Upcoming exhibition: Eurosatory, Paris, 17-21st June 2024

The Veterans Building Vegvisir: Meet Raido Saremat, CPO & Co-Founder

Building a team and a product in the defense technology space requires a wide variety of skill sets. Not only do we have to excel in leadership and understanding the technology behind the products, we need to understand the daily life and pain points of our end users. We take great pride in having veterans from the Estonian Defense Forces in important roles at Vegvisir, who have been in the shoes of our end users. Their guidance helps us build the situational awareness system which will have an impact on the soldiers’ success in combat.

We are happy to introduce Raido Saremat, our CPO & Co-Founder, over a short interview going over his background, why he joined Vegvisir and how he sees the future of armored vehicles.  

You have extensive experience serving in the Estonian Defense Forces and taking part in combat operations. What are some of the highlights of your career that you can share?

I have really enjoyed the different deployments and operations abroad. In total almost two years of deployments to Afghanistan and Mali have really enabled me to put training into practice. Also, I have been able to serve among different allied nations and that has given me a good understanding of how different militaries work. My background is reconnaissance, infantry and intelligence. And the most I have enjoyed is the boots on the ground part where you actually are in the action.

Raido Saremat on deployment in Afghanistan with Scouts Battalion

Raido, you are one of the company’s co-founders, having been there in the early days and guiding the product vision today. What led you to join the founding team and commit to building this vision?

I was actually invited by one of the people that put this team together and with whom I served in Afghanistan. After leaving the Defence Forces I have been involved in defense business and product development of high tech systems. All that experience has given me enough understanding on how I as a domain expert can best support the team and how to put end user perspective to the product development.

In addition to that, being involved in the industry you sort of develop a better understanding of the trends and where defense as a whole is heading. This opportunity seemed like a logical next step to further develop myself, but also to be able to share my different experiences with the team. So far I have very much enjoyed all the process since I can put all my experience into it, the military service, the master's degree in social science and the defense product development experience. And I have always been a fan of new high-tech solutions. 

Situational awareness systems in armored vehicles are getting more attention in recent years. In your opinion, what is the role of enhanced situational awareness in the modern battlefield? Will it help us gain the competitive edge in combat and help save the lives of our soldiers?

Any type of information that is timely and relevant contributes to a potential for better situational awareness. Of course, that information has to be processed and it has to have appropriate distribution and reception channels. I really think that the amount of information available on the battlefield, including live sensors, has exponentially increased. 

On the other hand the modern combat vehicles are fundamentally still relying on solutions that were invented 100 years ago. Yes, there are camera systems and network connectivity, but now I feel the tech is matured enough so that this all can take the next step. A common interface to consume all digital data and presenting this to users is going to be a game-changer. It is an inevitable step that will come hand in hand with development of AI and better processing and transmitting of data. So it is not all about having most information but also the information has to be displayed in a way that it really helps that specific user in that specific scenario. And then, of course, that tech will save lives.

The Vegvisir team has been moving very fast in developing and field testing the product prototype. Based on the end-user feedback and your extensive military background, what are the key strengths of the product the team has proven?

I think our biggest advantage has been that we were not committed to any specific solution but really looked at the problem and then developed options on how to solve this. In some of the big corporations there are already technology pieces developed that are forced to every project to have more return on investment. That unfortunately becomes quite limiting very quickly and might not be an optimal way to solve the problem.

Also, bigger companies do not have that agility in development. Some paperwork takes several months before anything happens. For us most of the things are one phone call away. And that is also with the end users. We know them professionally and personally. That way we can have open discussions and rapid development. I think Estonia has a very good ecosystem of defense mindset, small power distance and startup community. 

As the development speed has been very quick, should we expect some exciting news in the near future?

Every business needs to have products or services that solve someone's problems. As we have prototyped and developed for two years, we can say now that we are reaching the product level maturity to offer a solution that we know will work.