Attention all developers in the Baltics – the 20K for 100K challenge

UPDATE: The challenge now has it’s own site @

This is quest post by Toivo Annus, founder of ASI and an angel investor.

Open data challenge

I followed the with great expectations – the theme of Public Services was forcing the mass-use application development – unlike the relatively useless widgets produced in preceding G48s. However I was wrong, the event again yielded apps with narrow or very narrow target user groups. This seems to be, unfortunately, part of the DNA of G48 as post-event the organizers explained their main priority is to have fun (I outlined my suggestions to improve the event, participants & outcome in the post on Siim’s blog a few weeks ago (in Estonian)).

I think having fun at G48 weekends is good yet I see downside where its current model teaches kids that lazying about your goals, users, value provided is the modus operandi of a startup. Charming but 100% wrong. And yet it takes so little time to think and tune your project towards the larger impact.

So to enhance the chances that we will see better projects from G48 and elsewhere, and to fill the void of local public data mash-ups – I am establishing a cash prize of $20’000 for developers of the most popular public services application in the Baltic states. The criteria is as follows:

  • You have to make use (or gather UGC-style) of public data, be it on country or local county level. You are free to mix in other public data-sets.
  • Main criteria for ranking the participants will be the number of active users, with secondary criteria likelihood to save lives, value proposition in terms of saving govt budget and auditability of the user engagement. Preference is given to new applications over ones which have been available since years in past.
  • There will be a hard limit of 100’000 active monthly users from Baltic states. If no-one can achieve that then the prize will not be give out.
  • You have 12 months until finish line – end of March 2012, winner announced in April 2012.
  • Your applications has to be legit and adhere to reasonable moral standards. No guns, gambling, pr0n, drinking, dubious lotteries etc.
  • You can develop and participate in this no matter where you are, no matter if you are private individuals, private or public company, government ministry, part of the accelerator, incubator, rooting from barcamp, garage, hackspace, etc. Your development can be funded by 3rd parties. Your service can live on desktop web, be an IVR service, Facebook app or whichever works for you. You can pull in users from all over the world but only ones in Baltics count towards the prize.
  • Your application should have basic core service available for free and on top of that feel free to collect payments for extended features, sell ads, etc.
  • You announce your app and participation at the comments of this post. You will keep an active blog and make your usage data public throughout the 12 months.
  • I will not claim any rights nor tangible interest with issuing the prize. It will be cash with no strings, albeit you better get some tax advice if you win.

I will try to clarify rules when needed. You try to beat the 100K.

UPDATE: The challenge now has it’s own site @

Again, this is a blog post by Toivo Annus, is just the messenger.

27 comments - What’s your take?

  1. wannabe says:

    Hi, that sound very cool :). Couple of clarifying questions:

    1. Do you have a criteria or an idea of what would count as an “active user”?

    2. “Preference is given to new applications over ones which have been available since years in past.” So, if no new application would stand up at 100K next year, you give the chance to the apps launched last year (if any)?

  2. Ben Othman says:

    I would offer 40,000$ if someone achieve it :) especially +100 000 active users from the Baltic area :) people are quite lazy, and innovative idea will need 10X bigger prize!

  3. Toivo Annus says:

    Following up on the first 2 comments:

    Active User – Im thinking in line with the classical web-analytics model, defined as someone who has used the service, logged on at least once during preceding 30 days. There can be variations and more specific definition can be locked down as we proceed.

    New vs. Old – the objective is to give chance to new ideas, rather than someone taking, say, map or hosted email service which have been around for 10 years, tweaking it a bit and promoting it up to get to the userbase to claim the price.

    And Ben, your comment is interesting in so many levels! Im glad that you are in for 40K. Do get in touch and lets find a way to make this combined 60K prize.

    PS. The usual first comment that I get is on 100K being very hard to get to target. Let me put this in perspective. First, my objective is to make you think [hard], rather than providing easy to get to target. The other aspect to it is 4M combined internet users which you have in Baltic states – 100K is just 2% of that. There are about 20 services in EE alone ( who are getting 100K users on *weekly* basis, the combined Baltics market therefore probably has x3 (for every state) x3 (for week->month change) = 100..150 services, probably more, with more users than our threshold. I dont think this is impossible to get to at all.

  4. Elver says:

    Would monthly unique visits count towards the 100k goal? Because forcing people to create accounts and log in when it doesn’t make sense for a service is not good.

  5. Jaak says:

    Two points
    1) 100K aim is impossible. If I look to Estonian Metrix top, then I find just one of the top-20 which has any noticable user cound in other Baltic states (cvkeskus). In reality, especially in 12-month time you can count only on your home market. So Lithuanias have about 2x advantage over Estonians. In Estonian context there are very few examples of so rapid growth (100K < 12mo) – Delfi, Rate: and all of them were coming to a market with no real competition.
    2) Question: what public data would you really need every month? Anything what you don't get quite easily now and what also 10% of other Estonians also would need a lot?

  6. Elver says:

    Maybe we could normalize this somehow? Like 10% of the population, not 100k :)

  7. Vahur Teller says:

    is this thread public enough information that schools/universities are picking it up (should be just the thing to try to accomplish as part of a course)?

    Also, does the solution have to use data already open, or would creating (or having an entity create) new open data also be legit (yes there is one sentence that suggests it is ok, just to be clear).

  8. hi, already posted this info on FB wall for Hub Vilnius, let me know of more thing Lithuanian startups can join.

  9. Artas says:

    Jaak, thank you for handing competitive advantage to Lithuanians! :) But I actually think it’s about how well you execute and not about which market you will go for first. All in all, however, I am glad to hear about initiatives like this!

  10. Toivo Annus says:

    Jaak: Anything becomes impossible as soon as you give up. Giving up without trying is so wrong in my world…

    Obviously people who can get friends across LT LV EE to join them have head start and that is conscious design from my part. Gone are the days when you started your pet project in Palanga and expanded to Jūrmala and Нарва-Йыэсуу only a year later, there is no reason to think small.

    Which OD services would be needed on – Im no expert and I leave that direct question to Open Data proponents (see tens of people bashing lack of OD in EE at comment section of If we find out people dont need OD services – well, I can live with that – we’ve called the bluff of some cry-babies and I get to keep 20 grand, thats not all bad.

    Indirectly replying to your question – you obviously need to look around you, whats missing, what are people doing, what can be done better. With your background in mapping and mobiles, Jaak, the obvious field to dig into would be mobile LBS, why not make an app which estimates the arrival of govt funded service-vehicles, public transport (available for anyone) or emergency rescue (auto-updates pushed to the number who called 911?).. Would you get to 100K with that – probably difficult, unless done really well and extending platform to estimating arrival of cable/water/utility fixing crews, roadside help, pizza delivery… Or why don’t you think outside the land-box – Baltic sea is shared by us, so would there be room for app which helps people to find way on the sea? Combining with weather news perhaps? …
    Do not get me started on weather. (150+K weeklies) gives you a keyhole view, I just counted 20 banner ads and endless amount of text promotions, less than 5% of this site is about what people go there to see. EE govt funds Estonian Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (, (60+K weeklies) whos data is fine-grained, precise, but you really have to dig around in their corporate site to find anything and then it comes in format of animated GIF…
    Both sites live in past and its like AltaVista @ 1999 all over again. I think getting 100K in EE alone is doable with simple weather app which auto-detects user location, adopts to viewers device and has reasonably good UX.

    Back to the indirect-answer-to-question – you need to look at the field you are familiar with. If you work in telecoms space – maybe you can mash up inexpensive software PBX for public sector? If you work in electronics – maybe you can hack together a radar gun (if Cliff Stoll did that with Apple Lisa and some scrap parts in 1986 you sure can it means the component cost has probably gone down by 100x) which people can use/connect to phones while driving to gather UGC data-store of average speeds in surrounding traffic? Speaking about driving around and UGC – if you are expert in phone accelerometer (re:smashr) why not build an app which detects potholes on the road – its a heatmap-on-UGC waiting to happen …

    You don’t have to come up with the service-product idea right here and now – there is time to think and talk to your friends. Good ideas usually take time to evolve.

  11. Boris Maryshev says:

    2.5% of available users would have meant 25,000,000 active users globally for Skype in 2005. While not totally impossible, it is extremely hard (and costly) to achieve.

    Lets say candidate spends 10-15k$ on user acquisition in Q1 2012 and manages to achieve the magic users number, but users sharply drop off after March’12. Would it still be considered a success?

  12. Anton says:

    interesting competition and 100k in a year is definitely doable :) but I expect none to win this race. But if someone makes it (without funding exceeding the price offered) i’m totally surprised :)

    I can speak for two websites that are in top 15 counted by and for one it took at least 3 years to get 100k monthly (without any funding) and 2 more years to get 100k weekly in Estonia and the model totally failed in other Baltic states even with funding

  13. Toivo Annus says:

    Boris, want to share the data behind your numbers? You imply a) there were 1B global broadband users; b) all of them applicable market for Skype; c) S having less than 25M users at 2005.

    A) There were around 200M broadband users at end of 2005 (Backwards trend line at pg 10 @

    B) By far not everyone in this set were able to run S bc of restrictions that their employer had put on their workstation or they simply did not have necessary audio equipment. I will not discuss which regions and market segment S actually applied to as its so much more complicated discussion. I would put this limit to 10-25% of the above but I give you 50%, that puts our applicable *global* market at approx 100M.

    C) Skype had about 20M uniques end of 2005. (Daily 10.8M multiplied by 2 –

    So end of 2005, 16months post launching, Skype had around 20% penetration. All this while competing head-to-head with MSN-QQ-AIM and likes who had been around for 10 yrs and had userbases of around 50M at time, plus about 1000 mobile and fixed telephony providers who had been around for 50+ years.

  14. IK says:

    Is there a deadline for a participation announcement?

  15. Margus says:

    The initiative is great!

    One question to Toivo Annus.

    You mention “public data”. Participants have to use public data (or gather UGC style data). What exactly do you mean by “public” data? If I manage to get usable non-public data – for example, ask *un*organized (or badly organized) data from some organisations, create scripts/code/UI to make new structure/value there and use that data…this would not be using *public* data as i asked for the data (maybe signed a contract) and it is not freely available to anyone?

    Could you elaborate on “public” data requirement. Do i understand correctly, that you set a limit that participants must use *public* data that is *freely* available to anyone + UGC?

  16. Toivo Annus says:

    Public Data in our context refers to data gathered, created, managed by, stored and possibly available from public sector. See the definition of latter at

    Public here does not refer directly to “publicly available”. Gov’t controlled datastore may or may not be publicly available.

    By “gather yourself UGC style” I refer to a option where you have an idea for good app where you fill in the void of government function and gather the data yourself. An example of this would be crowd-sourcing traffic density from cellphone apps that your users can run.

    In your case, if you are looking for participation based on TV-guides, I would say you have a borderline case as only part of the Baltics TV programs-schedules are state-ran, state-created and you have been active on that field for quite some time.

  17. Pingback: The 20K for 100K Challenge – ArcticStartup

  18. ets says:

    100K monthly active users going 0->100K in 12 months is roughly 200-500K totally unique. So if contender takes his spent time as a risk capital it is simple formula -
    make service attractive and simple enough to spend under $.04 in marketing and ops per user, right?

  19. Margus says:

    Television data was not the one I meant to sort out, for that i already have working solutions. I was more looking into *educational* sector but the data i thought of using is not public or not available at all.

    I think 100K users in 12m is doable, the hard part is in my opinion are the limitations about data. If the terms were: 1) public *issue* (healthcare, environment, education, traffic, etc); 2) 100K users in 12m…i have several ideas and business models. But requirement about using public data complicates things a lot.

    Toivo said:
    “data gathered, created, managed by, stored and possibly available from public sector” and about UGC “where you fill in the void of government function”

    Question: Google Health () would NOT fit your terms? Healthcare is a public sector function (mostly), but the data is not public by your definition. So Google Health would not fit the terms of your proposal. Correct? Data does not match the requirements.

  20. Toivo Annus says:

    Healthcare and education sectors – both mostly funded by governments in Baltic states are very much the areas where you can&should build apps to participate in this challenge.

  21. bobiks says:

    Last year we had such application in Baltic states, simple social game ‘Farm’ , that got much more users than 100k in Baltic states together.
    So I see the competition is interesting, and would suggest some investors and other related persons to join it and grow the prize : )

  22. Marcis says:

    Good idea and good challenge! Public data use is quite limiting, but with good project it should be possible.
    100K active users in Baltics is not impossible, do not forget that Estonia considerably lower population than Lithuania or Latvia.

  23. Diana Poudel says:

    Interesting challenge. Will MTR and data considered as public data? And must this project to be same URL every country or we can make for LV/LT?

    Anyway we will try – long way to go as since Garage48 Public Service we have had 13 000 unique visitors in site and we need add lot of attractive functions to get more traffic and users :D

    If to look then it seems that currently there is around 50 sites in estonia what have req. users and most of them are quite known and been in market more than 5 years.

  24. Maris Antons (LV) says:

    I would like to enter, but I really don’t want to publish our team’s idea here since it can be easily copiable by someone who can get his/her hands on full-time coders & designers. So, how much do I have to publish here to enter the centest?

  25. Andrejs Klavins (LV) says:

    As a game developer and entreprenour in the field of social games and former largest social network API manager, I can assure you that using Draugiem API, the task to reach 100K unique users per month is actually quite easy. The exposition that Draugiem social network offers in their application sections is close to 300 K. So you just have to create an appealing enough app, to attract enough interested audience in one month and you will have fulfilled the goal of reaching 100 K unique users per month.

  26. Toivo Annus says:

    Few ideas – which fields to think about and work on:
    Popular public data topics on Google:
    School comparisons, Unemployment, Population, Sales tax, Salaries, Exchange rates, Crime statistics, Health statistics (health conditions), Disaster statistics, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Last names, Poverty, Oil price, Minimum wage, Consumer price index, inflation, Mortality, Cost of living, Election results, First names, Accidents, traffic violations …

  27. Toivo Annus says:

    We continue @

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