Friday, September 23, 2011

Arctic15 enterpreneurs and the non-IT industries

I had the privilege to attend the Arctic15 conference in Helsinki yesterday. It was a great event and I would like the organizers from Arctic Startup for organizing it and getting so many interesting presenters together. I think we have a great startup movement going on in the Nordic and Baltic region.

Looking at the finalists and presenters it seems to me that there is one important thing that the startup community should now focus on! It is time to take the next step. It is time to focus more on solutions that help the non-IT economy. Currently we have many startups creating economically rather irrelevant services like solutions for publishing posts on Twitter, LinkedIN and Facebook simultaneously, social networks running on other social networks, all kinds of games and so on. We should consider this as the training that has refined the skills of the specialists and now start serious work.

The real value IT can create is not in the IT or internet sector. It is in making the non-IT economy running in a modern and efficient way. How about a startup that would change the way how milk gets from the cow to the shop? Or a solution that organizes the global container logistics? Maybe something that helps to save 5% of some industries energy consumption? This is where serious effects and money can be made.

We have some experience in operating SaaS solutions for non-IT sector from the E-waybill and the Promoter Index service. Our experience shows that the startup methodologies for product development, organization management and marketing work. These are all great ways of working and managing product development.

On the other hand creating IT services for other industries is very inter-disciplinary – you have to know about the sector and business you are working on. This makes it really hard for the current startup folks. We just don’t know how other industries are run and we don’t know the people. Everybody knows who runs Facebook, but name the CEO of Nike, Danone, Pfizer or Mitsubishi for example?

What this inter-disciplinaryness also means is that “the other industry” is light-years behind the startup folks in their use of IT and Internet. There are still systems running on mainframes and many companies rely on Excel sheets as “their most important database”. Shared calendars would be an innovation for many SME-s.

To solve this inter-distciplinary problem we have to come together with the specialists from other fields of economy. An interesting example of breaking this barrier that I met on Arctic15 is Vendep Oy. They are offering software development for entrepreneurs for share in the business. This model does help the non-IT specialists to turn to IT and create an IT/Internet solution for the field they work in. When we were running the MicroLink Incubator we had a similar idea and that did bring many non-IT entrepreneurs with their ideas to our office.

It is time to take the next step in the Internet startup field and head on to making “the other” industries also modern and efficient! As an example Arctic15 was the first digital-native-friendly conference I ever visited! There was Wifi that really worked and power inlets for the laptops! A similar step to modern age needs to be done in other industries.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Positive economic news (from Estonia)

The global economic situation has been gloomy in the last months and the newspapers are full of economic misery coming mostly from Greece and Italy. But things are not all bad! In Estonia we have had many great economic developments overall and especially in the IT and technology sector lately. Here is a list of some of them:

The Seedcamp event in London was overwhelmed by "the Estonian Maffia", with 4 out of 20 participants and 2 out of 3 winners coming from Estonia.

Fortumo, the mobile payment provider, was selected as the best Estonian company by Enteprise Estonia. This marks a significant shift of focus to young and innovative startups by the society and government.

The delegation from Brussels is looking for premises for the European IT agency in Tallinn. We hope to have many European IT specialists and decision makers moving to Tallinn. (Tallinn is a nice town with a pretty Old Town so why not.)

Flybe, Utair and Estonian Air have opened many new flightroutes to and from Tallinn. Copterline will start flying between Helsinki and Tallinn again offering commercial helicopter trips lasting less than 18 minutes. They also plan to start flying to St.Petersburg. That combined with Ryanair opening 8 routes from Tallinn is slowly, but surely making it easier to travel here and back.

A character called Viktor Kaasik was convicted for corruption proving again that Estonia has effective measures for fighting corruption.

Estonian annual industrial output growth (23%) was the biggest in EU (3,6%) in july. The production and exports of electricity grew 50%. The production of electricity from renewable sources increased 100% from 2009-2010.

The increase in Finnish alcohol tax and the mess with the major Latvian airline Air Baltic will surely increase the number of tourists both visiting Estonia or flying through Tallinn. :-)