On Bridges, Part 1: Realizing how Europe and Silicon Valley are drifting apart

Bridge_drawingThis post is 1st of 3 in the series aimed at discussing ways Silicon Valley and European tech scenes could contribute to and gain more from each other. The series are an expansion of a short speech I gave at Slush conference in November 2013 (video of which should be online soon) but I believe this topic is calls for more discussion and thinking along than 15 one-directional minutes on conference stage.

If you were to sit in the audience of any European tech summit these days you get soaked in action around you. Would it be TechCrunch Disrupt Europe, LeWeb, or the raising 5000-attendee rocket of the region, Slush in the November darkness of Helsinki – there is no arguing that the European startup scene is in its most bustling, vibrant shape ever.

Yet, a lot of this exciting renaissance seems still to be constrained to the Old World continent.
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VC Funds Go Where Immigrants Come From

Thinking about the linkages between US and European tech investment and startup scenes ahead of the Slush conference in 10 days, I found an interesting paper: Deal or No Deal: The Growth of International Venture Capital Investment (PDF here) by Pandya and Leblang of University of Virginia.

Recommended reading in full for anyone who cares about intercontinental talent and capital flows, but I just wanted to share this fascinating graph:

immigrantinvest

You can often hear how foreign investments and emigration are discussed as linearly opposite ends of a see-saw: if you get more of cash invested into your country from abroad your skilled talent can stay home and build companies there as opposed to seeking interesting challenges abroad. What the authors show here is rather a two-way street, another re-inforcing cycle where the movement of talented people will eventually build into increased cross-border investment of capital:

We find that US VC firms invest more frequently in countries that have large populations of skilled migrants residing in the US. In stark contrast to existing FDI research, we find that recipient countries political institutions have limited  influence over the volume of venture capital deals.


Uudsus-tasakaal

Ajujahi konkursi korraldajad küsisid, kas paari aasta taguse zhüriiliikmena oskaksin toona nähtu põhjal üldistada mõne soovituse tänastele äriideede nuputajatele. Panin kirja alljärgneva, ilmus Ärilehes ka.

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Computational Social Science

I have recently been intrigued about the evolving science of social network analysis (SNA) and the potential novel yet practical applications of it in growing businesses. So the timing of the 3rd Annual Stanford Conference on Computational Social Science, hosted by IRiSS could not have been better.

Fun day with very cool thoughts, from the keynote of the superstar in the field, Duncan “small worlds” Watts to very practical insights from Facebook and Google scientists to usage of SNA on unusual datasets such as the englightement-era snail mail metadata (who was the bridging node between Voltaire and Ben Franklin?) to the intricacies of linguistic change (“aroma” getting replaced by “smell”) in beer enthusiast forums.

Some assorted notes and further reading links are below.

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First Decade of #SkypeMafia

skypemafia - full plot - thumbnail

On August 29th Skype is celebrating its birthday. As it did as a small European-rooted startup, so it does as a product in the portfolio of Microsoft. This time it is a round one, too: first 10 years. Sending the best wishes to all the friends who have built and are building Skype over these years, I figured it would be a good time to give in to an idea that has been in the back of my mind for a while: what would it look like if someone somehow visualized the impact of the company Niklas, Janus & a bunch of Estonian engineers started in 2003 to the broader startup ecosystem?

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Sten @ a16z

August 1st marked the end of my 8+ year journey with Skype, after returning from an academic break at Stanford. As expected, the top incoming question following my departure tweet has been “what’s next” – so let me share a bit more.

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Confidently Humble

As it happened, pressed publish on today’s post on Medium instead.


Last Sloan Class’ Spring Quarter

The below text was not born as a blog post for broader audiences originally, but as something I wrote for the class yearbook a month ago. Given that my final exam just slipped into a lockbox without looking back, the class is about to gather for getting their yearbooks in beautiful printed form and to properly conclude the quarterly summaries tradition (see Summer, Autumn, Winter here) – I’m posting it anyway.

Not sure if and when I’ll have the energy to attempt a more comprehensive synthesis of this entire year, or should I even attempt, after the 57 blog posts

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Week 40: The End of Class Notes

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 10 (40), Spring quarter

Chuck Holloway

Our last two days of five classes were almost all about presentations with a few wise final words from each professor. Pictured above is the last of my last moments, with Professor Charles Holloway, co-founder of Stanford’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, and a driving force behind many startup-focused academic initiatives in this school over the decades. My last class co-incidentally was the very last Formation of New Ventures Chuck taught for 16 years together with John Morgridge of Cisco fame.

I am sad this is over, not counting one remaining exam. And glad I made it here in time to be part of so many defining classes like this over the past year. I guess it is up to us now to walk out of this campus in the footsteps of many whom these teachers have personally sent off to change the world over the years.

John’s closing words included “don’t try to do it all by 35”. Relieved to know, having crossed that milestone at Stanford.

Covered in this issue:

  • very brief summary remarks from professors concluding their quarter
  • Last Lecture by JetBlue Chairman Joel Peterson

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Week 39: R, Regression Discontinuity, Bakeries and Sales VPs

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 9 (39), Spring quarter

The Memorial Day week was the only one compressed to four long days this quarter, with the main theme on finalizing group projects. We submitted an operations case on optimizing pre-season parka ordering from China by a ski-wear fashion brand. And are relatively ready to present in the coming short and very last class week: a lightly market-tested business idea for a social network analytics product, a convincing churn and package upgrade/downgrade prediction model for an APAC telco and a sales organization audit for a Silicon Valley semiconductor manufacturer.

I still need to finish ~170 pages of a book on Shackelton’s Antarctic voyage in 1915 and write an essay on entrepreneurship learnings by Tuesday morning. It is a refreshingly different read of the startup era before smartphones and app stores, but got somewhat derailed yesterday with a classic “oh-so-Stanford” Saturday: an Indian Breakfast, Brazilian churrascaria lunch, meat-sweating run in the +35C weather and Singaporean dinner party well beyond sunset. Priorities, priorities…

As my friend Osamu put it last week: we have more parties than classes left until graduation. Just five of the latter on my calendar this coming Monday-Tuesday…

Covered in this issue:

  • Stepping up the network analysis tooling: R
  • Causal effects and regression discontinuity
  • Sales org building war stories from a startup and a VP panel
  • Building a bakery to Starbucks exit
  • Guests from: TrunkClub, Salesforce, Quantum, LinkedIn, La Boulange/Starbucks, SunRun

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