TAAVI RÕIVAS – TALKS WITH PETRI
Taavi Rõivas talks about his experience as the youngest prime minister in the EU, the future of nation states and his latest movie role.
About Taavi Rõivas
Taavi Rõivas is an Estonian politician, a Member of the Parliament, a former leader of the Reform Party and former Prime Minister of Estonia. In December 2012, Rõivas became the youngest member of the Estonian Government as the Minister of Social Affairs. Rõivas became Prime Minister in 2014. At the time, Rõivas was the youngest government leader in the European Union. Taavi Rõivas’ wife is singer Luisa Rõivas, and they have three children.
(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 Taavi, how are you doing?
Taavi: Hi, Petri. Thank you for inviting me to your podcast.
Petri: It’s been a crazy year, hasn’t it? We are just barely approaching summer and things are not like they used to be.
What’s your feeling of the world at this point?
Taavi: It feels like it has been a year, but actually it has been just a couple of months and there’re so many things have changed during that time already. The world is basically closed. The world had stopped to a large extent, and there are like lots of freedoms that we have given up that would have been impossible to give up only just a few months ago. It’s crazy times we’re living right now.
Petri: Do you think that those rights that were taken away from us, we’re getting them back 100 per cent or is there going to be some kind of shift where we gradually creeping into the more big brother state or these type of scenarios?
Taavi: One time that comes to my mind is 9.11.2001. And people had to give away quite a lot of their privacy in order to make sure that the government is able to fight terrorism. Probably something similar will happen in the near future as well. Some countries have already experienced with all sorts of contact tracing, which essentially is also a potential threat to your privacy. But I believe that if you do it the right way, you can find a good compromise and you can probably organize most of those apps and solutions all over Europe this way that you do not violate people’s privacy too much.
The current initial reaction has been, in my opinion, violating privacy too much ignoring, like in many countries, sending the lists of those who have the infection, sending them to police, even in Estonia, which is very digital by nature, using all sorts of information systems.
The lists have just been sent like over emails and spreadsheets. And this is not the way to do it. We need to design a better system, how to deal with this in the future. And hopefully, we do need to use policeman to look at every citizen whether they stay at home or not, but perhaps we can invent something much more digital and much less work consuming. There’s still a lot of work to be done.
Petri: What other things you can consider that we’ve been in Estonia doing pretty well? And what are the things absolutely not to do in the future, and we need to find better solutions?
Taavi: I think that what Estonian people have done extremely well is being very disciplined. Now, it is changing a bit because people can calculate. They understand that if there is a 0.5% of those who are tested… And in Estonia, we test only people with certain symptoms or mostly people with certain symptoms.
There are a couple of exceptions, of course, when you are working near the front line and so forth. If it’s only 0.5% probability then people start to feel that perhaps these restrictions are not needed so much anymore. And I can really understand that because we are not very good at coming out of those very strong restrictions.
What else Estonia has done well? I think coping with social distancing is a very Estonia thing, and probably a very Finnish thing as well. We don’t feel ourselves very well if the personal zone is too small, and that’s why I think their stimulus are coping relatively well with the current time.
The fact that Estonia, just like Finland, has a lot of territory. It’s probably also quite useful. We don’t have any metros in Estonia. We don’t have the necessity to meet with people, in many of the cases that are there in big cities like, let’s say Manhattan area or something like that. We have some of that which is living here where we live.
Petri: Talking about digital society. Estonia has been promoting and well known for the last decade at least of its digital services and public services particularly. What is something Estonia can teach the other countries that you know, and what’s the future looking like? And what is Estonia looking for the next 10 years and developing further?
Taavi: The number one thing is a proper digital identity and digital signature. It is much easier to work from home where all your official business, be it signing documents, be it signing whatever official applications you need to sign. Be it logging in to any registry or doing any of your official work stuff if this is all digital, then it’s relatively easy to work from your home office.
So, digital ID and signature are the most essential things, but also taking, for example, the health services digital. In Estonia, if you suspect that you have this current virus then you just call your family practitioner and she can write an electronic recommendation letter.
The idea is that you’re good to go or you’re eligible to go to for testing, and this all moves electronically through very safe channels. Then those people who are testing, they are given a legal right to have a look at this electronic system as well. So, no information is actually sent any way to anyone.
It’s just in the information system. And then if you are diagnosed after, let’s say 12 hours or so, it will be in the patient’s portal where you can safely log in yourself and you can see the results. So, all the path is fully digitized. There is no need to use any other measures. This channel is very secure. Nothing is kept on paper. In a way, it’s a very important design and I think it’s very important to stick to this as well. And then current, as I said in the beginning, the way the information is sent to some other authorities outside health space is not working the way the Estonian eGovernment should be working. We should improve that as soon as possible.
Petri: How did we come here? I mean, it’s just three decades and there was basically no services whatsoever available after the Soviet Union went and we were basically in a ground zero situation. And looking Estonia and comparing it to the other Baltics and the other Eastern European countries I think Estonia is quite exceptional in its services and in the economic performance, and pretty much by all the standards. Can you give some background and maybe explanations why that’s the case?
Taavi: Well, when the state regained its independence in the early nineties, it was also the same time when the Internet was becoming a really big thing. And as all the Soviet systems or all the information bases were rubbish by design or everything was analogue.
We needed to start everything from scratch. And when you start something from scratch then it’s very logical to use the current state of the art design and then Internet or using digital channels, was the kind of state of the art thing.
It doesn’t look like a rocket science anymore, but back then it was still like very much of innovation. And we needed to teach people to use computers more. And it was definitely different times. The second thing, why Estonia is a bit different than many other countries that were occupied by the Soviet Union is our neighbourhood.
I think that having Finland and also Sweden as very close neighbours gives us the immediate picture and this was especially relevant in the early nineties when the difference in living standards was huge. And we immediately saw that our neighbours who are very similar to us are doing so much better in so many sectors of life.
It’s not the only economic progress. It’s many other things as well. And I think that gave us this kind of urge to catch up with the things. Of course, it has always been, and still is a very difficult challenge as Finland and also Sweden are among the most successful countries in the world, not only in Europe but in the world. This drive to catch up and the belief that we are actually quite similar. And before the Soviet occupation, we were at a similar level of economic development and so forth. That gave us this kind of understanding that we need to move very fast and do smart things.
Petri: You were the youngest member of the Estonian government, when you became the Minister of Social Affairs, and also you were the youngest government leader in European Union at the time you became the prime minister. Do you think that it has something to do with young people being in these powerful positions during this time of the independence and after the Soviet Union going down that the decisions were made a bit quicker and the new technologies and innovations were looked sort of as opportunities and positive future developments?
Taavi: Well, I think it’s important to have a closer look at the early nineties, or actually already late eighties when the independence movement started. To continue as a politician from the communist regime to independence was something very, very difficult. Some people did it, some people did it successfully because they choose the side immediately that they were not fully in communists. They were part of politics back then, but they weren’t like diehard communists. And most of the politicians who started then they needed to be new people, so to say, or new to politics.
This already meant that many of them were straight out of school. Those people starting our newly independent country from scratch they were very young people and much younger than I was when I first started my work as a government minister. I haven’t been the youngest prime minister of Estonia. That was Mart Laar with his first government in the early nineties.
But I was the youngest in the European Union. I think it has some parallels to the time that we had in Europe, just because people knew that it is ok to be in leadership at a relatively young age. It also means that in Estonia we start our working career quite early.
So it’s very logical to work already. Having summer jobs when you are a high school student or when you’re studying in university. So that gives a little bit of a headstart to when you graduate from university, which in my case was 2002. You already have some work experience.
But my age as prime minister I would say that in Estonia it was at first still a bit a negative connotation. I think it lasted around like a week or so. There were lots of questions like is it ok still in 2014 to become prime minister at such a young age.
Then it stopped being an issue at all in Estonia. And internationally it was from day one to the last day of my work as prime minister, or actually probably still is a positive connotation showing that young people can do lots of things. I think it’s pretty similar to the attention that the Finnish prime minister if I’m not mistaken, the youngest Prime Minister of European Union currently, is getting. She was exactly the same age when she started as a prime minister like I was six years before.
Petri: Can you share some memories and maybe some achievements what are your proud of while you were prime minister? I think you were even in some talk shows in the USA. You were getting a bit of fame.
Taavi: Most of the reasons why I was invited to all international news outlets were two issues. The first was about Russia attacking Ukraine. And Estonia as an immediate neighbour of Russia and a member of NATO at the same time. We were considered to be somewhat experts on this topic and discussing security issues was a big part of this. The second thing was something that we created ourselves.
And that was all the attention about e-Residency. It started in the early months of my work as prime minister and I really pushed hard to get it international recognition and national attention. Throughout the years that was also one topic that got me invited to perhaps more talk shows that would be normal or would be typical.
I think there are lots of important things that we did during that time. Of course, one was boosting Estonian security. Everything from increasing our real military expenditure to get NATO presence here, guarding our skies, for example, or having a permanent presence of NATO allies in Estonian territory. But it was also investing heavily in other things that are related to your security. For example, energy security, building interconnections with Finland and Latvia be it gas or electricity, being less dependent on any outside factor on energy. Of course, many other things as well. It was very interesting times because of the terrible things that happened in Ukraine gave us a chance actually to take our own security to the next level. And that’s what we did.
Petri: Estonia has been building resilience during these crises. I think there was also some kind of a cyber attack happening. Was it in your period as prime minister? It was sort of an early warning on the things which needs to be prepped up?
Taavi: Cyberattack was way before my time as prime minister, but that was during the time when I was just newly elected Member of Parliament, and I remember this very closely. That happened in the spring of 2007 and it was linked to the removal of one old Soviet statue from the centre of Tallinn.
The story was basically that the statue had been there for decades, and it didn’t really disturb anyone. It was in a very prominent place in a really central location. But what happened was that the Russian Embassy started organizing this kind of pro-Soviet nostalgic meetings there, including taking school children there. Lots of organized things that were very much hurting a big part of our society. And thus there was a decision taken that this statue needs to be moved to stop those provocations. The statue needs to be moved to another place where it is still very prominently presented to this day, but it’s not in the very centre of the city.
And it’s more difficult to organize all sorts of provocations there. It just happened that when this statue was removed, at the same time, there were huge riots organized in Tallinn and also at the exact same time there was a serious DDoS-attack against the Estonian information systems, both public and private.
It was also banks and news outlets and so forth and as a very first full-scale attack against the state. That actually gave us a case story or how to react to this kind of things. And that was a very important lesson for us, not only us but also for NATO and the European Union.
We managed to build that kind of experience into expertise. And that was something that followed throughout my time as prime minister as well, because Estonia spoke out a lot on taking cyber seriously, taking cybersecurity as a part of collective defence.
And one important achievement was that since summer 2016 when there was a NATO summit in Warsaw, cyber is officially NATO domain, just like land, water or air. Now it’s also cyber. So this means that whenever there is an attack in cyberspace against any NATO members state it’s also an attack against all of the NATO. So, I think it’s an important milestone.
Petri: 2007 was hitting Estonia hard as well. I mean, the financial crisis and, there was a quite heavy expenditure cut in the public sector. 10-20% was cut and there were like really drastic measures and they were unheard of considered what the other places were doing. Is this part of this preparedness and being independent? Looking also the debt ratio, government debt ratio, if it’s not the lowest in the world is pretty much among the lowest in the world. I’m really impressed by how these things are actually handled here. Can you give a bit of insight and what’s the future of these things?
Taavi: Well the context was that in 2006-2007 Estonia experienced very high growth rates. We were talking about double-digit growth rate and our government was wise enough to put a lot of the money that we collected as taxes aside as reserves. The budgets in 2006-2007 and initially also 2008 were in serious surplus because of the very good times that the budgets were done. And then the first cut was relatively easy. It just cut the surplus and you already have taken a big leap. Cutting actual expenses is very difficult politically. And most politicians are not just able to cope with this.
We actually lost one of the coalition partners while we were cutting costs. That was in spring 2009 and that sent me to the epicentre of economic crisis because my predecessor in the job of becoming the Chairman of the Fiscal Committee in the parliament was appointed as Minister of Finance. Jürgen Ligi, a good colleague, and he was Minister of Finance and the Minister of Education and Minister of Foreign Affairs already also in my different governments. I became during the peak of the crisis for Estonia, it was in spring 2009 and during the peak of the expense cutting and austerity, I started my job as the Chairman of the Finance Committee.
So that was interesting times, indeed. Later, I think we have just been very practical and following all the rules. We wanted to be eligible for Euro. So, thus we didn’t even consider having much higher deficit than would be allowed according to Stability and Growth Pact in the European Union.
And also later both Andrus Ansip’s and my governments kept this good fiscal prudence. We kept the budget in balance or in a very small surplus in some cases because we didn’t experience very high growth, but the growth was enough to make ends meet. And currently, when we are experiencing another serious crisis, the outcome will probably be worse in terms of public budget because we didn’t have the surplus to use stand the government was a bit less prepared than the government that was in office in 2007-2008.
Petri: Being involved with the startup world, I remember probably it was you who was saying at the time that if the startup community ecosystem needs something, just come to the government and we’ll fix it. And just in a matter of weeks or months you actually did something, you change some law about options. Is this something that can happen still now in the crisis and do you already see that happening? Are the willingness and capabilities still there like a startup attitude? If there’s a problem, let’s fix it and move on.
Taavi: I think it has speed at some points with some ministers. I am not objective to tell whether the current prime minister has it or not because I’m comparing with myself. If you compare anybody with yourself, then you are not the most adequate person to do that.
I can tell what we did and as all prime ministers in Estonia have usually some councils that give them special advice that are basically coming from, not from the law, but basically from tradition. One of those is the Advisory Board of Science, and there are several others. What I decided to create was to have a similar advisory board on the startup ecosystem and also later an Advisory Board on Economic Development.
I got the luxury because they were not legally designed in any way or there was no rigid system of traditions already in place that you need to invite this or that official. I was free to choose whomever I wanted to invite there. In our startup ecosystem, there are lots of very ambitious, very vocal, very experienced people. I managed to pick some of the right people to this advisory board, and they actually helped me to push through several things. The law on options that we changed to be coping better with international standards.
The idea was to make Estonia as competitive with other countries as possible. It took us four months exactly from the idea that came first came up in these startup round table or the advisory board. And then it was passed as a law in parliament, so four months.
And I was quite proud of that. But I thought, yeah, we did good. In four months, we changed an important tax law. That’s good. And, some of the startups told me that could you be any slower in doing this? They were extremely critical that it’s taking the government four months to pass a law.
So, it probably depends a bit on the perspective. And I’m very grateful that I have this startup perspective just next to me reminding me that I should push harder. I should do things faster. I should not be happy with the kind of normal deadlines. There are sectors in business and in life that need your focus much faster than typical.
Petri: You were also a movie star lately.
Taavi: So were you.
Petri: You had a bigger role. You got a T-shirt. I didn’t get a T-shirt.
Taavi: That’s, that’s correct.
Petri: Can you explain to the audience what was your role?
Taavi: Yes. What a nice experience. The movie we’re talking about is Chasing Unicorns, and it’s talking about a startup’s first pursuit for happiness, but, but also being successful in the startup life. I think the movie has a great inside perspective from the startup world. Many of the aspects of the movie, many of the details, are so good and so funny just because they are actually coming from real life. Like every movie, there are lots of fun elements, but sometimes life is fun. And then some of the aspects of the startup world if you look at them from a certain perspective, if you’re inside raising a round, and it’s very difficult. It can be very stressful but if you look at it from perspective, it is actually quite fun and lots of interesting things happening. So I would say it’s an Estonian version of Silicon Valley, but much funnier.
Petri: Talking about Silicon Valley, Estonia might have the highest density of unicorns, at least per Skype was probably the first one, and now I think I’ve lost already pretty much the count how many they are. This is really a vibrant ecosystem happening What’s your impression, are we gonna keep having a small Silicon Valley here in latitude 59 or what’s going to happen in the
Skype made all the difference because before that having a multibillion-dollar company was something that you just saw from the news. But Skype showed that a multibillion-dollar company can be done right here in Estonia by a very small team of very smart people.
And as many people were during the years working for Skype or knew people who worked for Skype that gave them this certainty and also know-how to start their own company. If you look at the current startup founders and investors, many of them have some sort of previous relationship with Skype.
Now, there is already I don’t know how many waves we have already had. But, now they’re already like ex-Transferwise and ex-Bolt probably the ex other companies but Skype was the initial huge wave that took our startup community to the next level. It has for quite some time already been a top priority from the government side as well, because it’s clearly showing that Estonia has potential in this.
Again, if you think practically like Estonia has only three decades to accumulate capital. It’s relatively difficult to accumulate capital in traditional sectors so fast and become a global company. There are some exceptions, but this is not very typical.
But when we talk about digital this is the easiest sector probably to scale your business, and lots of our unicorns be it TransferWise, Bolt or Skype, they are essentially digital solutions to real-world problems. That’s why they are relatively, nothing is easy in the world, of course, especially doing business at this scale, but they’re relatively easier to scale, to become global companies.
I hope that the startup community today already is so strong that they create, new success stories, and the government should keep the eye on not messing things up, not messing a tax system up too much, not messing, especially, with foreign workers. We have currently one party in government that is somewhat allergic to people who are not 101% ethnic Estonians and then I think it’s ridiculous.
It’s very dangerous to Estonian economy and society in a wider perspective. But if the government can control itself and not mess things up too much, I think today our startup sector is actually strong enough to be able to create new success by themselves. Ideally, we would see again sometime soon a government that is actively promoting Estonia as a startup ecosystem looking at ways constantly to improve the environmental situation and the economic context but all sorts of things that enable startups to succeed. We can do much more, but I think that the foundation and the good ecosystem are already there. And, it’s very important.
Petri: Remote work. It’s now the new norm and post-coronavirus discussions are starting. What do you think, where are we heading? What’s the new normal?
Taavi: I think it’s a bit early to say. I think one clear trend that I hope to happen is that the digitalization will speed up because those politicians who have been very cautious about digitalization, they have less and less argument against it. We know that some sectors have already been boosted like all sorts of videoconferencing tools. But I think sectors like autonomous driving, e-commerce, they will get to the next level and there is a lot of changes happening. And that gives a lot of potential for new kinds of companies and business models.
It’s actually a good time for the startup world. We are living in extremely interesting times and what I’m afraid of the most is that we have political leaders that think that we can go back to exactly the same time that was here half a year ago.
But you can never do that. You can never do back exactly to the point where you were six months ago. Let alone now when the changes that have happened have been so huge. I think there are lots of things that are restricting our freedoms potentially, but there are also lots of things that making the world a better place including being able to live in the countryside and work from there. Or less need to fly, let’s say to Brussels for just one or two-hour meeting. You can just do more effectively those things and save the environment at the same time.
Lots of things are changing. And, I’m sure I don’t know all of them, but I have a feeling that some of these interesting trends are actually very positive to the world.
Petri: I’m writing an article about the post-coronavirus world, and one of the things I’m gonna put in the next part in the series, is the globe is flat. Not in a physical sense, obviously, but you know, in the sense that everybody in the world, 8 billion people are a few hundred milliseconds away. We have now equalized and democratised the world because there’s no need to travel anymore.
It’s acceptable to be in a Meet or Zoom or Skype. But what does that actually mean to the tax base, trade, competencies, competitiveness, regulation and public services? I think these are sort of really interesting and probably difficult questions and challenges we are facing. e-Residency and Estonia have been leading this movement and wave already some years. What’s going to happen in this sense, is the role of the governments going down and individuals and private services becoming more important?
Taavi: I think we have seen this trend for quite some time already. Therefore in more and more jobs, your physical location is not so relevant and you can work remotely. You can work either from home or summer house or a distant location. And now we probably see more jobs that are going this way.
We have experienced a lot of Zoom conferencing or Teams conferencing. Once people think that this is now acceptable, they want to be effective. They don’t just fly in for a very short intervention or something like that.
It will change a lot of things, but I think there will still be an urge. Perhaps even bigger urge in people to travel for fun. I think keeping people in their small apartments for two months will probably mean that once the quarantine is over, they really want to go to Saaremaa or restaurants and all sorts of places. And they also want to travel because this is what people want to do.
Now, the role of governments, I have thought that for quite some time already. A way before coronacrisis, and even before when I became prime minister, I think that we are moving in this direction that governments need to be in constant competition for people.
It has been for quite some time already that governments have been competing to get investments. But the same applies now more and more to people who pay the taxes. If you can offer good services for an effective tax rate, not too high but acceptable, then you can be very successful.
I don’t think that it’s solely the big countries that win from the this. I think it’s probably even vice versa. If small countries are smart, they can get much faster and have more people using their services. In Estonia, e-Residency idea has been just that. We should create much more services for our e-Residents.
I think that there is room for both public and private sector to provide more services for those people who are not actually living in Estonia, but who are using Estonian government services.
Petri: You speak fluent Finnish and that’s not evident. Estonian and Finnish languages are not so close to each other that one day you can just wake up from the bed and just realize that you speak Finnish. So, what happened?
Taavi: Well, this is something that people of my age who lived in their childhood in Tallinn or in the northern coast can do. This is our superpower. And this is coming from Finnish TV because during our childhood when it was still the Soviet Union, there were no private TV channels in Estonia. Obviously, there were almost no private things at all or private sector businesses.
What happened was, Finnish TV I had heard later, this wasn’t public knowledge back then but the Finns turned up the volume, so to say. They made their Finnish broadcasting system much more powerful than it was needed to broadcast just for Finland. But it was well visible across the bay, which is around 80 kilometres if you’re talking about the distance of Tallinn and Helsinki. And that made it possible with special antennas, but still, it was possible to watch Finnish TV. And I can see it now from my own kids that they are not watching Finnish TV, unfortunately anymore, but they are watching YouTube.
And even my three-year-old son is speaking quite well in English, just because of TV. And just because sometimes I and my wife are speaking in English with him. And that’s exactly happened to me as well. I watched a lot of a Finnish channel called Maikkari or MTV3 and it had a lot of original programs like talk shows or entertainment.
It also had lots of films that were not available in Estonia before that and the older films or TV-series they were subtitled. That was very important. You can listen to it in English and you can read Finnish at the same time. In a way that made all the difference.
And because of that heavy TV watching in my childhood, it was possible for me to communicate. I have had three Finnish colleagues as prime ministers. And by now I know even more former prime ministers, so with them, I happily can talk in Finnish. I’ve given a couple of interviews as well in the Finnish language.
I remember my friend Alexander Stubb saying that it’s great to have two prime ministers in the world who can give interviews in the Finnish language. And this is not always the case. I think it was a unique time when I was exactly the right age to learn the Finnish language.
Petri: What is your favourite word?
Taavi: As we are now speaking about the Finnish language, I would say one word in Finnish that comes to my mind is asianajaja. And why it’s a good word because it’s fun seeing people who speak English to try to pronounce it. It means lawyer and to see anyone who doesn’t know, Finnish trying to pronounce it. This is just hilarious.
Petri: Your least favourite word?
Taavi: It’s not a word, it’s an expression that I, I don’t like at all: it has always been this way. This has been used too much as an argument why not to improve things. This is mostly in politics and civil service, but sometimes you see that in the private sector as well.
And I’m not arguing that traditions are bad but you shouldn’t stop asking questions. You shouldn’t stop questioning why things are the way they are.
Petri: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
Taavi: Now it would be definitely sun, coming out and good weather.
For the last eight years or so, I have found a lot of strength from exercising, especially with running. I used to be the worst runner or like the second-worst or the third-worst runner in my class always when I went to school.
I think it was eight or nine years ago, I just decided, and that actually happened in Finland. We were at a conference, and then we talked with one of my colleagues who decided to run a marathon and they said, okay if you do it, I will do it as well one year later. And then I had to start running because doing a marathon without properly exercising can be very painful.
Then running really became this kind of addiction even, and also the best way to get rid of stress and get you going when you are experiencing very difficult working times. When I was in office as prime minister, that was actually the best time to exercise because you always had people whose job it was to run with you. And at that time I mean my security guard. They were first of all very good sportsman. They were used to that because the previous prime minister was Andrus Ansip and then he did a lot of cycling and a lot of skiing, roller-blading, and he was really fast on all of those.
And I didn’t do any of those except downhill skiing but Andrius did cross-country, so all the things we did were different, but all the security details that both of we had, they had to be very sporty, and then they had to keep up with it with our pace. That was a great time.
Petri: What turns you off?
Taavi: I don’t like at all if people don’t have principles or if they don’t care. You need to care about something in your life. I fully understand if world views on some matters are different. But if you simply don’t care, it’s really difficult for me to understand that.
I’m probably very passionate about my work as a politician and not only in politics. That’s why I don’t think that not caring is acceptable or are I don’t like it at all.
Petri: What is your favourite curse word?
Taavi: The first curse word that comes to my mind in English is bloody hell, but I don’t know why I don’t use it anyway. And as a, as a good Christian, I shouldn’t probably, but let’s stick with bloody hell.
Petri: What sound or noise do you love?
Petri: What sound or noise do you hate?
Taavi: If something is falling and breaking, you can ask my wife or kids that I’m really hating it if somebody puts something on a corner of a table or in a dangerous place and I’m getting anxious because I know that there is like 95.7% chance that it’s falling and then breaking.
Petri: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Taavi: That’s a very good question because if I knew it I would probably do it by now. I definitely love international stuff. I want to see the world being much bigger than only Estonia.I love working with international teams that have a great variety.
That’s actually has been one of the great luxuries of my life. I have never had this kind of stubborn view that I need to do this or I need to do that. I had one case when I really wanted to become a Member of the European Parliament. That has been the only time since 2007 that I wasn’t elected. But you know, that just means that I probably was too obsessed with the idea that they need to be elected there. And that just reminded me that you just need to do your best at and see where the opportunities are taking you and what is the best moment for you to do something. And to recognize that this is one of the most important talents I think.
Petri: What profession would you not like to do?
Taavi: There are many jobs that would be too difficult for me, and I think I’m like relatively clumsy if it’s anything to do with manual labour. I admire people who can do factory work. I would die in the routine and I admire people who can do that.
Building something or putting something together, I would probably fail. So, I rather not do that and save myself and the company from miserable failure.
Petri: If you could be a co-founder of any startup in any era, which one would you choose?
Taavi: If we take the present date I think I want to be involved with autonomous driving and artificial intelligence and actually take the world to the next level.
Petri: Do you have any final words for the audience?
Taavi: I want to just reiterate that now it is an extremely important time to think what are the important trends that we need to solve when they are happening, and we need to understand them. We need to comply with them. And even more importantly, what are the trends that we should lead? How we can take this terrible experience that we are still having with this virus and with the lockdown and with globalization being on pause and how we would we wisely lead our society or our country or our company or our family to be much more successful after this coronavirus.
if we think about it enough, if we talk about it enough, there is huge potential. And I do hope that Estonia will be once again showing the way and being perhaps more risk-taking and more innovative than that many others.