Taavi Kotka is an entrepreneur and angel investor who is rolling up his sleeves to make capitalism fairer. Sustainable values that care about the surrounding world and pave the way towards this goal form the backbone to the e-residence project which continues to shape Estonia’s good image, the girls’ technology project HK Unicorn Squad and the latest community reward and motivation platform KOOS. Taavi will also discuss his views on how to save the planet at the Impact Day festival in Tallinn on 5 to 6 October.
Taavi is active on so many fronts that I can’t help but ask how he balances his private life and work life. “Without my wife, I would be nothing. In order to achieve and maintain a balance, family as a whole has to function. We were actually just texting now about taking some time for ourselves,” Taavi laughs and explains that while the balanced life formula generally consists of sports, friends, work, hobbies and personal development, his life currently only contains work and family.
How does he manage to do it all? “I don’t do anything alone. I have talented managers in all my ventures. With the exception of KOOS, all my institutions and projects are managed by women. Women are simply better leaders,” Taavi says.
I probed Taavi for more details about his projects.
What could we all do, right now, to nudge the planet in the right direction?
We should think more on a daily basis about what kind of planet we will leave to our children.
Beautiful words, but it is quite difficult to act by them. Our family has four children and increasing the number of people is one of the most harmful things you can do for Mother Earth. Living here in dark and cold Estonia, we take a plane to go on holiday in a warmer country, and so on. It is easy to make grand statements, but it’s much harder to change your own behaviour.
We try to compensate for the footprint we make. For instance, we installed solar panels and geothermal heating in our house long ago, in order to be carbon neutral in our everyday energy consumption. We plant trees on our land. We carefully sort the waste and take things to the recycling depot. Having an electric car. Small positive actions, but on a global scale we are still a family that is a burden on the planet.
How could the changes necessary for saving the planet be implemented in the most efficient manner?
Acknowledging something and acting upon it are two different worlds. Reducing the number of people would be most beneficial for the planet, but at the same time India has the ambition of becoming a nation of two billion people by the end of the century. In order to implement effective changes, everyone should make concessions in their wellbeing. But none of us is prepared to do that.
We are no better here in Estonia. A nuclear power plant would make perfect sense in our region. In reality (politically), we are not ready for that. The Riigikogu has been overtaken by career politicians, and attracting votes in the short term is more important than saving the planet. At the same time, we must not lose hope that the next generation will be smarter than us.
Haw has the KOOS platform been received? After all, functioning as a community comes quite naturally to humans.
Communities are a great power. But communal functioning is mostly enthusiasm-based. You will naturally do something for your village or school, but your enthusiasm will wane at some point when bigger changes need to be implemented. When we launched the technology school for girls in 2018, it quickly became clear that doing something this serious alongside other work is impossible, so we hired a team to handle the venture. Today, the school has 3,200 girls and we would simply not have got this far on enthusiasm alone.
Therefore, it is important that it is possible to quantify everyone’s contribution in carrying out projects that have an effect on the community, and to (financially) reward their success in doing so. In connection with the ESG, how every company contributes to the development of the community and by what means are becoming increasingly important in the European Union. We can contribute a great deal here through the Koos.io platform.
In its essence, Koos.io is of course broader than simply supporting community projects, and with our assistance every company can motivate their customers or partners with long-term goals.
How is the girls’ school doing? What could the potential impact of the venture be on society, sustainability and the future of the planet in general?
There is also an issue of equality here – today, top positions in engineering (salaries of more than 80,000 euros a year) are not accessible for women. There are a few exceptions, but in general this is men’s domain.
Our mission is to prepare girls better so that they are more competitive in the future. As a science project, Unicorn Squad has justified itself. We know what we have to do for girls to find this area interesting. The methodologies are ready and the logistics models in place. What comes next is simply a matter of scaling.
When we look at the overall picture in Estonia, we talk about women’s equality and the salary gap, and the solutions seem to be there. However, I have to say that I’m not seeing much action in practice. But I don’t mean to complain here – we have taken on a task and we will see it through. We are also holding a summer camp this year, which is a very cool event.
What’s new in the e-residence project?
E-residency brings tax revenue for the Estonian state and supports the image of our country internationally. The estimated direct and indirect revenue is on the scale of more than 100 million euros every year. This is big money compared to the investment made, and if the state apparatus could act faster the team would be able to multiply these figures.
In terms of Impact Day, the e-residence project is very important, as there are still countries in the world today where entrepreneurs have to travel to their home country to file a tax form on paper. For comparison, we offer a fully digital solution, which means no one has to travel because of regulations or send paperwork by courier.
Where does the entrepreneurship and world-changing gene come from?
I am an engineer. The sole goal of my ilk is to make the world better.
Interviewer: Kerttu Kongas