Sunday, March 22, 2015

Wrong focus in the startup buzz

Following the startup buzz - the news, the mentorship programs, the blogs - one easily gets the impression that the most important things for a startup are pitching, finding capital and creating an exit strategy. Well, in my experience this is wrong and perhaps one of the reason for over-emphasizing these topics is the hunt for news.
 The event of getting funded is usually presented as a huge success story in the press. It is rarely mentioned that the investors do want their money (x20) back, the sooner the better and it is the startup who has to deliver that. Getting funded is rarely presented as giving 3 drops of blood to the VC, but in a way it is so.
 Similarly controversial is the buzz around Exits. The Exits do make good news as someone makes millions with them. At the same time the news do not mention that for a successful exit the company needs to maximise the income from customers (short termp profits prevale), minimize personell costs (keep only the employees needed for day to day operations) and sell the whole thing to a corporation who then merges the employees and business to its big machinery.

 While pitching, funding and exits get a lot of attention in the startup buzz then one rarely sees any coverage about people management. It seems that management, coaching, training and developing the team are something only the big companies need and that are irrelevant in startups. And this, of course, is absolutely wrong. I have managed a number of different teams and I have never seen a person who just works. Everyone wants to know where is the company going, what is his/her personal development plan and wants to have his/her say in how to organize the work in the best way. These, among with topics like handling relationships, communication in the team, solving problems and finding the best way eveyone can contribute, are areas where startups and all other businesses do need mentoring and focus also.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Suomi nousuun!

(This post is meant as a motivational to Finnish politicians.)

I have visited Finland for a couple of times in the last weeks and talked to finns living both in Finland and Estonia. For some reason there is a note of depression whenever the topic of Finnish economy comes up. Government deciding nothing for 5 years and Russian sanctions tend to come up. It is far from the optimistic bostadsbubbla that one sees in Sweden. The most amazing was a story of a Finnish IT startup with only finnish employees and customers that had just moved to ....Tallinn, because of the energy they feel in Tallinn.

So what might be the reason for this? One might guess that taxes are one, but actually it is not only that. It is the bureaucracy, non-business related costs, insurances and all type of licenses and rules. Let me shock the finnish business community with the following prices and facts about Estonia:
- Accounting services cost 50-70 eur/month for a small company and that includes making the annual report.
- Bank costs and services are the same as for ordinary people. That means 2,5 eur/month for a bankcard I think.
- There are not very many mandatory insurances...actually none for most of the businesses
- There is no corporate tax on your revenues if you don't take them out as dividends
- With e-residency you can do all the transactions online from wherever in the world.
- Most of the paperwork can be done online. In fact I have not seen the accountant of my little company for 5 years now and I have never visited the tax or other authorities physically. You can sign all the documents and reports digitally.

So here is what to do in the IT business! Incorporate in Estonia. Buy resources from all over the world, e.g. India, Belarus, Poland. Put it all together to a service in Estonia and sell it to Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. (I can give a few tips on how to do it) ...or maybe the Finnish politicians will cut down the bureaucracy? ...and the Finnish insurance and banking sector will cut down their prices for businesses? I do hope so, because I love Finland.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Hire me!

If you have a complicated international ICT project or you want to develop your ICT service or your startup needs a leader then I am more than happy to offer my services!

I believe that success in the ICT business happens when you work out a good business idea or right processes, solve it nicely with good technology and lead the people to make it happen. This is where I have a lot of experience and it would be great to offer them to your company.


My experience in Business:

  • I am a co-founder in www.recommy.com and know how tough business and sales actually is. I definitely know a lot of things that do not work.
  • I have analyzed numerous business cases in TeliaSonera, Elion, MicroLink and Estonian Telekom.
  • I have developed and sold ICT services to big corporate customers and to TeliaSonera daughter companies from Denmark, Sweden and Finland to Nepal.
  • I have turned bankrupt or non-growing activities into success
  • I have a cum laude MBA degree
  • I am a member in the Estonian Business Angel Network (EstBAN)
My experience in Leadership and People:
  • I have worked as a manager for more than 14 years. I have managed teams from 1 specialist to 50 specialists and worked also as a manager of manager. I think managing people is quite interesting and doing it right is the biggest source of success for your business.  
  • I have worked as a project or virtual team leader for different business areas.
  • My experiences also include working with subcontractors, partners and co-ordinating IT workshops for European Innovation Agencie's
My experience from Technology:
  • All the projects I have worked with have had an IT or telco component.
  • I have worked as a software developer and database modeller so I have a foundation of knowledge on how IT systems work
  • I have worked as a IT infrastructure architect and designed numerous server-storage-network architectures for big IT systems
  • I have a bacalaureate degree in Computer Sciences
My personal skills:
  • I am a very international person and I see that working with people from different nationalities and cultures is a value in itself.
  • Besides Estonia I have also lived in Finland and Sweden so I know how things work in the Nordics.
  • I speak 5 languages: english, estonian, finnish, swedish and russian. There are workdays when I actually need to use all of them. :-)
  • I like presenting and regularly hold presentations on seminars.
  • I have 3 children and would say that leading a team is peanuts compared to getting the children to clean their room.
If you see that you have a business or project where I can help then please contact me at mart.ridala@eesti.ee or +3725134833

Friday, November 28, 2014

Experience on a virtual "window to the office" solution

For some time we played around with an idea to have a virtual window to the office and through that connect all the teammembers working in different offices, cities and countries into one virtual room. The idea is that everyone would have an "always on" video meeting connecting everybody together onto one screen.

The virtual window actually did not start off very well and I think this is something interesting to learn from. The main reasons as I see it were two:
- Quite fast it felt like the window was not for me to see others, but for others (and the boss) to see me. And that is not a nice feeling.
- Technically the cameras of videoconferencing and laptops usually do not cover the whole room where they are in. So you get a creepy feeling as someone can watch you on the other end while himself being outside of his camera angle.

However I still think an always on virtual window to the office is useful for some situations. For example in a situation where a multi-location team is doing a change to a critical system where all the specialists are intensively and tightly working together for an hour or two.

Friday, July 18, 2014

For IT consultants and specialists who want to work with projects based in Estonia

I started a LinkedIN group to exchange the contacts between companies who need doers for their ICT projects and specialists/consultants who can do. You are most welcome to Join, post jobs, post projects, advertise your skills or just discuss.

To make the world a bit flatter and help ICT specialists to start working in Estonia I updated the post on my blog about "How to move to Estonia..." Please read and comment with any information that I have missed.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A virtual "Window to the office"

This is another post where I explore the ideas and benefits around video- and teleconferencing....

We are soon starting a test in our team where we install "a Window to the office". The idea is to have a virtual video room where everybody in the team can connect with almost any device from anywhere and there will be a central computer showing video from the main office room all the time. This could potentially be a huge change on how we look at office work today. Our preliminary tests show that the technology is almost there. It needs some tuning and testing though and probably some components (like the Chrome Beta browsers Webrtc client on tablet) need some iterations to get stable, but we are almost there.

This way we can make the teamwork in geographically split teams much better. Why one should do that? Here are the benefits that an employer could get from such an arrangement:

1. You no longer need to hire only from the same city your office is in.
2. Companies who provide immaterial services (software development, designers, project management, even musicians and architects) can work (much more effectively) for customers that are not in their city. This means that you have a small task of getting your customers also to use the project teams videoroom, but that is doable.
3. You can put an end to the endless moving of people from one office space to another. Moving seems to be a constant in many companies because people change their roles, the organisation structure changes, projects change etc. By substituting real presence with video presence everyone can just leave one set of virtual video rooms and join others. As a major benefit compared to physical office can specialists suddenly be present in many teams, sometimes even at the same time!
4. Last but not least - you can cut the time people spend on travelling between offices and meeting rooms.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Making work geographically independent in the Cloud Services Factory

For a year now I have worked as a manager in a team called The Cloud Services Factory in the TeliaSonera group. We are a team of project managers and ICT specialists and our responsibility are innovation and product development projects on different TeliaSonera markets. Most of our team is in Tallinn, I work in Stockholm and the projects are aimed towards the Swedish, Finnish, Danish and other markets. This all creates a very interesting geographical challenge! How to manage for example a project that is aimed for the Nordic markets and that is managed by specialists from Estonia, Nordics and other countries?

In this and a the next posts I would like to share some of the experience that we have in organizing our work to be geographically independent. I would like to push this even forward. I am quite sure that for ordinary office work the technology is almost there to end the need for being in the same physical location all together. This will create a shift in the whole society as concentrating jobs into growth cities like for example Stockholm, Helsinki and Tallinn will no longer be necessary. Imagine earning the Helsinki salary and paying for Võru or Sundsvall real-estate.

The first thing I would bring forward is the biggest benefit you gain when all work is organised geographically independent. This is a benefit for both the company and the employees. And it is quite simple: If all meetings are organised as video- or online meetings then it is you as the participant who decides where you will have the meeting...not the meeting organizer.

I have worked this way for over two years now and after a while walking even to the next building for a meeting sounds...a waste of time. Why not just call-in or talk over a video.