The first quarter of 2022 for the Estonian startup sector

With offering nearly 9000 jobs and 40M EUR paid in employment taxes accompanied with 417M EUR turnover generated and 907M EUR investments raised, the Estonian startup sector is starting the year strong with steady growth supplemented by two new unicorns and one exit. Let’s dig deeper into the first quarter of 2022 in the Estonian startup scene.


To date, the Estonian Startup Database is home to 1363 startups. So far, 20 new startups created in 2022 have found their way into the database. 35% of the startups in the database have been active for 5 or more years. The largest sector in terms of active startups is Business software & HR with 250 active companies (18% of all startups in the Estonian Startup Database),  followed by FinTech with 183 active startups (13%) and Consumer products & services with 147 active companies (11%).

Employment numbers and taxes

The employee count in Estonian startups is growing upwards. According to the Estonian Tax and Customs Board, Estonian startups employed 8948 people as of March 31, which is 9% more than at the end of 2021, and 34% more than in Q1 2021. The biggest employers among startups were Wise (1338 employees), Bolt (1144), Swappie (519), Veriff (386), and Starship Technologies (237). Moreover, 57% of the total number of people employed in the whole startup sector at the end of Q1 of 2022, were employed by TOP20 startups.

Based on the statistics from the Estonian Tax and Customs Board,  we can also see the growth in the employment taxes paid, as the sum of employment tax contribution at the end of Q1 of 2022 was 39,5M EUR (+44% compared to Q1 2021 and +13% compared to Q4 2021). The substantial contributors of employment taxes among startups in the first quarter were  Bolt with 6,4M EUR, Wise with 5,2M EUR, Veriff with 1,7M EUR, Starship Technologies with 1,1 M EUR, and Paxful with 1 M EUR.

Regarding the largest contributing startup sectors in terms of employment taxes, we can highlight the following for the first quarter of 2022: FinTech (11,1M EUR); Transportation & Logistics (10M EUR); Business software, services & HR (5M EUR); CyberTech (3,2M EUR); Communication (1,7M EUR).


Turnover

In the first quarter of 2022, Estonian startups generated 417M EUR in turnover, growing by 57% year-on-year. Among startups, the largest turnovers were generated by Bolt (178,4 M EUR) with a bit less than half of the turnover in the sector(!), Swappie 20,4 M EUR, Veriff 13,1 M EUR, 3Commas 8,5 M EUR, Comodule 7,8 M EUR, and Adcash 7,8 M EUR. 

Please note, that turnover data is published based on the quarterly data from the Estonian Tax and Customs Board and therefore is not comparable with companies’ financial year annual reports data.

Investments, Exits, and Unicorns

Estonian startups signed 22 funding deals for 906,6M EUR in Q1 of 2022 (compared to 194M EUR at the end of Q1 2021). The average deal size was 41,2 M EUR per deal, and 16 startups raised investments of more than 1 M EUR. Investment figures are heavily affected by Bolt's massive investment round (628 M EUR). Next in line, Veriff raised 89M EUR, Starship Technologies 87,4 M EUR, and Glia 40,9 M EUR. With these investment rounds, Veriff in January and Glia in March also became Estonian next unicorns, further ensuring Estonia's position as first in Europe in the number of unicorns per capita.

During the first quarter of 2022, we have already seen the first acquisition in the ecosystem. FinTech startup EveryPay, a platform for receiving payments, was acquired by LHV Group.

Estonian Startup Visa

In the first quarter, companies founded with the Estonian Startup Visa (19% of startups in the Estonian Startup Database) have paid 1,6M EUR in employment taxes, employed 344 people in Estonia, and brought their turnover to 18,4M EUR.

Eyes on DeepTech startups

As the world is facing huge global challenges, more and more focus is targeted towards DeepTech startups that aim to solve complex problems by creating innovative technologies. To boost the emergence and growth of deep tech teams in Estonia working with innovative technologies, some new initiatives have already started at the beginning of 2022 with some yet to come.

The University of Tartu, Tartu Science Park, Tallinn University of Technology, and Tehnopol Science and Business Park have jointly launched a Health Research Accelerator. The research accelerator programme is commissioned by small fund manager SmartCap, with the aim to identify research discoveries with commercial potential and during the course of the acceleration programme lead teams to a more advanced technology readiness level. Teams and startups participating in the programme can receive 17 000 EUR in support to achieve this.

In addition, Creative Destruction Lab has announced a new site and program stream in Estonia. CDL-Estonia will infuse an advanced startup ecosystem with global capital and expertise by delivering an objectives-based, nine-month mentorship program for massively scalable science- and tech-based startups.

We at Startup Estonia are also making Deep Tech our clear focus area. We have a new Deep Tech sector lead in our team, Vaido Mikheim, who is going to live and breathe Deep Tech startup ecosystem development in Estonia. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has strongly voiced its commitment and expectation to develop the Deep Tech startup ecosystem in Estonia, as well. And last but not least, you will find us at upcoming regional landmark events, Latitude59 in Tallinn and Deep Tech Atelier in Riga. 

Regarding the database and statistics, during 2022 we are also working with the aim to create new filtering options to better keep track of Estonian DeepTech startups and data via the Estonian Startup Database.


Sources:
Startup Estonia, Statistics Estonia, Estonian Tax and Customs Board, Estonian Startup Database, Funding of Estonian Tech Startups #estonianmafia

Data crunched by Signe Reinumägi (Startup Estonia)
The blog post was written by Signe Reinumägi (Startup Estonia)
Cover by Zavod

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