A little rant on values and innovation

Found a video of my five minute speech in a panel at Restart 2008 conference in November. To disrupt the overall tone of the day a bit — focusing on tangible, measurable and often plain numeric aspects of a successful (liberal) macroeconomic environment — I decided on spot that I will instead talk about the softer side of life, namely the role values and tolerance in particular play for creating an environment where innovation strives in Estonia (or anywhere).

The clip below also has my fellow panelist Rein Raud, Rector of Tallinn University continuing on the same topic of innovation and openness.

Back then, I did my original conference notes post) in Estonian, but now realized that we actually spoke in English there. So here you go:

For context, please also see the very entertaining and inspirational intro to our panel by Pekka Roine, entitled “The Only Obstacle to Innovation Is Wrong Policy Chosen by the State” (videos: part 1, part 2, part 3).

The rest of the presentations of the day are available in video too, of course.

President’s Speech on Innovation

President's opening address
Last week’s [Baltic Dynamics 2008](http://www.teaduspark.ee/?q=/eng/BD) conference was opened by an address by the [President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves](http://president.ee/en/), speaking on Innovation. As the full text did not make it to the president.ee website’s [speeches section](http://president.ee/en/duties/speeches.php) yet, I pinged his office and they kindly provided me a full copy in a few hours. Transparent government in action, love it.
As I think this is one of the best condensed summaries of the major issues — such as investments, education, attracting labour — Estonia and Europe are facing developing as technology hotbeds, I am re-publishing the whole text for your reading pleasure. Really worth your time.

**Welcome address of the President of Estonia
at the opening of (innovation) conference ‘Baltic Dynamics’
Dorpat SPA Hotel, Tartu, 4 September 2008**
Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,
I am glad to speak here at the opening of the 13th ‘Baltic Dynamics’ conference, an increasingly international meeting, as it should be the case in the field of innovation.
This time the conference takes place at amidst a global economic slowdown, a situation that is frankly unfamiliar for many in Estonia. According to some (admittedly somewhat dire) predictions, this may become the most severe global downturn over the last decade. In terms of our domestic economies, all three Baltic countries stand on the threshold of a paradigm shift; the motor of rapid growth — a competitive advantage based on cheap labor seems to be over. As indeed we have all hoped it would be, for a rise in wages and quality of life is, after all what convergence is all about. But this also creates a new challenge: further development of our economies can come only from higher value added products and services. In this sense innovation is naturally the key to shifting from slowdown to growth.
We must ourselves – how did we reach the state of affairs where we are now? Our economic development has been very rapid, but not always enough forward-looking. The recent slowdown in our economy is – at least to a certain extent – caused by overinvestment in sectors that have provided high yields in the short term (such as real estate) and which are prone to move in correlation with fluctuations of domestic demand. That said, it does not mean that some investments are less necessary than the others, but in the longer term a very small economy cannot rely solely on the domestic market. Indeed, even the second and third largest economies in the world, Japan and Germany cannot rely solely on domestic demand either.

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Summer – over and out

It is obviously the back-to-school-and-work season now.

First: I’m receiving complaints that this blog has seen just 2 posts in last 2 months… In July nor August nobody cared, including myself. If you were one of those worried about silence – I now know that you have not subscribed to the feed. My Flickr feed you receive as an automagically embedded freebie when subscribing to this blog, has actually had a full trail of mobile snapshots of what has happened over the summer. And I have twittered.

Secondly, the travel season has started. Looking at the calendar, in the month of September I will drop by Tartu (spoke at Baltic Dynamics there last week), Pärnu (attending From Visions to Solutions), London (a wedding + Seedcamp), Athens (Skype Beta Days), Luxembourg, San Francisco / San Jose.

Hope this is enough chances to see you in person. And if not – I’ll try to be a better boy when it comes to dropping a line here on the way. Thanks, your pings to see if I survived the slow season are heartwarming.

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.

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