Skype co-founder, angel investor Toivo Annus passes away at 48

Estonian angel investor Toivo Annus. Photo: Ambient Sound Investments

Toivo Annus, the Estonian entrepreneur who co-founded Skype and backed several Southeast Asian startups including Sea Ltd and Singapore payments firm Red Dot Payment, has passed away at the age of 48, Estonian media reported, quoting a statement from his widow.

The press statement by his widow said Annus unexpectedly died on July 12.

“I inform you with the utmost sadness that last weekend, on 12 July, our beloved husband, dad, entrepreneur, and investor, Toivo Annus, succumbed to an unexpected illness,” his widow said.

Annus oversaw engineering at Skype from its inception in 2003 to the end of 2005, when the company was acquired by eBay. Aside from overseeing the engineering and core peer-to-peer network team, he also managed the first Skype office in Tallinn.

After the sale of Skype, the Estonian founders established Ambient Sound Investment, a private asset management company, with the proceeds. The firm currently manages 100 million euros ($113 million) of assets.

Toivo was one of the most prominent angel investors in the Southeast Asia e-commerce space when we were raising our first round of funding in 2014 and that’s when we were first introduced. Over the years, Toivo has proven to not just be a supportive investor and advisor but also a great friend of the company.  He was always the first to reach out with help when things got tough.

His biggest contribution was when he would visit our office to sit with our engineering team to help solve some of their scaling challenges. I recall what he said to me when he made his first investment, “I don’t know anything about fashion, but I’m happy to learn.” I think that pretty much sums him up.”

David Jou, co-founder and CEO, Pomelo Fashion

Annus had also been an active individual investor, backing startups around the world. He had become a prominent angel investor in Southeast Asia.

His portfolio in the region included Singapore’s payments startup Red Dot Payment; Thailand and Singapore-based fashion commerce Pomelo Fashion; microfinance firm Lenddo.com; and Indonesian social dining directory Qraved; and airtime billing service Coda Payments.

He also backed Manila-based Karaoke iPhone app Deuts; early-stage venture fund Jungle Ventures; Singapore online cosmetics marketplace Luxola; grocery shopping service provider RedMart; and Garena Interactive, which rebranded to Sea Ltd, among others.

“Southeast Asia has lost one of its ardent champions! He believed in us and the potential of the region even before many in the region did. He lent his name, capital and expertise to many in the region when they needed it the most,” said Jungle Ventures founding partner Amit Anand.

Will Klippgen, managing partner and co-founder at Cocoon Capital, said he was “devastated and heartbroken.”

“Toivo was an incredible inspiration early on in the building up of the Singapore ecosystem, where he visited us on quite a regular basis and spent a lot of time building a network down here,” said Klippgen.

Klippgen said he had had the opportunity to co-invest with Annus, who brought hard-earned lessons from how he built Skype to aspiring entrepreneurs in Singapore.

“He was in the rare group of people who, after a tremendous entrepreneurial success, went on to be even more successful as an investor. He will be very much missed and my thought goes to his wife, children & the rest of his family,” Klippgen said.

Pomelo Fashion co-founder David Jou said Tovio was not just a “supportive investor and advisor” but also “a great friend of the company”. Jou said he was first introduced to Tovio when Pomelo was raising its first round of funding in 2014.

“His biggest contribution was when he would visit our office to sit with our engineering team to help solve some of their scaling challenges. I recall what he said to me when he made his first investment, ‘I don’t know anything about fashion, but I’m happy to learn’. I think that pretty much sums him up,” Jou said.

Annus held MBA/CS mix degree from Tallinn Technical University. Straight from university, he managed small ICT teams, projects, departments, and companies.

“I think it is fair to say I don’t add much value. I consult and provide external perspective when a founder has questions on areas I have experience in. These areas would be software development and running through hyper-growth curve with S,” Annus said in a post on his angel investment website.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.