Hi, My Name is 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 sometimes of nice people.
 

In daily life, I’m an entrepreneur. To help my businesses to thrive, I’ll do everything needed for it. So quite often I re-incarnate as a full-stack programmer and lead architect, designer, or a marketer and growth wizard.
 

Following is a short overview of experiences I’ve gathered in my entrepreneurial journey. Hope it’s a good foundation on making life better on this planet, continue learning, and help more people in the future.
 

If interested in my journey, scroll down!

My First Business

 

When american kids have lemonstands then by miracle, the boy in Estonia, occupied by Soviets, at the age of 7, somehow found a way to get foreign bubblegum. And what would a kid do with a thing so exclusive? Eating is definitely one option. But better is to sell it. With a margin. With 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 one of my mentors, 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, petite them for 3 years and then sell. Unfortunately, the company who was willing to sell went into bankruptcy. And so the plan to buy some 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 few years, using magazine ads. Eventually made even a small profit, worth couple of months salary. But it took 5 weeks on every summer for 3 years, from early morning till late evening, to keep those trees clean from weed. If this venture taught me something, it was not being afraid of hard work.

Babysteps in coding

 

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 transportation optimisation 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 Know-how

 

While at high school, I also got my first official work 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 the department was closed but I had enough experiences to stand on my own feet. So, together with my father (who had enormous knowledge about forestry), we started making small programs for forestry companies. Today, we would call them apps. Tiny simple solutions solving one particular problem. The only difference with apps today was the price, which was hundreds of times more expensive.
 

We held a portfolio of 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 😉

When my university course 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 kinda small dream. 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 firsts companies in Baltics that charged credit cards online.
 

Today, 15 years later, TK8 Software is still going strong and has over half a million daily users in 71 countries. I would still classify this as a small business, but we have never aimed for IPO anyway 😉 This bootstrapped company (mostly B2C) has definitely helped me to get a perfect understanding of how things work in the software business.

Having some understanding of making successful apps, then in 2001, in addition to running TK8 Software, I was invited to join the forces with a team with great B2B vision I believed in. An accounting software so easy that every entrepreneur could use it, even without an accountant.
 

Our team was small, and the budget tight, so we had to fill many positions at start. Which is nothing extraordinary for startup people. At times I was head architect, developer, designer, and someone helping with sales strategies too, when needed. What a great position to be in!
 

Fast forward 15 years. Merit Aktiva is converted from Windows program to complete SaaS solution in cloud. It has over 38000 companies using it to do their accounting (almost 50% of Estonian small businesses). This warm welcome has resulted in natural expanding. In past few years we’ve signed up a bit over 1000 companies in Finland and soon about the same in Poland, under the brand 360 Ksiegowosc.

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 😉

Secret passion

 

While at high school, I actually 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 just had not enough time for it, at least not enough to be on 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 three daughters come and tell me they wish to become a star, I probably can’t resist to help them 😉

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 :)