Skype cofounder Toivo Annus dies at the age of 48

The Estonian entrepreneur, Toivo Annus, one of the founding IT engineers behind the global telecommunication application, Skype, unexpectedly died on 12 July, his widow has announced.

“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 announced via press statement on 13 July. She added that the funeral service will be held privately among his family and the closest ones.

Skype was launched in Estonia in 2003, by two Scandinavian entrepreneurs, Danish Janus Friis, and Swedish Niklas Zennström, and by four Estonian developers – Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu, Jaan Tallinn and Toivo Annus. Annus played a major role of managing the first Skype office in Tallinn and oversaw the engineering and core peer-to-peer network team.

This new startup with global ambitions became a base for learning new skills and inspiring new ideas. It also helped create a new philosophy and a can-do attitude for aspiring Estonian tech entrepreneurs and kickstarted the country’s startup scene. When Skype was sold to eBay in 2005 for USD2.6 billion, it became the first unicorn – a privately held startup company valued at over USD1 billion – founded in Estonia.

After the sale of Skype, the four Estonian founders established a private asset management company, Ambient Sound Investment, with their proceedings. As of 2018, their investment firm had assets valued at €131 million.

Annus also invested privately in a number of companies across the world and was active in Singapore.

“He was the person who made the early Skype engineering team tick. He was probably the most influential Estonian angel investor with about 50 personal investments, plus those through Ambient Sound Investments and Karma Ventures. You could call his style a ‘radical candor’ or ‘brutal frankness’ but there was never the slightest bit of bullshit, and he never thought bad. What you saw was what you got,” Allan Martinson, an Estonian technology entrepreneur and investor, wrote on Facebook on 13 July, remembering Annus.

In 2010, the Estonian president bestowed him the Order of the White Star, fifth class.

Read more: Skype and the Estonian start-up ecosystem.

Cover: Toivo Annus. Photo by

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