What an ambitious event! The Russian government with prime minister Dmitriy Medvedev had really put a lot of effort into making the Open Innovation Forum in Moscow a truly prestigious one with guests such as, the prime minister himself, entrepreneurs like Sir Richard Branson, various ministers of both Russia and other countries, company leaders as the CEO of Ericsson Hans Vestberg and leading people in the fields of science and innovation. I was selected to take part as one out of 100 young innovators, 50 Russian and 50 international. I have rarely met so many interesting people at one place so I really tried to maximize the time spent in communication with people. Four days is a short time, but I managed to get a lot out of it, spending quality time and exchanging ideas with innovators and entrepreneurs from both Russia and abroad. I took the chance to walk around the exhibition area to speak with Russian high tech companies as well as business incubators and technology innovation centers from all over Russia. I just counted my collection of business cards to some 50 pieces, from which at least 20 goes into the category of “very interesting to follow up on” people. At least a couple of those are potential customers for Beetroot and many are interesting from a long term perspective. So, work still to do there… Richard Branson gave a good advice during his Q&A session, whenever you meet people who you find interesting, let them know that by dropping them just a line or two over email when you come home, and you can come back to the same persons even a few years later in some cases.
My speech? Yes I had it, I as one of the lucky few from the youth forum section to get to present my project in front of innovators and entrepreneurs. The 7 min I was supposed to speak was shortened to 5 because of some time schedule issues. I did my best though, and made a passionate presentation about my first meeting with Russia, the fascination that kept me learning and discovering more in the following 3 years, Beetroot resources business model and vision as well as a few words about exchange in innovation focusing on Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship. I felt that the whole thing was a bit squeezed because of the time limit, but at least I got good response and feedback from people afterwards.
The era of Lada travelling is soon to be over for this time. I used it to go to Moscow and will try to take it back to Saint Petersburg after the Open Innovation Forum event. The ride from Kiev wasn’t too bad. I started at 04:30 in the morning and arrived to the border according to plan at around 08:30. I had expected at least some hours of waiting for the border crossing, but the whole process went shockingly fast, just 40 min with both the Ukrainian and the Russian controls. One of the border officials just couldn’t resist commenting on the odd combination of a young Swedish guy in an old rusty Lada with: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself – what’s your salary in Sweden?!”. The journey had two major challenges though, the first one being that the heating system in the Lada is long gone. As I was driving north, the weather got colder and colder to the level of ice being inside of the coupé. My solution to this was to dress accordingly – in my sleeping bag, it helped at least a bit… The second problem was that with some 300 km left to Moscow, the engine started to sound awfully bad in speeds over 40 km/h. So I adapted accordingly to running and drove in 40 for the rest of the way. I arrived 15 hours after I started at 21:30 local time, frozen, tired but happy.
I am just about to leave northwards, to Moscow with my good old Lada… She has had a bad week we could call it. It started with the battery being completely empty when I came back from Sweden. In times like this, it’s good to live on a hill, and it’s good to have 3 strong German business partners who can give her a push down the hill for a fresh restart. It didn’t help for long though since she decided to refuse to start two days in a row (at the same street), and we had to tow her home with a taxi, breaking the towline no less than 3 times in 3 km… An old Lada needs care, that’s why we pushed her down to Stas and his crew yesterday morning. I decided to take the chance to spend some time to get my hands dirty in the workshop environment, learn a few things about Lada mechanics, sit down with the guys for some coffee, some small talk and listen radio Chanson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_chanson) – by all means an invaluable life experiences.
My Lada is now in her very best mood and spins like a cat… I will try to keep her happy all the way to Moscow.
5 days passes fast when you have a busy schedule, I had filled it with some family quality time as well as meetings with clients, potential clients and sales partners. I also spent a full day at the Encubator, it’s an open office space with some 35 bright entrepreneurs are working hard with forming a business case around their technology based innovations for commercialization. Being there for just one day gave a great injection of inspiration for me, knowing that some of the concepts formed here will rise as successful tech start ups with my friends and group mates at the steering wheel. A special thanks to the team “super fast wireless data transfer” for lending me a work space.
Beetroot took some big steps forward this week as some of the leads that was generated early in time has started to pay off, with a couple of projects started with new clients and also some delivers to happy clients. Writing this, I am at the bus between Warsaw and the Ukrainian border, which means I did catch both my plane and the bus without making any drama this time. We have an exciting week to come with our German partners sourcingbull.de visiting for a couple of days, some delivery to be made and a new sales approach to be tried out starting tomorrow. My girlfriend will also be in town, adding to our forces, as well as working at the Kiev film festival.
Today I was a speaker at “rise and shine” for IT startups, where about 30 people interested in starting up IT business had gathered to share experiences and thoughts. I shared my entrepreneurial journey from the starting point of Flodström Racing in 2008 (financing my kart racing for two years), continuing with my founding of a Lithuanian IT startup in 2011, and the lessons taken from there as input into Beetroot. It was the first time I presented the Beetroot model for a larger group, and although there are some improvements to be made presentation wise, it was great to spread information of about what we are doing and receive a lot of interesting questions from the audience. Big thanks to Andrius Kaseta who was both organizer, speaker and the one who invited me to speak.
I had planned to spend a full seven days in Göteborg this week, but after my little faux pas in Warsaw, there were only 5 of them left. The flight from Warsaw to Rygge Norway went smooth. The bus ride from Rygge to Oslo center wasn’t bad but could have been better if it wasn’t for the bus drivers questionable music taste (some kind of Norweigan schlager), and his need of playing this on highest possible volume in crappy loudspeakers.
Bus4you, running the bus from Oslo to Gothenburg, provided a calm journey with nice big armchair-like seats, Wifi and even electricity. I haven’t experienced this kind of luxury in a while.
I wrote that I hoped to be able to avoid drama in Warsaw, I shouldn’t have… Missing a flight at some point in life can happen to anyone, but doing so, being on time at the airport, sitting 20 meters from the gate, waiting for your delayed flight is just a little bit ridiculous. So I have to explain myself. Modlin is a small airport about one hour from Warsaw, when I arrived in good time before the flight the information screen said simply “DELAYED” for the Gothenburg flight, without any sign of which time it would depart. I sat down, and started a conversation with the guy next to me, who turned out to be very interesting; A Swedish-Polish guy who was in Poland to investigate the possibilities of setting up an IT-outsourcing business. Obviously we had a lot to talk about, but did have an eye at the screen, waiting for a departure time to show up. It didn’t happen, what showed up was instead the text “DEPARTED”. As experienced eastern European travelers, we didn’t really become upset about the little misinformation that just popped up on the screen, but just to be sure, we took our bags and walked the 20 meters to the gate to find that the plane was not really delayed, but rather departed. No call in the loudspeakers or anything. Laugh or cry? And how do you explain this to your parents and girlfriend waiting at the airport in Gothenburg with the dinner already prepared? Wizzair couldn’t explain what was wrong with their information system either, but could explain that you should always be close to the gate after the security check, I guess they are right. I have now learned the hard way that 20 meters is not close enough….
If to look at the good outcomes, I had a chance to see something more of Warsaw, which is quite a nice city, especially the old town. And I and my newly won friend could lengthen our discussions over the whole Sunday, which wasn’t unproductive. Flying to Rygge on Monday and thereafter taking the bus to Gothenburg via Oslo, effectively arriving almost two days later than planned, I will add to the list of bad outcomes.
I will now stay in Sweden until Saturday evening, meeting up with family, friends, some customers and future customers. As for the way back to Kiev: Let’s hope I can avoid making a drama…
I have arrived to a rainy Warsaw, and hooked up my “office” on a small café. As usual, this night train added to the portfolio of interesting meetings. My cabin buddies this time where two sister babushkas (grandmothers) somewhere in their seventies who brought a great mood into the cabin. During the three hours of their trip we managed to drink some tea together and cover a big part of the life stories of both babushka Valya – who had lived and worked in Kazakhstan during the Soviet time, and nowadays commute back and forth to Czech Republic for work, and babushka Olga – who married a man from Azerbaijan 40 years ago and has lived in Baku ever since, claiming that Azerbaijan is probably the best country in the world, especially after the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku earlier this year. Baku seems to be a place to visit indeed. We also shared some knowledge and I increased my Azerbaijanian vocabulary from 0 to 4 words and got some new input of Ukrainian. I gave a little overview of the possibilities with the world of internet with some live demonstration from my computer and I believe I got them hooked. =)
The border was crossed with ease, I really like the train system were you never need to go out, but just keep your passport under the pillow and pull it out whenever some border guards wake you up.
Now off for a little city walk in Warsaw with a local Estiemer.
I am now at the train between Kiev and Warsaw, I am quite lucky to be here at all considering my “slarvighet” in packing important things. Examples of good things to bring with you for long travels are, money, insurance, passport and….tickets…. I forgot the ticket part… We had done some major cleaning and shape up of our office/home before I left and I had put my Kiev-Kharkov ticket in the accounting folder, not realizing that the Kiev-Warsaw ticket followed with it. I realized this exactly 5 min before the train was supposed to leave – no good odds for success in other words. I called Gustav who had just put on his running outfit, for some light afternoon jogging. Instead of that, 10 seconds later, he found himself sprinting down the 1,5 km long hill that separates our office from the train station with a train ticket in his hand.
In the mean time I started to explain my situation for the conductors and the discussion was soon joined by a couple of passengers who came with various creative ideas on how to solve the situation including topics such as in which city on the way I was most likely to catch the train with a taxi, which conductor that would be easiest to “convince” to let me on board as well as where on the train I most likely would be able to hide myself during the journey. I never had to go with any of those options; our running with the dogs in the last couple of weeks has paid off! When the whistle blew and the train slowly started to move, I hear someone screaming “ANDREAAAS” followed by the sight on a clearly mad sprinter, in colorful T-shirt, with a ticket soaking wet in his hand in the position of a baton for handover. ”Bistro bistro” (quickly, quickly!) was the words of the by now pretty engaged conductor as he held up the door just long enough for me to enter. It’s situations like this that really shows that you can count on your business partners. The engaged passengers were also happy to see a happy end of “The drama at Kiev train station”, I got a handshake, a “ryggdunk” and the concluding remark – “extrimal!” (“extreme”!)
Tomorrow evening I will take the Wizzair flight from Warsaw to Göteborg, let’s hope I can avoid making a drama…
Use Google maps, hit in the address you have got, don’t question the location, and just drive. When you have been driving on a small, dark, bumpy, empty dirt road with pools of water everywhere for some 15-20 min, you can call yourself officially lost, and call the people you were supposed to meet with and inform them that you might be some one and a half hours late. As a learning experience to take with you from this, except from Ukrainians being very patient, is to always be sure in what language you got the address. Since each street address exist in both Ukrainian and Russian language, and those can be written both with Cyrillic and Latin letters, there are four ways to write each address. To add to the confusion, some street names exist in duplicates more or less. Learning experience, use “Yandex Karti” instead of “Google Maps”, and rather search for the name of the place than the street name, if you just have the street name, it could help to write it just in Cyrillic letters.