What It’s Like To Have A Startup In Estonia
Estonia, a small European country of small 1.2 million people is being dubbed as one the first of its kind: a tech revolutionary. The nation has managed to embrace technology since its exit from the Soviet Union and is home to the creators of Skype, Transferwise and Lingvist.
So how have these startup powerhouses been built in a country with 1/8th of the population of London?
Well, a generation of techies and entrepreneurs has followed the changes. In fact, the Economist estimates that Estonia is the country with the highest number of startups per citizen. When Microsoft bought Skype in 2011 for $8.5 billion, ex-Skypers ploughed money into new startups in Tallinn, further attracting investments. Estonia has also been ranked one of the most transparent countries in the CEE region in 2013 and placed 11th out of 178 countries for economic freedom according to the economic freedom world ranking.
Why Start A Business In Estonia?
Estonia has successfully abandoned old analogue systems and runs 99% of its services online. Here, tasks like voting, tax returns, document signatures and more can be done from the couch. The country has successfully undercut many other nations such as Singapore, Japan and India in streamlining services and claims that its online systems add 2% a year to its GDP. This is thanks to a system called the X-road.
In December of 2014, Estonia registered its first e-resident. With this residency, the company aims to attract people to set up companies in the country. This national ID card allows citizens to open a company, set up a bank account and do all the things that ‘normal’ Estonians can do.
2. The Mentality
By 2017 almost everyone has heard of blockchain or bitcoin, but Estonia has been testing this technology since 2008. In fact, blockchain technology has been used for e-residency here since 2012 and incorporated in national healthy, judicial and legislative security. This mentality is common in the country who is a pioneer in technological change and adapting new processes to improve the system.
In Estonia, digital habits start at a young age with children learning computer programming at school with many beginning in kindergarten. PISA also places Estonian students as 3rd in the world. What does this mean for you? A whole lot of techies to employ.
4. Startup Estonia Program
Startup Estonia is a governmental initiative to charge the startup ecosystem. The program partners with accelerators, incubators and the public sector to create an “Estonian Mafia family”, what the locals branded their startup community.
5. Estonian Startup Visa
In 2016 the government launched the Estonian Startup Visa program. This initiative allows non-EU nationals to come and work for Estonian startups, relocate theirs or found a company here. To create an Estonian startup visa individuals fill out an application to be reviewed and if successful will have the option of applying for a one year visa with a possibility of another year’s extension or getting a 5-year permit.
This program allows Estonia to be an open and diverse country where startups can grow. It also addresses one of the countries weaknesses: the small workforce. The Estonian e-residency card also lets anyone apply for an Estonian digital ID card. This does not allow you to vote but you can open a bank account and set up a business (which, by the way, takes less than 5 minutes to do).
The requirements for this visa are:
- At least €130 to spend per month (€1560 per year)
- Scalable business ideas
- Approval of your application form from the startup committee
6. Workers Rights
Estonia ranks highly on the Human Development index for civil rights, press freedom and economic freedom. It also provides universal healthcare, free education and the longest paid maternity leave in the OECD.
Estonian Startups To Watch
This startup, founded in 2015, connects trucks with freight officers nearby. The business learns the routes of the trucks and allows freight forwarders or merchants to find trucks headed in the same direction they are going in. It is a free service and earns by taking a percentage from the matches produced.
This app allows instant transfers of money between banks at any time of the day. It works particularly well with Nordea Bank, Danske Bank, Swedbank, SEB, Krediidipank and LHV.
A jobs marketplace for “career adventures”, aiming to match people with careers around the world that they will enjoy. The company also assists the immigration process adding an extra dimension to the recruiting service.
AddGoals brings together people to help them set goals and provides motivation to achieve them. It does this by incentivising individuals to motivate each other and share their achievements.
So, if 120 degree winters don’t bother you, why not give this innovative country a shot!
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