Tõnis Kask | Passionate photographer, entrepreneur, code & growth wizard

Welcome!

I'm Tõnis. An entrepreneur, code and growth wizard. Passionate photographer (to escape my workaholic CEO life). Published, international & traveling. Dad to 4.

Hi, I'm Tõnis!

Even though this site is about my photos, I can’t say I’m a photographer.

I just happen to love taking pictures. Mostly of nice landscapes, and nice people.

In daily life I’m an entrepreneur. And to help my businesses to win, I’ll do whatever it takes. So quite often I re-incarnate as a full-stack programmer and lead architect, designer, or a marketing wizard.

On this page you will find some interesting bits of information about my journey. Hopefully it’s a good foundation on helping even more people in the future.

If you believe I could give you some advice, or you would like to have a photoshoot with me, reach me out!

First steps in business

It’s a common practice in the US that kids have lemonade stands. But when a boy in Estonia, occupied by Soviets, at the age of 9, somehow finds a way to get foreign bubblegum, it’s considered a true miracle. And what would a kid do with a thing so exclusive? Eating it is definitely an option. But much better option is to sell it. With a margin. With a seriously good margin. In school.

Little did I know that making business back then was a criminal offence. And doing that in school? Somehow I managed to get out of this serious trouble. But the desire for money did stay, especially as I was somehow able to keep the profits 😉

Second try

When Richard Branson was growing Christmas trees as a kid, then by the age of 13, I had my very own arboretum, with 10 000 hawthorns. The business plan was simple – plant the bushes, grow them for 3 years, sell. Unfortunately the company who was willing to buy them went into bankruptcy. And so the plan to have real estate in the city by the age of 16 failed.

Still, I was able to sell a bunch of those trees every spring for a few years, using magazine ads. Eventually made even a small profit, worth couple of months salary. But looking back, it took 5 weeks on every summer, for 3 years in a row, from early morning till late evening, to keep those trees clean from the weed. If this venture taught me something, it was not being afraid of hard work.

Learning to code

The initial push for me to write software came from my it-teacher in High School. He was my first customer and paid real cash for the e-school solution (running on DOS), where teachers were able to store grades and it printed grade certificates. Soon after that I got my first gig in commerce too and made the transport optimization solution for a bus company.

After sending my very first e-mail in 1994 (to Jaan Tallinn, who co-founded Skype 7 years after that), I got a crush for the Internet. It was still in baby shoes, but it didn’t matter. Just one hour to download a song? Cool! I was convinced – this will rule the world one day.

Forestry apps

While at high high school, at the end of 90’s, I got my first official employment contract. In national forestry company, as a programmer. I was able to work remotely, though back then it sounded like a lingo from Star Wars.

At some point my department was closed, but I had enough confidence to say that I can make things happen with code. So together with my father, who had enormous knowledge in forestry management, we started making small programs for forestry companies. Today we would call them apps – tiny simple programs solving one specific problem. The only difference with apps today was the price, which was in hundreds.

We held a portfolio with 8 apps, one of which was a complete HRM solution with staff scheduling. At peak times, about 50% of all state-owned forestry units were using at least one of our tools.

The only thing I regret is that I didn’t invent the SaaS and recurring revenue model 😉

Music - my secret passion

While at high school, I made some music too. With computer, which was something extraordinary at those days (1996). I managed to get connections and ended up in the leading studio in this region, Orbital Vox. With some well-known producers I released a handful of tracks. Some of them ended up in the dance music top charts, radio playlists, tv shows, and also on the “Hit Collection” CDs.

At some point I didn’t have enough time for this, at least not enough to be on the top. Still, music has been in my heart since and there are still so many melodies in my head… Sometimes I have to fight myself not to get into it again. So far I have been strong. But should one of my kids come and tell me they wish to become a star, I probably couldn’t resist to help them 😉

My first software business

When my university-brothers had enormous plans (like Priit Alamäe started creating Nortal, the biggest development company in Nordics, and Taavi Rõivas prepared to become the prime minister of Estonia), I had kind of a small dream, compared to them. I wanted to create and sell my own software.

And so, in the year 2001, I launched my first app and became one of the first companies in Baltics that charged credit cards online.

At it’s peak, TK8 Software had over half a million daily users in 71 countries.

This company enabled me to understand what it takes to make solid software products, and become a winning international player in the field.

Winning with accounting software

Having the understanding of how to make successful apps, I was also invited to join the forces with a team with great B2B vision. We wanted to make the accounting software so easy that every entrepreneur could use it, even without an accountant.

Our team started small, from scratch, and with tight budget. So we had to fill many positions. Which is nothing unusual for startup people. At times I was a developer, senior architect, designer, and someone helping with sales strategies and marketing too. What a great position to be in!

Luckily, our vision was solid and we grew rapidly. At some point we discovered that about 50% of all Estonian companies were using our product. So we expanded to Finland and Poland. Today, we have over 50 000 companies using our products in those countries.

After the successful acquisition in 2018, Merit is now part of the Visma group – one of the largest software companies in Europe.

Crypto - our future

After amortizing a computer in 2010 that mined “only” 25 BTC per month, I forgot the crypto-world for years.

In 2017 I got hooked again and invested in a small but effective cryptocurrency mining farm. This has allowed me to understand how POW works in the blockchain and how to use this technology in other fields.

My journey in photography

Years Ago, when I was burned out (again) from 70+ hour workweeks, I decided to get myself a new hobby. Something that would get me away from computers.

Recalling my childhood days with dad in his darkroom, developing photos on film, I decided to get into photography (boy was I naive about computers at that point). So I got myself a DSLR and went out to take pictures. In manual mode. Which required to start learning. A lot.

At some point, crawling forums and communities, I started to notice trends and problems full-time photographers had. And so the entrepreneurial spirit in me started wondering, whether I could help those people, even a bit.

Time will tell, but together with my wonderful wife, an MBA worthy marketer (who’s now proficient in coding too), we’re planning something exciting for the community 😉

And yes – I still go out ocasionally, to take photos on those rare free moments 😉

Last but not least

At evenings, when not shooting or overworking, I’m dad to my four fantastic kids and husband to my supporting wife. There’s no doubt they are the secret ingredient on what keeps me going strong and motivated 

:)