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Best of Bootstrapping: Bootstrapped Entrepreneurship from Estonia

Posted on Friday, Apr 17th 2020

Messente CEO Lauri Kinkar takes us into a country that has done amazingly well in developing a technology and startup culture. Fascinating!

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What is the background?

Lauri Kinkar: I grew up and am based in Estonia, which is a country with a population slightly more than a million. I’m from a small university town. 

Sramana Mitra: So you’ve done your entrepreneur journey from and in Estonia?

Lauri Kinkar: Pretty much. As the companies that we’ve founded all had to do with technology, it’s a fairly international industry. We have clients all over the world.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s do the journey. You grew up in a small university town in Estonia. Tell me more about what happened. Where did you do your education? What did you study? How did you find your way to entrepreneurship?

Lauri Kinkar: My journey to entrepreneurship was not a very conscious and planned one. In university, I studied Public Administration. I also studied Economics briefly in the Netherlands.

Someone that I met during my university studies had recently founded a telecommunications company. That was about 20 years ago. In terms of technology, those were ancient times – it was the pre-smartphone era. I decided to join. I was one of the first people to join the company.

Sramana Mitra: What year was that?

Lauri Kinkar: That was in 2001. 

Sramana Mitra: What was the company doing and what were you doing there?

Lauri Kinkar: The company was trying to figure out how to pay for things using your mobile phone. Back in 2000 to 2001, you sent a premium-priced SMS, and then the operator will charge you and share the revenue.

We also had a few solutions for advertising agencies to run SMS-based text-to-win campaigns. I was the first sales guy in the company.

Sramana Mitra: Whom were you selling to? It sounds like a consumer product but whom did you sell it to?

Lauri Kinkar: We sold it to brands and advertising agencies. When we started out, we were pretty local. We had customers in Estonia and a couple of nearby countries. That was pretty much it. This is now a group of about 8 to 9 different companies. 

Sramana Mitra: Let’s go back though to 2001. When did you leave this company? What is the next step?

Lauri Kinkar: We started the company that I initially joined back in 2001. The same company grew into a group of companies over the next 20 years. I’ve been active in founding some of those and running some of them too. Essentially, the past 20 years have been about expanding what we started 20 years ago. Again, 8 or 9 companies have grown out of it. 

Our conversation continues here.

This segment is a part in the series : Best of Bootstrapping

. Bootstrapping to an Exit
. Why is Bootstrapping Important?
. How Can You Play this Low-Probability Game Intelligently?
. Do NOT Go to VCs as Beggars - Go as Kings
. Excess is NOT Required for Success
. Bootstrap First and Raise Money Later
. Some Bootstrapping to Exit Case Studies
. The Buy Side of Bootstrapping to an Exit
. Blitzscaling vs. Bootstrapping
. Bootstrapping to Unicorns
. Cinedigm Acquires Bootstrapped 1Mby1M Company Future Today for $60 Million
. Mailchimp Bootstraps to $600M Revenue
. Bootstrapping from Arizona to $10 Million
. Bootstrapped Basecamp Executes a No Nonsense Strategy
. How Under30Experiences Bootstrapped to $5 Million
. Bootstrapping with a Paycheck
. How CEO Amjad Hussain Bootstrapped using Services from Michigan
. Seed Investors Who Like Bootstrapped Businesses
. How iHeartRaves CEO Bootstrapped a Niche e-Commerce Company to $20 Million
. Bootstrapping with Services
. How The Intern Group CEO David Lloyd Bootstrapped to $13 Million
. How Passageways CEO Paroon Chadha Bootstrapped from Indiana
. How SmartBuyGlasses CEO David Menning Bootstrapped to $50 Million
. Death by Overfunding
. How RainmakerForce CEO Mack Sundaram Bootstrapped Decisively to $5 Million+
. How FormAssembly CEO Bootstrapped a Virtual Company with a Paycheck
. TimeSlips CEO Mitch Russo Bootstrapped to Exit with Sage
. The VC-Entrepreneur Compensation Disbalance
. BioConnect CEO Bootstraps with Sophisticated Strategic Maneuvering
. Tremend CEO Marius Hanganu Bootstraps from Romania
. Gesture CEO Jim Alvarez Bootstraps to $10 Million
. SproutLoud CEO Bootstraps to $30 Million from Florida
. Tuft & Needle CEO Bootstraps to Over $100 Million
. Co-founders Bootstrap Linguamatics to Over $10M from the UK
. Ownership Matters
. Vainu Co-founder Mikko Honkanen Bootstraps from Finland
. Entrepreneur Couple Bootstraps to $10M from Colorado
. Power2Motivate CEO Bootstraps to $80M from Canada
. Financial DNA CEO Bootstraps to $10M+ from Australia
. Big Barker CEO Bootstraps a Niche E-commerce Brand
. PrecisionLender CEO Bootstraps to Over $10M from North Carolina
. Master Bootstrappers with Over $1B in Exits
. Ultra Mobile Founder Bootstraps to Over $100 Million
. Bootstrapping a Two-Sided Marketplace to $10M
. Can You Bootstrap a Virtual Company to Over $5 Million?
. Capital Efficient Entrepreneurs Turn $1M into $80M
. Discussing the Journey Through Failure to Success
. From a Small Town to $12 Million
. Bootstrapping to Y Combinator and $10 Million Series A
. Bootstrapping a Marketplace to Over $10 Million
. Freightwise Bootstraps to $33 Million
. Bootstraps First to $5M ARR, Raises $10M Later
. Bootstraps in Europe, Raises Money and Goes Global in the US
. English Major Bootstraps a Tech Company
. Bootstraps with a Paycheck to $15M from Tennessee
. Queue-It Bootstraps from Denmark to the US
. Bootstrapping A Virtual Company To $25M
. ActiveCampaign CEO Bootstraps Using Services to $40M
. Alteryx Bootstrapped with Services to a Public Unicorn
. Inspyrus Bootstraps Using Services to an Awesome Business Model
. CEO Bootstraps Using Services to Millions from Russia
. Wiredrive CEO Bootstraps Using Services to $10M
. Scaling to Over $10M by Bootstrapping Using Services
. Bootstraps Using Services from Poland to a US SaaS Company
. ButcherBox CEO Bootstraps a Perishable Meat Business to Significant Scale
. Waveform CEO Bootstraps to $8M
. Bootstrapped Entrepreneurship from Estonia
. From Laid-off Engineer to Successful Startup CEO
. Imagine Easy Solutions CEO Bootstraps to Exit
. BannerBuzz CEO Bootstraps to $35M
. Bootstrapping a Virtual Company to Scale
. Bootstrapping Using Services from Wisconsin
. Best Tactic for B2B Startups
. Bootstrapping by Piggybacking from Romania
. Bootstrap First, Then Scale with VC Funds
. Bootstrap to +$10M First, Raise Money Later
. Madwire CEO Bootstrapped First, Raised Money Later to $120M
. Bootstrap Using Services First, Raise Money Later
. Wonderful Bootstrap with a Paycheck Story
. RushOrderTees CEO Bootstraps to $23M
. Bootstrapping with Freemium and Free Trials to $13M
. Bootstrapping, Pivoting, Gaining Liquidity, Scaling to $100M+
. Bootstrapping with Affiliate Marketing
. Bootstrap to Exit, Bootstrap Again, Then Raise VC Money

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