Having hit a number of achievements in the business world at a young age, Estonian Karoli Hindriks is widely known as a successful entrepreneur in the tiny, Baltic nation of 1.3 million people.
At 16, she became the youngest inventor in Estonia with a registered patent after transforming a school fashion project (a pedestrian reflector) into a successful business.
At 24, Hindriks spearheaded MTV’s expansion into Estonia, becoming the network’s youngest national CEO. She tripled the network’s sales in the country within two years.
By 26, she founded a media sales agency, working with Fox International, helping to launch six Fox channels in the region.
‘Let’s create a way where we can merge dreams and jobs, where you can actually go to the place you dream of and have a career where you can make a difference
But after seven years in media, Hindriks abruptly decided that it was time for a change. Here, she talks about how a trip to Langkawi, Malaysia, inspired her to start Jobbatical - a startup that connects digital talents with companies around the world.
“I was running around the island and I started having a thought. I’m at a place in my career where I’ve worked ten years; I was really great at building media channels and I wanted to be on a platform where companies could leverage experienced people like me, who are curious, to go to a place like Malaysia and build something,” says Hindriks. “But that platform didn’t exist.”
Soon, Hindriks was off to Singularity University for a summer course, where the idea to start Jobbatical really took off.
“When I was taking my morning run, I started asking question why are all these amazing companies like Google and Microsoft emerging from here? It’s not like people born in Silicon Valley was so much smarter,” Hindriks reasons. “People are drawn here!’
“So, what if we create a global, cloud community of ‘borderless’ people, and send them to places where their skills are needed?”
‘Let’s create a way where we can merge dreams and jobs, where you can actually go to the place you dream of and have a career where you can make a difference,” says Hindriks.
Jobbatical has some 300,000 members on its platform now; digital nomads who are ready to relocate to any corner of the world. Jobbatical is more than just a job matching and listing service. Hindriks and her global team of 42 offers strategies to facilitate better talent mobility, including assisting talents through the relocation process and immigration.
What we try to do is find ways to eliminate the barriers, between the smart people and the companies who need them
Having grown up in what is regarded as the world’s most digitally advanced societies, Hindriks believes now more than ever, against the backdrop of rising nationalism in the United States and Europe, to push for borderless community and international movement of talent.
“We really believe that the world would be smarter and more knowledge will flow around if those kind of connections happens,” says Hindriks. “What we try to do is find ways to eliminate the barriers, between the smart people and the companies who need them.”
“It will be their knowledge that will define, and in a way, open borders for them,” says the mother of one.
Estonia is not without its problems too, when it comes to migration, social cohesion and multinationalism, says Hindriks.
A letter she wrote to her late father last year about how she’s worried Estonia is increasingly becoming ‘angry’, struck a chord with many Estonians.
“I am very proud of Estonia,” says Hindriks. “But we need to remind ourselves that we are confusing two things - be proud of a country versus starting to label people and closing down (the country), which actually makes the country much poorer economically. That is not patriotism,” says Hindriks.
Currently, the number one source for talents on Jobbatical is from the United States. According the Hindriks, the number of Americans looking for jobs abroad on have increased since the last presidential elections.
“I think this is a good reflection on what’s the ‘walls’ can actually do,” says Hindriks. “If you create an environment that has a bad user experience, then people will choose to leave.”
“Estonia has been great example. We have a marvellous user experience, through the fact that that everything in the country is digital, including voting and taxes,” she adds.
“So, these are all the things a state can do to enable people, not disable them, and I think that will define where talents will be in the next 10 to 15 years.”