In the keynote speech delivered at the August 14 opening of the Tehnopol Startup Incubator, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves dismissed recent claims that Estonia's IT success is a myth, calling them snide, arrogant lamenting.
"In the past, Estonia has been famous for exporting rye and mast pines, but now we have to rely on our brains," Postimees reported Ilves as saying.
What is crucial is to ensure that the education offered in Estonia evolves with the times, the President noted, emphasizing the importance of the IT industry to the Estonian economy.
"Innovative people succeed even when times are tough - what really matters is how they are prepared. If our young people do not study mathematics, physics and engineering, our startups will never take off," he said.
Speaking about the success of Estonian startup companies, Ilves referred to GrabCAD and TransferWise, mistaking the latter for another successful Estonian startup called ZeroTurnaround.
During the roundtable discussion that followed his speech, Ilves cited the proverbial Estonian modesty and the general lack of appreciation of the value of design as some of the factors that stand in the way of the success of Estonian companies.
"The iPhone cannot be compared to the BlackBerry because the BlackBerry did not spread across the globe like wildfire," he said to illustrate the importance of design.
Ilves also noted that Estonian laws make it difficult to draft highly-qualified employees from outside the EU, a problem that Skype has come up against.
"...Whereas in the United States, they try to bring top specialists into the country using whatever means are necessary," he said.
The Tehnopol Startup Incubator can accommodate up to 16 companies and has office space for up to 60 people.