Meet our podcast hosts Marleen Aasa and Otto Oliver Olgo

It’s time to get to know Marleen Aasa and Otto Oliver Olgo, consultants at Miltton New Nordics and the hosts of Season 2 of the sTARTUp Day podcast. Who of them is the best NBA expert in Estonia and who is a practicing coach? What are their biggest blunders and principles for dealing with failures? Which podcasts and TV shows do they recommend to check out (besides the sTARTUp Day podcast, of course)? Find out from our interview!

The interview was conducted by Sanne Taveter, a member of the sTARTUp Day Marketing & PR team.

What does your daily work in Miltton New Nordics involve?

Marleen: Actually, as consultants at Miltton New Nordics, we work with many Estonian startups on a daily basis. The startups are in different stages of their journey. We are their growth partners, helping them with business strategy, funding, launching new products/services, communications strategy, marketing, media relations, sustainability and corporate social responsibility. 

That’s also one of the reasons why teaming up with the sTARTUp Day podcast was an exciting opportunity for us – we are already part of the startup world, and it fits our values and activities.

Oliver:  The daily task list and the variety of tasks can be sometimes as rich and nuanced as a Harry Potter book. To generalize, when you need help with PR, lobbying, digital marketing, (virtual) event organizing, or digital marketing, you simply just call… us. Especially if you want to focus on the New Nordic area (Nordic countries, Baltic countries, St Petersburg), but also if you have global ambition. We’ve got 15+ years of experience working with NGOs, start-ups, and corporations.

Let’s speak about the sTARTUp Day podcast. What do you have in plans for the new season?

Marleen: We have drawn up a list of guests for the first months of the new season. We want to portray a person behind a startup and also show the different steps of building a company. Very often, we read about startups raising money, entering new markets, hiring people, etc.

But in fact, behind all that is an enormous amount of sweat, tears, and tough challenges that you don’t see unless you’re part of it. So we’d like to show people what it’s really like to build a startup, both professionally and personally.

Any startup who feels like they want to share their story can surely reach out to us.

Oliver: I also have a secondary goal of giving people for whom startups are a bit distant topic – for example, my Mum, who is a kindergarten teacher, and Dad, who works in a timber company – a flavor of this world and how it works. To deconstruct it a bit and make it simpler to understand for everyone.

You also talk on the podcast about your guests’ hobbies. What about your hobbies?

Marleen: My partner and I are currently converting an old summer cottage into a home, which is pretty time-consuming. I also recently took up tennis and am eager to practice that. And I spend a lot of time outdoors and listen to podcasts – I’ve had this thirst for information for several years now. Plus, I also practice coaching at Coaching Agency to help people reach their full potential.

Oliver: Unlike Marleen, I’m too busy to build a house. I’m raising a son and will soon become a full-time dad. But speaking of hobbies, I’m a big basketball fan. I’ve even been called the best NBA expert in Estonia. I’m also active in music – I play an instrument and sing. Last, I consume loads of various long-format media to keep up abreast of global trends.

Marleen: I should perhaps clarify that becoming a full-time dad means that Oliver will go on parental leave and stay at home with kids, setting an example for many Estonian men.

Oliver: Indeed, I don’t think it’s fair that a woman should spend five years at home with small kids.  

As we’ve switched to more personal topics, what new belief or habit has most improved your life in the past five years?

Oliver: My way of thinking has been influenced by various films, especially a TV series called Ted Lasso and a movie called Peaceful Warrior. They have taught me that you can only control what you have power over. Therefore it’s important to remain naively optimistic even if everything gets fucked up. Such an approach helps you avoid the stress that I see many people around me struggling with due to a home office and mental health issues, for instance.

It’s crucial to maintain positivity these days in order not to become depressed.

You should also remember that you can’t control certain things, for example, the fact that social contacts have decreased because of the Covid restrictions. You can only control it to the extent that you keep in touch with people you care about, even if you cannot always physically meet them.

Marleen: From my side, I’m very interested in personal development and wellness industry, which has shown rapid growth in recent years. It’s become socially acceptable to talk about what someone does for personal development or overcome some bad experiences in one’s life. How to become mentally stronger, more empathetic, more in peace with oneself. It’s positive that we are talking more about mental health-related topics, and it also affects me personally because of coaching.

Do you have a favorite failure or apparent failure that has taught you something important?

Oliver: When I was younger, I was regularly irritated by the fact that my father seemed to focus more on work than spending quality 1-1 time with me. I developed a minor grudge for him and stopped trying to find the positive aspects in him. Instead, I was searching for details and events that would enable me to feel distanced from him.

Years later, during my late college years, I understood how hard he had to work to support and finance his family. How difficult and treacherous life was in the 1990s in this particular corner of Europe. He started from almost nothing and yet always made us feel safe and relatively well-off.

I will forever be grateful for what he did (and still does!) for me and my siblings. I learned a lot about forgiveness, maturity, and not judging a book by its cover. These lessons come in handy now that I'm a father myself.

Overall, what matters to me in case of a failure is whether you can learn from it or not. In some cases, there is no lesson, just a bad coincidence.

Marleen: It’s not in my nature to dwell on failures, I somehow just forget about them. My philosophy is to focus on good things, not the negative ones. But I do remember one moment from my mid-20s, which felt like a total failure.

I had to attend a meeting in a large Portuguese bank. In Estonia, you are used to just going and doing your thing, but Portuguese business culture is very different. I stepped into a room and found myself, with my blonde hair and a red shirt, among twenty people in their 40s and 50s, perhaps two of them women. My heart sunk and I thought, “Okay, what kind of authority do I have here?” It felt like the end of the world, but eventually, everything went fine.

Returning to podcasting, what advice would you give to someone who wants to start their podcast?

Marleen: The number one thing to think about is the topic. It helps if you choose a specific topic to make sure you yourself know what you will talk about and your listeners know what to expect. Inevitably, there are a lot of podcasts around already. But statistics show that the number of listeners is also increasing.

Oliver: sTARTUp Day is actually my second podcast, I also host a sports podcast on NBA and I intend to launch a podcast about fatherhood and the challenges that come with the parental territory in the 2020s. Before starting with your podcast, you should think about whether you target a large audience or a narrower one – and whether you have the means to go for the big audience. It’s important to have proper technological equipment and the financial means to run a podcast as well as time for marketing and distributing it.

Can you share some of your favorite podcasts or blogs, either related to startups or not?

Marleen: From the startup world, I’d definitely recommend everything from the U.S. accelerator Y Combinator. Their Youtube videos and podcasts are all worth checking out. I revisit some of their material every now and then, as it’s really informative. And since I mentioned the wellness industry, I’d also recommend a podcast called Mind Body Green.

Oliver: I have three recommendations, two in Estonian and one in English. The first is Kuum tool (Hot Chair) aired on Äripäev radio, where the host probes an entrepreneur. The questions tend to be very sharp and teach a lot about the art of interviewing. The second one is The Bill Simmons Podcast, where the US podcast guru Bill Simmons invites famous people to the studio to talk about their business, life, sports, relations, etc. He’s a very charismatic person and one of the most original podcast hosts. The third recommendation is Digitund where Henrik Roonemaa and Hans Lõugas explain in human language digital trends.

If you could invite anyone in the world to sTARTUp Day podcast, who would you pick?

Marleen: The first name that pops into my head is Simon Sinek. I truly believe in positive leadership, focusing on the why, asking challenging questions and supporting people to lift them higher - I love the way he has “a recipe for a great culture and success”.

Oliver: I would choose Elon Musk or Nassim Nicholas Taleb, just to understand how calibrated their public personality is. I want affirmation that they do believe in their ideas, as they tell them in a tiny box studio, in the Silicon Valley of Eurasia.

Listen to the sTARTUp Day podcast hosted by Marleen and Oliver.
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