Back to Basics | Interview with the founders
BACK TO BASICS
‘2014. Four friends and a windowless office. With the desire to offer services and solutions with a wow factor to the Estonian IT market. Primend’s story began with a joint realisation by those four friends – in order to offer your customers the best service, you have to be willing to do things differently.‘ Sounds familiar? This is the short version of our history. Today I invite you on a walk down memory lane, to get us all up to date and give an insight into the essence of Primend. And here they are, our fantastic four: Toomas, Aleksei, Rene and Tõnis. Yes, they might cringe at that title and may prefer not to be set on a pedestal, but they are the four pillars of us. So let them tell the story.
Where do great companies come from? I believe they are born from trust and a passion for the same goal. When talking to our founders you can hear from their thoughts that even though they are so different, their core values are either same or aligned with common goals. Seven years ago, they were all working in the same company. Structural changes and opposing visions to their employer brought them to a point where they had to sit down and think. What now? Where to next? Going forward alone is not an option. Together is better. That is how much trust they had in each other back then and still have today. Even though they had a plethora of areas to choose from, IT services was where most of them had the best expertise and it ultimately sounded like the best option. Well, we cannot say they were wrong! It was fate, as Rene says.
It is not only companies that are built on deep trust; customer relations are too. When asked where the first customers came from, they all answered in unison: from trust. They had been building relations with people for many years previously. And people had such great trust in them that they too started slowly bringing their ventures to Primend.
Aleksei: The IT business is a business of trust, of fulfilling promises. That’s where the first customers came from.
Rene: When we left our previous employer, we had a phone, a laptop and many names in our heads. So, from dusk till dawn we called everyone and held meetings. From trust the customers came.
Choosing an office space was a pragmatic one. Logistically, Ülemiste City was a great meeting point for them all. They all live outside of Tallinn, and the Ülemiste City campus is on the side of the city that was closest to them all. The fact that the campus is a great place overall with the possibility to grow and get a new office space fast was a terrific bonus and surprise.
Toomas: When we started, we were small and wanted a coworking space with an innovative image. Technopolis (who manages Ülemiste City campus – editor’s note) had the best vision for development.
FIRST OFFICE SPACE
Remember that ‘windowless office’ part from the beginning? The memories and emotions paint the best picture.
Tõnis: It was one room: a meeting desk, a wine fridge and a whiteboard for big ideas.
Aleksei: Our meeting room was a desk next to the door. The same desk is in our small meeting room today. When there was a meeting, everyone had to stay quiet and try to leave when possible. We preferred going to the customer. This is a standout memory. And the constant dilemma on whether it is justified to use the lift when going up three floors.
Toomas: We never felt small there. Something was always going on in the building. The restaurants were on the first floor (1st floor is an atrium, with surrounding offices on the 2nd and 3rd floors – editor’s note) and there were concerts and events from time to time. This buzz with a bit of fun has always been important to us. We work very hard and then we have fun.
Rene: The emotion was that this was our office. The first ‘mine‘, ‘ours‘. I do not remember much of that time. They were hectic times. We had to work from dusk till dawn, 15 hours a day, visiting customers. We could not host them at our place. It all passed by in a blur because we worked extremely hard at the time.
LOOKING BACK AND FORWARD
What was the initial vision? To make it on the Estonian market? Be different? Just do it? Yes to all of these. Primend started off with cloud-based services and the idea has never been to follow the competition. We have always had our own path, one that follows the needs of our customers. The goal has always been to be great and to help our customers succeed.
In unison, they say they would not do anything differently. Yes, some economic decisions could have been thought through better at one point or another. Otherwise, the founders have a mentality of not regretting their decisions. Mistakes are for making and are usually made once – they become a learning curve. The best dare to differ. And dare to make mistakes.
Tõnis: I cannot say I regret anything. We had to try different things, stumble and realise this was not the right path. Then collect ourselves and move forward.
Toomas: There is no point in regretting. All our decisions have been made with the best information available to us at the time.
7 YEARS AGO – FEELINGS THEN AND NOW
Founding a company is an exciting undertaking, filled with hope, doubts, uncertainty and a lot of heart. Has Primend stayed on the course it was initially set to? Each and every member of our fantastic four is 100% proud of what they have achieved. Maybe even more.
Aleksei: I didn’t think our growth would be this fast. It has been tiring, though maybe not to us, but for our people. They get the main load – constantly changing colleagues, conditions, tasks, environment. The one doing the changing might not get as tired. These 7 years have been of constant change.
Tõnis: One of our main principles was to have fun and not get bored. Today we are definitely not bored. We have managed to bring together cool people, and I cannot imagine working in a place with boring people and a boring job.
Toomas: We knew we were doing the right thing, but we didn’t think it would be this successful. Even thinking back a year, we had half a floor of office space, certain that this would be enough. Today, we need to start sharing desks in a full floor office (the Estonian team moved from half a floor to a full floor in the same building in October 2020 – editor’s note).
Rene: I remember the times where we sat in Jaan’s apartment (the fifth guy, who moved on to his own ventures soon after getting the company started – editor’s note) dreaming of doing this and that. Going home I always thought that what we were dreaming about was some sort of utopia. Had someone told me 7 years ago that we would have offices in three countries, with nearly 100 employees, I would not have believed them.
THE ESSENCE OF US
WHAT IS PRIMEND?
Aleksei: Primend is my other home, my alternative family. I love coming to Primend, being here, the people.
Tõnis: Primend for me is a great company to be involved with. It isn’t forced in any way; instead, it comes naturally. We came from one team, continued our work and now the team around us has grown. We’re all team members.
Toomas: Primend is a method of how to create new value for customers, people and society. Primend is a collection of values that people share and we get things done, within a framework. What we do for customers, our services and values – that is Primend. Along with the people offering the services, the whole bundle.
Rene: Today Primend is my life’s biggest project. It is awesome to do it, to see where it is going. To see what we can build.
WHO IS THE PERFECT PRIMENDIAN?
One of our values is that we are so different. We do different things, but we have a seam through us, connecting us. When we are on the lookout for new team members, we look for a certain attitude and the right vibe. We are honest, hardworking and awesome – development inspires us.
Tõnis: A good ‘primendian’ is positive. Someone who doesn’t go to work simply for work, but someone you can have a bit of banter with, not just chat only about work stuff.
Toomas: Some might say a good primendian never says ‘no’ to the customer. That a good primendian should always consider whether what the customer is requesting is actually good for the customer.
THE ESSENCE OF PRIMEND
Have you felt it already? The Primend feeling? It is a passion for the same goal, it’s the need to always be and do better, the acceptance that mistakes are for making and for learning from. It’s the people around us, our amazing team. The trust in our founders and their vision.
Tõnis: The essence of Primend has remained the same over the last 7 years. We are still the same, with the same passion, same banter, same way of talking over each other. Putting our everything into what we do becomes infectious in all primendians. As we grow, we need to work more on maintaining the mentality, and that’s a natural part of growth.
Toomas: Keeping the essence of Primend alive needs to be a clear thought-out process. Our example sets the tone for everyone. We have chosen the route of being team members, and being visible to all.
Rene: Our attitude, work ethics and behaviour are what help to keep the essence alive. We try to be as good as we can be.
Aleksei: I wish that all our primendians would stay with Primend for a very long time. It is exciting, and it is worth it.
Tõnis: Be men and women, take it and make it happen. That way it’s easier for you down the line. I think we are a great school and spring board for the future.
Toomas: Let’s always try our best without forgetting where we came from – from a wish to do it differently, to do better. Let’s always think about how to do things differently and better, to keep it fresh and fun.
Rene: Fly high and don’t look back!