Why we didn't send out holiday cards
Holiday cards for Thorgate partners are a great way for us to show that we’re thinking about them during the holiday season. The gesture symbolises our mantra and team’s belief that we “Think People, not products”. However, we have a condition: anything we send out that says ‘Happy Holidays’ should be meaningful. We take pride in the impact we make through things we do from creating top-notch digital products to providing a platform for entrepreneurs and product developers to flourish. Hence, we don’t take our holiday cards any less seriously.
Over the last few years, we’ve sent out gift baskets, cards and what not, and we’ve been very careful in keeping it all in line with our values. Last year we signed the tech green pledge as well as, took the initiative internally to be more environmentally conscious as a business. So when December came in 2019, our creative team sat down to brainstorm ideas on how to wish the people we care about. We wanted to wish our partners a great 2020 that would be a year of growth and happiness for them. Therefore, in our attempt to be green and to symbolise the growth we wish for Thorgate clients, we sent out seed paper cards.
Our handwritten cards were very well-received from our clients who appreciated the gesture and hopefully remembered us when the cards grew into beautiful plants with a blooming crocus flower.
Last month, as 2020 came to an end, the creatives at Thorgate sat down again to brainstorm the best way to wish our clients. 2020 was a very different year and for most businesses it was rather difficult. We saw a pandemic, an economic crisis and a huge transition in our day-to-day work as most of us were operating remotely. After throwing around a few great and some not-so-great ideas (from branded swag & liquor bottles to custom website headers), we managed to finally decide that we won’t be sending out anything this year!
The case against mass mailing cards to empty offices
We did not want to go back on our green initiative, we knew most of our clients were not working from their offices anymore so we didn’t want to send out cards to empty offices (or be invasive and ask for personal addresses) but above all, we did not want to be inconsiderate to anyone who is having a difficult holiday season through a second wave of COVID-19.
Instead of wishing a happy holiday season, a great year ahead, we decided we wanted to celebrate that our clients stood strong through 2020 and some even did better than usual. The growth we wished last year came true in the form of growth in experience, growth in passion for technology and growth in knowledge. The year taught all of us how growth isn’t exactly about the headcount of the people in the company or vain numbers, but has a lot to do with culture, a strong business network and giving back to the community. The year has pushed many to their limits and called into question everything we take for granted. But it has also taught us to appreciate the little things and to take more care of ourselves - our family, our health and our friends (or in this context our partners).
Therefore, this time we want to recollect and celebrate our partners and everything great they’ve done this year, even if it was staying steadfast throughout the year.
Thorgate’s client and portfolio company Hepta Airborne saw great progress in 2020. We’re happy to state that Hepta joined the Estonian Aviation Cluster to create a positive impact towards integration of the unmanned and manned aviation worlds. Hepta was also a part of 5G! Drones project, conducted an intensive year-long pilot project for the biggest energy company in Ukraine - DTEK and hired great new talent having a bigger team than previous years.
Thorgate’s portfolio company Eziil nabbed €1.2 Million for its real-time production management software that is being currently developed & scaled with Thorgate as well. Eziil now has twice as many clients as it did last year, increased turnover by a factor of 2.6 and has hired great new people. As the company continues to stop inefficiencies in the manufacturing space by automating, they’ve been able to expand beyond borders, create valuable partnerships and even have the president of the Estonian Republic, Kersti Karjulaid visit their office in Viljandi to discuss the future of the industry.
Nordic Braintech picked up momentum this year as they continue developing their app with Thorgate for research-based intervention to treat migraines using remote biofeedback. Nordic Brain Tech (NBT) is a Norwegian start-up company from The Norwegian University of Science and Technology and St. Olavs Hospital in Norway. As they continued clinical trials and app development, the startup’s efforts were showcased in Innovation Lab Asia, Japan and multiple European journals and papers.
Wunderman Thompson Commerce brings together Salmon, POSSIBLE Commerce, Fusepump and Marketplace Ignition, alongside Gorilla Group and 2Sales, offering strategic clarity, technology, and creative inspiration to help retailers, manufacturers, and brands. In 2020, Wunderman Thompson Commerce launched Shell Helix's first global Direct to Consumer (D2C) website and won multiple accolades alongwith Shell Helix. Moreover, WTC was recently shortlisted for their work with Lever Direct in The Customer Experience Award category at the Retail Week Awards. They were also shortlisted for the UK eCommerce Awards 2020 and the Computing's DevOps Excellence Awards 2020. As 2020 was a difficult year for retailers, Wunderman Thompson Commerce consistently helped the community with useful reports and insights, contributing to the industry’s knowledge base.
The international transport and logistics company Operail, also a partner of Thorgate, recently started a new freight transport business in Finland, and managed to grow its wagon rental revenue by more than a fifth. In the first three months of 2020, they were affected by the decrease in freight volume, however, the wagon rental business showed continued strong growth – rental income increased by 30% compared to the previous year and amounted to 3.8 million euros. Most importantly, Operail managed digital growth in 2020 with the introduction of the new freight operations management system. Operail is taking a major step forward in the digitalisation of rail freight transport, setting an example for companies in the Baltics.
Rahvusooper Estonia / Estonian National Opera
As we create the digital service for the Estonian National Opera to facilitate online ticket sales and provide a complete customer management information system, we’re also proud of the strength they’ve shown in 2020. It was a particularly difficult year for the performing arts industry, so the usual activities were cancelled for most of the year. However, in order to be available to the audience at a difficult time, the performances moved to the internet. Recordings of the theatre’s productions and live broadcasts kept Estonia entertained. Moreover, virtual ballet and music lessons were given, while music lovers also enjoyed short, live concerts. Rahvusooper’s digital activities have garnered 583,400 unique views. The most popular of these was the morning rehearsal of the Estonian National Ballet soloist Ketlin Oja, which has been watched by almost 80,000 people so far. The Estonian National Opera’s performances are now also accessible for visually impaired audiences!
2020 was a year of focusing on fresh ideas and product development for geoming that is building a validation tool to allow design engineers to review their validation reports that summarise the changes between multiple revisions of CAD-files and have the possibility to see the components and diffs as well as, review them. In a recent call with Kensuke Tashiro, who is MD at Elysium and leading this project, we were happy to pinpoint that the biggest achievement in 2020 for startups and smaller teams was staying resilient and continuing moving forward, all while pivoting to the ‘new normal’.
In 2020, MyLearnView managed to release its digital solution that streamlines the learning process and makes textbooks affordable and easy to update. In MyLearnView, new materials can be shared in different shapes and forms, from full-blown textbooks and courses to presentations, articles summaries, videos or even as simple as notes. Thorgate is glad to assist in the development of MyLearnView in collaboration with the University of Bergen and the University College of Western Norway.
Much like the rest of the manufacturing industry, it wasn’t an easy year for Krah Pipes, yet they managed to have enough orders to keep their staff busy despite the lockdowns and have even hired new staff to support them. They used this year to focus on improving their technologies and system, and developed a virtual assembly.
Thorgate’s portfolio and client company Brandpad raised €300K from Thorgate Ventures III, Startuplab and Sagene Tech Ventures to help companies boost their brands
The Norwegian cloud-based brand guidelines platform had a year of digital growth as they introduced ‘Massimo Says’ - one of the finest AI text generators out there.
Brandpad also took an initiative amid the crisis to introduce their starter plan at $0.
Given the technology-centric approach of Waybiller, 2020 was a year the team was able to make significant changes to the product. However, besides making the product usability better than ever before, Waybiller also joined the Norway Grants’ ICT programme to help positively impact the environment by inviting more logistics companies to become truly paperless. In numbers, Waybiller helped a record of 2 million tonnes of goods using E-waybills, had an average of 110 new users join every month, and helped create more than 80,000 E-waybills.
Norway’s largest community for health startups, has been facilitating companies to create unprecedented impact through digital health products. 2020 accelerated the growth of the healthtech industry, and Thorgate’s partner, Aleap was a key player in Norway while this happened. Some of the remarkable work that happened at Aleap startups included a project by Age Labs that received NOK 6 million to develop a new corona test in July, an initiative by Independence Gear to design and produce 150 000 units of face shields from frontline COVID crisis workers, and research by Ledidi to shorten the development time for cancer medicines.
Thorgate Venture's portfolio company, Remato raised €450K to scale its management platform and app for construction digitalisation. Remato’s team is developing a savvy web platform and mobile apps for small and medium-size construction companies to manage their workforce, equipment, tasks and budget.
Moderan, a lease and commercial property management software and also a portfolio company of Thorgate Ventures, snapped up €270K last year in its funding to expand its solutions to German-speaking markets, the Czech Republic, and Russia
Our wonderful partners Lucidus, W.EG Eesti, EPMK, ÜMO, Metsahake, Eesti Killustik, Plastok, Airesync, MHV Elektrikontroll, Green Marine and many others have been doing excellent work focusing on creating world-changing digital products. This year might have been a roller-coaster but they've managed to show true strength as a business withstanding the market ups and downs.
As we celebrate the growth, success and achievements of our partner companies, we also want to pat the backs of our own team for making this year as good as possible for Thorgate.
2020 was a year of giving back to the business community by sharing insights and knowledge we’ve gathered through 8+ years of product development. We held multiple webinars, published articles and gave interviews to make sure while we go forward, we take our partners, competitors and startup community with us.
As soon as COVID-19 put Estonia into lockdown and our team went fully remote, we realised that we needed to make sure that our partners and any other startups within our ecosystem can thrive in the transition. We successfully managed to pull off hybrid by creating the right rituals to keep up work productivity and having optimal communication is essential in the current situation. Thorgate was able to ensure great results for the team and the clients thanks to the culture of transparency and the digital tools we are equipped with. We decided to share a journal of everything we do for anyone who could benefit and stay afloat in the touch time. Read an elaborate piece shared by us on optimal remote working here.
In June we initiated our series of free webinars on diverse topics. As most industries were suffering at the hands of the current economic crisis and times were uncertain, these free webinars helped our audience to be able to brainstorm solutions together. We started with a webinar on ‘Rethinking product development amid COVID-19’, followed by ‘Thorgate’s remote culture and why it works’. We also organised an online panel discussion on ‘why well-funded startups outsource product development’ and ‘accelerating digital transformation in healthcare’.
October 2020 was the month of PyCon Estonia. The NGO Python Estonia powered by Thorgate held the first ever fully remote Python conference with renowned speakers from around the world and over 120 participants. The event was a great success keeping in mind that it was fully online and still able to develop value to the participants.
This was also a year of cultural transition, as we took our events from live concerts to stand up comedy, online! We welcomed new team members, some of whom joined us as remote members from miles away, reminding us that the only way forward after 2020 would be to accept that great teams exist beyond borders, leveraging technology to bring together talent from anywhere in the world.
Thanks to the bittersweet experience of 2020, we hope the tech community in the world is wiser and realises that growth is not measured by vanity metrics such as the company’s headcount or number of offices, but instead with the efforts made to digitalise processes, be more environmentally sustainable and most importantly forward-thinking.
On behalf of Thorgate, we wish a very happy and fruitful 2021 to our partners and everyone else!