A day in the life interview with Rein Lemberpuu, Founder of Contriber
To kick off our series on the Estonian startup scene we caught up with Rein Lemberpuu, founder of Contriber. Contriber is a startup that helps other startups prosper by building services and workspaces for Estonia’s top businesses. Rein’s journey is an interesting one, and one that’s going to hugely impact other founders on theirs!
- First can you tell us a bit about your job? What does your company do?
Contriber helps startup founders. That is our main focus. We do this in many ways, including through investing and mentoring, by providing office space and organising events, and so on.
We also create software products that make fundraising more efficient for founders.
- What brought you to this area?
Well, we started building and experimenting with a product—i.e. a startup—and when we were looking for a good office space, we couldn’t find one. So we bought a commercial building but it was too big for us. We found other startups to share it with us.
Then, it started to scale. We partnered with Garage48—a famous startup organisation in Estonia—to create a coworking space. A lot of events were taking place and startup founders started to ask us if we would invest in their companies.
One thing led to the other, until we were fully immersed in building a startup community in Tartu.
- What time does your day start, and what does your typical work day schedule look like?
My day starts with a trip to the kindergarten and sending my daughter to her daily adventure. This happens before 9 am. After that I go to our office. As Contriber has become a hub for startups, I spend most of the day attending meetings with all kinds of different people, including potential partners, investors, partners from public sector, universities, and startup founders who are either fundraising or want to join our hub.
Then, I spend some time with our team who organize the events. And as I like to be hands-on in product development as well, I am also close to our product team, who design useful tools for startups.
There are also some days, where I need to travel to speak at conferences and meet partners abroad.
- What kind of projects are you currently working on?
Right now, we are preparing for launching our new hub SPARK that will open its doors on 27th of September. It’s an example of the growing startup ecosystem in Tartu. For instance, the building will host the SPARK Makerlab to welcome inventors and entrepreneurs make new ideas real.
As the President of Startup Leaders Club in Estonia, I’m actively working with Startup Estonia and different state organisations to develop the tech ecosystem in Estonia, e.g. startup visas, option taxes, school places for non-Estonian speaking children, and on a new idea of a hands-on startup founders school.
We’re also preparing for the first ever flagship event in Tartu – sTARTUpDay that will take place on 9th of Dec. With the Estonian Business Angel Network (EstBAN), we are working on a new initiative: the Top 20 Early Stage Startups in Estonia. A way to promote promising startups that will be disclosed at the sTARTUpDay event.
- What do you consider the greatest achievement in your work to date?
The greatest achievement is when people want to work with you and I can now see the result in the quality of the great relationships that I have at work.
Launching sTARTUp Hub together with Garage48 HUB in Tartu and of course the new SPARK is a good example of this as well. This is what contributes to make the Tartu startup scene very active and growing.
Also scaling Playtech into a unicorn by being its first CEO in Estonia gave me an opportunity to challenge myself and go beyond my known limits. We humans tend to be quite a mystery to ourselves.
- What is the one app you could not live without?
Funny, right now my phone is being repaired. I realised that what I miss the most is my calendar app. It’s simple as that. As I have a lot of meetings, it’s quite a challenge to remember what is coming up next.
- What’s the best thing about working at Contriber?
The best part is relating to the people around you. I like to work together with people who are 100% into making their dreams real. This includes my own team and the startup community in general. It’s not about any goal, but the experience and the journey that lead to goals.
- Where is the after work hangout?
Time with my family. At summer, we tend to get out of the crowded areas but the best place is always home.
- Who is your professional role model?
For some reason role models have not worked for me. I have always challenged others’ view of the world and had to find my own way in all the areas of my life.
- What makes Tallinn a good city for startups?
Our country, Estonia really feels like one small city. There’s just a two-hour drive between the hubs in Tartu and Tallinn and the population is quite spread out.
Ragnar Sass, co-founder of Pipedrive, said it well in the last VC Summit in Pärnu. Let me paraphrase it: Estonian weather is “so good” and its market is “so big” that startups here have nothing else to do except to work 24×7 and focus immediately on exporting their products and services. Jokes aside, I think we have an excellent cost basis and quality of living standard. So as a startup founder, you get a four-time longer runway than in London before you run out of cash, as Sten Tamkivi shared from Teleport data.
The government is also very engaged. Our President and Prime minister are personally meeting startups and making changes in overall legal and support frameworks based on feedback from the startup founders. Where else in the world can you see that happening? Clean environment, overall safety, and minimal red tape are also becoming more and more important in everyday business. We already have the highest number of startups per capita so I am not surprised if this trend spikes even more.
- What are the top 3 qualities you look for in an employee?
For me, it is important to know that my team members are on the right bus. That means that they know what they want in life and see how supporting my vision will help them to get there.
For example, personal development was the number one value chosen by our team members at Contriber. Working together is a means to learn about ourselves. Being open to support, open to new ideas, and open to seeing things from different angles in any situation will lead to a fluid perception — a quality that takes us to new levels.
Since results matter too, a professional ability to deliver in an ever-changing environment is also important.
- And finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting out?
All practical knowledge comes from your own personal experience and that constitutes your personal power to materialize your vision.
So try out everything yourself. But keep in mind that learning to listen to the mistakes made by other people on the same path is the single most efficient booster in speed of development. It is amazing how reluctant new entrepreneurs are to take advice on-board and they fall into the same traps of most of their predecessors.