This month, the American Chamber of Commerce in Estonia held a Women in Leadership Dinner event, opened by the Estonian Minister of Entrepreneurship, Liisa Oviir. Blu Mint Digital was in attendance and decided to focus on three amazing entrepreneurial women in Estonia: Anna-Greta Tsahkna, Berit Bailey and Piret Mellik. In a series of interviews our team begin with Anna-Greta Tsahkna.
You co-founded Timbeter. What is it?
Timbeter is a really easy way to measure timber using a smartphone. Loggers simply snap a photo of their pile and then the app instantly calculates everything they need to know, as well as keeping track of the data. Timbeter is digitising forestry data and bringing increased transparency and efficiency to the industry.
What’s your role?
I’m the Chief Executive Officer.
My main task is leading the monetisation of our product and providing feedback to the engineering team on what product enhancements are required to make Timbeter even better. This involves speaking to lots of stakeholders, including national departments, forest owners, harbour operators, saw mill owners and transportation companies. I´m also responsible for investor relations, marketing and communication.
What brought you to this area?
Actually, it was a coincidence. I just happened to participate at the Garage48 event and joined the team by chance. The team turned out to be quite successful. One year later I understood that it was a question of all or nothing so I dedicated myself fully to Timbeter. It was scary turning my back on a great job in a large software development company but I kept thinking “well, if not now then when and if not me then who?” There’s been plenty of ups and downs in those 3 years and times when I’ve questioned myself, but that is simply part of the startup process.
What has been the most difficult part of running a business?
Running a startup is always a challenge, although the nature of these challenges change as the company grows. I guess the really difficult part was getting that first paying customer, but we still have to continually work hard to earn new customers. We want to keep reaching higher so yesterday`s record is today’s minimal level.
But these challenges all form a learning curve and you need to go through them to to develop both professionally and personally. This may sound odd but feeling like a complete idiot is good ground for development. You can only get better. Throughout this journey I came to know my weaknesses and strengths very well. Being outside your comfort zone in not very comfortable, but it teaches you a lot.
What’s the best thing about working at Timbeter?
It’s the feeling that you’re doing something very innovative that will make a great change in a really conservative sector. We get to see how our solution is making a whole sector more effective, reducing the amount of manual work to a minimal level, digitalising the whole data, getting rid of loads of paper and minimising bureaucracy. Fighting illegal logging, overweight trucks and tax fraud is also really important.
For us it was also a proud moment when the State Forest Management Centre decided to use Timbeter on all its trucks. It is definitely a big step forward to become the global standard for timber measurement. Start-ups don’t usually make contracts with government institutions, but Timbeter is different.
Your husband is a minister and you have 2 children. I guess both of you have a challenging professional life. How do you manage to balance your work and family?
My husband and I support each other a lot. We have a sense of good teamwork, always try to be positive and find solutions to challenging situations. If needed, I can always ask for help from either of our mums or our relatives when we’re both travelling.
Weekends are usually fully reserved for family so we always try to do something all together and just relax.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Ask, don’t assume. It’s my mantra that works in every life situation.
And finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting out?
Believe in yourself and simply don’t give up.
Anna-Greta was speaking to David Bailey-Lauring