Former Chairman of Nokia: “One can be an optimist only when prepared for the worst”

Last week Estonian investors and startuppers met with Risto Siilasmaa, former chairman of Nokia and one of the most inspirational business leaders of our time. Being an experienced global tech entrepreneur, investor, and founder of F-Secure Corporation, Risto Siilasmaa had a lot of interesting insights to share about cyber security and artificial intelligence during the discussion arranged by Startup Estonia and EstBAN.


According to Risto Siilasmaa, businesses must be prepared for different scenarios, as it becomes increasingly difficult to predict events within the framework of the ever-changing world of technology: “First, one must come up with several alternative scenarios, and then consider which data supports the realization of these alternatives. Only after this is done and it has become clear how to collect the necessary data it is possible to start thinking about how to change the future.” 

Siilasmaa notes that, in today’s world, cyber security does not differ from physical security, and even optimists need to make contingency plans: “Just as with physical security, cyber security is something each and every one of us is responsible for, there is no single person or organization out there who is responsible for keeping us safe.”


Siilasmaa also discussed the development of artificial intelligence and highlighted its future impact: “At this stage of development, regulations should not hinder the advancement of AI. We should not be afraid of it, rather we should see it as one of the solutions for tackling future challenges while appreciating that the future is ever more complex."

The renowned entrepreneur acknowledged the decision Estonia has made not to ask people to provide the same data multiple times if the state already has the required information. “This is a very clever solution, which has enabled Estonia to stay a few steps ahead of other countries,“ Siilasmaa said, applauding Estonia’s smart and practical choices.


Marily Hendrikson, Head of Cyber Security at Startup Estonia and one of the organizers of the event, noted that the importance of cyber security is constantly increasing in today’s digital society and high-tech economy: “I hope that Risto’s experience and recommendations to Estonian entrepreneurs and businesses help to plant a seed for new ideas.”

Anu Oks, CEO at the Estonian Business Angels Network, highlighted that speakers with global reach inspire Estonian investors by bringing in fresh and challenging ideas. “Risto Siilasmaa sets a great example – he is an excellent leader, innovator, visionary, but also an investor from whom we can learn a lot.” 

Recommendations by Risto Siilasmaa: 

  • Always behave so that everything you do could be printed on the front page of the local newspaper;

  • One can be an optimist only when prepared for the worst;

  • One, five, and ten years are good planning cycles; the choice depends on the scope of the decision;

  • In larger companies, mid-level management must be included in the process of planning for various scenarios, as this enables the organization to prepare better for changes.

Photos by: Ann Vaida

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