Rain Rannu on his journey from entrepreneur to Superangel

A conversation with the Estonian serial entrepreneur and early-stage startup investment partner

Rain Rannu; Courtesy: Superangel

Why do people want to become entrepreneurs? For Rain Rannu the reason was simple. “I wanted to do things that wouldn’t exist if I wouldn’t be doing them,” he says.

At the age of 19, while studying at the University of Tartu, Rain established his first company Digu OÜ – a web design and development agency in Estonia– with a bunch of friends. As a young entrepreneur, he enjoyed the freedom and independence of working on things that he wanted to. And there has been no looking back! But it wasn’t an easy ride, to begin with. “No, it was a lot of trial and error,” he confesses, “Our first two or three projects were failures, but we learned from each of them and we continued. You try something and you find out that it doesn’t work. Each new thing you try takes you a little bit closer to something that really works.”

On Estonia

Today, Estonia is known for many technology startups beyond Skype, its commendable e-residency program and other Government initiatives. Rain feels this has changed the game drastically, “We have developed this reputation of being a country that is not afraid to take on completely new and big challenges on a national level. And this benefits Estonian companies to a degree as well because it gives you a stamp of quality for innovation and technology. Companies benefit from the good reputation of Estonia and they, in turn, enhance Estonia’s reputation. So, it’s a virtuous circle!”

And are there any flip sides to being from Estonia? “Of course! The downside is that the whole market is pretty small and you do have to get out of your home country very quickly if you want to have a real impact as a startup,” Rain reveals. But he is quick to add that even when you go outside, the Estonian connections always look out and help each other.

Superangel Managing Partner Rain Rannu doing a live demo of Estonian online voting at Tribe Theory Bali. Courtesy: Superangel blog

Serial Entrepreneurship

Most people go through an up-and-down graph running just one startup. But as a serial entrepreneur, Rain’s must have been an extremely challenging ride! How did he stay focused on his goals and continue to pursue his dreams? Rain has a simple answer: “When choosing a career — either as a founder, employee, investor or a creative person– you have to find something that is related to your passion so it would sustain you through the highs and lows. Choose something you are good at or willing to invest a lot of time to become good at; where there is sufficiently good chance to find a sustainable “business model” — meaning that if you do become good, it is possible to earn enough income to keep on doing it. You need a combination of all three, and if you do find it, this will carry you through the low periods, and reward you with enough satisfaction in the high periods.”

Launching Superangel

Rain loves being an investor. “I wanted to have a change of pace where instead of working and giving a hundred and twenty per cent to one company, I was enjoying sharing my time with multiple companies and helping them.” Some of Rain’s angel investments include Bolt (earlier known as Taxify, a top ride-sharing company in Europe and in Africa), Pipedrive (a Sales CRM & Pipeline Management software), Veriff (Online identity verification system), and others.

Rain with fellow co-founders of Superangel Veljo Otsason and Marek Kiisa and Investment Manager Marko Oolo; Courtesy: Superangel

“You know some of the most successful start-ups in our portfolio have been founded by people who were just out of high school. These 19 and 20-year-olds make good role models for the younger people to pursue this career seriously,” he shares.

Rain believes that entrepreneurship can be cultivated and encouraged which is one of the reasons that Superangel also hosts programs like Alpine House and Palo Alto Club to cultivate entrepreneurship, especially among millennials. “The best way is always to lead by example. Ten years ago, Skype was the first Estonia-built product that made it big globally. And that gave a lot of other entrepreneurs a lot of confidence. It made them believe that they can be great. And now I think many other startup founders in Estonia and around the world are serving as examples for young people,” he believes.

Other passions

Entrepreneurs without borders

Rain Rannu is with Superangel one of the first investors in Tribe Theory.

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