Introducing VNTRS Estonia – Startup Studio & a VC fund enriching Northern Europe’s start-up world. Founded in Sweden in 2016, they have invested in 24 companies and worked with hundreds of others. Now they have also settled in the Estonian start-up scene. Using the Sweat Equity model & their VEQ fund to help companies grow, VNTRS is well connected with start-up hubs in the Baltics.
🔵 Let’s bring everyone up to date on how VNTRS came about and how you are making the world a better place?
Our vision is the world where good ideas become successful. We believe that too many good ideas, passionate entrepreneurs, and intrapreneurs fall short due to the wrong reasons – we are here to change this.
We build digital products and services while also helping start-ups get to the market cost-effectively. If we believe in the people and the companies we work with, we are willing to reinvest part of our fee to equity, become shareholders and long-term tech partners. Our investment portfolio currently consists of 24 early-stage tech companies that we’ve helped to build, and we have also worked with hundreds of clients following VNTRS’ values.
As mentioned above, we risk and benefit together with our partners. This is what the concept of VNTRS – Sweat Equity is all about. In 2021, we also started the VNTRS VEQ investment company to expand our investment capabilities. VEQ will invest in pre-seed and seed rounds with a mandate all over Europe but focus on the Nordics and Baltics. VEQ does not have a traditional fund structure and thus can remain a long term active owner as long as it makes sense for both sides.
🔵 How has the startup scene welcomed you here in Estonia?
Since opening up the Estonian office in February 2021, we have seen a lot of interest from Estonian and Baltic startups. We focus on introducing the Sweat Equity concept to the founders as this model was not well-known in Estonia in the past. Nowadays, we deliver the message and spread the work through the benefits of this model, connecting ourselves to VC funds, incubators, and accelerators.
We screen about ten start-ups weekly, asking the best ones to pitch for our Investment Committee. Collaboration with local ecosystem players helps us to guarantee a stable flow of incoming leads.
Within those 4 months of operation, we landed our first Sweat Equity project in Estonia, helped several companies with consulting, and managed to work on one additional cash project. As things stand, there are several more investment projects in the pipeline. That’s one of the reasons we are looking for additions to our team.
🔵 The ever-changing work environment at startups can be challenging for developers. What would you say are the main distinctions in work-life between VNTRS and startups?
I would somewhat disagree here. I have been researching this topic, and according to my research, developers primarily seek to switch jobs as they get tired of the same product development; they feel a lack of impact in decision making rather than just completing the set tasks. Also, as a start-up is growing, the “romance” of the work nature is disappearing.
In VNTRS, we offer the developers various projects with 100% involvement and freedom to achieve technical tasks. Developers can finish one (long or short-term) project and choose to have some other tasks in hand for the next one. We always involve our developers in workshops, scoping sessions, MVP mapping process, etc. Coding is just one part of a developer’s job.
🔵 Could you elaborate on how VNTRS’ lifecycle management helps to relieve common pain points found at start-ups?
Very often you will find developers only completing tasks assigned to them while being micromanaged at the same time. We strongly believe that involvement is vital to solving this issue, and we enable it through different means. First and foremost, we want our engineers and developers to feel like they impact the whole process of working with start-ups. We also believe that start-ups lack diversity in developers’ daily tasks.
For our engineers and developers to find solutions for our clients, we believe that a deep understanding of the start-up and its product is key for everyone involved. Getting this knowledge enables our engineers and developers to provide valuable input to our clients during the whole process. This allows our employees to work with external clients and our start-ups to widen their skill sets.
Last but not least, we feel like having a foot in the game motivates you to give your best. That is why we run our company using sweat equity. Every employee in the company can invest in the project they are working on.
🔵 Working at VNTRS means collaborating with multiple start-ups at once instead of choosing only one. How does it manifest itself in daily life?
This means that while you could be in the “coding” phase of a product for one start-up, you could also have part of your time attributed to screening potential new start-ups or helping others in our portfolio to scope their MVP.
🔵 VNTRS also has a ‘sweat equity’ system in place, aiming to raise employee engagement even further. Could you give a brief overview of what it is and how it works?
Sweat equity means investing ‘sweat’ instead of money. We are giving out our consultancy and seek equity of the client-company in return. This model came to light in the 1930s in California, US. Back then, immigrants had no place to live and no money to buy an apartment. Local real estate developers approached them and offered a deal, ‘help us to build houses, and in return, as an alternative to the salary, we will give you an apartment, where you could live.’
VNTRS is doing the same by not seeking monetary compensation for the services but asking for equity instead. We can reinvest part of our fee back into the start-up and thus become a minor shareholder. This takes the collaboration to a higher level as we are directly interested in growing the start-up’s valuation.
A ‘killer feature’ of our company is that all of the employees invest part of their salary into the VNTRS fund. This means that all of the workers are shareholders of the project they are working on. The given system allows our workers to get engaged and have direct motivation for success while clients see us as trustworthy partners. We are not an outsourcing company, where the more hours you spend on the project, the more money you will earn. Sweat Equity is about growing together with our startups, as only then can VNTRS be successful!
🔵 When and why did VNTRS choose to use sweat equity? How does it impact a company’s working life, people & operation wise?
This was the decision from day one. In the beginning, it is surely risky and challenging as you need to find the right balance to be able to cover all the running costs, but VNTRS did play this right from the start.
Our experience shows that the Sweat Equity model is efficient and great for founders. We are now applying all the know-how gathered in Sweden to the Estonian market.
🔵 What are some of the qualities you’re looking for in new developers joining the team?
When it comes to hiring new developers, we look for pragmatic and self-acting people with a drive to become experts in their field of work and at working with start-ups. We look for people willing to produce clean quality code using recent and relevant technologies to help the start-ups in our portfolio grow.
Providing modern manufacturing & inventory software for scaling businesses, Katana is part of an industry that was strongly boosted by the pandemic. Staying at home and not being able to socialise has led to a higher amount of online shopping and higher need of e-commerce tools.
Enterprise planning software is one of the biggest individual software categories, yet the sector has seen the least innovation. In other words, the long-established market leading systems are like horses in the world of Teslas (no longer fulfilling the market needs).
The ability to support both D2C (direct-to-consumer) and B2B (business-to-business) sales channels is crucial for emerging new manufacturing brands. This flexible integration is exactly the need of modern manufactures that Katana is catering.
Katana’s advantage is powered by its ability to provide smart manufacturing in a simpler way. According to CEO Kristjan Vilosius, their service is the world’s most self on-board-able manufacturing software.
🏆 Clarity in the company’s vision – catering to market needs by offering software for every manufacturer globally.
🏆 The simple self on-board-ability – being global from the start and bringing in an outstanding number of organic leads.
🏆 Stellar delivery – surpassing the goals with an ease (revenue growth, churn reduction etc).
Transitioning “making and crafting” into “manufacturing”
Katana’s mission in simpler terms is to find scaling manufacturers that are growing out of Excel and provide them with smart production planning software combined with inventory/warehouse management. Katana has stepped in to save modern growing manufacturers from taking the huge leap from spreadsheets to overly complex and expensive enterprise software.
As mentioned before, simpler and smarter is the magic formula.
They started off as a service for micro manufacturers. But by now, over30% of Katana’s product subscriptions come from the SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) segment. And nearly 50% of customers are located in the USA.
Our readers, who love Japanese culture, probably have a question. Is there any connection between Katana the company and katana the samurai sword?
Indeed, while the founders assembled a pitch to build a Manufacturing SaaS, they met the following term: Toyota Production System. For them, the samurais and ninjas were pretty logical topics to explore. Katana, the cutting-edge manufacturing software won by a landslide. 🥷🥷🥷
Expanding the team and scaling Katana
We can safely say that the boom of e-commerce is not slowing down any time soon. But before Katana can grow their family of manufacturers, they need to grow their own team first.
Katana, modern manufacturing & inventory software provider, has just recently raised $11M in funding. This together with the e-commerce boom will significantly fuel the Estonian SaaS startup business growth in 2021.
This left us wondering how the everyday work and life at Katana looks like these days?
We talked withPriit Kaasik, the co-founder and CTO at Katana, and asked him tonnes of questions. The conversation went deep into their technological backbone (full stack or function based delivery? in-house development or external services?). Also, the open discussion revealed a product mistake and how heavily underused their office PS5 is.
Take a look at the interview below 👇 and get a glimpse of Katana’s mindset. Or as Priit puts it “Why become a unicorn when you could be a unicorn 140 times over?”
There is no good way to hide that I am a process guy first and technology guy second. I aim to be the facilitator of technological advancement to best serve and innovate Katana’s manufacturing platform as a service.
Being a hybrid describes me well – excelling at combining various aspects, never in a singular discipline like coding. My strength lies in defining and driving towards the technological impact that needs to be achieved (I hope others would confirm this).
That said, my favourite pass-time is assembly and tinkering with small-factor but powerful gaming PC-s. I assemble about 2 per month for friends (for their kids) and for people who know this hobby of mine. Some may consider me a gamer, but I‘m really hanging in there because of the technology…
How would you characterize the fundamental values of Katana’s development team?
We emphasize the importance of putting on theend user’s hat and understand the business better – using full stack development and User Stories. Other main pillars would include:
💡 product delivery in increments and iteration,
💡 never reinventing a wheel,
💡 the meaning of “minimal viable”,
💡 writing cloud-native software that is robust and scales with the business.
Mainly, the development team is on a quest for a smart solution.
Let’s talk about Katana’s technological backbone. What stack do you use?
We are currently focusing on adopting Kafka more widely (lessening the importance of internal API to serve dependencies) to scale the service better horizontally.
Micro frontends are something we concentrate on – to improve parallel delivery and deployment from different product teams. And as a product, Katana has set our eyes to solutions that help us to become a manufacturing platform with a popular app store.
Click on the picture to find more info about Katana’s tech stack
Katana uses Heroku, which limits people who enjoy deployment pipeline building. What kind of developers would be a perfect match with Katana?
The limitation is similar to any other choice of technology. It’s just a combination of Bitbucket Pipelines and Heroku Pipelines – a Katana flavor of it. It would greatly benefit if you:
✅ Like pattern-based engineering, building Lego blocks for yourself, your team and teams.
✅ Appreciate full stack development and the need to understand a customer.
✅ Enjoy working in an Agile team.
✅ Being a self-sufficient engineer, without the need to be actively managed and supported, is a treat we value a lot. Because we really prefer to manage people as little as possible.
A person, who enjoys tinkering and overpolishing solutions, will have a hard time at Katana. We look for engineers who understand that their value lies in their ability to dish out the “right stuff at the right time”. Not in the code worthy of a monument now and 10 years later (we value good code but not overdoing it).
What aspects are not developed in-house, but bought as an external service?
Let’s say that the scope of what Katana is doing, is roughly described here. And in order to deliver it, we use following services in Katana:
It is also important to note that Katana doesn’t have any technical operations nor DevOps people on-board. We consume data (Postgres, Redis, Elasticsearch, Kafka, Bull etc.) also as a service.
The cat or dog person question. Full stack, or front end & back end separately?
Full stack. Regarding customer features and end-to-end transactions, it’s far superior compared to function based delivery.
I have observed and participated in such designs in various top notch software development companies. In the case of web-based SaaS, I would always choose full stack to win it at the market.
It’s a focus thingie – eventually a product team has to be full stack and cross-functional, you have to work with the engineers you are able to hire.
In which case would you consider hiring front end and back end specialists instead of full stack?
To compensate for a weakness, bolster skills that are lacking or not represented enough in the company, but are important.
Looking back, what were the technical mistakes that you wish that could have been avoided when building the product? How did you fix it?
Just one thing pops to mind right away. We decided to upgrade our backend node.js framework LoopBack3 onto version 4. It has turned out to be a very expensive work with very little benefits (other than LB3 is no longer supported).
Should have assembled our own modification from a more lightweight backend framework a la NEST.
What direction are you scaling (horizontal/vertical etc)?
In all directions, of course!
But seriously, in the engineering team we emphasize the importance of horizontal scaling and the code supporting it.
Vertical scaling is for the emergencies, when the performance need is miscalculated and a performance issue quickly needs addressing. That is another reason why we chose Heroku, it really excels at this type of performance management and scaling.
Let’s imagine, I’m a newly hired engineer. How will my first days at Katana look like?
Once we agree and assemble the work gear and software set with the engineer – wintel, mac and/or Linux – you will be ready to go. You choose between onboarding in the office or remotely (your gear will be delivered at home). We use Slack and Whereby to communicate and run meetings etc. Also, this setup works really well with onboarding.
We also have a compensation system to expense the cost of home office setup and including headphones with active noise cancelling (must-have product these days).
When you’re comms-capable, the first weeks are for meeting fellow katanauts – learning the heartbeat and key information sources. In software engineering our current gold standard benchmark for the first day is to get the development environment up and running by noon, join our food club, have team lunch, fix a bug and get the fix to live by the end of the first day.
Fully remote or office?
Nobody is working fully in the office nowadays. That said, we are eagerly waiting for situation improvements, so we could restore the office experience to its former glory.
Even during the pandemic (when approached with precaution), our office has its perks (heavily underused PS5, barista-grade coffee etc). And our lunch club is still functioning! About 15% of people use the office at the moment, wear masks, and have spread out. Our office is new, roomy and really well ventilated.
Actually our new office will be ready by summer. It will be located in the newly renovated building next door to Põhjala Taproom at Noblessner. Even with new ways of working, we decided that having a joint workplace and meetings in person will remain an important part of our culture.
Double up the size of the engineering team each year!
The aim is to build a team to become a world’s leading manufacturing platform able to challenge SAP and such. You cannot really catch them otherwise – why become a unicorn when you could be a unicorn 140 times over?
But (there is always a but), business also has to grow accordingly, and so far we have mostly been hampered by lack of features to fully tackle SMB/SME manufacturing space.
Sounds like your cup of tea? Check out Katana’s current openings and apply!
In this week’s article, we will discuss the most recent effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Estonian job market and how the top 6 specialties are doing. 👀
We will also compare today’s stats with those of May, when the effects of the pandemic began to show up in the market data in most countries after the first wave.
Let’s dive into the overview and see what’s new in Estonia as of mid-November! 👇
Job Market Overview
In our previous report, we shared that by mid-October, the number of job openings finally increased by 12%. What about mid-November?
The number of job openings in the Estonian job market has increased while the job applications saw a small decline.
This means, despite the second wave looming, there are still opportunities for job seekers out there. 🤩
In the next section, we will dive into the number of openings in November versus in April and discuss the stats from different angles.
When we look at the chart, we can see that there was a small increase both in offered and expected salaries by mid-November. 📈
The gap between the salaries persists.
Finally, some good news. Market competitiveness in Estonia – which was at the “difficult level” last month – has almost reached the “OK level”.
This means there are more openings and opportunities for job seekers and more need for talent on the employer side. 😊
Job openings in Top 6 Specialties: November vs May
In this section, we will compare the number of job openings as of today with those in May. 🕵️♀️
When we look at the chart, we can see that the number of job openings are lower in November in all specialties compared to May. 📉
✅ Sales and Business Development saw the largest decline.
✅ Even the number of openings in Software Engineering – the star specialty of the year (and apparently of the future) – decreased significantly.
✅ (Tech) Project Management saw a small decline. But please note that this industry had a relatively low number of openings in May.
Now that there is promising vaccine news and we can be more optimistic about the future, let’s hope better days are ahead in terms of the economy and of course, the number of job openings worldwide and in Estonia. 🙏
Offered Salaries: November vs May
A lot has changed in 2020 and one of them has been the state of the economy worldwide. 🎢
Let’s see how the first and second waves of the Coronavirus pandemic have affected the offered salaries in the Estonian job market.
There are 3 main takeaways from the chart below:
➡️ Software Engineering, Marketing, PR & Design, and Customer Support have seen a decline since May. The last two industries do not come as a surprise to us, as the market competitiveness has been mostly high for both industries for the entire year.
➡️ IT & Sysadmin saw the highest increase. If you are looking for a job opportunity and your expertise is IT & Sysadmin, keep an eye on the openings coming up at the moment. 👀
➡️ Sales & Business Development and Project Management fields also saw a moderate increase in offered salaries.
Market Competitiveness Per Specialty
How has it been to find a job in Estonia lately? Which specialties are offering the most opportunities?
In this section, we will answer these questions – comparing the November data with May’s. 👀
The offered gross salaries and the number of job openings may not present a lovely picture of the Estonian job market. But if we have a deeper look into market competitiveness, we can see that things are slowly getting better.
💡 The “yay, now it’s easier to find a job opportunity” industries are Software Engineering, (Tech) Project Management, and Sales and Business Development.
💡 The “well, I might face some competition” industry – in which it is a bit more challenging to find a job – is IT & Sysadmin. Bearing in mind that it is at the “easy” level to find a job in this industry already, it’s not such bad news at all!
💡 The “it’s at thesame level and nothing has changed that much” industries are Marketing, Design & PR and Customer Support. Job seekers working in these specialties are currently facing high levels of competition which we hope will be replaced by more job opportunities in 2021. 🙏
Welcome to the MeetFrank family!
🥁 This month, we are happy to welcome many new members: ID Lam OÜ, Sild Consulting, Salespeople OÜ, and Visory!
This article is based on data from MeetFrank Job Market Insights. For additional and per-specialty reports, visit this page.
In our previous report, we shared that the Estonian job market started to shake off from the effects of the global pandemic, as the number of job applications were on the up. Let’s see what else has happened since then. 👀
But first, some news from the vibrant Estonian startup scene:
By mid-October, the number of job openings finally increased by 12%. Companies are apparently hearing job seekers! 👯♂️
In addition to this, the number of job applications has decreased. We hope more job seekers have found their dream job during this period. 🙏
Is market competitiveness in line with the data above?
Compared to the situation in September, it is now slightly more challenging to find a job in the Estonian job market. 🤔
Sadly, Marketing & PR & Media professionals will find it difficult to get their dream job at the moment. Who are the luckiest in this sense? The answer is those in Data & Analytics, which is still at the ‘OK level’. 🍀
Let’s find out how this has affected the gross offered and expected salaries. 👇
This month, there has been a small increase both in the offered and expected salaries. This change means the gap between the two, which has been stable since March, persists.
Now to find out more about offered gross salaries and how they have changed per specialty since March. 🕵
Offered Gross Salaries per Specialty
In this section, we will time travel back to February, when the Coronavirus pandemic hit the whole world with a direct effect on the job market. 😔
Below, we can see how in Estonia the offered gross salaries changed from February to mid-October.
Here come the main findings:
👉 Offered gross salaries for all the top 6 specialties are higher in October than in February. ⬆️
👉 (Tech) Project Management saw the highest increase by 18%. 💸
👉 Customer Support saw the lowest increase.
👉 Software Engineering, (Tech) Project Management, and Sales & Business Development saw the highest increase in the offered salaries in September.
Overall, companies seem to have adjusted their offerings for the last 9 months. We will see what the numbers will tell us in the rest of October. 🍂
New month, new members! 🤩 Let us introduce you the Estonia-based companies that recently joined our family: so.fa.dog OÜ, Dexatel, Anderson Beer OÜ, VNTRS, Kaitseliit, Corpowear OÜ, and Põllumajanduse Registrite ja Informatsiooni Amet!
This article is based on data from MeetFrank Job Market Insights. For additional and per-track reports, visit this page.
By Mid-June we have already seen many important announcements in Estonia that are likely to affect the job market. If not the best days, better days may well be on the way. 🙏 Let’s start with the Top 3!
All this great news shows that the economy is opening up and getting ready to welcome new talent. We’ll see what the rest of the summer will bring. 🌞
In this report, we’ll delve into how the Estonian job market has been doing recently, and compare the stats with those of May.
Ready to discover more? Let’s dive into mid-June’s numbers! 🔢
Job Market Overview: May vs June
There has been a decline in the number of job openings in Estonia lately, which you can also read more about in our recovery outlook blog post.
The past 4 weeks saw a 24% decrease in the number of job openings. The reason for that might be not only the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic but also the arrival of summer. 🌞
However, the number of job applications has increased by approximately 18%. Lately, job seekers have been more active than companies.
Let’s see how these stats have affected market competitiveness. 🔎
👀 There hadn’t been a significant change in market competitiveness by June. It’s still challenging to find a job in Estonia.
Does this apply to all industries? Well, not really.
While it’s easy to find a job for the IT & Sysadmin candidates, Marketing & PR & Media and design people are finding it difficult nowadays. 🤐
Similar to Finland, Estonia has seen a gap between the offered and expected salaries in the past few months. Both job seekers and companies may be confused with the uncertainty in the economy worldwide. 🤔💰
As the upward trend continues for companies, job seeker expectations are more or less the same compared to those of the previous weeks.
Job Applications in the Top 6 Specialties in June 2020 vs 2019
😷 Needless to say COVID-19 has changed the way we live, work, and pursue our careers. While some industries have become more popular, some have lost interest from job seekers.
To see the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the Estonian job market, we’ll now compare the job applications in the top 6 specialties from this year with those of mid-June 2019. 🕵
🚀 Let’s travel back in time to June 2019. There’s no pandemic, no obvious economic crisis worldwide, and we’re all ready for a great summer ahead.
When we look at the tables, three points catch the eye:
✅ The number of applications seems to have increased except for IT & Sysadmin and (Tech) Project Management positions.
The stats also explain the ease of market competitiveness for the IT & Sysadmin sector as we mentioned above, which clearly means there’s a strong need for IT & Sysadmin candidates in Estonia nowadays! 🔊
✅ Software engineering has remained the most popular industry.
✅ Marketing & PR & Media has taken third place from (Tech) Project Management.
Similar to most countries, Estonia has been hit hard by the pandemic, which has resulted in layoffs during the last 2 months. Although the tourism sector seems to have been affected the most, this doesn’t mean that the rest have been doing great. 😔
The numbers say that software engineering applications increased by more than 300% along with significant increases in Marketing & PR & Media and Sales & Business Development compared to last year.
The high increase can be explained by the layoffs and also the never changing popularity of Estonia when it comes to software engineering.
Meanwhile, the Finance sector has seen a relatively low increase in the number of applications, winning 5th place over the IT & Sysadmin industry in 2020. 💰
Who are the companies hiring with MeetFrank?
MeetFrank welcomes dozens of new companies every week, and it’s great to see that our family is growing very fast.
To give you a better understanding of the companies we’re in collaboration with, we’ll share some interesting stats about the MeetFrank family with you in this section.
👉Let’s start with the company type. Our database shows that the Estonia-based companies are mostly startups and corporations. With its vibrant ecosystem for startups, this doesn’t come as a surprise, does it? 😊
👉SaaS, software engineering, FinTech, finance, consultancy, enterprise software, e-commerce, and Analytics & Big Data make up the majority of the industries. We’re telling you, it’s the age of data. 🖥💪
👉 Most Estonian companies have from 11 to 50 employees and the second biggest group is in the 51-200 range.
The majority have revenues of below 1M, followed by companies with a revenue of 1M to 3M. 💰
Remote Job Offers Per Specialty in Mid-June
In this section, we’ll highlight remote job offers per specialty in mid-June and discuss the stats from different angles.
As of today, companies are mostly interested in remote software engineers and secondly, sales & business development professionals. This also relates to the high number of job applications in these sectors compared to last year.
However, the Design, Customer Support, HR & Recruitment, and Data & Analytics industries seem to be preferring face-to-face collaboration. (For now. 👀)
As of today, there is no demand for remote teams in the Administration & Office and Logistics & Supply industries in Estonia.
Let’s have a look at the latest remote job openings: