Jüri Kaljundi: “I expect people and businesses to stop the daily destruction of the world.”

Jüri is the co-founder of weekly team management service Weekdone, nature conservancy foundation Koosloodus and non-profit startup foundation Garage48. He is a product guy with a background in tech, sales and marketing management. In the late 90s and early 2000s, he was one of the first guys in Estonia to launch startups, while the majority of Estonians had no idea what a startup was. Over the years he has been involved in a bunch of startups as a co-founder, as well as a top-level manager in a large old-school IT services firm.

How did you become an entrepreneur – was it something that happened naturally or was it a well-deliberated decision?

I don't think the desire to be an entrepreneur or go into business is paramount. I believe much more that it is important to find a profession or field of activity, product or service that is close to your heart and then offer solutions there. Money is not the main thing, as is often thought. Many startuppers tend to come from product design and development because they have some cool ideas to implement. So maybe yes, when creating the first companies, it was just a desire to achieve freedom and to decide for yourself. But the activity or the idea I wanted to offer to customers really created the meaning and purpose around it.

What are the questions to ask yourself to find out what you want to do in life?

You shouldn't think theoretically too much, it is not worth it. Just go out there, try and experiment with different things, and you'll find the answer. Most things in life can be tried for a short time. Participate in community projects, non-profit organizations and youth organizations. Try to make a student company, participate in Garage48 hack weekends, attend seminars and idea days, try to do some hobby project with a couple of your friends. Although the startup field is often also related to entrepreneurship, it is not worth paying too much attention to it as a miracle of some kind.

There is a lot to be done in NGOs, politics, education, environmental protection and nature. At the moment, our lives are too inclined towards money and growth, which at the same time tend to destroy our planet and nature. So experiment in these areas as well, read a lot, hang out with different people, not just in your own bubble. Eventually, your heart and mind will tell you what to do next. Life is long – you don't have to choose just one thing. The younger you are, the more you can experiment and explore. Be curious!

What are the personality traits that help a person to become successful?

Everyone has an area or activity that suits them. You just have to find it. There is no one type of person who is more successful. Sometimes an introverted dreamer can be successful, sometimes an extroverted fox. The key is to understand your strengths and then find aside others who complement you.

What have been the biggest victories along your journey?

Above all, the opportunity to work with these cool teams, exciting projects, innovative activities. We created Estonia's first business website Via Baltica News in 1994 – maybe it was Estonia's first startup? Launch of the first data security company Stallion, which is still operating today. CV-Online expansion across the Baltics and Eastern Europe. All the things I learned at MicroLink with fantastic people about running a big company. Nagi photo sites, which at the peak reached a third of Estonian Internet users and a tenth of the population.

Experimenting with various startup projects with co-founders Veli and Janek, and summers in Silicon Valley until we came up with Weekdone. Creating Garage48 as a world-changing organization that is now approaching its 200th hack weekend on many continents. Creating with friends the Koosloodus Foundation, to bring practical nature conservation activities to all Estonian people and companies, and to save our nature and the planet. All of this has been insanely great, and every project has had its successes and lessons.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

A growing understanding that "less is more" – a few great and important things or projects. In his poem "Even a lizard's path over rock leaves a trail", Karl Ristikivi has said: "He, who is given a little, carries it in his heart. He, who is given a lot, drops everything from his hand." Think about how this poem could improve your business or personal life. Take care of small things, your loved ones, and activities meaningful to you. Keep in mind the most important goals in your company or team. Do less, but well. This way, you feel happier about each thing, and you can share it with others so that they have a smile on their face.

What do you wish you had known about business 20 years ago? What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

I would recommend delegating more and saying "no" to more things. You can't do every single thing. Rather, find a nice gang and do something focused and awesome together. Devote less time to work and entrepreneurship, more to everything outside of work and entrepreneurship. However, there is nothing I'd truly regret. Life has been fun, and that's the main thing.

What is your biggest fear as an entrepreneur? How do you cope with it?

It makes me sad when employees are unhappy or dissatisfied. In that case, you have to deal with it actively – talk to people, find time for that. It's the same thing with customers. Then you have to focus on creating a product that meets their needs. Money, financial results – these are rather trivial things, although they also cause stress in times of crisis. The most important thing, however, is to set the right priorities and focus and say "no" to irrelevant matters. This is also the aim of Weekdone as a service – to do it at the company, department, team and employee level.

Definitely, you should take care of and minimize the mental stress and strain on yourself and your employees. Health is the most important thing in life.
Gone are the days when all entrepreneurs did was work-work-work and ended up with burnout. 
Do fewer and more important things, choose well. You have to take time for family, hobbies, and social activities. I believe that, as a result, as entrepreneurs and companies, we are moving faster and faster towards shorter working days and a 4-day working week.

What tabs/apps do you have open right now?

First of all, of course, Weekdone, where I keep my goals and see what the achievements of the team members and the whole company are. Then I have a Zoom meeting coming up on climate and nature conservation. I still actively use Skype with the team. And of course, lots of Google Docs & Spreadsheets for everyday work. JIRA for tracking and participating in our development topics. Figma with some designs. Salesforce for sales results.

Why is now the time for Weekdone to exist?

Both the current crisis and economic downturn, as well as the global shift towards working from home, mean that companies and teams need much better tools to set and monitor their goals. Weekdone allows everyone to set goals and make visible to others what they are doing, what their plans and achievements are. Based on the OKR methodology (Objectives and Key Results) and the PPP process (Plans, Progress, Problems), scattered teams can move effectively in one direction. If you see that there is confusion in the company, things are not moving, or people are moving in different directions, Weekdone will solve these problems. No wonder most of the world's leading technology companies manage themselves through OKRs.

What makes you excited about the future?

As Weekdone is doing well as a company, my expectations are related to society and the planet. The destruction of biodiversity in nature and the climate catastrophe that has already arrived are the most important problems in our lives today. I dream that people will come to their senses, begin to understand these processes and listen to scientists and specialists instead of populists and politicians. Therefore, I expect people and businesses to stop the daily destruction of the world caused by many, if not all, of our actions and the senseless consumption. You can live a sustainable and minimalist life and still enjoy it.

Today, compared to the rest of the world and Europe, Estonia is, unfortunately, one of the biggest polluters in many areas. On the positive side, there are young people and more open-minded people who understand these issues and broader media coverage as well.
It all starts with acknowledging mistakes. Then we can also find solutions. And besides, the solutions are fully available, you just need to get out of our comfort zone and think innovatively.
Excitement is thus created by the nature around us and natural, non-artificial life. From my window, I can see jays and magpies chirping on the apple tree. I know that right under my window in the woods, between the hundred-year-old broad-leaved trees, bears and lynxes, goats and elk, martens and badgers walk every day, quietly doing their things. Yesterday, I went and stood in the woods at dusk for half an hour just listening to the sounds. This is real life! Every person should find the time to go for a daily walk in nature. Go outside! I'm going right now, and I don't care if it's raining or snowing. It's still nice.


Hero of the Week is a column focused on inspirational entrepreneurial people around us – their journeys, success stories and lessons learned from failures, goals, inspiration and everything in between. Get inspired and be the Hero of your own life!

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