Jüri Kaljundi: At hackathons the teams who come well-prepared succeed more often!
Weekdone is doing great! Being in the business of team goal-setting and making the companies using our product more efficient, it is important for us to be trusted by our business users. Unlike many tech companies, we have now been profitable since January 2015 and continue on that growth path. Our users include everyone from small startups up to large Fortune 500 companies and world leading corporations. We're now 9 people and expect to keep growing the team in autumn, looking for people in marketing, sales and product roles. It's been quite a ride to get here, but our goal is to make sure every company, every team, every leader in the world uses us, so there is still much to be done.
What’s the most commonly given piece of advice you give to startups?
There are a few. It always starts from really understanding the customer and it's problems. You have to be out of the house and talk to people - a lot. What often happens is people lock themselves up like in a closed secret lab and do things internally. Often these things fail when launched, because turns out customers did not have this problem after all. It's better to find this out early. Vision is important, but customers make the final decision. Another thing is moving very fast in early stages. Show your prototypes, show your betas, have people play around with what you do. You should start doing that in the first 48 hours of starting your team - not after a few months. Get out of the office, on the streets!
What do you expect from VUNK 2016?
In all hackathons we see that the teams and leaders who come well-prepared succeed more often. I'd like to see the visionaries and people with ideas do as much homework as possible, talk to external people as soon as possible and think what makes a great team. I also suggest to have a very clear plan of what their Minimum Viable Product is. Set clear OKRs - Objectives and Key Results - what are the measurable milestones you need to hit in a week, a month, a quarter. You can even use the free version of Weekdone for that.
Last year showed that kind of preparation beforehand made many teams succeed. The pre-events should help with that, so everyone should join that.
On ideas side I'd like to see a good mix of different areas. Mobile, hardware and IoT, consumer apps, business tools - they all should come. Some can be serious, some can be more fun. All of them can make a good business, there are no limits. Think large: what are the ideas that change people's lives or how companies operate. Reach for the moon, but be realistic. And never forget: a business must make money, there needs to be a revenue model to it.
What has been the biggest trend in the whole ICT field that has not lived up to the expectations?
Some things just take time, others find out there is no real customer demand for them. One of them is AI - Artificial Intelligence - which has taken decades to emerge. Only now we are seeing first steps in smart intelligent systems being built, but there is a lot to happen still. We are long way away from real AI. Systems like mobile Siri and Google Now, and the first chatbots are the areas where a lot is being experimented on in this AI field. It's hard, but once it gets real, it will be super.
Has there been anything, in your opinion, that has big unused potential?
All areas can be innovated. It can be someting very new, like Virtual Reality. But even boring old things like how people communicate, how teams and businesses operate - you can always build something new there. Estonia has shown that we can build great B2B businesses with recurring revenues. Many processes in companies are old-fashioned still, so think about what people do at work and how to improve that. Businesses always have money, so if you can build something for them, you can start earning real revenues very early. You can build a strong business then even without investors.
What’s your main professional-personal goal?
As the CEO of Weekdone, but also the Head of Product, I have to major goals. One is to make sure my team is happy and energetic. We invest a lot into that, be it just team events, sports and educational support, or just the work environment. As a startup, everyone on our team must be independent, but work really hard to focus and hit their goals. Second is to improve our product so it is even more customer friendly, easier to understand and solves even stronger problems and customer pain points. That work never ends. Like said: we want to be used by every successful leader and team in the world. Personally I just want to fly more planes upside down and straight up, as aerobatic flying is one of my hobbies. After a tough work week, each person needs a good rest and some fun. It is important to keep a good work-life balance in any team.