On Estonia at The World

To share another recent radio appearance (the previous one in Estonian only, sorry) here is my interview for Marco Werman at PRI’s The World that aired on a network of radio stations across the US in January: MP3, 4.5 minutes. We talked a little about Skype, but more about the factors that have enabled tiny Estonia to introduce a number of tech innovations both inside the country and for the world.

To understand the context for the interview, please listen to (direct MP3 link) Cyrus Farivar‘s report on Enterprise Estonia opening offices in Silicon Valley, featuring also Andrus Viirg and Steve Jürvetson.

PS: on a totally different topic, I got reminded of the above audio files being available by a blog post on The Future of Newsrooms. Interesting reading around journalists’ changing role (information broker VS investigator). I’m afraid this specific post above here creates a crashing meta-referral of “my own thoughts” back to “mainstream media”, El Oso?

Kukul Külas

Nädal tagasi käisin Kuku raadio saates Kukul Külas. Aukartustäratav – 15 aastat saadet ja üle 700 külalise, mitte keegi neist rohkem kui üks kord.

Olin kutset saades mõnevõrra kõhklev ja ebakindel – raadio otse-eeter ei ole küll nii hull kui televisiooni oma, aga kaks tundi isiklikel teemadel grillimist, ilma vigade parandamise võimaluseta võiks iga inimese tema mugavustsoonist pisut välja tõsta.

Tegelikult juhtis Janek Luts vestlust väga mõnusas võtmes. Rääkisime eelkõige Skype’ist, Eesti majandusest, riigi tulevikust ja muust. Liigsesse isikukultusesse laskumata.

Nagu ikka, on audiosalvestused võrgus olemas: esimene tund ja teine tund.

It is scary HOW thin the startup layer really is

Small and medium businesses form a dominant part of any economy. Countries, governments – in some more progressive corners in the world, whole societies – work hard to create fertile environments where new startup companies could spawn from. Just a tiny percentage of them will become the next [insert your favourite global brand here]. But we couldn’t live without even those who don’t. As a random example, SME’s give over 50% of the jobs and turnover of the UK economy – and the UK is supposed to be the most “large corporate” one in Europe.

Given this, it is no wonder that you hear the “we need more startups!” rally cry, especially in innovative and more value generating fields promising a brighter future. Depending who you talk to, there is always a different benchmark to look up to. Estonians feel that we should get to Finnish level. Finns feel that they don’t have as many startups as in Sweden or Singapore. Anywhere in Europe you can’t escape the discussion on when and how we get to where Silicon Valley is without startup culture and volumes.

And now a scary though from Silicon Alley, in the context of the MSFT-YHOO acquisition:

For $44 billion, Microsoft could buy every Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley venture-backed start-up in existence. That includes Facebook at $15 billion. It includes Slide, RockYou, and every other elemental company. It would be a Moe Green kind of scene like at the end of the Godfather when Michael Corleone takes out all the heads of the five families. It would turn Microsoft’s Internet business around overnight. It would be the ultimate coup.

Just $44 billion (well, I know it’s no pocket change, but remember the times when AOL paid about $182 billion for Time Warner? and US dollar has become a lot cheaper as well since then.) and for a second there are no more startups in the Valley? Nor the Alley. That is scary.

At the same time, the venture capital market looking to invest in those startups is better financed than ever. VC investments reached $40 billion globally in 2007 (why does this number look so familiar?), high since 2001. And the result? Sellers market, of course.

Paul Graham‘s essay The Venture Capital Squeeze from 2005 is a must read now. To understand why having rich employees is a benefit, how post-Enron SOX rules are suffocating the IPO market and how VC industry has gone head to head with corporate acquisitions.

Karu Tõde, mitte ainult ajakirjanike kohta

Ühtpidi oli see ajakirjaniku töökohus, täita väljamõõdetud pind kindlaks kellaajaks. Ja samas olla kohal, tajuda maailma ja ühiskonda ja astuda siis sammuke lugejast ettepoole ja öelda midagi, mille peale lugeja veel tulnud pole.

Jakob Karu, Areen, 8. veebruaril 2008

Kohtustuse-osa kõrvale jättes, võiks kehtida ka hea bloggeri kohta?

Tuulelohe lend 2008

Tuulelohe lend 2008
Kuna [eelmise aasta postitus sellelt ürituselt](http://sten.tamkivi.com/2007/02/paar_paeva_eesti_majanduspolii.html) on üks selle blogi läbi aegade loetumaid, jagan ka seekord oma märkmeid [Eest Tööandjate Keskliidu](http://www.ettk.ee/) aastakonverentsilt [Tuulelohe lend 2008](http://www.ettk.ee/et/koolitus/tuulelohelend2008/programm2008). Kui eelmisel aastal oli üritus pühendatud ETTK, siis seekord Vabariigi enda 90ndale juubelile.
Alltoodud värvikamad arvamused ja huvitavad faktid eri esinejatelt on toodud toimetamata ja analüüsimata. Soovi korral võite viimast teha kommentaarides.

Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from Tekes R&D financing seminar

On Monday I was in Helsinki, speaking at a seminar organized by Tekes, Finnish funding agency for tech & innovation. They are launching a new generation of integrated startup financing schemes – which I do not know much about, as my Finnish is below par to fully understand their published materials. But it was a nice half-day event to provide context around their announcements.

The guest speakers included Dr Orna Berry who shared the Israeli innovation financing experiences, Quatar Capital’s Mikko Suonelahti’s talk on venture capital markets. In between them, I was asked to share the story of Skype as a recent startup.

Read the rest of this entry »

Uus IT Kolledzhi hoone

Alles eelmise aasta mais pidasid tähtsad mehed kõnesid ja asetasid nurgakive:

New IT College cornerstone

Ja selline on pilt vaid pisut üle poole aasta hiljem:

New IT College building

Eriti õnnestunud on maja sisearhitektuur ja -planeering. Tasub leida põhjust külla (või õppima) minna.

Palju õnne, IT Kolledzh!

Sushi heaven

Ikeda chef
This is actually a very very simple restaurant review: [Ikeda](http://www.london-eating.co.uk/1981.htm) has the best sushi I’ve had outside Tokyo. Period.
When (shouldn’t be “if”!) you go there for a first time, say Omakase!*, sit back and watch the chef’s choice of freshest sushi and sashimi magically appear on the red counter pictured above.
Apparently Ikeda has been around for 25 years already. And there is a reason why.

*Footnote: *In Japanese, “Omakase” means “entrust” or “Chef, I’m in your hands”. (Taavet)*