I started as the first employee of Skype in 2002. Little did I know about building companies then, however when I left 7 years later I had gone through a whirlwind tour of product and company building. Next up I cofounded TransferWise. It made no sense to us as founders that moving money around the world should be as expensive and slow as it was. Powered by a little bit of naivety and lots of entrepreneurial drive we started building in 2010 and then launched the first version in early 2011. Today Wise has more than 3000 employees and went public in the first ever direct listing in Europe in 2021. Scaling a company at this speed is inevitable a journey full of highs and lows that leaves you feeling a bit numb in the end. While Wise looks like a story that went always from strength to strength and up and to the right inside there are many dozens of episodes of failures that are less celebrated. The mistakes I made of hiring wrong people or being overly aggressive on marketing have been compensated by the right hires who’ve been given room to execute and decisions about expanding the product in multiple dimensions.
In the end this comes down to people for me – I’m attracted to entrepreneurs that have the desire to change their industries and keep learning and iterating at a very high speed. People building products that are not 10% better, but 10x better in multiple dimensions. In order to make a dent we need to channel the best entrepreneurs to the biggest problems we’re facing. And there’s an opportunity in the cross section of the biggest problems and practical solutions that turn into huge viable businesses.
I joined Bigpoint as Chief Games Officer in 2012, taking over a 450 strong department of a fast growing & profitable gaming leader whose titles were played by hundreds of millions of gamers. In a few months I had to step up as CEO to prevent what looked like the end of the group which wasn’t prepared to face the quick rise of social games & mobile games. With the support of devoted & driven colleagues we restarted from scratch, setting up a new vision, bringing new leadership, building a new board with world class operators & product leaders and rebuilding the trust of our teams & players eventually releasing award winning titles across multiple platforms. We faced death more times than I can count but the passion to keep pushing the boundaries of gaming and the impact we had on our gamers kept us all going. I only realised then what it meant to fight and give everything for something bigger than oneself.
“It has become clear to me that every great philosophy up till now has consisted of the confession of its originator, and a species of involuntary and unconscious autobiography“ What drives me most is backing people who refuse to bend their will nor sacrifice their drive to see their vision through against all odds. Fighting for something bigger than oneself to correct an aspect of society that is fundamentally broken & prevents people from living a more meaningful life – lending my experience and reach to help founders, rarely fitting the mould, make their vision true is what keeps me going.
I co-founded Teleport, led it as CEO through a series of seed stage experiments for remote working digital nomads and eventually shifted to a B2B business model which Topia acquired in 2017. I stayed with Topia as CPO for raising a $48m Series C, two more acquisitions at the other side of the table, scaling product, engineering and design teams up and down by 100+ people. In 3 years we launched a coherent platform Fortune100 companies now run their global mobility programs on.
Earlier I joined Skype about 18 months in at 50 people as an early executive. I stuck around for 8 years to the $8.5B exit to MSFT, through a rollercoaster of investors from VCs to US corporates to PE wooshing by at “3 CEOs in 4 months” level of crazy. I grew the the original Estonian R&D office to 450 people, and had many different jobs around global operations, product and engineering over the years. Most fun of which was running product engineering for Windows, Mac and Linux clients with 300M+ MAU. I learned tens of millions can get pissed when you turn their familiar small chat app into full screen to fit large video calls.
My first CEO title came at age of 18 founding the first digital media agency in Estonia in 1996, clearly without any clue what that job is. First we had the high of leading our market and selling into DDB Worldwide and eventually the low of crashing the company along the dotcom boom.
I value a tolerant, open and creative society in the broadest sense. Teleport’s tag line was “free people move” and our mission to make governments compete for every citizen. This thinking captures both my company building, some public roles (like advising President Ilves of Estonia or sitting on the boards of Estonian E-Residency program and Vabamu, the Freedom Museum) and definitely many of my investments around future of work, collaboration, governance. I’m spending a lot of time thinking about Web3 as the stack for the future of more citizen owned internet. Sometimes I get giddy with far out scientific advances around synthetic biology, genetic engineering or physics where I don’t understand half of what the founder says, but it feels they might need some company building help. And sometimes there is just such a fantastic click with an absurdly brilliant founder… that I might even lead a vertical B2B SaaS or intermediary marketplaces investment.
I co-founded Songkick in London when I was 25. Over my time I shifted from writing the first lines of code, to identifying our first scalable growth channels to negotiating global distribution deals with companies like YouTube and Spotify. I raised over $20m in venture capital and was lucky to be part of the second British team to be backed by Y Combinator. Songkick scaled to 12m monthly unique visitors but over time faced increasing challenges dealing with anticompetitive behavour from TicketMaster. Songkick was forced to sue TicketMaster for anticompetitive behaviour and the case was settled two weeks before trial for $130m. TicketMaster additionally agreed to pay a $10m criminal penalty to the US justice department to resolve 5 counts of computer intrusion and fraud offences against Songkick.
I am particularly motivated by new general purpose technologies that can transform a wide range of industries. Machine Learning, Quantum Computing and Material Science are examples of sectors that I have been drawn to as a result. I also am motivated to support founders tackling some of the greatest challenges of our era, from climate change to making the internet safer for children.