Dear Friends and Family,
This past year has been fast. Really fast. Super bummed I did not get the chance to see many people while back in LA but I hope this letter can provide a quick update on my whereabouts.
With so many moving parts I don’t know where to begin… Here are the basics…
After the stint in London, I decided to move to Tallinn, Estonia. Most people ask why. Well, it was really quite simple. Life in London was fun, fast and an excellent place to jump right into work, however it was not the best way for me to spend the mid-twenties. Expensive and transient, I needed something different. There were a few options.
LA would have been the practical choice with great friends and family with awesome projects. Could have gotten back to the roots and live in a perma-summer. Had an offer with the Techstars & Disney program but it felt a bit claustrophobic… All this being said LA is a great place to call home, but after being for the the holidays extended this itch has almost fully been scratched. It excites me that there is so much opportunity in Southern California, but only when the time comes.
Portland would have been the fun choice. Did well enough at university to feel this would be a viable place to start doing real things. Magnificent nature and beautiful people in a brewers heaven with no end of fresh, clean water in sight. What more could anyone need?
However there was a third option, a tiny place few seem to know called Estonia… After a quick Google search it was obvious that there was a vibrant tech/startup scene, or an amazing marketing team to promote the country. It is safe to say both are true. After talking with family and friends this seemed to be the obvious, unique opportunity. One week later, I was on a plane.
Rumor has it that less than a million people globally speak Estonian and the capital city is divided almost equally, and literally, by Russians. It is a city where technology is a fundamental need of all the residents, and has open wifi on every corner. Taxes are filed online, transfers and signatures are made electronically, and there is wireless data in even the most remote corners of the country.
On the flip side, milk bought at the store stays fresh for only a few days as preservatives are scoffed at, clothes are air-dried all year long, and tea seems to be the most common cure for illness, followed closely by a variety of vodka-based remedies.
So what is life like in this bohemian fairy tale? Well, it is surprisingly awesome. Meeting new people has been easy as many ecosystems overlap along with a decent mix of ex-pats (political, business, & creative) that compliment the local scene.
Most who visit find an excuse to return as soon as possible.
The old town is small but this only adds to this mysterious land where words are fewer and religion plays an insignificant role in modern culture. Limited signage and stone walls keep the restaurants and lounges a bit more private. When new to Tallinn word of mouth is the only way to find the places where the evenings turn into mid-mornings as the lounges will slowly evolve into parties… often lasting days and close when the last person leaves. Also, the cobblestone roads are an excellent way to end up on crutches.
Summer is wild with nearly 24 hours of sunlight once again leading to morning gin and tonics with outdoor table tennis tournaments typically followed by breakfast and a big nap. This period of time also hosts a multitude of sauna parties and a collective slowdown in productivity but is most likely an increase of efficiency.
Winter is dark with nearly the opposite amount of light. It’s also cold. But this is not a bad thing as the snowy winter markets open, big coats come from the depths of the closet, and mulled wine flows in candle-lit evenings. Everything becomes significantly cozier.
Work has been excellent. It feels like we just finished our first program but in reality our next one starts less than 2 months from now. The first program featured 9 teams form 7 countries and lasted 4 months in our new office. It was incredible to see the collective development and learn together. All parties and shareholders seemed thrilled with the success of our last program.
In retrospect, the first year at the job was rather overwhelming for many reasons including an unreal amount travel, a new operations team, and just getting used to living in a new country. With all of this either in place, or at least a bit more structured the next year looks to be exceptional from a professional perspective.
This is not to say anything will be sacrificed on a personal level but life is better enjoyed one fun day at a time 🙂
This March, we will be investing between 30-250k EUR (each) into 10 B2B startups from around the world. The selection process is underway and we will have a clear picture of who will join our next batch shortly.
The future starting in June 2015 is a lot less clear but I plan to stick with Wise Guys to some extent through the next program in 2016. One of the best aspects of the job has been the flexibility and creative freedom allowed and encouraged with this position. Awesome side project coming soon 🙂
With the proper time and budget we will ramp up marketing efforts as well as program curriculum. A new web site, stronger content marketing, as well as regional ecosystem development are a few of the items on the roadmap.
Anyways, thanks for reading. Below are some of my favorite pictures with comments from the year.
Feel free to reach me here 🙂
Instagram/ Twitter: Arikenderson
A bridge in Holland..
Summertime in the Estonian countryside.
When the Camera’s came to Tallinn.
Old town walls
Before the bonfire on Estonian midsummer
Per on Swedish midsummer
Meeting cousin Elsa for the first time
Britt and I in Stockholm at 3 AM
Tia and I in Stockholm
Tower in Tallinn
In the Armenian countryside
Rainy day in Tallinn
Estonian country house
Baltic coastline with prison in the background
Paula in the snow
On the ferry from Helsinki
Great day on the Estonian/ Russian boarder
All of the possesions
The western most point of Estonia
Old town from above
My house in Kalamaja
Summer days in the country
Old Soviet laboratories
Lost in Latvia
And last but not least, from my parents visit to Tallinn.