Mihkel’s daughter Mii with the award check. She was the one who asked Mihkel to paint a unicorn on her wall which pushed Mihkel to come up with a solution for those “artistically challenged”.
Ajujaht is the biggest competition of business ideas in Estonia. It is a reality TV show made by the Estonian Public Broadcasting and it had it’s 9th season this year. In translation “ajujaht” means “brain hunt”. During the previous years, some of the most distinguished alumni of Ajujaht have been Click & Grow, Timbeter, and Taxify. So quite a prestigious bunch. The show is a decent starting point for up-and-coming companies.
In the midst of preparing Prototron’s two-pagers I noticed an ad about the impending end of registrations for Ajujaht 2016. Quick! As it is always busy it came as no surprise. Three minutes with Richard, two with Henry (both old veterans of Ajujaht), ten minutes of tinkering and we were registered. Our team’s faith in the idea of SprayPrinter and in ourselves gave us the initial push and we were certain that nothing would be able to stop us. We slipped among the first 100 without noticing. A little show and already in the top 30. Then some nerve-racking moments until Richard came and conquered… in the top 7 now.
4-membered team in the first round when 100 best teams where selected.
This was our time to choose and we chose to concentrate our full attention to this competition. We decided to tackle this with the whole team so that nobody would be left fending for themselves against the seven-headed dragon. I wrote the 60K that was promised to the winner into our budget.
Showing to the camera how SprayPrinter works.
Next up was some pointless studio stage where we were rounded up like a bunch of Sunday school children. At the last minute, we had snatched with us the case of our pre-preprototype. We stood and listened the reasons why we were there and gave our usual mantra about SprayPrinter being the device which allows talentless hands to paint… etc. So, we went back home to evolve some more.
Now a 5-membered team standing in front of the judges listening how we don’t know anything about the market and our product doesn’t work anyway.
Suddenly, Ajujaht became very necessary and useful to us – for the sharp mentors whose uncomfortable questions we had to quickly find an answer to and also for the much needed chance to mingle with the entrepreneurs of the future. Our own personal mentor, Jürgo Preden with his charm, openness, exactitude and intensity gave our work the perfect focus at just the right time. Taavi Einaste analyzed our future steps to pieces and later helped us to fit the pieces back together.
An added bonus of our participation was the increased media coverage. It gave us an opportunity to gain visibility among the public and investors. We now got to write in our CV-s the finalist of Estonia’s biggest competition of business ideas.
It was difficult to understand exactly what the jury valued, how they gave out their points and why. Mihkel and Richard didn’t hear any praise when they presented their excellent conception of how to make SprayPrinter more visible. But we held our heads high and stubbornly continued to do our thing.
One of the episodes included that every team had to build a raft and oar over river Pirita with that. It was -3ºC (26ºF) outside.
At the Pirita river we understood right away that they evaluated team’s ability to work together and adjust to nasty conditions. That same day there was our Bauhof campaign in the local harware store and the team was forced to split. So, when the girls were away splashing pictures on the wall, the boys were catching big fish from the river. Both catched their respective fish. The cool thing was that in the freezing weather we got to know a little bit better the second team from Tartu – Pürg. Really nice guys. Still students but already doing business. At their age I was more interested in girls and how to more culturally spend my free time, they on the other hand are building up their manufacturing and making several thousands-worth deals with the swenssons.
The finals with top3 teams on live tv.
One of the achievements of Ajujaht was the emerging of talents inside the team. It became abundantly clear with each pitching that our spokesman and champion was the ever confident Richard. Also able to speak about SprayPrinter’s journey to actualization, after a brief moment of thought, was Henry. When the machine stopped making any sounds, it took Mihkel only 5 minutes to force a rebirth and if it was still silent he came up with a new prototype by the next morning. And in case it’s not clear already – yes, he is a genius. Sirla seems to know everything about our future clients. She always remains calm and collected even when she is told that this picture is completely wrong and we need a new one in the morning, and not one but three. When you need to make social and other media purposely abuzz then the address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our inventor Mihkel made tv-history in Ajujaht. After winning the competition, he proposed his girlfriend in live-tv with his own poem. This show really turned his world upside down.
SprayPrinter – the winners of Ajujaht
Tips for future finalists of Ajujaht:
- Read, go to school, learn in order to always be ready to answer tough questions.
- Learn theatrics and how to sell a performance, in front of a mirror for example – scream to yourself or profess love.
- Learn the basics of economy.
- You will not succeed only by yourself. You need a highly motivated team behind you and a proper work distribution within that team.
- The whole team needs to be able to give a project their full attention.
- Believe only in victory.
- In order to be the best you need to beat the best.
- There are no losers in this game, only one winner.
Those eight points helped us immensely.
(Afterwards we started to look for ways to fill the 26K size hole in our budget J).
Photos: Tauno Pääslane, Screenshots from ETV, SprayPrinter team