2019 is the year of global talent enriching the Estonian Startup Ecosystem

Estonian Startup Visa keeps attracting both founders and employees to join our startup ecosystem. 


It has been a little over half a year since we last looked into what has been going on with the Estonian Startup Visa. Since it has become quite a tradition for us, we are again bringing out the joys and surprises that we have seen in the first half of this year. Just a couple of them would be the emerging of Brazil as one of our top countries for employees and Iran securing their spot in the top 10 for countries for startup founders relocating to Estonia. Additionally, for the first time, we are really excited to share more in depth data about the economic contributions of the startups that have relocated to Estonia. All aboard!

In the first 6 months of 2019, we have had 399 applications for the startup status. Out of them, 113 have been assessed as positive, meaning the founders and employees of these companies have been granted the right to apply for the Estonian Startup Visa and/or temporary residence permit. In the first 2 years, from 2017 until the end of 2018, there were altogether 931 people who have used this opportunity since the launch of the Estonian Startup Visa. In the first half of 2019, there have been a staggering 572 individuals who have either already relocated or been granted the right to move to Estonia. From them, 446 are employees who have joined the workforce of Estonian startups and 126 founders from all over the world who have decided to join our vibrant ecosystem.

Startup Visa helps Estonian startups to welcome international talent

As said, in the first half of 2019 we have altogether 446 employees, who have been granted either a Visa or a Temporary Residence Permit (TRP), in order to work in Estonia for our startups. The total number of employees relocating in 2018 was 483, so we are bound to see a huge increase.

Top 3 countries for startup employees who have received a visa or a temporary residence permit in 2019


As pointed out and seen in the graphs, the year 2019 is seeing an increase of Brazilian employees relocating to work in Estonian startups. The Estonian startup scene has been connected with Brazil for a while now and Startup Visa has helped to nurture the connection.

Pipedrive, the sales CRM and pipeline management tool, one of the superstars of our startup scene and soon to be unicorns have added 25 people to their team this year with the Startup Visa. With Brazil being an important market for Pipedrive they have been recruiting Brazilians for their language skills in their home market to the sales and customer support for years. The top 5 countries this year, however, for them are India, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and Iran. “The biggest advantage of the Startup Visa is that the foreigners who can use that are exempt from the migration quota. Since it is filled very quickly, it would be impossible to get employees without the Estonian Startup Visa. Also, it helps to make the process quicker and we are extremely happy that the Estonian Startup Visa exists,“ said Oksana Võsa and Girli Kikkas of Pipedrive.

“We have to understand that the top startups that are hiring and putting Estonia to the world technology map, are the face of our startup ecosystem. This year is showing that with the help of the Startup Visa, our ecosystem is becoming even more vibrant and international. I am seeing something unexpected every time when I dive into the stats, and this time it is Brazil’s turn to shine. This is exactly why the Startup Visa was initiated 2,5 years ago and it is a great honor to see how much it can help the Estonian companies and overall economy,” says Merilin Lukk, Startup Visa Project Lead.

Founders are still the heart of our startup ecosystem

Although, in 2019 employees are breaking the records of the Estonian Startup Visa, founders who've chosen Estonia to build their startups in are still very important. Out of the 126 founders, that have granted the right to relocate to Estonia in the first half of 2019, top countries, where the founders are from are India, Iran, Russia, Turkey and Egypt.

Top 3 countries for startup founders who have received a visa or a temporary residence permit in 2019

Instead of trying to explain ourselves why Estonia could (and should) be your startup’s home, we let one of our rising stars Edilson Osorio Jr, Founder and CEO of OriginalMy Blockchain, to talk about his first hand experience and reasons why he has decided to have a startup that is based on the often cold and dark Estonia rather than the always sunny Brazil.

We decided at the end of 2017, after the Brazilian regulation environment becoming grey for blockchain companies,’’ says Edilson Osorio Jr. ‘’Our regulators didn’t understand about our technology and some congressman was trying to criminalize public blockchains because of cryptocurrencies (we don’t trade or sell cryptocurrencies, but it is needed as an internal input to our public authentication system on a blockchain). Because of the insecure legal environment, our lawyers decided to do research to find a more friendly jurisdiction for a company like OriginalMy. We made a matrix listing many jurisdictions, and crossing taxes, regulation and costs. Plus, because of our idea of approaching the EU market in the future, Estonia jumped to the top of the list.”

                                                Edilson Osorio Jr on the stage of Latitude59


Edilson also sees the connection with Brazil:  “I think Brazil has a very promising future because of the good and hardworking people, and the natural richness. But at the same time, it is a vast and complex country with many challenges. That complex environment has stimulated creativity, and people need to develop this ability to tap into the many opportunities available. People are always thinking outside the box to find viable and unique solutions to severe problems. But, unfortunately, it can take a long time to feel the changes in the country. So many super capable Brazilians are looking to take their skills to places where they can contribute and be recognized. Many companies are looking for Brazilians because of their unique and creative way of solving complex problems since they are trained very early to always think outside the box.”

Databases - they can be very exciting!

For the past year, Startup Estonia team has been working hard to update and systemize our startup dataset. This is also the first time we have had a chance to extract the information about the founders who have relocated their businesses to Estonia and actually see how much they enrich (both figuratively and financially) our startup landscape.

Today we have counted 650 startups altogether in the Estonian Startup Database and in the process of counting them, we discovered that ESTonishing 130 startups of them are in Estonia with the help of the Startup Visa! The top 5 sectors for these startups are AdTech & Creative Tech, Business Software & HR, CyberTech, FinTech, HealthTech, Life Sciences & Wellness.

What’s even more exciting and promising are the finances and numbers behind these startups. The Startup Estonia team is humbled and, even more than that, proud of these companies for trusting us in making their way to Estonia and bringing their talented teams to elevate our startup sector more and more every day! In the first half of 2019, the relocated startups have hired 167 employees, paid € 698K in employment taxes and generated €6,3M in turnover.



Maarika Truu, Head of Startup Estonia comments: ‘’Startup Visa programme was launched 2,5 years ago with the main aim of easing talent attraction and hiring for Estonian startup companies. What we've seen, though, is that Estonia has become more and more attractive also for startup founders to relocate from all over the world. Besides diversifying our startup ecosystem we can also see the straight-forward value created. The startup companies established in Estonia with the help of Estonian Startup Visa are paying taxes, generating turnover and hiring more and more people. And that is counting only the direct value created, we should also consider the spill-over effect created for all the other sectors when we talk about entrepreneurs relocating to Estonia to do business, starting from financial sector, service providers for businesses etc.’’

This is all the interesting facts and figures so far we have about the first half of 2019, but be sure to follow the Startup Estonia blog for more interesting content about our ecosystem. If you are not yet a part of our startup sector as an employee or a founder yourself, here are some of the tips to help you if you got interested.

Advice for anyone considering relocating to Estonia to build their startup:

  • If you have decided to relocate, get in contact with the migration advisors who can help with your questions!

  • By the way - Do you know the about the International House Estonia that was opened to help everyone who relocates to Estonia? Check it out!

  • Get to know the startup ecosystem of Estonia! Follow Startup Estonia for all startup events happening in Estonia and join the vast amount of events happening here to get to know everyone!

Sources: Startup Estonia, Estonian Police and Border Guard Board, Startup Committee, Estonian Tax and Customs Board

Data crunched by: Merilin Lukk and  Moonika Mällo (Startup Estonia) All data is based on the citizenship of the applicants.

Blogpost written by: Merilin Lukk and Sander Sillavee (Startup Estonia)

Graphs by: Paula Repp  


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