Lauri Kinkar

Co-Founder of Messente

Together with his cofounders, Lauri has built a global messaging platform Messente which is now used as a part of millions of small business processes every day in Europe, Latin-America, and South-East Asia. Contrary to a typical startup, Lauri and his co-founders bootstrapped the company from day one and have quickly taken it to close to 10mEUR annual revenue without ever raising any outside investments.

Additionally to scaling Messente, Lauri is a shareholder and board member in Mobi Solutions group. A company that has launched several successful startups in the mobile payments, IoT connectivity, software development spaces and invests in the most promising tech startups in the region.

Where did the idea for Messente come from?

The idea for Messente was born among the founders of Mobi Solutions (a group of companies Messente belongs to). Business-critical bulk messaging connections with local carrier networks were sort of a byproduct of our main business at the time (mobile payments).

We started to see increasing demand from companies sending more and more business-critical one-way notifications to their customers. And at the same time, we saw what a mess this industry was and still is. We thought we could do this business much more transparently and our clients today seem to enjoy it 🙂

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I try to make it productive by not worrying too much about my productivity.

On most days I drive one of my kids to sports practice in the morning and start my day in a nearby coffee shop. I try to determine what are the 2-3 things in my task list which deliver the most impact today and do those things right away in the morning.
I get to the office after that and try to get as many proactive tasks done before noon as I can. I open my inbox for the first time and start with the reactive stuff in the afternoon when I’m mostly out of creativity for the day 🙂

I never go for inbox zero and I’m selectively responsive in any of the channels I use. Kind of a necessary evil for me to be in charge of my own time and agenda.

I also quit Twitter for good 🙂

How do you bring ideas to life?

By raising a few hypotheses and trying to validate them in the quickest and cheapest way available to me. Usually just by going live or starting doing things, not worrying whether it’s perfect or scalable.
When this works out it’s going to be just iteration after iteration, hopefully, based on some sort of data.

I have a habit of communicating ideas in longer format writing (not in a chat) which makes me think things through. There’s something in having to write full sentences and whole paragraphs which gives structure to ideas.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The world is becoming increasingly borderless which makes a fun mess of the concepts of citizenship, tax residency, etc.

Estonia’s e-residency program is the perfect example of a small country that can grow bigger than its borders or physical population.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

As I said, I try to determine what are the 2-3 things in my task list which deliver the most impact today and do those things right away in the morning.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t compare yourself or your track record to that of other companies or entrepreneurs. And sleep way more than you’re doing now.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Networking the way it’s done by most people is mostly a waste of time 🙂

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Free up chunks of time in my calendar to do nothing else than just think.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

It feels a bit obvious, but all the more amazing how often it is overlooked.

I focus on sales and we started selling as soon as we had something on resembling a product. Being able to generate your first revenue, gives you useful tips on what your product team should build next. Revenue validates your product, your company, and your team. Put yourself out there instead of polishing your product until you think it’s perfect.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I think this is a common one. Putting the company, work, and business before everything else in life.

Personally, it leads to very rapidly losing touch with why you are doing any of this. You’re burning yourself out much quicker. Business-wise it all leads to poor decisions and an eventual inability to lead your team.
Once I hit that point, it took me fairly long to get back on track. Slowing down helps a lot. Accepting the idea that there’s a lot of tasks you won’t complete helps a lot. I pretty much completely reinvented my belief system regarding business which used to consist of these toxic business myths we hear every day about being busy, being fast-paced, being productive in terms of quantity, etc.

I think it’s a part of the process of “growing up” as an entrepreneur and a human being 🙂

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

People are moving more and more. Remote work becomes the new normal way of working. If you’re in software, build tools to help make this new world more efficient.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I bought a ukulele which was close to 100 USD lately. I’ve had a life-long relationship with all sorts of stringed instruments. I enjoy owning and playing them.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

We use Basecamp collaboration software as a “virtual office” in Messente. It’s far more important as the physical office we have as we have a somewhat remote team.

We check in to Basecamp when we start in the morning (whichever timezone someone is in) we check out when we finish. It’s a tool we use for communication, keeping a joint task list, team spaces, documents, memos, etc.

We’d be toast without it.

Also, it’s the first time I’ve felt a philosophical connection to a piece of software – something that’s not about features, but what is in the DNA of this tool. Basecamp represents a calm way of working, long format work and focus over 24/7 instant responsiveness.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

There’s so many I’d recommend, picking the one is close to impossible.

If I had to pick, however, I would pick based on which book has had the biggest influence on my business in a very down to earth practical way.

In this case, it would be “SNAP selling” by Jill Konrath. It’s an absolute gem. It focuses on sales which should be the focus of every person in the company until reaching 1m annual revenue.

It’s the only book we ask new salespeople to read when they join.

What is your favorite quote?

“Nobody should be selfish enough to give advice to others.” Not 100% sure who said that (I suspect it was an Estonian natural scientist in a conversation) but it has kind of stuck with me.

It’s a bit of an overstatement, but I remind myself of it every time I start forgetting that people, companies, contexts, and situations, are all complex and unique. What works for me, probably does not work the same way for others.

Key Learnings:

  • Productivity is not about quantity. It is rather about finding the tasks in your task list that are actually worth your time, focusing on them and getting rid of the rest.
  • Scheduling regular uninterrupted slots of time in your calendar to think is one of the best things you can do for your business.
  • As the world is becoming more and more borderless, the nature and form of teams and co-operation are changing fast. It is a fundamental shift all companies need to embrace and it is a major business opportunity.