OpenForum Europe

I spoke at OpenForum Europe conference last Friday, on the topic of open internet (aka net neutrality) and Skype’s negative experiences of the lack of it, like Deutche Telekom’s recent agressive blocking of our iPhone application.

The event featured an enlighting list of speakers and I truly enjoyed most of the day. However, instead of full-scale notetaking as I’ve sometimes done before, I decided to give live tweeting a try (as @seikatsu). From one end the 140 characters don’t leave much room for analysis and force you to cut even the original thoughts. But on the other hand these notes were available to anyone in real time and even sparked some discussions right away.

Anyway, the cleaned-up full list of my tweets is below. You can see quite a bit more from other people too when you do a Twitter search for the tag #openforum. And the original presentations are online here.

  • Dinner with “father of the internet” Vint Cerf and Commissioner Vivian Reading. Lots of great things said out loud.
  • Ziga Turk: remember that the moon landing footage was as bad quality as youtube today
  • Ziga Turk: we’ve shifted investments from industrial to conceptual economy (value in meaning not function)
  • Vint Cerf: power corrupts. Powerpoint corrupts absolutely.
  • Cerf: it is absurd how we got away with opening the tcp/ip specs completely… in the middle of the cold war.
  • Cerf: proposed motto: if its not open, you can’t call it internet [service]. it is against the original design.
  • Cerf: cloud computing is where internet was in 1973. It does not exist in the sense of vocabulary for using it universally.
  • Turk: if we didn’t have the Lisbon strategy, we wouldn’t even know how much Europe is lagging behind
  • Structural issue in browser competition – you have to win the SAME users over and over again from recurring IE defaults.
  • Mitchell Baker: 30m users today guarantee you nothing, no financial success, ipo, getting bought..
  • Anthony D Williams of Wikinomics fame on stage
  • Williams: blogger.com passed cnn.com traffic already in 2006
  • Williams: P&G has 1.8m external researchers networked, on call (9000 full time internally)
  • Williams: The Guardian DataStore – open access to the facts journalists have gathered
  • Graham Taylor: a person too old to be a digital native can live happily as a digital immigrant
  • People think standards are always good. They also often slow innovation and hide vested interests.
  • Two Web Masters: Spiderman and Obama.
  • Matt Asay/Alfresco, former student of Lessig asked “why have so many European open source projects left for USA?”
  • Minueesti? RT @PaulHofheinz: If ppl dont see public institutions solving problems, they will form other orgs to seek solution.

Green Cars and Economic Stimuli

Heard on the morning news that the German $66B economic stimulus package passed today also includes a measure to encourage people replace their cars. It is sort of understandable as a short term measure, as their economy is quite reliant on the infamous German car makers who, of course, are looking at a bleak 2009. Still if you think of, say, a few million germans rushing to buy new cars and dump their (probably well-running) existing ones — doesn’t sound that reasonable from long term environmental damage point of view.

I looked it up, and it comes out that…

Other measures include a 2,500 euro payment for drivers who buy a new low- emission car.

Now, depending on what “low emission” means in this case the measure could work either way – for German manufacturers or for the environment. For some reason I doubt that these two goals could be obviously achieved together, or at least perceptionally “green” and “german” are not the first semantic associations that pop into mind as a bundle when thinking about cars…

Toyota announced their new Prius yesterday. Looking slightly better (but not beautiful), adding a few interesting innovations (such as solar-paneled moonroof that generates power for the ventilation on hot days) and less than 5l/100km (50mpg) fuel consumption it is a worthy upgrade to what has already been a great if somewhat quirky car till now.

Toyota basically owns the hybrid car market, claiming 91% market share in Europe in 2006. So putting one and one together – to what extent will the German government be supporting the Japanese economy instead of their own with their new car purchase support measure?


Seedcamp 2008 was fun

Taavet on panel
Spent a day at London [Seedcamp](http://seedcamp.com/) Week’s [Product and Marketing Day](http://seedcamp.com/pages/weeks_program#2008) again. Hit quite a jackpot on the mentoring group selection lottery and got to spend time with four out of the total seven winners of this year:
* Kyko – online multiplayer gaming by the creators of [Babuki](http://www.babuki.com/mainpage/), with a neat angle of tapping into existing social/IM networks to build their userbase.
* Stupeflix – French startup generating time-synced video clips out of static images and music. [Animoto](http://animoto.com/) competitor with a strong technical performance edge.
* [Toksta](http://www.toksta.com/en/liveconfig/) – whitelabel web based IM client for social networks from Germany.
* [uberVU](http://www.ubervu.com/) – my personal favourite, coming from Romania: crawler based harvesting of comments to and discussions around your content from wherever it get syndicated to. Think of seeing not only the comments to your video directly on YouTube, but also on any random blog that this video got embedded to or any twitter post referring to that video with a tinyurl.
[Decisions for Heros](http://decisionsforheroes.com/) whom I also met have found a very sharp niche of catering the dataporn needs for rescue teams, and I just loved their founder Robin´s passion. Wish them all the best even if they didn’t win this event.
All-in-all and with a few exceptions, I was more impressed by the people and their passion rather than the specific business ideas. Of course, it sort of has to be very hard to differentiate a great company from an utterly silly one before it gets off the ground, otherwise we would all be angel inverstment gazillionaires in a blink. Judging people and their characters is a much more natural task – and I really did like most of whom I met.
In addition to the roster of enthusiastic startups, I am also very happy about making some new friends among [fellow mentors](http://seedcamp.com/pages/mentors), such as [Robert Gaal](http://www.linkedin.com/in/robertgaal), co-founder of [Wakoopa](http://wakoopa.com) (which I have been a user of for a few months) and [The Next Web](http://thenextweb.org/). Chatting with guys like him is very energizing and raises hopes about the vision of Europe as an innovation hub. Which was Saul’s point of creating Seedcamp after all, wasn’t it?


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


Seedcamp 2008 – apply fast!

Just a quick reminder that this year’s Seedcamp is getting close and the application deadline is already this Sunday, August the 10th.

As a reminder:

Seedcamp is where Europe’s top young founders can come together in one place.

From securing funding to developing the right network, young entrepreneurs in Europe face challenges in building globally competitive technology businesses. Through the provision of seed capital and a world class network of mentors, we want to provide a catalyst for Europe’s next generation of entrepreneurs.

(See also my invitation post from last year for some background and the great Seedcamp 2007 recap video)

There was just one Estonian entry – RealEyes – last year and unfortunately they did not make the shortlist. So if you’ve been playing with an idea to start your own company, get your act together and apply now to get a proper kickstart.

This year, there is also a potential shortcut to the shortlist. Just go and win the Video Pitch contest.

It looks like I can make it there this year again as one of the mentors. Last year was fun, hope to see you there.


Video Call with Her Majesty

Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands
Just finished a video call with Her Majesty [Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatrix_of_the_Netherlands).
She was visiting Skype Tallinn office as part of her state visit to Estonia. I was babysitting at home. One of these physical location misses when [Skype](http://skype.com) really becomes handy.
Also, [Etta](http://gustavpaul.tamkivi.com/2008/05/11/eriti-uusi-sunnipaevi/) joined the ranks of the babies worldwide who have had their first video call while less than 10 days old.


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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A Lot Of People Doing Wrong Things in Estonia

Manufacturing: Estonia VS Germany
An interesting graph from a presentation by Ott Pärna, CEO of Estonian Development Fund (see also my post from their recent event, in Estonian). Estonian & German industries being compared here by employment (left) and value added per manufacturing area.
One common characteristic we share is that there are a lot of areas where a large share of people is adding a tiny part of the value for country’s economy. However, it is quite concerning how tilted towards the bottom (= less value) is the distribution of Estonian workforce.
It would be very interesting to see service industries in different countries being compared in a similar way – such as the software, biotech, nanotech and other innovation/R&D fields we talk so much about. Anyone have a good pointer?
PS: most value in German manufacturing is added with oil, nuclear fuel and tobacco? Scary…