Bye-bye 2022, you are much welcome, 2023!

We thought that 2020 was a little challenging with all changes and adaptations needed, then came 2021, and then 2022. Now we are optimists! “There is absolutely no cause for alarm!” aka a little humoristic glimpse at the year 2022 from the cockpit of Startup Estonia.

2022 was a year to remember as the “good old lazy times”, wait, no. It gave great scope of challenges and a stack of “possibilities to adapt”.

The whole startup sector was lifted with Glia (a proud user of Startup Visa for Founders, I just leave that note here laying…) and Veriff becoming the next Estonian unicorns! We are proud to be part of this stunning startup ecosystem and to give the best dose of supportive resources for the community to thrive!

But, remember the books we had hoarded on our nighty-night table, promised for this year to be the ever-happy moment to catch up with all the other COVID-time braggers with their newly refurbished DIY achievements and cleaner-than-allowed-by-law drawers, kitchens and garages? This never happened. Again. And yes, it had to be such a long sentence to describe that imminent, unbearable pain.

But there it is - Sandra, our head of
community said she has no regrets about the unread books and unmade clay cups. Instead, she was really pleased that we were able to take 18 community reps to London Tech Week to meet fascinating accelerators, funds and hubs like Founders Factory, Sustainable Ventures and Plexal. She noted that the biggest achievement is of
course helping the Estonian community to bond with… the Estonian community. It’s only natural that at home we want a lot of privacy, also at events!

Productive and fully engaged in arranging vibrant new knowledge and meeting tunes for the ecosystem she also coordinated a giga-procurement to develop the startup community further.

Major alert, you can still avoid the following events resulting from this procurement that the true heroes of ecosystem reps bring to life: DeepTech Sandbox by Tehnopol & EstBAN, Challenger Diversity by CIVITTA, Green Accelerator by BIA & Edukontor stepping up for the youth in Saaremaa and of course New Nordic VC Academy by the one and only- EstVCA! Those who have already participated, feel better.

She also mentioned that there is one thing everyone completely agrees upon: we need a community festival to be arranged, just the worst months to organize it are January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and also December.

Same time Kati who is Startup Estonia’s personal winter, spring, summer and autumn Sunshine gets deadly serious when it comes to her focus area success script. Cyber technology grows like mad, even if most of the work remains unnoticed by outsiders.

Cyber security achieved its new dimension with the war and we have to be prepared for more cyber attacks, she says. “The field of cyber security is moving ever more into the physical world and requires better cyber resilience,” dictates Kati while giving me her judgmental sight and turning off public Wifi on my computer… (I quietly connect back later on, 'cause I’m in the cafe, not in the airport, but I understand- the cyber caution is never too much…).

Last year she supported further educational and cyber awareness movements like the friendly cyberhacking competition Cyber Battle of Estonia, arranging kood/Jõhvi Hackaton for 2023 and Startup Day cyber-related side events to mention just a few.

So ladies and gents, more than ever, be IT-wise, let’s teach and engage our children from a young age with cyber knowledge and help to solve the global cyber talent shortage that Kati sees on her table every day. And no more using of public WIfi for computers or phones in airports anymore - New Years’ resolution!

Inga, the soul and the Fairy Godmother of the EdTech sector and mastermind behind countless initiatives and lobbying acts has also left the books aside (we could donate the whole home library of the Startup Estonia team as - as…why bother?).

When the war started she helped gather 14 big-hearted EdTech founders in a row and swam together with EdTech Estonia into the waters of helping Ukrainian children and schools to continue learning in unpredictable situations. Help is the name of the game when it comes to Inga. She is impacting everything and even annoying some finalised well-done activities with spicy and dismantling improvements that make results complete and so much better!

EdTech's remarkable moments summary of 10 pages in font size 6 she sent ...went through the Editors’ right to kill some darlings, but these moments write the history of 2022:

  • Fairy Godmother is proud of two of her sector seeds Kõnekindlus and Complok triumphing in the Ajujaht 2022 startup competition by… winning it. Well done, Complok!
  • Clanbeat won the World Summit Awards 2021 and Triumf Health for 2022 in the mental health and wellbeing category, both enriching the sector with female founders' diversity. World Summit Awards is the United Nations programme that empowers positive societal change in the world to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Yes, you read it right. That. Is. Big.
  • Education Innovation Cooperation Memorandum was signed. The private and public sectors agreed to share roles in the longer perspective. So, take the best seats to see close-by many fruitful deliverables emerging soon.
  • Last, but not least - the Startup Estonia EdTech focus program was ending its 4-year operation, the proud result of which is the doubling of EdTech startups since 2019 up to 60 startups today! Now and in the future, EdTech Estonia will take care of Ed Techs, which is looking for a new Fairy Godmother/Godfather by 2023. So everyone who dreams of becoming a CEO, write to Märt Aro.

                                                        What about other regions, there must be more on the map of Estonia than Tallinn, right? Yes, but the latest scientific experiments have concluded that the time to get from Tartu to Tallinn is much shorter than from Tallinn to Tartu. Just imagine how much shorter the road gets when you drive from Narva to Tallinn!

But regional development guarded by our Elina at Narva city centre said that her library card was also closed due to a no-show and she didn't even get her usual best readers Christmas card. Time changes rapidly.

While remembering good old reading times Elina comforts herself with the knowledge that the past year was full of important events for Ida-Virumaa. Pleased that Startup Estonia and the Ministry of Finance were able to continue cooperation by concluding an agreement for the next period 2022-2025 to develop the entrepreneurial skills of the people living in Ida-Virumaa, boosting the start-up ecosystem and the creation of new start-ups in the region, as the pilot program showed a good result.

In October 2022, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen launched the implementation of the Just Transition Plan in Narva. Ida-Viru County will receive €354 million from the European Just Transition Fund that will help create new companies and modernise old ones but will also bring to life two incubators - the digital and media incubator with its film studio based in Jõhvi and the industrial incubator set to be built in Narva.

354 million
354 million
354 million
354 million…
It’s a lot of money guys!!

Another significant milestone supported by Startup Estonia and touched by the unfurry lobbying hand of Inga for Ida-Viru county was the grand opening of the Kood/Jõhvi building. A programming school with a unique approach to the learning process that has succeeded to create a vibrant community just in two years and has now around 500 students learning. They are aiming for 2000 soon! Elinas’ region is the big pillow of hope for Kati and Vaido and their Cyber and Deep Tech talent shortage solutions. You go, Ida-Viru!

And last, but not least, in December, in the era of blockchain/Web3 winter, Narva and Elina as the cheerleader of all times 3webbers engaged to host the largest tech and innovation conference of Ida-Virumaa “W3N Blockchain" with huge success.

It is the endless aim and duty of organizations like Startup Estonia to see the big picture and allow the ecosystem to flourish in its diversity and wide perspective, also in winters. After winter tends to come spring, summer and autumn and in some countries, winter again, but not in Estonia.

The conference organiser - Narva multimedia hub OBJEKT in collaboration with Zenfrog Lab is set to launch a Web3 incubation program in early 2023, providing tools and expertise to projects built on Web3 technologies and traditional businesses that want to implement the technologies to improve their services or products. You marked it down, right?

Ida-Virumaa is slowly, but surely starting to become the capital of Web3 technology and maybe the way from Tallinn to Narva will evolve shorter sooner than science will solve the time-distance mystery!

It’s completely OK if you need to take a coffee break now or stretch your legs, it’s not like you are missing so much more if you don't read further. But then again... You might never know
what you lost from the next lines as it is going to be BIG ………………………
Easy. Everyone back on track. Where were we?

Deep Tech. It is so far rather unclear what is happening in Deep Tech which in Startup Estonia is represented by Vaido.

He arrived at Startup Estonia on April 1st, said that Tehnopol needs some manhandling and off to the deep end he went. To this date, he seems to be deep undercover only surfacing when there is food or drinks available.

Coincidentally new events such as Deep Tech Afternoon and Deep Tech Pub have emerged, just accidentally there is always food and drinks involved. Pure coincidence.

In the Estonian Startup Database, some startups are tagged as being deeper than others indicating shady developments towards a deep tech state. Supposedly there is also Agenda being written in deep shadowy circles on how to get there.

Somehow international relationships have come part of the play as well. EU's new innovation agenda sounds suspiciously deep and our dear neighbours Finns have been convinced that #estonianministry is digging New Nordic Deep Tech Valley and they want to be in this hole too.

To conclude on a somewhat lighter note, there are rumours that tomorrow and pioneers are coming. Hello Tomorrow. Welcome, Deep Tech Pioneers.

I. Did. Not. Edit. It. 
But now you know what we have to put up with every day. Shady matters and shadowy circles just to get to give some food and drinks to our colleague!  

Nevertheless, what else can we conclude about the remaining members of Startup Estonia? Is there anyone countable to highlight further? Not really. It is common sense that back office “just happens”, Management really is not a job or at least not so hard as you just hand out orders, criticise “openly” the results and go for fancy dinners “you love more than anything else on your free night!”. It is also no wonder then that Managers have time left for other random tasks and can do Marketing as well as anyone else.
It is no different at our organization.

Tiina, the Financial Controller and Assistant to Knows-it-all-you-forgot-again about eligibility for EU funds, therefore, doesn't really do anything. Sometimes when someone else in the team is really bored too, she/or the only he, calls her up and just silently stays on the phone to allow her days to pass by a little quicker.

Everyone envies her work, it’s full of pleasurable reminders and questions about flags and logos used, a list of participants, explanations for this, that and the invoices that came in and … now comes her favourite - if someone mixes up the order of confirmation rounds and she can go and try to solve it in the deep deep galaxy of the united organization - that makes her day!

In her free time that she has plenty of, she really enjoys theatre and therefore she has made a splendid list of theatre pieces she would like to see when her free time ends.

At the moment it pays just to walk by some theatre buildings in the evening when going home and see how people are walking around the halls of Estonia or Draamateater. It is a form of art also, isn’t it?

As mentioned earlier our Manager Eve also doesn't do anything really. She has the most fabulous amount of free time from all of us. From this free time in 2022, she was able to contribute to Prime Minister Round Table with ITL to point out that the Estonian startup ecosystem is maturing and we see issues like talent availability and the state’s R&D and innovation capability as part of our common agenda.                

During 2022 she has had plenty of time to simply travel the World!

  • She went to Paris to participate in the Scale-Up Europe panel on talent among other European ecosystem partners.       
  • Talked at the EU-Africa Business Forum about digitalisation, ties between Africa and Europe, and the importance of knowledge transfer.
  • At the Future Proof Summit in Lille, France she addressed the sovereignty of the European economy in light of the Russian war against Ukraine.
  • Went to Dubai EXPO to represent the Estonian startup ecosystem together with Martin Villig.
  • Participated in a study trip to Helsinki with Indrek Orav, Henrik Kutberg, Mari Vavulski, Merilin Laager and Vaido Mikheim to meet the key players in the Finnish ecosystem – Aalto, University of Helsinki, Finnish Startup Community, Maria01, FiBAN, Voima Ventures, MAKI VC, Business Finland, NewCo, Helsinki Education Hub, and the Estonian Embassy noting that we wouldn’t be building the New Nordic Tech Valley without a great bunch of inspiring and enthusiastic Finns like Lauri Määttänen, Timo Helenius, Jussi Tapio, Christian Lardot.

Not finished yet, don’t go anywhere.
  • She also took part in the Croatian Startup Ecosystem's first official conference in Zagreb, to be a keynote speaker and recorded a podcast session on the Estonian startup story.
  • She was present when Estonian ecosystem representatives visited our London counterparts during a fantastic 4-day study trip with a special Estonian slot at London Tech Week, to meet the Oslo Business Region team to speak about the Estonian talent policy and startup sector support at the Norwegian community gathering.

Almost there, you can do it! 
  • Then she took part in Europe's biggest tech conference WebSummit and the ESNA General Assembly, where Estonia became a member of the European Startup Nations Alliance.
  • Finally, we noticed her study trip to Berlin together with female leaders from different private and public domains which lead further to Helsinki for Slush to be a Jury lid at the New Nordic Pitching Competition and enjoy inspiring talks about building bridges between countries.
  • Last, but not least she summarized a long journey as a mentor and jury member of the Ajujaht national startup competition and the TV show with the final live show in December.
  • With so much time and energy unused it was also an easy choice to be at The Estonian startup ecosystem representatives gathering for the annual Fireside Chat with her as a moderator first time in her life.

Maybe the final ones are not concerning travelling, but they feel like a fun way to spend your free time.

Surprise act! With so much spare time in hand, it is also only logical that she graduated as MScE from TalTech in the Digital Transformation in Business programme and she is a mother of two (more free time!).

It’s completely OK if you didn't want to read the whole block. It is enough if you just look at it and feel bad. I needed a vacation after writing it and I did not mention that she also safeguarded as a true mothership the whole process of Startup Estonia moving from one smaller organization to a huge joint organization with many, many, many ...many new systems the team had to learn and adapt. It’s just giving orders really - you give - they do, all good. Anyone knows, Management is not really A Job.

Remember the note laying above there about visas, right? Let’s look into it again.

The tech sector talent shortage we have witnessed - during forever really - has been alleviated with Startup Estonia’s Startup Visa programme.

With the help of the startup visa programme launched in 2017, over 5454 visas and residency permits have been issued, 4477 of which were assigned to employees and 977 to international founders and it all passed through the table of Annika.

Mother of all Startup Visas, Annika had to admit that also she had again so much free time in 2022 that Kille-Ingeri was hired to give her some human companionship in all this solitude.

Imagine, visa roadshows on 3 different continents and 15 different events to promote the Startup Visa besides the visa applications administration and follow-ups.

So encouraged by the free time, setting up Scale Up Visa for matured startups to be able to keep their headquarters also in future in Estonia was not even a question. You make a few calls and IT’S DONE!

And, finally, as you know, Estonia is one of the only countries in the world that gathers startup sector data to make sector surveys and analyses available for future business and policy decisions.

Startup Estonia monitoring project manager Signe is the one and only data wizard of startups in Estonia. We don't know exactly what kind of soup the Estonian start-up sector made up in 2022, but in January Signe collects all the ingredients of the whole year and starts to boil the broth over a good low heat.

Signe has said undercover though, the soup looks better than ever regardless of the challenges of the startup sector this year.  Whoever dares to take a sip of it will get enough strength for the whole year to take some solid steps further.

Wow, I can't believe we have done it all! 
The last one on the list is the Marketing and Communication lead, me, Ettie.
As it’s not honestly a job, you can as well leave out the last part and skip immediately to the Happy New Year wishes. It’s where the "Happy New Year" can be seen in the text.

As the newest kid in the block, it has been a true discovery also for me to have so many self-realizing tasks like newsletters, posts, boosts, events, networking meetings to learn about the industry, press releases and blogs that write themselves.

I am especially happy with the international press trip "The Hype is Real" where Startup Estonia and our startup community were covered in a Forbes article and in the other 14 international publications that emerged from the same trip, out of nowhere!! Nothing was done for all of it to happen! 

Some say it’s a miracle I say it happens!

Like it happened last year with Glia and Veriff who became the next unicorns. For sure it was not resilience, adaptability, speed, great team and product that solve true needs. Maybe it could be an overnight success that took 10 years to happen.

Happy New Year to you all, dear startup community! Let’s make this year again one to be proud of ourselves and our courage to be different, outstanding and most importantly - close to each other in our hearts and hands!

🔺Your Startup Estonia team🔺

Startup Estonia's program is financed by the European Regional Development Fund.

Sources: Startup Estonia, Statistics Estonia, Estonian Tax and Customs Board, Estonian Startup Database,
The blog post was written by: Ettie Mikita and all the guilty ones from above (Startup Estonia)
Artwork by: Elina Dubova (Startup Estonia)

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