Fantastic story on entrepreneurship and technology in Estonia in Forbes by Joshua Levine. "If the Internet was reborn as a country, it
would be Estonia," said a UNDP administrator. This quote from Linnar Viik sums it up nicely: "People like to say, don't touch things that
work, but Estonians like to look behind the thing and wonder whether there's
anything we can change about it. In Estonia you might say, if it works,
you can break it."
The poster boy on cover is Sander Mägi, who dropped out of school to work for me. We later co-founded InterIris, a web software development company. Sander gave me my first exposure to extreme programming methodologies, which was a tremendous gift. His latest venture is doing great:
...The two founded Aqris Software, and introduced RefactorIT in 2002. Refactor basically works like a kind of spreadsheet for programs written in Java code, automatically remodeling an entire application to reflect changes in parts of its code. The benefit here is speed, saving the thousands of man-hours it would take to reprogram manually.
The biggest customer is Zed, a digital content supplier for mobile phones. Small sales have been made to Nokia, Philips and Fujitsu. Aqris has pretty much doubled every year, earning $1 million cumulatively. Last year it made over $400,000 on revenue of $1 million and won an award as Estonia's best technology developer.
Last time I visited, I also got to re-connect with Allan Martinson, who has just launched Martinson Trigon Venture Capital. While its not a country full of Skypes, there are opportunities.
"I can see tons of interesting products in Estonia today, but they've stopped their development at €2 million and ten people...It's a good time to be in VC in Estonia," he says, "but it remains to be seen whether Estonia can be a truly global player. It's not just about IT, it's about attitude."
Just ask Steve Jurveston:
"After Skype, we saw tons of opportunities here to follow up. It's like the entire country has this eager, immigrant mentality. Except that in this case they immigrated back to their own country."
The article concludes on a note that the reserved nature of Estonian hold them back from promoting their economy and own brand of innovation. Perhaps that's why I am so keen to talk about the little country that could. Because it has, in its own small way.