Why Estonia is a hotbed for entrepreneurs

Source: Anneli Arusaar, Visit Estonia

Why Estonia is a hotbed for entrepreneurs

 Millennials love independence and Estonia loves entrepreneurs. As more people are taking the freelance route and choosing a nomadic lifestyle, Estonia with its flexible e-governance services is becoming the destination for professionals thriving in the digital world. Companies that have set up shop and grown out of Estonia include Skype, Transferwise, Bolt (formerly Taxify), Jobbatical, Toggl, Monese, Lingvist and Speakly. Upper Peninsula of Michigan native now living in Tallinn, Estonia, Alex Wellman shares his first-hand experience.


Freedom is not a myth

Estonia is home to a growing number of companies and government initiatives that believe location independence is the future.

Photo by: Renee Altrov

Despite this new found freedom, this new generation of mobile citizens faces many challenges, and a whole industry has cropped up to serve them, including many right here in Estonia, starting with the government.

Estonia is the first country to offer e-Residency, a government-issued digital ID card that offers access to public e-services in Estonia.
So far, more than 50,000 people from 157+ countries have applied for e-Residency, with the main motivation being an opportunity to establish and manage a location-independent company entirely online. As the country already has 99% of its government services available digitally, the potential for the Estonian government to serve more people, no matter where they live or work, is only growing.


Skype – an early e-Estonia success story

A few countries like to claim credit for their entrepreneurs developing Skype, but what we do know is that Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu, and Jaan Tallinn, Estonians who previously developed the P2P music-sharing tool Kazaa, were key to making the initial idea a success.
Skype offered the first chance for many people to experience making a phone call with added video and was instrumental in unlocking the potential for people to communicate effectively with clients and family members around the world.
While the company was eventually sold to eBay and finally to Microsoft in 2011, 44% of all employees are still based in Tallinn and Tartu, Estonia, and the company has served as a sort of practical business school for Estonia's entrepreneurs. Many current companies in Estonia were founded by Skype's early employees, and investors in the company have continued supporting the local startup ecosystem instead of simply resting on their laurels.
Today there are many competitors offering similar services, but Skype is still an important tool in the arsenal of people working and living abroad.

Transferwise – an emblem of Estonian startup mentality


"No skyscrapers, no suits"

Photo by: Screenshot of https://transferwise.com/



The story of Transferwise starts with two friends, Taavet and Kristo. Taavet was one of the first employees of Skype, but was working remotely from London, receiving his salary in Euros, and needed pounds to pay the bills. Kristo worked for Deloitte, lived in London, and received his salary in pounds, but had a mortgage to take care of back in Estonia.

Each month, Taavet put his euros into Kristo's Estonian bank account, and Kristo added money to Taavet's UK bank account using his pounds. Both got what they needed while avoiding the high fees offered by their traditional banks. "There must be others just like us," they thought, and that's how Transferwise was born. Eight years later, and the company has expanded beyond offering the lowest price on money transfers and is aiming to be the best solution for mobile people and global entrepreneurs doing cross-border business. After achieving a coveted "unicorn" status in 2017, the company has recently launched a new Borderless account that offers a payment card, transfer tool, and international bank details to receive money from over 30 countries with zero fees.


Read the full article here: 9 ways Estonia is empowering location independent entrepreneurs

Last updated : 03.07.2019
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