Monday, July 28, 2008

Buying software development from Belarus

We visited Belarus a week ago and made contacts with their software development companies. We are currently running a pilot project with one of them - ITransition and in creating software for one of our incubator's new e-services idea. "SLA calculator" will be an e-service that will allow (IT) service providers to generate automated reports for their customers with whom they have a Service Level Agreemeent.

Anyway, the Belarus software industry and the companies made quite an impression on us. It seems to be a serious industry there. They have even created a virtual Technology Park meaning less taxes and burecraucy for the members. The Technology Park will later become a physical one when in some 3-5 years time the required office buildings will be built. On the airport there are software development company's ad's instead of mobile operator's and beer ad-s like in Tallinn. Everybody we met, over ten salesmen and specialists, talked freely english. in my mind the most important was their will to do projects and to get foreign work, even mediocre sized projects were in their interest.

We are planning to have the specifications for our incubator e-services ( done in Tallinn and the coding in Minsk. (At least if the pilot goes well.)

In Minsk: the city is renovated, people are nice, roads are good, KGB seems to be present, but if you are a foreigner bringing in money that is just good as it keeps the small-time criminals away).

Don't stay in the Hotel Minsk. It is way too expensive for what you get and the personell is not that nice, especially the guy in the bar who wanted to cheat on us. :-)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Better way to incubate new e-service business ideas

Beginning from august there will be a programmer in our MicroLink's incubator (homepage in estonian: team. Therefore the process of incubating new ideas will be faster and better. We call the new incubation concept "MicroLink Lab". The process of incubating new ideas will be roughly following:
- The owner of the e-service idea presents it to us. If we like the idea then:
- ML and the owner of the idea will create a first prototype of the solution.
- The owner will contact the first potential customers, demonstrate the prototype and from their comments refine the business idea, finance plan and also the requirements for the service.
- A full business and finance plan is created and agreed on. A plan of work is agreed on. A marketing and sales plan is created.
- A full technical solution is created, programmed.
- Going to market = fulfilling all the plans that were agreed on.

If you are interested in the incubation or have a good business idea feel free to contact our incubator team at

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Remark: The statue of freedom

So here is the new look of the freedom square in the middle of Tallinn with the Statue shining over the square. I used to be against the Statue, but travelling through many countries this summer made me change my mind. So now I have a positive plan! We should have a statue with the following enhancements:

- As every tourist attraction The Freedom Statue should also have a tower where tourist can climb up to (and we could charge 5 euros from each climber).

- To symbolize Estonian freedom inside the EU we should put Manneken Pis standing on it. A Manneken can be purchased in Brussels for 70 euros.

- To satisfy the Centrist Party we should also have a Tauno Kangro's Kalevipoeg next to the statue. Perhaps instead of holding a boat he could be in some sort of composition with the statue and the Manneken.
But seriously! I think that such a combination would symbolize the true freedom of our nation. The ability not to take everything and yourself too seriously, not to be so serious about history and to make a joke and to laugh are true signs of freedom.
Besides it would make a much better tourist attraction. Everybody remembers Manneken Pis from Brüssels and nobody remembers the obelisks symbolizing the victory in the Second World War in Minsk.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Immigration - not necessary?

As the population of Europe and Estonia is growing older and there will be lot more pensioners and lot less working age people there are more and more talks about immigration as necessary means of coping with that. I think that is wrong. Let me explain!

As an IT specialist and a member of the IT incubator team in MicroLink I know that there are thousands of ways we can automate our work, eliminate useless work, make self-service systems and machines, offshore work to countries where there are working age people. We have started to use these methods but are still in the beginning of the road.

Here are a few examples:
- A super-market. With RFID tags you can almost totally eliminate the need for cashiers. Salespeople can be offshored to a far away country and you could have a TV-screen and an online Video conference with the off-shore sales person. (OK sounds a bit crazy, but the alternative is that the same far away country person talking to you over video should have to move to your neigbourhood....) And in the end buying through internet will be the main way of doing shoping. Imagine a huge fully automated logistics centre that gets all the orders through internet, automatically collects the goods for each purchase and people just insert their bank cards to the "big logistics centre machine" which then in turn opens the door where their goods are ready and packed .... well it actually does not differ from IKEA does it. Only that in IKEA you yourself are the automated machine doing all the collecting.
- Medical tourism. For some procedures it already makes sense to go abroad. Go to dentist to Thailand for example.
- Construction work. Construction demands a lot of workforce. But as it is project based it makes a lot of sense to get the men from abroad. And after the building is done they can go back home.
- Engineering. A lot of high-skill technical work can be outsource-d and it already makes sense to outsource and even off-shore it. For example in our company we are trying out Belarus programmers, but besides IT Belarus can offer a lot of highly skilled technical specialists on other fields as it has very many big universities.
- .....and there are loads of other possibilities.

Of course there are some activities that cannot be automated or offshored and still need people working on-site. Cleaners, healthcare, actors, politicians are some of them. But those jobs can be done by our children.

One more point I want to make is that nobody wants to be an economic immigrate if he can live well off in his homeland. Therefore offshoring is the answer for many problems - the aging of population in Europe and it also brings wealth to the countries doing the work and coping with the problems of enormous population growth.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Good ideas for cities and countries

I am travelling to different European countries this July and thought I write about some clever and useful ideas that different cities, companies and museums have implemented. Use them for free!

Here is the first from my hometown Tallinn - streetlights with a meter that shows seconds to go until the light changes. The same idea is used also in Amsterdam on some streetlights. This is very convinient and should be implemented on all streetlights. As I remember this idea was copied from somewhere. Was it a model town in Kazakhstan or something?

Landmarks - It is a really great idea to build landmarks. Especially those where you can charge 10-20 euros per visitor and 5 for the cafe. And there is no reason they should celebrate anything or mean anything at all. Hosting an EXPO and building something really expensive and great is even better business! You can have tourists visiting it for tens of years. Therefore I have changed my opinion about the Kalevipoeg monument + other Tauno Kangro statues and the 100 million EEK bulletproof glass-post that we are building in Tallinn. Let there be as much tourist-attraction-nonsense-landmarks as possible in Tallinn and in Estonia. Like the "Manneken Pis", Atomium and Little Europe in Brussels, Eiffel tower in Paris, Statue of Liberty in New York and last but not least the wooden Eiffel tower in Hiiumaa.

Classical music in metro stations in Brussels on the evenings - keeps the people calm and the 6,6% alc.vol Leffe blond beers don't create so much criminal activity?

In Brussels in some supermarkets you can use a "calculator" with what you can scan all the products while gathering them to your trolley. Then when you get to the counter you just give them the "calculator" and pay for the amount it shows. So the lines at the counter move faster and you can pack the things straight to the bag already in the shop. (About every tenth buyer is checked whether (s)he has scanned all the products correctly and will probably be fined for stealing if (s)he has things in the trolley that are not scanned.

Ad-flyer distribution in Brussel buses. You can tear youself one from the pack hanging on the wall of the bus. If you don't want one you don't take one, if you find them useful you pick them up. No necessary trash and unhappy people distributing them.

In museums make all the visitors go through the museum-shop before they can exit buy building the exit door into the shop. This idea is implemented at least in the Atonoum in Brussels and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam....and probably in lots of other museums. Don't let the tourists leave without buying some souvenir for 10 euros! be continued

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Estonia and Finland

We visited recently Finland (my parents live there) and here is my totally subjective opinion about things that are better in Finland compared to Estonia:
- The roads, especially bike roads. A really drastic example was the Vuosaari port where the port is just being built but already there are fresh-new bicycle roads coming there.
- Things, traffic for example, are much more organized and therefore there is much less stress and pointless fights. Such a thing: would never happen in Finland
- Public transport.
- Some things like clothes, sports equipment are cheaper. H and M, Ikea.
- Buildings are built and things are done with better quality, but they are also done slower and cost more.

and here things that are better in Estonia
- Taxes. In Finland you even have to pay taxes if you
- Cities in Finland, especially Pääkaupunkinseutu, are unnecessarily big geographically. There are lots of unused wild areas between parts of towns and you have to drive a lot. Estonian towns often have non-car walking area centers (like the Tallinn and Tartu old towns). This is something that I miss in Helsinki.
- Pretty women. :-)
So my conclusion: More taxes mean usually better public services and therefore better life, but the taxes are annoying. :-) Both Estonia and Finland are nice places to visit and both have interesting things to see and experience.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Estonia with Russia

Lately there has been a lot of political fuss going on between Estonia and Russia. The border agreement and president Ilves leaving the presentation in Hantõ-Mantsiisk where Russian head of Duma insulted Estonia.

Why are we arguing over such a nonsense?

Russia is the biggest state in the world, there are 150 million inhabitants in Russia. Why has it made such a thing about Estonia? There are less inhabitants in Estonia than in a mediocre suburb of Moscow? Why does Russia boder? In my mind, for Russia Estonia is less news than Pavlichenko playing a bad game on the Euro2008.

And also - the world is in a big energy crisis, food crisis, economic crisis and the Global Warming (if unstopped) will raise the sealevel so that half of Estonia and Russia will be under water. The Peipsi Lake will be soon uninhabitable by fish and the Baltic Sea is poisoned by Blue-Green Algae almost every summer..... and yet both of our nationalists are arguing about what happened 50 years ago.... who cares?! What if we would forgot the past and concentrate to the future? Both Russia and Estonia! We have both had wars with tens of nations in the past, yet we have managed to forgot them. Estonia is not having an argument with the Germans allthough they slaved us for hundreds of years and Russia is not arguing with the Mongols allthough they were under the reign Tsingis-Khan and his relatives for some hundreds of years.

So my point is....

Sometimes (well almost all the time) it is good not to talk (not forget just not to talk!) about the past but concentrate on the common problems and the future. Lets always put things into perspective! At the moment for humanity Global Warming is so big an issue that any local political fuss is just nonsense.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I predict: By 2013 over 50% of Estonian electricty will be produced from wind and wood (80% probability)

A Gartner like prediction. :-)

We have a big debate in Estonia going on about possible ways of producing electricity ( Some are for nuclear (our own or Ignalina 2 station), some for lime stone. Everybody is for multiple energy sources.

My guess is, that "by accident" we will go to wind and alternative energy sources. "By accident" I mean that this is not going to be a fully debated and analyzed decision made by the Ministry of Economics or Eesti Energia. It will just happen because other methods will require a big decision, which will not be taken. On the other hand the wind-mill projects are going ahead full speed. Soon there will be so powerful businessman (for example U. Sõõrumaa) and so much money involved that the subsidies to alternative energy cannot be turned off. Also there will "just happen" a necessity to build gas and lime stone gas power stations for unwindy periods and they will be built. Like the project that was started today

And this is going to be good! We gonna sell a lot of wind-electricity to Latvia, Finland and Lithuania. Making money out of wind cannot be bad business. :-) So dear politicians delay the decisions and this time we will make a good decision by accident. BLRT and Volta and others please start building wind turbines. You cannot lose!