Ajujaht is a competition that is funded by public and private sector. It was initiated by Enterprise Estonia (EAS). SEB bank has been the main sponsor of the competition since the opening season. Since 2016 Elisa Eesti, 2019 Maxima Eesti and 2020 Microsoft Development and Sales unit in Estonia are the main supporters of Ajujaht.
Why support Ajujaht? “If you want to make something of a good idea, you need good partners,” says Mart Maasik, the Head of Business Innovation with SEB. “Here in the bank we have a lot of experience when it comes to supporting new undertakings. We’ve been doing it for years. Some of the biggest companies in the country today have gotten where they are with a little bit of help from us along the way. But we don’t just finance them – we give them advice, when they’re just starting out and need it, on how to reach the top. Being an entrepreneur isn’t just about being in business: enterprising people create jobs and contribute to a better future. Together we help the economy grow.”
“We share the start-up mindset in a number of ways, really, including in how we run things on a day to day basis,” says Sami Seppänen, the CEO of Elisa. “That might sound like a contradiction in terms for a big, long-established company like ours, but actually it makes what we do a lot more effective. We set a lot of store by enterprise and the next generation, so contributing to exciting ideas in the shape of Ajujaht gives us the chance to keep growing ourselves, too.” Elisa is the major sponsor of Ajujaht, represented both on the jury and in the mentor programme.
According to Edvinas Volkas, Maxima found inspiration to join the largest competition of business ideas in Estonia in the success stories of recent years, which confirm that good and innovative solutions can be offered to both retail and food industry. “There are so many different processes in the retail industry that affect the shopping experience of customers. We hope that through meaningful collaboration, we will find inspiration as well as exciting new solutions that can be used by Maxima and elsewhere in the commercial sector,” Volkas added.
According to Tanel Erm, head of the Microsoft Development Center in Estonia, they came to support dreaming big. “We live in a small country, but the Microsoft development center in Estonia, which grew out of Skype, is an example that small but ambitious people go a long way. There are few countries in the world that have a small and sparse population as Estonia, but where technology giants would still constantly invest,” said Erm. They also hope to see technologically savvy teams at Ajujaht, who would be good partners for corporations in the future.
Supporters of Ajujaht
“People who are starting their own businesses need to be aware of what’s at stake if key contracts go unsigned or documents are unclear in legal terms,” cautions Ergo Blumfeldt, a partner in the law firm Triniti. “Whenever a representative of a start-up steps into our office, there’s a 50/50 chance they’ll tell us they didn’t draw up a proper shareholders’ agreement. After the fact, those sorts of situations can end up costing the founders dearly. Someone could walk off with intellectual property, or demand an unjustifiably large share, or anything really. We joined Ajujaht so that the teams taking part wouldn’t face issues like that.”
“We support Ajujaht because we see it as being very beneficial in the development of the entrepreneurial environment here in Pärnu,” says Katrin Õunap, a public relations adviser with Pärnu City Government. “Innovation awareness and product and technology development are really important to us. Thanks to the competition we get to support forward-thinking ideas and to bring the knowledge and experience it pools to those just starting out in business here in the city.”
Tartu City Government supports Ajujaht in order to contribute to the development of enterprise in the city of good thoughts. It also awards a special prize for the establishment of innovative new companies in Tartu.
Tallinn has been supporting Ajujaht since the competition was first launched. It does so in order for start-ups to be able to breathe new life into the Estonian economy.
“Through Ajujaht we channel the resources the local authority has at its disposal into social changes the community considers important,” explains Saue Municipal Mayor Andres Laisk. “Quite a few initiatives that have given new meaning to the rural economy have gotten their start in the competition. One micro-company worth mentioning is HoneyPower, which is based here in the municipality. The best example is arguably Timbeter, which won Ajujaht three years ago – it’s exporting its products to Lithuania and even as far afield as New Zealand. We want to see the people living in our newly merged municipality putting their minds to it and coming up with things that will make the rest of the world a better place from right here in Saue.”
Tartu Centre for Creative Industries helps bring even more new ideas to creative industries and help them succeed.