Kadri Tuisk – TALKS WITH PETRI
Entrepreneur Kadri Tuisk explores the future of education with personalised learning, why she loves design thinking and being outside of her comfort zone. She also talks about startup pivoting and hitchhiking to her first career.
Entrepreneur Kadri Tuisk is the CEO of Clanbeat Education, an ed-tech Saas software that supports accelerating human growth by helping to build human agency through individual growth and community support. Kadri has accelerated her startup with 500 Startups in San Francisco, pivoted a few times, and found market traction in the challenging times of the 2020s. Previously, she has worked in service design and account management positions, and as a professional model.
(NOTE: The text may contain errors, misconceptions and even comical unintended contexts. Please use it only as a reference to the actual audio conversation from where it has been transcribed.)
Petri: Hey Kadri!
Kadri: Hey Petri!
Petri: So great to have you in the show!
Kadri: It is, I’m so excited for our talk!
Petri: Where have your failed today?
Kadri: Today, let me see, let me count. My first failure today was not having my breakfast because I really had to make a really quick change into my schedules because of one family thing happening in the beginning of next week, which takes me super off hours. So I had to cram all those things I have to do at the beginning of next week and try to do it all at once today. And breakfast is something I had to sacrifice and it doesn’t make me feel good.
Petri: It’s a big sacrifice. Is it still the most important meal of the day?
Kadri: Yes exactly! I’m usually super religious about my mornings. it’s very important to me.
Petri: What’s the story behind the failure thing because I don’t know again anyone really loves failure but you have taken that into your heart?
Kadri: There comes this feeling of being content with failures over time. And I think right now the people the younger they are the more they’re getting more used to it because earlier it was wrong to fail. But right now we have found out that very many learnings come from failings. I embrace it and I always try to find out what is this thing I can actually learn from it. And how can I improve? I love if something is fucked up. A little bit sadistic, but this is the way it is.
Petri: Did you learn that by the hard way or was that always how you have been?
Kadri: By the hard way. Because when you’re growing up in the Soviet times, then you’re having this kind of social patterns where you have to fit and then failure was not one of them. For example, overseas or even to America in startups fail fast is something which is highly appreciated. In this kind of region where I live, I come from Estonia, here you didn’t see that too much. This has been very refreshing to find out that this is also the way how to look at things.
Petri: How was it in the Soviet times, you were not supposed to fail or everybody’s failing or something between?
Kadri: It depends on the people. People had very steady jobs and had the goals for the five years, which they had to fulfil. This was actually something which didn’t make people go out of their comfort zones in that sense. Although being in Soviet times is a really big uncomfortable situation. But it didn’t encourage people taking risks and usually taking risks is something which failure is written into.
Otherwise, you don’t learn or you don’t find out what works and what not. So being grown up in Soviet times, I think this is something we had to learn when we got our freedom. How to embrace that and how to deal with that. But I’m happy to see that this has come to our hearts and, and people are finding their peace with that. Finally.
Petri: Do you remember when was the first time you were thinking that maybe I will build a company of my own someday and really adventure the world?
Kadri: I don’t have an exact date but I remember that I haven’t been thinking that they do need to have my own company. I wasn’t this kind of entrepreneurial type, but in the school in the Soviet times you were made to do a test. What are you becoming? And, for me the tests showed that you’re going to be an entrepreneur. But I don’t know if that’s this defined this journey or not, but I really didn’t think that making a company is something I should do, but I did it because I really wanted to make an impact on the world.
And this seemed the easiest way to do it because I couldn’t be able to fulfil my dreams and bring the impact I wanted in my paid job back at the time when I made the decisions. This seemed the way to go for me at that time.
Petri: You raised one million round just a few months ago and pretty much killing it with your new concept in these exceptional times. Can you tell a bit about what your company does?
Kadri: Just a little specification. The round was raised almost a year ago already. And we have almost spent some of it already and made a really big impact already.
I’m the founder of Clanbeat and we are building a growth and wellbeing solution for schools. We are supporting students and teachers for self-directed learning and how to set goals, how to act on them and how to also reflect.
So you wouldn’t get stuck and you would be able to design your life in a way that is fulfilling to you. And so in the longer run schools would be able to offer personalised learning based on all this data which we are able to provide based on what people are good at, what are the strengths or weaknesses, what is their internal motivation and how will the education suppose to morph around the human needs. This is what we are doing with our team.
Petri: You mentioned to me before we went online that when the Covid-19 hit you couldn’t sleep too much because there was so much to do, so much onboarding. Everybody wants to get into the platform. Can you describe the feeling and what was happening and where are you now?
Kadri: One day before Estonian schools went into lockdown, we were sitting in a round table in the Ministry of Education. We were discussing what is needed for Estonia to be successful in the Covid period. They mentioned that the teacher communication and keeping the teachers humanly connected in the time where we are apart seemed very important. And one of our products which we have in our offering is a teacher platform for their personal growth. And we had inside this possibility for very smooth communication and sharing the insights and asking for help and having very human insights also not only work-related and really understanding how people are feeling and reaching out in the need.
On Friday, we had this round table in the Ministry and already on Saturday morning, we had the offer out to schools to use it for free. And, we renamed the value proposition to Virtual teacher’s lounge and the interest towards the product in the first upcoming days was something we have never seen.
For example, if we’ve got like five interests during the week previously, then during the Covid period it was 500. It made us really redesign our onboarding processes and how to make it self-serve and self-explanatory super fast and boosted many of our processes. And, I had to make those explanatory walkthrough videos.
I was doing them in my bathrooom. You know yourself doing these podcasts that if you have a bathroom, which is echoing a lot, this is not the best idea. So pretty soon I moved into a closet to do that. It was really, fast and sleepless times for the past first few weeks to really being there for the schools and helping them to onboard and really understand how this could help them right now.
This was a very heavy growth period for Clanbeat in learning how to learn very fast. I think we did like one year worth of learning in one month.
Petri: Schools are opening again all around the world. What do you think of the situation? What’s going to happen in the next few months and also a bit more longer-term question, what do you think of the future of education and learning?
Kadri: I think that the period gave a really big boost to all of those innovations that were about to happen anyway in the education field. It was just speeding up the process. I have been in contact with many school leaders around the world and the situation is a little bit different because the lockdown rules are different in each country.
And some of the countries, for example, our Australian partners are going into the second term of lockdown and having to come out of that again. This is really tiring for the school staff and for students also. Going in and out is some new normal, which needs to be taken into mind which could happen in the past year.
In a few years time that digital literacy and being able to get rid of some processes, which are inefficient, these changes are happening right now. Although, I see a lot of digital fatigue around schools. Nobody wants to stare at the screen anymore and they are looking for ways of how to get away from them.
But also I see a lot of efficiency happening and trying to make the school system more efficient. Most of the changes won’t happen in two to five years. But I think in 10 years time, we are able to see already a pretty drastic change in personalised learning, which is effective and humane. And I think this COVID period gave a really good push for this.
For education, I think, although right now it’s hard, but I haven’t seen many good things in life which come out of not hardships but being in your comfort zone. This is totally out of the comfort zone and this brings heavy growth and I’m excited to see what the future brings.
Petri: Do you have a vision of the future? How kids are going to school in ten years? How does it differ from today and then maybe from the times we were at school?
Kadri: I do. For example, right now our school system is from the industrial age where parents needed to go do work in a factory from nine to five, and you needed basically childcare to take care of the kids. So they wouldn’t set the house on fire. And they needed to produce more workers into the factories.
But nowadays all the things are going to be done by robots, which are mundane tasks. And then we do not need this kind of education anymore. And my vision is that education is highly personalised based on human needs. And I really believe that someday there is a possibility for every person to have a hundred per cent individualised learning based on their internal motivation, based on their strengths and weaknesses, and basically where they want to go in life. I know that this is already in the strategies of OECD and also in many countries education strategies is to offer personalised learning, but there’s still a big way to go towards that.
But Covid also gave a really big push towards that to make it happen. And then my vision is that every human would be looked as individual and not there as some bulk of people.
And there would be the way how to offer this kind of education because this is much more efficient. I think right now in the school system we are having today, this is highly inefficient. The students are wasting their time for the tasks, which are not the best for them or for the level of complexity, which is meant for them. There is a lot to do in education and I’m really excited and inspired by the opportunity.
Petri: Are there already some good benchmarks or leaders in this field? Can you give some examples where this is already happening and the others are following?
Kadri: This is actually the way how the change in education is made. Right now, we are seeing a lot of experimental schools trying different formats of how to provide education. We have democratic schools where students are choosing what they learn. We have project-based schools, for example, like Elon Musk school, where you’re having really determined goals based on what you are having your learning designed upon.
And there are many different alone triers who are trying to make the change, but there is no systematic worldwide approach to this. If everybody’s trying to do this alone in their corner then I think it is really hard to bring the change because educational change takes time.
You’re starting to see the results, not today or tomorrow, but maybe after 15 years, because you can’t see how the students are getting on with their lives before that. The goal is to have humans who are well-balanced and are able to bring positive change into their life. This can be measured only once they have stepped into life.
This is something which could be done more and more efficiently. It’s the same with any big topic in the world. Is it climate change or is it the going to the moon. If you see that countries are putting their backs together then this is something which might give more power, but if you’re looking at our last success stories on how Musk built the rocket much faster than any other country was able to do that. I really believe that there is also a chance for those people who are trying to change the very big system in a smaller setting but in a very agile and iterative method. And how I have approached this in a very collaborative co-creation method to do it really together with the people and for the people.
I’m not doing things alone in my closet and thinking out how the education should look, but I’m in really close contact with all the school leaders, teachers, and what’s most important with the students, and designing this journey together with them. We’re out of ice cream because we are having so many kids coming to our office to think together with us.
And even today we had an ideation brainstorming where we included students into the brainstorming to really create the solution for the future because we are old. Although no females would say it we don’t know how the world should look like in 30 to 40 years. And kids are having much better knowledge on that. The key in here is to work it out together with them who have to actually go through this.
Petri: How do you develop the system? It is a software you are building so how do you involve the end-users and what’s the process there? Are you totally customer-driven, can you open a bit of the process of how you work?
Kadri: We are having a very clear future vision of how the future should look like, but the means how to get there we are really collaborative with the schools. Our future idea is that there should be very humanised and personalised learning. But how to make it happen and what is best fitting their lives and how people want to learn today where they are digital natives and are used to instant gratification and are really grown up in an age where they are used to speaking up about what they want.
And this is something which inspires us to collaborate a lot. We have built our company totally based on the co-creation model. Every aspect of our processes is collaborational starting from valuable position design to product design to UX testing and et cetera. We are really excited to see how this turns out in the future.
Petri: You built the company from the beginning with these product design principles is it something which you brought to the table and was it very clear from the beginning?
Kadri: Yes. Because of my previous background, I have been a service designer and design thinking is in my blood and in my core. I’m really passionate about building up services from a customer perspective, not from my own perspective. Although I do have the vision, but how to solve real human problems, which are wider than myself.
I try not to be egoistic here, but I try to really collaborate and find the means, which are really solving people’s problems. And I’m putting their problems also always as the first question and trying to think about how to solve them. This has been our core from day one. We have been building solutions for the schools.
Petri: If I just opened my eyes and realised that I’ve been doing the wrong way all my life and now it’s time to do it the right way how should I start? What should I do?
Kadri: First, reach out to some people who you think are your target group and speak with them and start with qualitative interviews. And, really to understand what’s going on in their lives and really try to understand how does their day look like and what are the usual problems they’re having.
Then you should go a little bit more specific, which is back to your service or the product you’re offering. But you have to see the wider ecosystem, where do you fit in? And if you don’t do that, you’re going to have a very narrow vision and build only the product, but maybe not the solution for them.
It is important to have those open-hearted questions and conversations in the beginning and really build a relationship with your target market. This is the first way to start.
Petri: Are there any good resources or books to learn a bit more about the approach?
Kadri: Maybe for a good start there is This Is Service Design Thinking and This Is Service Design Doing. These are really thick, but very thorough and very explanatory materials, which I recommend a lot. Also, there is a book called Value Proposition Design, which gives a good beginning on how to design a value proposition, which is aligned to the market needs.
And this is where you should actually start. This is a little bit slower than usually startups are used to building things because this takes a little bit of effort and time to really understand what your customers want and build the value proposition based on that. Not based on what you thought alone what you should build. But it really pays off because you’re building something which solves real problems. This is something I recommend you to start with.
Petri: I was just thinking that the other day I was interviewing Benji from Grow and Convert and he was studying marketing at school and they were watching a movie by Mel Gibson. Do you know the name of the movie?
Kadri: This one movie by Mel Gibson?
Petri: It’s related to the service design. It’s called What women want.
Kadri: Yes I have seen that.
Petri: Benji said it was life-changing for him because he was like, Hey this is what I want to do. I want to build products what people want, customer research and all these things. It opened his eyes to marketing and to this approach.
Kadri: It’s a really good example because there are different ways of observation or getting those insights on what people want and doing observations on your own is the lowest level you can do. The second one is to talk to people, but the third and the best way is actually to be together with them in the same environment they are and really live the life they’re living.
For example, when we went into an accelerator in San Francisco to 500 Startups then I really took the time and I was physically sitting in companies, which were our target clients. I was really checking out the vibe what is there, how people are communicating with each other, how much do they share the information with each other, and how they’re actually building the relationships.
This gave me a lot of insights and I’m really thankful for that effort because this really takes time to put yourself in there and do those observations, but you might find out things which are life-changing, as you said.
Petri: How did you manage to do that? Did you have some kind of a covered job there? What was the backstory? You’re just wandering in the office and talking to people or you were pretending to do something else so that they still let you wander around the office?
Kadri: In some companies, I was presented as a new team member and in some companies, I was presented as a friend, which is just using it as a co-working space.
You can think of different creative ways how to infiltrate straight into their environments. Sometimes it’s also okay that you’re observing and you’re not going to use the information against them, but this is something you’re trying to make a better good for humanity. This is also a way to approach it.
Petri: Sounds to me as natural as when you pull out your camera and start shooting people and say act normally!
Kadri: It takes a little bit of time to get chatting and soon enough they forget. And I also had this really inspiring visit to one of the photo exhibitions in Fotografiska in Tallinn. And there was this one photo exhibition of a photographer, who is doing shoots in the natural habitats of the native people all around the world.
And these are really stunning pictures and you can not get them if you just jump in and out and you get them, but you really need to live with them for months. And soon when they will forget that there is somebody outsider and really let themselves be themselves. And I think this is the most gratifying moment.
Petri: You are not unfamiliar with being in front of a camera either. You did modelling.
Kadri: Yes. In my previous life.
Petri: You were pretty young when you started.
Kadri: Yes. That’s true.
Petri: How did you decide to go from school to Paris and Milan and all these places and start a professional career as a model?
Kadri: The decision to go into audition was my decision, but I really couldn’t imagine it taking off like that. I think I was 14 or 15 when one of the best agencies in Paris, came to Estonia and did an audition for new models.
I sneak out of my house. I lived in the middle of Estonia in this small fisherman village and they sneak out of my house and didn’t tell my parents where I went and I hitchhiked to the city where this took place because I was from the countryside and they didn’t have any spare money to buy a bus ticket.
I thought I’m going to give it a try.
Petri: That was quite brave if you don’t have any money. You were hitchhiking and you were really dedicated to getting there.
Kadri: Yes. It seemed like a very good adventure. This was just a regular casting where you just have to walk around and speak a little bit. They had a camera, which really measured the symmetries of your face. And, they made a kind of competition of it and I won this competition.
As I was very young, then the owner of the agency was there and said, we need consent from your parents. And how did you get here? I was like, I hitchhiked. And then they felt this kind of really big responsibility that they took a car and they drove with me from the city, which was maybe two or two and a half hours away from my home city.
They drove to my parents’ place and asked for consent if I could go to Paris. And, already after a few weeks, I was on a plane to go to Paris for the first time. And it was also my first plane ride ever. Very exciting times.
Petri: How did your parents react when you came in and said that this happened?
Kadri: They have always been these calm and serene people. And I imagine still how they’re able to do that then. And raising me up, that must have not been really easy because I was a rebel sometimes. But they kind of said, okay. And they led me to go alone into Paris where I have never travelled out of this country more than Helsinki, which was like a two hours boat ride away. They were really brave, but this is something which characterises them. They gave me a lot of freedom to do my own choices. And, and they were always saying that you can do whatever you put your mind to. I felt confident and I didn’t feel them being anxious. And this gave me a boost as well.
And it seemed like a totally normal thing to do because I wasn’t even nervous or thinking that this is something extraordinary. This was like, yes, this is happening. Let’s do it. And, and I’m still alive. Although my mother told me that one wisdom, she doesn’t speak much, but she said like the only thing that please keep in mind, you can always say no. I didn’t understand what she meant, but now I understand that with every choice in life, which you make, you can always say no if you don’t want to do it. It has helped me a lot. And I think it was really nice of them to support me like that.
Petri: You have taken can some of the lessons of doing a lot of castings and basically pitching and selling to also later on your career and somewhere you mentioned that there is not much difference to knock on the doors of VCs and investors and trying to convince them that you have a really good value proposition they should invest in the company.
Kadri: Yes. The way modelling business works is that you go from casting to casting and try to find a client who finds a good fit in how you look and how you act. Usually, you have to go through hundreds of castings to get the one really good job. Especially so in Paris and Milan that are very high competitive markets. I learned at a very early age to deal with rejection, really understanding why I’m being rejected or why am I succeeding in some times, and really to make this kind of self-reflection and feeling myself strong, and to have a really strong core and understand my own value.
It’s the same with communicating with investors that you have to speak to many investors to really get those whom you’re having a really good match. I’m not afraid of that. I’m pretty excited because I truly believe that there is a good match for every reasonable idea and deemed to be executed. You just have to put in the work to find out who are those people. This is something I took not to be afraid of hard work and really put time into finding the right people who do you want to work with. And, really being strong in your core, knowing what is your value and what do you have to offer and I think these are the two parallels I would love to bring out.
Petri: While you were modelling you were also coding at night. How did that come about?
Kadri: I lived for two years in Hong Kong. I was a Hong Kong resident and doing modelling there. This was my base. I travelled out from there to do model jobs in Beijing, Singapore, Gwangju and et cetera. In there this kind of thing called IT market. It was really a huge building where you could buy basically any software which you want.
They were Adobe Photoshop for $1 etc. You can imagine the excitement when you go there, you see that you could basically get anything and create anything what your mind comes up to you. And this was just the beginning where regular websites started to become popular. And I saw that 13 and 14-year-old boys are doing their own websites.
And I was like, if they can do it, I can do it. I started to be really fascinated by creating my own websites. It gave me a lot of gratification and sense of success because if you’re able to make some changes in the frontend, and if you’re able to bring some kind of interactions to happen this gives this really great feeling. This is something which others can also benefit from. This gave me a sense of confidence that this is possible. Also this Hong Kong IT market is once in a lifetime opportunity at that time.
Petri: Did you become a web-developer then by night?
Kadri: No, not by night. It took a lot of reading and a lot of research and I wasn’t doing the backend. I was using programs, which did the backend for me, but I was doing frontend and putting things together. I wouldn’t call myself a developer, but a small hacker.
Petri: You have been participating in hackathons with your skills?
Kadri: Oh, I have, but not with hacking skills because once I went into hackathons then I was already idea owner. I was pursuing my own ideas and trying to build a team around that. I thought that my coding skills were that poor that some other people would be better to execute them but I at least knew how this works and how to build the code lines.
Petri: You were among the top ten out of ten thousand in one of the competitions?
Kadri: There was this kind of idea competition by one of them really big telecommunication companies, which basically allowed you to submit your app idea to become an app millionaire, and the one…
Petri: What is an app millionaire?
Kadri: This was just the marketing phrase for them to use that to gain more attraction. This was a slogan. They used it in a way that if your idea wins, they’re going to execute it. And I was inspired by that because I had never built an app and it was my dream to build something that you can hold in your hands and to see the interactions you’re making with your thumb are actually changing something.
So it was very fascinating to me and I came up with an idea of maybe making an app that monitors your personal relationships with your spouse or your boyfriend or girlfriend, and then you can make decisions based on those trackings.
Petri: So you did spyware?
Kadri: No, it was not spyware. It was a tracking app, which really helps you to track five categories of your relationship and really track on how you’re doing and show you this kind of helicopter view for your relationship to make better decisions based on where do you feel happy and where you don’t and really do ignite meaningful conversations based on that with your other half. For example, the other half is not so willing to talk about some things then you can show the data that you see on 24 days I don’t feel that we have been having very meaningful conversations or other categories, which are not going to list them all here. But, I saw lately that this app is really successful in the app store. It was not that I made, but there was some other parallel genius who made it a few years later. I still think it was a very good idea.
Petri: What happened to the app and the idea? You did not pursue it further?
Kadri: At the time when I was having the idea, I was working in an advertising agency as an account manager, and I had really exciting projects at hand to lead and they were all consuming all of my time and energy. And, although I did make that prototype happen I didn’t go further with developing it and then releasing it to the market, because it felt to me that I still have some things to do in the advertising world, but soon enough, it turned out that I had reached my ceiling and I quit that place.
Petri: Can you tell something about the first steps in your company which is now Clanbeat? How did you get started? There’s been a few pivots, there’ve also been changes in people and it hasn’t been a linear A-to-B process.
Kadri: Sure. The beginning was very simple in a way that I left the job at the advertising agency and started freelancing as a service designer. And I had one really inspirational client who was dealing with talent management and they really wanted me to look into how talent moves in mobile channels and what motivates them to wake up in the morning and et cetera.
And focusing mainly on smart creatives and together with them, I found out doing research that smart creatives, those who are creating value with their mind, most of them who quit are doing it because of lack of self-development. And then I was thinking, this just happened to me! This is the story of my life!
And I put one and one together and talked to one of the jury members actually from this app competition. He was building up an Estonian startup called Pipedrive. He said that they are in a heavy growth period right now. And they are onboarding a lot of young people who are millennials and those HR tools which are focusing on one-year performance review format are not suitable for these new demographics. We really wanted to bring out the solution, which is suitable for those who need instant feedback and don’t want the boss, but more kind of coach or a partner in their development. And, he had a need and I had a solution because I had done my research.
Soon enough, I came up with the wireframes and then we started going and started making baby steps and getting our team together as well alongside with the market research.
Petri: Who were your first clients?
Kadri: We had awesome first clients. One of our first clients was Telia Innovation team. Telia is one of Estonia’s and Scandinavia’s telecommunication companies. We had Volvo, Ericsson. We had TransferWise. We started off thinking that we are going to build this product for startups and fast-moving companies. But soon enough, we found out that the clients came from small and medium-sized businesses as well, who were more mature and really wanted to make their people happy. And that time, our value proposition was a one-on-one tool for teams. So we were building a one-on-one tool and, and it offered the service of building trust between employees and managers.
We started off by building the product for startups. But soon enough we built new functionalities to also think of where the trust-building starts from. And we started also to build functionalities for onboarding but not only technical onboarding but human onboarding. How do you bring a human to the new organization and how to create a sense of belonging. Those were the topics which inspired us a lot back then.
Petri: And then something happened. You were almost left alone in the company.
Kadri: Yes, because my co-founder at the time with whom I started the company really loved the startup vibe, and he was really good at it. And then we made a shift to build new features for onboarding. And then we realised that our clients are not any more startups. There are small and medium-sized businesses.
And this is totally different target groups and startups. And then you have to talk with the HR managers and the talks are getting much more different. It’s not so much anymore making people thrive and inspired, but it’s more kind of numbers and how fast can you onboard somebody and how to bring the engagement up and et cetera. So the topics at hand were much more different. My co-founder back then really honestly admitted that he is really inspired by the startup scene and he really wants to contribute in that area. He left and there I was having the clients, having the product and I needed to make a decision what to do next.
Petri: Are there any lessons learned? How you were feeling? How did you make the decisions? I can imagine it’s not easy to wake up and realise that you have to do something you can’t just hide under the blanket and go back to sleep and hopefully things will be okay in the next few days. This is probably something that happens through to other people as well so do you have any advice on what to do?
Kadri: There actually were a few days like that as well as you described. But for me, very eye-opening was to think of this as an opportunity, not an obstacle because I saw that there is an opportunity to do whatever I want in life. This was this kind of white paper sheet day for me.
Petri: Hitchhiking again!
Kadri: Hitchhiking again! Again!
Yes, exactly. And then I started to brainstorm like, if I wouldn’t be doing this, what would I do then? And I really went wild and open with it and started brainstorming it.
Petri: What were the other options then? Can you remember and reveal some of those?
Kadri: Yes. I knew really closely that I wanted to be in the tech scene because this is something which fascinates me. And the other one options were also related to making people happy either based on their health or based on their personal growth. Then I realised that I already have that.
The solution we are having is actually already doing that. I thought that if I would start something new then I would build something similar. Then why should I put in the effort to do something similar if I already have that? Then I started to really critically look into the engagement levels of the product we had and really looking for this kind of excitement. Is there any kind of excitement somewhere I see? I found out that the schools…I had taken some pro bono schools who were using us. I was really surprised by their engagement levels because they were much higher than the old school companies or startups who were using us.
And I went to talk to the school principals and those things they were saying were very inspirational. They said they have no people to deal with people. They said that they don’t have time to deal with or do either to gather everybody’s problems. They see the red flags only when shit hits the fan.
It’s really hard for them to prevent some things happening and they are dealing with fires and aftermath constantly. Then I started to think that this is the place where are real problems. Startups are really well-cushioned and doing pretty well in their people management and engagement and development, but the schools are actually needing that love the most.
I was really inspired by the problem and the opportunity. I understood that the solution, which we are having right now, might not solve all the problems they’re having, but I saw the clear vision, what I could solve and what I could not solve. And, then I started working together with schools really closely.
I found out that not the only school staff and teachers are having those problems but students as well. Many of those schools who started to use us asked us, can we use your solution with students? Then I understood that we have to create a separate solution for students as well, which would be student-centric and appropriate for the age levels, which is actually carrying the same values of growth and wellbeing.
I haven’t regretted it since, but it all required this kind of looking into yourself and really understanding what do you want to do and what is your vision. I think this like feeling of letting everything go if you could do anything and you know that you couldn’t fail this kind of answers and questions are really good.
How to start thinking that if you couldn’t fail, what would you do? I started asking those questions and it brought me some clarity.
Petri: It’s an amazing feeling when you’re going deep in and say that okay I don’t really need to do anything. There’s nothing I absolutely have to do but there are things I can do and I wanna do and when you dig deep and it’s not like you’re doing like reverse engineering but you really do the work and then you realise that oopsie I’m actually already there! I don’t need to turn 180 degrees or do something different. I already have the resources and the means I’m in a pretty nice place. But the feeling is completely different because you discovered again the passion and the joy of you doing what you do. It’s not like you have to do it again.
Kadri: This is really important because the journey to ignite and start something is not easy. You have to go through a lot of hardships. And if you don’t have a very clear vision and a strong internal motivation to do it then you’re doing things only because you have to then you’re going to break sooner or later.
But if you have things thought through in your head, then only the sky is the limit.
Petri: What is easy to let go of the old model and the old way of working because you were also changing a lot of things. It’s probably a bit different to sell to corporates than sell to schools. Their budgets and processes are different as well. So it was like a completely different product.
Kadri: It is completely different and I still feel the most stupid person in the room when I’m talking to clients. And when I’m talking to my team. Because I totally rebuilt my team for the education focus to really have the competency in the team who would know how to solve those problems schools are having. I have an education specialist and I have school leaders and I have education psychology scientists in my team and working together with them is really inspirational. As I said, I feel so stupid among them. And this inspires me every day because I think that if you’re the smartest then you’re in the wrong place.
Petri: How did you find the right people? Was it easy? Did it take a lot of time? Probably you have some pressures to do something. When you need something it may not be that the right people are free or you discover them at the same time.
Kadri: I think it all comes down to vision what you are having. If you build up a vision that is aligning with those people as well and they see the world the same way you are. This is promising but I wouldn’t say this was the key.
Some of the new team members I had known already before working in a startup. I’m really grateful for them because without them I think Clanbeat wouldn’t be there where it is today. There were Triin Noorkõiv and Tiina Pauklin, who have been in the education scene for a very long time already. And I was helping them to build marketing campaigns in the advertising agency. We had had a connection before. We just started talking and seeing the similar connections.
And I think this is where it started off. But they were in the beginning not jumping into my team. It was more kind of me doing things alone and consulting with them from time to time and then once they started seeing the progress and seeing, okay, she’s serious with this new education direction then they started to invest more and more time until I made them an offer to become partners in my company.
Petri: What’s your strategy of getting people involved? You are building something for the education and markets which are probably not the easiest to deal with and have long processes. It’s not exactly like software for hipsters or something really trendy and easy that way that the tech world is going to eat from your hand. Your target market is different. How do you manage to do that and what’s your success story there?
Kadri: The way how we are approaching building the product is already gaing a lot of advantage for us to get the right partners to be our first customers. Meaning that we are building it in co-creation with the schools. And we are having many schools in our co-creation circle.
As they are building it for themselves, then this starts already a really nice circle of people who are going to be recommending and who are going to give pointers on how to enter the markets because they have already invested so much into this co-creation process of their time.
And in the education field, we have discovered that direct sales and marketing are not the ones which work in entering the markets. It’s based on networks, people recommending it to each other. It’s based on good references and you really have to build something which works and creates an impact.
This is what we had chosen as our strategy to build something so good they can’t ignore it.
Petri: If you involve people from the very beginning when you’re building the product you become very intertwined with their world as well so you have a network effect there and it’s really hard for others to copy what you’re doing. They can copy your features but it’s more than that what you are having. Has this been something where you have already seen some benefits and do you think you can become the next unicorn in Estonia?
Kadri: This is our ambition, yes. Although, if you’re taking the word of mouth and the cadence of education then the processes are there much more slower than they are in, for example, FinTech or any consumer product you can see. For example, the decisions for getting new products into the schools are sometimes made yearly and they’re having yearly budget cycles and et cetera.
Right now we are hacking the model of how to beat the yearly cycles of education. And we have some really good ideas in there, but I also believe that the change in there is a little bit different rhythm than we are used to seeing in regular unicorns like Bolt or Transferwise, for example.
Petri: But if your vision is that everyone can have their own self-development plan. I hear a Stripe account an eight billion people, human to human 🙂
Kadri: Totally possible. Why should we look only at schools? Every human needs support in self-development and being a self-directed learner. Lifelong learning is becoming more and more aware in the world. As we spoke earlier, we don’t need so many workers who have to do manual labour and people need to reskill and upskill themselves every five years sometimes because the world is changing so fast.
There is a really big need for how to build up your journey of growth very sustainably. So you wouldn’t be burned out on this process of constant change. It’s really important to find methods on how to unstuckify yourself.
Petri: What have you learned in movie making?
Kadri: I have learned that the movie-making business can also be disrupted if you’re having a startup mindset to it. It can be really exciting. It means that you don’t have to make movies as they have always been done. You can make things faster with a smaller set of people, with many iterations and not quietly in your closet, and then come out with a big bang, but also to do this kind of constant, ping-ponging against the market and really design your end-product in a way that it would be really there for the market. So everybody would understand it once it is there. Like the iterative method of movie-making, I think it is a really nice thing I have witnessed lately.
Petri: Do you have any good stories or maybe some references what are those great movies?
Kadri: I would totally want to highlight one Estonian movie about startups and it’s called Chasing unicorns, and this is made in the startupish way. It has been really successful in a way that those people who have watched it and have been in the startup scene or even not in the startup scene are feeling and living those pains because they are so real.
And the reason behind it is that because they are real. They are crowdsourced in a way that the director really wanted to get the stories, which are true to life, but put them into the movie, which is not a documentary. But it is in a fun and engaging way speaking with stories, which are really relatable to those who are doing startups and who have to look at it from the side, maybe.
Petri: I start to see a pattern here. You can basically apply the same model for whichever business or walk of life. You just talk to people and you ask them things and then you just deliver the things to them and they’re like wow, hey this reflects and sounds exactly like my life I will buy these things!
Kadri: Yeah, why not! Totally good idea. And I think like design thinking is something you can apply to almost anything also to your personal relationships, to a city government, to country government, to global warming chains. There are different levels in where you can approach and use this. So I think this is really fascinating really useful.
Petri: So what’s your next huge challenge? Are you gonna…well I’ll let you answer that one.
Kadri: After Clanbeat? I haven’t actually thought so long ahead because I do not believe in making five-year plans or ten-year plans.
Petri: We are not in Soviet times anymore.
Kadri: Yes. Thank God for that. I really want to create the impact with Clanbeat right now. And this is my biggest passion and I really haven’t thought about what comes after. And is there any after? This is still something I haven’t figured out.
Petri: You have a mission for eight billion people. It may take a bit of time but then it could be that Elon Musk is already shipping people to Mars so then you can already have another mission.
Kadri: Yes. We need to get the Internet to Mars so they could also be self-directed learners and have their personal development taken care of.
Petri: What makes you happy?
Kadri: My family, my health and people who are not full of hate but love.
Petri: How do you define success?
Kadri: Success is a feeling for me. It is something which is different for every person. For some person, success is being able to wake up in the morning and see. For some people, success is being a billion-dollar company CEO. For me, success is having a very good health and well-balanced life. And especially mental health. If mental health is causing your problems, then I think any other area in your life is not going to be succeeding.
Petri: How do you keep up your mental health? Do you go running or you go surfing or what you do?
Kadri: Oh, yes, very good guesses. I do both. And besides that, which are both falling into being physical active categories, I do like outdoor sports and I like extreme sports and I like to put myself into. uncomfortable situations. When I do get into uncomfortable situations by organically, not by purpose, then I don’t feel so uncomfortable.
Besides physical exercise and mindfully putting myself into uncomfortable situations, I also do journaling. I start my mornings with doing journaling and this really centres me and gives me a really good focus and gives also the possibility to get everything out of my monkey mind, which are clustering and getting on my way of having a really good day. This gives this kind of peace of mind.
Petri: What is your favourite word?
Kadri: I would say agency and I would love to give a small explanation that it’s not an advertising agency or any other agency. It’s human agency. And I have discovered it lately and I find it utterly intriguing because in social science agency is defined as the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices.
This is becoming more and more important in our daily world. Sometimes the ability to be in your full agency is suppressed by religion or gender or your customs or anything society puts on you. But, I think agency comes from really strong self-management skills and this is something I feel very fascinated to think.
And the word agency is pretty new to me. I found it out a few years ago that this kind of word exists. So I would love to preach to the world what it means.
Petri: What is your least favourite word?
Kadri: I think hate because I don’t have any hate in me. And I don’t resonate with that.
Petri: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Kadri: People. But I think this is like the most common answer you could get.
Petri: I think you’re the first one. The audience can correct me by tweeting or sending me feedback.
Kadri: Yeah, people because I’m inspired by people and by their problems and how they will overcome it and really get thinking to the core of their why. This is really inspiring. Besides people, I like open spaces like mountains and desert.
Petri: Can you mention a few people who you are really inspired by, give us a few names?
Kadri: This is a really good question because I don’t have role models. I can find something inspirational in every person and you don’t have to be something extraordinary so I could learn from you. I really love the diversity of people and I do not have specific role models to whom I’m inspired to.
Petri: What turns you off?
Kadri: Mundane tasks and paperwork, where I see that it gives zero value or impact. I really tried to eliminate them from my life, getting more and more successful with that, but not still not there. So I know what I’m talking about.
Petri: What is your favourite curse word?
Kadri: I say a lot dammit or ohh, shit.
Petri: What sound or noise do you love?
Kadri: I think this might be a little bit weird, but I love when babies are crying. I’ve loved it since I was little. And, this is really opportunistic, but if somebody is crying, then there’s a possibility that you could make it better. You could just hold them or feed them and they would stop crying. So this is kind of voice of opportunity to make someone’s life better, maybe.
Petri: What sound or noise do you hate?
Kadri: Car motor or any vehicle noises that are fuel-powered. I think that this is so unnecessary. And so yesterday,
Petri: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Kadri: I could try coaching or teaching would be nice, but this is not too far from what I do already. But looking in some other direction, then I totally love the hospitality business and making people feel good.
I wouldn’t be a very good waiter, but I would be a very good hotel owner or receptionist or somebody who really tries to be welcoming and making people feel at home. So having a small hotel or just a room to make people feel good, I think it’s a nice alternative.
Petri: What profession would you not like to do?
Kadri: Tax controller. Parking controller. I cannot imagine any school kid or young person having a dream of becoming a tax controller or a parking controller. I even cannot imagine how to find inspiration in that job. Like you wake up in the morning and you think, Oh, it’s a great day. I can fine people or I can make somebody’s life miserable. This is not something I would like to do.
Petri: If you could be a co-founder of any startup in any era which one would you choose?
Kadri: I would choose biohacking or health. These two topics are also dear to my heart besides education and personal growth.
Petri: Do you have some company name or just a generic topic?
Kadri: It’s a generic topic. I really believe in human potential. Right now we have not reached our limit. It could come from our mind, but it could come from our body as well. So right now I’m trying to deal with the mind part, to unlock those limits and unlock people’s inner potential. But also, I think there’s a lot to do in a physical way as well.
I don’t have any companies whom do I envy yet, who are doing a really good job. Although, I’m a really avid user of one company who is not doing biohacking or any medicine work but I’m drinking this mushroom coffee by Four Sigmatic. And I think this is a really good small start to something, but this is not the full potential that could be used there by humans. I think we can do better.
Petri: I was just wondering whether you’re hacking again at night time. This time biohacking.
Kadri: Biohacking. Yeah, not biohacking right now, but the last few weeks have been really putting a toll on my regular schedule and I’m trying to find ways to be more effective and more impactful, and really finding out how not to spend much energy on those things that don’t matter. And those things that do matter.
Petri: Any final words for the audience?
Kadri: I’m really keen on one saying. And this is for doing things based on love and not fear. And this is really dear to me because I have found it out only lately and if our audience could also think about this rather sooner than later then this is a really good mind exercise if you’re thinking of those things, which you are doing and trying to scale those things on your days.
Are you doing those things, because you’re afraid that somebody is not going to think you’re not good enough or thinking that you’re going to get a fine or somebody is going to get you fired for that? Then I would also love to think that, if you’re thinking of those things, which you are doing because you think this is a good for somebody or for yourself or for the world, and to see the difference in the emotions you’re having with those tasks and then really trying to make more things in your days, which are doing out of love not out of fear.
You’re unlocking a lot of your potential and energy in a way that doing things from fear takes a lot of energy and you’re always double guessing and thinking is it right or not. You’re wasting so much energy. But if you’re doing things from love, then you’re going into this flow state and you’re able to achieve much more. This is something I would love people to think about for a while.
Petri: Thank you Kadri!
Kadri: Thank you, I really enjoyed this talk!