Microsoft nurtures new success stories in Estonia’s biggest televised business idea competition Ajujaht
Microsoft Development Centers usually are what their name says – hubs for IT professionals who develop the amazing IT ecosystem of Microsoft. In the case of Microsoft Development Center Estonia (MDCE), they strive to be more.
The decision to become a Brain Hunt partner presented a milestone for MDCE: this was the biggest “giving back to the community”-type of marketing project that united MDCE’s Sales Team and Development Team. Those two teams usually have separated goals and different methods to fulfill those goals. But both sides saw Brain Hunt as an opportunity to showcase Microsoft’s know-how and human network while assisting local people who are just figuring out how to develop tech ideas.
Microsoft chose RUEX
It’s important to recognize the local importance of Brain Hunt, which was initiated by the Estonian government through the national institution Enterprise Estonia. Brain Hunt has jumpstarted many local IT success stories that have become employers for thousands of Estonians – finalist Bolt has become a worldwide transportation brand and Click’n’Grow was molded into a worldwide household gardening wizardry. One of the latest winners, FoodDocs, has made great progress in foreign markets, selling their food safety management system to different clients. Some finalists have gone to Bay Area to search for more investors than local Baltic business angels.
Tanel Erm, MDCE’s leader and a TV jury member for Brain Hunt, is hoping that this year’s TOP 10 finalist RUEX can become the next team to win Brain Hunt. Erm has been mentoring RUEX for a couple of months now and thus far, RUEX has prevailed. RUEX is among the teams still competing for a prize fund of at least 130 000 euros (not to mention the attention from the TV show).
RUEX is developing a platform that connects electric car users with chargers. The driver of an electric car sees the chargers nearby on the platform, their occupancy, books an appointment, chooses the shortest route, charges, pays, and receives an invoice. The charger owner can therefore monetize their chargers when they’re not using them themselves.
For Erm, RUEX presents an opportunity to solve a problem that resonates with him as a hybrid car owner. “Every time we meet, I can see the progress they’ve had. I’ve helped them to clarify their message and I’ve given them new ideas on what to do with their technical solutions. They’ve listened to me as I’ve seen their pivot moves and changes to their way of thinking. I’d love to be an advisory board member for them after Brain Hunt,” said Erm, a week before RUEX calmly prevailed in the TOP 10 round.
Erm recognizes vast potential in the realm of electric and hybrid vehicles. He appreciates the fact that RUEX has collected a team of enthusiasts who have experience in the field. “They are older than me and they don’t develop RUEX as their main job, but yet it feels like they do. This is a great source of inspiration and ignites me to look through some ideas I’ve forgotten in my folders, both physical and digital. Maybe some of them can be implemented for Microsoft and I can experience a similar journey RUEX is having. Their idea is now almost entirely different from their starting point” said Erm, a clever smirk on his face.
Erm also mentored a TOP30 team named Eventive, who is developing a 3D-modeling solution for event venues. However, Eventive wasn’t as active as RUEX was with seeking guidance and they also didn’t pass the TOP 10 round bar.
Physical services are meshing with technology
Other employees who have mentored Brain Hunt TOP30 teams this year are MDCE’s HR Partner Merle Liisu Lindma and Engineering Manager Henn Ruukel.
Merle Liisu Lindma was willing to invest her time and energy in projects related to education and led by women. Her reasoning was that education and lifelong learning give people the freedom to make choices in life, and there are disproportionately few women in Estonian business. “I confess, I’m lucky. I mentored Ajujaht contestant Maria Kasepalu, who creates a collaborative subject program. For me, it is an opportunity to see the world from another angle, to contribute to topics close to my heart, to learn and think out of the box of everyday work,” said Lindma. Kasepalu, who didn’t proceed to the TOP 10 round by the slimmest of margins, said that Lindma opened her eyes on how to navigate the difficult HR decisions and methods of any business. She was especially grateful for the time Lindma always found for her team.
Microsoft’s Sales Team in Estonia has been represented by start-up expert Mihkel Rembel. He had been assisting Brain Hunt’s last season finalist DriveX earlier and he was familiar with Brain Hunt via his previous employer before joining Microsoft. This year, Rembel was a jury member in the preliminary TOP 100 Brain Hunt idea assessment round and TOP 30 round.
Rembel was curious to witness how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has influenced the way people think about developing business. “I wasn’t disappointed,” concludes Rembel, months later. “I mentored three teams who all made it to the TOP 10 round. One of those TOP 10 teams – Migrevention – introduced me to a relevant problem. People have more and more migraines due to excessive screen time and work habits. Migrevention helps to solve that problem as they are developing digital migraine diaries that would be accessible to health specialists if the app user permits them. This is a great example of how physical services evolve because of digital technology,” told Rembel.
Rembel and Erm both conclude that Brain Hunt has benefited Microsoft already. Mihkel Rembel raved about the ongoing effects happening for Microsoft in Estonia: “Since we are participating together – sales and tech – our effort reflects for the local IT and start-up sector that we are serious about giving knowledge back to the community. We take this project very seriously and it’s not just a token marketing event for us. We sacrifice time and use our network to help Estonia’s new IT beacons. Different units inside MDCE can see how our experts can collaborate and this creates interest throughout our employees to mentor Brain Hunt teams next year. Our Sales Team and tech teams are standing for one cause and when we are united, we become stronger,” said Rembel.
Erm added that this experience could benefit MDCE in many ways as people are more aware of what MDCE does in Estonia and how it’s still strongly connected to the local IT bubbles.