New new bike – Condor Italia

When I bought a new bike in the beginning of January I definitely did not think it’ll only serve me for about a month. Yet today I found myself back at Condor shop, picking up a new blue Condor Italia. Normally I’m rather pleased when I get a chance to add a new steed to the stable, this time it wasn’t such a happy affair but rather a forced move.

The previous Saturday I finally got around sliding into lycra, memorizing some local routes and heading out for a somewhat longer weekend ride. It was a gorgeous sunny winter day with perhaps 0 degrees of cold/warmth, no wind, light traffic. 14 minutes, 25 seconds into the ride saw me going at a nice 26 km/h into a gentle corner. 5 seconds later saw me going at a not so nice 0 km/h with a bike that looked like this:

Condor Baracchi cross, broken

Patch of ice, panic, lost balance, hit a concrete traffic cone. Frame broken in half, not a scratch on me. I guess I should be thankful but being human I of course think – damn, that’s not cheap. Condor guys later double check the frame for prior micro fractures but come up with nothing which means that I am very strong, fast and hit the cone dead straight.

Anyway, most of the parts were salvaged, new frame was picked and today I pedaled home on this blue beauty.

Condor Italia blue

It’s their Italia model, relaxed geometry so more of a commuter-weekend rider/racer. I do not plan to re-check the F=ma with it.

Campagnolo Veloce groupset, Veloce Compat 34/50 chainset, Deda bars and stem, Fizik Pave saddle (really comfy even with just jeans), Condor Pioggia carbon fork, their own breaks too. Most importantly – black bar tape :)

What founders/CEOs can learn from a Japanese restaurant

When the maître d’ pours a glass of sweet, crisp French white wine to go with the next offering, I ask him why he wears so many hats in a restaurant that could afford to take on more staff. “If I just manage this place but don’t serve dishes, then what’s the point?” he says. “I want to see exactly how each customer responds to what we put before them.”

Fish & Wine kokk

When a company grows over a certain size its founders/CEOs tend to focus on the big – be if fundraising, partnerships, strategy – and let others in their company deal with the customers. Someone with more experience than me can comment if there ever is a point where a company is too big and it’s OK if CEO learns about customers via levels of filters but I doubt that.

I remember when Niklas Zennström would every now and then read the tickets that Skype customers would send to our customer support. Skype must have been a 250 person company by time but he felt it important to stay in tune with what the customers are saying.

The Made Better In Japan describes people and companies where attention to detail is taken to extremes but that quote really rang with me – if you run a business you have to personally pay attention to what your customers think about what you do.

After we discuss the details of the dishes, I ask him about what the maître d’ told me. “I bought this restaurant myself just a few months ago from the group that owned it since it opened,” he says. “I did that for one reason: to cook how I want in a way that connects me to each customer. I refused to make this place any bigger. I need to personally taste every single dish that leaves my kitchen.”

Can you build a Facebook with this approach? Probably not. Can you build an excellent product with fans for customers? Hell yes.

More accelerators than startups – we have a problem

Allan MartinsonThis is a guest post by , a well-known Estonian/Baltic VC and entrepreneur ( He originally posted it on Facebook (great discussion ) and even before that it was a response to an email asking him advice about setting up a local startup accelerator (third such request in 24 hours). The whole discussion ties very nicely into critique of Estonian state-backed attempt to create an international startup accelerator.

Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Helsinki, we have a problem.

In the last 3-6 months we have seen a sudden explosion accelerators, “accelerators”, co-working spaces, support programs, “innovation awareness initiatives” etc in our region.

Going from North to South, we have serious attempts by Startup Sauna, Garage, Tehnopol, , Techhub, Startup Highway, Startup Monthly, Gamma, probably I forgot somebody. On top of that, lots of also-runs and governments wasting their money.

Everybody is trying to do something in his corner but there is no critical mass (except maybe in Startup Sauna). What the Baltics needs is ONE strong pan-regional accelerator with strong financing and strong TEAM – 2-3 full-time people and 20-30 mentors who really have achieved something (having at least $100m worth of exits or $50m in annual revenues in their track record).

Only Startup Sauna (barely) fills those criteria at the moment.

The only point of having accelerators is to produce early-stage startups. Simple criteria of success here is number of startups who have exited the accelerator and raised funding (minimum 100k EUR per startup in 12 months). An accelerator shall be able to produce at least 10 such successes a year (let’s say in 2 batches). If the success rate is 30% then you need to pass 30 startups thru the accelerator per year and have pool of 300-500 good quality projects per year.

This is impossible to achieve in one country only. We need a pan-Baltic thing.

The problem is that if the accelerator will not gain this critical mass it will lose its credit of trust in about a year. Mentors will not come because it’s waste of time, investors will not come because there are no decent companies etc.

We need somebody to put together a Baltic accelerator, perhaps a Baltic-Finnish one.

It is definitely not a problem plaguing just The Baltic/Nordic region. Om Malik covered the exact same thing just a month ago in “What history teaches us about startup incubators” outlines the same basic problems across the pond in the US.

There’s now a separate thread of discussion continuing in Arctic Startup blog (they also published the same original text, the more exposure this topic gets the better).

How not to build an international startup accelerator

If you were a 300 employee, €200 mil annual budget national institution tasked with building a support system for enterpreneurs then how would you go about getting an international tech startup accelerator off the ground? You’d probably want someone with international experience and network to lead the effort. Someone who’s built a few successful businesses in this sector themselves.

There are probably few things you’d want to avoid. Things like:

  • Deadline from announcement – 4 weeks. This includes getting commitment from a list of world class mentors and investors who put in the first seed money for startups that get accepted.
  • Bid documents only in obscure language spoken by… let’s say 1 million people.
  • Not announcing it on any public website plus making noise in news sites that focus on all things startup.
  • Require minimum 3-person team where 2 of them have to have intimate knowledge of that obscure little language.
  • Require the winner of the bid to have annual revenue of €500k for three years running

Unfortunately this is exactly how Enterprise Estonia is tackling this challenge. The way they announce it (or non-announce it) together with the language requirements pretty much ensures that no world class guy/gal/team will bother to take part.

Some local guys will “win” it and run it and that’s a hell of a long shot to hope they nail an amazing list of mentors willing to fly over long or often enough to inject world class quality into the whole accelerator. I seriously hope that EAS has been lobbying and networking this for months by now so all the right people are already in the know and prepared…

I’d link to the documents but the site hosting them is undergoing maintenance and down. Ironic.

For context: Startup Chile seems to be the closest to this model. Could anyone who’s participated in it (I’m looking at you Jens) offer a point of view on the factors that make it successful (or not) there?

Inspiration for this blog post came from something Toivo Annus (one of the original Skype engineers, now a partner at ASI and occasional angel investor) posted on Facebook.

The Go! Team “Everyone’s a VIP to someone”

Feelgoodmusic if there ever was one.

Rock Tartu voolu nillis

This one will only make sense if you speak Estonian but damn it’s funny :)

Ma tean küll, et see on aasta vana, aga kuidagi on minust ringiga mööda läinud.

Holly Lodge Estate – place with a view

Went on a stroll yesterday with Otto and as often before our route took us through Holly Lodge Estate near Hampsted Heath park. It’s a gated community (which I dislike) with impressive views on central London (which I like). Sunny day and Pro HDR iPhone app resulted in these snaps.

Holly Lodge, London

Holly Lodge, London

Holly Lodge, London

Rubbish bag in a bag. In a bag.

Bag in a bag

In October I flew with British Airways from London to Amsterdam. They served us something unmemorable (tea?) but with this something came an intriguing packet that contained:

a) a napkin
b) a plastic stick thing for stirring sugar and milk
c) a bag
d) another bag within the first bag

I just had to take it home with me.

Anoraak “Above Your Head”

New year, new bike

Condor Baracchi Cross

Rule #12 / The correct number of bikes to own is n+1

While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.

Got to follow the rules and moving to a new country helps. For about an hour now I’ve been an over excited owner of a new lover bike. I had a suspicion back in November when I found out that Condor shop is just around the corner from my office, that one day I might end up giving them chunck of my money. That gut feeling, as always, ended up being being correct.

Condor Baracchi Cross 2008 55cm

Frame: Condor Baracchi Alloy with carbon rear stays, 55cm
Fork: Carbon Cross
Groupset: Campagnolo Veloce Silver
Brakes: TRP Euro-X Silver
Chainset: Veloce Compat 34/50
Wheelset: Campagnolo Khamsin
Tyres: Continental UltraGator 28
Bars: Deda Zero 100, black, 44cm
Stem: Deda Zero 1, black
Tape: Condor Cork
Saddle: Fizik Pave
Seatpost: Condor Carbon Uno

This being a 2008 model has probably a lot to do with the fact that it had been marked down £400 from its original price but I’ve always bought “old” models and saved a ton. That pic is just a placeholder until I take a better one.

It’s a cyclo cross bike so I might have to take up a new version of my favorite sports…