leonardo and I talk, it is clear that while many of the fears that current employers have are definitely understandable, these are also exaggerated. ‘I would say … look at those that are already doing it. You look at the companies that are making the difference, and you look at the companies that are growing, and they usually have a big multicultural environment, they have people from different regions of the world, and it’s not a big problem, hiring them … there are different companies now that are offering services for relocation, for hiring, for recruitment etc., so they don’t have to do it on their own ... and on the Work in Estonia website you can find information,’ says Leonardo.

‘We wanted to look and check based on this data which people prefer to move to Estonia, on the top qualities that Estonia has, clean air, good environment, more horizontal work environment, etc. So based on these different factors we want to make a model that we can crossreference the countries we should pick.’ When asked a little more about the countries Work in Estonia has had the most success with so far, Leonardo tells me that Finland and Ukraine rank at the top, but that they’ve only started delving into this information in depth lately, so it will take time to find out the full picture.

Rising to the Challenge Leonardo is no stranger to helping expats get comfortable in Estonia, as during his Tartu years he was one of the University’s first ‘International Student Ambassadors’, a group of people who helped others from their own country settle in. Additionally, he has been working on his Estonian since getting here. In a blog post of his, Leonardo wrote cheerfully: ‘My dad always said ‘When in Rome, do as Romans do’. And so, when I came to Estonians, I said to myself: ‘In Estonia, do as Estonians do’, and this great attitude has definitely paid off. Leonardo is obviously very happy and well-suited to his new role. I’m very excited for him, and it’s easy to tell that he is too. Leonardo has more than just the knowledge to help develop Work in Estonia, he’s also been through the entire process himself from start to finish; and truly, that kind of experience is one-of-a-kind. It’s easy to see bright things for Leonardo, Work in Estonia and all of the individuals who will benefit from their work ahead.

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French Extreme Sports Star Revolutionizes the Mobile World By Holger Roonemaa

What follows is no ordinary tale: a story about a French extreme sports star who has broken his bones on over twenty occasions, worked as a stunt-man in Hollywood and finally arrived in Tallinn to start a new phase of his life...

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Taïg jumping with roller skates from a height of 40 metres from the Eiffel Tower in front of 100 000 spectators, breaking a world record

No Ordinary Guy Although this is a common claim, in this case it is true to say there is really nothing ordinary about Taïg Khris. Zero. Zilch. Nada... Nobody could have predicted that this extreme sports star with Greek-Algerian roots, who grew up in Paris and became a celebrity in France, would end up in an office in the Old Town in Tallinn where, with dozens of employees at his startup, he plans to revolutionize the telecoms industry worldwide. Although Khris is famous in France, he has never made a considered effort to escape the attention, and yet in Tallinn even the people in the startup scene seem to know very little about his activities. Taïg Khris has no ordinary background as you might already have guessed. Born in Algeria, he moved to France at the age of five together with his parents and elder brother in order to start a new life. Neither Taïg nor his brother Lino had attended a single day of school − they never went to elementary or high school, not to mention university. Instead as a boy, Taïg learned roller-skating in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. He thought this was supposed to become his profession. At the age of sixteen, Taïg was chosen to participate in his first world championships in Germany, but due to a lack of money he did not spend his nights in a hotel but…on the street. Unfortunately he broke his hip-bone before the competition and was taken to hospital. Having also tried his hand as a magician, Taïg returned to the world of extreme sports and soon earned his first professional contract with RollerBlade, bringing in 2 000 euros monthly.

Actually there may be at least one commonplace thing about Taïg, at least as far as the world of extreme sports goes, and that is that during his career, he had various broken bones on 15-20 different occasions (he lost count and doesn’t know the exact number), had seven operations and spent countless weeks in hospital. ‘When I was healthy, I could earn quite well but each injury automatically meant the loss of income for an unknown period of time,’ he recalls. When he happened to be fully fit, Taïg won two world championship titles in his field and once at the ‘Olympic Games’ of extreme sports − the X Games. ‘Despite this I always knew that one day my sports career would be over and I would have to find something else to put bread on the table,’ he says, sitting in the modest kitchen of his Tallinn-based startup Onoff Telecom.

Searching for His Way After becoming famous as an extreme sports athlete in France, this is what he set out to do. At the turn of the millennium, his first video game, Taïg Khris Aggressive Inline, was produced. In the years that followed, he also appeared in numerous French reality- and other TV shows − for example, the French version of ‘The Amazing Race’ (which he won), the TV show ‘Dancing with the Stars’ (where he made it to the final) and he also hosted his own adventurous TV show, ‘The Taïg Show’.

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In between TV stints he jumped with roller skates from a height of 40 metres from the Eiffel Tower in front of 100 000 spectators (breaking a world record) and, a year later, from the church of Sacre Coeur in Paris (another world record). Even when he started taking acting lessons and tried out in the film industry, starting to work as a stunt-man in film productions, nothing indicated that he was later to become a successorientated IT entrepreneur. However, it was his work as a stunt-man which prompted Taïg to turn over a new leaf and put away his skates perhaps for good. Taïg was working as a stunt-man stand-in for Channing Tatum on the Hollywood production ‘Jupiter Ascending,’ and in one of the scenes he had to catch the character played by Mila Kunis, who was falling from a height. However, in catching the stunt-woman Taïg broke his leg. ‘While I was recovering in hospital in the weeks after, I realised that I couldn’t continue like this. I needed to find a new and permanent challenge for myself. I decided to become an entrepreneur,’ he recalls today, three years later.

Ground Rules Taïg set himself six rules to follow, and these have led him to founding his startup, Onoff Telecom.

Rule number 1: Choose a huge industry. ‘Most people choose the field of their company on the basis of their own interests and not on the industry itself. It would have been easy for me to remain in the world of extreme sports, but I didn’t want to. It’s a fact that number one in whatever field of extreme sports will always earn less than the thousandth of the footballer in the world,’ he explains. As a top extreme sports athlete, Taïg could earn 200 000-300 000 euros per year when working at full stretch, but when injured, the time out could extend to a year or more and, during that time, his income was zero. Hence he decided to choose a totally new sector and more stable for himself − telecom and IT.

Rule number 2: Invent something that no one else has thought of. ‘As I often lost my phone and had to use different phone numbers and SIM-cards in different countries, I started to ask myself why phone numbers have to be locked onto SIM-cards. Why couldn’t they be transferred onto the cloud, made universal and accessible like e-mail addresses?’ he asks. ‘It is totally ridiculous.’ This became the field of activity for Taïg’s new startup Onoff Telecom.

Rule number 3: Build a company which offers a service.

Rule number 4: User experience is king. ‘Your product needs to be beautiful, comfortable, simple and intuitive to use. If you achieve this, there is no need to advertise. It will start to spread by itself.’

Rule number 5: Build up a single brand which you can sell globally. ‘It makes life so much easier.’

’Uber has no taxis, Airbnb has no hotels. Onoff Telecom wants to become the biggest mobile operator without its own network, own receivers or SIM-cards.’ Taïg explains that, for years, telecoms has been a closed system which has been blind to the need for innovation. This is where he spotted an opportunity.

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Rule number 6: There has to be easy worldwide distribution. ‘That’s why I chose mobile applications.’


Finding the Right Location and People Now it seemed the time was ripe to really start working. He needed a team, an office and the momentum to start developing the app. ‘ITengineers in France are of good quality, but they cost a lot of money. At that moment, one of my friends had lived for four years in Estonia, and he suggested that I move here,’ relates Taïg. In February 2014, he stepped off the plane in Tallinn for the first time. A photo on his Instagram account records his first winter day in Estonia, when the temperature happened to be as low as −20C! Despite this freezing beginning, Taïg has high level of appreciation for the two people he employed first in Estonia − Simmo, Head of the Design Team, and Maksim, the Chief Technology Officer. Some time later, his brother Lino also moved to Tallinn and now manages the daily business in the office. To date, Taïg has attracted another five million euros worth of investment into his company, making its estimated market value some 25 million euros. And now the product, at least for the French and British markets, is ready. In France alone, the ‘onoff’ app has been downloaded more than one million times, and over 10 million text messages are sent with it every month. Next Taïg will target the US market and, in the beginning of 2017, mobile networks of several other countries are set to add ‘onoff’ into their apps.

What is ‘onoff’ App? This is how the idea for the mobile app ‘onoff’ was born. The app allows you to keep an unlimited number of phone numbers on one phone, which you can use simultaneously, or turn on or off as you desire with just one tap on the screen. You can have phone numbers for France, the USA and the UK or some other country on one phone and make your calls and send text messages for local network prices.

‘We need more investments and, as early as next year, we are due to rapidly grow our service volume and the number of employees. It is a race between us and our competitors and we plan to win it,’ says Taïg. Considering how he has got to where he is and with his determination, it makes no sense to invest against his continued success!

Of course in the beginning this was just an idea, born in the unlikely setting of a hospital bed. Taïg had had no previous contact with the telecom or IT sector. Moreover, he didn’t even know if it was possible to build something like this. He didn’t know the type profession of a person who might be able to transform his dream into reality. But soon enough he found out that he needed a systems’ architect and was able to approach someone from the local telecoms company. ‘His fee was 1 500 euros per day, but I had just 6 000 euros on my account!’, he relates. ‘I asked him whether he could find out within four days whether my idea could be implemented. Four days later, I was 6 000 euros poorer but at least I knew it was possible.’ This was the encouragement which Taïg needed. In the days that followed, he locked himself into his room to write a thorough business plan. At that point in time he didn’t have a cent to his name. But it was money which was needed to step into the telecom business. ‘I took out the contact list of my phone and contacted every person on it who I thought might have money,’ he recalls. And it worked. He must have had a lot of generous friends, as just a month later, Taïg had drummed up a whopping total of one million euros from his friends, other skaters, even his cameraman and his surgeon; in return he gave them together a 20 per cent share of his new company!

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Forgot Your Glasses? By Ann-Marii Nergi

Like many great ideas in this world, the idea for the almost-invisible Glens reading glasses was born out of personal need. The company was founded by the investor Andrei Astapenko, who due to his active lifestyle was both often on the road and had many hobbies. He had often felt the need to have a pair of backup reading glasses, which he could just take along on the plane, in the suitcase, to his hotel room, or even just carry round in his back pocket. Three years ago, then, Astapenko started to develop precisely such a pair of glasses. He shared his idea with the well-known Estonian wooden glass frame designer Karl Annus, who then sketched the prototype product. However, before Glens reading glasses went into actual production, in autumn 2016 Karl Annus won the lifestyle product award at the Estonian Designers’ Union’s annual design competition BRUNO, so the glasses  already started to win recognition in Estonia and elsewhere, on the back of this.

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Glens ‘backup’ reading glasses designed in Estonia fit anywhere, are practically unbreakable and cost so little, that you can own as many pairs as you need.


Kristian Jochen Schnack Export Advisor in Enterprise Estonia One of the (nice) challenges in my role as an Enterprise Estonia representative in Germany, is to position Estonia in the minds of German business people as a country focused on innovation, quality and design.

Nevertheless it still took some lead time from designing the invisible glasses to reaching the production stage, as the team, who had now grown into three members, was looking for the appropriate material. Katrin Sõnajalg-Pihlik, who had joined the team in the meantime, says that they talked to various producers in Estonia but, besides great design, there was not sufficient production experience available here, therefore the team turned to Germany. The partner they found was not a producer of glasses, but a company dealing in plastic − Kläger Spritzguss GmbH & Co. ‘Just over a year ago we started tests with the shape of the glasses. This seemed to be successful and we then produced a small batch. At the beginning of this year, we ordered a mould for mass production,’ explains Sõnajalg-Pihlik. She explains that the material for making the glasses is tiny granules of high-quality co-polyester, which means that in addition to being practically invisible, the glasses weigh almost nothing − under one gram. The three so-called points on the curve help wearers to get a better grip when putting the glasses on and also to adjust the position if necessary, and currently the reading glasses are available in three strengths: +1,5, +2,0 and +2,5 dpt. ‘We cannot develop minus glasses because people who wear them often have the problem that their eyes need glasses with different strength. But reading glasses can be temporarily used without a prescription from the eye-doctor,’ explains Member of the Board Kristiina Schults-Otsaru.

The principle of the developers of Glens reading glasses is to offer an affordable product which would become a widely accessible consumer product available in day-to-day places such as petrol stations and kiosks. In addition, they emphasize that they do not aim to replace normal glasses for good, but merely to offer a backup. As part of the current campaign, the first Glens glasses are available for free, with a set of three pairs of glasses having an introductory price of 3.99 euros. Both options are sent by post to the customer inside a protecting, velvety pocket the size of a credit card. According to Schults-Otsaru, the surface of the lens gets damaged in time and therefore it makes sense to keep the cost low so that customers do not think twice about replacing them, and, furthermore, it is no big deal if someone loses a pair of glasses. ‘The set of glasses will probably stay at the same level and the specific price is still something which is to be developed. But our business model is one of mass production,’ she explains. The next goal for Glens is to develop the company homepage and to concentrate on marketing and locating re-sellers for the German market.

Products like Glens, addressing such niches with quality and innovation, have a very high chance of success in most countries, I guess, but Germans are always particularly impressed by new innovations.   My role is to help small companies such as Glens research the market, identify distribution channels and possible price points, look at advertising and/or PR, useful trade fairs, etc.  I often also get involved with packaging and labelling requirements.  I also advise Estonian companies on the best way to approach potential German buyers. I might add that my life is made easier by the fact that Estonians and Germans have many similar business culture attributes – punctuality for meetings and being well-prepared are two examples that both countries share.

This is where the company is assisted by Enterprise Estonia’s Export Advisor in Germany - Kristian Jochen Schnack − who states that this is a unique product which nobody else has done before. In addition, the product addresses a very real need − people constantly forget their reading glasses. ‘How convenient to have a Glens set in your wallet or to be able to buy a pair at a gas station. I use them myself, by the way and show them to everybody I meet – all of whom ask me “when can I buy them?”.  “Soon”, I answer,’ says Schnack.

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Meet Estonia: A Robotically Transformative Nation! By Sven Paulus Photos by Sven Paulus, Angela Rääk and Biorobotics Centre at TUT

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Just as Skype revolutionized the way we communicate, and TransferWise found a way to break worn patterns in the financial world, Estonia is about to make a transforming difference in the dynamic field of robotics too. Besides the country being a Mecca for data and tech-driven startups, more and more Estonians, in addition to excelling in code writing and software development, are thrusting their hands deep into the wiring and metal of robots.


Alvo Aabloo

Imagine a vacuum-cleaner-sized, yellow ‘turtle’ diving elegantly down hundreds of metres to probe ship wrecks, thus gathering valuable data for archaeologists and maybe even finding lost treasures buried somewhere deep under the sea. But this intelligent ‘turtle’ is actually a robot. Equipped with a camera and a searchlight, the relatively cheap and highly manoeuvrable U-CAT (Underwater Curious Archaeology Turtle) locomotion principle is similar to that of the sea turtles of the natural world. Its uniqueness is enhanced by creating the momentum needed for forward movement not by propellers, which would disturb the vision in silty waters, but by using flippers. The creation of this technology is especially good news for scientists, since the relatively shallow Baltic Sea, where the robot was successfully tested, is notorious as the graveyard of untold numbers of ships. Having its source of inspiration in biology as it does, U-CAT was created by scientists at the Biorobotics Centre at Tallinn University of Technology (TUT). The leader of the centre, professor Maarja Kruusmaa, says that trying to be the best in Estonian robotics is not an ambitious enough goal and encourages people to think at least on the European Union scale.

This is nicely illustrated by another success story which combines science, fashion, data and technology. Kruusmaa, who defines good technology as that which does not disturb humans, also co-founded and worked as R&D director for the company Fits.me, developing a virtual fitting room which would help online shoppers understand what clothes suit and fit them before they go on to physically buy the items. By becoming more familiar with their clients, this also helps retail companies to reduce the number of product returns. In the summer of 2015, Fits.me made a breakthrough when the enterprise was acquired by the Japanese company Rakuten, which is ranked among the top three e-commerce companies in the world.

One part of the Fits.me virtual fitting room is its shape-shifting robot mannequin, co-developed with the University of Tartu, where Kruusmaa’s colleague and co-author professor Alvo Aabloo has been taking various phenomena to extremes. Notably, Aabloo is a member of the research consortium which built the Mars house prototype, the, Self-deployable Habitat for Extreme Environments or SHEE. This 6-metre long and 2.4-metre wide house opens up into sections in less than two minutes and fits on a truck trailer. Besides being able to withstand inhospitable and literally out-of-this-world conditions, it can also serve as a base for catastrophe relief on earth itself. With interior space of 50 cubic meters, it can accommodate and sustain a two-person crew for up to two weeks.

Towards Smart Machines Currently, SHEE functions as a test-bed for terrestrial simulations of extreme environments. However, it is also possible to deploy the habitat in space-analogue environments or under laboratory conditions. ‘In 2017, SHEE is due to be tested as a platform at the European Space Agency,’ states Aabloo, who in addition to this mind-blowing science project also currently researches artificial muscles, stimuli-responsive smart polymer composite materials and their possible applications in lab-on chip devices and in robotics.

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’Constructing these robots and finding solutions to all technical issues is very far from trivial and demands a huge effort in terms of science and technology,’ acknowledges Kruusmaa. Yet she is far from seeing the Estonia of the future as a country where one can meet robots walking on the streets, speaking the local language, and waving to or otherwise interacting with humans. Rather, she envisions more and more smart technology, which has already permeated our daily lives as of now, helping us in further innumerable areas therefore making more time for leisure activities.

Milrem

ESTCube

Any potential hall of fame of Estonian robotics is yet to be built, but some of the current projects already enable us to glimpse a transformed future in many areas. For example, Milrem is developing an unmanned ground vehicle for military purposes that can carry up to 750 kg of payload. ‘Estonia has some very good drone builders and Smartpost is creating rather complex package automats,’ claims Aabloo. He also mentions that many other projects in the area don’t generate as much publicity due to the fact that robotics is mostly applications research-based, plus some B2B solutions by their nature tend not to get much public attention. Starship delivery robots

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’They’ are really ‘Us’

The sky, or rather space, is emphatically not the limit when it’s about engineering stateof-art technology. The highly noted Estonian student satellite project ESTCube has already given birth to a company called Krakul. This enterprise specializes in robotics, and the electronic modules they have built operate in various mechanisms, starting from the Threod Systems’ drones to the Starship delivery bots.

Both Kruusmaa and Aabloo, as well as other experts in the local robotics realm, are keeping an eye on Starship Technologies – an Estonian-rooted startup which builds package delivery robots. This neatly-designed six-wheeled robot drives autonomously, up to six km per hour, saves money, is kind to the environment and has already been tested in more than 40 European cities.

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However, if robots really are taking over our jobs, then maybe there are more routes this could go down than just a negative scenario? What happens if you create an environment where most of the kids are familiar with technology and use it in a creative way?

The aforementioned flagship, Starship Technologies, is a company co-founded by Ahti Heinla, one of the original creators of Skype and (file-sharing platform) KaZaA, and just might give a hint of how logistics and home delivery will look in a few years. Just recently their robot made its first meal delivery in London and garnered plenty of approval for driving around in Washington D.C. and Redwood City, which, of course, raises the question concerning the possibly bleak future of current human delivery workers.

’Robots have already taken over the world. This started as early as in the 1990s, but some people are still having this stereotypical Transformers-like Hollywood view on robots,’ believes Heilo Altin. He defines a robot as ‘a system that has sensors, a processor and motor’ according to which robots can be seen everywhere around us, even in a coffee machine. This is reminiscent of Marshall McLuhan’s idea that the user is the content of any situation, whether it’s driving a car, wearing clothes or watching a show. Altin is PhD student supervised by Aabloo at University of Tartu and one of the leading forces behind the ever-growing Estonian schoolrobotics program initiated by Aabloo back in the noughties. As of now the community unites more than 200 educational institutions and according to Altin, Estonia is among the top countries if one were to count available school robots per student, which translates into 60 per cent of Estonian schools being equipped with robots of some kind.


The country is also well-known throughout the world for its traditional song festivals, where more than a hundred thousand people gather at the Lauluväljak (the Song Festival Grounds) to jointly sing their hearts out. The song festival is a meeting of the emotions and the spirits. What happens, however, if a festival was created for the purpose of helping brains and raw metal meet? This is pretty much the story of another outstanding cooperation between Aabloo and Kruusmaa: Robotex, born in 2001, which has since grown to become Europe’s biggest robotics competition. This December the event hosted 912 robots from 20 countries and had around 16 000 visitors, ranging in age from the youngest participant at four to the oldest at 68 years old! Robotex 2016 marketing manager Janika Leoste likens the event to the song festival and sees new trends as well: the age of the participants is decreasing, while the number of represented countries is increasing, indicating an ever-growing interest in the field. ‘The Robotex model will be implemented next year in several countries, while we are preparing for the biggest robotics competition ever,’ recounts Leoste. So, is the key to success perhaps keeping an open mind and benefiting from a supportive environment? ‘Robotics is 80 per cent of creativity,’ reveals Altin. He urges the use of it as simple tool, as an artist uses a brush. But the robotics enthusiast also reminds us that this area demands interdisciplinary approach where mathematics, physics, mechanics and programming are combined into one animated machine. ‘Packing info into the brain is not practical in a world overflowing with data,’ he says. The skill of analysing what is right and what is wrong is much more important,’ Altin goes on. Luckily, Altin notes that a growing number of parents see the need for keeping up with digital and technological literacy, especially when it comes to their kids. ‘It is crucial that children also be the creators of the new technology, not only the consumers,’ he emphasizes. And this type of grooming of the growing generation might just be what will keep alive his vision of the future Estonia as the new Mecca for robotics.

How Robots Can Still Let Us Be Humans Interview with Kristjan Port (columnist and director of Tallinn University School of Natural Sciences and Health)

What are Estonia’s advantages, in the light of global developments in robotics? Estonia’s diverse culture, complex history and at the same time compactness as a country have made us pretty pragmatic. We value education, especially in technology. Our song festivals confirm that, despite our internal contradictions, we are as a nation able to consolidate for a common goal at any time, and for our size the ‘bang’ we make for our buck is usually louder than average, especially in research, developing ICT or even sports. None of these fields are easy, and the scope for Skype-type world-class successes among the other happy stories in the background does not seem to be once-only chance. It may be argued that the repetition of the same, even in the field of robotics has been proved to be just as feasible. Human beings are complex, and this is also repeated in the experiments creating a robot in parallel with them. Therefore, the game of testing ideas with robots could become our strength.

People often fear that robots will take over in the near future. How do we find a balance between dystopia and utopia? Being human is the insurmountable advantage that we have. We do not want to be a tireless, infallible and universally-able – to be like machines. Woe to those who forget that and try the opposite (as history shows – ed.). This is the true path leading to dystopia. As long as we maintain empathy, perceive beauty, appreciate the natural world, and continue to laugh and play, no robot can ever understand us or replace any other person in the world.

Keeping these values intact while still living as a human among robots is however likely to make us go through inevitable ups and downs, even crises. Utopia is when we think that somebody else has to do it instead of ourselves. A far greater threat than that of the robots is the concentration of robots as property into the hands of just a few, thus giving them power and capabilities. This can happen only if we focus solely on productivity and forget about what we really want out of life.

Today’s youth often seem to spend their life in an increasingly digital-technological world. Is there anything they should bear in mind while looking towards higher education? The current history of education teaches us that the most popular specialities can create overpopulation, low wages and befuddlement in those issues that weren’t studied so much. Therefore, it makes sense that some humanitarian specialties are abandoned today in many parts of the world (partly due to reasonably excessive conservatism) to the benefit of ICT and engineering instead. It is also likely that we are going to soon need experts who can combine knowledge and skills from technology, human sciences and healthcare. While building machines, human problems are still increasingly being highlighted. Amongst these is a completely new set of moral dilemmas and perplexing issues that may find their resolutions only with a less technology-driven worldview.

* This article was supported by the European Union Regional Development Fund through Estonian Research Council.

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Proekspert’s Amazing Journey: From Software to Design Interview with Kaja Kruus and Taavi Aher, user experience designer at Proekspert, and designer at Proekspert respectively.

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hiring Kaja and another designer, Mikk, with a very ambitious posting, which basically required the designer to be almost a superhuman. The expectations were high indeed’.

Proekspert came away from this year’s Enterprise Estonia Entrepreneurship Awards with the Design Implementer of the Year honour, and was shortlisted for Company of the Year. Life in Estonia looks into how Proekspert arrived at these laurels. What is Proekspert’s primary line of work?

Kaja: ‘Yes, I saw the ad and said to myself, such an über-designer simply does not exist. So I thought it just might be an opening for a self-taught person like myself. And I got hired, along with another designer. Then I had to start proving myself, because I didn’t as yet have a very clear idea of what the user experience designer actually did at Proekspert.’

Kaja: ‘We’re an Estonian software and design company. Cooling systems at nuclear power plants run on Proekspert software. About one in four beers in the world are produced on Krones lines, which are also powered by Proekspert software. A bioreactor for producing beneficial bacteria for smart detergents, pharmaceuticals and liveculture yoghurts also operates on Proekspert software. We develop smart devices as well, like beds that independently, automatically adjust to their users to provide the best sleep possible.’

Taavi: ‘Before we continue our story, I should say that Proekspert is a flat-hierarchy organization. We don’t have big bosses directing things from the top. Management here means that people take responsibility themselves.’

In the past, many companies in Estonia made do without design in the forefront of their minds. At what point did the light bulb go on at Proekspert; or was it more of a gradual process than flipping a switch? Taavi: ‘One milestone was taking part in an Estonian Design Centre project called Design Bulldozer. Another important marker was

Kaja: ‘For example, we realized at a certain point that designers had to be more involved in sales. We started making prototypes to show clients and this was definitely one of the places where the designer light went on for many a person! We saw that the first prototypes had a lot more to say to people than ordinary presentations harping on about how the product is user-centric.  ‘I remember at one meeting, the client was on the phone most of the time and obviously not listening to us. But we then showed the client the prototype. It wasn’t all that complex, it consisted of different views. The client didn’t just put the phone down, but pushed it away; suddenly he was really interested in what we were saying.’

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It’s one thing to understand the need for design, but entirely another matter to implement it throughout a company that’s working at full capacity the whole time. What was the biggest challenge and how did you succeed at solving it? Kaja: ‘A designer’s office shouldn’t have a sign on the door reading “Quiet, designer at work!” A designer has to participate wherever decisions are being made, but it isn’t easy to get to that point. The strategic decision-makers have to want to work with the designer and understand why this is so vital. ‘While maybe an overused term, collaboration is such an important keyword. Based on my experience, there’s no question that innovative products and services that create real value are the fruits of cooperation between specialists. The problem is that often the first success stories happen in a very rarefied circle and often the stories don’t get told, the lessons aren’t shared, due to time constraints.’ Taavi: ‘If the designer is going to be involved in creating a solution right from the get-go, it’s important for the team to believe that including the designer will create value added. The more we proved ourselves, the more chances we got.’

How hard is it to get engineers (especially IT specialists) to live and breathe design – that is, to get them to believe in something that comes ultimately out of the world of art and in that way lacks a scientific, rational explanation? Kaja: ‘I don’t really like that question! I don’t like it because it creates this divide. Designer and developer have a common goal – to

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develop a solution with the maximum benefit. By working together we succeed better at it. Actually, there’s even more common ground than the shared goal. Good engineers are creative, too. Also, both engineers and designers consider the real benefit from the solution to be paramount. There are many examples from real life showing why the designer-engineer collaboration leads to good results. So it isn’t that the designer stands out in the corridor and tries to convert people to “designerist” faith or something like that. Every successful collaboration, every successful prototype has to be talked about within the company as much as possible, so that people might see the ways that developers and designers can support each other’.

Is it easier or harder for a company that implements design-focused thinking to find people to work for them? Kaja: ‘It’s important to note that we don’t use design thinking just when we work for clients. At Proekspert, the employee’s user experience of everyday work is also important. We design a company based on the employee’s needs and this definitely helps us to find talent. In addition, our people appreciate the fact that the work they can do is interesting for them. Our design-positive approach has definitely brought in more interesting work and this also attracts new potential hires. At job interviews, we see that candidates have heard of our design-centred approach and they often ask questions about the de-layered organization philosophy, too.’


What do foreign clients hear in the word ‘design’ – is it an export argument? Taavi: ‘Design thinking is already the standard in many regions, so it doesn’t sweep anyone off their feet on its own. But clients are very glad to be working with an Estonian company that practices design thinking. Compared to the competition, our speed and flexibility speak in our favour. Ninety per cent of Proekspert’s design work is exported.’

Have the investments into design paid off? Kaja: ‘Design has put us in a higher weight class – we create more value for clients. They don’t ask for a specific software solution or design. They tend to ask for our opinion on how to solve some business situation. Naturally, that has dividends for both sides’. ‘Thanks to expanding services, we are landing more and more interesting projects, and these provide inspiration to talented people for coming to work for us. We’re growing very rapidly as a company and design thinking is firmly integrated into our development so it can’t be seen in isolation.’

Has the use of design and the design ethos had an effect on the company’s turnover and profit figures? Kaja: ‘Sales have grown more than 20 percent from 2013 to 2015. Export turnover has grown 45 percent in the same period. This year,

we’re seeing about a 15 percent increase in turnover and profit, although we are investing heavily into product development. Next year will see the same growth trend continue, and already now, project volumes are burgeoning.’

Would you recommend the design route you’ve taken to every company? On what conditions? Taavi: ‘It’s not possible for anyone to take the exact same course. Anyone else walking that path would feel like a tourist. So I would recommend everyone to take their own design path. I would not hesitate to do so. Commitment is the most important condition. The personnel and the decision-makers in the organization have to support the path. If it’s only the marketing director or designer who’s in charge of the implementation, it won’t get past a new logo or brochure and that’ll be it.’ Kaja: ‘It’s always easy to say ”Why didn’t you do it like that other company?” after the fact. Or “Why did you decide to do it that way? Why didn’t they bring on a certain specialist?”. Reading our story gives others a chance to do it even better. In the beginning, we just had what we knew. Nothing more. And an incredible amount of confidence. We dared to take risks, give up the safety net: our 20 years of experience, 100 specialists, 20+ successful projects. If you go down that path, you have to be all-in; I can say that from experience. I’m grateful for absolutely every opportunity, every mistake, every success.’

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Alunaut Expands its Product Range, Increasing its Share of Working Boats By Jaano-Martin Ots

Alunaut - an aluminium boat producer situated on the island of Saaremaa - started as a subcontractor of Swedish companies and, over the years, has grown into an independent boatyard. The aluminium boats produced under the brand AC (Alunaut Craft) range from 3.9-metre fishing boats, to working boats of up to 9 metres in beam. The product range also includes inflatable RIB-boats with aluminium bottoms and, increasingly, the company is taking on special contracts for the police force, rescue services and other public organisations from various countries. According to Mark Muru, Executive Manager of Alunaut, the company aims to produce sturdy and secure high-quality boats. ‘The main requirement of our boats is to be trustworthy, safe, robust vessels for users in all kinds of weather conditions. At the same time, we offer all the basic comforts: speed, enjoyment of the ride and top quality additional equipment. Of course, this increases the cost of the boats, but boats which are meant for active use need to be of high quality,’ he explains. Alunaut started to develop its own product range in the winter of

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2012-2013, having already had several years of experience in boat construction and repairs. The first bigger contracts were aluminium boats made for the Swedish companies Vector ProBoat, Hanterbarabatar I Gräddö AB and Aevotec AB. The company still carries out subcontracting work for Swedish companies, but nowadays the emphasis is put on the special boat models developed for Alunaut. To date, the biggest and most complex project for the company has been the 60-foot aluminum expedition boat ‘Journeyman 60’, built in 2009-2010. This boat was an ice-safe vessel designed for sailing in polar conditions. The company is currently working on another largescale special project. Mark Muru believes that such contracts help the company to raise its work quality and provide valuable experiences as well. Although in its earlier days, Alunaut worked together primarily with Scandinavian boat architects in developing new boat models, the company has also given birth to a new generation of local boat engineers and designers.


AC-18CC

AC-18XC

A6 RIB In 2017, new pleasureboat models AC-18CC and AC-18XC are due to complement our product range. The RIB-boat family will include Alunaut A6 RIB, meant for the consumer market. These new boats will be exhibited at the Düsseldorf, Helsinki and Tallinn maritime trade fairs. We will also deliver a more than 11-metre speedboat to the Swiss Police Force and a RIB A7 to German rescue services. We are expecting another contract from the Finnish Military Police, to whom we have already delivered five patrol boats and who have expressed their interest in additional supplies. As a special order, we will complete a 1600 hp speedboat by the end of the summer, and this boat will be used by a client on the Mediterranean as a recreational boat.

Mark Muru, on the experiences of Alunaut in recent years ‘2016 was the most difficult year for Alunaut since the beginning of the company. Setbacks started at the end of 2015 and continued to the fourth quarter of 2016. However at the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2016, there seemed to be an overnight re-opening of our market and, practically in two or three weeks, we made record contract volumes for 2017. Next year we, expect a 70 percent increase in turnover. Such rapid growth necessitates expanding our production capacity, and here the biggest challenge is training new people quickly. We have had great cooperation with educational institutions on Saaremaa and we are likely to approach them again. Intense marketing work has led to a moderate increase in the sales of consumer boats, and we can also see growth in the production of smaller working boats. After a long time, we also have a new large and expensive special project in our portfolio. One of the more exciting projects in 2016 was our first catamaran, the measurement boat ‘Kaja’, for use in shallow waters, produced for the Estonian Maritime Association and which carries the product code Alunaut U-Cat 700 HSV in our product range.

Currently our significant markets are Estonia, Finland, Germany and Switzerland. We are trying to enter or secure our positions in Norway as well and we are also looking into opportunities to enter the Swedish market with our own products.

The biggest innovations of 2016/2017 which we will present at the European maritime trade fairs are C-14L, AC-18 CC and Alunaut A6 RIB. C-14L (light duty) is a simple aluminium fishing boat meant for navigable inland waters and sailing in coastal waters. This light but robust 4-mm aluminium boat is primarily suitable for hobby fishermen and boating enthusiasts. AC-18 is a bit larger recreational boat meant for private use, which is also able to be taken on longer sailing trips. The body of the boat, initially meant for police- and military use, has been adapted for family- and hobby purposes. A6 RIB is built for demanding users who wish to purchase a seaproof, working boat, but not pay as much as for the large Alunaut model A8 RIB. This boat is suitable for demanding private users, but can also cope well as a maritime rescue or -patrol boat. Due to its optimal measurements, the boat can be easily transported on a trailer and set into water rapidly, where necessary.’

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Saare Yachts

Continues Under German Ownership By Jaano Martin Ots

Saare Yachts − a small sailboat producer, in Nasva, on the island of Saaremaa − was established with the aim of producing traditional wooden boats typical of the island. The company won international recognition as the main production unit of the well-known Finnish sailboat brand Finngulf. Instead of wood, the main material of Saare Yachts became GRP (glass reinforced plastic), with the interior design, furniture and finishing also being made in the same factory. Several Finngulf yachts built on Saaremaa have been chosen as the best sailboats of their kind at trade fairs in Finland and elsewhere. The contracts were flowing in and business was good.

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Finngulf is a company with a complicated fate, however. Having survived several reorganisation and bankruptcy processes, the company is still producing, but no longer using, the production base on Saaremaa. When Finngulf first went bankrupt in 2011, it also meant trouble for Saare Yachts . According to Managing Director Peeter Sääsk, the company escaped a catastrophe only because, in addition to successful subcontracting work, it had begun working on the development of its own yacht models. When the contracts from Finngulf stopped coming in, Saare Yachts took the decision to concentrate on the production of yacht models Saare 38 and Saare 41. Those turned out to be successful and Saare Yachts exited the crisis as an independent sailboat producer. Today there are two different versions of the model Saare 41 − the 41CC, with its central cockpit, is more suitable as a family yacht, and the 41AC, with its classic aft cockpit. In addition, the company continues to produce the Saare 38 and introduced Saare 46 in 2016. Although the standard equipment of the main models is set in the catalogue, customers have the opportunity to have their say regarding the layout of the cabins and the choice of equipment. Thus most boats produced by Saare Yachts are one-off customised products. As the entire interior design is also produced in Nasva, there is a lot of flexibility when it comes to customer wishes, and the high quality handicraft from the same factory is the biggest selling advantage of Saare Yachts. The quality of the work by boat builders on Saaremaa has been proven on the Nordic market and to date the boats of Saare Yachts have been sold in Scandinavia, the rest of Europe and Russia too. The Saare Yachts are sporty and fast, but with comfortable and varied equipment. In addition to sailboats, the company has also produced classic-shaped motorboats Stormer, which are also made of GRP. Last summer the company came under new ownership, but the brands of sailboats remained the same − Saare. The reason for this change in company ownership has to do with the fact that the main shareholder to date − Saare Kalur − decided to leave the boat construction business altogether and hence also the circle of owners. The company was taken over by Thomas Nielsen, who has been the redistributor of Saare boats in Germany. Nielsen has

represented the Saare brand in Germany since the establishment of the company and he has also participated in the development and creation of the Saare boat models. He commented on his decision to become the owner of Saare Yachts in this way: ‘It would be a real shame to let all the work which has been done to date go to waste.’ The Manager of the company, Peeter Sääsk, will continue in his position as will most of the core team. The main operating models and the trademark Saare are also here to stay. Sääsk has confirmed that the change in the ownership of the company is likely to benefit the company as it brings it closer to its core clientele in Germany and the rest of Europe. New fields of activity for the company include winter maintenance and storage of the yachts where there are also many German clients already. Sääsk reported that although the market of sailboats has taken a downturn, Saare Yachts will continue operations with its expanded family of yacht models: ‘The years 2015 and 2016 were quite similar for us in terms of output. We mainly sold the Saare 38 and also brought a new model, the Saare 46, onto the market. The market in sailboats continues to suffer a downturn with no signs of real recovery. In 2016, an additional blow came from Brexit. The Finnish market is also quiet’ he explains. ‘In 2016, we got a new owner − someone with many years of distribution experience in Germany. This is important for us, as Germany is our primary market. We plan to continue to develop the Saare product family, and in addition we are focusing on winter storage- and maintenance/repair works. We hope to offer those services particularly on the Finnish market,’ he goes on. Last summer, Saare Yachts put its biggest model to date on to the sea − 46-foot Saare SC which was a custom-made order. This is a new model of Saare, which was presented at the Hanseboot trade fair in Hamburg and will also be exhibited in Düsseldorf. The company hopes that with a favourable response, this model is set to become their new success story.

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The Role Model for the Estonian Wooden House Industry By Ann-Marii Nergi

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The slogan of the Estonian company Nordic Houses, which has produced around 2 000 houses in 15 years, is ‘More time for living’. Indeed, there is more time for living when you can have your own wooden house in five weeks from order to delivery.

Argo Saul

There are currently 140 companies in Estonia which produce and export wooden houses, mainly to Scandinavia and Central Europe. Founded by Argo Saul, Nordic Houses was one of the first to spot the endless demand of Nordic countries for holiday cabins and to bring together two things – high quality Estonian timber and its export to comfort-loving Norwegians. It has been a rapid success story for Argo Saul’s company and, fifteen years later, it is still growing. Saul says they have decided on their main export markets, as tests in slightly unorthodox markets like Holland and France and, even in India, have shown the company that it requires too many resources to enter those markets. Today, the company focuses on four main countries – Estonia, with Norway, Sweden and Germany for export. For example, the company will be represented at Germany’s largest construction trade fair, BAU 2017, where it will have a joint stand with Enterprise Estonia. Argo Saul’s story as an exporter of wooden houses goes back to the late 1990s when he returned to Estonia, having lived for some time in Norway. He got a job and then – entrepreneurial soul that he is – he got restless. Before he established his own company, however, he met a customer whom he used to have contact with in Norway and who was about to have a wooden house built for him. Saul mediated some contacts between the Norwegian and Estonian producers. However, the client was accompanied in Estonia by the architect Asbjørn Buen, undoubtedly the most well-known holiday homes architect in Norway, who was assisting with quality control on this trip. Saul and Buen got along famously, and this chance meeting led to the creation of a joint company: ‘In the first year, we produced 25 houses, but this number grew explosively year to year. In 2016, we had already made 110 pre-cut houses and also about 50 element houses, including special contracts,’ says Saul. The company functions in way that pre-cut and element houses are built in two separate factories, then the house is sent to target market re-sellers, developers and main contractors who deal with the sales process with the customers. The houses are also erected by small companies with Estonian roots, but as volumes grow, Nordic Houses plans to employ builders from other sub-contractors.

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Changing Wishes Saul describes how,using the example of Norway, trends and lifestyles are changing. ‘In the early years of production, most demand in Norway was for log houses. We primarily supplied pre-cut houses which the customer had to assemble themselves. Today however, customers mostly want energy-efficient wooden houses, and a lot of the time these will be completely finished houses, which require specialist assembly.’ This means that there is less willingness and skills to ‘do it yourself in society’ than previously, which int turn provides more work for wooden house producers. Our slogan is: ‘More time for living’. In other words, it is our job to offer quality and properly thought-through solutions, so that house owners will not later have to deal with problems. In order for us to fully understand our customers, we have employees fluent in the languages of the target markets working there,’ says Saul. The look of the houses has also changed. Albeit the most popular house model by Nordic Houses is the classical Scandinavian holiday cabin, there is also more and more preference for larger and more modern houses with glass surfaces for naturally beautiful environments. The most popular model of the company in the pre-cut series is Storodde – a four-bedroom house designed by Asbjørn Buen, which also has almost 50 square metres of terrace. In contrast to the classic designs, Nordic Houses also offers modern house modules called Nordic Compact, whose architectural solution was created by the Estonian design bureau Trilog Studio. The house consists of a spacious main module, and users can attach as many additional modules as desired. The modules can also be added later, for example when there are additions to the family and needs change correspondingly.

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Nordic Compact has also won the award for the best Estonian Factory House, which is issued annually by the Estonian Wooden Houses Association with the aim of acknowledging the wooden houses produced in Estonian factories. ‘Louis Isadore Kahn, the world-famous architect of Estonian origin, once said: “Do not erect buildings, design a way of living.” It is also our belief that a building is only a means to achieve the goal that a building can offer to people – the joy of living,’ says Saul. ‘Therefore, our ultimate goal is to promote Nordic lifestyles through our houses.’


Photos by Riina Varol, Stina Kase, Krõõt Tarkmeel, Marin Sild, Gabriela Liivamägi

PORTFOLIO_LILLI JAHILO

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Lilli Jahilo:

Feminine Strength in Estonian Design By Kristi Pärn-Valdoja / magazine Säde

‘Estonian design is a mix of Slavic lusciousness and Nordic minimalism,’ says Lilli Jahilo, this year’s winner of Kuldnõel (Golden Needle), the most reputable fashion award in Estonia.

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At the Kuldnõel Gala, Lilli presented her crystal-clear sparkling and light spring/ summer 2017 collection Sahara.

Fashion designer Lilli Jahilo is living proof that it is possible to practice haute couture in Estonia. Exclusive custom-made clothing is made from start to finish in-house, under the watchful eye of the designer. Experienced and highly skilful tailors give special attention to hand-made details and the quality of the finished garment. The designer herself is an amazingly warm and radiant person who bears a striking resemblance to the British film star Keira Knightley. ‘Yes, on my trips abroad, I have often been told I resemble her,’ Lilli laughs when I mention the similarity. ‘Of course, I cannot really see it myself, but I take it as a compliment,’ she goes on.

Talking of Keira Knightley, are you a film buff? Not really. Sometimes when I am in conversation with someone from the States it seems that they have seen all the films in the world and I never quite know what they are talking about. My own life and everything around me is so exciting that I don’t really watch films. Most films are so disheartening and depressing − I don’t really want that in my life.

What inspires you? For me fashion is about self-expression. I don’t consider myself to be a fashionista or someone who really loves to shop. I’m not the type. But I am really into this field and, already when I was a child, I wanted to become a fashion designer. I knew that before I even knew that such a profession exists. In this sense, my history (or so called story) is very boring. I was always sketching and cutting as a child and, in eighth grade, I decided I would go to the Academy of Arts and, indeed, I did. What inspires me? It is life and everything that happens around me. Fashion is not a thing in itself − it is connected to everything that

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happens in the world. An exhibition I have seen, music I have listened to, everything which seems to be in the air at a given moment − this is where I get my thoughts and shape them into my art. I am very inspired by nature. Nature is one of the greatest artists around. It has everything, beauty and harmony and, to an extent, I try to capture that in my designs. There is so much negativity in the world and I don’t therefore see why I should create something which does not make this world a better place. I have often thought that it must have something to do with our background and roots. Estonian designers tend to have the desire to create beauty, differently for example from English or French designers who deal more with the avant-garde and deconstruction. But many of us still remember the Soviet times and perhaps this is why instinctively we want to create something which is different. At the same time, I can also be inspired by dilapidated buildings or ugliness into creating something beautiful.

Tom Ford has said that he considers himself to be an artist when he makes films, but as a fashion designer he is commercial. How do you see yourself — as an artist or commercial designer? I am able to express myself through fashion. I manage my own brand and the company and I am free to do whatever I want.

What I meant is whether you think you make art or commerce? I would place fashion in between the two − that’s what makes it fascinating and that’s why it creates conversation. Fashion is consumer art, design. And the aim of design is to solve problems, in other words, to create things which people need in their lives.


Quotes by Lilli: I like creating things which are harmonious and resonate with contemporary life. When I design, I always ask myself whether I would personally wear this piece of clothing.  Fashion is like politics − everyone believes they know everything about it! Everyone speaks out about it, without really knowing what is behind the decisions and what makes up the bigger picture.  Fashion design is not something you can learn fast − you have to train for hours, days and years in order to become masterful. To draw all day long, endlessly, eight hours sketching a person in order to understand the logic behind the proportions. To train and train the cooperation between one’s eye and hand, in other words.  The simpler the product, the more perfectly it needs to be executed. Just like composing music − each pause has to carry itself.  What’s in fashion? Everything, as always. One should not be a fashion victim. If you are struggling with a style question, consult a stylist! There is no reason to feel bad about it − most well-dressed people round the world do just that… 

In your master’s thesis, you researched Estonian fashion in the 1930s-40s. What do you see as the greatest difference between fashion back then and today? Do the attempts and needs of fashion designers back then resemble those of fashion designers in 2016? Back then there were not that many people who would have considered themselves to be fashion designers. Dresses and costumes were sewn in ateliers by seamstresses. But interestingly enough, the fashion scene back then still resembles that of today. For example, in the 1930s, fashion shows in cafes and restaurants were very popular − hat makers, shoe sellers and shops selling lingerie formed teams and used models to demonstrate their products. The fashion scene was buzzing until it was destroyed by the Soviet occupation, which prescribed the appropriate length of skirts and so on. That said, interestingly enough, even during the Soviet era, fashion design in Estonia resembled the trends abroad. This really is proof that there are ideas in the air because, as we know, nothing much penetrated the Iron Curtain. But looking good has always been important for Estonians.

Today we can really spot the desire to be Scandinavian in our fashion scene. Such a yearning for Nordic fashion was probably not characteristic of Estonian fashion back then? No, I don’t think so. Scandinavia was definitely not seen as a trendsetter. I am not a fashion historian but, on the basis of the material I’ve researched, I would say that the fashion trends were coming from Paris.

One wall in your studio is filled with old photographs of a beautiful lady. These are probably not just an arbitrary find in a thrift store? No, the person on those photos is the aunt of my grandmother who was selected as Miss Estonia in 1931. In 1934, my great grandaunt moved to Paris where she worked as a model just like her other sister who had already moved there for work. Both married Frenchmen and, because of the occupation, never returned to live in Estonia. During the Soviet era, they came to visit a couple of times, and my grandmother still tells legends about those visits − her aunts were real ladies with their elegant costumes and seemed like aliens here, because for the Soviet regime such bourgeois appearance was condemned. Neither of the ladies had children. I am the great grandchild of their third sister. It is not written on the photos who is the designer of the costumes but it seems that, for example on one photo, she is posing in a dress by Elsa Schiaparelli and on another one by Lanvin.

Were you already fussy about your clothes as a kid? Did you set clear conditions to your parents about it? My mother can answer that question better than I can, but my other granny used to sew a lot of clothes for us − she had great taste. As a child, you are not so aware of what you should wear and what you shouldn’t. But I really liked to do handicrafts − to sew and cut, to create patterns… I still love to work with materials to this day. At university I loved to work with form and sculpture, I pay a lot of attention to detail − in other words, I am a real fan of my field. I get totally wrapped up in my creations; I am definitely someone who looks more inwardly.

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Each garment created by Lilli embodies royal elegance − every detail in place with nothing superfluous. 

As I understand it, you do not want to limit yourself only to Estonia when it comes to showing your work? You have participated in Berlin Fashion Week and recently you showed your dresses in Dubai? Well the Estonian market is just very tiny. There are too few people here for the designer clothing niche and I don’t think anyone should limit themselves only to their own home market. In recent years I have shown my collections around the world and in Europe, in the Netherlands my collections were seen by some Arabs who said: ‘Your luxurious collection is not meant for the Dutch market − you should take it to Dubai, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia’. And I then received several invitations to Dubai − one thing led to another. And as I believe that life is really about flow and one should go with the flow, I decided to go there. But then again it seemed pointless to just go there without having a showroom. So I first lived there for four weeks in order to understand how the market works and what people wear and, to date, I have done two showrooms which have received a very positive response. Everyone assumes that Arabs prefer lace and gold, but I happened to meet customers who want feminine minimalism and a modern cut. As nobody else there is catering to such customers, they were really into my work. They appreciate the quality of the fabrics and the tailoring, saying you could detect it from miles away. The clothes looked great on the clients and I can proudly say that I have some of the best tailors in the field. In the years, I have also learned to understand the female figure, so the clothes really do fit well. In longer perspective I would want to find retail opportunities in Dubai although, like everywhere else in the world, the competition in the market is dense.

Did you also manage to sell some of your garments whilst there? Yes, online. People can try things on in the showroom and then order them online. It is great to think that my dresses are walking around from Mexico to Australia and from Austria to Beijing. I love the idea that fashion crosses national borders, view of the world and religion. My customers tend to be career women with families and active lifestyles who want to value themselves through quality clothes. It is unimportant if they come from Arabic countries, Europe or Asia.

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What do you dream about? Good question (laughs). I dream about doing what I do well and managing to make ends meet whilst doing it. Today we are working towards this goal, because it is really difficult to be an entrepreneur. I often just carry on because I am crazily in love with my profession. I wouldn’t recommend young designers to start their own company, rather it makes sense to first create a career in a fashion house. Honestly, had I known what I get myself into…. Let’s put it this way, I wouldn’t do it again. You have to pay the salaries of your employees and the bills every month and retain your artistic excellence at the same time − it is a truly difficult balancing act.

But what about dreams like getting your creations sold in Printemps or Harrods? Yes why not, but I am not sure I should make such statements in media. If it comes true, I will say it out loud (laughs). Today it is a big deal for me that an Arab bride is getting married in my wedding dress and that we have clients all over the world. That already seems unbelievable but, of course, there are still big dreams to work for.

Do you only wear clothes designed by yourself? Yes! Ok, I buy jeans and sweaters, but everything else is my own design. Actually many of my designs, especially the bestsellers, have been created due to my own needs.

What do you think about the current state of Estonian fashion? I like it that many designers are running their businesses in a very professional brand-centred way. Estonian design is very competitive, but we often lack sales skills. Designers also tend to have low self-esteem − who are we here on the edge of Europe kind of thing. But we are here and we could turn that into our advantage. Designers in Milan and Paris are known all over the world, but nobody knows designers from Estonia. That is our advantage which creates interest in us. I think that the times will come when our heritage will become a real advantage.


It has happened to Georgian fashion — Vogue has written about it and the Georgian designer Demna Gvasalia became head designer of Balenciaga, and his brand Vetements is hugely popular globally… Yes, that is a great example! After all, there is always the search for something new in the world of fashion hence it is somewhat natural that former eastern bloc countries receive attention. Our time will come, I believe. But it is very important to remain true to your roots and your own unique worldview, because this is what makes you special after all and what touches people. For example, in Arabic countries there are not many fashion schools and the popular thing to do is to go study in London. And what happens is that they are often forgetting their uniqueness and just doing what the European designers are already doing. This just proves that we should remain true to our own vision.

What is that? Estonian design is a mix of Slavic lusciousness and Nordic minimalism. I have always noticed that Estonians have a really special sense of colour − we are not really so in love with the monochrome like Swedes and Finns, but we are also no fans of muddy, earthy tones which you see from Latvia southwards. Estonians like bright colours just like the ones on the traditional Muhu skirts.

Do Estonians have good taste? What an intriguing question!

Absolutely! I think we should refine it a little. We tend to combine very different things like a dress and a sports jacket, but of course our way of dressing is also influenced by the climate. When you it’s so cold, you really don’t care what you look like as long as you stay warm! But sometimes it is obvious at parties or receptions that Estonian women like to show everything at once. They need lace and frills and then accessories, and curls and full make-up… in other words, showing off all you have! Or take another great example − when a Swedish man goes out in the evening, he wears a suit because he has spent the whole day in the office in his jeans and sweater. Here it is the other way around − men wear their suit to work and then go out in their jeans and jumper at night.

Lilli Jahilo dedicates many hours to perfecting one dress. She acquired her masterful embroidery skills at the Chanel haute couture embroidery atelier Lesage.

But not so much from the business point of view? I don’t agree. I have a very responsible worldview, I believe we should consume fewer, but better quality products. Consumers should be aware of what they buy and not just buy clothes they rarely wear in bulk.

You travel a lot. Where would you say is the coolest current streetstyle in the world? Actually I don’t travel as much as you might think; I revisit the same places a lot because of work. But this year Beijing really took my breath away. The streetstyle is really surreal, you cannot stop observing it. First there is their love for headgear − everyone has some kind of hat, regardless of whether it suits them or not. In addition they really love jumpers and t-shirts with all sorts of texts, without really caring what’s actually written there. There is a lot of scuba and techno materials, unbelievable amounts of polyester and nylon. I really wondered why they wear so little silk, being the greatest silk producers in the world. I was told that the Chinese associate silk with traditional costume and for them it is something ancient and therefore nothing special. So that explains why their fashion style is so peculiar, why there is so much high-tech material. That is also why so many innovations in the fabric industry come from there − they yearn for it. The style of our Nordic neighbours is very casual, whereas Dubai is like New York − you will find everything there.

But I would still credit Estonian women as they have retained a very feminine taste. People like to wear dresses, which is great because a dress is one of the most comfortable pieces of clothing. After all, people’s choice in clothes reflects the times. It is interesting to look at fashion from the viewpoint of semiotics.

Estonian women tend to be very practical also? Definitely, when buying a dress she wants it to last for years and to wear it in summer, autumn and winter, at weddings and funerals. So when you manage to design a dress like that, you have really scored. And it is a good approach from a sustainable worldview.

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Kaspars Putnins

A Blessing for Estonian Contemporary Composers in An Era of the Individual Voice By Maris Hellrand / Photos by Kaupo Kikkas

The double Grammy-awarded Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir has been the beacon and benchmark of Estonian professional choir music since its founding by TĂľnu Kaljuste 35 years ago in 1981. Since the 2014/2015 season, Latvian conductor Kaspars Putnins has joined the creative journey of the choir, while putting a strong emphasis on new repertoire particularly by Estonian composers. 64

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The EPCC together with Finnish guitar virtuoso Marzi Nyman performing a folk-inspired piece ‘Vitsa’ by Tauno Aints

A recent example of this was the cooperation with Weekend Guitar Trio for Jazzkaar, and performance of new music for guitars and choir at Tallinn Creative Hub, a former power plant. A rare combination of a very rocky electric guitar by the Finnish virtuoso Marzi Nyman together with the most classical choir, while performing a folk-inspired piece ‘Vitsa’ by Tauno Aints, was certainly a very novel but popular experience for the audience at Jazzkaar, as well as the fans of the choir. Furthermore, the premiere of Sven Grünberg’s composition ‘Kas ma sind leian?’ (Will I Find You?) touched the chords. Putnins says, he has been a huge fan of Weekend Guitar Trio and Robert Jürjendal’s work in particular for decades. ‘This cooperation is a wonderful expansion of who we are, how we see and hear things. The particular qualities that those guys bring forth in the way they approach sound and the way they express themselves in music is very inspiring for us. Some of the elements are simple but they are so intense, so well thought through and so delicate as well,’ he explains. Kaspars Putnins is an intellectual musician who the choir members consider to be very sincere, kind and well mannered yet quite outspoken when working. Putnins has likened the EPCC to a luxury car: ‘It’s a modern Rolls Royce, not a strange vintage. It’s very modern, sophisticated, smooth and stylish. It’s certainly got a very nice character.’ What is the kind of music that the audience expects from you? Does this expectation shape the identity of the choir? ‘The audience is not a monolithic entity; it has many faces and many components to it. On the one hand, there are some particular expectations; on the other hand, in the communication with the audience you can also introduce trends that can become very important. That is how I see our choir and my position here: we keep telling and retelling the story of the EPCC while adding new colors, new elements into that story. We expand that space.

This has to happen with a group of this kind. It has to maintain its identity but at the same time it has to also expand organically and grow. This identity is of course the repertoire which everybody knows and everybody associates with the EPCC − Estonian music that the choir has been dealing with. And this, by the way, has been seen as very innovative at the time. We all know the music of Arvo Pärt and Veljo Tormis and have a particular association with it. But it’s difficult to identify oneself with audiences of 30 years ago, when all this was totally new and positively striking at the time. It was so innovative. This is what we are known for and that is of course what we still do to a large extent. We take that repertoire abroad and we bring that to our audiences here. But at the same time it’s also very important to expand, to look for the new Arvo Pärts (if there is one); the new Veljo Tormises. And you are very rich here in this country, or we are very rich in this country should I say − we have very bright and interesting personalities writing new music. I am very happy to have such a great relationship with them all.’ Yet the passion for new music is not only about challenging the audience or evolving the identity of the choir. For Putnins music has a vital role in shaping the contemporary society: ‘I still think that in this postmodern world the qualities that are being created here and now, the expression of the thoughts of feelings of a creative person right now, with all the good and bad things and all the environment in all its aspects taken into consideration; this is extremely important. Sometimes you can’t even realize it fully, but it is like the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, the sky above us. We don’t think about it all the time, but when it’s suddenly absent then we are in trouble. With contemporary arts, we create the space where we live. It doesn’t mean that we necessarily consume it every day, or that we have to listen to the most modern music every day or read modern poetry. But for the society as such, it creates that space where it lives.’

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I CREATIVE ESTONIA The EPCC will participate in the Eesti Muusika Päevad (’Estonian Music Days’) in April 2017, with two new works by Evelin Seppar and Tatjana Kozlova. Another exciting project on the horizon is the Üle Heli festival in October, focusing on electronic music. Putnins says: ‘One of the directions I’m very interested in is the new media and its potential relationship with the human voice – the choir as an instrument. We are commissioning a new piece by Lisa Hirsch for that purpose, as we have already done so with Ülo Krigul and Mirjam Tally.’

New music helps to develop the choir beyond its comfort zone and adds new colour to classic repertoire as well, as Putnins explains: ‘The vision of the composers we work with is not just that we commission one piece from somebody with a very obscure vision of what the choir could be, who then delivers the score the next day and we just sing it. No, this is really a relationship. We get to know each other and they get to know the choir from the inside out. And then through their artistic vision, they will give new colour to what we potentially are, which we don’t even know. Through this kind of collaboration we can obtain something new in the frame of our identity.’ The impact of new music goes even further: ‘Through this innovative experience, one reveals new qualities in the other repertoire as well. If you are very familiar with the music of Brahms for instance, you will probably look slightly differently at Bach as well. This expanding universe gives you more insight into all of its aspects. It’s not that by doing something you lose something else. It’s vice versa in fact. Once you sharpen your ear to very complex contemporary music, you can enjoy the particular colour and precision of, say, 19th century music much more. It may sound a bit paradoxical, but that’s the way I see it. I’ve just experienced that. Once you know very well Schnittke’s “Psalms of Repentance” you can suddenly sing Rachmaninoff very differently.’ Kaspars Putnins was born and raised in Latvia and at the time of EPCC’s founding he was just a teenager. Both Estonia and Latvia consider themselves to be strongly rooted in their choral traditions. Both celebrate regular song festivals, with tens of thousands of singers, and find their identity in music. Looking from the inside, how similar and/or different are these two cultures really? ‘Generally speaking we are very similar, because the whole tradition has the same roots. It’s very obvious that the singing tradition is going thousands of years back into our history and it has been a very important part of our societies. There are songs for almost every aspect of life − all

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seasons have their songs, all festivities, all jobs and tasks, anything that has to do with human life – all have their songs. Yet these songs are all quite different of course. Even in Latvia they are differ from region to region. In Estonia and Latvia we were both ‘Lutheranized’ fairly early on, and my speculation is that this has also been a huge boost for the choral tradition. There is evidence that in Latvia, even in very small rural schools with just 10 children and one teacher, they would sing four part chorals every day in the 17th century. And then both countries have experienced similar political problems and a similar political environment and which all served to strengthen the choral quality. The need for singing still resonates with us. The contemporary scene is very much influenced by personalities. Here in Estonia you would of course mention Gustav Ernesaks and Tõnu Kaljuste, who with their vision and their very powerful charismatic leadership would influence and start trends. The same is true in Latvia with Teodors and Imants Kalnins, who introduced the completely new sounds which we now associate with Latvian choir music. But in fact this was kind of invented as we went along. This invention then resonates and grows into something really spectacular. The new sound is probably a wider trend; it is about precision, about what we sometimes call ‘white sound’, about a very delicate blend, an ensemble feeling. This is something I can hear in Estonia as well.’ The contemporary composition scene makes it harder to speak of trends or directions, however: ‘This period of history is a period of individuals. Composers can create their own worlds. Of course they are influenced by each other. But still, this is very much the era of an individual voice.’ Putnins enjoys a full calendar for both himself and the EPCC, with the US tour being one of the highlights of 2017. ‘I’m really happy here. It’s so humanly, personally interesting for me to dive into these relationships and into this country with its so many wonderfully talented people.’


The EPCC The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir (EPCC) is one of the bestknown Estonian music ensembles in the world. The EPCC was founded in 1981 by Tõnu Kaljuste who went on to be its artistic director and chief conductor for twenty years. Over the years 2001–2007, an English musician named Paul Hillier took over. In 2008–2013 the artistic director and chief conductor was Daniel Reuss. Since 2014, Kaspars Putnins has been the artistic director and chief conductor of the choir. The repertoire of the choir extends from Gregorian chant and baroque compositions to the music of the 21st century, with a special focus on the work of Estonian composers such as Arvo Pärt, Veljo Tormis, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Galina Grigoryeva, Toivo Tulev, Tõnu Kõrvits and Helena Tulve, and introducing this body of work to the world. Each season, the 26-member choir gives about 60-70 concerts, both in Estonia and abroad. The EPCC has cooperated with a vast range of outstanding and world famous conductors, including: Claudio Abbado, Helmuth Rilling, Eric Ericson, Ward Swingle, Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Nikolai Alekseyev, Olari Elts, Andrew Lawrence-King, Roland Böer, Frieder Bernius, Stephen Layton, Marc Minkowski, Christoph Poppen, Sir Colin Davis, Michael Riesman, Louis Langree, Paul McCreesh, Gottfried von der Goltz, and Andrés Orozco-Estrada, and Gustavo Dudamel. The EPCC has also worked with the following world-class orchestras: The Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, The Australian Chamber Orchestra, The Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, The Prague Chamber Orchestra, The Stuttgardt Chamber Orchestra, The London Symphony Orchestra, The Mahler Chamber Orchestra, The Berlin Rundfunk Orchestra, Concerto Copenhagen, Concerto Palatino, The Württemberg Chamber Orchestra, The Salzburg Camerata, Les Musiciens du LouvreGrenoble, The Philip Glass Ensemble, The North Netherland Symphony

The latest ECM album ‘Gesualdo’ by Tõnu Kaljuste and the EPCC has been nominated for the best classical compilation Grammy. www.epcc.ee

Orchestra, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, The Basel Chamber Orchestra, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Estonian National Symphony and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra. The EPCC has furthermore been a welcome guest at numerous music festivals and outstanding venues all over the world, including:The BBC Proms, Mozartwoche in Salzburg, Austria, The Abu Gosh Music Festival, The Hong Kong Arts Festival, The Moscow Easter Festival, Musikfest Bremen, The Salzburg Festspiele, The Edinburgh International Festival, Festival Aix-en-Provence, The International Cervantino Festival, The Vale of Glamorgan Festival, The Bergen International Festival, The SchleswigHolstein Musik Festival, The Sydney Opera House, Wiener Konzerthaus, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Versailles Opéra Royal, Palau Musica in Barcelona, LSO St Luke’s in London, The Esplanade (Singapore), The Kennedy Centre (Washington DC), The Lincoln Centre and Carnegie Hall in New York, The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and more. Another important aspect of the choir’s life is recording music (for ECM, Virgin Classics, Carus, Harmonia Mundi and Ondine), resulting in various award-winning CDs. EPCC recordings have twice won a Grammy-Award for Best Choral Performance: in 2007 for the album of Arvo Pärt’s Da Pacem (Harmonia Mundi) with conductor Paul Hillier, and Arvo Pärt’s Adam’s Lament (ECM) with conductor Tõnu Kaljuste. All in all, the choir boasts 15 Grammy nominations with works by Arvo Pärt, Erkki-Sven Tüür and music from all the Nordic countries. EPCC recordings have also won the award Diapason d’or, Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Danish Music Award, de Choc de l’Année Classica 2014 and more!

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I TOURISM Matthias Diether, born in Berlin, raised in Southern Germany, gained his professional knowledge with some of the great German chefs. He subsequently ventured out to the big wide world and managed gourmet kitchens in Dubai for the Ritz Carlton, the Emirates Palace, and the Shangri-La, led the kitchens of the Turnberry Resort in Scotland before moving to the pulsating German capital, Berlin, where he founded his signature restaurant, First Floor, in 2010. Matthias has personally earned eight Michelin stars for the restaurants he has led. Since January 2016 he is Chef de Cuisine of Alexander Restaurant of Pädaste Manor, on Muhu island.

German Michelin Star Chef Exploring Nordic Islands’ Cuisine in Tallinn By Maris Hellrand / Photos by Lauri Laan

Tucked away in a secluded medieval courtyard, next to the busiest of the viewing platforms looking over Tallinn’s Old Town, is the latest best-kept secret in gourmet Tallinn, Alexander Chef’s Table. Here, Michelin star chef Matthias Diether spoils his guests at his own communal dining table, custom-made from one 220 year old elm-tree.

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If you’re a first-timer you will need very precise directions to even locate the place – the entrance is unpretentious; just ring the bell at the gate. But then the magic begins; right where you least even expect it is a fabulous courtyard – compact, complete, calm and beautiful, with no sign of the hustle and bustle of touristy street life. A warm and homely welcome from Diether’s kitchen will take you back to Muhu Island and Pädaste Manor – the true home of Alexander. Now let the journey truly begin!

Slow-cooked trout with lemon aloisia and tomatoes Diether serves a seven-course Island Degustation Menu on four nights each week at a communal table, while completing two almost impossible tasks simultaneously – interpreting the very traditional Estonian ingredients in a rather surprising way and making somewhat circumspect Estonians feel sufficiently at ease to share a meal and a great conversation with strangers. In fact, just the first few weeks at Diether’s dining table have reportedly yielded at least one business deal, one extended family discovering more new members and a newly-met couple! The secret of this extraordinary experience is being passed on by word of mouth only, yet already diners from as far as Moscow and even all the way from Singapore have discovered the place!

Amuse-bouche: ostrich tartar from Muhu For many foodies, the restaurant Alexander at Pädaste Manor on Muhu Island has long been a sought-after destination. Perennially chosen as the best restaurant in Estonia for many years now, Alexander has been a shining beacon in the gourmet scene. This latest season saw Pädaste ratchet up yet another notch in the competition, by handing the kitchen over to Matthias Diether, the first Michelin star chef ever to work in Estonia.

Beetroot mousse, apple variations, pigeon Pädaste on Muhu is the ultimate synonym in Estonia for luxurious leisure, with its hotel, restaurant, and spa. The only drawback, however, is the long winter break, closing it does from late September to March. Now at long last owner Martin Breuer, together with chef Diether have managed to replicate the complete Muhu magic in Tallinn for the dark winter months. Located in a hidden courtyard right next to the mostvisited viewing platform on Toompea, the home dining room of Diether has managed not only to conserve the delectable Pädaste vegetables, but also to teleport the amazing island atmosphere of Muhu – elegant and elevated, yet relaxed and down-to-earth.

Eel tartar, red cabbage sauce, mustard ice cream By late summer 2016, Diether was fully taken by his new home kitchen in Pädaste: ‘It’s our Nordic concept – we use regional ingredients. They go straight from the sea onto my kitchen counter,’ he explains. Much of what swims, flies and grows on and around Muhu ends up in Matthias Diether’s pots and pans – trout and eel from the sea, ostrich from the neighboring farm, super-sweet tomatoes from the manor’s garden, wild mushrooms and vegetables from the woods and wetlands. It’s actually a familiar territory for Diether: ‘Even in winter the produce we have here is just like that in Germany: beets, celery root and winter vegetables. They are all very similar so it’s up to me to come up with creative ways to use them.’

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I TOURISM Oxtail, potato, lovage Diether tries to retain the original flavor of his ingredients, and he has already done this working in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Scotland. Pädaste has its own garden replete with gardener – a dream for any chef determined to cook with the freshest seasonal produce possible. Summer days in Estonia are diametrically the opposite to those of winter - long, with lots of sunshine. That gives the fruits and vegetables a more intense flavor. Diether, a master of authentic tastes, has managed to bring all this to Tallinn also, by preserving Muhu-grown tomatoes using herbs and olive oil and ‘winter-proofing’ other fruit and vegetables from the island: ‘We have brought a lot of produce from Pädaste. Before we opened here I spent a whole week on Muhu in the garden with our gardener. We cut down everything before the frost came – we fermented, marinated, put things in oil,’ he outlines.

Mandarin parfait, white chocolate, ginger Guests are encouraged to walk around as they please. ‘This is a real live chef’s table. I have to bring people together who don’t know each other. It’s always an adventure.’ At the start of the dinner he explains the rules of the game: he or she who doesn’t finish the food has to do the dishes… or maybe not! Rule number two: no loud voices, since the resident spaniel, Charlie, is asleep downstairs… or maybe not!... Rule number three: you can stick your finger in the sauce… or maybe not! Ultimately it is of course not about rules at all, just pure pleasure and fun.

Goat cheese, pumpkin chutney A small walk between the courses actually is a blessing. And there’s plenty to see: the building, where Alexander Chef’s Table resides has been in the same family for 500 years – descendants of the first Tatar spice merchant to arrive in Tallinn in the Hanseatic trading era. The postcard view from the dining room, overlooking the romantic old town, is just stunning.

Veal cheek, Jerusalem artichoke, pear The main challenge? ‘It’s a completely new job. We almost have to take the guests by the hand here. Estonians are usually a bit shy and prefer to sit alone. But the show we do here at the table helps to melt the ice – burning, smoking, caramelizing – this is all so important. The first two to three courses, a few wines tasted, then everyone relaxes and the communication starts to happen. It is a total challenge. I am having conversations with the guests but I also have to keep the kitchen in mind,’ explains Diether.

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Petit fours In March, the winter retreat of Alexander will move back to Muhu for another summer full of sunshine, long days and bright Nordic nights. Until then, the longing for Pädaste’s calm and luxury can be eased in Diether’s dining room on Toompea hill.


Estonia’s 30 Best Restaurants Are Listed in White Guide Nordic Boasting strong traditions, the Estonian gastronomy scene is remarkably colourful. The different regions of this most northerly of Baltic nations, bloom with solid identities. Estonia is a nation still deeply in touch with nature. This is the defining force binding together the cuisines of the coastal folk, islanders, south central Mulgimaa, south-eastern Setomaa and the Russian Old Believers alongside the shore of Lake Peipus. Estonia has also enjoyed recognition on the European high-end gastronomic chart. As of the end of October 2016, Estonia’s 30 best restaurants have been listed in White Guide Nordic. Here is the TOP 10:

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Global Masters Level

NOA Chef’s Hall  Ranna tee 3, Tallinn www.noaresto.ee/en Phone (+372) 508 0589 A private and elegant restaurant, which seats 45 people. Chef’s Hall presents a wonderful fine dining experience by the seaside in Tallinn. They offer a five to seven course degustation menu, which has been created by Tõnis Siigur and Mihkel Rand using only the best ingredients, in an open kitchen.

Tõnis Siigur

Alexander Pädaste küla, Muhu vald, Saare maakond www.padaste.ee Phone (+372) 454 8800 Alexander is located at Pädaste Manor. Its high ceilings open up views of the sunny conservatory and the ancient trees in the manor park. The team at Alexander offers delicious food from the various Baltic islands, inspired by the cooking traditions of Muhu and its surroundings, and valuing local traditions and the diverse tastes of different seasons. Alexander has been awarded the title of Estonia’s Best Restaurant for the last three years.

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Masters Level

Ö Mere puiestee 6E, Tallinn www.restoran-o.ee/en Phone (+372) 661 6150 Restaurant Ö offers its clients a novel and wonderful experience of Nordic cuisine; dinner is like a small performance, telling a story. The head chefs of the restaurant find it perfectly natural that we use only the best local and Nordic ingredients, and cooperate with small producers and farmers. Seasonal produce, foraging and ancient food preparation methods – when old classics have been deconstructed and then reconstructed in a new way, the result is going to be magnificent.

Art Priori Olevimägi 7, Tallinn www.artpriori.ee Phone (+372) 600 3353 Restaurant Art Priori – this is art on the walls and on the plates! Soft, creative and elegant flavours will offer a sophisticated and surprising culinary experience.

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Very Fine Level

Restaurant & Bar Horisont Tornimäe tn 3, Tallinn www.horisontrestoran.ee Phone (+372) 624 3000 The elegant and stylish Restaurant & Bar Horisont is located at the top floor of Swissôtel Tallinn. This is an ideal place for relaxing and enjoying five star cuisine. Visitors can enjoy the enchanting panoramic view of the Old Town of Tallinn and the sea beyond. Restaurant Horisont offers a modern take on food, using seasonal, local and international ingredients. The Restaurant also offers the opportunity of holding private dinners in a special purpose room.

Tchaikovsky Vene tänav 9, Tallinn www.telegraafhotel.com/restaurant-tchaikovsky Phone (+372) 600 0610 At the end of the 18th century, the best French chefs found their way to Russia. The result was an unprecedented fusion of Russian and French cuisine. Their passion is to reproduce the recipes created by these masters and infuse them with their own experience and vision. The winner of many awards, Tchaikovsky, is a genuine and high quality restaurant for real gourmets, where even the tiniest details are important. The wonderful emotions it evokes are well worth the price.

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Cru Vene tänav 9, Tallinn www.telegraafhotel.com/restaurant-tchaikovsky Phone (+372) 600 0610 Inspired by the historical atmosphere of the amazing Old Town of Tallinn, restaurant Cru aims to strike a balance between classic and modern cuisine, making any culinary experience truly timeless. Its two main rooms have been renovated in line with the original plans of the 15th century building, creating an authentic feeling from the late Middle Ages. The head chef of the restaurant Dmitri Haljukov represented Estonia in the finals of Bocuse d’Or (also called the Olympics for Chefs) in Lyon in 2015. Cru’s chef Pavel Gurjanov was the Chef of the Year in 2013 and received the first place at Baltic Culinary Star Cup.

Ribe Vene tänav 7, Tallinn www.ribe.ee/en Phone (+372) 631 3084 The menu at Ribe, which was established in 2007, is characterised by fresh, seasonal and mainly local ingredients. The flavours and techniques of the European cuisine naturally also play an important role. The head chef of the restaurant is Radoslav Mitro. Ribe has consistently been nominated as one of the top 50 restaurants in the country, in recent years ranking close to the top of the list.

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NOA  Ranna tee 3, Tallinn www.noaresto.ee/en Phone (+372) 508 0589 NOA restaurant (roughly pronounced ‘Noah’, in English) is anything but a stranded ark full of animals. On the contrary, Noa is remarkable for its location, architecture and interior design. Naturally, you can find the best flavours here, accompanied by a million dollar view of the Tallinn skyline and the sea.

Hõlm Ülikooli tänav 14, Tartu holmrestoran.ee/en Phone (+372) 730 4008 Restaurant Hõlm has a first-class menu with high-quality service; all comers feel welcome there. Chief cook Lauri Ülenurme and his team create unforgettable taste experiences, as they carefully think through all of the details and prepare and serve them correspondingly. A special feature of the restaurant is its open kitchen, which immediately creates a harmony between the visitor and kitchen, giving everyone the opportunity to enjoy extraordinary culinary art. Additionally, the restaurant surprises its visitors with recipes which are taken from the recipe collection of 1925–26 by Lydia Grünhamm Holm. The restaurant’s name was inspired by her last name.

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Taylor also had an encounter with kama (a traditional finely-milled flour combining different grains such as oats and barley – ed.) that he really enjoyed. For his show, he created a dessert, in which he combined kama and yoghurt. He then added to the mixture some whipped cream, Vana Tallinn liqueur and cherry jam when serving. In the Estonian-themed show, Taylor will also cook lamb shoulder in addition to the traditional Christmas dessert.

Tareq Taylor In the winter of 2016, Swedish-born chef Tareq Taylor visited Estonia in order to introduce Estonian food on the fourth season of his cooking show ‘Nordic Cookery’ back home. Estonia succeeded in surprising Tareq with activities he had never managed to previously try during the four years of making the show. One of these included picking cranberries in a bog, which he later used to make a dessert consisting of local lingonberry jam, fresh cranberries, orange peel and cinnamon. Tareq was particularly thrilled about Kalamatsi Esna cheese: ‘I also tried an amazing local cheese kept in a brine that gives it a hard crust, yet makes it explode in your mouth,’ the chef said, and confirmed anything sexier than this cheese would be difficult to find. He also tested an ice cider made by a small Estonian producer that, in his opinion, would be gone from the shelves in hours if people only knew how good it is.

The TV-chef was amazed that he was invited to the cellar of each restaurant he visited to have a look at the preserves. ‘Everything grown during summer has been preserved and the jars, when opened during winter, add up to a sort of connection to the past,’ Taylor stated. New episodes of Tareq Taylor’s Nordic Cookery will see the light of day in the summer of 2017. ‘I will be sure to return to Estonia with my family but next time I’ll leave my camera behind,’ Tareq Taylor assured us, and stated that he hopes people will continue to discover Estonia.

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Outdoor Winter Adventures Here are the best winter activities to do in Estonia:

When temperatures plummet and the Estonian landscapes transform themselves, with ice and snow abounding, unique sporting conditions appear. As Estonians have done for centuries, visitors can also experience skiing, skating, sledging and snowshoeing across the sparkling winter scenery. Explore the diverse regions and untouched wildernesses through your favourite winter sport, or if you don’t yet have one, try out an adventurous new activity!

For the Traditionalist Who said there is anything dull about classic winter sports? Go ice skating on an outdoor rink in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town, or hop just outside the city for a scenic horse-drawn carriage ride. In South Estonia, traverse kilometres of downhill and cross country skiing tracks in the landscapes of Otepää or skate on the frozen sea in the Northern island town of Haapsalu!

Pühajärve-Kääriku Ski Track Enjoy the magic of winter on the 10 km Pühajärve-Kääriku ski track. It has a simple relief and is well suited for amateur skiers. In Kääriku itself, you can continue your skiing hike on the Kääriku ski tracks, which vary in length.

Haapsalu Väike Viik skating rink Come and bring your friends to spend a day skating or playing hockey on the lovely Väike Viik. You can also skate and ski on the sea ice on the two bays of Haapsalu – Eeslaht and Tagalaht.

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For the Adventurer Explore the Kõrvemaa nature reserve in Northern Estonia, either by snowmobile for the speed seekers, or by husky sledge for those who are more animal lovers. Spend an afternoon exploring, or even make an overnight expedition. Downhill ski on the slopes of Estonia’s most famous mountain ski centre, Kuutsemäe, or on the former mining-heaps-turned winter centre, at Kohtla.

Dog sledge tour of Kõrvemaa / Rapla County replete with huskies! Husky dogsled rides are undoubtedly the most fun you can have in Estonia in the winter. Participants of the tour can try riding a traditional husky sledge; additionally, they will learn about the life of huskies, their training and their fun and friendly character. Depending on the route, we will visit the most important sights of the region and talk about the nature and history of the area. The tour lasts about 5 to 5.5 hours. Remember to wrap-up warm!

Snowmobile trip in Kõrvemaa You can select between trips of various durations starting from one hour. Longer trips include a picnic; if you would like, we can also organise a safari at night.

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For the Discoverer Do you like to seek novel and unique experiences? Hike through bogs with snowshoes and spend the night in a tepee, or go ice-hole swimming after working up a sweat in a traditional Estonian smoke sauna for a tingling, energizing feeling like no other. Take to a kicksledge for a different way of traveling through winter landscapes, and visit an uninhabited island in the middle of Estonia’s largest lake.

Two day trek for nomads ‘Hiking on snowshoes in the tranquil bogs of Rapla County’ A primeval nomadic trek is the perfect trial for the brave and the adventurous. This is an escape from the harrowing limitations of daily routine to get back in touch with yourself and nature. For two days, we’ll be hiking on snowshoes; during the night, we’ll stay in a tepee by a crackling fire. We will travel across cultivated landscapes, bogs and through the woods. On the first day, we will cover 17 km and on the second day, 10 km.

A winter safari and ski trip in Kakerdaja bog You can go on a ski trip on wide hiking skis that can be attached to any type of footwear. To offer you a special experience, you will be driven to the bog in ZIL safari trucks! These are 6x6 trucks of Soviet origin meant for military use and rough terrains. At the back, there is enough room for 35-40 people.

Sauna session in a traditional Old Võromaa smoke sauna at Mooska The smoke sauna traditions of Old Võromaa have found a dignified place in the list of UNESCO intangible cultural heritages. At Mooska Farm, you can sample this ancient Estonian heritage for yourself. A traditional sauna session lasts at least three (3) hours, and the smoke sauna of Mooska Farm can comfortably accommodate eight people. The rich aroma of burning wood is complemented by a whispered note of the meat smoked in the sauna, birch boughs, and sauna honey. Located next to a pond; in winter, you can quickly dip yourself in its nearby icy waters.

Find out more on www.visitestonia.com

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Photos by: SCANPI X

The late winter and early spring season in Estonia is the perfect time to enjoy not only world class sports events but also big international music events at the same time. Take a look at the highlights of the events in the following months.

Events in Estonia Highlights from January to March Simple Session 4 - 5 February Tallinn The annual Simple Session BMX & skateboarding contest – one of world‘s most anticipated action sports events – will be taking place on February 4-5 in Tallinn, Estonia. SS17 will be hosting over a hundred top athletes from around the world at Saku Arena, the largest indoor event hall in the Estonian capital. With 30+ different countries represented, the Simple Session has grown into one of the most international extreme sports events out there. For years, Simple Session has been the highlight of the world’s BMX & skateboarding contest calendar, reaching a global audience through its massive media coverage and celebrating everything that is amazing about BMX/skate lifestyles. The unforgettable contest will be followed by unstoppable after parties, which together form one awesome festival experience. www.session.ee

FIS Cross Country World Cup 18 - 19 February Otepää The biggest winter sports competition, the Otepää World Cup, is back in Estonia. Come and watch over the two days the world’s best skiers, keep your fingers crossed for the Estonian athletes and put your own athletic abilities to the test as well. This diverse program offers activities for the entire family. www.owc.ee

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Pärnu Spa Week 4 - 12 March Pärnu is a city with much to discover and do every season. You can spend an active vacation here, visit water centres, enjoy a quiet and relaxing spa session with your beloved, or have an enjoyable dinner with your family and friends. During the spa-week, Pärnu will have many tempting offers in store for visiting water centres and spas, and booking your stay, as well as familiarising yourself with the local cafés, restaurants, and sports facilities. The 2017 Spa week keywords are healthy lifestyle and health. www.visitparnu.com/talvespaa

Tallinn Music Week 27 March - 2 April Tallinn Tallinn Music Week (TMW) is the biggest indoor festival in the Nordic-Baltic region. The artist line-up presents over 200 Estonian and international acts from diverse musical genres, attracting an enthusiastic audience of nearly 25 000 music lovers from Estonia and beyond. Besides the main frenzy taking place at the capital’s finest venues, it’s a way of discovering a rarely-seen side of the city, free pop-up concerts, pub-quiz style chatter, culinary delights and art exhibits within TMW’s sub-programmes and fringe-events City Stage, TMW Talks, TMW Tastes, TMW Arts and Tallinn Craft Beer Weekend. www.tmw.ee

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You were born 100 years too late to explore earth & 100 years too early to explore space.

YOU WERE BORN TO EXPLORE THE DIGITAL WORLD.



Life in Estonia. Winter 2017