Monday, October 27, 2008

Sun Essentials

I like Sun Microsystems! They have been MicroLink's partner for over 15 years now. (We have been selling, using and maintaining their servers in Estonia.)
Sun promotes green ideas, open-source and other good things. And although their competitors - HP, IBM, MS?, Dell, Intel - all have their "positive image programs", Sun's seem to be the most honest one's.

And vau! For some time now they have been running an open-innovation/startup support program! Sun StartupEssentials. When we started the startup program in MicroLink we didn't know this, but now we might do some co-operation here.

One thing though. Sun Startup Essential program is very technology focused. It involves servers, storage, database software and technological expertise. But that is something the startup's need in a later stage. In the beginning they usually need business advice, software development, somebody who helps with the government grants, marketing, sales.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Start a Startup in Bad Economy

Paul Graham wrote another of his essays covering the topic of Why you should start a startup in Bad Economy....that means now or in 2009. I agree that the people doing the startup matter 10 times more than the economic situation! To his thoughts I would add one more bonus of bad times. It is much easier to find co-startupers or co-workers during bad times and "all the good men" don't work for big financial institutions who raise their salary 10% every year.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

IT is less than half technology...

There seems to be a difference between the SaaS/IT Startup thinking and the traditional SAP like thinking. The SaaS applications and the IT startups are really good tools, easy to start using, cheap to start using and convinient. Yes, but.... But for an organization, or actually for every IT system that is used by more than one person, the processes of using it become really important. Somebody has to implement those changes processes, somebody has to change the old ways of working and has to figure out what the new ways are.

The biggest IT systems, like the e-health systems, that MicroLink is programming and installing, need changes in legislation.

So an advice for the startup and SaaS world - if your product is meant for more than one - think of partnering with consultant firms! Somebody that sells and implements your product.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How to keep your job (and become rich) in tough times

This is a post for the tough economic times we are currently having. (Disclaimer: This post does not mean that we are having plans of layoffs in MicroLink. :-))

My advice for keeping your work is actually quite simple and works for any time, any company, any institution. If you live by this advice you will not only avoid the layoffs but you will be successful in good times.

The things you should do:
- Make yourself useful. Help other people and work a lot. Don't drink that 5th coffee, don't spend your time reading newspapers. Be helpful, do the work that you are supposed to do and help others doing their job.
- Be smart. Think if the thing you are currently doing is worthwile. Do things that help your customers, that help your sales, that help your company. Don't spend your time on creating useless reports for example. Or worse don't block initiatives that might help your sales or reduce costs.
- Tell others about the things you have done and the work that you have accomplished. But be honest with that. :-)
- Think moneywise. If you are serving only one customer who pays your company half the money the company pays you or you are salesman with bigger salary than the revenue from your deals.... that should be a danger sign.
- The reason for layoffs is usually money. So know how your company, your business-line, your team, your services are earning. Think what is your role in this situation. Are you a Cost or are you the most important Revenue generator.
- Develop yourself. Learn, try new things and read books.
- Last but not least. Be friendly and helpful with your co-workers. Be a good person. :-) Othervise you might be fired even with 90% Net Profit margin.

Sometimes it seems your managers don't notice your efforts, but they do! And this becomes really, really important for you when your manager is given an order to lay off 10% of his/her people.

Sometimes it is impossible to avoid being laid off. When the whole company goes bankrupt for example, but your image of being a hardworking, smart and helpful is the best currency you have when you go to look for a new job. The companies do communicate with each other when choosing new employees. :-)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Socialnetwork events

Bizi, an Estonian micro-blogging social network, held a small experiment today. The idea was that everybody using Bizi would post a micro-blog when he made or received a phone-call. More about it here(in Estonian): Unfortunately, the event got only a few responses. But Valentin, don't get your spirit down over this. :-)

I think that social-network events that are organized by the socialnetwork itself are a rising trend and an interesting one. Another example of such an event on a much bigger scale is the US Presidential Election Campaign on Twitter: Such events are good for the socialnetwork - another reason for users to use them. They are interesting for the users.

Here are some of ideas. Bizi, Keskus, Facebook go ahead and use them:
- Turn off the power event on one evening for 5 minutes and see how much you can save.
- Talk to the political parties and have the election campaigns held on your network. Why not have each party or idea have its friends/followers on your network.
- The next trash pick-up TeemeÄra campaign.

I think and hope that the next election campaigns will be more and more web based and therefore more and more interactive. The ultimate goal would be that each parliament member would have its own followers on Twitter and readers on Blog whose opinions the MP would listen. :-)

(I suggested this idea to the Green party and they said that they would consider it.)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Corporate blogging

Peep Laja writes in his blog about Estonian corporate blogging. It seems there is only little corporate blogging going on in Estonia (unfortunately).

So is corporate blogging necessary and useful? I don't want to go into the theme of blogging as a marketing tool. There are numerous articles about that. Instead I want to emphasize one point - Blog is a great way to communicate with your collegues. In MicroLink, where we have about 300 employees, this blog, my blog in estonian and the Incubator Twitter have become an important way of internal communication. People read about the startup world, about the events (OpenCoffee) etc, about the new incubator ideas on the public blogs.

So if we develop this idea further ..... is there a reason why a corporation should not make all its internal news public? Why not replace the internal newsletters with department head's blogs? I admit, this would be a bold move for any company! "Come on! Our competitors and the customers would then know what is really going on....", I hear you think. :-) Well, probably they know it anyway, especially the competitors.

The benefits would be remarkable:
- The department heads would not have to write the news twice: for the co-workers and for the customer magazine.
- The company would become transparent and the customers would trust you more.
- Your website would become much more dynamic, interesting and.... get a better Google rank as the content is dynamic.
- The expertise your specialists and department heads have would make a really good image!
- Your blogging co-workers would become smarter. :-) As every blogger knows writing interesting articles means you must read industry news, other blogs and think. They also get to practice writing and English. (Like me!)

Hmmm... I guess I have to talk to our marketing about this idea. :-)

Listing Estonian startups

Here is a post on the Arctic listing the Finnish startups. Take a look and see what is going on there. I thought that maybe it would be interesting to do an Estonian list also, but then..... startup business is international and we could use international websites for that. Anyway, if you want to list your, your friends or any other Estonian startup then go ahead and write a comment here. Or If you know good startup listing sites then also all comments are welcome!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Co-operation agreement between Tallinn Business Incubator and MicroLink incubator

On the 02.10 MicroLink signed a co-operation agreement with the Tallinn Business Incubator. Here is a picture of Anu Lõhmus (Tallinn Incubator) and Taivo Tender (MicroLink) signing the agreement.

The co-operation will take place in the following way:
- MicroLink will promote the services of Tallinn Incubator to our startups. These mostly include the rent of premises and the business planning training course. And also all other incubator services. As the business incubator is sponsored by the Tallinn Municipality their prices are very good.
- MicroLink will promote the governmental funding and training possibilities given out by the Tallinn to new startups.
- Tallinn Business Incubators will promote MicroLink's Incubator as an IT startup supporter.
- We will do conferences and events together. The first one will be the Tallinn Entrepreneurship Day 2008 where I will give a presentation about the MicroLink Incubator and Vaho Klaamann from Santa Monica Networks will speak about the Estonian IT showroom project.
- We will also promote each other with banner and flyer ads.

(I am sorry that some links are only in Estonian.)

OpenCoffee Tallinn - 02.10

This was the second time that the OpenCoffee was held in Mercado, Ülemiste City. There were about 30-40 people. We didn't have presentations this time so there was more time for networking.

Kairi Kurm, from Kupongiraamat runs an "online-flyer" business. The idea is to replace the paper flyer-ads that are given to you on the street with online ones. So that you yourself print out only the ones you are actually going to use. I really like the less-useless-trash idea. :-) So go to her page and see if there are any discounts you can use.

The guys from Smartad have started an internet ad-network business. It is not a new idea in the world, but it is rather new for Estonia and they hope to give some competition to the Klikivabrik. The idea is to have a network of popular websites as ad-hosters and the ad-buyers that show their ads on these websites. So in a way like Google AdSense.

Thanks to Jüri for organizing the event!

(Next time I think we should re-arrange the tables so that the company is not physically split into groups of 4-5.)